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About the middle of January, 1729, the king went upon a hunt with his companions, taking with him Fritz, who he knew detested the rough barbaric sport. This hunting expedition to the wilds of Brandenburg and Pommern was one of great renown. Three thousand six hundred and two wild swine these redoubtable Nimrods boasted as the fruits of their prowess. Frederick William was an economical prince. He did not allow one pound of this vast mass of wild pork to be wasted. Every man, according to his family, was bound to take a certain portion at a fixed price. From this fierce raid through swamps and jungles in pursuit of wild boars the king returned to Potsdam. Soon after he was taken sick. Having ever been a hard drinker, it is not strange that his disease proved to be the gout. He was any thing but an amiable patient. The pangs of the disease extorted from him savage growls, and he vented his spleen upon all who came within the reach of his crutch or the hearing of his tongue. Still, even when suffering most severely, he never omitted any administrative duties. His secretaries every morning came in with their papers, and he issued his orders with his customary rigorous devotion to business. It was remarked that this strange man would never allow a profane expression or an indelicate allusion in his presence. This sickness lasted five weeks, and Wilhelmina writes, “The pains of Purgatory could not equal those which we endured.”
“The king did a beautiful thing to Lieutenant Keith the other day—that poor Keith who was nailed to the gallows, in effigy, for him at Wesel, long ago, and got far less than he expected. The other day there had been a grand review, part of it extending into Madame Knyphausen’s grounds, who is Keith’s mother-in-law.
“Sunday next I shall be at a little place near Cleves, where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the sight of you don’t cure me, I will send for a confessor at once. Adieu. You know my sentiments and my heart.
“I have hardly strength enough to trace these lines. My state is altogether worthy of pity. It is not through any menaces, however violent they may have been, that I have yielded my consent to the king’s wishes. An interest still more dear to me has determined me to this sacrifice. I have been till now the innocent cause of all the unhappiness which your majesty has endured. My too sensible heart has been penetrated by the touching details you have latterly made of them.
CHAPTER V. IMPRISONMENT OF FRITZ AND WILHELMINA.
160 After this interview the Crown Prince hurried away on his route to Philipsburg. He reached Nürnberg that night, where he wrote the following brief but affectionate letter to his sister: