Was it here while waiting about Meissen, or where was it, that Daun got his Letter to Fermor answered in that singular way? The Letter of two weeks ago,--carried by Loudon's Hussars, or by whomsoever,-- for certain, it was retorted or returned upon Daun; not as if from the Dead-Letter Office, but with an Answer he little expected! Here is what record I have; very vague for a well-known little fact of sparkling nature:--
"A curious Letter fell into Friedrich's hands [Bearer, I always guess, the Loudon Hussar-Captain with his 500, pretending to form junction with Fermor], Prussian Hussars picking it up somewhere,-- date, place, circumstances, blurred into oblivion in those poor Books; Letter itself indisputable enough, and Answer following on it; Letter and Answer substantially to this effect:--
"DAUN TO FERMOR [Probably from Zittau, by Loudon's Hussars].
"Your Excellenz does not know that wily Enemy as I do. By no means get into battle with such a one. Cautiously manoeuvre about; detain him there, till I have got my stroke in Saxony done: don't try fighting him. DAUN."
"ANSWER AS FROM FERMOR (Zorndorf once done, Daun by the first opportunity got his Answer, duly signed 'Fermor,' but evidently in a certain King's handwriting):--
"Your Excellenz was in the right to warn me against a cunning Enemy, whom you knew better than I. Here have I tried fighting him, and got beaten. Your unfortunate "FERMOR." [Muller,
September 9th, Friedrich and Margraf Karl, correct to their appointment, meet at Grossenhayn, some miles north of Meissen and its Bridge; by which time Daun is clean gone again, back well above Dresden again, strongly posted at Stolpen (a place we once heard of, in General Haddick's time, last Year), well in contact with Daun's Pirna friends across the River, and out of dangerous neighborhoods. Friedrich and the Margraf have followed Daun at quick step; but Daun would pause nowhere, till he got to Stolpen, among the bushy gullets and chasms. September 12th, Friedrich had speech of Henri, and the pleasure of dining with him in Dresden. Glad to meet again, under fortunate management on both parts; and with much to speak and consult about.
A day or two before, there had lain (or is said to have lain) a grand scheme in Daun: Zweibruck to burst out from Pirna by daybreak, and attack the Camp of Gahmig in front (35,000 against 20,000); Daun to cross the River on pontoons, some hours before, under cloud of night, and be ready on rear and left flank of Gahmig (with as many supplemental thousands as you like): what can save Prince Henri? Beautiful plan; on which there were personal meetings and dinings together by Zweibruck and Daun; but nothing done. [Tempelhof, ii. 262-265.] At the eleventh hour, say the Austrian accounts, Zweibruck sent word, "Impossible to-morrow; cannot get in my Out-Parties in time!"--and next day, here is Friedrich come, and a collapse of everything. Or perhaps there never seriously was such a plan? Certain it is, Daun takes camp at Stolpen, a place known to him, one of the strongest posts in Germany; intrenches himself to the teeth,--good rear-guard towards Zittau and the Magazines; River and Pirna on our left flank; Loudon strong and busy on our right flank, barring the road to Bautzen;-- and obstinately sits there, a very bad tooth in the jaw of a certain King; not to be extracted by the best kinds of forceps and the skilfulest art, for nearly a month to come. Four Armies, Friedrich's, Henri's, Daun's, Zweibruck's, all within sword-stroke of each other,--the universal Gazetteer world is on tiptoe. But except Friedrich's eager shiftings and rubbings upon Stolpen (west side, north, and at length northeast side), all is dead-lock, and nothing comes of it.