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   Chapter 40 DREADFUL TIDINGS.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 21921

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


All the Tyrolese were in the highest excitement and terror. Pale faces were to be seen everywhere, and nothing was heard but the anxious query: "Is it true? Has our emperor really made peace with Bonaparte? Is it true that he has abandoned us entirely, and that we are to become again subjects of France and Bavaria?"

And some, of the timid and disheartened sighed: "It is true! We read so yesterday in the Innspruck Gazette, and the Viceroy of Italy has sent two messengers through the Puster valley to proclaim that the Emperors of Austria and France concluded a treaty of peace on the 14th of October, and that the Tyrolese are to lay down their arms and become again subjects of France and Bavaria."

"It is not true!" cried the bold and courageous. "The Emperor Francis has not made peace with Bonaparte; and if he has, he has certainly not abandoned the Tyrol, but stipulated that we remain with Austria; for he pledged us his word that we, should, and the emperor will redeem his promise."

"It is not true; there is no peace, and we are still at war with the Bavarians and French," cried Joseph Speckbacher, "and we will continue the war."

"Yes, we will," shouted his brave men.

And as Speckbacher said, so did Andreas Hofer, so did Joachim Haspinger, so did Anthony Wallner, Jacob Sieberer, and all the intrepid commanders of the sharpshooters.

Led by these heroic men, the Tyrolese formed again a large army, which took position on Mount Isel, and awaited there the Bavarians who were marching upon Innspruck under the command of the crown prince Louis.

This time, however, the Tyrolese were not victorious; the Bavarians expelled them from Innspruck, and, on the 29th of October, the crown prince Louis of Bavaria made his triumphal entry into the city, after a bloody battle of four days' duration on Mount Isel and near the Judenstein. A part of the Tyrolese forces remained on Mount Isel, and another part hastened with unbroken courage to other regions, to meet the armies of the enemy and drive them beyond the frontiers of the country.

Anthony Wallner returned with his sharpshooters to the Puster valley, and advanced thence against General Rusca, who was coming up from Carinthia with his corps; he intended to defend the frontiers of his country, against him and General Baraguay d'Hilliers, who was also approaching with a strong force.

Joseph Speckbacher marched his intrepid men to the Ziller valley and the Muhlbach Pass, where he united with Joachim Haspinger, and advanced with him upon the enemy.

All were in good spirits, and no one believed in the dreadful tidings which at first had frightened them all so much: no one believed that peace had been made.

Andreas Hofer himself thought the news was false. He had remained courageous and undaunted in spite of the disastrous battle on Mount Isel, and he sent messengers throughout the country, calling upon all able-bodied men to take up arms and attack the enemy, who had invaded the Tyrol once more. He was still encamped with his army near Mount Isel, and had established his headquarters at Steinach. The crown prince of Bavaria had sent to him hither two plenipotentiaries, who informed him that peace had really been concluded, and that the Tyrolese had no course left but submission. But Andreas Hofer replied to these plenipotentiaries, shaking his head indignantly, "That is a mean lie; the Emperor Francis, our beloved master, will never abandon his loyal Tyrolese. He pledged us his word, and he will keep it. Your intention is to deceive us, but you cannot catch us by such stratagems. We believe in the emperor and the good God, and neither of them will ever abandon us!"

And Andreas Hofer returned to his room with a calm smile and went to bed.

In the dead of night, however, he was suddenly aroused from his sleep. Cajetan Doeninger stood at his bedside and informed him that the intendant of the Puster valley, Baron von Worndle, had arrived with an envoy of the Emperor Francis, Baron von Lichtenthurn, and both wished urgently to see the commander-in-chief.

"I will admit them," said Hofer, rising hastily; "God grant that they are the bearers of good news!"

He dressed himself quickly and followed Doeninger into the room, where he found the two envoys and several members of his suite.

"Now tell me, gentlemen, what news do you bring to us?" asked Hofer, shaking hands with the two envoys.

"No good news, commander-in-chief," sighed Baron von Worndle, "but there is no use in complaining; we must submit patiently to what cannot be helped. The Emperor Francis has mane peace with France."

"Do you sing in that strain too, Mr. Intendant?" asked Andreas, with a mournful smile. "I shall never believe it until I see it in black and white, and until the emperor or the dear Archduke John informs me of it."

"I bring it to you in black and white," exclaimed Baron von

Lichtenthurn, drawing a paper from his bosom and handing it to

Andreas. "Here is a letter from the Archduke John, which I am to

deliver to you."

Hofer hastily seized the paper, which contained that proclamation which the Archduke John had written at Totis, and read it again and again slowly and attentively. While he was doing so, his cheeks turned pale, his breath issued heavily and painfully from his breast, and the paper rustled in his trembling hands.

"It is impossible! I cannot believe it!" he exclaimed, mournfully, gazing upon the paper. "The Archduke John did not write this. Just look at it, his seal is not affixed to the paper. Sir, how can you say that this letter is from the Archduke John? Where is the seal? Where is the address?"

"Well, it is no private letter," said Baron von Lichtenthurn; "it is an open letter, a proclamation, which I am instructed to show to everybody in the Tyrol. A proclamation cannot contain a seal and an address. But the Archduke John sent it; he himself wrote every word of it."

"I do not believe it!" cried Andreas, in a triumphant voice; "no, I do not believe it. You are a liar, and want to betray us. Look at him, my friends; see how pale he turns, and how he trembles! For I tell you he has a bad conscience. Bring me the Archduke John's seal, and then I will believe that the paper is from him. But, as it is, I look upon it as a cunning device got up by the enemy to entrap me. Arrest him; he must confess all. I will not allow myself to be caught by cunning and treachery!" [Footnote: Andreas Hofer's own words.-See Hormayr's "Andreas Hofer," vol. ii, p. 490.]

He laid his heavy hand upon the shoulder of the baron, who sank to the floor, uttering a loud cry of distress, and fell into fearful convulsions.

"See!" cried Andreas, "that is the punishment of Heaven! The hand of

God has struck him. He is a traitor, who intended to sell us to the

French."

"No, he is an honorable man, and has told you the truth," said Baron von Worndle, gravely. "Your violent accusation frightened him; and he fell into an epileptic fit. He is affected with that disease." [Footnote: Ibid.]

He and some of the bystanders raised the unfortunate baron from the ground, and carried him into the adjoining room. He then returned to Andreas, who was walking up and down with a hasty step, and murmuring to himself, "I cannot believe it! The Archduke John did not write it. His hand would have withered while writing it. He did not do it."

"Yes, Andreas, he did," said Worndle, gravely; "he was obliged to submit, as we all shall have to do. The Archduke John was obliged to yield to the will of his emperor as we shall have to do. The treaty of peace has been concluded. There is no doubt of it."

"Lord God! the treaty of peace has been concluded, and the emperor abandons us?" cried Andreas.

"The emperor, it seems, was unable to do any thing for the Tyrol," said Worndle in a low voice. "He had to consent that the Tyrol should be restored to the French and Bavarians."

"But that is impossible!" cried Andreas, despairingly. "He pledged us his word, his sacred word, that he would never consent to a peace that would detach the Tyrol from Austria. How can you now insult the dear emperor by saying that he has broken his word?"

"He has not broken his word, but he was unable to keep it. Look, commander-in-chief, I bring you another letter, to which, as you see, is affixed a large imperial seal, the seal of the Viceroy of Italy, who wrote the letter to you and all the Tyrolese."

"Read it," exclaimed Andreas, mournfully; "I cannot, my eyes are filled with tears. Read it to me, sir."

Worndle read as follows:

"To the people of the Tyrol: His majesty the Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, my august father and sovereign, and his majesty, the Emperor of Austria, have made peace. Peace, therefore, reigns everywhere around you. You are the only people which does not enjoy its blessings. Seduced by foreign instigations, you took up arms against your government and overthrew it. The melancholy consequences of your seditious course have overtaken you. Terror reigns now in your towns, idleness and misery in your fields, and discord and disorder are to be found in all parts of the country. His majesty the emperor and king, profoundly moved by your wretched condition, and the proofs of repentance which some of you have manifested to him, has consented in the treaty to forgive your errors. I bring you peace and forgiveness, but I warn you of the fact, that you will be forgiven only if you return of your own accord to law and order, lay down your arms, and offer no longer any resistance whatever. As commander-in-chief of the armies surrounding you, I shall accept your submission or compel you to surrender. Commissioners will precede the armies; they have been instructed to listen to whatever complaints and grievances you may wish to prefer. But, do not forget that these commissioners are authorized to listen to you only after you have laid down your arms. Tyrolese! I promise that you shall obtain justice if your complaints and grievances are well-grounded. Headquarters at Villach, October 25, 1809."

"EUGENE NAPOLEON." [Footnote: Hormayr's "Andreas Hofer," vol. 1., p. 490.]

Baron von Worndle had long since ceased to read, and still Andreas Hofer stood motionless, his hands folded on his breast, his head thrown back, and his eyes turned toward heaven. All gazed in respectful silence upon that tall, imposing form which seemed frozen by grief, and at that pale, mournful face, and those pious eyes, which seemed to implore consolation and salvation from heaven.

At last Doeninger ventured to put his hand softly on Hofer's arm. "Awake, dear commander-in-chief," he said in a low voice, "awake from your grief. These gentlemen here are waiting for an answer. Tell them what you think-" "What I think?" cried Hofer, giving a start and dropping his eyes slowly. "What I

think? I think that we are poor, unhappy men, who have vainly risked our property and our blood, our liberty and our lives. Tell me, then, my friends, is it possible that the Emperor Francis, whom we all loved so dearly, and who pledged us his word so solemnly and often, has abandoned us after all? Cajetan, do you believe it?"

"It is in black and white here," said Doeninger, in his habitual laconic style, pointing to the proclamation of the Archduke John. "It is the archduke's handwriting; I am familiar with it. You need no longer question its authenticity. Peace has been concluded."

"Peace has been concluded, the emperor has abandoned his Tyrol, the Tyrol is lost!" cried Andreas, in a loud outburst of grief; and his long-restrained tears streamed from his eyes. Andreas was not ashamed of them. He threw himself on a chair, buried his face in his hands, and wept aloud.

"The Tyrol is lost," he sobbed; "all my dear countrymen are in profound distress, and, moreover, in the utmost danger; our beloved, beautiful country will have to shed rivers of blood, and nothing will be heard but wails and lamentations. For the emperor has abandoned us, the enemy will re-enter the country, kill and burn, and wreak a terrible revenge upon our people! Lord God," he exclaimed all at once, "can I not do any thing, then, for my dear country? Tell me, my friends, can I not do any thing to avert this great calamity and save the lives of my dear countrymen?"

"Yes, Andreas," said Baron von Worndle, "you can do a great deal for the Tyrol and your countrymen. You can prevent bloodshed, soften the vindictiveness of the enemy, and induce him to spare the vanquished and wreak no revenge on the disarmed. Write a proclamation to the Tyrolese, admonish them to keep quiet, and order them to lay down their arms. Return yourself to your home, your inn, and you will have done on this mournful day more for the Tyrol than you have been able to do for it up to this time; for you will thereby save the Tyrol from untold disasters, which will surely befall the country if you resume hostilities against enemies who are a hundred times superior to us. It is impossible for us to withstand them successfully. Their columns, well provided with artillery, are moving upon all sides, and the whole Tyrol, as the Viceroy of Italy writes, is surrounded. We have no course left but submission. Order the Tyrolese, therefore, to submit, set a good example to them yourself, and the Tyrol is saved, and no more blood will be shed."

"No more blood will be shed!" repeated Andreas Hofer, joyously. "Well, then, I see that you are right, and that we have no course left but submission. It is true, the emperor has abandoned us, but the good God will still stand by us; and on seeing that we are humble and submissive, He will have mercy upon us. Sit down, Cajetan; I will dictate a letter to you. To whom must I write on behalf of my beloved country?"

"Write to General Drouet," said Doeninger. "It was he who wrote to you yesterday from Innspruck, informing you of the conclusion of peace, and promising that, if you and all the Tyrolese would submit, no harm should befall any one. You refused to answer his letter because you did not believe him."

"I did not believe him," said Andreas, gently, "for I still believed in my emperor. But I see now that General Drouet was right; I will, therefore, write to him, and recommend my country and the good and brave Tyrolese to his mercy. Take up the pen, Cajetan, and write."

And Andreas Hofer dictated in a low, tremulous voice, often interrupted by sighs which issued from his breast like the groans of a dying man, a letter to General Drouet, in which he promised in touching words that the Tyrolese would lay down their arms, and said they would trust, for pardon and oblivion of the past, to the magnanimity of Napoleon, whose footsteps were guided by a superior power, which it was no longer permitted them to resist.

"There," he said, after convincing himself that Doeninger had written exactly what be had dictated, "now give me the pen, Cajetan. I will sign it myself."

He bent over the table, and wrote quickly what he had so often written under his decrees, "Andreas Hofer, commander-in-chief of the Tyrol."

But then he gave a start, and contemplated his signature long and musingly. Heaving a profound sigh, and casting a mournful glance toward heaven, he took up the pen a second time, and added the word "late," slowly and with a trembling hand, to his title "commander- in-chief of the Tyrol." [Footnote: "Gallery of Heroes: Andreas Hofer," p. 173.]

"Now come, Cajetan," he exclaimed, throwing down the pen, as if it was a viper which had wounded him, "come, Cajetan. I will go to my sharpshooters and exhort them to disband, and afterward I will return with you to my inn in the Passeyr valley, in order to set a good example to all, and show them how to submit quietly and patiently."

And Andreas Hofer acted accordingly. He ordered his men to disband, and after they had obeyed his order in sullen silence, he himself, accompanied only by his faithful Cajetan Doeninger, went back to his home.

But neither the joyous welcome, with which his wife, faithful Anna Gertrude, received him, nor the jubilant shouts of his children, could arouse Andreas Hofer from his mournful brooding, or bring a smile to his lips. He did not rejoice at his return to his dear ones; he paid no attention to his business, he did not go to the stables and barns as he used to do; but he sat hanging his head, his hands folded on his knees, staring at the floor, and sighing from time to time, "My poor country! How could the emperor abandon us?"

Only when Cajetan Doeninger was not with him, Andreas Hofer became uneasy; he glanced around anxiously and called for his secretary; when the latter hastened to him, he held out his hand and said in a low, tremulous voice, "Cajetan, do not leave me. I always think I may have something to write yet, and it seems to me as though what I dictated to you at Steinach, declaring my readiness to submit, were not the last of my official papers. Something else must come yet,- yes, something else. I know it, for this state of affairs cannot last. Therefore, Cajetan, stay with me that you may be ready and able to write when the hour has come."

Cajetan stayed with him; both sat together in silence, and absorbed in their gloomy reflections, and the days passed slowly and mournfully.

It was on the afternoon of the fifth day, and Andreas Hofer sat in silence, as usual, in the gloomy room. Every thing was still without. All at once this profound silence was broken by a hum of many voices and loud noise.

Hofer looked up and listened. "That sounds as if we were still at war, and as if my sharpshooters were marching up," he said.

"Andreas Hofer, commander-in-chief of the Tyrol!" shouted loud voices under the windows.

Hofer jumped up. "Who calls me?" he shouted, in a powerful voice.

At this moment the door was thrown open violently, and four mountaineers, armed with their rifles, came in. Hofer saw through the open door that the yard in front of the house was thronged with peasants, and all looked with flashing eyes through the door at Hofer; and they shouted now, "Andreas Hofer, commander-in-chief of the Tyrol, come with us, come!"

Andreas Hofer seemed all at once animated by new life; his eyes shot fire, his form was drawn up to its full height, and his head rose again proudly between his powerful shoulders.

"What do you want of me, my dear countrymen?" he asked, going to meet them.

One of the four sharpshooters who had entered the room now came forward, and placed himself with a defiant face in front of Hofer.

"We want you," he said. "Three thousand French soldiers are marching across the Janfen. There is great excitement in the Puster valley, and some fighting has taken place. Anthony Wallner has driven the Bavarians long since across the frontier, and Speckbacher and the Capuchin have marched to the Muhlbach Pass in order to attack Rusca. And why are we to keep quiet, then? Why are we to allow the French to enter the Passeyr valley?"

"We will not allow them to do it!" shouted the peasants outside.

"No, we will not allow the French to enter the Passeyr valley."

"You hear it, commander-in-chief," said the first speaker. "We are all ready and determined. Now say what we are to do with the French. Will you do any thing or not?"

"Yes, will you do any thing or not?" repeated the peasants, penetrating with furious gestures into the room.

"If you do not want to do any thing," cried the peasant, raising his

rifle menacingly, "my rifle is loaded for you as well as for any

Frenchman. You commenced the insurrection, now put it through."

[Footnote: Loritza, "Bilder and Erinnerungen aus Tyrol's

Freiheitskampfen von 1809," p. 14.]

"But you know, countrymen, that I cannot!" cried Hofer. "The emperor has made peace with Bonaparte and abandoned us. What course have we left but that of submission? We must yield, or the Tyrol will be ruined entirely."

"But we do not want to submit," shouted the peasants, furiously. "And the whole country is of our opinion; no one is willing to submit. We will die rather than submit."

"Issue another proclamation calling out the able-bodied men!" said the first speaker.

"Yes, issue another proclamation, commander-in-chief," shouted the crowd. "We will fight, we must fight!"

"And you shall and must be our leader!" exclaimed the peasant, laying his heavy hand on Hofer's shoulder. "We will compel you to go with us or kill you as a traitor. Issue another proclamation. We men are still the same as before, and so is our cause; now you must likewise be the same Andreas Hofer, commander-in-chief of the Tyrol!"

"Yes," exclaimed Andreas, with a radiant face, drawing a deep breath, as if relieved from an oppressive burden, "yes, I will be the same as before. This state of affairs cannot continue. We must fight; we had better die than lead such a life. Go, Doeninger, go; write a proclamation!"

"Hurrah! Long live our commander-in-chief," shouted the peasants, triumphantly; "long live our dear faithful Andreas Hofer!"

"I thank you, my dear countrymen," said Andreas; "I am your leader now, and we will fight again. But do not hold me responsible for the events of the future. You must never forget that you compelled me to resume war. I intended to submit humbly and patiently, but you would not allow me to do so, and dragged me forcibly from my retirement. The bloody struggle will commence again-God grant us protection, and further victories! We are not going to fight from motives of pride and arrogance, but only for the sake of our country-because we want to remain Germans, and do not want to become French subjects, and because we want to keep our God, our liberty, and our constitution. Amen!"

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