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Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 28956

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

War was now resumed at all points; but the forces brought from all sides against the Tyrol were so immense that no hope remained to the inhabitants but by deeds of glory to throw a last radiance around their fall. The Tyrolese fought with desperate valor, but their heroism was unavailing. The superior forces of the enemy were everywhere victorious. The artillery of the Bavarians and French thinned the ranks of the mountaineers from day to day; whole ranks of the Tyrolese being mowed down by the balls of the enemy. They fled panic-struck into the mountains. The victorious invaders penetrated farther and farther into the interior of the country; burning towns and villages marked the route which they followed, and wails and lamentations rent the air wherever they made their appearance.

Before the middle of December all resistance had been overpowered. The enemy stalked in a merciless manner over the gory, reeking, groaning Tyrol, and pursued relentlessly all who had dared to rise against him. He had promised oblivion and forgiveness in return for peaceful submission; but as the Tyrolese had not submitted, but continued the struggle, the enemy now threatened to revenge himself and punish the vanquished.

A furious chase now commenced. Every one who had been seized with arms in hand was shot; every one who concealed one of the pursued patriots in his house was executed, and his house was burned down.

The leaders of the Tyrolese had fled into the mountains, but the French generals promised large rewards for the heads of the most influential patriots; and the soldiers traversed the country, impelled by thirst for revenge and gain, spying everywhere for the outlawed mountaineers, and ascending even to the snow-clad summits of the mountains in order to obtain the large rewards. As yet, however, they had not succeeded in seizing one of the pursued chiefs. The French generals had vainly promised a reward of ten thousand florins for the apprehension of Andreas Hofer, and rewards of five thousand florins for the seizure of Joseph Spechbacher, Anthony Wallner, and Joachim Haspinger. They had disappeared, and the patrols and soldiers, who were hunting for them, had not yet been able to discover the hiding-place of any of the four great chiefs of the insurrection. The mountains, those natural fortresses of the Tyrol, protected the outlawed commanders; and in the Alpine huts, amidst the chamois and vultures, which alone saw and knew their hiding-places, there were no traitors.

Retiring to his native valley, Andreas Hofer long eluded the search of the victors. His place of concealment was a solitary Alpine hut, four leagues distant from his home, in general inaccessible from the snow which surrounded it. Love had accompanied Andreas to this inhospitable spot. His wife and his son John were with him, and so was Cajetan Doeninger, his faithful secretary. Love had accompanied him to the Alpine hut of his friend Pfandler; love watched over him in the valley below. Many peasants there were well aware of Hofer's place of concealment, but no one betrayed him, no one was tempted by the reward of ten thousand florins which Baraguay d'Hilliers, the French general, offered for Hofer's apprehension. They often saw Pfandler's servants, loaded with all sorts of provisions, wending their way slowly and painfully up the snow-clad Alp; but they averted their heads, as though they did not want to see anything, and prayed God in a low tone to protect the messengers who conveyed food to Hofer and his dear ones. The peasants in the valley forbore carefully to speak among each other of what they knew; only they treated Pfandler with reverential tenderness, shook hands with him quietly, and whispered, "God bless you and him!" At times, on a clear winter day, when thin smoke curled up suddenly from the Alp, the peasants in the valley looked up sighingly and whispered compassionately, "They have built a fire in their hut. The cold is so severe. God bless them!" But whenever one whom they did not trust stepped up to them, wondering at the smoke, and saying that somebody was concealed up there, and had built a fire in order not to freeze to death, the others laughed at him, and said there was no smoke at all, but only snow blown up by the storm.

One day, however, a stranger arrived in the valley, and asked whisperingly for Andreas Hofer, to whom, he said, he would bring assistance and safety. At first no one replied to him; but he showed them a paper, bearing the name and seal of the Archduke John, and containing the following words, written by the prince himself: "Help my messenger to find Andreas Hofer, and bring him assistance and safety."

On reading this, the peasants distrusted him no longer. They glanced furtively up to the Schneeberg, pointed to the two wanderers, loaded with baskets, who were toiling up the mountain through the snow, and whispered almost inaudibly, "Follow them!"

The messenger did so. He climbed after the two servants, and ascended with them the inhospitable, dreary, and deserted heights. At length he arrived in front of the Alpine hut; he knocked at the door, and asked admittance in the name of God and the Archduke John.

The door opened immediately, and on the threshold appeared Hofer's tall, bearded form, as erect and vigorous as it had been in the days of his splendor, and his mild, honest eye greeted the new-comer.

"He who comes in the name of God and the Archduke John will not deceive me," said Andreas, kindly. "Come in, therefore; for you must have good intentions toward me, inasmuch as the severe cold did not deter you from coming up to me."

"Indeed I have good intentions toward you," said the messenger. "Do you not know me, then, Andy? I am Anthony Steeger, the Archduke John's gunsmith."

"Oh, yes, now I know you!" exclaimed Andreas, joyfully. "I saw you in Vienna at the time we were there to devise plans for the deliverance of the Tyrol. Well, come in, Anthony Steeger; come in to my wife, my son, and my secretary."

He conducted Anthony Steeger into the room, where the three greeted him, and made room for him in front of the hearth, on which large billets of wood were burning. Anthony Steeger looked around in this wretched room, which contained nothing but a few rickety wooden chairs, and a rough-hewn pine table, and the walls and windows of which were protected from the cold by thick linings of hay and straw.

"Yes, you may well look around in my palace," said Andreas, smilingly; "it is not very gorgeous here, but the good God is with us, and He will help us to get along."

"And the Archduke John will help you also," said Anthony Steeger. "Listen to me, Andreas. The archduke sends me to you. He sends you his greetings, and entreats you to come with your family to him and stay with him all your life long, or, if you should not like to do that, at least until you can live again safely in the Tyrol. The archduke has already fitted up a house for you in a village which belongs to him; you shall live there with your whole family as the beloved and honored guests of the archduke. He implores you to accept his invitation. I have with me every thing that is necessary for your flight, Andy. The archduke has given me money, a passport for you and your family, and safeguards issued by the French generals. I am familiar with the roads and by-paths in this vicinity, and will convey you safely through the mountains. The archduke has thought of every thing and provided for every thing."

"It is very kind in the dear Archduke John not to have forgotten me," said Andreas, deeply moved; "it is honest and faithful that he should like to take care of me and reward my love. And it is very kind in you, too, Anthony Steeger, to have acted in this spirit of self-denial. You have come from a great distance to save us, and are not afraid of venturing with us upon this most dangerous flight."

"And you accept my offer, Andy, and consent to accompany me, do you not?"

"And what of them?" asked Andreas, casting a tender glance on his wife and his son. "The route across the glaciers is impassable for a woman and a child."

"First save yourself, my Andy," exclaimed Anna Gertrude; "save yourself for us and the country. After you are gone and have arrived at a place of safety, the enemy will hardly trouble us any more, and I will follow you then with the children."

"You need not be anxious, so far as your wife and children are concerned," said Doeninger. "I will not leave them, but bring them to you."

"Pray do not hesitate, Andy," said Anthony Steeger, urgently. "The archduke implores you not to grieve him by rejecting his offer, but to relieve his conscience from the heavy debt which he has hitherto been unable to discharge to the Tyrol. You shall escape for his sake and for the good of the fatherland, and save your life for better times, which will surely dawn upon the Tyrol. Do it, Andreas. Let us go to work immediately. See, I have with me all that you need, and wear two suits of clothes; one is destined for you, and you will put it on. And here is the razor, with which we shall shave off your beard; and when it is gone, and you have put on the new clothes, no one will scent the Barbone in the man with a foreign dress and a smooth chin. Come, now, Andy, and do not hesitate."

"I am to make quite another man of myself," said Andreas, shaking his head, "merely to save my miserable life? I am to deny my dear Passeyr? I am to shave off my beard, which I have worn so long in an honorable manner, and by which everyone knows me throughout the Tyrol? No, Anthony Steeger, I will never do that!"

"If you do not, Andreas, you are lost," said Anthony Steeger. "I am afraid the French are already on your track. A peasant said he had seen you up here the other day."

"Yes, it was Raffel. He came up here to look for his cow, and met me here. But I gave him money not to betray my secret, and he promised me solemnly that be would not."

"He must have violated his pledge already, Andy; for he told Donay, the priest, about it, and the latter boasted publicly yesterday that he was aware of Andreas Hofer's place of concealment."

"It is true, Donay is a bad and mean man," said Andreas Hofer, musingly; "but I do not believe he will be so mean as to betray me, whom he always called his best commander-in-chief and dearest friend."

"He is mean enough to do it," murmured Doeninger. "The magnitude of the price set on your head will induce him to betray his benefactor."

"Andy," cried Anna Gertrude, bursting into tears, and clinging to her husband, "save yourself! If you love me and the children, save yourself; cut off your beard, put on the new suit of clothes, and escape from your bloodthirsty enemies. Save yourself, for the sake of your wife and your poor children!"

"I cannot," said Andreas, mournfully, embracing his wife tenderly; "no, so help me God, I cannot leave my dear, unhappy country. I know full well that I shall not avert any calamities from the Tyrol by staying here, but I will at least share its misfortunes. I was unable to save my native country; I will therefore suffer with it. A good captain does not desert his shipwrecked vessel, but dies with it; and thus I will not desert my country either, but die with it. I will do all I can to save myself, but I will not leave the Tyrol; I will not cut off my beard nor put on other clothes. I will not mask and disguise myself, but will remain in adversity what I was in the days of prosperity, Andreas Hofer, the Barbone. State that to the dear archduke, Anthony Steeger, and tell him also that I am very grateful to him for wishing to save me in his way, and that I hope he will not be angry with me for being unable to accept his kind offer, or for wishing to live and die with my country. If he wishes to do any thing for me, let him go to the Emperor Francis, and tell him I am well aware that he himself would never have forgotten us, but that his bad ministers did it all, and betrayed the poor Tyrol so perfidiously. Let him beseech the emperor to intercede vigorously in behalf of the Tyrol and of myself, but not to separate me from the Tyrol." [Footnote: "Gallery of Heroes: Andreas Hofer," p. 188.]

"Andreas," cried his wife, despairingly, "you are lost-I feel it here in my heart-you are lost, if you do not flee with Steeger this very night."

"And I feel it here in my heart that I must stay here, even though I should be lost," said Andreas, firmly. "Well, you must weep no more, Anna Gertrude; and you, Anthony Steeger, accept my cordial thanks for your kind and generous intentions."

"Then you have made up your mind, Andy, not to go with me?"

"I have, Anthony. But if you will do me a great favor, take my wife and my boy with you, for the enemy threatens them as well as me. Take them with you, Anthony, convey them across the mountains, and conduct them to the Archduke John."

"It is impossible," said Anthony Steeger, mournfully, "the roads are so full of snow that they are utterly impassable for women and children."

"And you would advise me to leave them here?" asked Andreas, Hofer, reproachfully. "I am to leave here my most precious treasures merely to save my miserable life? No, my friend, I shall stay here with my wife and child and Doeninger there. But you must go now and save yourself; for, if the enemy should really come, it would be bad for you to be found here."

"I will go, Andy, not to save myself, however, but to convey your message speedily to the archduke, that he may save you in another way by the emperor's intercession. In the valley I shall tell every one that you are no longer in this Alpine hut, but have already succeeded in escaping to Vienna, so that it will be unnecessary for the enemy to pursue you any longer."

"Do so, Anthony Steeger; and if they believe you, I shall be glad of it. But go now; I am anxious on your account, and think something might happen to you here. Go, my dear friend."

He drew Steeger to the door, and, not permitting him to take a long leave of the others, conducted him out of the hut, and then embraced him tenderly. "Now listen to what I wish to tell you," he whispered, in a low voice. "I must stay here to save my wife and my boy. The two cannot flee now, as you yourself admitted to me. If I should escape now, and leave them here, the enemy would spy out their place of concealment

and revenge himself upon them; he would torture and kill them in his rage at not having captured me. But if I stay, and the French should find me, I believe they would release my wife and my son and do no harm to them; for then they would have got me, and they are entirely innocent. Go, then, my dear friend; tell the archduke all I have said to you, and greet him a thousand times from his faithful Andy. Now farewell, and go with God's blessing!"

He nodded once more kindly to Anthony Steeger. and returned quickly into the Alpine hut. He found his wife in tears; little John, her son, was kneeling before her, with his head against his mother's knees, and weeping also. Doeninger stood at the hearth and stared into the fire.

Andreas Hofer went to him and laid his hand gently on his shoulder.

"Cajetan," he asked, mildly, "did I do right?"

"Yes, commander-in-chief, you did," said Doeninger, solemnly.

"I want to tell you something more, Cajetan," added Andreas. "What Steeger said about Rafel and Donay may be true; the French may have discovered my place of concealment, and may come up here. Hence, dear Cajetan, you must leave me and escape, lest they should seize you, too."

"A good servant leaves his master no more than a captain deserts his shipwrecked vessel," said Doeninger, firmly. "You refuse to leave your native country in its adversity because you love it. I refuse, likewise, to leave you in the days of your adversity, because I love you. I shall stay here."

Andreas Hofer encircled Doeninger with his arms and folded him tenderly to his heart. "Stay with me, then, my Cajetan," he said, affectionately. "God knows my heart would have grieved had you consented to leave me. And now, Anna Gertrude, do not weep any longer. Make haste, dear wife, pack up all your things, and let us go early to bed. For early in the morning we will leave this hut. I know another Alpine hut at no great distance from here; I believe we will be able to get thither, and we will take with us as many things as we can carry. Make haste, therefore, dear Anna Gertrude!"

Anna Gertrude dried her tears, and, flushed with new hope, packed up their things in four small bundles, so that each might carry one according to his strength.

Night came at last-the last night which they were to pass at this hut. At the break of day they were to set out for their new place of concealment.

They went to bed at an early hour. Andreas Hofer had sent the two servants down to Brandach, where they were to get some articles necessary for the trip on the morrow. Hofer and his wife slept in the room below. Cajetan Doeninger and little John Hofer lay in the small hay-loft, to which a ladder led up from the room.

But Doeninger did not sleep. He thought all the while of Raffel, who had come up there three days ago and seen Andreas; he thought of Donay, the priest, to whom Raffel had betrayed Hofer's place of concealment. He knew that Donay, who, up to the days of adversity, had always professed to be Hofer's friend and an extreme partisan of the insurrection, had suddenly, since the enemy had reoccupied the Tyrol, changed his colors, become a preacher of peace and submission, and an ardent adherent of the French, with whose officers he held a great deal of intercourse. He knew Donay's avaricious and treacherous character, and, therefore, he trembled for Andreas Hofer's safety. He lay uneasy and full of anxiety on his couch, listening all the while for suspicious sounds. But nothing was heard but the storm howling and whistling about the hut, and the regular respirations of the two sleepers in the room below.

Hour passed after hour; all remained silent, and Doeninger felt somewhat relieved, for day would soon dawn, when the hour of flight would be at hand. Doeninger dropped his head slowly on the hay to sleep an hour and invigorate himself for to-morrow's trip. However, no sooner had he done so than he gave a start, lifted up his head again, and listened. He had heard a sound outside. The sound, as it were, of many approaching footsteps which creaked on the frozen snow.

Doeninger crept cautiously to the small hole in the roof and looked out. The moon shed her pale light on the white snowfield around the hut, and Doeninger could see and recognize everything. He saw a detachment of soldiers coming up yonder. He saw them halt at a short distance from the hut. He then saw two forms approaching the hut. Now they stood still in front of it. The moon shone brightly into the face of one of them; Doeninger recognized him at once; it was Raffel, the betrayer. The other was a French officer. The latter stood still at a distance of some steps from the hut, but Raffel went close up to the door, applied his ear to it and listened.

"They are here," he then said to the officer in a low voice. The officer immediately lifted up his arm and shouted "Forward!" The soldiers advanced and surrounded the hut. All was lost!

Doeninger awakened the sleeping boy. "John," he said in a low voice, "let us go down to father. The French have come."

The boy uttered a loud cry. "The French have come!" he exclaimed, despairingly; "they want to arrest my father!"

"Come," said Doeninger, imperatively; and he took the boy in his arms, and hastened with him down the ladder into the room below.

"Awake," he said, bending over Andreas Hofer; "the enemy has come."

Andreas started up and stared incredulously at Doeninger; but his wife rose, uttering low lamentations, and dressed herself hurriedly.

"Let us flee," she murmured; "quick, quick, let us escape by the back door."

"The hut is surrounded," said Doeninger, assisting Hofer in dressing. "We can no longer flee."

"Is that true?" asked Andreas, calmly.

"It is, commander-in-chief."

"Well, then, as it pleases God," said Hofer, crossing himself; and, traversing the room quickly, he opened the front door.

The soldiers stood four files deep, shouldering their muskets.

Andreas advanced fearlessly close up to the enemy.

"Is there one of you, gentlemen, who speaks German?" he asked, with entire calmness.

"I do," said the officer, stepping rapidly forward.

Andreas greeted him with a proud nod of the head. "Well, then," he said, "I am Andreas Hofer, late commander-in-chief of the Tyrolese. I ask for quarter and good treatment."

"I cannot promise any thing to a rebel," replied the officer, contemptuously.

"But you have come to seize me, and none but me," continued Andreas, in a gentle voice. "Well, then, here I am; do with me as you please. But I ask you to have mercy upon my wife and my son, and this young man, for they are entirely innocent." [Footnote: Andreas Hofer's own words. See "Gallery of Heroes."]

The officer made no reply. He signed to his soldiers, and ordered them to bind Andreas Hofer and the others in such a manner as to render it utterly impossible for them to escape.

The soldiers rushed furiously upon the defenseless captives, tied their hands on their backs, and wound the ropes round their necks, so that they could drag them forward like oxen. And after binding Andreas Hofer, so that they were no longer afraid of his strong arms, they surrounded him with scornful laughter, tore handfuls of hair from his beard, and said they would keep them "as souvenirs of General Barbone." Blood streamed from his lacerated face, but the cold froze it and transformed the gory beard into a blood red icicle, which pricked the numerous wounds in his chin every moment, and inflicted intense pain.

Andreas did not complain; he looked only at his wife, his son, and his friend, who, bound like himself, scantily dressed and barefooted like himself, were dragged down the mountain, which was covered with snow and ice, into the plain below. His hands, into which the rope was cutting all the while, were very sore; his bare feet swelled from walking on the snow and were torn by the icicles. Still Andreas did not complain; but on hearing the low wails of his son, on seeing that every footstep of his wife, who was dragged along before him, left a bloody spot in the snow, he burst into loud sobs, and two tears rolled slowly down his cheeks into his beard, where they froze in the blood.

The dreadful march was continued to Meran. French generals, staff- officers, and soldiers awaited the tottering prisoners at the gate. The soldiers greeted the captured "bandit chief Barbone" with loud cheers and scornful laughter; and Andreas Hofer and the others entered the city, preceded by a band which played a ringing march. The French were overjoyed, but the citizens stood in front of their houses, and, regardless of the presence of their cruel enemies, greeted Andreas Hofer with tears and loud lamentations.

The journey was continued on the following day to Botzen; only the prisoners, whose bleeding and lacerated feet refused to carry them any longer, had been laid on a common farm-wagon, and some clothing had been thrown over them.

At Botzen Andreas Hofer received cheering news. A noble German lady, the wife of Baron de Giovanelli, had dared to implore the French General Baraguay d'Hilliers to have mercy on Hofer's unfortunate and innocent family; to save them, she had knelt down before the general and besought him with heart-rending lamentations. Baraguay d'Hilliers had been unable to withstand her supplications, and consented to release those for whom she pleaded.

"The viceroy's orders," he said, "are only to the effect that the Sandwirth Hofer be conveyed to Mantua. I yield to your prayers, therefore, madame; his companions shall be released, and shall not be molested again. His wife may return with her son to her home, and carry on the inn as heretofore; but she must be cautious and not expose herself to new dangers by imprudent words. The young man may go wherever he pleases."

This was the cheering intelligence which Andreas Hofer received on the third day of his captivity in the jail where he and his dear ones lay on wet straw.

"See, Cajetan," he exclaimed, joyfully, "it turns out just as I said. My seizure releases my wife and my child, and relieves them from all dangers."

"But I will not leave you," cried Anna Gertrude, embracing him tenderly; "I will stay and die with you."

"And is our son yonder to die too?" asked Andreas, pointing to his boy. "And our three little girls, are they to become entirely helpless, and have neither father nor mother to protect them? Anna Gertrude, you must be father and mother to them; you must not leave them and our boy. You must preserve their small inheritance to them, bring them up in the fear of the Lord, and teach them, also, to love their poor father and honor his memory."

"Husband, dear husband, I cannot leave you, I cannot!" sobbed the poor woman. "Do not thrust me from your heart, do not leave me behind, all alone and without consolation."

Andreas lifted his arm and pointed up to heaven. "There is our

Consoler," he said; "He will help you. Confide in Him, Anna

Gertrude. Go to your children, be father and mother to them, and

love them in my and your name."

At this moment the door of the prison opened, and the jailer, followed by soldiers, came in.

"Andreas Hofer," said the jailer, imperatively, "come! The wagon which is to convey you to Mantua is in readiness. As for you others, begone; you have no longer any business here. Come, Andreas Hofer, come!"

"Let me first bless my wife and my son, my friend," said Hofer, and, laying his hands on the heads of his wife and child, he blessed them in a loud voice, and commended them to the protection of the Lord. Doeninger knelt behind him, and Andreas Hofer laid his hand on his head also, blessed him, and thanked him for his love and fidelity.

"Come now, come!" cried the soldiers; and they seized him with rude violence and dragged him forward.

Anna Gertrude burst into loud lamentations in her grief and despair, and clung to Hofer in the anguish of her love.

"Do not lament any longer," said Andreas, mildly; "bring your grief as an offering to the crucified Redeemer, and show now that you are Hofer's wife. Farewell, love! Kiss our children! Forward now!"

And he led the way with a rapid step. Anna Gertrude, pale as a corpse, trembling and tottering, seized her son's hand and rushed after her husband. Cajetan Doeninger followed them resolutely and with a defiant expression of countenance.

At the street-door stood the farm-wagon, covered with straw, which was to convey Andreas Hofer to Mantua. Ten soldiers with loaded muskets stood upon it, and a crowd of soldiers surrounded it.

Andreas Hofer walked calmly and with head erect through their ranks to the wagon. His wife had knelt down; she wept and sobbed bitterly, and embraced convulsively her son, who gazed in dismay at his father.

Andreas Hofer had now ascended the wagon. The soldiers stepped back, and the driver whipped up the horses.

Suddenly, Cajetan Doeninger elbowed his way to the wagon, and signed to the driver to stop.

"I shall accompany Hofer," he said, grasping the side-railing of the wagon in order to mount it.

"No, no," cried the jailer, hastening to him. "You are mistaken, you are free."

Doeninger, still clinging to the railing of the wagon, turned to him. "What said the general's order?" he asked.

"It said, 'the young man is free, and can go wherever he pleases.'"

"Well, then," said Doeninger, mounting the wagon, quickly, "the young man will accompany Andreas Hofer to Mantua. Forward, driver, forward!"

The driver whipped up the horses, and the wagon started for Mantua. [Footnote: Donay, the priest who betrayed Andreas Hofer, according to the general belief of the Tyrolese, was soon afterwards appointed imperial chaplain at the chapel of Loretto, by a special decree of the Emperor Napoleon, and received, besides, large donations in lands and money.-See Hormayr's "Andreas Hofer," vol. ii., p. 507.- The peasant Francis Joseph Raffel, who had betrayed Hofer's place of concealment to Donay, was afterward called Judas Iscariot throughout the Tyrol. Every one turned his back upon him with the utmost horror, and the men of the Passeyr valley told him they would shoot him if he did not hang himself within a week. Raffel fled in great dismay to Bavaria, where the government gave him a small office in the revenue department-See "Gallery of Heroes; Andreas Hofer," p. 191.]

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