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   Chapter 43 THE FLIGHT.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 26590

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Anthony Wallner sat in his lonely Alpine hut on the height near the village of Ober-Peischlag, and listened to the storm, which howled so loudly to-night that the but shook and he was unable to sleep on his couch of straw. He had lighted his lamp, and sat musingly at the pine table, leaning his head on his hand, and brooding mournfully over his dreary future. How long would he have to remain herein his open grave? How lone would he be chased yet, like a wild beast, from mountain to mountain? How long would he be obliged yet to lead an idle and unprofitable life in this frozen solitude, exposed to the fury of the elements, and in constant dread of losing this miserable life? These were the questions that he asked himself; intense rage seized his heart, tears of bitter grief filled his eyes-not however, at his own misfortunes, but at the miseries of his fatherland.

"What am I suffering for? What did I fight and risk my life for? What did we all shed our blood for? What did our brethren die for on the field of battle? The fatherland was not saved, the French defeated us, and our emperor abandoned us. We were brave defenders of our country, and now they call us criminals; we intended to save the fatherland, and now they call us rebels and traitors! The emperor gives us away like a piece of merchandise, regardless of his sacred pledges, and the French are chasing us as though we were thieves and murderers! And Thou sufferest it, God in heaven? Thou- Hark! did not that sound like a shot? Is it the wind that is knocking so loudly at my door?"

He sprang to his feet, took up his rifle, cocked it, and aimed at the door.

There was another knocking at the door; no, it was assuredly not the storm that was rapping and hammering at it so regularly. No, no, it was the enemy! He had spied him out, he had discovered his track, he had come to seize him!

"I will sell my life dearly," murmured Anthony Wallner, grimly. "I will shoot down the first man who opens the door; then I will force a passage through the ranks with the butt-end of my rifle, and-"

"Father," cried a voice outside, "father, open the door!"

"Great God!" murmured Wallner, "did not that sound like my Lizzie calling me? But that is impossible; it cannot be she; she cannot have ascended the mountain-path; the storm would have killed her, and-"

"Father, dear father, pray open the door," shouted the voice again, and somebody shook the door.

Wallner laid down his rifle and hastened to the door. "May God protect me if they deceive me, but I believe it is Lizzie."

He threw open the door; the little Tyrolese lad rushed in, embraced him tenderly, kissed him with his cold lips, and whispered, "My father! thank God, I am with you!"

"It is Lizzie!" cried Wallner, in a ringing voice. "She has come tome through night and storm! It is my daughter, my dear, dear daughter! Oh, joy of my heart, how were you able to get up here in this terrible night? No man would have dared to attempt it."

"But I dared it, father, for I am your child, and love you."

"You love me, and I thank God!" he exclaimed, folding her tenderly and anxiously to his heart; "I thank God for saving you, and-"

He faltered and burst into tears, which he did not try to conceal. He wept aloud and bitterly, and Eliza wept with him, and neither of them knew whether they wept for joy or grief.

Eliza was the first to overcome her emotion. "Father," she said, raising her head quickly, "the enemy is on your track, and early to- morrow morning the French are going to occupy the mountain in order to arrest you. That is the reason why I have come up to you, for you must flee this very hour."

"Flee?" he cried, mournfully. "How can I? The first Bavarian or French gendarme on the frontier, who meets me and asks me for my passport, will arrest me. I have no passport."

"Here is a passport," said Eliza, joyfully, handing him the paper,

"Siebermeier sends it to you."

"The faithful friend! Yes, that is help in need. Now I will try with God's aid to escape. You, Lizzie, will return to mother, and bring her a thousand greetings from me; and as soon as I am across the frontier, you shall hear from me."

"I must go with you, father," said Eliza, smiling. "The passport is valid for Siebermeier, the carpet-dealer, and his son. Now you see, dear father, I am your son, and shall flee with you."

"No," cried her father, in dismay; "no, you shall never do so, Lizzie. I must journey through the wildest and most secluded Alps, and you would die in the attempt to follow me, Lizzie."

"And even though I knew that I should die, father, I should go with you," said Lizzie, joyfully. "You cannot flee without me, and I do not love my life very dearly if it cannot be useful to you, dear father. Therefore, say no more about it, and do not reject my offer any longer; for if you do, it will be in vain, because I shall follow you for all that, and no road is too precipitous for me when I see you before the. Therefore, come, dear father; do not hesitate any longer, but come with your little boy. You cannot flee without me; therefore, let us try it courageously together."

"Well, I will do so, my brave little boy; I believe I must comply with your wish," exclaimed Wallner, folding her tenderly to his heart. "You shall accompany me, you shall save your father's life. Oh, it would be glorious if God should grant me the satisfaction of being indebted for my life to my dear daughter Lizzie!"

"Come, now, father, come; every minute's delay increases the danger."

"I am ready, Lizzie. Let me only see if my rifle is in good order and put on my powder-pouch."

"You cannot take your rifle with you, nor your powder-pouch either. You are no longer the brave commander of the sharpshooters of Windisch-Matrey, but Siebermeier, the carpet-dealer, a very peaceable man, who does not take his rifle and powder-pouch with him on his travels."

"You are right, Lizzie. But it is hard indeed to flee without arms, and to be defenceless even in case of an attack by the enemy. And I do not want to let my rifle fall into the hands of the French when they come up here. I know a hole in the rock close by; I will take it there and conceal it till my return. Come, now, Lizzie, and let us attempt, with God's aid, to escape from the enemy."

He wrapped himself in his cloak, took the rifle, and both left the hut.

Day was now dawning: some rosy streaks appeared already in the eastern horizon, and the summits of the glaciers were faintly illuminated. Eliza saw it, but she did not rejoice this time at the majestic beauty of the sunrise; it made her only uneasy and sad, and while her father concealed his rifle carefully in the hole in the rock, Eliza glanced around anxiously, murmuring to herself: "They intend to start at daybreak. It is now after daybreak; the sun has risen, and they have doubtless set out already to arrest him."

"Now come," said her father, returning to her; "we have a long journey before us to-day, for we must pass the Alps by hunters' paths up to the Isel-Tauerkamm. We shall pass the night at the inn there: in the morning we shall continue the journey, and, if it please God, we shall reach the Austrian frontier within three hours."

And they descended the mountain, hand in hand and with firm steps, and entered the forest.

Nothing was to be heard all around; not a sound broke the peaceful stillness of awaking nature; only the wind howled and whistled, and caused the branches of the trees to creak. The sun had risen higher and higher, and shed already its golden rays through the forest.

"I would we had passed through the thicket and reached the heights again," said Anthony Wallner, in a low voice. "We were obliged to descend in order to pass round the precipice and the steep slope; we shall afterwards ascend the mountain again and remain on the heights. But if the soldiers from Windisch-Matrey meet us here, we are lost, for they know me and will not pay any attention to my passport."

"God will not permit them to meet us," sighed Lizzie, accelerating her steps. They kept silent a long while, and not a sound was to be heard around them. All at once both gave a start, for they had heard the noise of heavy footsteps and the clang of arms. They had just passed through the clearing in the forest and were now again close to the thicket, by the side of which there was a small chapel with a large crucifix. They turned and looked back.

"The enemy! the enemy!" cried Anthony Wallner, pointing to the soldiers who were just stepping from the other side of the forest. "Lizzie, we are lost! Ah, and I have not even got my rifle! I must allow myself to be seized without resistance!"

"No, we are not yet lost, father; look at the chapel. Maybe they leave not yet seen us. Let us enter the chapel quickly. There is room enough for us two under the altar."

Without giving her father time to reply, Eliza hastened into the chapel and disappeared behind the altar. In a second Wallner was with her, and, clinging close to each other and with stifled breath, they awaited the arrival of the enemy.

Now they heard footsteps approaching rapidly and voices shouting out aloud. They came nearer and nearer, and were now close to the chapel. It was a Bavarian patrol, and the two, therefore, could understand every word they spoke, and every word froze their hearts. The Bavarians had seen them they were convinced that they must be close by; they exhorted each other to look diligently for the fugitives, and alluded to the reward which awaited them in case they should arrest Anthony Wallner.

Both lay under the altar with hearts throbbing impetuously, and almost senseless from fear and anguish; Eliza murmuring a prayer with quivering lips; Anthony Wallner clinching his fists, and firmly resolved to sell his life dearly and defend himself and his child to the last drop of blood.

The enemies were now close to them; they entered the chapel and advanced to the altar. Eliza, pale and almost fainting from terror, leaned her head on her father's shoulder.

The Bavarians struck now with the butt-ends of their muskets against the closed front-side of the altar; it gave a dull, hard sound, for the fugitives filled the cavity.

"There is no one in there, for the altar is not hollow," said one of the soldiers. The footsteps thereupon moved away from the altar, and soon all was silent in the chapel. Wallner and Lizzie heard only footsteps and voices outside, they moved away farther and farther, and after a few seconds not a sound broke the silence.

The fugitives lay still behind the altar, motionless, listening, with hearts throbbing impetuously. Could they dare to leave their place of concealment? Was it not, perhaps, a mere stratagem of the enemy to keep silent? Had the soldiers surrounded the chapel, and were they waiting merely for them to come out? They waited and listened for hours, but their cowering position benumbed their blood; it stiffened their limbs and made their heads ache. "Father, I can no longer stand it," murmured Eliza; "I will die rather than stay here any longer."

"Come, Lizzie," said Wallner, raising himself up and jumping over the altar, "come! I, too, think it is better for us to die than hide thus like thieves."

They joined hands and left the chapel, looking anxiously in all directions. But every thing remained silent, and not a Bavarian soldier made his appearance.

"They are gone, indeed they are gone," said Wallner, triumphantly. "Now we must make haste, my girl; we shall ascend the height; the footpath leads up here in the rear of the chapel; within two hours we shall reach the summit, and, if our feet do not slip, if we do not fall into the depth, if no avalanche overwhelms us, and if the storm does not freeze us, I think we shall reach the Isel-Tauerkamm to-night, and sleep at the inn there. May the Holy Virgin protect us!"

And the Holy Virgin did seem to guard the intrepid wanderers-to enable them to cross abysses on frail bridges; to prevent them from sinking into invisible clefts and pits covered with snow; to make them safely escape the avalanches falling down here and there, and protect them from freezing to death.

Toward dusk they reached at length the inn on the Isel-Tauerkamm, utterly exhausted by fatigue, hunger, and frost, and entered the bar-room on the ground-floor. Nobody was there but the landlord, a gloomy, morose-looking man, who eyed the new-comers with evident distrust.

When the two wanderers, scarcely able to utter a word, seated themselves on the bench at the narrow table, the land-lord stepped up to them.

"I am not allowed to harbor any one without seeing his passport," he said. "There are all sorts of fugitive vagabonds prowling around here to hide from the Bavarians, who are searching the whole district to-day. Give me your passport, therefore."

Wallner handed him the paper in silence. The landlord read it attentively, and seemed to compare the two with the description in the passport. "H'm!" he said, "the carpet-dealer and his son-that corresponds to what the passport says; but where is the bundle of carpets?"

Anthony Wallner gave a slight start; he recovered his presence o

f mind immediately, however, and said calmly,

"The carpets are all sold already; we are on our return to Windisch-

Matrey."

"See, see how lucky you have been," said the landlord, laughing; "the passport says you started only yesterday morning, and to-day you have already sold all your carpets. Well, in that case, you are certainly justified in returning to your home. Your passport is in good order, and the Bavarians, therefore, will not molest you."

"As my passport is in good order, I suppose you will give us beds, and, above all things, something to eat and drink."

"You shall have everything, that is to say, every thing that I can give you. I am all alone here, and have nothing but a piece of ham, bread, and cheese, and a glass of wine. As for beds, I have not got any; you must sleep on the bench here."

"Well, we will do so; but give us something to eat now," said Wallner, "and add a little fuel to the fire, that we may warm ourselves."

The landlord added some brushwood and a few billets to the fire, fetched the provisions, and looked on while the wanderers were partaking of the food with eager appetite. All at once he stepped quickly up to them, seated himself on the bench opposite them, and drew a paper from his pocket. "I will read something to you now," he said. "There were Bavarian soldiers here to-day; they gave me a new decree, and ordered me to obey it under pain of death. Listen to me."

And he read, in a loud, scornful voice

"Know all men by these presents, that any inhabitant of the German or Italian Tyrol, who dares to harbor Anthony Wallner, called Aichberger, late commander of the sharp-shooters of Windisch-Matrey, or his two sons, shall lose his whole property by confiscation, and his house shall be burned down." [Footnote: Loritza, p. 130.]

"Did you hear it?" asked the landlord, after reading the proclamation.

"I did," said Wallner, with perfect composure, "but it does not concern us."

"Yes, it does. I believe you are Anthony Wallner, and the lad there is one of your sons."

Anthony Wallner laughed. "Forsooth," he said, "if I were Wallner I should not be so stupid as to show myself. I believe he is hiding somewhere in the mountains near Windisch-Matrey. But I think I resemble him a little, for you are not the first man who has taken me for Anthony Wallner. And that the lad there is not one of Anthony Wallner's sons, I will swear on the crucifix, if you want me to do so."

"Well, well, it is all right, I believe you," growled the landlord. "Now lie down and sleep; there is a pillow for each of you, and now good-night; I will go to my chamber and sleep too."

He nodded to them morosely, and left the room.

"Lizzie, do you think we can trust him?" asked Wallner, in a low voice.

Eliza made no reply; she only beckoned to her father, slipped on tiptoe across the room to the. door, and applied her ear to it.

There was a pause. Then they heard the front door jar.

"Father," whispered Eliza, hastening to Wallner, "he has left the house to fetch the soldiers. I heard him walk through the hall to the front door and open it. He has left, and locked us up."

"Locked us up?" cried Wallner, and hastened to the door. He shook it with the strength of a giant, but the lock did not yield; the bolts did not give way.

"It is in vain, in vain!" cried Wallner, stamping the floor furiously; "the door does not yield; we are caught in the trap, for there is no other outlet."

"Yes, father, there is; there is the window," said Eliza. "Come, we must jump out of the window."

"But did you not see, Lizzie, that the house stands on a slope, and that a staircase leads outside to the front door? If we jump out of the window, we shall fall at least twenty feet."

"But there is a great deal of snow on the ground, and we shall fall softly. I will jump out first, father, and you must follow me immediately."

And Eliza disappeared out of the window. Wallner waited a few seconds and then followed her. They reached the ground safely; the deep snow prevented the leap from being dangerous; they sprang quickly to their feet, and hastened on as fast as their weary limbs would carry them.

It was a cold, dark night. The moon, which shone so brightly during the previous night, was covered with heavy clouds; the storm swept clouds of snow before it, and whistled and howled across the extensive snow-fields. But the wanderers continued their journey with undaunted hearts.

All at once something stirred behind them; they saw torches gleaming up, and Bavarian soldiers accompanying the bearers of the torches. The soldiers, headed by the landlord who had fetched them, rushed forward with wild shouts and imprecations. But Wallner and Eliza likewise rushed forward like roes hunted down. They panted heavily, the piercing storm almost froze their faces, their feet bled, but they continued their flight at a rapid rate. Nevertheless, the distance separating them from their pursuers became shorter and shorter. The Bavarians, provided with torches, could see the road and the footsteps of the fugitives in the snow, while the latter had to run blindly into the night, unable to see whither their feet were carrying them, and exhausted by the long journey of the preceding day.

The distance between pursuers and pursued rapidly diminished; scarcely twenty yards now lay between them, and the soldiers extended their hands already to seize them. At this moment of extreme peril the storm came up howling with redoubled fury and drove whole clouds of snow before it, extinguished the torches of the Bavarians, and shrouded every thing in utter darkness. The joyful cries of the pursued and the imprecations of their pursuers were heard at the same time.

Wallner and Eliza, whose eyes were already accustomed to the darkness, advanced at a rapid rate, the soldiers followed them, but blinded by the darkness, unable to see the road, and calling each other in order to remain together. These calls and shouts added to the advantages of the fugitives, for they indicated to them the direction which they had to take in order to avoid the enemy. Finally, the shouts became weaker and weaker, and died away entirely.

The fugitives continued their flight more leisurely; but they could not rest and stand still in the dark, cold night, for the storm would have frozen them, the cold would have killed them. They did not speak, but advanced breathlessly and hand in hand. All at once they beheld a light twinkling in the distance like a star. There was a house, then, and men also. They walked on briskly, and the light came nearer and nearer. Now they saw already the house through whose windows it gleamed. In a few minutes they were close to the house, in front of which they beheld a tall post.

"Great God!" cried Anthony Wallner; "I believe that is a boundary- post, and we are now on Austrian soil."

He knocked hastily at the door; it opened, and the two wanderers entered the small, warm, and cozy room, where they were received by a man in uniform, who sat at the table eating his supper.

Anthony Wallner went close up to him and pointed to his uniform.

"You wear the Austrian uniform" he asked.

"I do, sir," said the man, smilingly.

"And we are here on Austrian soil?"

"Yes, sir. The boundary-post is in front of this house. This is an

Austrian custom-house."

Anthony Wallner threw his arm around Eliza's neck and knelt down. He burst into tears, and exclaimed in a loud, joyous voice, "Lord God in heaven, I thank Thee!"

Eliza said nothing, but her tears spoke for her, and so did the smile with which she looked up to heaven and then at her father.

The custom-house officer had risen and stood profoundly moved by the side of the two.

"Who are you, my friend?" he asked; "and why do you weep and thank

God?"

"Who am I?" asked Wallner, rising and drawing Eliza up with him. "I am Anthony Wallner, and this is my daughter Lizzie, who has saved me from the Bavarians. The good God-"

He said no more, but leaned totteringly on Eliza's shoulder, and sank senseless to the ground.

Eliza threw herself upon him, uttering loud cries of anguish. "He is dead," she cried, despairingly; "he is dead!"

"No, he is not dead," said the officer; "the excitement and fatigue have produced a swoon. He will soon be restored to consciousness and get over it. Careful nursing shall not be wanting to Anthony Wallner in my house."

He had prophesied correctly. Anthony Wallner awoke again, and seemed to recover rapidly under the kind nursing of his host and his daughter.

They remained two days at the custom-house on the frontier. The news of Anthony Wallner's arrival spread like wildfire through the whole neighborhood, and the landed proprietors of the district hastened to the custom-house to see the heroic Tyrolese chief and his intrepid daughter, and offered their services to both of them.

It was no longer necessary for them to journey on foot. Wherever they came, the carriages of the wealthy and aristocratic inhabitants were in readiness for them, and they were greeted everywhere with jubilant acclamations. Their journey to Vienna was an incessant triumphal procession, a continued chain of demonstrations of enthusiasm and manifestations of love.

Anthony Wallner, however, remained silent, gloomy, and downcast, amid all these triumphs; and on arousing himself sometimes from his sombre broodings, and seeing the painful expression with which Eliza's eyes rested on him, he tried to smile, but the smile died away on his trembling lips.

"I believe I shall be taken very sick," he said, faintly. "My head aches dreadfully, and all my limbs are trembling. I was too long in the Alpine hut, and the numerous previous fatigues. The excitement, grief, cold, and hunger, and last, the long journey on foot, have been too much for me. Ah, Lizzie, Lizzie, I shall be taken sick. Great God! it would be dreadful if I should die now and leave you all alone in this foreign country! No, no, I do not want to be taken sick, I have no time for it. Oh, listen to me; my God! I do not want to be taken sick, for Lizzie must not be left an orphan here. No, no, no!"

And he lifted his clinched fist to heaven, screamed, and wept, and uttered senseless and incoherent words.

"I am afraid he has got the nervous fever," said Baron Engenberg, who was conveying Wallner and Eliza in his carriage from the last station to Vienna. "It will be necessary for us to take him at once to a hospital."

"Can I stay with him there and nurse him?" asked Eliza, repressing her tears.

"Of course you can."

"Then let us take him to a hospital," she said, calmly. "He will die, but I shall be there to close his eyes."

And it was Eliza that closed her father's eyes. The violent nervous fever which had seized Anthony Wallner was too much for his exhausted body. He died five days after his arrival at Vienna, on the 15th of February, 1810, at the city hospital.

Many persons attended his funeral; many persons came to see Eliza Wallner, the young heroine of the Tyrol. But Eliza would not see anybody. She remained in the room which had been assigned to her at the hospital, and she spoke and prayed only with the priest who had administered the last unction to her father.

On the day after the funeral the Emperor Francis sent one of his chamberlains to Eliza, to induce her to remain in Vienna. He would provide for her bountifully, and reward her for what her father had done. The chamberlain was also instructed to conduct Eliza to the emperor, that he might thank and console her personally.

Eliza shook her head, gravely. "The emperor need not thank me," she said, "for I did no more for him than he did for the Tyrol. He is unable to console me; God alone can do that, and He will also provide for me. I cannot see the emperor, for my heart is too deeply afflicted. But if you will give me money enough, sir, to return quickly to my dear Tyrol and my beloved mother, I shall accept it and be grateful to you. I must return to my mother and weep with her; and my dear home, my dear mountains will console me."

"You can set out as soon as you please," said the chamberlain. "The emperor has interceded in your behalf and obtained this safeguard for you in case you wished to return to your native country. No one will molest you, and you and your family can live quietly at your home."

"If the emperor had done as much for my father as he does for me, my father would not have died," said Eliza, gravely, accepting the paper. "Now he has no longer need of an emperor. He is with God, and I would I were with him above! But I must not leave my mother. I must console her and stay with her as long as it pleases God." [Footnote: Eliza Wallner returned to Windisch-Matrey, and lived there in quiet retirement. She never married. After the death of her mother she yielded to Joachim Haspinger's entreaties and went to live at his house. The Capuchin was ordained and appointed pastor of Jotelsee, and afterward of Traunfeld. Eliza lived with him as his adopted daughter, and was still with him at the time of his death, which took place in 1856, at Salzburg.-See Sehallhammer's "Joachim Haspinger," p. 184.]

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