NAPOLEON AND BLUCHER
Part 3 out of 12
somewhat a story about one Ulysses, who, in times gone by, was a
very famous and shrewd captain. He set out to wage war with the
barbarians, and his wife, whose name was Penelope, remained at home
with his son Telemachus. Ulysses was absent for twenty long years,
and when he returned home he found fifty suitors who were all
courting his beautiful wife Penelope. Do you see, fifty suitors, one
for every year of Penelope's age, for she must have been well-nigh
fifty years old when Ulysses returned, and yet she was still
beautiful, and men were gallanting about her. Why should not the
same thing happen to you, as you are scarcely forty-eight? And who
knows whether the wife of Ulysses was as beautiful and good as you?
I am sure she was not. For it seems to me you are the dearest and
best little woman, and look precisely as you did twenty years ago,
when you were foolish enough to marry that rough old soldier
Blucher, who was already fifty years of age."
"Well, that was not so very foolish," said Madame von Blucher,
smiling; "on the contrary, it was very well done, and but for those
abominable playing-cards, nothing could be better."
"Ah, the shrewd little general has, by an adroit movement, brought
us back to the old battle-ground," exclaimed Blucher. "We have
arrived again at last night's faro! Now, tell me first of all--did I
guess right? Were you not angry with me because I returned late?"
"Yes," said his wife, "that was the reason."
"Hurrah! Just as I thought!" shouted Blucher, jubilantly. "Now,
quick, pay me for my correct guess! You know, you were to give me a
kiss!--a kiss such as you used to give me twenty years ago!" He
encircled his wife with his arms, and pressed a long and tender kiss
on her lips.
"Well, are you pacified now?" he then asked. "I see in your eyes
that you are, and now, come, I will tell you all that occurred last
night. You see the money is gone, and what matters it! Money is
destined to be spent; that is what the good Lord gave it to us for,
and men made it round that it might roll away more rapidly. If it
were to remain, they would have made it square, when the fingers
could hold it better. And, then, why should I hold it? We have
enough--more than enough; our two daughters are married to rich men;
our two sons are provided for; our estate at Kunzendorf will not
roll away, for it is not round and brings us lots of money, and I am
sure there will be a day when I shall win very large sums. I do not
mean at the gaming-table, Amelia, but on the battle-field. I shall
reconquer to the king his cities and provinces. I shall take from
Bonaparte all that he has stolen from Prussia; I--"
"You intended to tell me what occurred last night," interrupted his
wife, who heard him, to her dismay, beginning again the philippie
against Napoleon which he had repeated to her at least a hundred
"Yes, that is true," said Blucher, breathing deeply, "I wished to
tell you about Major von Leesten. At the 'Ressource' I met yesterday
in the afternoon an old friend of his, who told me how sad and
unhappy Leesten was. His eldest daughter is betrothed to a young
country gentleman: the two young folks would like to marry, but they
have no money. If the young man had only a thousand dollars, he
might rent an estate in this vicinity; but, in order to do so, he
must give a thousand dollars security, and he is not possessed of
that sum. Leesten's friend told me all this, and also how
disheartened Leesten was. He said he had gone to all sorts of
usurers, but no one would lend him any thing, because he could not
furnish security, for he has nothing but his pension."
"Poor man! And could not his friends collect the amount and give it
"His friends have not any thing either! Who has any thing? Every one
is poor since the accursed French are in the country, and Bonaparte-
"You forget again your story of Major von Leesten, my friend."
"Oh, yes. His friends have not any thing either, and even if they
had, Leesten would not accept presents. No, believe me, Amelia, when
the poor are exceedingly proud, they would die of hunger sooner than
accept alms at the hands of a good friend, or ask him for a slice of
bread and butter. I know all about it, for I was poor, too, and
starved when my pay was spent. And Leesten is proud also; alms and
presents he would not accept, or if he did, for the sake of his
daughter, his heart would burst with grief. That was what his friend
told me; I pitied him, and thought I should like to call on the dear
major and shake hands with him, that he might feel that I like him,
and that he has friends, how poor soever he may be. Well, I went
with his friend to the major. He was glad to see us and took pains
to be merry, but I saw very well that he was sad; that his laughter
was not genuine, and that, as soon as some one else spoke, he grew
gloomy. But I did not ask what ailed him; I feigned not to see any
thing, and begged him to accompany us and spend a pleasant evening
with a few friends. He refused at first to do so, but I succeeded in
overcoming his resistance, and I am not sorry by any means that I
did, for the poor major grew quite cheerful at last; he forgot his
grief, drank some good wine with us,--more, perhaps, than he had
drunk for a year, and then played a little faro with us for the
first time in his life. Well, we were all in the best spirits, and
that was the reason why I remained so long and came home so late. It
was Major von Leesten's fault, and now my story is at an end!"
"No, it is not!" exclaimed Amelia. "You have not yet told me every
thing, Blucher. You have not told me who won your two hundred louis
d'ors for which you intended to purchase four new carriage-horses?"
"Yes, that was curious," said Blucher, composedly, stroking his long
white mustache--"that was really curious. Leesten had never before
handled a card; he did not know the game, and yet he won from such
an old gambler as I am two hundred louis d'ors in the course of a
few hours. Leesten won the money that was to pay for the carriage-
horses, and you may give him thanks for being compelled to drive for
six months longer with our lame old mares."
A sunbeam, as it were, illuminated Amelia's countenance; her eyes
shone, and her cheeks were glowing with joy. Quickly putting her
hands on Blucher's shoulders, she looked up to him with a smile.
"You made him win the money, Gebhard," she said, in a voice
tremulous with emotion. "Oh, do not shake your head--tell me the
truth! You made Leesten win, because you wished to preserve him from
the necessity of accepting alms. You made him win, that his daughter
"Nonsense!" said Blucher, growlingly, "how could I make him win when
he did not really win? He would have found it out, and, besides, I
would have been a cheat."
"He did not find it out because you made him drink so much wine, and
because he knows nothing about the game; and you are no cheat,
because you intentionally made him win; on the contrary, you are a
noble, magnanimous man whom Heaven must love. Oh, dear, dearest
husband, tell me the truth; let me enjoy the happiness that I have
guessed right! You did so intentionally, did you not? The cards did
not bring so much good luck to Leesten, but Blucher did!"
"Hush! do not say that so loudly," exclaimed Blucher, looking
anxiously around; "if any one should hear and repeat it, and Leesten
should find out how the thing occurred, the fellow would return the
money to me."
"Ah, now you have betrayed yourself--you have confessed that you
lost the money intentionally," exclaimed Amelia, jubilantly. "Oh,
thanks, thanks, my noble and generous friend!" She took his hands
with passionate tenderness, and pressed them to her lips.
"But, Amelia, what are you doing?" said Blucher, withdrawing his
hands in confusion. "Why, you are weeping!"
"Oh, they are tears of joy," she said, nodding to him with a
blissful smile--"tears which I am weeping for my glorious, dear
"Oh, you are too good," said Blucher, whose face suddenly grew
gloomy. "I am nothing but an old, pensioned soldier--a rusty sword
flung into a corner. I am an invalid whom they believe to be
childish, because he thinks he might still be useful, and the
fatherland might need him. But I tell you, Amelia, if I ever should
become childish it would be on account of the course pursued toward
me; why, I am dismissed from the service; I am refused any thing to
do; I am desired to be idle, and the king has given me this accursed
estate of Kunzendorf, not as a reward, nor from love, but to get rid
of me, and because he is afraid of the French. When he gave it to me
last spring, he wrote that I ought to set out for Kunzendorf
immediately, and live and remain there, as it behooved every
nobleman, in the midst of my peasants. But his real object was to
send me into exile; he did not wish me to remain in Berlin!"
"Well, he had to comply with the urgent recommendations of his
ministers," said Madame von Blucher, smiling. "You know very well
that all the ministers of the king, with the sole exception of
Hardenberg, are friends of the French, and think that Prussia would
be lost if she should not faithfully stand by France."
"They are traitors when they entertain such infamous sentiments,"
cried Blucher, wildly stamping with his foot; "they should hang the
fellows who are so mean and cowardly as to think that Prussia would
be lost if her mortal enemy did not condescend to sustain her. Ah,
if the king had listened to me only once, we should have long since
driven the French out of the country, and our poor soldiers would
not freeze to death in Russia as auxiliaries of Bonaparte. When the
danger is greatest, every thing must be risked in order to win every
thing, and when a fellow tries to deceive and insult me, I do not
consider much whether I had better endure him because may be weaker
than he is, but, before he suspects it, I knock him down if I can.
You see, that is defending one's life; this is what the learned call
philosophy. But, dearest Amelia, there is but one philosophy in
life, and it is this: 'He who trusts in God and defends himself
bravely will never miserably perish.' Now, the king and his
ministers know only one-half of this philosophy, and that is the
reason why the whole thing goes wrong. They mean to trust in God,
even though, from their blind trust alone, all Prussia fall to
ruins; but as for bravely defending themselves, that is what they do
not understand. It is too much like old Blucher's way of doing
things, and that is the reason why the learned gentlemen do not like
it. Ah! Amelia, when I think of all the wretchedness of Prussia, and
that I may have to die without having chastised Bonaparte--without
having wrested from him, and flung into his face, the laurels of
Jena, Eylau, and Friedland--ah, then I feel like sitting down and
crying like a boy. But Heaven cannot be so cruel; it will not let me
die before meeting Bonaparte on the field of battle, and avenging
all our wrongs upon him. No, I trust I will not die before that--
and, after all, I am quite young! Only seventy years of age! My
grandfather died in his ninetieth year, and my mother told me often
enough that I looked exactly like my grandfather; I shall,
therefore, reach my ninetieth year. I have still twenty years to
live--twenty years, that is enough--" Just then the door opened, and
a footman entered.
"Well, John," asked Blucher, "what is it? Why do you look so merry,
my boy? I suppose you have good news for us, have you not?"
"I have, your excellency," said the footman. "There is an old man
outside, an invalid, attended by a young fellow who, I believe, is
his son. The two have come all the way from Pomerania, and want to
see General von Blucher. He says he has important news for your
"Important news?" asked Blucher. "And he comes from Pomerania? John,
I hope it will not be one who wants to tell me the same old story?"
"Your excellency, I believe that is what he comes for," said John,
"Amelia," exclaimed Blucher, bursting into loud laughter, "there is
another fellow who wants to tell me that he took me prisoner fifty
years since. I believe it is already the seventh rascal who says he
was the man."
"The seventh who wants to get money from you and swindle you," said
Madame von Blucher, smiling.
"No, I believe they do not exactly want to swindle me," said
Blucher, "but I know they like to get a little money, and as they do
not want to beg--"
"They come and lie," interrupted Amelia, smiling. "They know already
that General Blucher gives a few louis d'ors to every one who comes
and says, 'General, it was I who took you prisoner in Mecklenburg in
1760, and brought you to the Prussians. You, therefore, are indebted
to me for all your glory and your happiness.'"
"Yes, it is true," said Blucher, laughing and smoothing his
mustache. "That is what all six of them said. But one of them did
take me prisoner, for the story is true, and if I turn away one of
those who tell me the same thing, why, I might happen to hit
precisely the man who took me, and that would be a great shame.
Therefore, it is better I imagine a whole squadron had taken me at
that time, and give money to every one who comes to me for it. Even
though he may not be the man, why, he is at least an old hussar, and
I shall never turn an old hussar without a little present from my
door." [Footnote: Blucher's own words.--Vide "Life of Prince Blucher
of Wahlstatt, by Varnhagen von Ense," p. 6.]
"Well, I see you want to bid welcome to your seventh hero and
conqueror," said Amelia, smiling. "Very well, I will quit the field
and retire into my cabinet. Farewell, my friend, and when your hero
has taken leave of you, I will await you." She nodded pleasantly to
her husband, and left the room.
"Well, John," said Blucher, sitting down again on his easy-chair at
the window, "now let the men come in. But first fill me a pipe. You
must take a new one, for I broke the one I was smoking this
John hastened to the elegant "pipe-board" which stood beside the
fireplace, and took from it an oblong, plain wooden box; opening the
lid, he drew a new, long clay pipe from it.
"How many pipes are in it yet?" asked Blucher, hastily. "A good lot,
"No, your excellency, only seven whole pipes, and eight broken
"You may ride to Neisse to-morrow, and buy a box of pipes. Now, give
me one, and let the hussar and his son come in."
RECOLLECTIONS OF MECKLENBURG.
John, the footman, opened the door of the anteroom, and shouted in a
loud and solemn voice, "Your excellency, here is Hennemann, the
hussar, and his son Christian!"
"Well, come in!" said Blucher, good-naturedly, puffing a cloud of
smoke from his pipe.
An old man with silver-white hair, his bent form clad in the old and
faded uniform of a hussar, and holding his old-fashioned shako in
his hand, entered the room. He was followed by a young man, wearing
the costume of a North-German farmer, his heavy yellow hair combed
backward and fastened with a large round comb; his full, vigorous
form dressed in a long blue cloth coat, reaching down almost to his
feet, and lined with white flannel; under it he wore trousers of
dark-green velvet that descended only to the knees, and joined there
the blue-and-red stockings in which his legs were encased; his feet
were armed with thick shoes, adorned with buckles, while their soles
bristled with large nails.
"Where do you come from?" asked Blucher, fixing his eyes with a kind
expression on the two men.
"From Rostock, your excellency," said the old man, making a
"From Rostock?" asked Blucher, joyously. "Why, that is my native
"I know that very well, general," said the old hussar, who vainly
tried to hide his Low-German accent. "All Rostock knows it, too, and
every child there boasts of Blucher being our countryman."
"Well," said Blucher, smiling, "then you come from Rostock. Do you
"Not exactly in Rostock, your excellency. My daughter Frederica is
married to a tailor in Rostock, and I was with her for four weeks. I
myself live at Polchow, a nobleman's estate four miles from Rostock;
I am there at the house of my eldest son."
"Is that your eldest son?" asked Blucher, pointing with his clay
pipe at the young man, who stood by the side of his aged father, and
was turning his hat in his hand in an embarrassed manner.
"No, sir, he is my youngest son, and it is just for his sake that I
have come to you. Christian was a laborer in the service of our
nobleman at Polchow, and he desired to marry a girl with whom he had
fallen in love. But the nobleman would not permit it; he said
Christian should wait some ten years until there was a house vacant
in the village, and some of the old peasants had died. This drove
him to despair; he wanted to commit suicide, and said he would die
rather than be a day laborer on an estate in Mecklenburg, which is
no better than being the nobleman's slave."
"Yes," cried Christian, indignantly, "that is true, general. A day
laborer on an estate in Mecklenburg is a slave, that is all. The
nobleman owns him. If he wants to do so, he may disable him, nay, he
may kill him. Such a laborer has no rights, no will, no property, no
home, no country; he is not allowed to live anywhere but in his
village: he cannot settle in any other place, and is not permitted
to marry unless the nobleman who owns the village gives his consent,
nor can he ever be any thing else than what his father and
grandfather were, that is to say, the nobleman's laborers. And I do
not wish to be such and do nothing else than putting the horses to
the plough. I want to marry Frederica, and become a free man, and if
that cannot be I will commit suicide."
"Ahem! he has young blood," said Blucher, well pleased and smiling,
"fresh Mecklenburgian blood. I like that! But you must not abuse
Mecklenburg, Christian; I love Mecklenburg, because it is my native
"It is a good country for noblemen who have money," said Christian,
"but for day laborers who have none it is a poor country. And that
was the reason why I said to the old man, 'Vatting [Footnote:
"Vatting," Low-German for "papa."], shall I commit suicide or run
away and enlist.'"
"And I then said, 'Well, my son, in that case it will be better for
you to enlist,'" added the old man, "'and, moreover, you shall
enlist under a good general. I will show you that my life is yet
good for something; I will do for your sake what I have purposed to
do all my lifetime: I will go to General Blucher, tell him whom I
am, and ask him to reward my boy for what I did for him.'"
Blucher looked with a good-natured smile at the poor old man who
stood before him in the faded and threadbare uniform of a private
"Well, my old friend," he said, "what have you done for me, then?"
The old man raised his head, and a solemn expression overspread his
bronzed and furrowed countenance. "General," he said, gravely, "it
was I who took you prisoner in Mecklenburg in 1760, and to me,
therefore, you are indebted for all your glory and happiness."
Blucher covered his face with his hands, that the old man might not
see his smile. "It is just as Amelia told me it would be," he said
to himself. He then added aloud: "Well, tell me the story, that I
may see whether it was really you who took me prisoner."
"It is a long story," said the old man, sighing, "and if I am to
tell it, I must ask a favor of your excellency."
"Well, what is it? Speak, my old friend," said Blucher, puffing a
cloud from his pipe, and satisfied that the old hussar would apply
to him for money.
"I must beg leave to sit down, general," said the old man, timidly.
"We have come on foot all the way from Rostock, and it is only
fifteen minutes since we reached this village. We took only time
enough at the tavern to change our dress; I put on my uniform, and
Christian put on his Sunday coat. I am eighty years old, general,
and my legs are not as strong as they used to be."
"Eighty years old!" exclaimed Blucher, jumping up, "eighty years
old, and you have come on foot all the way from Rostock! Why, that
is impossible! Christian, tell me, that cannot be true!"
"Yes, general, it is true. We have been on the way for three weeks
past, for the old man cannot walk very fast, and we had not money
enough to ride. We had to be thankful for having enough to pay for
our beds at the taverns. And my father is more than eighty years of
age! We have brought his certificate of birth with us."
"Eighty years of age, and he came on foot all the way from Rostock,
and I allow the old man to stand and offer him no chair!" exclaimed
Blucher,--"I do not ask whether he is hungry and thirsty! John!
John!" And Blucher rushed to the bell-rope and rang the bell so
violently that John entered the room in great excitement. "John,
quick!" shouted Blucher. "Quick, a bottle of wine, two glasses, and
bread, butter, and ham; and tell them in the kitchen to prepare a
good dinner for these men, and have a room with two beds made ready
for them in the adjoining house. Quick, John! In five minutes the
wine and the other things must be here! Run!"
John hastened out of the room, and Blucher approached the old man,
who looked on, speechless and deeply moved by the kind zeal the
general had displayed in his behalf.
"Come, my dear friend," said Blucher, kindly, taking him by the hand
and conducting him across the room to his favorite seat at the
window. "There, sit down on my easy-chair and rest."
"No, general, no; that would be disrespectful!"
"Fiddlesticks!" replied Blucher; "an octogenarian is entitled to
more respect than a general's epaulets are. Now do not refuse, but
sit down!" And with his vigorous arms he pressed him into the easy-
chair. He then quietly took his clay pipe from the window, and sat
down on a cane chair opposite the old hussar. "And now tell me the
story of my arrest as a prisoner. I promise you that I will believe
"General, you may believe nothing but what is true," replied the old
Blucher nodded. "Commence," he said, "but no--wait a while! There is
John with the wine and the bread and butter. Now eat and drink
"I cannot eat, for I am not hungry. But, if the general will permit
me, I will drink a glass of wine."
"Come, John, two glasses!--fill them to the brim! And now, my
friend, let us drink. Here's to our native country!" Blucher filled
his glass with claret; his eyes flashed, and his face kindled with
the fire of youth, when he, the young septuagenarian, touched with
his glass that of the feeble octogenarian. "Hurrah, my old
countryman," he shouted, jubilantly, "long live Mecklenburg! long
live Rostock and the shore of the Baltic! Now empty your glass, my
friend, and you, John, fill it again, and then put the wine and the
bread and butter on the table beside the fireplace, that Christian
may help himself. Eat and drink, Christian, but do not stir, or say
a word, for we two old ones have to speak with each other. Now tell
me the story, my old friend!"
"Well," said the old man, putting down his empty glass, "I had run
away from my parents because I was just in the same difficulty as
Christian: I did not wish to remain a day laborer. I also wanted to
marry, and the nobleman would not let me. Well, I ran away, and
enlisted in Old Fritz's army, in Colonel Belling's regiment of
hussars. It was in 1760; we had a great deal to do at that time; we
were every day skirmishing with the Swedes, for we were stationed in
Mecklenburg, and the Swedes were so dreadfully bold as to make raids
throughout Brandenburg and Mecklenburg. One day, I believe it was in
August, 1760, just when we, Belling's hussars, occupied the towpath
close to Friedland in Mecklenburg, another detachment of Swedish
hussars approached to harass us. They were headed by a little
ensign--a handsome young lad, scarcely twenty years of age, a very
impertinent baby! And this young rascal rode closely to the old
hussars, and commenced to crow in his sweet little voice, abusing
us, and told us at last, if we were courageous enough, to come on;
he had not had his breakfast, he said, and would like to swallow
about a dozen of Belling's hussars. Well, the other hussars rejoiced
in the pluck of the young fellow, and a handsome lad he was, with
clear blue eyes and red cheeks. But his saucy taunts irritated me,
and when the little ensign continued laughing, and telling us we
were cowards, I became very angry, galloped up to him and shouted:
'Now, you little imp, I will kill you!'"
"Sure enough," exclaimed Blucher, in surprise, "that was what the
hussar shouted. It seems to me as though I hear it still sounding in
my ears. But none of the other hussars told me this; it is new, and
it is true. Hennemann, could it be possible that you should really
be the man who took me prisoner at that time?"
"Listen to the remainder of my story, general, and you will soon
find out whether it was I or not. I galloped up to him, and while
the Prussians and Swedes were fighting, I fixed my eyes on my merry
little ensign; when I was quite close to him, I shot down his horse.
The ensign was unable then to offer much resistance, and, besides, I
was a very strong, active man. I took him by the collar and put him
on my horse in front of me."
"And the ensign submitted to that without defending himself?" asked
"By no means! On the contrary, he was as red in the face as a
crawfish, and resisting struck me. I held his arms fast, but he
disengaged himself with so violent a jerk that the yellow facings of
his right sleeve remained in my hand."
"That is true," exclaimed Blucher.
"Yes, it is true," said the old man, calmly; "but it is true also
that I got hold again of the ensign and took him to Colonel von
Belling, to whom I stated that I had captured the handsome lad. The
colonel liked his face and courageous bearing; he kept the Swedish
ensign at his headquarters, where he appointed him cornet the next
day, and made the little Ensign Blucher apply to the Swedes for
permission to quit their service."
"And I got my discharge," exclaimed Blucher, quite absorbed in his
reminiscences, "and became a Prussian soldier. Good, brave Colonel
Belling bought me the necessary equipment, and appointed me his
aide-de-camp and lieutenant. The Lord have mercy on his dear soul!
Belling was an excellent man, and I am indebted to him for all I
"No, general," said Hennemann, "it is to me that you are indebted,
for if I had not taken you prisoner at that time--"
"Sure enough," exclaimed Blucher, laughing, "if you had not taken me
prisoner, I should now be a poor old pensioned Swedish veteran. But
you certainly took me prisoner, I really believe you did!"
"I have the proofs that I did," said the old man solemnly.
"Here I am, vatting," said Christian, rising. "What do you want?"
"Give me the memorandum-book with the papers."
Christian drew from his blue coat a red morocco memorandum-book and
handed it to his father. "Here, vatting," he said, "every thing is
in it, the certificate of birth, the enlistment paper, the
discharge, and the other thing."
"I just want to get the other thing," said the old man, opening the
memorandum-book, "and here it is!" He took out a yellow piece of
cloth and handed it to Blucher.
"It is a piece of my sleeve!" exclaimed Blucher, joyously, holding
up the piece of cloth. "Yes, Hennemann, it was really you who took
me prisoner, and I am indebted to you for being a Prussian general
to-day! And I promise you that I will now pay you a good ransom.
Give me your hand, old fellow; we ought to remain near each other.
Fifty-two years since you took me prisoner, but now I take you
prisoner in turn, and you must remain with me; you shall live at
ease, and at times in the evening you must tell me of Mecklenburg,
and how it looks there, and of Rostock, and--well, and when you are
in good spirits, you must sing to me a Low-German song!"
"Mercy!" exclaimed the old man, in dismay; "I cannot sing, general.
I am eighty years old, and old age has dried up the fountain of my
"Sure enough, you are eighty years old," said Blucher, puffing his
pipe, "and at that age few persons are able to sing. But I should
really like to hear again a merry native song. I have not heard one
for fifty years, for here, you see, Hennemann, people are so stupid
and ignorant as not even to understand Low-German."
"I believe that," said the old man, gravely, "and it is not so easy
to understand--one must he a native of Mecklenburg to understand
"It is a pity that you cannot sing," said Blucher, sighing.
"But, perhaps Christian can," said old Hennemann. "Tell me,
Christian, can you sing?"
"Yes, vatting," replied Christian, clearing his throat.
"'Vatting!'" exclaimed Blucher. "What does that mean?"
"Well, it means that he loves his father, and therefore calls him,
in good Mecklenburg style, 'vatting.'"
"Sure enough, I remember now," exclaimed Blucher. "Vatting! mutting!
[Footnote: "Mutting," mamma] Yes, yes; I have often used these
words, 'mutting--my mutting!' Ah, it seems to me as though I behold
the beautiful blue eyes of my mother when she looked at me so mildly
and lovingly and said, 'You are a wild, reckless boy, Gebhard; I am
afraid you will come to grief!' Then I used to beg her, 'My mutting,
my mutting! I will no longer be a bad boy! I will not be naughty! Do
not be angry any more, my mutting!' And she always forgave me, and
interceded for me with my father, whenever he was incensed against
me, and scolded me, because, instead of studying my books and going
to school, I was always loitering about the fields or hunting in the
woods. At last, when I was fourteen years old, and was still an
incorrigible scapegrace, they sent me to the island of Rugen, to my
sister, who was married to Baron von Krackwitz. But I did not stay
there very long. The Swedes came to the island, and I could not
withstand the desire to become a soldier; therefore, I ran away from
the island and enlisted in the Swedish army. Well, I had to do so, I
could not help it, for it was in my nature. Up to that time I was
like a fish on dry land, moving his tail in every direction without
crushing a fly; when I got into the water it was all right. If I had
been kept much longer out, I would have died very soon [Footnote:
Blucher's own words]. When I was now in the water--that is to say,
when I was a soldier, I lost my mother; I never saw her again, and
know only that she wept a great deal for me. And I never was able to
beg her to forgive me, and tell her, 'Do not be angry, my dear
mutting!' I was a dashing young soldier, and she was weeping for me
at Rostock, for she believed I would come to grief. Well, I was
first lieutenant in some Prussian fortress when they wrote to me
that my mother was dead. Yes, she had died and I was not at her
bedside; I was never able to say to her for the last time, 'Forgive
me, my mutting!' But now I say so from the bottom of my heart."
While uttering these words, Blucher raised his head and fixed his
large eyes with a touching and childlike expression on the wintry
Old Hennemann devoutly clasped his hands, and tears ran slowly down
his furrowed cheeks. Christian stood at the door, and dried his eyes
with his coat-sleeve.
"Thunder and lightning," suddenly exclaimed Blucher, "how foolish I
am! That is the consequence of being absorbed in one's
recollections. While talking about Mecklenburg I had really
forgotten that I am an old boy of seventy years, and thought I was
still the naughty young rascal who longed to ask his mutting to
forgive him! Well, Christian, now sing us a Low-German song."
"I know but one song," said Christian, hesitatingly. "It is the
spinning-song which my Frederica sang to me in the spinning-room."
"Well, sing your spinning-song," said Blucher, looking at his pipe,
which was going out.
Christian cleared his throat, and sang:
Spinn doch, spinn doch, min lutt lewes Dochting,
Ick schenk Di ock'n poor hubsche Schoh!
Ach Gott, min lewes, lewes Mutting,
Wat helpen mi de hubschen Schoh!
Kann danzen nich, un kann nich spinnen.
Denn alle mine teigen Finger,
De dohn mi so weh,
De dohn mi so weh!
Spinn doch, spinn doch, min lutt, lewes Dochting,
Ick schenk Di ock'n schon Stuck Geld.
Ach Gott, min lewes, lewes Mutting,
Ick wull, ick wihr man ut de Welt,
Kann danzen nich, un kann nich spinnen
Denn alle mine teigen Finger,
De dohn mi so weh,
De dohn mi so weh!
Spinn doch, spinn doch, min lutt, lewes Dochting.
Ick schenk Di ock'n bubschen Mann!
Ach ja, min lewes, lewes Mutting,
Schenk min lewsten, besten Mann.
Kann danzen nu, un kann ock spinnen,
Denn alle mine teigen Finger,
De dohn nich mihr weh,
De dohn nioh mihr weh!
[Footnote: The song is translated as follows:
Spin, spin, my little daughter, dear!
A pretty pair of shoes for thee!--
Alas, my mother! let me hear
What use are pretty shoes to me!
I cannot dance--I cannot spin:
And why these promised shoes to win!
O mother mine. I will not take
Thy kindly gift. My fingers ache!
Spin, spin, my little daughter dear!
And a bright silver-piece is thine!--
Alas, my mother's loving care
Makes not this shining money mine!
I cannot dance--I cannot spin;
What use such wages thus to win?
O mother dear! I cannot take
This silver, for my fingers ache.
Spin, spin, my little daughter dear!
For thee a handsome husband waits.--
Oh, then, my mother, have no fear;
My heart this work no longer hates.
Now can I dance, and also spin,
A handsome husband thus to win.
Thy best reward I gladly take!
No more--no more, my ringers ache.]
"A very pretty song," said Blucher, kindly. "And I believe I heard
the girls sing it when I was a boy. Thank you, Christian, you have
sung it very well. But, tell me now, old Hennemann, what is to
become of Christian? You yourself shall remain here at Kunzendorf,
and I will see to it that you are well provided for. But what about
"He is anxious to enlist, general," said Hennemann, timidly, "and
that is the reason why I brought him to your excellency. I wanted to
request you to take charge of him, and make out of him as good a
soldier as you are yourself."
Blucher smiled. "I have been successful," he said, "but those were
good days for soldiers. Now, however, the times are very
unfavorable; the Prussian soldier has nothing to do, and must
quietly look on while the French are playing the mischief in
"No, general," said Hennemann, "it seems to me the Prussian soldier
has a great deal to do."
"Well, what do you think he has to do?" asked Blucher.
"To expel the French from Prussia, that is what he has to do," said
the old man, raising his voice.
"Yes," said Blucher, smiling, "if that could be done, I should like
to be counted in."
"It can be done, general; every honest man says so, and it ought to
be, for the French are behaving too shamefully. They must be
expelled from Germany. Well, then, my Christian wishes to assist you
in doing so; he wishes to become a soldier, and help you to drive
out the French."
"Alas, he must apply to some one else if he wishes to do that," said
Blucher, mournfully. "I cannot help him, for they have pensioned me.
I have no regiments. I--but, thunder and lightning! what is the
matter with my pipe today? The thing will not burn." And he put his
little finger into the bowl, and tried to smoke again.
"The pipe does not draw well, because it was not skilfully filled,"
said Christian. "I know it was badly filled."
"Ay?" asked Blucher. "What do you know? John has been filling my
pipes for four years past."
"John has done it very poorly," said Christian, composedly. "To fill
such a clay pipe is an art with which a good many are not familiar,
and when it is smoked for the first time it does not burn very well.
It ought first to be smoked by some one, and John ought to have done
so yesterday if the general wished to use his pipe to-day."
"Why, he knows something about a clay pipe," exclaimed Blucher, "and
he is right; it always tastes better on the second day than on the
"That is the reason why the second day always ought to be the first
for General Blucher," said Christian.
"He is right," exclaimed Blucher, laughing, "it would surely be
better if the second were always the first day. Well, I know now
what is to be made of Christian; he is to become my pipe-master."
"Pipe-master?" asked old Hennemann and Christian at the same time.
"Pipe-master, what is that?"
"That is a man who keeps my pipes in good order," said Blucher, with
a ludicrously grave air--"a man who makes the second my first day--
who smokes my pipes first--puts them back into the box at night,
preserves the broken ones, and fills them, however short they may
be. He who does not prize a short pipe, does not deserve to have a
long one. A good pipe and good tobacco are things of the highest
importance in life. Ah! if, in 1807, at Lubeck, I had had powder for
the guns and tobacco for my men, I would have raised such clouds
that the French could not have stood. [Footnote: Blucher's own
words.--Vide "Marshall Forward," a popular biography.] Well,
Christian, you shall therefore become my pipe-master, and I hope you
will faithfully perform the duties of your office."
"I shall certainly take pains to do so," said Christian, "and you
may depend on it, general, that I shall preserve the broken, short
pipes; I will not throw them away before it is necessary. But
suppose there should be war, general, and you should take the field,
what would become of me in that case?"
"Well, in that case you will accompany me," said Blucher. "What
should I do in the field if I could not get a good pipe of tobacco
all the time? Without that I am of no account. [Footnote: Blucher's
own words.] But it is necessary to do good service for Prussia, and
hence I need, above all, a good pipe of tobacco in the field. Well,
then, tell me now plainly, will you accept the office I offer you in
peace and in war, Christian?"
"Yes, general," said Christian, solemnly. "And I swear that General
Blucher shall never lack a well-lighted pipe, even though I fetch a
match from the French gunners to kindle it."
"That is right, Christian; you are in my service now, and may at
once enter upon the duties of your office. You, Hennemann, stay here
and do me the favor of living as long and being as merry as
possible. Now, pipe-master, ring the bell!"
The new pipe-master rang the bell, and John entered the room.
"John!" said Blucher, "I owe a reparation of honor to this aged
hussar. It was he who took me prisoner in 1760. He brought me the
proof of it--the yellow facing of the sleeve here. Take it and
fasten it to the old uniform of Blucher, the Swedish ensign, which I
have always preserved; it belongs to it. You see that hussar
Hennemann is an honest man, and that I owe him the ransom. He will
stay here, and have nothing to do but eat and drink well, sit in the
sun, and, in the evening, when it affords him pleasure, tell you
stories of the Seven Years' War, in which he participated. If other
hussars come and tell you they took me prisoner, you know it is not
true, and need not admit them. But you must not abuse the poor old
fellows for that reason, nor tell them that they are swindlers. You
will give them something to eat and drink, a bed overnight, and, in
the morning, when they set out, a dollar for travelling expenses.
Now take the old man and his son to the adjoining building, and tell
the inspector to give them a room where they are to live. And then,"
added Blucher, hesitatingly, and almost in confusion,--"you have too
much to do, John; you must have an assistant. It takes you too much
time to fill my pipes, and this young man, therefore, will help you.
I have appointed Christian Hennemann my pipe-master. Well, do not
reply--take the two men to the building, and be good friends--do you
hear, good friends!"
John bowed in silence, and made a sign to the two Mecklenburgians to
follow him. Blucher gazed after them with keen glances. "Well, I am
afraid their friendship will not amount to much," he said, smiling
and stroking his beard. "John does not like this pipe-master
business, and will show it to Christian as soon as an opportunity
offers. I do not care if they do have a good fight. It would be a
little diversion, for it is horribly tedious here. Ah, how long is
this to last? How long am I to sit here and wait until Prussia and
the king call upon me to drive Napoleon out of the country? How long
am I to be idle while Bonaparte is gaining one victory after another
in Russia? I have not much time to spare for waiting, and--well," he
suddenly interrupted, himself, quickly stepping up to the window,
"what is that? Is not that a carriage driving into the court-yard?"
Yes, it really is, just entering the iron gate, and rolling with
great noise across the pavement. "I wonder who that is?" muttered
Blucher, casting a piercing glance into the carriage which stopped
at this moment in front of the mansion. He uttered a cry of joy, and
ran out of the room with the alacrity of a youth.
"It is he, it is he!" exclaimed General Blucher, rushing out of the
front door, and hastening with outstretched arms toward the
gentleman, who, wrapped in a Russian fur robe, alighted with his two
servants. "My beloved Scharnhorst!" And he clasped his friend in his
arms as if it were some longed-for mistress whom he was pressing to
"Blucher, my dear friend, let me go, or you will choke me!"
exclaimed Scharnhorst, laughing. "Come, let us go into the house."
"Yes, come, dearest, best friend!" said Blucher, and encircling
Scharnhorst's neck with his arm, drew him along so hastily that,
gasping for breath, the latter was scarcely able to accompany him.
On entering the sitting-room, Blucher himself divested his friend of
his fur robe, and, throwing it on the floor in his haste, took off
Scharnhorst's cap. "I must look at you, my friend," he exclaimed. "I
must see the face of my dear Scharnhorst, and now that I see it, I
must kiss it! To see you again does me as much good as a fountain in
the desert to the pilgrim dying of thirst."
"Well, but now you must allow me to say a word," said Scharnhorst.
"And let me look at yourself. Remember, it is nearly a year since I
saw anything of you but your hand-writing."
"And that is very illegible," said Blucher, laughing.
"It is at least not as legible and intelligible as your dear face,"
said Scharnhorst. "Here, on this forehead and in these eyes, I can
read quickly and easily all that your excellent head thinks, and
your noble heart feels. And now I read there that I am really
welcome, and need not by any means apologize for not having
announced my visit to you."
"Apologize!" exclaimed Blucher. "You know full well that you afford
me the most heart-felt joy, and that I feel as though spring were
coming with all its blessed promises."
"Well, let us not wish spring to come too early this year. We need a
good deal of ice and cold weather, to build a crystal palace for
Bonaparte in Russia."
Blucher cast a flashing glance upon his guest. "Scharnhorst," he
asked, breathlessly, "you have come to bring me important news, have
you not? Oh, pray, speak! I am sure you have come to tell me that
the time has come for rising against the French!"
"No; I have simply come to see you," said Scharnhorst, smiling. "And
you are in truth a cold-hearted friend to think any other motive was
required than that of friendship."
"I thought it was time for Providence to bring about a change. But
it was kind of you to come to me merely for my sake, and, moreover,
in weather so cold as this, and at your age."
"At my age!" exclaimed Scharnhorst, smiling.
"Why, yes, my friend, at your age. If I am not mistaken, you must be
well-nigh sixty, and at that time of life travelling in a season
like this is assuredly somewhat unpleasant, and--but why do you
"As you refer to my age, my dearest friend, I suppose you will
permit me to speak of yours?"
"Why not? We are no marriageable girls on the lookout for husbands."
"Well, then, my dear General Blucher, how old are yon?"
"I? I am a little over seventy."
"And I am fifty-six, and yet you think old age is weighing me down,
while a wreath of snow-drops is overhanging your brow."
"Yes, that is true," said Blucher, in confusion. "I had really
forgotten my age."
"The reason is, that your heart is still young and fresh," exclaimed
Scharnhorst, looking at him tenderly, and laying his hand on
Blucher's broad shoulder. "Thank God! you are still young Blucher,
with his fiery head and heroic arm--young Blucher whose eagle eye
gazes into the future, and who does not despair, however
disheartening the present may be."
"I am sure you have brought news," said Blucher. "I can see it in
your eyes--Heaven knows whether good or bad. But you have news, I
"No, my young firebrand," exclaimed Scharnhorst, "I bring only
myself, and this self I should like now above all to lay at the feet
of your respected wife."
"Yes, that is true," said Blucher; "in my joy I almost forgot that
my Amelia ought to share it. Come, general, let me conduct you to my
wife." He took Scharnhorst's arm and conducted him rapidly across
the sitting-room toward the apartments of Madame von Blucher. "Tread
softly; you know what an admirer of yours my wife is, and how glad
she will be to see you. We will, therefore, surprise her. She
doubtless did not notice your arrival, for her windows open upon the
garden. She does not yet know that you are here, and how glad she
will be! Hush!"
He glided to the door and rapped. "Amelia," he said, "are you there,
and may I come in?"
"Of course I am here," exclaimed Madame von Blucher, "and you know
well that I have already been looking for you for two hours past.
"I have a visitor with me; do you allow me to enter with him,
"A visitor?" asked Madame von Blucher, opening the door. "General
von Scharnhorst!" she exclaimed, hastening to him and offering him
both her hands. "Welcome, general, and may Heaven reward you for the
idea of visiting an old woman and her young husband in their wintry
solitude. Come, general, do my room the honor of entering it." She
took the general's arm and drew him in.
"Scharnhorst," said Blucher, "let me give you some good advice. Do
not make love in too undisguised a manner to my wife, for she is
right in saying that I am still a young man, and I may become
jealous; that would be a pity! I should then have to fight a duel
with my friend, and one of us would have to die; and yet we are
destined to deliver Prussia, and to drive that hateful man Bonaparte
out of Germany."
"See, madame, what a shrewd and self-willed intriguer he is!"
exclaimed Scharnhorst. "He avails himself of the boundless adoration
I feel for you to assist him in wandering into his favorite sphere
of politics. Madame, the barbarian believes it to be altogether
impossible that I come merely from motives of friendship, and
insists that it was politics that brought me!"
"Yes," said Madame von Blucher, smiling, "Blucher loves politics, he
has no other mistress."
"No," said Blucher, laughing, "I know nothing at all about politics,
and believe the world would be better off if there were no
politicians. They originate all our troubles. Those diplomatists are
always sure to spoil what the sword has achieved. Politics have
brought all these calamities upon Germany; otherwise, we should long
since have risen against the French, instead of allowing our
soldiers to fight for Bonaparte in Russia. I say it is absurd, and I
am so angry at it that it will make me consumptive. I say all those
diplomatists ought to be sent into the field against Russia in order
to study new-fangled politics in Siberia. I say--"
"You will say nothing further about the matter, my friend, for there
is John, who wishes to tell us that dinner is ready," Madame von
Blucher interrupted her husband, who, glowing with anger, and
trembling with excitement, was fighting with his arms in the air and
with a terrible expression of countenance. "Come, general, let us go
to the dining-room," said Madame von Blucher, giving her hand to
Scharnhorst. "And you, my valorous young husband, give me your hand,
"Wait a moment," Blucher replied. "I must first give vent to my
anger, or it will choke me." At a bound, he rushed as a passionate
boy toward the sofa, and, striking it with both fists, so that the
dust rose from it in clouds, shouted: "Have I got you at length, you
horrible butcher--are you at length under my scourge? Now you shall
find out how Pomeranians whip their enemies, and what it is to treat
people as shamefully as you have done. I will whip you--yes, until
you cry, 'Pater, peccavi!' There, take that for Jena, and this blow
for compelling me to capitulate at Lubeck; and this and this for the
infamies you have perpetrated upon our beautiful queen at Tilsit!
This last blow take for the Russian treaty to which you compelled
our king to accede, and now a few more yet! If Heaven does not
strike you, Blucher must; you ought not to be left unpunished!"
"Ah, well, that is enough, my friend," exclaimed Amelia, hastening
to him and seizing his arm, which he had already raised again. "You
are very capable of destroying my sofa, and you believe that you
have gained a campaign by tearing my beautiful velvet in shreds."
"Well, yes, it is enough now, and I feel better. Well, my friend,"
he said, turning to Scharnhorst, who had witnessed his foolish
antics with a grave and mournful air, "you need not look at me in so
melancholy a manner. I suppose they have told you, too, that old
Blucher at times gets crazy, and strikes at the flies on the wall,
and beats chairs and sofas, because, in his insanity, he believes
them to be Napoleon. [Footnote: Owing to this peculiarity and the
strange ebullitions of rage in which he indulged from time to time,
Blucher was really believed to be deranged for several years
previous to the outbreak of the war of liberation.] But it is
assuredly no madness that makes me act in this manner, as stupid
fools assert, but it is simply a way in which I relieve my anger,
that it may not break my heart. It is the same as if a man who has
to fight a duel should take fencing-lessons, and practise with the
sword, in order to hit his adversary. But I have satisfied my anger,
and will again be as gentle as a lamb."
"Yes, as a lamb which reverses the order of things, and, instead of
allowing the wolf to devour it, is quite ready to devour the wolf,"
said Scharnhorst, laughing.
"Let us go to dinner, generals," cried Amelia; "but on one
condition! During the repast not a word must be said about my
hateful rival, politics, nor will you be permitted to sprinkle
Napoleon as cayenne pepper over our dishes. Blucher is too hot-
blooded, and pepper does not agree with him."
"But a glass of champagne agrees with him when a dear friend is
present," exclaimed Blucher. "Oh, John, come here! Accompany my
wife, Scharnhorst; I have only to tell John what he is to fetch from
While Blucher gave his orders to John in a hurried and low voice,
instructing him to place a substantial battery of bottles of
champagne in front of the two generals, Scharnhorst preceded him
with Madame von Blucher to the dining-room.
"Madame von Blucher," whispered Scharnhorst, after satisfying
himself by a quick side glance that Blucher was too far from them to
overhear his words, "permit me to ask a question. Is your husband
strong and healthy enough, both physically and mentally, for me to
talk to him about politics? May I communicate to him some important
news which I have received today, or would I thereby excite him too
"Do you bring glad tidings?" asked Amelia.
"I believe we may consider them so; at all events, they are
"In that case, general, you may unhesitatingly communicate them;
but, pray, do so only after dinner, and when he has somewhat
recovered from the excitement with which your welcome but unexpected
visit has filled him. Blucher's mind is perfectly strong and
healthy, but his body is feeble, and he is still affected with a
disease of the stomach, which, precisely at dinner, very often gives
him severe pain: Pray, therefore, no excitement and no politics at
"So, here I am," said Blucher, who had followed them, and now took
the general's arm; "now, children, quick, for I long to take wine
again with my dear Scharnhorst."
Scharnhorst faithfully complied with the wishes of Madame von
Blucher. No allusion to politics was made during the dinner, and
their conversation was harmless, merry, and desultory. They left the
dining-room, and took coffee in the cozy sitting-room of Madame von
"And now," said Blucher, who was sitting on the sofa by the side of
Scharnhorst, while his wife sat in the easy-chair opposite them,
"let us fill our pipes, or rather smoke them, for they have already
"But shall we he permitted to do so in your wife's room?" asked
"Oh, I have been accustomed to it for twenty years past," exclaimed
Amelia, laughing. "When I wished to have Blucher in my room, and by
my side, I could not show the door to his pipe; and therefore, as a
good soldier's wife, I have accustomed myself to the odor of
"Well," said Blucher, pointing to the two clay pipes which lay on
the silver tray beside the burning wax-candle and the cup filled
with paper-kindlers, "take a match and fire the cannon; luckily it
makes no noise, but only smoke."
Madame von Blucher handed each of the gentlemen a clay pipe, and
then held a burning paper close to the tobacco.
"Now, the guns are ready, and the battle may commence," said
Blucher, puffing a cloud from his pipe.
"You see, general," said Amelia, turning to Scharnhorst with a
significant glance, "madcap Blucher cannot refrain from talking all
the time about battles and politics. Now, indulge him in his whim,
general, and talk a little with him about these topics."
"I believe it will amount to little," growled Blucher. "If
Scharnhorst had brought good news he would not have kept me so long
from knowing it. No; the news is always the same; I know it already!
New bulletins favorable to Napoleon--nothing else!"
Scharnhorst smiled. "Why, my friend, what is the reason of your
sudden despondency? Have you, then, lost all your faith in the
approach of better times?--you who used to be more courageous than
any of us, you who hitherto cherished the firm belief in a change
for the better, and were to us a shining beacon of honor, hope, and
courage! What shall we do, and what is to become of us, when Blucher
gets discouraged and ceases to hope?"
"Well," said Blucher, "I am not yet discouraged; I still hope for a
change for the better, and know that it will surely come, for
Scharnhorst still lives and paves the way for more prosperous times.
Yes, certainly, there will be better times; Scharnhorst is secretly
creating an army for us, and when the army has been organized, he
will call me, and I shall put myself beside him at the head of the
troops, and we shall then march against the French emperor with
drums beating; we shall defeat him--drive him with his routed
soldiers beyond the frontiers of Germany, so that he never again
shall dare to return to the fatherland. Providence has spared me so
long for this purpose; I believe that I am chosen to chastise the
insolent Napoleon for all his crimes committed against Germany and
Prussia. I am destined to overthrow him, deliver my country, and
victoriously reestablish my dear king in all his former states.
Napoleon must be hurled from his throne, and I must assist in
bringing about his downfall; and before that has been accomplished I
will and cannot die. [Footnote: Blucher's own words.--Vide his
biography by Varnhagen von Ense, p. 128.] Yes, laugh at me as much
as you please; I am already accustomed to that when talking in this
style; but it will, nevertheless, prove true, and my prophecies will
be fulfilled. You may deride me, but you cannot shake my firm belief
in what I tell you."
"But I do not deride you," said Scharnhorst. "I am glad of your
reliance on Heaven, which, while all were discouraged and
despairing, stood as a rock in the midst of the breakers. I always
looked to you, Blucher; the thought of you always strengthened and
encouraged me, and when I at times felt like giving way to despair,
I said to myself, 'For shame, Scharnhorst! take heart and hope, for
Blucher still lives, and so long as he lives there is hope!'"
"Henceforth," exclaimed Blucher, with radiant eyes, giving his hand
to his friend, "henceforth no one will deny that God has made us for
each other. What you said about me I have repeated to myself every
day about you. What was my consolation when Prussia, after the
treaty of Tilsit, was wholly prostrated and ruined? 'Scharnhorst
still lives!' What did I say to myself when the cowardly ministers,
in the beginning of the present year, had concluded the abominable
alliance with France? 'Scharnhorst still lives!' And when our poor
regiments had to march to Russia as Bonaparte's auxiliaries, I said
to myself: 'Scharnhorst is still there to create a new army, and God
is there to give victory one day to this army, which I shall
command.' Oh, tell me, my friend, what are your plans? What have you
been able to accomplish in regard to the reorganization of the army?
And what about the new officers' regulations which you are having
"They have already been printed, and I have brought a copy for you,"
said Scharnhorst, drawing a printed book from his breast-pocket, and
handing it to his friend.
Blucher gazed on it long with grave and musing eyes, read the title-
page, and glanced over the contents. "Scharnhorst," he then said,
solemnly, "this is a great and important work, and posterity only
will appreciate its whole importance, and thank you deservedly for
it. Our old military structure was utterly rotten, and the first
storm, therefore, caused it to break down and fall to pieces. But
Scharnhorst is an architect who knew how to find among the ruins
material for a new and solid structure, and this structure will one
day cause the power of Bonaparte to disappear. This book, which
entirely changes the duties and relations of the officers of all
arms, and transforms our whole military system, is the splendid plan
of the building which you are about to erect. By the introduction of
these regulations the antiquated system which brought upon Prussia
the defeats of Jena and Auerstadt, is abolished; the great
simplicity of the scheme, and its practical spirit, are the best
antidotes against the prevalence of the old-fashioned notions which
have proved so disastrous. You have performed a great work,
Scharnhorst, and Prussia must thank you for it as long as she has an
"I may say at least that I have striven for a grand object," said
Scharnhorst, "and I have left nothing undone in order to attain it.
Many changes had to be made, and many evils eradicated, when the
king, after the calamitous days of Tilsit, placed me at the head of
the commission which was to reorganize the whole Prussian army. We
had to work night and day, for it was incumbent upon us to arrange a
new system of conscription, organize the levies, draw up new
articles of war, and complete the battalions, squadrons, and
batteries. It was, besides, our task to give the army an honorable
position, to constitute the soldier the sacred guardian of the
noblest blessing of all nations--Liberty and nationality; and to
give him a country for which he was to fight. The soldier,
therefore, had to be a citizen; the army was no longer to consist of
hirelings, but of the sons of the country, and to these had to be
intrusted the sacred and inevitable duty of learning the profession
of arms, and of devoting for some time their services to the
fatherland. The citizens had to be transformed into soldiers, and
the name of 'soldier' had, as it was among the Romans, to become a
title of honor. In order to bring this about, it was necessary, too,
that the distinction of birth, to which the government, in
commissioning officers and hitherto paid so much attention, should
be entirely discarded. Every recruit had to know that by bravery,
courage, industry, and intelligence, he might attain the highest
positions, and that the private soldier might become a general."
"That is the very thing by which the aristocratic officers of the
old regime became intensely exasperated against your new system,"
said Blucher. "I know what you had to suffer and contend against,
how many stumbling-blocks were cast in your way, and how they
charged you with being an innovator, and even a republican, trying
to transfer the liberty, equality, and fraternity of the French
sans-culottes into the Prussian army, and to put generals' epaulets
into the knapsack of the low-born recruit. But all these arrows
glanced off from your dear head, which was as hard as a golden
anvil, and they were unable to prevent Scharnhorst from becoming the
armorer of German liberty!"
"But his head has received many a blow," said Scharnhorst, smiling.
"However, he who wages war must expect to be wounded, and it was a
terrible war upon which I entered--one against prejudice and old
established customs--against the rights and privileges of the
aristocracy. God was with me and gave me strength to complete my
work; He gave me, in Blucher, a friend who never refused me his
advice, and, to whose sagacity and courage I am indebted for one-
half of what I have achieved. Without your aid I would often have
given way; but it strengthened me to think of you, and your applause
was a reward for my labors. May we soon be enabled to carry into
effect the new organization of the army!"
"My friend," said Blucher, shaking his head, "God has forgotten us,
I fear, and averted His eyes from Prussia and the whole of Germany.
Napoleon is an instrument in His hands, just as the knout is an
instrument of justice in the hand of the Russian executioner. And it
seems as though the nations deserved much punishment, for He still
holds his instrument firmly in His hands. But patience!--there will
be a time when He will cast it aside, and when we shall arise from
our prostration to take revenge upon our scourge."
"Who knows whether this new era will not dawn at an earlier moment
than we hope and look for," said Scharnhorst, smiling.
Blucher started, and cast a quick glance on his guest.
"Scharnhorst," he said, hastily, "you have brought news, after all.
I felt it as soon as I saw you, and it is no use to deny it any
longer. You know, and want to tell me something. Well, speak out! I
am prepared for every thing! What is it? Has Napoleon gained another
victory? Has he transported the Emperor Alexander to Siberia, and
put the Russian crown on his head at the Kremlin? Have the Russian
people prostrated themselves before him, and, like other nations,
recognized him as their sovereign and emperor? You see, I am
prepared for every thing; for I insist upon it, how high soever he
may build his throne, he must at last descend, and it will be I who
will bring him down. Now, speak out! Has he again obtained a great
"No, general," said Scharnhorst, solemnly, "God has obtained a
Blucher raised his head, and laid his clay pipe slowly on the table.
"What do you mean, general?" he asked. "What do you mean by saying,
'God has obtained a victory'?"
"I mean to say that He has sent into the field troops whom even
Napoleon is unable to defeat."
"What troops do you refer to?"
"I refer to the cold, the snow, the ice, the howling storm blowing
from Siberia, like the angry voice of Heaven, striking down men and
"And these troops of God have defeated Napoleon?"
"They have, general!"
Blucher uttered a cry, and, jumping up from his chair, drew himself
up to his full height. "The troops of God have defeated Napoleon!"
he exclaimed, solemnly. "I have always believed in divine justice--
slow sometimes, but sure. Tell me every thing, my friend, tell me
every thing," he added, sinking back into the chair, quite
overwhelmed by what he had heard. "Commence at the beginning, for I
feel that my joy renders this old head confused, and I must
gradually accustom myself to it. Tell me the whole history of the
Russian campaign, for it is the preface I ought to read in order to
be able to understand the book. And, then, in conclusion, tell me
what the good Lord has done, and whether He will now employ His old
Blucher. I feel as though an altar-taper had been suddenly lighted
in my heart, and as though an organ were playing in my head. I must
collect my thoughts. Speak, Scharnhorst, for you see this surprising
news may make me insane." He pressed his hands against his temples
and drew a deep breath.
His wife hastened to him, and with her soft hand caressed his face,
and looked with anxious and tender glances into his wild eyes. "Be
calm, Blucher," she said. "Calm your great, heroic heart, else you
shall and must not hear any thing further. General Scharnhorst, I am
sure you will not tell him anything as long as he is so agitated."
"I will be calm," said Blucher. "You see that I am so already, and
that I sit here as still as a lamb. Scharnhorst, tell me, therefore,
every thing. I am all attention."
"And while listening to him, take again your old friend, which has
so often comforted you in your afflictions--put your pipe again into
your mouth," said Amelia, handing it to him.
But Blucher refused it, almost indignantly. "No," he said, "one does
not smoke at church, nor when the Lord speaks, and Scharnhorst is
about to tell me that the Lord has spoken. While listening to such
words, the heart must be devout, and the lips may bless or pray, but
they must not hold a pipe. And now speak, Scharnhorst; I am quite
calm and prepared for good and bad news."
"Speak," said Blucher, once more. "I am prepared for every thing.
Tell me about Bonaparte in Russia."
"You know how victoriously and irresistibly Napoleon penetrated with
the various columns of his army into the interior of Russia," said
Scharnhorst. "Nothing seemed to have been able to withstand him--
nothing powerful enough to arrest his triumphant progress. The
Russian generals, as if panic-stricken, retreated farther and
farther the deeper Napoleon advanced into the heart of the empire.
Neither Kutusoff, nor Wittgenstein, nor Barclay, dared risk the fate
of Russia in a decisive battle; even the Emperor Alexander preferred
to leave the army and retire to Moscow to wait for the arrival of
fresh reenforcements, and render new resources available. Napoleon,
in the mean time, advanced still farther, constantly in search of
the enemy, whom he was unable to find anywhere, and everywhere
meeting another enemy whom he was nowhere able to avoid or conquer.
This latter was the Russian climate. The scorching heat, the
drenching rains, bred diseases which made more havoc in the ranks of
the French than the swords of living enemies would have been able to
do. At the same time supplies were wanting, so that the immense host
received but scanty and insufficient rations. The soldiers suffered
the greatest privations, and the Russian people, incited by their
czar and their priests to intense hatred and fanatical fury, escaped
with their personal property and their provisions from the villages
and the small towns rather than welcome the enemy and open to him
their houses in compulsory hospitality. The French army, reduced by
sickness, privations, and hunger, to nearly one-half of its original
strength, nevertheless continued advancing; it forced an entrance
into Smolensk after a bloody struggle; after taking a short rest in
the ruined, burning, and entirely deserted city, it marched upon
Moscow. In front of this ancient capital of the czars it met at
length on the 7th of September the living enemy it had so long
sought. Bagration, Kutusoff, and Barclay, occupied with their army
positions in front of it in order to prevent the approaching foe
from entering holy Moscow. You know the particulars of the bloody
battle on the Moskwa. The Russians and the French fought on this 7th
of September for eleven long hours with the most obstinate
exasperation, with truly fanatical fury; whole ranks were mowed down
like corn under the harvester's scythe; their generals and
chieftains themselves were struck down in the unparalleled struggle;
more than seventy thousand killed and wounded covered the battle-
field, and yet there were no decisive results. The Russians had only
been forced back, but not defeated and routed in such a manner as to
stand in need of peace, in order to recover from the terrible
consequences of the struggle. To be sure, Napoleon held the battle-
field, and, on the 14th of September, made his entry into Moscow,
but no messengers came to him from Alexander to sue for peace; no
submissive envoys to meet him, as he had been accustomed to see in
other conquered cities, and surrender him the keys; the streets were
deserted, and no excited crowd appeared either there or at the
windows of the houses to witness his entry. The city, whence the
inhabitants and authorities had fled, was a vast gaping grave."
"But the grave soon gave signs of animation," exclaimed Blucher,
excitedly; "the desert was transformed into a sea of fire, and the
burning city gave a horrible welcome to the French. The governor of
Moscow, Count Rostopchin, intended to greet the entering conqueror
with an illumination, and, as he had no torches handy, he set fire
to the houses. He removed the stores and supplies, compelled the
inhabitants to leave, had the fire-engines concealed, ordered
inflammable oils and rosin to be placed everywhere in order to
intensify the fury of the conflagration, and then released the
convicts that they might set fire to the city. The first house
kindled was Rostopchin's own magnificent palace, close to the gates
of Moscow. Well, it is true, Rostopchin acted like a barbarian; but
still the man's character seems grand, and his ferocity that of the
lion shaking his mane, and rushing with a roar upon his adversary.
To be sure, it was no great military exploit to burn down a large
city, but still it was a splendid stratagem, and, in a struggle with
a hateful and infamous enemy, all ways and means are permitted and
justifiable. I do not merely excuse Rostopchin, but I admire his
tremendous energy, and believe, if I were a Russian, I would
likewise have done something of the sort. His act compelled the
enemy soon to leave, as he could not establish his winter-quarters
amid smoking ruins, and to retreat instead of advancing, and obliged
the Emperor Alexander to cease his vacillating course--inasmuch as,
after the conflagration, further attempts at bringing about a
compromise and reconciliation between the belligerents were entirely
out of the question."
"No, general, Rostopchin did not bring this about," exclaimed
Scharnhorst, "but it was our great friend Stein who did it. God
Himself sent Minister von Stein to Russia, that he might stand as an
immovable rock by the side of the mild and fickle Alexander, and
that his fiery soul might strengthen the fluctuating resolutions of
the czar, and inspire him with true faith in, and reliance on, the
great cause of the freedom of the European nations, which was now to
be decided upon the snowy fields of Russia. We owe it to Stein alone
that the peace party at the Russian headquarters did not gain the
emperor over to their side; we owe it to Stein that Alexander
determined to pursue a manly, energetic course; that he refused to
allow the diplomatists to interfere, but left the decision to the
sword alone, and constantly and proudly rejected all the offers of
peace which Napoleon now began to make to him. And Stein found a new
ally in the climate uniting with him in his inexorable hostility to
the French. Napoleon felt that he ought not to await the approach of
winter at Moscow, and on the 18th of October he left the
inhospitable city with the remnants of his army. But winter dogged
his steps; winter attached itself as a heavy burden to the feet of
his soldiers; it laid itself like lead on their paralyzed brain, and
caused the horses, guns, and caissons, to stick fast in the snow and
ice. Winter dissolved the French army. Men and beasts perished by
cold; discipline and subordination were entirely disregarded; every
one thought only of preserving his own life, of appeasing his
hunger, and relieving his distress. Piles of corpses and dead horses
marked the route of this terrible retreat of the French; and when,
on the 9th of November, they entered Smolensk, the whole grand army
consisted only of forty thousand armed men, and crowds of stragglers
destitute of arms and without discipline."
"And still this cruel tyrant and heartless braggart, the great
Napoleon, dared to boast of his victories, and the splendid
condition of his army," exclaimed Blucher, angrily. "And he sent
constantly new bulletins of pretended victories into the world, and
the stupid Germans believed them to be true, the supposed successes
causing them to tremble. I have read these lying bulletins, and the
perusal made me ill. They dwelt on nothing but the victories, the
glorious conduct, and the fine condition of the grand army."
"But now you shall read a new one, friend Blucher," exclaimed
Scharnhorst; "here is the twenty-ninth bulletin, and I will
communicate to you also the latest news from the grand army and the
great Napoleon, which couriers from Berlin and Dresden brought me
last night, and which induced me to set out so early to-day in order
to reach my Blucher, and tell him of a new era. Here is the twenty-
ninth bulletin, and in it Napoleon dares no longer boast of
victories; he almost dares tell the truth."
"Let me read it!" exclaimed Blucher, impatiently seizing the printed
sheet which Scharnhorst handed to him. Gasping with inward emotion,
he began to read it, but his hands soon trembled, and the letters
swam before his eyes.
"I cannot read it through," said Blucher, sighing. "There is a storm
raging in my heart, and it blows out the light of my eyes. Read the
remainder to me, my friend. I have read it to the engagement on the
Beresina, where Napoleon says that General Victor gained another
victory on the 28th of November."
"But this victory consisted only in the fact that General Victor,
with his twelve thousand men, prevented the Russians from reaching
the banks of the Beresina, so that two bridges could be built across
it, and that the ragged wretches composing the grand army could
reach the opposite side of the river. That passage of the Beresina
was a terrible moment, which will never be forgotten by history--a
tragedy full of horrors, wretchedness, and despair. Stein's agents
have sent me Russian reports of this event, which contain the most
heart-rending and revolting details. Books will be written to depict
the dreadful scenes of that day; but neither historians, nor
painters, nor poets, will find words or colors to portray those
"And does he describe those scenes in his bulletin?" asked Blucher.
"Read me its conclusion. Does he allude to those horrors of the
"No, general; he speaks only of the victory and the passage across
the river, and then continues: 'On the following day, the 29th of
November, we remained on the battle-field. We had to choose between
two routes: the road of Minsk, and that of Wilna. The road of Minsk
passes through the middle of a forest and uncultivated morasses;
that of Wilna, on the contrary, passes through a very fine part of
the country. The army, destitute of cavalry, but poorly provided
with ammunition, and terribly exhausted by the fatigues of a fifty
days' march, took with it its sick and wounded, and was anxious to
reach its magazines.'"
"That is to say," exclaimed Blucher, "they died of hunger, and, as
he says that they were terribly exhausted by a fifty days' march,
dropped like flies. Oh, it is true, the Emperor Napoleon is very
laconic in his account of that retreat, but he who knows how to
penetrate the meaning of his few lines cannot fail to receive a deep
impression of the wretchedness that unfortunate army had to undergo.
Read on, dear Scharnhorst."
Scharnhorst continued: "'If it must be admitted that it is necessary
for the army to reestablish its discipline, to recover from its long
fatigues, to remount its cavalry, artillery, and materiel, it is
only the natural result of the events which we have just described.
Repose is now, above all, indispensable to the army. The trains and
horses are already arriving; the artillery has repaired its losses,
but the generals, officers, and soldiers, have suffered intensely by
the fatigues and privations of the march. Owing to the loss of their
horses, many have lost their baggage; others have been deprived of
it by Cossacks lying in ambush. They have captured a great many
individuals, such as engineers, geographers, and wounded officers,
who marched without the necessary precautions, and exposed
themselves to the danger of being taken prisoners rather than
quietly march in the midst of the convoys.'"
"And the Cossacks have spared HIM!" exclaimed Blucher, impatiently.
"They did not take him prisoner! What is he doing, then, that the
Cossacks cannot catch him? Tell me, Scharnhorst--the bulletin, then,
does not, like its predecessors, dwell on the heroic exploits of the
great emperor? He does not praise himself as he formerly used to
"Oh, he does not fail to do so. Listen to the conclusion: 'During
all these operations the emperor marched constantly in the midst of
his guard, the marshal Duke d'Istria commanding the cavalry, and the
Duke de Dantzic the infantry. His majesty was content with the
excellent spirit manifested by the guard, always ready to march to
points where the situation was such that its mere presence sufficed
to check the enemy. Our cavalry lost so heavily, that it was
difficult to collect officers enough, who were still possessed of
horses, to form four companies, each of one hundred and fifty men.
In these companies, generals performed the services of captains, and
colonels those of non-commissioned officers. The "Sacred Legion,"
commanded by the King of Naples and General Grouchy, never lost
sight of the emperor during all these operations. The health of his
majesty never was better.'" [Footnote: Fain, "Manuscrit de 1812."]
"And he dares to proclaim that!" exclaimed Blucher, indignantly.
"His army is dying of hunger and cold, and he proclaims to the
world, as if in mockery, that his health never was better! It is his
fault that hundreds of thousands are perishing in the most heart-
rending manner, and he boasts of his extraordinary good health! He
must have a stone in his breast instead of a heart; otherwise, a
general whose army is perishing under his eyes cannot be in
extraordinary good health. He will be punished for it, and will not
always feel so well."
"He has already been punished, my friend," said Scharnhorst,
solemnly. "It has pleased God to chastise the arrogant tyrant and to
bow his proud head to the dust."
Blucher jumped up, and a deep pallor overspread his cheeks. "He has
been punished?" he asked, breathlessly. "Napoleon in the dust! What
is it? Speak quickly, Scharnhorst; speak, if you do not want me to
die! What has happened?"
"He has left his army, and secretly fled from Russia!"
Blucher uttered a cry, and, without a word, rushed toward the door.
Scharnhorst and Amelia hastened after him and kept him back.
"What do you wish to do?" asked Scharnhorst.
"I wish to pursue him!" exclaimed Blucher, vainly trying to
disengage himself from the hands of his wife and the general. "Let
me go--do not detain me! I must pursue him--I must take him
prisoner! If he has fled from his army, he must return to France,
and if he wants to return to France, he must pass through Germany.
Let me go! He must not be permitted to escape from Germany!"
"But he has already escaped," said Scharnhorst, smiling.
"What! Passed through Germany?" asked Blucher. "And no one has tried
to arrest him?"
"No one knew that he was there. He left his army on the 6th of
December; attended only by Caulaincourt and his Mameluke Roustan,
recognized by no one, expected by no one, he sped in fabulous haste
in an unpretending sleigh through the whole of Poland and Prussia.
Only after he set out was it known at the places where he stopped
that he had been there. He travelled as swiftly as the storm. On the
6th of December he was at Wilna, on the 10th of December at Warsaw,
and in the night of the 14th of December suddenly a plain sleigh
stopped in front of the residence of M. Serra, French ambassador at
Dresden: two footmen were seated on the box, and in the sleigh
itself there were two gentlemen, wrapped in furred robes, and so
much benumbed by the cold that they had to be lifted out. These two
gentlemen were the Emperor Napoleon and Caulaincourt. Napoleon had
an interview with the King of Saxony the same night, and, continuing
his journey, reached Erfurt on the 15th, and--"
"And to-day is already the 17th of December," said Blucher, sighing;
"he will, therefore, be beyond the Rhine. And I must allow him to
escape! I am unable to detain him! Oh, that the little satisfaction
had been granted me of capturing Napoleon! Well, it has been decreed
that this should not be; but one thing at least is settled. Napoleon
has been deserted by his former good luck; Dame Fortune, who always
was seated in his triumphal car, has alighted from it, and now we
may hope to see her soon restored to her old place on the top of the
Brandenburg gate at Berlin. Hurrah, my friend! we are going to rise;
I feel it in my bones, and the time has come when old Blucher will
again be permitted to be a man, and will no longer be required to
draw his nightcap over his ears."
"Yes, the time has come when Prussia needs her valiant Blucher,"
said Scharnhorst, tenderly laying his arm on Blucher's. "Now raise
your head, general--now prepare for action, for Blucher must
henceforth be ready at a moment's notice to obey the call of
Prussia, and place himself at the head of her brave sons, who are so
eager for the fray."
"Yes, yes, we shall have war now," exclaimed Blucher. "Soon the
drums will roll, and the cannon boom--soon Blucher will no longer be
a childish and decrepit old man whom wiseacres think they can mock
and laugh at--soon Blucher will once more be a man who, sword in
hand, will shout to his troops, 'Forward!--charge the enemy!' Great
Heaven, Scharnhorst, and I have not even dressed becomingly--I still
wear a miserable civilian's coat! Suppose war should break out to-
day, and they should come and call me to the army? Why, Blucher
would have to hang his head in shame, and acknowledge that he was
not ready!--John! John!--my uniform! Come to my bedroom, John! I
want to dress!--to put on my uniform!"
Fifteen minutes afterward Blucher returned to the sitting-room,
where his wife was gayly chatting with Scharnhorst. He was not now
the sick, suffering old man whom we saw this morning sitting on the
easy-chair at the window, but he was once more a fiery soldier and a
hero. His head was proudly erect, his eyes were flashing, a proud
smile was playing round his lips; his broad-shouldered form was
clothed in the uniform of a Prussian general; orders were glittering
on his breast, and the long rattling sword hung at his left side.
Blucher approached his wife and General Scharnhorst with dignified
steps, and, giving his hands to both, said in a grave and solemn
voice, "The time for delay, impatience, and folly, is past. With
this uniform I have become a new man. I am no longer an impatient
septuagenarian, cursing and killing flies on the wall because he has
no one else on whom to vent his wrath; but I am a soldier standing
composedly at his post, and waiting for the hour when he will be
able to destroy his enemy. Come, my friends,--come with me!"
He drew the two with him, and walked so rapidly through the rooms
that they were scarcely able to accompany him. They entered the
large reception-room, opened only on festive occasions. It contained
nothing but some tinselled furniture, a few tables with marble tops,
and on the pillars between the windows large Venetian mirrors.
Otherwise the walls were bare, except over the sofa, where hung, in
a finely-carved and gilded frame, a painting, which however was
covered with a large veil of black crape.
Blucher conducted the two to this painting; for a moment he stood
still and gazed on it gravely and musingly, and, raising his right
hand with a quick jerk, he tore down the mourning-veil.
"Queen Louisa!" exclaimed Scharnhorst, admiring the tall and
beautiful lady smiling on him. "Yes," said Blucher, solemnly, "Queen
Louisa! The guardian angel of Prussia, whose heart Napoleon broke!
This pride and joy of all our women had to depart without hoping
even in the possibility that the calamities which ruined her might
come to an end. On the day she died I covered her portrait with this
veil, and swore not to look again at her adored countenance until
able to draw my sword, and, with Prussia's soldiers, avenge her
untimely death. The time has come! Louisa, rise again from your
grave, open once more your beautiful eyes, for daylight is at hand,
and our night is ended. Now, my beautiful queen, listen to the oath
of your most faithful servant!" He drew his sword, and, raising it
up to the painting, exclaimed: "Here is my sword! When I sheathed it
last, I wept, for I was to be an invalid, and should no longer wield
it; I was to sit here in idleness, and silently witness the
sufferings of my fatherland. But now I shall soon be called into
service, and I swear to you, Queen Louisa, that I will not sheathe
this sword before I have avenged your death, before Germany and
Prussia are free again, and Napoleon has received his punishment. I
swear it to you, as sure as I am old Blucher, and have seen the
tears which Prussia's disgrace has often wrung from your eyes. May
God help me! may He in His mercy spare me until I have fulfilled my
"Amen!" repeated Scharnhorst and Amelia, looking up to the portrait.
"Amen!" said Blucher again. "And now, Amelia," he added, quickly,
"come and give me a kiss, and, by this kiss, consecrate your
warrior, that he may deliver Germany and overthrow Napoleon. For
Napoleon must now be hurled from the throne!"
CHANCELLOR VON HARDENBERG.
THE INTERRUPTED SUPPER.
It was on the 4th of January, 1813. The brilliant official
festivities with which the beginning of a new year had been
celebrated, were at an end, and, the ceremonious dinner-parties
being over, one was again at liberty to indulge in the enjoyment of
familiar suppers, where more attention was paid to the flavor of
choice wines and delicacies than to official toasts and political
speeches. Marshal Augereau gave at Berlin on this day one of those
pleasant little entertainments to his favored friends, to indemnify
them, as it were, for the great gala dinner of a hundred covers,
given by him on the 1st of January, as official representative of
the Emperor Napoleon.
To-day the supper was served in the small, cozy saloon, and it was
but a petit comite that assembled round the table in the middle of
the room. This comite consisted only of five gentlemen, with
pleasant, smiling faces, in gorgeous, profusely-embroidered
uniforms, on the left sides of which many glittering orders
indicated the high rank of the small company. There was, in the
first place, Marshal Augereau, governor of Berlin, once so furious a
republican that he threatened with death all the members of his
division who would address any one with "monsieur," or "madame"--now
the most ardent imperialist, and an admirer of the Emperor Napoleon.
The gentleman by his side, with the short, corpulent figure and
aristocratic countenance, from which a smile never disappeared, was
the chancellor of state and prime minister of King Frederick William
III, Baron von Hardenberg. He was just engaged in an eager
conversation with his neighbor, Count Narbonne, the faithless
renegade and former adherent of the Bourbons, who had but lately
deserted to Napoleon's camp, and allowed himself to be used by the
emperor on various diplomatic missions. Next to him sat Prince
Hatzfeld, the man on whom, in 1807, Napoleon's anger had fallen, and
who would have been shot as a "traitor" if the impassioned
intercession of his wife had not succeeded in softening the emperor,
and thus saving her husband's life. Near him, and closing the
circle, sat Count St. Marsan, Napoleon's ambassador at the court of
These five gentlemen had already been at the table for several
hours, and were now in that comfortable and agreeable mood which
epicures feel when they have found the numerous courses palatable
and piquant, the Hock sufficiently cold, the Burgundy sufficiently
warm, the oysters fresh, and the truffles well-flavored. They had
got as far as the roast; the pheasants, with their delicate sauce,
filled the room with an appetizing odor, and the corks of the
champagne-bottles gave loud reports, as if by way of salute fired in
honor of the triumphant entry of Pleasure.
Marshal Augereau raised his glass. "I drink this in honor of our
emperor!" he exclaimed, in an enthusiastic tone. The gentlemen
touched each other's glasses, and the three representatives of
France then emptied theirs at one draught. Prince Hatzfeld followed
their example, but Baron von Hardenberg only touched the brim of his
glass with his lips, and put it down again.
"Your excellency does not drink?" asked Augereau. "Then you are not
"Yes, marshal, I am in earnest," said Hardenberg, smiling, "but you
used a word which prevented me from emptying my glass. You said, 'In
honor of OUR emperor!' Now, I am the devoted and, I may well say,
faithful servant of my master, King Frederick William, and therefore
I cannot call the great Napoleon my emperor."
"Oh, I used a wrong expression," exclaimed Augereau, hastily. "Let
us fill our glasses anew, and drink this time 'the health of the
great emperor Napoleon!'" he touched glasses with the chancellor of
state, and then fixed his keen eyes upon the minister.
Baron von Hardenberg raised the glass to his lips, but then withdrew
it again, and, bowing smilingly to Marshal Augereau, said: "Permit
me, marshal, to add something to your toast. Let us drink 'the
health of the great emperor, and a long and prosperous alliance with
"'And a long and prosperous alliance with Prussia,'" repeated the
four gentlemen, emptying their glasses, and resuming their chairs.
"We have just drunk to the success of our divulged secret," said
Prince Hatzfeld, smiling. "For I suppose, your excellency," turning
to Baron von Hardenberg, "this new happy alliance between Prussia
and France is now not much of a secret?"
"I hope it will soon be no secret at all," said Hardenberg. "Prussia
has received the proposition of France with heartfelt joy, and will
hail the marriage of her crown prince Frederick William as the
happiest guaranty of an indissoluble union. Only the crown prince is
too young as yet to marry, and at the present time, at least,
allusions to the happiness of his future should be avoided. His
thoughts should belong only to God and religion, for you know,
gentlemen, that the crown prince will be solemnly confirmed in the
course of a few days. Only after he has pledged his soul to God will
it be time for him to pledge his heart to love; only then
communications will be made to him as to the brilliant future that
is opening for him, and, no doubt, he will, like the king, be ready
to bind even more firmly the ties uniting Prussia with France. He
will be proud to receive for a consort a princess of the house of
Napoleon, for such a marriage will render him a relative of the
greatest prince of his century!"
"Of a prince whom Heaven loves above all others, as it lavishes upon
him greater prosperity than upon others," exclaimed Prince Hatzfeld,
emphatically. "God's love is visibly with him, and protects His
favorite. Who but he would have been able to overcome the terrible
dangers of the Russian campaign, and, with an eagle's flight, return
to France from the snowy deserts of Russia, without losing a single
plume of his wings?"
"It is true," responded Augereau, thoughtfully. "Fortune, or, if you
prefer, Providence, is with the emperor; it protects him in all
dangers, and allows him to issue victoriously from all storms. In
Russia he was in danger of ruining his glory and his army, but the
battle of Borodino, and still more that on the banks of the
Beresina, saved his laurels. The emperor travelled deserted roads,
without an escort or protection, through Poland and Germany, in
order to return to France. If he had been recognized, perhaps it
might have entered the heads of some enthusiasts to attack and
capture him on his solitary journey; but the eyes of his enemies
seemed to have been blinded. The emperor was not recognized, and
appeared suddenly in Paris, where the greatest excitement,
consternation, and confusion, were prevailing at that moment. For
Paris had just then been profoundly moved by the deplorable
conspiracy of General Mallet, and the Parisians were asking each
other in dismay whether General Mallet might not have been right
after all in announcing that Napoleon was dead, and whether his
death was not kept a secret merely from motives of policy. Suddenly
Napoleon appeared in the streets of Paris. All rushed out to behold
the emperor, or touch his horse, body, hands, or feet, to look into
his eyes, to hear his voice, and satisfy themselves that it was
really Napoleon--not an apparition. Their cheers rang, and, in their
happiness at seeing him again in their midst, they pardoned him for
having left their sons and brothers, fathers and husbands, as frozen
corpses on the plains of Russia. Never before had Napoleon enjoyed a
greater triumph as on the day of his return from the Russian
campaign. Fortune is the goddess chained to the emperor's triumphal
car, and the nations therefore would act very foolishly if they
dared rise against him."
"Happily, they have given up all such schemes," said Hardenberg,
smiling, and quietly cutting the pheasant's wing on his silver
plate. "They are asking and longing only for peace in order to dress
their wounds, cultivate their fields, and peaceably reap the
"And the word of the Emperor Napoleon is a pledge to nations that
they shall be enabled to do so," exclaimed St. Marsan. "He wants
peace, and is ready to make every sacrifice to conclude and maintain
"The German princes, of course, will joyously offer him their hands
for that purpose," said Hardenberg, bowing his head. "In truth, I
could not say at what point of Germany war could break out at this
juncture. The princes of the German Confederation of the Rhine have
long since acknowledged the Emperor of the French as their master,
and themselves as his obedient vassals. Powerful Austria has allied
herself with France by the ties of a marriage, and the hands of
Maria Louisa and Napoleon are stretched out in blessing over the two
countries. Poor Prussia has not only proved her fidelity as an ally
of France, but is now, forgetful of all her former humiliations,
ready to consent to a marriage of her future king with a Napoleonic
princess. Whence, then, could come a cause for a new war between
France and Germany? We shall have peace, doubtless--a long and
"And that will be very fortunate," said Count Narbonne, "for then it
will no longer be necessary for us to allow miserable politics to
poison our suppers. 'Politics,' said my great royal patron, King
Louis XVI, the worthy uncle of the Emperor Napoleon, 'politics know
nothing of the culinary art; they spoil all dishes, and care,
therefore, ought to be taken not to allow them to enter the kitchen
or the dining-room. One must not admit them even directly after
eating, for they interfere with digestion; only during the morning
hours should audiences be given to them, for then they may serve as
Spanish pepper, imparting a flavor to one's breakfast.' That was a
very sagacious remark; I feel it at this moment when you so cruelly
sprinkle politics over this splendid pheasant."
"You are right," exclaimed Hardenberg, laughing, "I therefore beg
your excellency's pardon; for Spanish pepper, which is very
palatable in Cumberland sauce, and a few other dishes, is surely
entirely out of place when mixed with French truffles."
"Unhappy man," exclaimed Narbonne, with ludicrous pathos, "you are
again talking politics, and moreover of the worst sort!"
"How so?" asked Count St. Marsan. "What displeases you in the
remarks of Minister von Hardenberg?"
"Well, did you not notice that his excellency alluded to our
unsuccessful efforts in Spain? Spanish pepper, he said, is surely
entirely out of place when mixed with French truffles, but very
palatable in English sauces. That is to say, Spain and England are
good allies, and Spain and France will never be reconciled. And it
is true, it is a mortal war which Spain is waging against us, and
unfortunately one which, offers us but few chances of success. The
Spaniards contest every inch of ground with the most dogged
obstinacy, and they have found very valuable auxiliaries in Lord
Wellington and his English troops. They--"
"Ah, my dear count," exclaimed Marshal Augereau, smiling, "now it is
you who talk politics, and it behooves you no longer to accuse us."
"You are right, and I beg your pardon," said Narbonne; "but you see
how true the old proverb proves: 'Bad examples spoil good manners.'
Let us talk no longer about pepper, but truffles. Just compare this
truffle from Perigord with the Italian truffle at the entremets, and
you will have to admit that our Perigord truffle is in every respect
superior to the latter. It is more savory and piquant. There can be
no doubt of it that Perigord furnishes the most palatable fruit to
"What fruit do you allude to?" asked Hardenberg, smiling. "Do you
refer to the Perigord truffle, or to the Abbot of Perigord, the
"I see you are lost beyond redemption," said Narbonne, sighing,
while the other gentlemen burst into laughter. "Even in the face of
a truffle you still dare to amuse yourself with political puns, and
confound intentionally an abbot with a truffle! Oh, what a blasphemy
against the finest of all fruits--I allude, of course, to the
truffle--oh, it is treason committed--"
Just then the door of the saloon was hastily opened, and the first
secretary of the French embassy entered the room.
"What, sir!" shouted Count St. Marsan to him, "you come to disturb
me here? Some important event, then, has taken place?"
The secretary approached him hurriedly. "Yes, your excellency," he
said, "highly important and urgent dispatches have arrived. They
come from the army, and an aide-de-camp of Marshal Macdonald is
their bearer. He has travelled night and day to reach your
excellency at an earlier moment than the courier whom General von
York no doubt has sent to the King of Prussia. Here are the
dispatches which the aide-de-camp of the marshal has brought for
you, and which he says ought immediately to be read by your
excellency." He handed the count a large sealed letter, which the
latter eagerly accepted and at once opened.
A profound silence now reigned in the small saloon. The faces of the
boon companions at the table had grown grave, and all fixed their
eyes with an anxious and searching expression upon the countenance
of Count St. Marsan. He read the dispatch at first with a calm and
indifferent air, but suddenly his features assumed an expression of
astonishment--nay, of anger, and a gloomy cloud covered his brow.
"All right," he then said, turning to the secretary. "Return to the
legation. I will follow you in a few minutes." The secretary bowed
and withdrew. The five gentlemen were again alone.
"Well," asked Marshal Augereau, "were the dispatches really
Count St. Marsan made no immediate reply. He looked slowly around
the circle of his companions, and fixed his eyes with a piercing
expression on the countenance of Chancellor von Hardenberg. "Yes,"
he said, "they contain highly important news, and I wonder if his
excellency the chancellor of state has not yet received them, for
the dispatches concern above all the Prussian army."
"But I pledge your excellency my word of honor that I do not know
what you refer to," said Hardenberg, gravely. "I have received no
courier and no startling news from the Prussian army."
"Well, then," said St. Marsan, bowing, "permit me to communicate it
to you. General York, commander of the Prussian troops belonging to
the forces of Marshal Macdonald, has refused to obey the marshal's
orders. He has gone even further than that, concluding a treaty with
Russia, with the enemy of France and Prussia; and signed at
Tauroggen, with the Russian General von Diebitsch, a convention by
virtue of which he severs his connection with the French army, and,
with the consent of Russia, declares that the Prussian corps
henceforth will be neutral."
"But this impossible," exclaimed Hardenberg, "he would not dare any
thing of the kind; he would not violate in so flagrant a manner the
orders given him by his king!"
"But he did so," said Augereau, "and if your excellency should have
any doubts as to the truth of what Count St. Marsan said, here is
the autograph letter in which General von York informs Marshal
Macdonald of his defection; and, besides, another letter in which
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