XI. Glad Tidings

"It is he, it is he!" exclaimed General Blücher, 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 his bosom.

"Blücher, 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 Blücher, 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, Blücher 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 Blücher, 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 Blücher. "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."

Blücher 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 laugh?"

"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 Blücher, 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 Blücher, 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 Blücher's broad shoulder. "Thank God! you are still young Blücher, with his fiery head and heroic arm--young Blücher 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 Blücher. "I can see it in your eyes--Heaven knows whether good or bad. But you have news, I know it."

"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 Blücher; "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 Blücher. "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 Blücher, "and you know well that I have already been looking for you for two hours past. Come in!"

"I have a visitor with me; do you allow me to enter with him, Amelia?"

"A visitor?" asked Madame von Blücher, 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 Blücher, "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 Blücher, smiling, "Blücher loves politics, he has no other mistress."

"No," said Blücher, 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 Blücher 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 Blücher, giving her hand to Scharnhorst. "And you, my valorous young husband, give me your hand, too!"

"Wait a moment," Blücher 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, Blücher 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 Blücher 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, Blücher 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. Blücher 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 Blücher. "Oh, John, come here! Accompany my wife, Scharnhorst; I have only to tell John what he is to fetch from the wine-cellar."

While Blücher 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 Blücher to the dining-room.

"Madame von Blücher," whispered Scharnhorst, after satisfying himself by a quick side glance that Blücher 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 much?"

"Do you bring glad tidings?" asked Amelia.

"I believe we may consider them so; at all events, they are encouraging."

"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. Blücher'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 the dinner-table."

"So, here I am," said Blücher, 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 Blücher. 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 Blücher.

"And now," said Blücher, 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 been filled."

"But shall we he permitted to do so in your wife's room?" asked Scharnhorst.

"Oh, I have been accustomed to it for twenty years past," exclaimed Amelia, laughing. "When I wished to have Blücher 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 tobacco-smoke."

"Well," said Blücher, 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 Blücher 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 Blücher, puffing a cloud from his pipe.

"You see, general," said Amelia, turning to Scharnhorst with a significant glance, "madcap Blücher 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 Blücher. "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 Blücher gets discouraged and ceases to hope?"

"Well," said Blücher, "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: Blücher'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, Blücher; 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 Blücher still lives, and so long as he lives there is hope!'"

"Henceforth," exclaimed Blücher, 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 printed?"

"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.

Blücher 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 army."

"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 Blücher. "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 Blücher, 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 Blücher, 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.

Blücher 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 victory?"

"No, general," said Scharnhorst, solemnly, "God has obtained a victory!"

Blücher 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 beasts alike."

"And these troops of God have defeated Napoleon?"

"They have, general!"

Blücher 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 Blücher. 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, Blücher," 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 Blücher. "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 Blücher 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."

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher