XXVII. The Heroic Tailor

The tailor and his hands were very busy. All sorts of colored cloths and pieces of uniforms were lying about. On the bench, in the middle of the room, sat four workmen, hard at work. Not a word interrupted the silence now desecrated by the noise of the opening door. He who sat on a somewhat raised seat, and was just braiding a magnificent scarlet hussar-jacket, hastily looked up. His hand, armed with his needle, had just risen and remained suspended; his eyes, which he had at first raised carelessly from his work, were fixed on the door, which framed so unusual and attractive a picture--a young lady of surpassing beauty, surrounded by three youthful soldiers, who looked very fine and imposing, too, and whose looks were turned to him with a kind and inquiring expression.

"You are M. Martin, the merchant tailor, are you not?" asked the lady, greeting the tailor with a gentle nod.

"That is my name," said M. Martin, involuntarily rising from his seat.

"Well, then, my dear sir," said the lady, advancing a few steps into the shop, "I should like to say a word to you."

"Yes, I imagine what it is," exclaimed the tailor, who fixed his eyes now upon Theodore Körner, and recognized his tormentor. "The gentleman has been here twice already about a uniform for Sunday. But I could not make it, if an angel descended from heaven to entreat me."

"Well, I thank you for your compliment," said Madame von Lützow, smiling. "But tell me now, sir, why can you not accommodate him?"

"Because I have more work now than I am able to finish. I was rash enough to accept so many orders, that I do not know how I shall be able to fill them; and in the excitement and confusion prevalent in the city it is impossible to get assistance at present."

"Well, if that is the only reason, we bring you fresh help. These two young volunteers are ready to work under your supervision, and finish the uniform of their comrade."

The tailor glanced toward the two young volunteers. "Lads, scarcely sixteen years old!" he said, shrugging his shoulders; "it is impossible that they can be experienced artists."

"But both affirm that they are tailors," said Madam von Lützow, "and skilled in their trade."

"Yes, sir, please give us a trial," begged Leonora.

"We are quick and skilful workmen," protested Caroline.

"Regular tailors?" asked M, Martin.

"Yes, regular tailors," replied Leonora.

"Very well. Finish this collar; the needle is still in it," said M. Martin, handing the scarlet soldier-jacket to Leonora.

The young volunteer blushed, and said in a low voice: "To be sure; sir. I must ask you to show me how to do it, for I have never yet worked on men's clothes."

"A ladies' tailor?" exclaimed M. Martin, with an expression of boundless contempt. "The other one, too?"

"Yes, I also am a ladies' tailor," said Caroline, smiling.

"And they are bold enough to offer their assistance to me!" exclaimed M. Martin, shrugging his shoulders.

"It is only necessary for you to give them proper directions, sir," said Madame von Lützow, entreatingly, "for as they know how to ply the needle they will easily understand what to do."

"And if the uniform should not fit well, or be badly made, it will be laid at my door, and M. Martin will be blamed for it. I assure you I cannot take the job; I am short of workmen of the necessary experience. No one wants to work now-adays--all heads are turned-- all young men are enlisting."

"No, sir," said the lady, "all heads are turned right again--to one thing necessary at this time--to the service of the fatherland."

"Bah! my shop is my fatherland," said the tailor, contemptuously.

"That is not true," exclaimed Madame von Lützow, "you do not and cannot think so. For if you did, you would be no Prussian, no German, and no one could love and respect you. During the period of adversity and disgrace, your shop may have been a comfort to you; but now that the sun of liberty is rising, all hearts must throb joyously; all must go out and gaze upon the new world; the shop no longer contains the work worthy of a freeman--it is to be found only on the battle-field--deliverance of the country!"

"The lady is right!" exclaimed the tailor's three assistants, who had hitherto looked up but stealthily from their work, but now cast it aside with impetuosity. "Yes, the lady is right! It is a shame for honest men to sit here in this room and ply the needle, while our friends and brethren are drawing the sword and marching out to the holy war of liberation. We must also participate in the great struggle!"

"Oh, yes," cried the tailor, in grim despair, "now my last workmen are coaxed away from me! You have taken the money I offered you when you entered my service, and as honest men you must keep your word. Resume your work! You know well that we are very busy."

The men commenced their work again with morose faces, whispering to each other: "As soon as the week has expired, we shall leave the shop and enlist."

"Well, madame, what do you wish?" exclaimed the tailor, furiously. "You have come to give me a job, and at the same time you disparage my business, and seduce my workmen to leave me. I shall soon have to close my shop."

"But you will not do so, dear M. Martin, before having made a uniform for this young man," said Madame von Lützow, in an entreating tone and with a sweet smile. "I have certainly not come to disparage your honorable business, for what should we do without the skilful tailor, who makes the uniforms of our soldiers and fits them out, as it were, for the service of their country? Oh, I am sure that you have worked at them with grand reflections, since this labor is more agreeable to you than if you had to make the most gorgeous suit for a chamberlain, and it gladdens you to think: 'I am likewise working hard for the fatherland. I am in my own way a soldier of the country; for I devote to it my skill and labor.'"

"That is true," said M. Martin, in confusion, "and that you may not believe me to be a worse man than I really am, I must tell you that I do not take pay for these jobs, but that I have offered to make twelve uniforms for our soldiers free of charge. I have nothing else to offer; hence, I give all I can!"

"And there is no nobler gift!" exclaimed Madame von Lützow. "You are a good man; pray give me your hand and let me thank you." She offered her hand to the tailor, and he put his broad, cold hand timidly into it.

"Oh, now I fear nothing," said Madame von Lützow, joyfully; "as you are so good a patriot, you will fulfil our prayer, and make a uniform for this young man for next Sunday."

"But I have told you already that I cannot," replied M. Martin, almost tearfully--"I cannot finish it."

"And I reply: Try, sir! I am sure you will finish it. For, take into consideration, dear M. Martin, that your own reputation is at stake, and that all the brave volunteers would execrate your name if it should be your fault that their favorite and celebrated bard could not attend the Sunday's ceremony."

"How so? What bard do you allude to, madame?"

"I allude to the great poet who stands before you--Theodore Körner."

"Ah, this is Theodore Körner!" exclaimed the tailor, "The poet who wrote 'Toni,' the splendid comedy that I saw last winter at our theatre?"

"The same, my dear sir," said Madame von Lützow, while Körner nodded to the tailor with a pleasant smile. "And he has written many other beautiful plays, and magnificent songs to boot. This is the reason why, though he is only twenty-one years old, he is famous throughout Germany, and at Vienna occupied a brilliant position. He is affianced to a dear, sweet young woman, whom he loves with all his heart, and to whom he was to be married within a month; but suddenly the battle-cry of freedom resounded throughout Germany, the King of Prussia called upon the able-bodied young men to volunteer and avenge the disgrace of Germany, and see what love of country can accomplish! The young man casts aside every thing--he gives up all, his fame, his betrothed, his position, and hastens with enthusiasm to offer his arm and his services-to exchange his poetical fame and his earthly happiness for victory or an honorable death on the battle-field."

"Oh, that is really glorious," cried the men, striking with their clinched right hands their knee, as though it were a recruiting- drum.

"Yes, it is so," said M. Martin, thoughtfully, to himself.

"Madame," whispered the poet, smiling, "you make me blush by your too kind praise."

"Is it my fault that a plain statement of the facts in the case is such praise for you?" asked Madame von Lützow. "For I have told you the truth, M. Martin, and all happened precisely as I have stated it. He has given up all to enlist. Vainly do his parents and his loved one weep for him. He hears nothing--sees nothing--for his country calls him, and he obeys. He does not desire happiness before his country is free, and sweeter than the most blissful life seems to him a glorious death for the fatherland. So he has come; the volunteers greeted him with shouts of exultation, and they believe now that Providence will cause their arms and their bravery to be successful, since an inspired bard will take the field with them, and endow them with redoubled ardor by his songs. But, before taking the field, they wish to implore God's blessing at the altar, and on Sunday next all those who are already uniformed and equipped are to take the oath of war and be consecrated. Theodore Körner has written for the occasion a pious hymn, which all the volunteers will sing, and now how can you be so cruel as to prevent him from singing his own hymn with them?"

"I?" cried the tailor, in dismay.

"Yes, you! For, if you do not accommodate him, he cannot be present."

M. Martin heaved a profound sigh, and cast a glance of despair around his shop. "There are still three hussar-jackets to be finished," he murmured. "If it were but a hussar-uniform that the gentleman asks for! But he does not wish to join the hussars?"

"No, my friend. I enlist in the Legion of Vengeance, and become one of Major von Lützow's volunteer riflemen. It will, therefore, be less troublesome to suit me."

"But that dress is not near as showy as the other," said the tailor, morosely. "An entirely black uniform with red trimmings on the sleeves looks sad, and--cruel."

"And that is as it ought to be, my dear sir. The black color signifies our grief, the red signifies blood."

And suddenly he commenced to sing:

"Noch trauera wir im schwarzeu Racherkleide Um den gestorbnen Muth, Doch fragt man Euch, was dieses Roth bedeute; Das deutet Frankenblut!"

"Mit Gott!--Einst geht hoch uber Feindesleichen Der Stern des Friedens auf; Dann pflanzen wir ein weisses Siegeszeichen Am freien Rheinstrom auf."

[Footnote: By this black uniform we ever mourn The public spirit dead! And why is then this crimson facing worn?-- With Frenchmen's blood it's red.

When high above vast heaps of slaughtered foes, The star of peace shall shine, The banner white, which victory bestows, Raise by our own free Rhine.]

"Then we shall raise a white symbol of our victory on the banks of the free Rhine!" echoed the volunteers, and the tailor and his assistants.

"M. Martin!" cried Madame von Lützow, laughing, "you have forgotten yourself; you have joined in the chorus!"

"Yes, it is true," ho said, "I have sung these few words with them; they make my heart swell, and--I do not know what has happened to me--it seems to me the song and all you have said make another man of me, and--"

"You will make the uniform for Theodore Körner?" asked Madame von Lützow, smiling.

M. Martin was silent, and quickly raised his head and looked at his assistants, who were gazing at him inquiringly.

"You have made up your minds, then?" he asked; "when the week is up, and your jobs are finished, you intend to leave me, and volunteer?"

"Yes, we have come to that determination," replied the three, unanimously, "and nothing shall prevent us from carrying it out,"

"Well, then, I must close my shop, and discontinue the tailoring business."

"But what do you intend to do, then, sir?" asked one of the journeymen, in surprise.

"I intend to enlist!" replied M. Martin. "This beautiful lady and the song have enchanted me. Hurrah! I also will enlist!"

"But my uniform?" asked Körner.

"Oh, you need not be concerned," exclaimed the tailor, in a proud tone; "it shall be made! I will work all night, and not lay aside my needle before it is done. Will you help me, journeymen?"

"Yes, sir, we will!"

"And you, too, volunteers? It is true, you are only ladies' tailors, but you know at least how to line and pad a coat. Will you take the job?"

"Yes, M. Martin, we will joyously do so," cried Leonora and Caroline.

"Well, then, we can finish two uniforms by Sunday--one for the poet, the other for myself!"

"My dear sir, I thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Madame von Lützow; and then, turning her radiant face to Körner, she asked, "Are you now satisfied?"

"Ah, I knew well that no one could resist you, and that you are our good angel," whispered the poet, pressing the hand of the lovely lady to his lips.

"But listen, M. Körner," said the tailor; "if I am to work for you so industriously, I must impose a condition, and you must promise to fulfil it."

"What is it?"

"It is that you shall not pay me for my labor."

"But, sir, it is impossible for me to--"

Madame von Lützow laid her hand softly on his shoulder. "I am sure you do not wish to offend this excellent man?" she whispered.

"It is impossible for me to take pay for a favor which I do to one of my future comrades," said M. Martin. "I suppose that is what you wanted to say, and you are right. But if you insist on indemnifying me, there is another way for you to do so."

"Pray tell me."

"You sang two verses, which sounded so bold and fresh that they touched my heart. Was that the whole song, or are there any more verses?"

"No, sir, they are the two last; three others precede them."

"Well, comrade," said M. Martin, gayly, "if you insist on my doing my last tailoring job for you, then sing me the other three."

Körner glanced inquiringly at Madame Lützow. "I do not know," he said, hesitatingly, "if madame will permit it?"

Madame von Lützow smiled. "I not only permit, but pray you to sing," she said. "Give us the whole song, and let us all join in the refrain. Come, brave soldiers of the future! cast aside your work, form in line, and sing with us the song of the Black Riflemen!"

The three journeymen jumped up, and posted themselves beside M. Martin. The lady again withdrew to the door. On both sides stood the two young volunteers, with their blooming faces, and between these two groups stood the tall and noble form of the young poet, whose fine face beamed with courage and energy, and on whose brow genius had pressed the kiss of inspiration.

"Now, listen attentively!" said Theodore Körner, smiling. "My song is easy to sing, for who is ignorant of the song of the Rhenish wine? Let us sing it to that melody!"

And through the tailor's shop, hitherto so peaceful and silent, resounded the song of the Black Riflemen:

"In's Feld, in's Feld, die Rachegeister mahnen, Auf, deutsches Volk, zum Krieg! In's Feld, in's Feld! Hoch flattern unsere Fahnen, Sie fuhren uns zum Sieg!"

"Klein ist die Schaar, doch gross ist das Vertranen Auf den gerechten Gott! Wo seine Engel ihre Veste bauen, Sind Hollenkunste Spott."

"Gebt kein Pardon! Konet Ihr das Schwert nicht heben, So wurgt sie ohne Scheu! Und hoeh verkauft den letzten Tropfen Leben, Der Tod macht Alle freil"

[Footnote: To the field! the spirits of vengeance cry; Rise, and your country save! Uplift your eagle banners to the sky-- For victory they wave!

In number small, but great our confidence In a just God's decree; When His own angels build our sure defence, Vain is hell's strategy.

No quarter give, but strike the fatal blow, Dear let your life-blood be; Ask not for mercy, and to none bestow, For death makes all men free.

This whole scene is based on facts, for which I am indebted to personal communications from the Countess Ahlefeldt. Theodore Körner fell in the first year of the war of liberation, before the decisive battle of Leipsic, on the 26th of August, 1813, in a skirmish which the corps of Major von Lützow had with the French near Gadebusch. Only an hour prior to his death, while lying in ambush, he wrote his immortal "Song of the Sword" in his note-book. The statement of Mr. Alison, the historian, that he was killed in the battle of Dresden, is erroneous.

Leonora Prohaska fell in an engagement on the Gorde, the 16th of September, 1813. A bullet pierced her breast. When she felt that she was dying, she revealed to her comrades that she was a woman, and that her name was Leonora Prohaska, and not Charles Renz.

Caroline Peters was more fortunate. She participated in the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, was decorated with the order of the Iron Cross on account of her bravery, and honorably discharged at the end of the war. She was then married to the captain of an English vessel whom she accompanied on his travels, and with whom she visited her relatives at Stettin in 1844.--L. M.]

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher