XXVIII. The General-in-Chief of the Silesian Army

General Blücher was more morose and dejected than he had been for a long time. From the day he heard of the king's arrival at Breslau, and immediately left his farm of Kunzendorf to repair to that city, a perpetual sunshine lit up his face, and a new spring bloomed in his heart. But now the old clouds of Kunzendorf were again lowering on his brow, and a frost seemed to have blighted all the blossoms of his hope.

He sat on the sofa, closely wrapped in his dressing-gown, drumming with his hand a quickstep on the table in front of him, while he was blowing clouds of smoke from his long pipe. Very gloomy thoughts appeared to fill Blücher's soul, for his bushy eyebrows contracted, the quickstep was more rapid, and the smoke arose in denser masses. In the violence of his inward trouble, he grimly shook his head without thinking of the fragile friend in his mouth. Its delicate form struck against the corner of the table and broke into pieces.

"So," muttered Blücher to himself, "that was just wanting to my afflictions. It is the second pipe broken to-day. Well, there will be a day when Bonaparte shall pay me these pipes that he has already cost me. That day must come, or there is no justice in Heaven. Christian! O Christian!"

The door opened. Christian Hennemann appeared on the threshold, awaiting the orders of the general.

"Another wounded pipe, Christian," said Blücher, pointing at the pieces on the floor. "Pick them up, and see if there is not a short pipe among them."

"No, your excellency," said Christian, approaching and carefully picking up the pieces, "that is no wounded pipe, but a dead one. Shall I fetch another to your excellency?"

He was about to turn away, but Blücher seized the lap of his hussar- jacket. "Show me the broken pipe," he said, anxiously; "let me see if it really will not do any more."

"Well, look at it, your excellency," said the pipe-master, in a dignified tone, holding up the bowl with a very small part of the tube. "It is impossible for you to use it again. If I should fill the bowl with tobacco and light it, your excellency, it would assuredly burn your nose."

"That is true," said Blücher, mournfully; "I believe you are right. I might burn my nose, and that would be altogether unnecessary now. I burn it here at Breslau every day."

"How did you do it?" asked Christian, in dismay. "Your excellency has not yet smoked short pipes."

"Because I am myself like a short pipe," cried Blücher, with a grim smile, "or because the miserable, sneaking vermin at court--well, what does it concern you? Why do you stand and stare at me? Go, Christian, and fetch me a new Pipe."

"What, a new pipe!" asked a voice by his side. "Why, Blücher, you are still in your dressing-gown!"

It was his wife who had just entered the room by the side-door and approached her husband without being noticed. She was in full toilet, her head adorned with plumes, her delicate form wrapped in a heavy dark satin dress, trimmed with costly silver lace. Her neck and ears were ornamented with jewelry in which large diamonds shone; in her hand, radiant with valuable rings, she held a huge fan, inlaid with pearls and precious stones.

"Yes, Amelia, I am still in my dressing-gown," said Blücher, gloomily gazing at his wife. "Why, you are splendidly dressed to- day! What is it for?--and whither do you design to go?"

"Whither!" exclaimed the lady, in surprise. "But, husband, do you forget, then, the festival to take place to-night?"

"Well, what is it?" asked Blücher, slowly drawing his long white mustache through his fingers.

"Blücher, to-night the great ball takes place which the city of Breslau gives at the city hall in honor of the Emperor of Russia, when both their majesties will appear."

"Well, what does that concern me?"

"It concerns you a great deal, for you have solemnly promised the burgomaster, who came personally to invite us, that you would attend the ball to-night."

"And I shall not go to it after all, Amelia," cried Blücher, striking with his hand on the table. "No, Amelia! I am no dancing- bear to turn around at a ball, and to be led by the nose."

"But, Blücher, what has happened to you?" asked his wife, wonderingly. "You were as merry and high-spirited as a young god of spring; the violets laughed when they saw you pass by, and the snow- drops rang their tiny bells in your honor, and now suddenly it is winter again! Pray, tell me, what has happened to you?"

"Nothing at all has happened to me--that is just the misfortune," cried Blücher. "It is more than a month now since I have been sitting here at Breslau, and nothing has happened. I am still what I always was--an old pensioned general, who has no command, and nothing to do but to retire to Kunzendorf and plant cabbage-heads, while others in the field are cutting off French heads. And it will be best for me to go back to Kunzendorf. I have nothing to do here; no one cares for an old fellow like me. I have hoped on from day to day, but all my hopes are gone now. Amelia, take off your tinsel, and pack up our traps. The best thing we can do will be to start this very evening and return to our miserable, accursed village!"

"Dear me! what a humor you are in!" exclaimed his wife, "Every thing will be right in the end, my husband; you must not despair; things are only taking their course a little more deliberately than my firebrand wishes. But finally all will be precisely as you want it, for without Blücher they are unable to accomplish any thing, and will, therefore, at last resort to him."

"And I tell you they will try to get along without me," cried Blücher; "I shall be a disgraced man, at whom the very chickens will laugh, if he has to sneak back to Kunzendorf instead of taking the field. Pack up. Amelia, wo shall leave this day!"

"But that is impossible, Blücher! It would look like a cowardly flight, and your enemies would rejoice over it. No, you must go to the ball to-night; you--"

"General Scharnhorst!" announced a footman at this moment, and there appeared in the open door the general, dressed in his gala-uniform, and his breast decked with orders.

"I am glad you have come, general," exclaimed Amelia, hastening to him, and shaking hands with her friend. "Look at that stubborn old man, who does not wish to go to the ball! Say yourself, general, must he not go?"

"Certainly he must," said Scharnhorst, smiling, "and I come to beg of you a seat in your carriage, and to let me have the honor of appearing in the suite of General and Madame von Blücher. You had, therefore, better dress at once, my dear general. It is high time. Even their majesties have already set out."

Blücher gently shook his head, and slowly raised his eyes toward Scharnhorst, who stood in front of him. "Scharnhorst," he said, "every thing turns out wrong, and I wish myself dead rather than see such a state of affairs."

"What do you mean, general?" inquired Scharnhorst. "What has happened?"

Blücher cast a piercing glance on him, and seemed to read in the depths of his soul. "Is the matter settled?" he asked. "Pray, my friend, tell me the truth without circumlocution. It is better for me to know it at once than allow this incertitude longer to gnaw at my heart. Scharnhorst, I implore you, tell me the truth! Has the commander of the Silesian army been appointed?"

"No, general," said Scharnhorst, gravely.

"And you do not know whom they will appoint? The truth, my friend!"

"Well, then, the truth is, that I do not know it, and that their majesties themselves do not know it, although every patriot thinks they ought not to doubt which of the three gentlemen who stand on the list should be appointed, for every heart echoes, 'General Blücher is the man whom we need, and who will lead us to victory.' The emperor and the king are still vacillating; precious time is lost--Napoleon is organizing new armies, and strengthening himself on all sides, while they are hesitating."

"Three, then, stand on the list," said Blücher. "I have two competitors. Who are they, general?"

"One is Field-Marshal Kalkreuth."

Blücher started, and his eyes flashed with anger. "What!" he cried. "That childish old man to command an army! He who is constantly singing hymns of praise to Napoleon and his French--he who, only the other day, showed again that he deemed a frown of Bonaparte more terrible than the peril of a German patriot! He command an army to vanquish Napoleon! I suppose you know what he has done? He betrayed to the French ambassador, Count St. Marsan, who followed our king to Breslau in order to watch him, that Minister von Stein, our noblest friend, had secretly come for the purpose of negotiating with the king in the name of the Emperor of Russia; that he was living in a garret, and that conferences of the enemies of Napoleon were held there every night." [Footnote: Pertz's "Life of Stein," vol. iii., p. 210.]

"Yes, that is true," said Scharuhorst, "Field-Marshal Kalkreuth did so, and it is no fault of his that Baron von Stein, with his friends, one of whom I happen to be, was not secretly seized and carried off by the French. Fortunately, dear Count St. Marsan did not believe the field-marshal who betrayed his German countryman. The French ambassador allowed himself to be deceived by the stillness that reigned in the garret, which, according to the statement Kalkreuth made to him, was inhabited by dangerous Minister von Stein." [Footnote: Beitzke, vol. i., p. 170.]

"Well, and this man, the head of the French party, they wish to appoint general-in-chief of the Silesian army," said Blücher, mournfully. "Amelia, pack up our traps; let us return to Kunzendorf."

"But Field-Marshal Kalkreuth has not yet been appointed," Said Scharnhorst, smiling; "I believe his two competitors have as good-- nay, better prospects than he has."

"It is true, I forgot the second competitor," grumbled Blücher. "Who is it?"

"It is Lieutenant-General Count Tauentzien, in whom the Emperor Alexander takes a great deal of interest."

"Of course," said Blücher, sarcastically, "he is a count, and he has such a polish, and courtly manners; he knows how to flatter the sovereigns, and tell them only what is agreeable. But now, you yourself must admit, Scharnhorst, that it is best for me to set out immediately for Kunzendorf, and that I have no prospects--none whatever! The two sovereigns, the king and emperor, alone will make the appointment, will they not?"

"Of course, they alone!"

"Well, each of them has a candidate of his own. The emperor is in favor of Count Tauentzien, and the king is for Field-Marshal Kalkreuth. Who, then, is to think of and speak for me?"

"Your glory will speak for you, general," said Scharnhorst, feelingly; "the love which every soldier feels for you will speak, and you will speak for yourself by your noble appearance--your self- reliant bearing, your energy and strength, which do not shrink from truth. Come, let us get ready for the ball, and, my friend, do not impose any restraint upon yourself there; give the reins to your discontent; tell every one frankly and bluntly that you are dissatisfied--that you ardently desire to be appointed general-in- chief, and that you would consider it a great misfortune if another man should be preferred to you."

"But, dear general," exclaimed Madame von Blücher, in dismay, "how can you give Blücher such advice? You know how hot-headed and rash he is! He will rave about so, that the king and the emperor themselves will hear him."

"Well," said Scharnhorst, smiling, "it is sometimes very well that there should be a man courageous enough to tell the kings and emperors the truth, and prove to them that mankind do not always fawn upon them with polite submissiveness."

"Scharnhorst is right," exclaimed Blücher, suddenly straightening himself; "yes, I will go to the ball, and tell them there at least what sort of men those are whom they wish to appoint, and what we may expect from them. They shall not afterward excuse themselves by saying that they were not forewarned, and that no one had called their attention to Blücher. I will do it myself--yes, thunder and lightning! I will remind them of Blücher, and they shall hear and understand me."

"Well," cried Madame von Blücher, "I beg permission to stay at home, for Blücher will have a scene, at which I do not wish to be present."

"Oh, no, there will be no scene whatever," said Blücher. "I shall make my obeisance to their majesties and then step aside, but of course I am not to keep altogether still, and--well, you know my motto, 'At them!' [Footnote: "Immer drauf:"] Well, then, 'at them!' Let us go to the bail. You must accompany me, Amelia, there is no help for it; for it may be necessary for you to bring me back to reason. You know well that no one but you can do that."

"I am sure, madame, you will not abandon us at this critical hour?" begged Scharnhorst. "You do not desire his guardian angel to leave him?"

"Yes, I will go with you," she said, smiling, "if for no other purpose than to restrain my fiery thunderer in proper time."

"Well, it may not be of any avail," said Blücher, dryly. "By Heaven! I must unbosom myself a little to-day--I must tell them the truth, which no one here at Breslau likes to hear.--Well, Amelia, do me the favor to turn toward the window. I wish to take off my dressing-gown and pat on my uniform coat--then I am dressed; only my coat is wanting; it lies on the chair yonder; wait until I have put it on, and then we shall ride to the ball. I will call John to assist me."

"Do not call any one," said Scharnhorst, "but permit me to assist you. Here is the coat."

"And here I am," cried Blücher, throwing off the dressing-gown and quickly plunging into the coat which Scharnhorst handed him.

"But now listen, general," said Scharnhorst, handing Blücher the sword and belt. "As you arc so very amiable and kind, I will tell you good news. Gneisenau will be here to-morrow."

"What? Is he no longer in England?" asked Blücher, joyously.

"No, he is in Germany, and, as he wrote to me, will arrive to-morrow at the latest. He landed nearly a week ago from a Swedish ship at Colberg, where he was received with enthusiasm. The whole city was illuminated on the evening of his arrival, and the citizens marched in procession to his lodgings. [Footnote: Beitzke, vol. i., p. 196.] You see the old hatred and the old love are still alive in the people; they have not forgotten their oppressors, nor their heroes either."

"Then Gneisenau has come, too," exclaimed Blücher; "he is the petrel that heralds the storm. There will be war now, certainly; and if I am not permitted to share in it, my heart will burst like an overcharged gun. Gneisenau come! all men are coming, and Blücher is to stay at home! Well, if they do not appoint me commanding general, I will enlist as a private. For I must participate in the war that is to put an end to Bonaparte's tyranny; and, if I cannot be first dancer, I shall be one of the musicians.--Christian, have the carriage brought to the door!"

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher