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and strength. Consider, therefore, whether you are willing to
undertake the heavy task nevertheless; consider that you risk your
property, your blood, and your lives, and that, if you should be so
unfortunate as to fall into the enemy's hands, he would perhaps
punish you as criminals and rebels. It is true, you are ready to
risk your property, your blood, and your lives, for the fatherland
and the liberty of the Tyrol; but then you have also duties to your
families, your parents, your brides; you have a duty to yourselves -
that of not endangering your lives recklessly. It is true, even
though the enemy should punish you as rebels, you would die the
beautiful death of martyrs for your fatherland, and the halo of your
virtue and love of country will immortalize your names; but you must
consider, also, whether your death will be useful to the country,
and whether you will not shed your blood in vain. Ask your hearts,
my friends, whether they will be courageous and strong enough to
brave cheerfully whatever reverses and calamities may befall us, and
whether they really will risk death, imprisonment, and the scaffold,
without flinching and trembling? That is what I wished to say to you
before concerting measures with you and sending an answer to Andreas
Hofer. Consider it all, my friends, and then speak."

"We are to ask our hearts if they will not flinch and tremble?" said
Peter Mayer, almost contemptuously. "When the enemy returned to the
Tyrol last May, he burned down eight houses which belonged to me,
and for some time I did not know but that my wife and children had
perished in the conflagration. Did you see me tremble - did you hear
me complain at that time? Did I not stand up cheerfully in the
battle on Mount Isel, without weeping or murmuring, and bearing in
mind only that I was fighting for liberty, the fatherland, and the
emperor? It was not until we had gained the victory, and obtained
our freedom, that I went home to mourn and weep on the smoking ruins
of my houses. But I found my wife and my children alive and well; a
friend had concealed them and taken care of them; and after thanking
God for our victory, I thanked Him for preserving my wife and
children; and only now, when we were happy and free, did I shed
tears. But since the enemy is re-entering the country, and fresh
misfortunes are to befall us, my tears are dried again; my heart is
full of courage and constancy; and I believe we must risk all,
because otherwise every thing that we have done hitherto will be in
vain. I love my wife dearly; but, if she came now to dissuade me
from taking part in the struggle, and if I felt that my heart was
giving way to her persuasion, I would strangle her with my own
hands, lest she should prevent me from serving the great cause of
the fatherland. It is true, our task is difficult, but it is not
impossible; and that which is not impossible should be tried for the
fatherland! I have given you my opinion; it is your turn now, my
young friends. Peter Kemnater, speak! Tell Father Red-beard whether
your heart is trembling and flinching, and whether you think we had
better keep quiet, because the enemy is so powerful and superior to
us."

"I have an affianced bride of whom I am very fond," said Peter
Kemnater, with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes; "a girl whom I love
better than my parents, than anything in the world, and whom I
intended to marry a fortnight hence; but I swear to God and the Holy
Virgin that my wedding shall not take place until the Tyrol is free
again, and we have expelled the enemy once more from the country.
And if my bride should be angry at this, and demand that I should
think more of her than of the fatherland, and prefer living for her
alone to dying perhaps for the fatherland, I should break with her,
and never look at her again, never speak another word with her. I
have many houses and lands; but even though I knew that my fields
and meadows were to be devastated, and my houses burned down, like
those of Peter Mayer, I should say, nevertheless, we will fight for
the fatherland! We will defeat the enemy, even though we should all
become beggars, and even though I knew that I should die before
seeing my affianced bride again, and that she would curse me in my
grave. That is what I have got to say. Now you may speak, Martin
Schenk; tell the father whether your heart is flinching and
trembling."

"Yes, it is," cried Martin Schenk, "but only when I think the men of
the Tyrol could be so cowardly and mean-spirited as to keep quiet
and submit to their oppressors, because the latter are powerful and
superior to us in numbers. I have a young wife whom I married only a
year ago, and who gave birth to a little boy a week since, and I
assure you that I love her and her child with all my heart. But if I
knew that their death would be useful to the fatherland, and would
contribute to its salvation, I would shoot them with my own rifle,
and should not weep on seeing their corpses at my feet; but I should
rejoice and exclaim, 'I did it for the sake of the fatherland; I
sacrificed my most precious treasures for the beloved Tyrol.' Even
though the enemy is very strong and numerous, even though the
emperor has abandoned us, God stands by us. The mountains stand firm
yet; they are our fortresses, and we will fight in them until we are
all dead, or until we have defeated the enemy, and delivered the
Tyrol a third time. Now you know my opinion, Father Joachim
Haspinger."

The Capuchin made no reply. He stood with hands clasped in prayer
and eyes lifted to heaven, and two large tears rolled down his
bronzed cheeks into his red beard.

"Great God in heaven," he murmured in a voice tremulous with
emotion, "I thank Thee for letting me see this hour, and hear the
soul-stirring words of these patriotic men. What can I say now, what
have I to sacrifice to the fatherland? I have no wife, no children,
no property; I am but a poor Capuchin! I have nothing but my blood
and my life. But I will give it to the country, even though the
bishop and the abbot should excommunicate me for it and condemn my
soul to burn in everlasting fire. It is better that a poor
Capuchin's soul should burn in hell than that the fatherland should
groan with pain and wear the brand of disgrace and slavery on its
forehead. It is better to be a faithless son of the bishop and
abbot, than a faithless son of the fatherland. It is better to be a
bad Christian than a bad patriot. Therefore, whatever may happen, I
shall share every thing with you, danger or victory, triumph or
death. Henceforth I am no longer a Capuchin, but old Red-beard
Joachim Haspinger, the defender of his country; and I swear that I
will no more lay down my head and repose before we have delivered
the country from the enemy and concluded an honorable peace. If that
is your sentiment also, swear here before God that you will fight
henceforth for the country, devote your whole strength to it, and
perish rather than give up the struggle, make peace with the enemy,
and submit to the Bavarian yoke."

And the three men lifted their hands and eyes to heaven, and
exclaimed with one accord, in a loud and solemn tone: "We swear by
God Almighty, and by all that is sacred and dear to us on earth,
that we will fight henceforth for the country, devote our whole
strength to it, and perish rather than give up the struggle, make
peace with the enemy, and submit to the Bavarian yoke!"

"Benedictus! benedictus!" cried Father Haspinger, laying his hands
on those which the three men had joined on taking the oath. "The
Lord has heard and accepted your oath; the Lord will bless you, the
Holy Virgin will protect you! Amen!"

"And now let us concert measures for the struggle, and consider what
we ought to do," said the friar, after a pause. "In the first place,
we will inform Andreas Hofer that his wishes shall be complied with,
and that we will call out the Landsturm and all our forces. Let me
write to him, therefore, and then we will hold a council of war."

The council of war lasted until midnight; and while all Europe was
truckling to the "invincible Emperor Napoleon," while all Germany
was lying humbly prostrate at his feet, and while all the princes
were basking in the sunshine of his favor, four poor men, neither
learned nor even well educated, three peasants and a monk, were
concerting measures to bid defiance to "Bonaparte, the robber of
crowns," and expel his powerful armies from their mountains! All
Germany was subjugated, and had given up all further resistance to
the all-powerful conqueror; only the small Tyrol would not suffer
herself to be subjugated; only the brave sons of the German
mountains were still intent on braving the tyrant, and upholding
their liberty and independence, despite the formidable efforts he
was making to crush them.

Already on the following morning the tocsin sounded in all the
valleys and on all the heights, and called upon the men to fight for
the fatherland. After midnight the three brave men had left Brixen;
each had set out in a different direction to incite the men to
insurrection, inform them of Andreas Hofer's order, and implore them
in the name of the fatherland to take up their rifles again and risk
once more their lives for the deliverance of the Tyrol.

Father Haspinger had walked all night to Latzfons, and on the
following morning he preached to the people at the church of that
place an enthusiastic sermon, in which he called upon them to make
one more effort in behalf of their beloved country, and promised
entire absolution for one year to every one who should kill a dozen
French soldiers, and absolution for five years to any who should
kill twice as many. [Footnote: Mayer's "Speckbacher," p. 151.]

Carried away by the soul-stirring words and promises of the
Capuchin, full of ardor to serve the fatherland, and desirous of
obtaining absolution, the men took up arms, and even a company of
women was formed for the holy service of the fatherland.

At night on the same day three hundred sharpshooters had rallied
around the martial friar, and with them he marched toward Unterau,
constantly receiving re-enforcements on the road; for the
inhabitants everywhere rose again as one man, and with their
redoubted rifles on their shoulders descended every lateral glen and
ravine, and joined his command to conquer or die under him.

And joyful news arrived from all sides, announcing that the
inhabitants were rising throughout the Tyrol. Already Peter Mayer
and Peter Kemnater had gathered around them all the sharpshooters of
the neighboring towns and villages, and their four companies now
united with the friar's troops. News also came from Andreas Hofer:
he had emerged again from the cave, and at his call all the
sharpshooters of the Passeyr valley had rallied around him, and
companies had flocked to him from all parts of the country to fight
again under their beloved commander-in-chief. Andreas Hofer had
marched with them across the crest of the precipitous Janfen, and
his army gathering strength like a mountain-torrent from every
tributary stream which crossed its course, soon embraced all the
able-bodied men of Passeyr, Meran, and Algund.

The Tyrolese bad risen a third time to defend the independence of
their country.


CHAPTER XXXI.

THE FIRST BATTLE.


What the four men had sworn at the inn of Brixen, and what Andreas
Hofer had agreed upon with his friend Speckbacher, had succeeded.
The whole Tyrol had risen and was eager for the fray. A small army,
commanded by Father Haspinger, was encamped near Brixen, and
received hourly fresh accessions. Peter Kemnater and Peter Mayer
were still traversing the country, and calling upon the peasants to
repair to Father Red-beard's camp near Brixen, and their appeals
were readily complied with. The brave peasants of Rodeneck,
Weitenthal, and Schoneck, led by their courageous pastor, George
Schoneck, came into camp; and so did Anthony Wallner with the four
hundred men who had followed him from the Puster valley.

Father Haspinger received these brave men exultingly, and folded
their leader, Anthony Wallner, tenderly to his heart.

"You have fought again like a hero," he exclaimed, patting his
cheeks affectionately; "the whole Tyrol is extolling your exploits
at the murderous battle of Taxenbach, and they are telling wonderful
stories about the surpassing heroism and bravery you displayed on
that occasion."

"It is true, we fought bravely," said Anthony Wallner, sighing; "but
it did not do much good, for the enemy was ten to one, and we were
finally unable to check his advance. But we followed him, and will
now unite with you, reverend father, in order to expel him once more
from the country. I believe there will be another battle on Mount
Isel, for the enemy is always intent on forcing his way to
Innspruck, believing that the whole Tyrol is subjugated so soon as
the capital has fallen into his hands. We must strive, therefore, to
meet him there once more; for you know the old prophecy, saying that
Mount Isel will be a lucky place for the Tyrolese."

"I do know it," said the friar; "and if it please God we will verify
it. The freedom of the Tyrol is buried on Mount Isel near Innspruck,
and we will disinter the golden treasure there and cause it to shed
its lustre once more on our mountains and valleys. You shall help me
to do it, Anthony Wallner, you and your famous sharpshooters of
Windisch-Matrey. But previously I think, my friend, we shall have
something to do here; for our scouts have returned with the news
that the enemy is approaching. His column is headed by Saxon and
Bavarian troops under the French general, Royer; his forces are
followed by the main army under the commander-in-chief, Marshal
Lefebvre, or as he proudly call himself, the Duke of Dantsic.
General Royer has got already as far as Sterzing, and if we do not
interfere the Saxons will soon reach Brixen."

"But we will interfere," cried Anthony Wallner; "we will not allow
them to advance to Brixen, and I will occupy immediately with my
sharpshooters the mountain-passes on the route of the enemy. We will
receive the Duke of Dantsic with fireworks which will sadden his
heart."

"Do so, dear Anthony," exclaimed Haspinger, joyfully. "I myself will
first go to Brixen and teach the members of the municipality better
manners. Their terror and anguish have rendered them quite eloquent,
and they have dissuaded many hundred peasants, who were passing
through Brixen to join my command, from so doing, and induced them
to return to their homes. I shall speak a serious word with those
gentlemen, and teach them a little patriotism."

Haspinger nodded kindly to Anthony Wallner, and calling ten of his
best sharpshooters to him repaired to the city hall of Brixen, where
the members of the municipality were assembled. He made them a
furious speech, which, however, did not impress the gentlemen as
forcibly as the threats which he added to it. He swore that, if the
members of the municipality would not have the tocsin sounded
immediately and send out mounted messengers to call out the peasants
and send them to him, he would cause every one of them to be hanged
or shot in the morning! And this oath was effectual enough, for the
terrified gentlemen knew full well that Father Haspinger had the
power and the will to fulfil his oaths. Hence, the tocsin was
sounded, mounted messengers were Neat out in all directions, and on
the following morning upward of two thousand able-bodied men arrived
at Haspinger's camp. [Footnote: "Gallery of Heroes: Andreas Hofer,"
p. 110.]

"All right," said the friar; "if Andreas Hofer and Speckbacher join
us with their forces, I believe we shall succeed, and St. Cassian
will have understood our prayers."

While Anthony Wallner and his sharpshooters occupied the mountain-
gorges this side of Brixen on the road to Mittewald, Joseph
Speckbacher and his men had penetrated far beyond Mittewald toward
Sterzing, and had learned that the Saxons, under General Royer, were
resting at Sterzing with the intention of advancing in the morning
through the wild valley of the Eisach toward Brixen.

"Well, if the Saxons are resting we must work in order to prepare
eternal repose for them," said Joseph Speckbacher, gayly. "Now come,
my brave lads, we must take the Saxons between two fires. They are
miserable scoundrels and traitors. Ah, they do not shrink from
serving the rapacious conqueror Bonaparte, and turning their arms
against their German countrymen, merely because the French emperor
orders them to do so, and because we refuse to submit to the foreign
yoke. and are determined to preserve our German tongue and our
German rights! How disgraceful it is that Germans should attack
Germans at the bidding of the foreign oppressor! Therefore, we will
punish the Saxons and Bavarians in the name of God and the Holy
Virgin. We will let them advance down the defile, and attack them
only after they are in it. They cannot retrace their steps, for we
are behind them; nor can they advance very far, for Father Red-beard
will meet them in front. Now come and let us make festive
preparations, as it behooves those who are expecting distinguished
guests. We will erect a few triumphal arches to them, and show them
how avalanches roll down our mountains. Ah, we will build up for
them artificial ruins which will excite their sincere admiration!"

"Yes, yes, we will!" shouted the peasants, who went to work, singing
and laughing. In the first place, they erected "triumphal arches" to
the enemy; that is to say, they obstructed the road by raising a
number of abatis, besmeared with pitch the wooden railing of the
bridge built across the Eisach near the village of Pleis, loosened
the planks of the bridge, and began to build "avalanches." They
felled a considerable number of tall larches, tied ropes to both
ends of them, lowered them half-way down the precipitous side of the
mountain, and fastened the ropes above to the strong branches of
trees firmly rooted in the soil of the crest. Then they threw huge
masses of rock and heaps of rubbish on these hanging scaffolds; and
after the "avalanches" had thus been completed, they withdrew
cautiously and rapidly into the mountain-gorges. Only Zoppel, Joseph
Speckbacher's servant, and an old peasant remained near the
"avalanches." They stood on both sides of the ropes, hatchet in
hand, casting fiery glances into the defile on the bank of the
Eisach, and between overhanging wood-clad precipices.

Profound silence reigned all around; only from time to time a
rustling noise was heard in the shrubbery; the flashing barrel of a
rifle was then seen, and it seemed as though the fleet-footed
chamois appeared on the heights above. But they were Tyrolese
sharpshooters who had climbed up to the watch-towers of their
natural fortresses to espy the enemy and on his appearance to
welcome him with the bullets of their rifles.

Profound silence reigned all around, and the two men were still
standing, hatchet in hand, by the side of the ropes holding the
artificial avalanches.

All at once a loud, shrill whistle resounded in front of the
entrance to the defile; it was repeated all around the gloomy gorge.

"That is the signal that the enemy has passed the inn am Sack and is
entering the defile of the Eisach," murmured Zoppel, examining once
more the edge of his hatchet with his hand. Then he looked down
attentively into the depth, where only a footpath meandered close
along the bank of the foaming Eisach.

A few soldiers were now seen entering the defile yonder, where the
road projected between two jutting rocks forming the background of
the gorge.

The form of a Tyrolese sharpshooter appeared at the same moment on
the top of the precipitous rock. He stepped close to the edge of the
rock, allowed the soldiers, who looked around slowly and
distrustfully, to advance a few steps, and then raised his rifle. He
fired; one of the soldiers fell immediately to the ground, and the
Tyrolese sharpshooter reloaded his rifle. He fired again, and laid
another soldier prostrate.

The two reports had accelerated the march of the enemy. The soldiers
entered the defile with a hasty step; in order to advance, they had
to remove the two soldiers who were writhing in the agony of death
and obstructing the narrow path, and throw them into the waters of
the Eisach, which received with a wild roar the two corpses, the
first victims of the reopening struggle.

Meanwhile the Tyrolese sharpshooter on the height above had reloaded
his rifle and shot another soldier. On seeing this, he uttered a
loud Jodler, made a leap of joy, and nodded laughingly to the enemy,
who cast threatening glances on him. But he did not see that one of
the officers below called four soldiers to him, pointed his hand at
the top of the rock, and gave them a quick order. The four soldiers
sprang at once from the ranks and disappeared in the shrubbery
covering the base of the rock.

The sharpshooter was reloading his rifle, when the shrubbery behind
him rustled, and, on turning hastily, be saw one of the soldiers
rushing toward him. A cry of rage burst from the lips of the
sharpshooter. He then raised his rifle and fired. The soldier fell,
but at the same moment one of his comrades hastened from the thicket
toward the top of the rock. Another cry burst from the
sharpshooter's lips, but this time it sounded like a death-cry. He
saw that he was lost, for already the uniforms of the other two
soldiers were glittering among the trees, and the second soldier was
only a few steps from the edge of the rock where the sharpshooter
was standing. The Tyrolese cast a last despairing glance around him,
as if to take leave of heaven and earth, and of the mountains and
Valleys of his beloved Tyrol. Then he threw down his rifle and
seized the soldier furiously. His arms encircled the body of his
enemy like iron clasps, and he forced him with irresistible
impetuosity toward the edge of the rock.

"In God's name, then," he shouted in a loud voice echoed by the
rocks all around. "In God's name, then!"

With a last effort he threw himself with the soldier into the depth,
and both disappeared in the waters of the Eisach.

Speckbacher's servant the faithful Zoppel, had seen and understood
everything; and when the two sank into the foaming torrent, he wiped
a tear from his eyes.

"He died like a brave son of the Tyrol," he murmured, "and the Holy
Virgin will assuredly bid him kindly welcome. But we, Hisel, will
avenge his death on the accursed enemy below."

"Yes, we will," cried the peasant grimly; and he raised his hatchet
with a furious gesture.

"It is not yet time," said Zoppel thoughtfully. "Just wait until a
larger body of troops has entered the defile. See, Hisel, how
splendid they look in their gorgeous uniform, and how proudly they
are marching on!"

The Saxons did march on proudly, but not with drums beating. They
advanced in silence, filled with misgivings by the profound
stillness which surrounded them all at once, listening attentively
to every sound, and examining anxiously the top of every projecting
rock.

The head of the serried column had arrived now directly under the
hanging "avalanche" in the middle of the gloomy defile. The silence
was suddenly broken by a loud angry voice, which seemed to resound
in the air like the croaking of the death-angel.

This voice asked, "Zoppel, shall I cut the rope now?"

"Not yet! not yet!" replied another voice; and the precipitous rocks
all around echoed "Not yet! not yet!"

The Saxons gave a start and looked up. Whence came these voices?
What meant that huge black mass suspended on the precipitous side of
the mountain right over their heads?

Thus they asked each other shudderingly and stood still, fixing
their eyes on the black mass of rock and rubbish, which filled their
hearts with wonder and dismay.

"Let us retrace our steps! Let us not penetrate farther into the
defile," murmured the soldiers with trembling lips, but in so low a
tone that the officers marching by their sides could not hear them.

But the officers, too, were filled with strange misgivings; they
ordered the soldiers to halt, and hastened back to General Royer to
report to him the mysterious words which they had heard, and to ask
him whether they were to halt or retrace their steps.

"Advance at the double-quick!" commanded the general, sternly.

"Advance at the double-quick!" they repeated to their soldiers along
the whole line; the latter, in obedience to this order, hurried on
under the black mass which still hung threateningly over their



Online LibraryL. MühlbachAndreas Hofer → online text (page 30 of 43)