"Thank you, but I must first fetch my horse which I tied to a pole somewhere down the street. I rode very fast, and must first attend to the Horse, afterward I will request you to let me have some breakfast."And Hofer's servant hastened down the street. The innkeeper and the friar entered the house and stepped into the large bar-room. Two men came to meet them there.
One of them, a man about forty-five years old, dressed in the simple costume of the Tyrolese, and of a tall, powerful form, was Peter Mayer, known throughout the Tyrol as one of the most ardent and faithful patriots, and a man of extraordinary intrepidity, firmness, and energy.
The other, a young man of scarcely twenty-two, slender yet well built, and far-famed for his fine appearance, boldness, and wealth, was Peter Kemnater, the most faithful and devoted friend of the fine-looking and patriotic young innkeeper, Martin Schenk.
The two men shook hands with the new-comers and bowed to them, but their faces were gloomy, and not the faintest gleam of a smile illuminated them.
"Have you come hither, Father Joachim Haspinger, only to join in the peace-prayers?" asked Peter Mayer in his laconic style, fixing his dark, piercing eyes on the friar's face.
"No, Peter Mayer," said the Capuchin, gravely; "I have come hither because I wanted to see you three, and because I have to say many things to you. But previously let me read what our pious and patriotic brother Andreas Hofer has written to me.""You have a letter from Andreas Hofer!" exclaimed Mayer and Kemnater, joyfully.
"Here it is," said the friar, drawing it from his belt. "Now give me a moment's time to read the letter, and then we will confer upon the matter that brought us here."He stepped to the window and unfolded the letter. While he was reading it, the three men looked at him with rapt suspense, seeking to read in his features the impression produced by Andreas Hofer's words on the heart of the brave Capuchin. Indeed, the friar's features brightened more and more, his forehead and face colored, and a smile illuminated his hard features.
"Listen, men," he exclaimed triumphantly, waving the paper as though it were a flag; "listen to what Andreas writes to me!" And the friar read in a clarion voice:
"Dear brother Red-beard! Beloved Father Joachim Haspinger: You know, brother, that all has been in vain; the Austrians are evacuating the country, and the emperor, or rather not the emperor, but his ministers and secretaries, stipulated in the armistice concluded with Bonaparte, that the French and Bavarians should re-enter the Tyrol and recommence the infamous old system. But I think, even though the emperor has abandoned us, God Almighty will not do so;and even though the Austrian soldiers are crossing our frontiers, our mountains and glaciers remain to us; God placed them there to protect our frontiers, and He gave us strong arms and good rifles and keen eyes to discern the enemy and hit him. We are the inhabitants of the Tyrol, and the Austrian soldiers are not, hence it is incumbent on us to protect our frontiers, and prevent the enemy from invading our territory. If you are of my opinion, gather about you as many brave sharpshooters as you can, call out the Landsturm where it is possible, tell the other commanders to do the same, and advance, if possible, at once toward the Brenner, where Ihope you will meet me or hear further news from me. Joseph Speckbacher did not leave the country either; he is enlisting sharpshooters and calling out the Landsturm in his district. It is the Lord's will that the Tyrol be henceforth protected only by the Tyrolese. Bear this in mind, and go to work.--Your faithful Andreas Hofer, at present not knowing where he is." [Footnote: Andreas Hofer signed all his letters and orders in this strange manner while he was concealed in his cave.]
"Well," asked the friar, exultingly, "do you think that Andreas Hofer is right, and that we ought not to allow the enemy to re-enter the country?""I think he is," said Peter Kemnater, joyously. "I think it will be glorious for us to expel the French and Bavarians once more from our frontiers.""Or, if they have already crossed them, drive them ignominiously from the country," added Peter Mayer.
"I have passed, during the last few days, through the whole of Puster valley," said Martin Schenk. "Everywhere I found the men determined to die, rifle in hand, on the field of battle, rather than stay peaceably at home and bend their necks before the enemy.