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Chapter 28

GENERAL MANTEUFFEL'S THREATS


At five o'clock in the afternoon of July 17th, as the general had said, he sent to the bank a squad of eight men under the command of a sergeant-major, accompanied by two men with wheel-barrows for the seven million florins. His notion of the weight of the coin, which in gold would amount to more than fifty tons, must have been a curious one. Seeing his men return without the money, General Falkenstein declared that if it were not forthcoming the next day he would permit pillage and bombardment. Meanwhile the members Bernus and Speltz were arrested and conducted to the guard-room, when, having left them in view behind the bars for two hours to convince every one of his power over the town authorities, he sent them off to Cologne with four soldiers and a letter for the governor.

This act of brutality had its effect. It alarmed a great many influential people who went to find the bank manager and urge him to advance the seven millions demanded. The directors of the bank gave way and the money was paid to the last florin on July 19th.

The same day the city battalion was disbanded in the presence of the Prussian Colonel von der Goltz. The soldiers had not expected this, and some of the oldest of them shed tears.

At the same time, the Prussians took their fill of the townspeople's horses. They requisitioned seven hundred, including two little ponies of Madame de Rothschild. The carriages were then seized, and if a lady happened to take a cab she was obliged when she met an officer in search of one, to get out in the mud and leave him to take her place.

Two orders wore circulated. The first enjoined the presentation at the police station every morning, before eight o'clock, of a list of all travellers who had arrived in the hotels and boarding-houses.

Many societies formed for divers purposes such as gymnastics, education, and the like, were called before the commander-in-chief and dissolved. Such of them as had for object military exercises were invited to deposit their arms. Finally the general addressed to the presidents of the societies some kindly words upon the necessity of the measures taken, and upon the actual situation in general. You ask me how kindly words could be uttered by M. de Falkenstein. Reassure yourself, the illustrious general had not altered his habits. Having received his millions at two o'clock he had at once left Frankfort. General Wranzel acted as his deputy for two or three hours and showed a smiling face between two morose ones, for at five o'clock, General Manteuffel arrived. He at once issued the following order:


"To assure the subsistence of the Prussian troops a storehouse will be at once established in this town of Frankfort-on-the-Main, by order of His Excellency the Lieutenant-General Manteuffel, commander-in-chief of the army of the Main. It will be provisioned as follows:

15.000 loaves of bread of 5 lbs. 9 ozs.
 1,480 hundredweight of sea biscuits.
   600      "        of beef.
   800      "        of smoked bacon.
   450      "        of rice.
   450      "        of coffee.
   100      "        of salt.
 5,000      "        of hay.
 

"A third part of these quantities is to be placed at our disposal in convenient places between now and the morning of the 21st. The second third on the 21st in the evening, and the last third on July 22nd at the latest.

"Frankfort, July 20th, 1866.

"The Military Superintendent of the army of the Main.

"KASUISKIL"


The unhappy townspeople had believed themselves free from these imposts according to General Falkenstein's promise—except, indeed, as regards cigars, of which both the Prussian officers and men required nine provided each day.

The next day, while at breakfast with his family towards ten o'clock, Fellner received a letter from the new commander. It was addressed: "To the Very Illustrious Herren Fellner and Müller, proxies of the town of Frankfort." He turned it and turned it about between his hands without unsealing it. Madame Fellner trembled, Herr Kugler, his brother-in-law, grew pale, and seeing the drops of perspiration on their father's forehead as he sighed deeply, the children began to cry. At last he opened it, but seeing his pallor as he read, all rose to their feet awaiting his first words. But he said nothing, he let his head fall on his breast and dropped the letter on the floor. His brother-in-law picked it up and read:


"To the Very Illustrious Herren Fellner and Müller, proxies of the government in this town.

"You are invited by these presents to take the necessary measures for a war indemnity of twenty-five millions of florins to be paid within twenty-four hours to the pay office of the Army of the Main in this town.

"The Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Main,

"MANTEUFFEL"


"Oh!" murmured Fellner, "my poor Fischer, you are fortunate."

Within two hours bills which Messrs. Fellner and Müller had had printed were posted all over the town. They consisted of General Manteuffel's letter to them with this addition:

"The Burgomasters Fellner and Müller declare that they will die rather than assist in the spoliation of their fellow citizens."

The blow to the city was the more terrible because it was entirely unexpected. The city had just paid more than six millions of florins, had contributed in goods an equivalent sum, and was billeting soldiers at a crushing expense. Some had ten, others twenty, thirty, or even fifty soldiers. General Falkenstein had prescribed the soldiers' rations as for the officers, they were entitled to anything they asked for. A soldier's daily rations comprised, coffee and accessories in the morning; a pound of meat, vegetables, bread, and half a bottle of wine at noon; a collation with a pint of beer in the evening, in addition eight cigars. These cigars had to be specially bought from the dealers coming with the army. Usually the soldiers demanded and got an extra meal at ten in the morning of bread-and-butter and brandy, and after lunch they got coffee. The sergeant-majors had to be treated like officers, being provided with roast meat and a bottle of wine at dinner, with coffee to follow. Havana cigars, eight in number, were insisted on.

The citizens dared not complain, for the soldiers whatever they did were always found to be in the right. But when they heard of this new exaction of General Manteuffel, used as they were to theft and rapine on the part of the Prussians, the Frankfortians, mute with astonishment, looked at each other, not being able to grasp the extent of their misfortune. As soon as the news was actually billed they rushed in crowds to see it with their own eyes. Hours were spent in deploring the enemy's greed, but nothing was done towards obeying the order. Meanwhile, some of the chief citizens, M. de Rothschild among them, had gone to seek General Manteuffel. In reply to their observations he said:

"To-morrow my cannon will be trained upon all the chief points of the town, and if in three days I have not half of the contribution, and the rest in six, I double it."

"General," answered M. de Rothschild, "you know the range of your cannons I do not doubt, but you do not know that of the measures you are taking—if you ruin Frankfort, you ruin the neighbouring provinces."

"Very well, gentlemen," answered Manteuffel, "the contribution, or pillage and bombardment."

In spite of the intervention of the foreign legations, those of France, Russia, England, Spain, and Belgium, on July 23rd, masses of troops were put in movement with loaded cannon. These were ranged on the chief spaces in the town. At the same time batteries were established on the Muhlberger and the Roederberg, as also on the left bank of the Main.



Alexandre Dumas pere