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Chapter 30

THE BREAKING OF THE STORM


The general received Frederic with the same calm and gracious expression as before.

"Excuse me for delaying," he said, "after I was so anxious to speed you; but I have a little service to ask."

Frederic bowed.

"It is about General Manteuffel's subsidy of twenty-five millions of florins. You know about it, don't you?"

"Yes," said Frederic, "and it is a heavy impost for a poor city with some 40,000 inhabitants."

"You mean 72,000," said Sturm.

"No, there are only about 40,000 Frankfortians, the remainder of the 72,000 counted as natives are strangers."

"What does that matter?" said Sturm, becoming impatient. "The statistics say 72,000 and General Manteuffel has made his calculation accordingly."

"But if he has made an error, it seems to me that those who are charged with the execution of his order should point it out."

"That is not our affair. We are told 72,000 inhabitants, and 72,000 there therefore are. We are told 25 million florins, and 25 million florins there are also. That is all! Just fancy! the senators have declared, that we can burn the town, but they will not pay the subsidy."

"I was present," said Frederic quietly, "and the sitting was admirably conducted, with much dignity, calm, and sorrow."

"Ta ta ta ta," said Sturm. "General Manteuffel before leaving gave General Roeder the order to get in these millions. Roeder has ordered the town to pay them. The Senate has chosen to deliberate; that is its own affair. Roeder came round to me about it, it is true; but I told him that it was nothing to worry about. I said. 'The chief of my staff married in Frankfort; he knows the town like his own land, everyone's fortune even to shillings and half-pence. He will indicate five and twenty millionaires.' There are twenty-five of them here, are there not?"

"More than that," answered Frederic.

"Good; we will commence with them, and if there is a balance the others shall supply it."

"And have you reckoned on me to give you the names?"

"Certainly. All I require is twenty-five names and five and twenty addresses. Sit down there, my dear fellow, and write them out."

Frederic sat down, took a pen and wrote;


"Honour obliging me to decline to denounce my fellow citizens, I beg the illustrious Generals von Roeder and Sturm to obtain the desired information elsewhere than from myself.

"Frankfort, July 22nd, 1866.
"FREDERIC BARON VON BULOW."


Then, rising and bowing low, he put the paper in the general's hands.

"What is this?" he asked.

"Read, it, general," said Frederic.

The general read it, and gave his chief of the staff a side glance.

"Ah! ah!" he said, "I see how I am answered when I ask a favour; let me see how I am answered when I command. Sit there and write—"

"Order me to charge a battery, and I will do it, but do not order me to become a tax collector."

"I have promised General Roeder to get him the names and addresses and have told him that you will supply them. He will send for the list directly. What am I to say to him?"

"You will tell him that I have refused to give it."

Sturm crossed his arms and approached Frederic.

"And do you think that I will allow a man under my orders to refuse me anything?"

"I think you will reflect that you gave me not only an unjust but a dishonouring order and you will appreciate the reason of my refusal. Let me go, general, and call a police officer; he will not refuse you, for it will be all in his work."

"Baron," replied Sturm, "I considered I was sending the king a good servant for whom I asked a reward. I cannot reward a man of whom I have to complain. Give me back His Majesty's letter."

Frederic disdainfully tossed the letter on the table. The general's face grew purple, livid marks appeared upon it, his eyes flamed.

"I will write to the king," he cried furiously, "and he will learn how his officers serve him."

"Write your account, sir, and I will write mine," answered Frederic, "and he will see how his generals dishonour him."

Sturm rushed and seized his horsewhip.

"You have said dishonoured, sir. You will not repeat the word, I trust?"

"Dishonoured," said Frederic coldly.

Sturm gave a cry of rage and raised his whip to strike his young officer, but observing Frederic's complete calm he let it fall.

"Who threatens strikes, sir," Frederic answered, "and it is as if you had struck me."

He turned to the table and wrote a few lines. Then he opened the door of the ante-room and calling the officers who were there:

"Gentlemen, he said, I confide this paper to your loyalty. Read what it says aloud."


"I tender my resignation as chief of General Sturm's staff and officer in the Prussian army.

"Dated at noon July 22nd, 1866.

"FREDERIC VON BULOW."


"Which means?" asked Sturm.

"Which means that I am no longer in His Majesty's service nor in yours, and that you have insulted me. Gentlemen, this man raised his horsewhip over me. And having insulted me, you owe me reparation. Keep my resignation, gentlemen, and bear witness that I am free from all military duty at the moment I tell this man that he is no longer my chief, and consequently that I am not his inferior. Sir, you have injured me mortally, and I will kill you, or you will kill me."

Sturm burst out laughing.

"You give your resignation," he said, "well, I do not accept it. Place yourself in confinement. Sir," said he, stamping his foot and walking towards Frederic, "to prison for fifteen days with you."

"You have no longer the right to give me an order," said Frederic, detaching his epaulettes.

Sturm, exasperated, livid, foaming at the mouth, again raised his whip upon the chief of his staff, but this time he slashed his cheek and shoulder with it. Frederic, who until now had held himself in, uttered a cry of rage, made a bound aside and drew his sword.

"Imbecile," shouted Sturm, with a burst of laughter, "you will be shot after a court martial."

At this Frederic lost his head completely and threw himself upon the general, but he found four officers in his path. One whispered to him: "Save yourself; we will calm him."

"And I," said Frederic, "I who have been struck; who will calm me?"

"We give you our word of honour that we have not seen the blow," said the officers.

"But I have felt it. And as I have given my word of honour that one of us must die, I must act accordingly. Adieu, gentlemen."

Two of the officers trying to follow him:

"Thunders and tempests! gentlemen," called the general after them. "Come back; no one leaves this room except this madman who will be arrested by the provost marshal."

The officers came back hanging their heads. Frederic burst out of the room. The first person he met on the stairs was the old Baroness von Beling.

"Gracious heavens! what are you doing with a drawn sword?" she asked.

He put the sword in its scabbard. Then he ran to his wife and embraced her and the baby.


Ten minutes later an explosion was heard in Frederic's room. Benedict, who was with Karl, rushed to it and burst open the door.

Frederic was lying on the floor dead, his forehead shattered by a bullet. He had left this note on the table:


"Struck in the face by General Sturm, who has refused to give me satisfaction, I could not live dishonoured. My last wish is that my wife in her widow's dress should leave this evening for Berlin, and there beg from Her Majesty the Queen the remission of the subsidy of twenty-five million florins, which the town as I testify is unable to pay.

My friend, Benedict Turpin, will, I know, avenge me.

"FREDERIC, BARON VON BULOW."


Benedict had just time to read this when he turned at a cry behind him. It was from the poor widow.

Benedict, leaving Emma in her mother's care, went to his room and wrote four notes, each in these terms:


"Baron Frederic von Bülow has just shot himself in consequence of the insult offered him by General Sturm, who has refused to give him satisfaction. His body lies in the house of the Chandroz family, and his friends are invited to pay their last respects there.

"His executor,
"BENEDICT TURPIN.

"P.S.—You are asked to make the news of his death known as widely and publicly as possible."


Having signed them he sent them by Hans to four of Frederic's most intimate friends. Then he went down to General Sturm's rooms and sent in his name.

The name, "Benedict Turpin," was entirely unknown to General Sturm; he had with him the officers who had witnessed the quarrel with Frederic, and at once said: "Ask him to come in." Although he knew nothing of what had passed the general's face plainly showed traces of furious passion.

Benedict came in.

"Sir," he said, "probably you are ignorant of the sequel to the occurrence between you and my friend, Frederic von Bülow—the incident which led to your insult. I have to inform you that my friend, since you refused to give him satisfaction, has blown out his brains."

The general started in spite of himself. The officers, dismayed, looked at each other.

"My friend's last wishes are recorded on this piece of paper. I will read them."

The general, seized with nervous tremor, sat down.

Benedict read, speaking courteously and calmly.

"Struck in the face by General Sturm, who has refused to give me satisfaction, I could not live dishonoured."

"You hear me, sir?" Benedict asked.

The general made a sign of assent.

"My last wish is that my wife in her widow's dress should leave this evening for Berlin, and there beg from Her Majesty the Queen the remission of the subsidy of twenty-five million florins which the town, as I testify, is unable to pay."

"I have the honour to inform you, sir," added Benedict, "that I am going to conduct Madame von Bülow to Berlin."

General Sturm got up.

"One moment," said Benedict. "There is a final line to read, and you will see it is of some importance."

"My friend, Benedict Turpin, will, I know, avenge me."

"Which means, sir?" said, the general, while the officers stood breathlessly by.

"Which means, that you shall hear from me immediately respecting the time and place and weapons, for I mean to kill you and so avenge Frederic von Bülow."

And Benedict, saluting first the general and then the young officers, left the room before they had recovered from their surprise.

When he gained the other room, Emma, who had read her husband's last words, was already making her preparations for her journey to Berlin.

Alexandre Dumas pere