My friend Jonathan Steinberg has written a wonderful biography of Bismarck, which I’m reading in the Kindle edition and thoroughly enjoying. This passage about Bismarck’s time as a country squire and his behaviour as a host (or even an host) made me laugh out loud:
One night after a long journey, Herr von der Marwitz and a friend showed up unannounced at Kniephof [Bismarck’s estate]. Bismarck welcomed them, set out the usual fare, and the visitors and their host sat late and drank a lot.
He apologised in advance that he would not be able to see them at breakfast because he had to be in Naugard by 7am. The guests needed to go there too and, though Bismarck strongly urged them to sleep as late as they liked, they eventually agreed that Bismarck would wake them at 6.30 in the morning. They drank on and eventually went to bed. The friend said to von Marwitz, as they climbed the stairs to the guest room, ‘I have had more drink than I am used to and I want to sleep it off tomorrow morning’. ‘You can’t do that’, Herr von Marwitz said. ‘Wait and see,’ replied the friend who pushed a huge chest of drawers against the door.
According to von Marwitz’s account,
“At 6.30 in the morning, Bismarck knocked at the door. ‘Are you ready?’ No sound from the room. Bismarck turned the doorknob and pushed the door against the heavy chest. A few minutes later he called out from the courtyard. ‘Are you ready?’ No sound from us. Two pistol shots crashed through the window-glass and knocked plaster onto my friend, who crept to the window and stuck a white handkerchief out on the end of a stick. In a few minutes we were downstairs. Bismarck greeted us with his usual heartiness without a word about his little victory.”
Hmmm… This might work with teenagers. I’ll need a gun licence, though.