Part 10 out of 12
suspected. All those whom he had offended, directly or indirectly, either
by personal criticism or by attacking their ideas and taste, now took the
offensive and avenged themselves with interest. The general public whom
Christophe had tried to shake out of their apathy were quite pleased to see
the insolent young man, who had presumed to reform opinion and disturb the
rest of people of property, taken down a peg. Christophe was in the water.
Everybody did their best to duck him.
They did not come down upon him all at once. One tried first, to spy out
the land. Christophe made no response, and he struck more lustily. Others
followed, and then the whole gang of them. Some joined in the sport
simply for fun, like puppies who think it funny to leave their mark in
inappropriate places. They were the flying squadron of incompetent
journalists, who, knowing nothing, try to hide their ignorance by belauding
the victors and belaboring the vanquished. Others brought the weight of
their principles and they shouted like deaf people. Nothing was left of
anything when they had passed. They were the critics--with the criticism
Fortunately for Christophe, he did not read the papers. A few devoted
friends took care to send him the most insulting. But he left them in a
heap on his desk and never thought of opening them. It was only towards
the end of it that his eyes were attracted by a great red mark round an
article. He read that his _Lieder_ were like the roaring of a wild beast;
that his symphonies seemed to have come from a madhouse; that his art was
hysterical, his harmony spasmodic, as a change from the dryness of his
heart and the emptiness of his thought. The critic, who was well known,
ended with these words:
"Herr Krafft as a journalist has lately given astounding proof of his style
and taste, which roused irresistible merriment in musical circles. He was
then given the friendly advice rather to devote himself to composition. But
the latest products of his muse have shown that this advice, though
well-meant, was bad. Herr Krafft should certainly devote himself to
After reading the article, which prevented Christophe working the whole
morning, naturally he began to look for the other hostile papers, and
became utterly demoralized. But Louisa, who had a mania for moving
everything lying about, by way of "tidying up," had already burned them. He
was irritated at first and then comforted, and he held out the last of the
papers to her, and said that she had better do the same with that.
Other rebuffs hurt him more. A quartette which he had sent in manuscript
to a well-known society at Frankfort was rejected unanimously and returned
without explanation. An overture which an orchestra at Cologne seemed
disposed to perform was returned after a month as unplayable. But the worst
of all was inflicted on him by an orchestral society in the town. The
_Kapellmeister_, H. Euphrat, its conductor, was quite a good musician, but
like many conductors, he had no curiosity of mind. He suffered (or rather
he carried to extremes) the laziness peculiar to his class, which consists
in going on and on investigating familiar works, while it shuns any really
new work like the plague. He was never tired of organizing Beethoven,
Mozart, or Schumann festivals: in conducting these works he had only to let
himself be carried along by the purring of the familiar rhythms. On the
other hand, contemporary music was intolerable to him. He dared not admit
it and pretended to be friendly towards young talent; in fact, whenever he
was brought a work built on the old lines--a sort of hotch-potch of works
that had been new fifty years before--he would receive it very well, and
would even produce it ostentatiously and force it upon the public. It
did not disturb either his effects or the way in which the public was
accustomed to be moved. On the other hand, he was filled with a mixture
of contempt and hatred for anything which threatened to disturb that
arrangement and put him to extra trouble. Contempt would predominate if the
innovator had no chance of emerging from obscurity. But if there were any
danger of his succeeding, then hatred would predominate--of course until
the moment when he had gained an established success.
Christophe was not yet in that position: far from it. And so he was much
surprised when he was informed, by indirect overtures, that Herr H. Euphrat
would be very glad to produce one of his compositions. It was all the more
unexpected as he knew that the _Kapellmeister_ was an intimate friend of
Brahms and others whom he had maltreated in his criticisms. Being honest
himself, he credited his adversaries with the same generous feelings which
he would have had himself. He supposed that now that he was down they
wished to show him that they were above petty spite. He was touched by it.
He wrote effusively to Herr Euphrat and sent him a symphonic poem. The
conductor replied through his secretary coldly but politely, acknowledging
the receipt of his work, and adding that, in accordance with the rules of
the society, the symphony would be given out to the orchestra immediately
and put to the test of a general rehearsal before it could be accepted for
public hearing. A rule is a rule. Christophe had to bow to it, though it
was a pure formality which served to weed out the lucubrations of amateurs
which were sometimes a nuisance.
A few weeks later Christophe was told that his composition was to be
rehearsed. On principle everything was done privately and even the author
was not permitted to be present at the rehearsal. But by a generally agreed
indulgence the author was always admitted; only he did not show himself.
Everybody knew it and everybody pretended not to know it. On the appointed
day one of his friends brought Christophe to the hall, where he sat at the
back of a box. He was surprised to see that at this private rehearsal the
hall--at least the ground floor seats--were almost all filled; a crowd of
dilettante idlers and critics moved about and chattered to each other. The
orchestra had to ignore their presence.
They began with the Brahms _Rhapsody_ for alto, chorus of male voices, and
orchestra on a fragment of the _Harzreise im Winter_ of Goethe. Christophe,
who detested the majestic sentimentality of the work, thought that perhaps
the "Brahmins" had introduced it politely to avenge themselves by forcing
him to hear a composition of which he had written irreverently. The idea
made him laugh, and his good humour increased when after the _Rhapsody_
there came two other productions by known musicians whom he had taken to
task; there seemed to be no doubt about their intentions. And while he
could not help making a face at it he thought that after all it was quite
fair tactics; and, failing the music, he appreciated the joke. It even
amused him to applaud ironically with the audience, which made manifest its
enthusiasm for Brahms and his like.
At last it came to Christophe's symphony. He saw from the way the orchestra
and the people in the hall were looking at his box that they were aware of
his presence. He hid himself. He waited with the catch at his heart which
every musician feels at the moment when the conductor's wand is raised and
the waters of the music gather in silence before bursting their dam. He
had never yet heard his work played. How would the creatures of his dreams
live? How would their voices sound? He felt their roaring within him; and
he leaned over the abyss of sounds waiting fearfully for what should come
What did come forth was a nameless thing, a shapeless hotch-potch. Instead
of the bold columns which were to support the front of the building the
chords came crumbling down like a building in ruins; there was nothing to
be seen but the dust of mortar. For a moment Christophe was not quite sure
whether they were really playing his work. He cast back for the train, the
rhythm of his thoughts; he could not recognize it; it went on babbling
and hiccoughing like a drunken man clinging close to the wall, and he was
overcome with shame, as though he had himself been seen in that condition.
It was of no avail to think that he had not written such stuff; when an
idiotic interpreter destroys a man's thoughts he has always a moment of
doubt when he asks himself in consternation if he is himself responsible
for it. The audience never asks such a question; the audience believes in
the interpreter, in the singers, in the orchestra whom they are accustomed
to hear as they believe in their newspaper; they cannot make a mistake; if
they say absurd things, it is the absurdity of the author. This audience
was the less inclined to doubt because it liked to believe. Christophe
tried to persuade himself that the _Kapellmeister_ was aware of the hash
and would stop the orchestra and begin again. The instruments were not
playing together. The horn had missed his beat and had come in a bar too
late; he went on for a few minutes, and then stopped quietly to clean his
instrument. Certain passages for the oboe had absolutely disappeared.
It was impossible for the most skilled ear to pick up the thread of
the musical idea, or even to imagine that there was one. Fantastic
instrumentations, humoristic sallies became grotesque through the
coarseness of the execution. It was lamentably stupid, the work of an
idiot, of a joker who knew nothing of music. Christophe tore his hair. He
tried to interrupt, but the friend who was with him held him back, assuring
him that the _Herr Kapellmeister_ must surely see the faults of the
execution and would put everything right--that Christophe must not show
himself and that if he made any remark it would have a very bad effect. He
made Christophe sit at the very back of the box. Christophe obeyed, but he
beat his head with his fists; and every fresh monstrosity drew from him a
groan of indignation and misery.
"The wretches! The wretches!..."
He groaned, and squeezed his hands tight to keep himself from crying out.
Now mingled with the wrong notes there came up to him the muttering of the
audience, who were beginning to be restless. At first it was only a tremor;
but soon Christophe was left without a doubt; they were laughing. The
musicians of the orchestra had given the signal; some of them did not
conceal their hilarity. The audience, certain then that the music was
laughable, rocked with laughter. This merriment became general; it
increased at the return of a very rhythmical motif which the double-basses
accentuated in a burlesque fashion. Only the _Kapellmeister_ went on
through the uproar imperturbably beating time.
At last they reached the end (the best things come to an end). It was the
turn of the audience. They exploded with delight, an explosion which lasted
for several minutes. Some hissed; others applauded ironically; the wittiest
of all shouted "Encore!" A bass voice coming from a stage box began to
imitate the grotesque motif. Other jokers followed suit and imitated it
also. Some one shouted "Author!" It was long since these witty folk had
been so highly entertained.
When the tumult was calmed down a little the _Kapellmeister_, standing
quite impassive with his face turned towards the audience though he
was pretending not to see it--(the audience was still supposed to be
non-existent)--made a sign to the audience that he was about to speak.
There was a cry of "Ssh," and silence. He waited a moment longer;
then--(his voice was curt, cold, and cutting):
"Gentlemen," he said, "I should certainly not have let _that_ he played
through to the end if I had not wished to make an example of the gentleman
who has dared to write offensively of the great Brahms."
That was all; and jumping down from his stand he went out amid cheers from
the delighted audience. They tried to recall him; the applause went on for
a few minutes longer. But he did not return. The orchestra went away. The
audience decided to go too. The concert was over.
It had been a good day.
Christophe had gone already. Hardly had he seen the wretched conductor
leave his desk when he had rushed from the box; he plunged down the stairs
from the first floor to meet him and slap his face. His friend who had
brought him followed and tried to hold him back, but Christophe brushed him
aside and almost threw him downstairs;--(he had reason to believe that the
fellow was concerned in the trick which had been played him). Fortunately
for H. Euphrat and himself the door leading to the stage was shut; and his
furious knocking could not make them open it. However the audience was
beginning to leave the hall. Christophe could not stay there. He fled.
He was in an indescribable condition. He walked blindly, waving his arms,
rolling his eyes, talking aloud like a madman; he suppressed his cries
of indignation and rage. The street was almost empty. The concert hall
had been built the year before in a new neighborhood a little way out of
the town; and Christophe instinctively fled towards the country across
the empty fields in which were a few lonely shanties and scaffoldings
surrounded by fences. His thoughts were murderous; he could have killed the
man who had put such an affront upon him. Alas! and when he had killed him
would there he any change in the animosity of those people whose insulting
laughter was still ringing in his ears? They were too many; he could do
nothing against them; they were all agreed--they who were divided about so
many things--to insult and crush him. It was past understanding; there was
hatred in them. What had he done to them all? There were beautiful things
in him, things to do good and make the heart big; he had tried to say them,
to make others enjoy them; he thought they would be happy like himself.
Even if they did not like them they should he grateful to him for his
intentions; they could, if need be, show him kindly where he had been
wrong; but that they should take such a malignant joy in insulting and
odiously travestying his ideas, in trampling them underfoot, and killing
him by ridicule, how was it possible? In his excitement he exaggerated
their hatred; he thought it much more serious than such mediocre people
could ever be. He sobbed: "What have I done to them?" He choked, he thought
that all was lost, just as he did when he was a child coming into contact
for the first time with human wickedness.
And when he looked about him he suddenly saw that he had reached the edge
of the mill-race, at the very spot where a few years before his father had
been drowned. And at once he thought of drowning himself too. He was just
at the point of making the plunge.
But as he leaned over the steep bank, fascinated by the calm clean aspect
of the water, a tiny bird in a tree by his side began to sing--to sing
madly. He held his breath to listen. The water murmured. The ripening corn
moaned as it waved under the soft caressing wind; the poplars shivered.
Behind the hedge on the road, out of sight, bees in hives in a garden
filled the air with their scented music. From the other side of the stream
a cow was chewing the cud and gazing with soft eyes. A little fair-haired
girl was sitting on a wall, with a light basket on her shoulders, like a
little angel with wings, and she was dreaming, and swinging her bare legs
and humming aimlessly. Far away in a meadow a white dog was leaping and
running in wide circles. Christophe leaned against a tree and listened and
watched the earth in Spring; he was caught up by the peace and joy of these
creatures; he could forget, he could forget. Suddenly he clasped the tree
with his arms and leaned his cheek against it. He threw himself on the
ground; he buried his face in the grass; he laughed nervously, happily.
All the beauty, the grace, the charm of life wrapped him round, imbued his
soul, and he sucked them up like a sponge. He thought:
"Why are you so beautiful, and they--men--so ugly?"
No matter! He loved it, he loved it, he felt that he would always love it,
and that nothing could ever take it from him. He held the earth to his
breast. He held life to his breast:
"I love you! You are mine. They cannot take you from me. Let them do what
they will! Let them make me suffer!... Suffering also is life!"
Christophe began bravely to work again. He refused to have anything more
to do with "men of letters"--well named--makers of phrases, the sterile
babblers, journalists, critics, the exploiters and traffickers of art. As
for musicians he would waste no more time in battling with their prejudices
and jealousy. They did not want him? Very well! He did not want them.
He had his work to do; he would do it. The Court had given him back his
liberty; he was grateful for it. He was grateful to the people for their
hostility; he could work in peace.
Louisa approved with all her heart. She had no ambition; she was not a
Krafft; she was like neither his father nor his grandfather. She did not
want honors or reputation for her son. She would have liked him to be rich
and famous; but if those advantages could only be bought at the price of so
much unpleasantness she much preferred not to bother about them. She had
been more upset by Christophe's grief over his rupture with the Palace than
by the event itself; and she was heartily glad that he had quarreled with
the review and newspaper people. She had a peasant's distrust of blackened
paper; it was only a waste of time and made enemies. She had sometimes
heard his young friends of the Review talking to Christophe; she had been
horrified by their malevolence; they tore everything to pieces and said
horrible things about everybody; and the worse things they said the better
pleased they were. She did not like them. No doubt they were very clever
and very learned, but they were not kind, and she was very glad that
Christophe saw no more of them. She was full of common sense: what good
were they to him?
"They may say, write, and think what they like of me," said Christophe.
"They cannot prevent my being myself. What do their ideas or their art
matter to me? I deny them!"
* * * * *
It is all very fine to deny the world. But the world is not so easily
denied by a young man's boasting. Christophe was sincere, but he was under
illusion; he did not know himself. He was not a monk; he had not the
temperament for renouncing the world, and besides he was not old enough to
do so. At first he did not suffer much, he was plunged in composition; and
while his work lasted he did not feel the want of anything. But when he
came to the period of depression which follows the completion of a work and
lasts until a new work takes possession of the mind, he looked about him
and was horrified by his loneliness. He asked himself why he wrote. While
a man is writing he never asks himself that question; he must write, there
is no arguing about it. And then he finds himself with the work that he has
begotten: the great instinct which caused it to spring forth is silent; he
does not understand why it was born: he hardly recognizes it, it is almost
a stranger to him; he longs to forget it. And that is impossible as long as
it is not published or played, or living its own life in the world. Till
then it is like a new-born child attached to its mother, a living thing
bound fast to his living flesh; it must be amputated at all costs or it
will not live. The more Christophe composed the more he suffered under
the weight of these creatures who had sprung forth from himself and could
neither live nor die. He was haunted by them. Who could deliver him from
them? Some obscure impulse would stir in these children of his thoughts;
they longed desperately to break away from him to expand into other souls
like the quick and fruitful seed which the wind scatters over the universe.
Must he remain imprisoned in his sterility? He raged against it.
Since every outlet--theaters, concerts--was closed to him, and nothing
would induce him to approach those managers who had once failed him, there
was nothing left but for him to publish his writings, but he could not
flatter himself that it would be easier to find a publisher to produce his
work than an orchestra to play it. The two or three clumsy attempts that he
had made were enough; rather than expose himself to another rebuff, or to
bargain with one of these music merchants and put up with his patronizing
airs, he preferred to publish it at his own expense. It was an act of
madness; he had some small savings out of his Court salary and the proceeds
of a few concerts, but the source from which the money had come was dried
up and it would be a long time before he could find another; and he should
have been prudent enough to be careful with his scanty funds which had to
help him over the difficult period upon which he was entering. Not only did
he not do so; but, as his savings were not enough to cover the expenses of
publication, he did not shrink from getting into debt. Louisa dared not say
anything; she found him absolutely unreasonable, and did not understand how
anybody could spend money for the sake of seeing his name on a book; but
since it was a way of making him be patient and of keeping him with her,
she was only too happy for him to have that satisfaction.
Instead of offering the public compositions of a familiar and undisturbing
kind, in which it could feel at home, Christophe chose from among his
manuscripts a suite very individual in character, which he valued highly.
They were piano pieces mixed with _Lieder_, some very short and popular in
style, others very elaborate and almost dramatic. The whole formed a series
of impressions, joyous or mild, linked together naturally and written
alternately for the piano and the voice, alone or accompanied. "For," said
Christophe, "when I dream, I do not always formulate what I feel. I suffer,
I am happy, and have no words to say; but then comes a moment when I must
say what I am feeling, and I sing without thinking of what I am doing;
sometimes I sing only vague words, a few disconnected phrases, sometimes
whole poems; then I begin to dream again. And so the day goes by; and I
have tried to give the impression of a day. Why these gathered impressions
composed only of songs or preludes? There is nothing more false or less
harmonious. One must try to give the free play of the soul." He had called
his suite: _A Day_. The different parts of the composition bore sub-titles,
shortly indicating the succession of his inward dreams. Christophe had
written mysterious dedications, initials, dates, which only he could
understand, as they reminded Mm of poetic moments or beloved faces: the gay
Corinne, the languishing Sabine, and the little unknown Frenchwoman.
Besides this work he selected thirty of his _Lieder_--those which
pleased him most, and consequently pleased the public least. He avoided
choosing the most "melodious" of his melodies, but he did choose the
most characteristic. (The public always has a horror of anything
"characteristic." Characterless things are more likely to please them.)
These _Lieder_ were written to poems of old Silesian poets of the
seventeenth century that Christophe had read by chance in a popular
collection, and whose loyalty he had loved. Two especially were dear to
him, dear as brothers, two creatures full of genius and both had died at
thirty: the charming Paul Fleming, the traveler to the Caucasus and to
Ispahan, who preserved his soul pure, loving and serene in the midst of
the savagery of war, the sorrows of life, and the corruption of his time,
and Johann Christian Guenther, the unbalanced genius who wore himself out
in debauchery and despair, casting his life to the four winds. He had
translated Guenther's cries of provocation and vengeful irony against the
hostile God who overwhelms His creatures, his furious curses like those of
a Titan overthrown hurling the thunder back against the heavens. He had
selected Fleming's love songs to Anemone and Basilene, soft and sweet as
flowers, and the rondo of the stars, the _Tanzlied_ (dancing song) of
hearts glad and limpid--and the calm heroic sonnet To Himself (_An Sich_),
which Christophe used to recite as a prayer every morning.
The smiling optimism of the pious Paul Gerhardt also had its charm for
Christophe. It was a rest for him on recovering from his own sorrows. He
loved that innocent vision of nature as God, the fresh meadows, where
the storks walk gravely among the tulips and white narcissus, by little
brooks singing on the sands, the transparent air wherein there pass the
wide-winged, swallows and flying doves, the gaiety of a sunbeam piercing
the rain, and the luminous sky smiling through the clouds, and the serene
majesty of the evening, the sweet peace of the forests, the cattle, the
bowers and the fields. He had had the impertinence to set to music several
of those mystic canticles which are still sung in Protestant communities.
And he had avoided preserving the choral character. Far from it: he had
a horror of it; he had given them a free and vivacious character. Old
Gerhardt would have shuddered at the devilish pride which was breathed
forth now in certain lines of his _Song of the Christian Traveler_, or
the pagan delight which made this peaceful stream of his _Song of Summer_
bubble over like a torrent.
The collection was published without any regard for common sense, of
course. The publisher whom Christophe paid for printing and storing his
_Lieder_ had no other claim to his choice than that of being his neighbor.
He was not equipped for such important work; the printing went on for
months; there were mistakes and expensive corrections. Christophe knew
nothing about it and the whole thing cost more by a third than it need have
done; the expenses far exceeded anything he had anticipated. Then when it
was done, Christophe found an enormous edition on his hands and did not
know what to do with it. The publisher had no customers; he took no steps
to circulate the work. And his apathy was quite in accord with Christophe's
attitude. When he asked him, to satisfy his conscience, to write him a
short advertisement of it, Christophe replied that "he did not want any
advertisement; if his music was good it would speak for itself." The
publisher religiously respected his wishes; he put the edition away in his
warehouse. It was well kept; for in six months not a copy was sold.
* * * * *
While he was waiting for the public to make up its mind Christophe had to
find some way of repairing the hole he had made in his means; and he could
not be nice about it, for he had to live and pay his debts. Not only were
his debts larger than he had imagined but he saw that the moneys on which
he had counted were less than he had thought. Had he lost money without
knowing it or--what was infinitely more probable--had he reckoned up
wrongly? (He had never been able to add correctly.) It did not matter much
why the money was missing; it was missing without a doubt. Louisa had to
give her all to help her son. He was bitterly remorseful and tried to pay
her back as soon as possible and at all costs. He tried to get lessons,
though it was painful to him to ask and to put up with refusals. He was out
of favor altogether; he found it very difficult to obtain pupils again. And
so when it was suggested that he should teach at a school he was only too
It was a semi-religious institution. The director, an astute gentleman, had
seen, though he was no musician, how useful Christophe might be, and how
cheaply in his present position. He was pleasant and paid very little. When
Christophe ventured to make a timid remark the director told him with a
kindly smile that as he no longer held an official position he could not
very well expect more.
It was a sad task! It was not so much a matter of teaching the pupils music
as of making their parents and themselves believe that they had learned it.
The chief thing was to make them able to sing at the ceremonies to which
the public were admitted. It did not matter how it was done, Christophe
was in despair; he had not even the consolation of telling himself as he
fulfilled his task that he was doing useful work; his conscience reproached
him with it as hypocrisy. He tried to give the children more solid
instruction and to make them acquainted with and love serious music; but
they did not care for it a bit. Christophe could not succeed in making them
listen to it; he had no authority over them; in truth he was not made for
teaching children. He took no interest in their floundering; he tried to
explain to them all at once the theory of music. When he had to give a
piano lesson he would set his pupil a symphony of Beethoven which he would
play as a duet with her. Naturally that could not succeed; he would explode
angrily, drive the pupil from the piano and go on playing alone for a long
time. He was just the same with his private pupils outside the school. He
had not an ounce of patience; for instance he would tell a young lady who
prided herself on her aristocratic appearance and position, that she played
like a kitchen maid; or he would even write to her mother and say that he
gave it up, that it would kill him if he went on long bothering about a
girl so devoid of talent. All of which did not improve his position. His
few pupils left him; he could not keep any of them more than a few months.
His mother argued with him; he would argue with himself. Louisa made him
promise that at least he would not break with the school he had joined;
for if he lost that position he did not know what he should do for a
living. And so he restrained himself in spite of his disgust; he was most
exemplarily punctual. But how could he conceal his thoughts when a donkey
of a pupil blundered for the tenth time in some passages, or when he had to
coach his class for the next concert in some foolish chorus!--(For he was
not even allowed to choose his programme: his taste was not trusted)--He
was not exactly zealous about it all. And yet he went stubbornly on,
silent, frowning, only betraying his secret wrath by occasionally thumping
on his desk and making his pupils jump in their seats. But sometimes the
pill was too bitter; he could not bear it any longer. In the middle of the
chorus he would interrupt the singers:
"Oh! Stop! Stop! I'll play you some Wagner instead."
They asked nothing better. They played cards behind his back. There was
always someone who reported the matter to the director; and Christophe
would be reminded that he was not there to make his pupils like music
but to make them sing. He received his scoldings with a shudder; but he
accepted them; he did not want to lose his work. Who would have thought a
few years before, when his career looked so assured and brilliant (when he
had done nothing), that he would be reduced to such humiliation just as he
was beginning to be worth something?
Among the hurts to his vanity that he came by in his work at the school,
one of the most painful was having to call on his colleagues. He paid two
calls at random; and they bored him so that he had not the heart to go on.
The two privileged persons were not at all pleased about it, but the others
were personally affronted. They all regarded Christophe as their inferior
in position and intelligence; and they assumed a patronizing manner towards
him. Sometimes he was overwhelmed by it, for they seemed to be so sure of
themselves and the opinion they had of him that he began to share it; he
felt stupid with them; what could he have found to say to them? They were
full of their profession and saw nothing beyond it. They were not men. If
only they had been books! But they were only notes to books, philological
Christophe avoided meeting them. But sometimes he was forced to do so. The
director was at home once a month in the afternoon; and he insisted on
all his people being there. Christophe, who had cut the first afternoon,
without excuse, in the vain hope that his absence would not be noticed, was
ever afterwards the object of sour attention. Next time he was lectured by
his mother and decided to go; he was as solemn about it as though he were
going to a funeral.
He found himself at a gathering of the teachers of the school and other
institutions of the town, and their wives and daughters. They were all
huddled together in a room too small for them, and grouped hierarchically.
They paid no attention to him. The group nearest him was talking of
pedagogy and cooking. All the wives of the teachers had culinary recipes
which they set out with pedantic exuberance and insistence. The men were no
less interested in these matters and hardly less competent. They were as
proud of the domestic talents of their wives as they of their husbands'
learning. Christophe stood by a window leaning against the wall, not
knowing how to look, now trying to smile stupidly, now gloomy with a fixed
stare and unmoved features, and he was bored to death. A little away from
him, sitting in the recess of the window, was a young woman to whom nobody
was talking and she was as bored as he. They both looked at the room and
not at each other. It was only after some time that they noticed each
other just as they both turned away to yawn, both being at the limit of
endurance. Just at that moment their eyes met. They exchanged a look of
friendly understanding. He moved towards her. She said in a low voice:
"Are you amused?"
He turned his back on the room, and, looking out of the window, put out his
tongue. She burst out laughing, and suddenly waking up she signed to him
to sit down by her side. They introduced themselves; she was the wife of
Professor Reinhart, who lectured on natural history at the school, and was
newly come to the town, where they knew nobody. She was not beautiful; she
had a large nose, ugly teeth, and she lacked freshness; but she had keen,
clever eyes and a kindly smile. She chattered like a magpie; he answered
her solemnly; she had an amusing frankness and a droll wit; they laughingly
exchanged impressions out loud without bothering about the people round
them. Their neighbors, who had not deigned to notice their existence when
it would have been charitable to help them out of their loneliness, now
threw angry looks at them; it was in bad taste to be so much amused. But
they did not care what the others might think of them; they were taking
their revenge in their chatter.
In the end Frau Reinhart introduced her husband to Christophe. He was
extremely ugly; he had a pale, greasy, pockmarked, rather sinister face,
but he looked very kind. He spoke low down in his throat and pronounced his
words sententiously, stammeringly, pausing between each syllable.
They had been married a few months only and these two plain people were
in love with each other; they had an affectionate way of looking at each
other, talking to each other, taking each other's hands in the presence of
everybody--which was comic and touching. If one wanted anything the other
would want it too. And so they invited Christophe to go and sup with them
after the reception. Christophe began jokingly to beg to be excused; he
said that the best thing to do that evening would be to go to bed; he was
quite worn out with boredom, as tired as though he had walked ten miles.
But Frau Reinhart said that he could not be left in that condition; it
would be dangerous to spend the night with such gloomy thoughts. Christophe
let them drag him off. In his loneliness he was glad to have met these good
people, who were not very distinguished in their manners but were simple
* * * * *
The Reinharts' little house was _gemuetlich_ like themselves. It was a
rather chattering _Gemuet_, a _Gemuet_ with inscriptions. The furniture, the
utensils, the china all talked, and went on repeating their joy in seeing
their "charming guest," asked after his health, and gave him pleasant and
virtuous advice. On the sofas--which was very hard--was a little cushion
which murmured amiably:
"Only a quarter of an hour!" (_Nur ein Viertelstuendchen_.)
The cup of coffee which was handed to Christophe insisted on his taking
"Just a drop!" (_Noch ein Schlueckchen_.)
The plates seasoned the cooking with morality and otherwise the cooking was
quite excellent. One plate said:
"Think of everything: otherwise no good will come to you!"
"Affection and gratitude please everybody. Ingratitude pleases nobody."
Although Christophe did not smoke, the ash-tray on the mantelpiece insisted
on introducing itself to him:
"A little resting place for burning cigars." (_Ruheplaetzchen fuer brennende
He wanted to wash his hands. The soap on the washstand said:
"For our charming guest." (_Fuer unseren lieben Gast._)
And the sententious towel, like a person who has nothing to say, but thinks
he must say something all the same, gave him this reflection, full of good
sense but not very apposite, that "to enjoy the morning you must rise
"_Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund._"
At length Christophe dared not even turn in his chair for fear of hearing
himself addressed by other voices coming from every part of the room. He
wanted to say:
"Be silent, you little monsters! We don't understand each other."
And he burst out laughing crazily and then tried to explain to his host
and hostess that he was thinking of the gathering at the school. He would
not have hurt them for the world, And he was not very sensible of the
ridiculous. Very soon he grew accustomed to the loquacious cordiality of
these people and their belongings. He could have tolerated anything in
them! They were so kind! They were not tiresome either; if they had no
taste they were not lacking in intelligence.
They were a little lost in the place to which they had come. The
intolerable susceptibilities of the little provincial town did not allow
people to enter it as though it were a mill, without having properly asked
for the honor of becoming part of it. The Reinharts had not sufficiently
attended to the provincial code which regulated the duties of new arrivals
in the town towards those who had settled in it before them. Reinhart would
have submitted to it mechanically. But his wife, to whom such drudgery was
oppressive--she disliked being put out--postponed her duties from day to
day. She had selected those calls which bored her least, to be paid first,
or she had put the others off indefinitely. The distinguished persons who
were comprised in the last category choked with indignation at such a
want of respect. Angelica Reinhart--(her husband called her Lili)--was a
little free in her manners; she could not take on the official tone. She
would address her superiors in the hierarchy familiarly and make than go
red in the face with indignation; and if need be she was not afraid of
contradicting them. She had a quick tongue and always had to say whatever
was in her head; sometimes she made extraordinarily foolish remarks at
which people laughed behind her back; and also she could be malicious
whole-heartedly, and that made her mortal enemies. She would bite her
tongue as she was saying rash things and wish she had not said them, but it
was too late. Her husband, the gentlest and most respectful of men, would
chide her timidly about it. She would kiss him and say that she was a fool
and that he was right. But the next moment she would break out again; and
she would always say things at the least suitable moment; she would have
burst if she had not said them. She was exactly the sort of woman to get on
Among the many ridiculous things which she ought not to have said, and
consequently was always saying, was her trick of perpetually comparing the
way things were done in Germany and the way they were done in France. She
was a German--(nobody more so)--but she had been brought up in Alsace among
French Alsatians, and she had felt the attraction of Latin civilization
which so many Germans in the annexed countries, even those who seem the
least likely to feel it, cannot resist. Perhaps, to tell the truth, the
attraction had become stronger out of a spirit of contradiction since
Angelica had married a North German and lived with him in purely German
She opened up her usual subject of discussion on her first evening with
Christophe. She loved the pleasant freedom of conversation in France,
Christophe echoed her. France to him was Corinne; bright blue eyes, smiling
lips, frank free manners, a musical voice; he loved to know more about it.
Lili Reinhart clapped her hands on finding herself so thoroughly agreeing
"It is a pity," she said, "that my little French friend has gone, but she
could not stand it; she has gone."
The image of Corinne was at once blotted out. As a match going out suddenly
makes the gentle glimmer of the stars shine out from the dark sky, another
image and other eyes appeared.
"Who?" asked Christophe with a start, "the little governess?"
"What?" said Frau Reinhart, "you knew her too?"
He described her; the two portraits were identical.
"You knew her?" repeated Christophe. "Oh! Tell me everything you know about
Frau Reinhart began by declaring that they were bosom friends and had no
secrets from each other. But when she had to go into detail her knowledge
was reduced to very little. They had met out calling. Frau Reinhart had
made advances to the girl; and with her usual cordiality had invited her to
come and see her. The girl had come two or three times and they had talked.
But the curious Lili had not so easily succeeded in finding out anything
about the life of the little Frenchwoman; the girl was very reserved; she
had had to worm her story out of her, bit by bit. Frau Reinhart knew that
she was called Antoinette Jeannin; she had no fortune, and no friends,
except a younger brother who lived in Paris and to whom she was devoted.
She used always to talk of him; he was the only subject about which she
could talk freely; and Lili Reinhart had gained her confidence by showing
sympathy and pity for the boy living alone in Paris without relations,
without friends, at a boarding school. It was partly to pay for his
education that Antoinette had accepted a post abroad. But the two children
could not live without each other; they wanted to be with each other every
day, and the least delay in the delivery of their letters used to make them
quite ill with anxiety. Antoinette was always worrying about her brother,
the poor child could not always manage to hide his sadness and loneliness
from her; every one of his complaints used to sound through Antoinette's
heart and seemed like to break it; the thought that he was suffering used
to torture her and she used often to imagine that he was ill and would not
say so. Frau Reinhart in her kindness had often had to rebuke her for her
groundless fears, and she used to succeed in restoring her confidence for
a moment. She had not been able to find out anything about Antoinette's
family or position or her inner self. The girl was wildly shy and used
to draw into herself at the first question. The little she said showed
that she was cultured and intelligent; she seemed to have a precocious
knowledge of life; she seemed to be at once naive and undeceived, pious and
disillusioned. She had not been happy in the town in a tactless and unkind
family. She used not to complain, but it was easy to see that she used to
suffer--Frau Reinhart did not exactly know why she had gone. It had been
said that she had behaved badly. Angelica did not believe it; she was ready
to swear that it was all a disgusting calumny, worthy of the foolish rotten
town. But there had been stories; it did not matter what, did it?
"No," said Christophe, bowing his head.
"And so she has gone."
"And what did she say--anything to you when she went?"
"Ah!" said Lili Reinhart, "I had no chance. I had gone to Cologne for a few
days just then! When I came back--_Zu spaet_" (too late).--She stopped to
scold her maid, who had brought her lemon too late for her tea.
And she added sententiously with the solemnity which the true German brings
naturally to the performance of the familiar duties of daily life:
"Too late, as one so often is in life!"
(It was not clear whether she meant the lemon or her interrupted story.)
She went on:
"When I returned I found a line from her thanking me for all I had done
and telling me that she was going; she was returning to Paris; she gave no
"And she did not write again?"
Once more Christophe saw her sad face disappear into the night; once more
he saw her eyes for a moment just as he had seen them for the last time
looking at him through the carriage window.
The enigma of France was once more set before him more insistently than
ever. Christophe never tired of asking Frau Reinhart about the country
which she pretended to know so well. And Frau Reinhart who had never been
there was not reluctant to tell him about it. Reinhart, a good patriot,
full of prejudices against France, which he knew better than his wife,
sometimes used to qualify her remarks when her enthusiasm went too far; but
she would repeat her assertions only the more vigorously, and Christophe,
knowing nothing at all about it, backed her up confidently.
What was more precious even than Lili Reinhart's memories were her books.
She had a small library of French books: school books, a few novels, a few
volumes bought at random. Christophe, greedy of knowledge and ignorant of
France, thought them a treasure when Reinhart went and got them for him and
put them at his disposal.
He began with volumes of select passages, old school books, which had been
used by Lili Reinhart or her husband in their school days. Reinhart had
assured him that he must begin with them if he wished to find his way about
French literature, which was absolutely unknown to him. Christophe was full
of respect for those who knew more than himself, and obeyed religiously:
and that very evening he began to read. He tried first of all to take stock
of the riches in his possession.
He made the acquaintance of certain French writers, namely: Thedore-Henri
Barrau, Francois Petis de la Croix, Frederic Baudry, Emile Delerot,
Charles-Auguste-Desire Filon, Samuel Descombaz, and Prosper Baur. He read
the poetry of Abbe Joseph Reyre, Pierre Lachambaudie, the Duc de Nivernois,
Andre van Hasselt, Andrieux, Madame Colet, Constance-Marie Princesse de
Salm-Dyck, Henrietta Hollard, Gabriel-Jean-Baptiste-Ernest-Wilfrid Legouve,
Hippolyte Violeau, Jean Reboul, Jean Racine, Jean de Beranger, Frederic
Bechard, Gustave Nadaud, Edouard Plouvier, Eugene Manuel, Hugo, Millevoye,
Chenedolle, James Lacour Delatre, Felix Chavannes, Francis-Edouard-Joachim,
known as Francois Coppee, and Louis Belmontet. Christophe was lost,
drowned, submerged under such a deluge of poetry and turned to prose. He
found Gustave de Molinari, Flechier, Ferdinand-Edouard Buisson, Merimee,
Malte-Brun, Voltaire, Lame-Fleury, Dumas pere, J.J. Bousseau, Mezieres,
Mirabeau, de Mazade, Claretie, Cortambert, Frederic II, and M. de Voguee.
The most often quoted of French historians was Maximilien Samson-Frederic
Schoell. In the French anthology Christophe found the Proclamation of
the new German Empire; and he read a description of the Germans by
Frederic-Constant de Rougemont, in which he learned that "_the German was
born to live in the region of the soul. He has not the light noisy gaiety
of the Frenchman. His is a great soul; his affections are tender and
profound. He is indefatigable in toil, and persevering in enterprise. There
is no more moral or long-lived people. Germany has an extraordinary number
of writers. She has the genius of art. While the inhabitants of other
countries pride themselves on being French, English, Spanish, the German on
the other hand embraces all humanity in his love. And though its position
is the very center of Europe the German nation seems to be at once the
heart and the higher reason of humanity_."
Christophe closed the book. He was astonished and tired. He thought:
"The French are good fellows; but they are not strong."
He took another volume. It was on a higher plane; it was meant for high
schools. Musset occupied three pages, and Victor Duray thirty, Lamartine
seven pages and Thiers almost forty. The whole of the _Cid_ was
included--or almost the whole:---(ten monologues of Don Diegue and Rodrigue
had been suppressed because they were too long.)--Lanfrey exalted Prussia
against Napoleon I and so he had not been cut down; he alone occupied more
space than all the great classics of the eighteenth century. Copious
narrations of the French defeats of 1870 had been extracted from _La
Debacle_ of Zola. Neither Montaigne, nor La Rochefoucauld, nor La Bruyere,
nor Diderot, nor Stendhal, nor Balzac, nor Flaubert appeared. On the other
hand, Pascal, who did not appear in the other book, found a place in this
as a curiosity; and Christophe learned by the way that the convulsionary
"_was one of the fathers of Port-Royal, a girls' school, near Paris_..."
[Footnote: The anthologies of French literature which Jean-Christophe
borrowed from his friends the Reinharts were:
I. _Selected French passages for the use of secondary schools_, by Hubert
H. Wingerath, Ph.D., director of the real-school of Saint John at
Strasburg. Part II: Middle forms.--7th Edition, 1902, Dumont-Schauberg.
II. L. Herrig and G.F. Burguy: _Literary France_, arranged by F. Tendering,
director of the real-gymnasium of the Johanneum, Hamburg.--1904,
Christophe was on the point of throwing the book away; his head was
swimming; he could not see. He said to himself: "I shall never get through
with it." He could not formulate any opinion. He turned over the leaves
idly for hours without knowing what he was reading. He did not read French
easily, and when he had labored to make out a passage, it was almost always
something meaningless and highfalutin.
And yet from the chaos there darted flashes of light, like rapier thrusts,
words that looked and stabbed, heroic laughter. Gradually an impression
emerged from his first reading, perhaps through the biased scheme of the
selections. Voluntarily or involuntarily the German editors had selected
those pieces of French which could seem to establish by the testimony of
the French themselves the failings of the French and the superiority of the
Germans. But they had no notion that what they most exposed to the eyes of
an independent mind like Christophe's was the surprising liberty of these
Frenchmen who criticised everything in their own country and praised
their adversaries. Michelet praised Frederick II, Lanfrey the English of
Trafalgar, Charras the Prussia of 1813. No enemy of Napoleon had ever dared
to speak of him so harshly. Nothing was too greatly respected to escape
their disparagement. Even under the great King the previous poets had had
their freedom of speech. Moliere spared nothing, La Fontaine laughed at
everything. Even Boileau gibed at the nobles. Voltaire derided war, flogged
religion, scoffed at his country. Moralists, satirists, pamphleteers, comic
writers, they all vied one with another in gay or somber audacity. Want
of respect was universal. The honest German editors were sometimes scared
by it, they had to throw a rope to their consciences by trying to excuse
Pascal, who lumped together cooks, porters, soldiers, and camp followers;
they protested in a note that Pascal would not have written thus if he had
been acquainted with the noble armies of modern times. They did not fail
to remind the reader how happily Lessing had corrected the Fables of La
Fontaine by following, for instance, the advice of the Genevese Rousseau
and changing the piece of cheese of Master Crow to a piece of poisoned meat
of which the vile fox dies.
"_May you never gain anything but poison. You cursed flatterers!_"
They blinked at naked truth; but Christophe was pleased with it; he loved
this light. Here and there he was even a little shocked; he was not used to
such unbridled independence which looks like anarchy to the eyes even of
the freest of Germans, who in spite of everything is accustomed to order
and discipline. And he was led astray by the way of the French; he took
certain things too seriously; and other things which were implacable
denials seemed to him to be amusing paradoxes. No matter! Surprised or
shocked he was drawn on little by little. He gave up trying to classify his
impressions; he passed from one feeling to another; he lived. The gaiety
of the French stories--Chamfort, Segur, Dumas pere, Merimee all lumped
together--delighted him; and every now and then in gusts there would creep
forth from the printed page the wild intoxicating scent of the Revolutions.
It was nearly dawn when Louisa, who slept in the next room, woke up and saw
the light through the chinks of Christophe's door. She knocked on the wall
and asked if he were ill. A chair creaked on the floor: the door opened and
Christophe appeared, pale, in his nightgown, with a candle and a book in
his hand, making strange, solemn, and grotesque gestures. Louisa was in
terror and got up in her bed, thinking that he was mad. He began to laugh,
and, waving his candle, he declaimed a scene from Moliere. In the middle of
a sentence he gurgled with laughter; he sat at the foot of his mother's bed
to take breath; the candle shook in his hand. Louisa was reassured, and
scolded him forcibly:
"What is the matter with you? What is it? Go to bed.... My poor boy, are
you going out of your senses?"
But he began again:
"You must listen to this!"
And he sat by her bedside and read the play, going back to the beginning
again. He seemed to see Corinne; he heard her mocking tones, cutting and
sonorous. Louisa protested:
"Go away! Go away! You will catch cold. How tiresome you are. Let me go to
He went on relentlessly. He raised his voice, waved his arms, choked with
laughter; and he asked his mother if she did not think it wonderful. Louisa
turned her back on him, buried herself in the bedclothes, stopped her ears,
"Do leave me alone!..."
But she laughed inwardly at hearing his laugh. At last she gave up
protesting. And when Christophe had finished the act, and asked her,
without eliciting any reply, if she did not think what he had read
interesting, he bent over her and saw that she was asleep. Then he smiled,
gently kissed her hair, and stole back to his own room.
* * * * *
He borrowed more and more books from the Reinharts' library. There were all
sorts of books in it. Christophe devoured them all. He wanted so much to
love the country of Corinne and the unknown young woman. He had so much
enthusiasm to get rid of that he found a use for it in his reading. Even
in second-rate works there were sentences and pages which had the effect
on him of a gust of fresh air. He exaggerated the effect, especially when
he was talking to Frau Reinhart, who always went a little better than he.
Although she was as ignorant as a fish, she delighted to contrast French
and German culture and to decry the German to the advantage of the French,
just to annoy her husband and to avenge herself for the boredom she had to
suffer in the little town.
Reinhart was really amused. Notwithstanding his learning, he had stopped
short at the ideas he had learned at school. To him the French were a
clever people, skilled in practical things, amiable, talkative, but
frivolous, susceptible, and boastful, incapable of being serious,
or sincere, or of feeling strongly--a people without music, without
philosophy, without poetry (except for _l'Art Poetique_, Beranger and
Francois Coppee)--a people of pathos, much gesticulation, exaggerated
speech, and pornography. There were not words strong enough for the
denunciation---of Latin Immorality; and for want of a better he always came
back to _frivolity_, which for him, as for the majority of his compatriots,
had a particularly unpleasant meaning. And he would end with the
usual couplet in praise of the noble German people,--the moral people
("_By that_," Herder has said, "_it is distinguished from all other
nations_.")--the faithful people (_treues Volk ... Treu_ meaning
everything: sincere, faithful, loyal and upright)--_the People par
excellence_, as Fichte says--German Force, the symbol of justice and
truth--German thought--the German _Gemuet_--the German language, the only
original language, the only language that, like the race itself, has
preserved its purity--German women, German wine, German song ... "_Germany,
Germany above everything in the world_!"
Christophe would protest. Frau Reinhart would cry out. They would all
shout. They did not get on the less for it. They knew quite well that they
were all three good Germans.
Christophe used often to go and talk, dine and walk with his new friends.
Lili Reinhart made much of him, and used to cook dainty suppers for him.
She was delighted to have the excuse for satisfying her own greediness. She
paid him all sorts of sentimental and culinary attentions. For Christophe's
birthday she made a cake, on which were twenty candles and in the middle
a little wax figure in Greek costume which was supposed to represent
Iphigenia holding a bouquet. Christophe, who was profoundly German in spite
of himself, was touched by these rather blunt and not very refined marks of
The excellent Reinharts found other more subtle ways of showing their real
friendship. On his wife's instigation Reinhart, who could hardly read a
note of music, had bought twenty copies of Christophe's _Lieder_--(the
first to leave the publisher's shop)--he had sent them to different parts
of Germany to university acquaintances. He had also sent a certain number
to the libraries of Leipzig and Berlin, with which he had dealings through
his classbooks. For the moment at least their touching enterprise, of
which Christophe knew nothing, bore no fruit. The _Lieder_ which had been
scattered broadcast seemed to miss fire; nobody talked of them; and the
Reinharts, who were hurt by this indifference, were glad they had not told
Christophe about what they had done, for it would have given him more pain
than consolation. But in truth nothing is lost, as so often appears in
life; no effort is in vain. For years nothing happens. Then one day it
appears that your idea has made its way. It was impossible to be sure
that Christophe's _Lieder_ had not reached the hearts of a few good people
buried in the country, who were too timid or too tired to tell him so.
One person wrote to him. Two or three months after the Reinharts had sent
them, a letter came for Christophe. It was warm, ceremonious, enthusiastic,
old-fashioned in form, and came from a little town in Thuringia, and was
signed "_Universitaets Musikdirektor Professor Dr. Peter Schulz_."
It was a great joy for Christophe, and even greater for the Reinharts, when
at their house he opened the letter, which he had left lying in his pocket
for two days. They read it together. Reinhart made signs to his wife which
Christophe did not notice. He looked radiant, until suddenly Reinhart saw
his face grow gloomy, and he stopped dead in the middle of his reading.
"Well, why do you stop?" he asked.
(They used the familiar _du_.)
Christophe flung the letter on the table angrily.
"No. It is too much!" he said.
He turned away and went and sulked in a corner.
Reinhart and his wife read the letter, and could find in it only fervent
"I don't see," he said in astonishment.
"You don't see? You don't see?..." cried Christophe, taking the letter and
thrusting it in his face. "Can't you read? Don't you see that he is a
And then Reinhart noticed that in one sentence the _Universitaets
Musikdirektor_ compared Christophe's _Lieder_ with those of Brahms.
"A friend! I have found a friend at last!... And I have hardly found him
when I have lost him!..."
The comparison revolted him. If they had let him, he would have replied
with a stupid letter, or perhaps, upon reflection, he would have thought
himself very prudent and generous in not replying at all. Fortunately, the
Reinharts were amused by his ill-humor, and kept him from committing any
further absurdity. They succeeded in making him write a letter of thanks.
But the letter, written reluctantly, was cold and constrained. The
enthusiasm of Peter Schulz was not shaken by it. He sent two or three
more letters, brimming, over with affection. Christophe was not a good
correspondent, and although he was a little reconciled to his unknown
friend by the sincerity and real sympathy which he could feel behind his
words, he let the correspondence drop. Schulz wrote no more. Christophe
never thought about him.
* * * * *
He now saw the Reinharts every day and frequently several times a day. They
spent almost all the evenings together. After spending the day alone in
concentration he had a physical need of talking, of saying everything that
was in his mind, even if he were not understood, and of laughing with or
without reason, of expanding and stretching himself.
He played for them. Having no other means of showing his gratitude, he
would sit at the piano and play for hours together. Frau Reinhart was no
musician, and she had difficulty in keeping herself from yawning; but she
sympathized with Christophe, and pretended to be interested in everything
he played. Reinhart was not much more of a musician than his wife, but was
sometimes touched quite materially by certain pieces of music, certain
passages, certain bars, and then he would be violently moved sometimes
even to tears, and that seemed silly to him. The rest of the time he felt
nothing; it was just music to him. That was the general rule. He was never
moved except by the least good passages of a composition--absolutely
insignificant passages. Both of them persuaded themselves that they
understood Christophe, and Christophe tried to pretend that it was so.
Every now and then he would be seized by a wicked desire to make fun of
them. He would lay traps for them and play things without any meaning,
inapt _potpourris_; and he would let them think that he had composed them.
Then, when they had admired it, he would tell them what it was. Then they
would grow wary, and when Christophe played them a piece with an air of
mystery, they would imagine that he was trying to catch them again, and
they would criticise it. Christophe would let them go on and back them up,
and argue that such music was worthless, and then he would break out:
"Rascals! You are right!... It is my own!" He would be as happy as a boy at
having taken them in. Frau Reinhart would be cross and come and give him
a little slap; but he would laugh so good-humoredly that they would laugh
with him. They did not pretend to be infallible. And as they had no leg to
stand on, Lili Reinhart would criticise everything and her husband would
praise everything, and so they were certain that one or other of them would
always be in agreement with Christophe.
For the rest, it was not so much the musician that attracted them in
Christophe as the crack-brained boy, with his affectionate ways and true
reality of life. The ill that they had heard spoken of him had rather
disposed them in his favor. Like him, they were rather oppressed by the
atmosphere of the little town; like him, they were frank, they judged for
themselves, and they regarded him as a great baby, not very clever in the
ways of life, and the victim of his own frankness.
Christophe was not under many illusions concerning his new friends, and
it made him sad to think that they did not understand the depths of his
character, and that they would never understand it. But he was so much
deprived of friendship and he stood in such sore need of it, that he was
infinitely grateful to them for wanting to like him a little. He had
learned wisdom in his experiences of the last year; he no longer thought
he had the right to be overwise. Two years earlier he would not have been
so patient. He remembered with amusement and remorse his severe judgment
of the honest and tiresome Eulers! Alas! How wisdom had grown in him! He
sighed a little. A secret voice whispered: "Yes, but for how long?"
That made him smile and consoled him a little. What would he not have given
to have a friend, one friend who would understand him and share his soul!
But although he was still young he had enough experience of the world to
know that his desire was one of those which are most difficult to realize
in life, and that he could not hope to be happier than the majority of the
true artists who had gone before him. He had learned the histories of some
of them. Certain books, borrowed from the Reinharts, had told him about
the terrible trials through which the German musicians of the seventeenth
century had passed, and the calmness and resolution with which one of
these great souls--the greatest of all, the heroic Schutz--had striven,
as unshakably he went on his way in the midst of wars and burning towns,
and provinces ravaged by the plague, with his country invaded, trampled
underfoot by the hordes of all Europe, and--worst of all--broken, worn out,
degraded by misfortune, making no fight, indifferent to everything, longing
only for rest. He thought: "With such as example, what right has any man
to complain? They had no audience, they had no future; they wrote for
themselves and God. What they wrote one day would perhaps be destroyed by
the next. And yet they went on writing and they were not sad. Nothing made
them lose their intrepidity, their joviality. They were satisfied with
their song; they asked nothing of life but to live, to earn their daily
bread, to express their ideas, and to find a few honest men, simple, true,
not artists, who no doubt did not understand them, but had confidence in
them and won their confidence in return. How dared he have demanded more
than they? There is a minimum of happiness which it is permitted to demand.
But no man has the right to more; it rests with a man's self to gain the
surplus of happiness, not with others."
Such thoughts brought him new serenity, and he loved his good friends the
Reinharts the more for them. He had no idea that even this affection was to
be denied him.
* * * * *
He reckoned without the malevolence of small towns. They are tenacious
in their spite--all the more tenacious because their spite is aimless. A
healthy hatred which knows what it wants is appeased when it has achieved
its end. But men who are mischievous from boredom never lay down their
arms, for they are always bored. Christophe was a natural prey for their
want of occupation. He was beaten without a doubt; but he was bold enough
not to seem crushed. He did not bother anybody, but then he did not bother
about anybody. He asked nothing. They were impotent against him. He was
happy with his new friends and indifferent to anything that was said or
thought of him. That was intolerable.--Frau Reinhart roused even more
irritation. Her open friendship with Christophe in the face of the whole
town seemed, like his attitude, to be a defiance of public opinion. But the
good Lili Reinhart defied nothing and nobody. She had no thought to provoke
others; she did what she thought fit without asking anybody else's advice.
That was the worst provocation.
All their doings were watched. They had no idea of it. He was extravagant,
she scatter-brained, and both even wanting in prudence when they went out
together, or even at home in the evening, when they leaned over the balcony
talking and laughing. They drifted innocently into a familiarity of speech
and manner which could easily supply food for calumny.
One morning Christophe received an anonymous letter. He was accused in
basely insulting terms of being Frau Reinhart's lover. His arms fell by his
sides. He had never had the least thought of love or even of flirtation
with her. He was too honest. He had a Puritanical horror of adultery. The
very idea of such a dirty sharing gave him a physical and moral feeling of
nausea. To take the wife of a friend would have been a crime in his eyes,
and Lili Reinhart would have been the last person in the world with whom he
could have been tempted to commit such an offense. The poor woman was not
beautiful, and he would not have had even the excuse of passion.
He went to his friends ashamed and embarrassed. They also were embarrassed.
Each of them had received a similar letter, but they had not dared to tell
each other, and all three of them were on their guard and watched each
other and dared not move or speak, and they just talked nonsense. If Lili
Reinhart's natural carelessness took the ascendant for a moment, or if
she began to laugh and talk wildly, suddenly a look from her husband or
Christophe would stop her dead; the letter would cross her mind; she would
stop in the middle of a familiar gesture and grow uneasy. Christophe and
Reinhart were in the same plight. And each of them was thinking: "Do the
However, they said nothing to each other and tried to go on as though
nothing had happened.
But the anonymous letters went on, growing more and mores insulting and
dirty. They were plunged into a condition of depression and intolerable
shame. They hid themselves when they received the letters, and had not the
strength to burn them unopened. They opened them with trembling hands, and
as they unfolded the letters their hearts would sink; and when they read
what they feared to read, with some new variation on the same theme--the
injurious and ignoble inventions of a mind bent on causing a hurt--they
wept in silence. They racked their brains to discover who the wretch might
be who so persistently persecuted them..
One day Frau Reinhart, at the end of her letter, confessed the persecution
of which she was the victim to her husband, and with tears in his eyes he
confessed that he was suffering in the same way. Should they mention it
to Christophe? They dared not. But they had to warn him to make him be
cautious.--At the first words that Frau Reinhart said to him, with a blush,
she saw to her horror that Christophe had also received letters. Such utter
malignance appalled them. Frau Reinhart had no doubt that the whole town
was in the secret. Instead of helping each other, they only undermined
each other's fortitude. They did not know what to do. Christophe talked of
breaking somebody's head. But whose? And besides, that would be to justify
the calumny!... Inform the police of the letters?--That would make their
insinuations public...--Pretend to ignore them? It was no longer possible.
Their friendly relations were now disturbed. It was useless for Reinhart to
have absolute faith in the honesty of his wife and Christophe. He suspected
them in spite of himself. He felt that his suspicions were shameful and
absurd, and tried hard not to pay any heed to them, and to leave Christophe
and his wife alone together. But he suffered, and his wife saw that he was
It was even worse for her. She had never thought of flirting with
Christophe, any more than he had thought of it with her. The calumnious
letters brought her imperceptibly to the ridiculous idea that after
all Christophe was perhaps in love with her; and although he was never
anywhere near showing any such feeling for her, she thought she must defend
herself, not by referring directly to it, but by clumsy precautions, which
Christophe did not understand at first, though, when he did understand, he
was beside himself. It was so stupid that it made him laugh and cry at the
same time! He in love with the honest little woman, kind enough as she was,
but plain and common!... And to think that she should believe it!... And
that he could not deny it, and tell her and her husband:
"Come! There is no danger! Be calm!..." But no; he could not offend these
good people. And besides, he was beginning to think that if she held out
against being loved by him it was because she was secretly on the point of
loving him. The anonymous letters had had the fine result of having given
him so foolish and fantastic an idea.
The situation had become at once so painful and so silly that it was
impossible for this to go on. Besides, Lili Reinhart, who, in spite of her
brave words, had no strength of character, lost her head in the face of the
dumb hostility of the little town. They made shamefaced excuses for not
"Frau Reinhart was unwell.... Reinhart was busy.... They were going away
for a few days...."
Clumsy lies which were always unmasked by chance, which seemed to take a
malicious pleasure in doing so.
Christophe was more frank, and said:
"Let us part, my friends. We are not strong enough."
The Reinharts wept.--But they were happier when the breach was made.
The town had its triumph. This time Christophe was quite alone. It had
robbed him of his last breath of air:--the affection, however humble,
without which no heart can live.
He had no one. All his friends had disappeared. His dear Gottfried, who had
come to his aid in times of difficulty, and whom now he so sorely needed,
had gone some months before. This time forever. One evening in the summer
of the last year a letter in large handwriting, bearing the address of a
distant village, had informed Louisa that her brother had died upon one of
his vagabond journeys which the little peddler had insisted on making, in
spite of his ill health. He was buried there in the cemetery of the place.
The last manly and serene friendship which could have supported Christophe
had been swallowed up. He was left alone with his old mother, who cared
nothing for his ideas--could only love him and not understand him. About
him was the immense plain of Germany, the green ocean. At every attempt to
climb out of it he only slipped back deeper than ever. The hostile town
watched him drown....
And as he was struggling a light flashed upon him in the middle of the
night, the image of Hassler, the great musician whom he had loved so much
when he was a child. His fame shone over all Germany now. He remembered
the promises that Hassler had made him then. And he clung to this piece of
wreckage in desperation. Hassler could save him! Hassler must save him!
What was he asking? Not help, nor money, nor material assistance of any
kind. Nothing but understanding. Hassler had been persecuted like him.
Hassler was a free man. He would understand a free man, whom German
mediocrity was pursuing with its spite and trying to crush. They were
fighting the same battle.
He carried the idea into execution as soon as it occurred to him. He told
his mother that he would be away for a week, and that very evening he took
the train for the great town in the north of Germany where Hassler was
_Kapellmeister_, He could not wait. It was a last effort to breathe.
* * * * *
Hassler was famous. His enemies had not disarmed, but his friends cried
that he was the greatest musician, present, past and future. He was
surrounded by partisans and detractors who were equally absurd. As he was
not of a very firm character, he had been embittered by the last, and
mollified by the first. He devoted his energy to writing things to annoy
his critics and make them cry out. He was like an urchin playing pranks.
These pranks were often in the most detestable taste. Not only did he
devote his prodigious talent to musical eccentricities which made the
hair of the pontiffs stand on end, but he showed a perverse predilection
for queer themes, bizarre subjects, and often for equivocal and scabrous
situations; in a word, for everything which could offend ordinary good
sense and decency. He was quite happy when the people howled, and the
people did not fail him. Even the Emperor, who dabbled in art, as every
one knows, with the insolent presumption of upstarts and princes, regarded
Hassler's fame as a public scandal, and let no opportunity slip of showing
his contemptuous indifference to his impudent works. Hassler was enraged
and delighted by such august opposition, which had almost become a
consecration for the advanced paths in German art, and went on smashing
windows. At every new folly his friends went into ecstasies and cried that
he was a genius.
Hassler's coterie was chiefly composed of writers, painters, and decadent
critics who certainly had the merit of representing the party of revolt
against the reaction--always a menace in North Germany--of the pietistic
spirit and State morality; but in the struggle the independence had been
carried to a pitch of absurdity of which they were unconscious. For, if
many of them were not lacking in a rude sort of talent, they had little
intelligence and less taste. They could not rise above the fastidious
atmosphere which they had created, and like all cliques, they had ended by
losing all sense of real life. They legislated for themselves and hundreds
of fools who read their reviews and gulped down everything they were
pleased to promulgate. Their adulation had been fatal to Hassler, for it
had made him too pleased with himself. He accepted without examination
every musical idea that came into his head, and he had a private
conviction, however he might fall below his own level, he was still
superior to that of all other musicians. And though that idea was only too
true in the majority of cases, it did not follow that it was a very fit
state of mind for the creation of great works. At heart Hassler had a
supreme contempt for everybody, friends and enemies alike; and this bitter
jeering contempt was extended to himself and life in general. He was
all the more driven back into his ironic skepticism because he had once
believed in a number of generous and simple things. As he had not been
strong enough to ward off the slow destruction of the passing of the days,
nor hypocritical enough to pretend to believe in the faith he had lost, he
was forever gibing at the memory of it. He was of a Southern German nature,
soft and indolent, not made to resist excess of fortune or misfortune, of
heat or cold, needing a moderate temperature to preserve its balance. He
had drifted insensibly into a lazy enjoyment of life. He loved good food,
heavy drinking, idle lounging, and sensuous thoughts. His whole art smacked
of these things, although he was too gifted for the flashes of his genius
not still to shine forth from his lax music which drifted with the fashion.
No one was more conscious than himself of his decay. In truth, he was
the only one to be conscious of it--at rare moments which, naturally, he
avoided. Besides, he was misanthropic, absorbed by his fearful moods, his
egoistic preoccupations, his concern about his health--he was indifferent
to everything which had formerly excited his enthusiasm or hatred.
* * * * *
Such was the man to whom Christophe came for assistance, With what joy and
hope he arrived, one cold, wet morning, in the town wherein then lived
the man who symbolized for him the spirit of independence in his art! He
expected words of friendship and encouragement from him--words that he
needed to help him to go on with the ungrateful, inevitable battle which
every true artist has to wage against the world until he breathes his last,
without even for one day laying down his arms; for, as Schiller has said,
"_the only relation with the public of which a man never repents--is war_."
Christophe was so impatient that he just left his bag at the first hotel he
came to near the station, and then ran to the theater to find out Hassler's
address. Hassler lived some way from the center of the town, in one of the
suburbs. Christophe took an electric train, and hungrily ate a roll. His
heart thumped as he approached his goal.
The district in which Hassler had chosen his house was almost entirely
built in that strange new architecture into which young Germany has thrown
an erudite and deliberate barbarism struggling laboriously to have genius.
In the middle of the commonplace town, with its straight, characterless
streets, there suddenly appeared Egyptian hypogea, Norwegian chalets,
cloisters, bastions, exhibition pavilions, pot-bellied houses, fakirs,
buried in the ground, with expressionless faces, with only one enormous
eye; dungeon gates, ponderous gates, iron hoops, golden cryptograms on
the panes of grated windows, belching monsters over the front door, blue
porcelain tiles plastered on in most unexpected places; variegated mosaics
representing Adam and Eve; roofs covered with tiles of jarring colors;
houses like citadels with castellated walls, deformed animals on the roofs,
no windows on one side, and then suddenly, close to each other, gaping
holes, square, red, angular, triangular, like wounds; great stretches of
empty wall from which suddenly there would spring a massive balcony with
one window--a balcony supported by Nibelungesque Caryatides, balconies from
which there peered through the stone balustrade two pointed heads of old
men, bearded and long-haired, mermen of Boecklin. On the front of one of
these prisons--a Pharaohesque mansion, low and one-storied, with two naked
giants at the gate--the architect had written:
Let the artist show his universe,
Which never was and yet will ever be.
_Seine Welt zeige der Kuenstler,
Die niemals war noch jemals sein wird._
Christophe was absorbed by the idea of seeing Hassler, and looked with the
eyes of amazement and under no attempt to understand. He reached the house
he sought, one of the simplest--in a Carolingian style. Inside was rich
luxury, commonplace enough. On the staircase was the heavy atmosphere of
hot air. There was a small lift which Christophe did not use, as he wanted
to gain time to prepare himself for his call by going up the four flights
of stairs slowly, with his legs giving and his heart thumping with his
excitement. During that short ascent his former interview with Hassler, his
childish enthusiasm, the image of his grandfather were as clearly in his
mind as though it had all been yesterday.
It was nearly eleven when he rang the bell. He was received by a sharp
maid, with a _serva padrona_ manner, who looked at him impertinently and
began to say that "Herr Hassler could not see him, as Herr Hassler was
tired." Then the naive disappointment expressed in Christophe's face amused
her; for after making an unabashed scrutiny of him from head to foot, she
softened suddenly and introduced him to Hassler's study, and said she would
go and see if Herr Hassler would receive him. Thereupon she gave him a
little wink and closed the door.
On the walls were a few impressionist paintings and some gallant French
engravings of the eighteenth century: for Hassler pretended to some
knowledge of all the arts, and Manet and Watteau were joined together in
his taste in accordance with the prescription of his coterie. The same
mixture of styles appeared in the furniture, and a very fine Louis XV
bureau was surrounded by new art armchairs and an oriental divan with a
mountain of multi-colored cushions. The doors were ornamented with mirrors,
and Japanese bric-a-brac covered the shelves and the mantelpiece, on which
stood a bust of Hassler. In a bowl on a round table was a profusion of
photographs of singers, female admirers and friends, with witty remarks and
enthusiastic interjections. The bureau was incredibly untidy. The piano was
open. The shelves were dusty, and half-smoked cigars were lying about
In the next room Christophe heard a cross voice grumbling, It was answered
by the shrill tones of the little maid. It was dear that Hassler was not
very pleased at having to appear. It was clear, also, that the young woman
had decided that Hassler should appear; and she answered him with extreme
familiarity and her shrill voice penetrated the walls. Christophe was
rather upset at hearing some of the remarks she made to her master. But
Hassler did not seem to mind. On the contrary, it rather seemed as though
her impertinence amused him; and while he went on growling, he chaffed the
girl and took a delight in exciting her. At last Christophe heard a door
open, and, still growling and chaffing, Hassler came shuffling.
He entered. Christophe's heart sank. He recognized him. Would to God he had
not! It was Hassler, and yet it was not he. He still had his great smooth
brow, his face as unwrinkled as that of a babe; but he was bald, stout,
yellowish, sleepy-looking; his lower lip drooped a little, his mouth looked
bored and sulky. He hunched his shoulders, buried his hands in the pockets
of his open waistcoat; old shoes flopped on his feet; his shirt was bagged
above his trousers, which he had not finished buttoning. He looked at
Christophe with his sleepy eyes, in which there was no light as the young
man murmured his name. He bowed automatically, said nothing, nodded towards
a chair, and with a sigh, sank down on the divan and piled the cushions
about himself. Christophe repeated:
"I have already had the honor.... You were kind enough.... My name is
Hassler lay back on the divan, with his legs crossed, his lands clasped
together on his right knee, which he held up to his chin as he replied:
"I don't remember."
Christophe's throat went dry, and he tried to remind him of their former
meeting. Under any circumstances it would have been difficult for him to
talk of memories so intimate; now it was torture for him. He bungled his
sentences, could not find words, said absurd things which made him blush.
Hassler let him flounder on and never ceased to look at him with his vague,
indifferent eyes. When Christophe had reached the end of his story, Hassler
went on rocking his knee in silence for a moment, as though he were waiting
for Christophe to go on. Then he said:
"Yes.... That does not make us young again...." and stretched his legs.
After a yawn he added:
"... I beg pardon.... Did not sleep.... Supper at the theater last
night...." and yawned again.
Christophe hoped that Hassler would make some reference to what he had
just told him, but Hassler, whom the story had not interested at all, said
nothing about it, and he did not ask Christophe anything about his life.
When he had done yawning he asked:
"Have you been in Berlin long?"
"I arrived this morning," said Christophe.
"Ah!" said Hassler, without any surprise. "What hotel?"
He did not seem to listen to the reply, but got up lazily and pressed an
"Allow me," he said.
The little maid appeared with her impertinent manner.
"Kitty," said he, "are you trying to make me go without breakfast this
"You don't think I am going to bring it here while you have some one with
"Why not?" he said, with a wink and a nod in Christophe's direction. "He
feeds my mind: I must feed my body."
"Aren't you ashamed to have some one watching you eat--like an animal in a
Instead of being angry, Hassler began to laugh and corrected her:
"Like a domestic animal," he went on. "But do bring it. I'll eat my shame
Christophe saw that Hassler was making no attempt to find out what he
was doing, and tried to lead the conversation back. He spoke of the
difficulties of provincial life, of the mediocrity of the people, the
narrow-mindedness, and of his own isolation. He tried to interest him in
his moral distress. But Hassler was sunk deep in the divan, with his head
lying back on a cushion and his eyes half closed, and let him go on talking
without even seeming to listen; or he would raise his eyelids for a moment
and pronounce a few coldly ironical words, some ponderous jest at the
expense of provincial people, which cut short Christophe's attempts to talk
more intimately. Kitty returned with the breakfast tray: coffee, butter,
ham, etc. She put it down crossly on the desk in the middle of the untidy
papers. Christophe waited until she had gone before he went on with his
sad story which he had such difficulty in continuing. Hassler drew the
tray towards himself. He poured himself out some coffee and sipped at it.
Then in a familiar and cordial though rather contemptuous way he stopped
Christophe in the middle of a sentence to ask if he would take a cup.
Christophe refused. He tried to pick up the thread of his sentence, but he
was more and more nonplussed, and did not know what he was saying. He was
distracted by the sight of Hassler with his plate under his chin, like a
child, gorging pieces of bread and butter and slices of ham which he held
in his fingers. However, he did succeed in saying that he composed, that he
had had an overture in the _Judith_ of Hebbel performed. Hassler listened
"_Was_?" (What?) he asked.
Christophe repeated the title.
"_Ach! So, so!_" (Ah! Good, good!) said Hassler, dipping his bread and his
fingers into his cup. That was all.
Christophe was discouraged and was on the point of getting up and going,
but he thought of his long journey in vain, and summoning up all his
courage he murmured a proposal that he should play some of his works to
Hassler. At the first mention of it Hassler stopped him.
"No, no. I don't know anything about it," he said, with his chaffing and
rather insulting irony. "Besides, I haven't the time."
Tears came to Christophe's eyes. But he had vowed not to leave until he had
Hassler's opinion about his work. He said, with a mixture of confusion and
"I beg your pardon, but you promised once to hear me. I came to see you for
that from the other end of Germany. You shall hear me."
Hassler, who was not used to such ways, looked at the awkward young man,
who was furious, blushing, and near tears. That amused him, and wearily
shrugging his shoulders, he pointed to the piano, and said with an air of
"Well, then!... There you are!"
On that he lay back on his divan, like a man who is going to sleep,
smoothed out his cushions, put them under his outstretched arms, half
closed his eyes, opened them for a moment to take stock of the size of the
roll of music which Christophe had brought from one of his pockets, gave a
little sigh, and lay back to listen listlessly.
Christophe was intimidated and mortified, but he began to play. It was not
long before Hassler opened his eyes and ears with the professional interest
of the artist who is struck in spite of himself by a beautiful thing. At
first he said nothing and lay still, but his eyes became less dim and his
sulky lips moved. Then he suddenly woke up, growling his surprise and
approbation. He only gave inarticulate interjections, but the form of them
left no doubt as to his feelings, and they gave Christophe an inexpressible
pleasure. Hassler forgot to count the number of pages that had been played
and were left to be played. When Christophe had finished a piece, he said:
"Go on!... Go on!..."
He was beginning to use human language.
"That's good! Good!" he exclaimed to himself. "Famous!... Awfully famous!
(_Schrecklich famos!_) But, damme!" He growled in astonishment. "What is
He had risen on his seat, was stretching for wind, making a trumpet with
his hand, talking to himself, laughing with pleasure, or at certain odd
harmonies, just putting out his tongue as though to moisten his lips. An
unexpected modulation had such an effect on him that he got up suddenly
with an exclamation, and came and sat at the piano by Christophe's side. He
did not seem to notice that Christophe was there. He was only concerned
with the music, and when the piece was finished he took the book and began
to read the page again, then the following pages, and went on ejaculating
his admiration and surprise as though he had been alone in the room.
"The devil!" he said. "Where did the little beast find that?..."
He pushed Christophe away with his shoulders and himself played certain
passages. He had a charming touch on the piano, very soft, caressing and
light. Christophe noticed his fine long, well-tended hands, which were a
little morbidly aristocratic and out of keeping with the rest. Hassler
stopped at certain chords and repeated them, winking, and clicking with his
tongue. He hummed with his lips, imitating the sounds of the instruments,
and went on interspersing the music with his apostrophes in which pleasure
and annoyance were mingled. He could not help having a secret initiative,
an unavowed jealousy, and at the same time he greedily enjoyed it all.
Although he went on talking to himself as though Christophe did not exist,
Christophe, blushing with pleasure, could not help taking Hassler's
exclamations to himself, and he explained what he had tried to do. At first
Hassler seemed not to pay any attention to what the young man was saying,
and went on thinking out loud; then something that Christophe said struck
him and he was silent, with his eyes still fixed on the music, which he
turned over as he listened without seeming to hear. Christophe grew more
and more excited, and at last he plumped into confidence, and talked with
naive enthusiasm about his projects and his life.
Hassler was silent, and as he listened he slipped hack into his irony. He
had let Christophe take the book from his hands; with his elbow on the
rack of the piano and his hand on his forehead, he looked at Christophe,
who was explaining; his work with youthful ardor and eagerness. And he
smiled bitterly as he thought of his own beginning, his own hopes, and of
Christophe's hopes, and all the disappointments that lay in wait for him.
Christophe spoke with his eyes cast down, fearful of losing the thread of
what he had to say. Hassler's silence encouraged him. He felt that Hassler
was watching him and not missing a word that he said, and he thought he had
broken the ice between them, and he was glad at heart. When he had finished
he shyly raised his head--confidently, too--and looked at Hassler. All the
joy welling in him was frozen on the instant, like too early birds, when he
saw the gloomy, mocking eyes that looked into his without kindness. He was
After an icy moment, Hassler spoke dully. He had changed once more; he
affected a sort of harshness towards the young man. He teased him cruelly
about his plans, his hopes of success, as though he were trying to chaff
himself, now that he had recovered himself. He set himself coldly to
destroy his faith in life, his faith in art, his faith in himself. Bitterly
he gave himself as an example, speaking of his actual works in an insulting
"Hog-waste!" he said. "That is what these swine want. Do you think there
are ten people in the world who love music? Is there a single one?"
"There is myself!" said Christophe emphatically. Hassler looked at him,
shrugged his shoulders, and said wearily:
"You will be like the rest. You will do as the rest have done. You will
think of success, of amusing yourself, like the rest.... And you will be
Christophe tried to protest, but Hassler cut him short; he took the music
and began bitterly to criticise the works which he had first been praising,
Not only did he harshly pick out the real carelessness, the mistakes in
writing, the faults of taste or of expression which had escaped the young
man, but he made absurd criticisms, criticisms which might have been made
by the most narrow and antiquated of musicians, from which he himself,
Hassler, had had to suffer all his life. He asked what was the sense of it
all. He did not even criticise: he denied; it was as though he were trying
desperately to efface the impression that the music had made on him in
spite of himself.
Christophe was horrified and made no attempt to reply. How could he reply
to absurdities which he blushed to hear on the lips of a man whom he
esteemed and loved? Besides, Hassler did not listen to him. He stopped at
that, stopped dead, with the book in his hands, shut; no expression in his
eyes and his lips drawn down in bitterness. At last he said, as though he
had once more forgotten Christophe's presence:
"Ah! the worst misery of all is that there is not a single man who can
Christophe was racked with emotion. He turned suddenly, laid his hand on
Hassler's, and with love in his heart he repeated:
"There is myself!"
But Hassler did not move his hand, and if something stirred in his heart
for a moment at that boyish cry, no light shone in his dull eyes, as they
looked at Christophe. Irony and evasion were in the ascendant. He made a
ceremonious and comic little bow in acknowledgment.
"Honored!" he said.
He was thinking:
"Do you, though? Do you think I have lost my life for you?"
He got up, threw the book on the piano, and went with his long spindle legs
and sat on the divan again. Christophe had divined his thoughts and had
felt the savage insult in them, and he tried proudly to reply that a man
does not need to be understood by everybody; certain souls are worth a
whole people; they think for it, and what they have thought the people have
to think.--But Hassler did not listen to him. He had fallen back into his
apathy, caused by the weakening of the life slumbering in him. Christophe,
too sane to understand the sudden change, felt that he had lost. But he
could not resign himself to losing after seeming to be so near victory. He
made desperate efforts to excite Hassler's attention once more. He took
up his music book and tried to explain the reason, for the irregularities
which Hassler had remarked. Hassler lay back on the sofa and preserved a
gloomy silence. He neither agreed nor contradicted; he was only waiting for
him to finish.
Christophe saw that there was nothing more to be done. He stopped short in
the middle of a sentence. He rolled up his music and got up. Hassler got
up, too. Christophe was shy and ashamed, and murmured excuses. Hassler
bowed slightly, with a certain haughty and bored distinction, coldly held
out his hand politely, and accompanied him to the door without a word of
suggestion that he should stay or come again.
* * * * *
Christophe found himself in the street once more, absolutely crushed. He
walked at random; he did not know where he was going. He walked down
several streets mechanically, and then found himself at a station of the
train by which he had come. He went back by it without thinking of what he
was doing. He sank down on the seat with his arms and legs limp. It was
impossible to think or to collect his ideas; he thought of nothing, he did
not try to think. He was afraid to envisage himself. He was utterly empty.
It seemed to him that there was emptiness everywhere about him in that
town. He could not breathe in it. The mists, the massive houses stifled
him. He had only one idea, to fly, to fly as quickly as possible,--as if by
escaping from the town he would leave in it the bitter disillusion which he
had found in it.
He returned to his hotel. It was half-past twelve. It was two hours since
he had entered it,--with what a light shining in his heart! Now it was
He took no lunch. He did not go up to his room. To the astonishment of the
people of the hotel, he asked for his bill, paid as though he had spent the
night there, and said that he was going. In vain did they explain to him
that there was no hurry, that the train he wanted to go by did not leave
for hours, and that he had much better wait in the hotel. He insisted on
going to the station at once. He was like a child. He wanted to go by the
first train, no matter which, and not to stay another hour in the place.
After the long journey and all the expense he had incurred,--although he
had taken his holiday not only to see Hassler, but the museums, and to hear
concerts and to make certain acquaintances--he had only one idea in his
head: To go....
He went back to the station. As he had been told, his train did not leave
for three hours. And also the train was not express--(for Christophe had to
go by the cheapest class)--stopped on the way. Christophe would have done
better to go by the next train, which went two hours later and caught
up the first. But that meant spending two more hours in the place, and
Christophe could not bear it. He would not even leave the station while he
was waiting.--A gloomy period of waiting in those vast and empty halls,
dark and noisy, where strange shadows were going in and out, always busy,
always hurrying; strange shadows who meant nothing to him, all unknown
to him, not one friendly face. The misty day died down. The electric
lamps, enveloped in fog, flushed the night and made it darker than ever.
Christophe grew more and more depressed as time went on, waiting in agony
for the time to go. Ten times an hour he went to look at the train
indicators to make sure that he had not made a mistake. As he was reading
them once more from end to end to pass the time, the name of a place caught
his eye. He thought he knew it. It was only after a moment that he
remembered that it was where old Schulz lived, who had written him such
kind and enthusiastic letters. In his wretchedness the idea came to him of
going to see his unknown friend. The town was not on the direct line on
his way home, but a few hours away, by a little local line. It meant a
whole night's journey, with two or three changes and interminable waits.
Christophe never thought about it. He decided suddenly to go. He had an
instinctive need of clinging to sympathy of some sort. He gave himself no
time to think, and telegraphed to Schulz to say that he would arrive next
morning. Hardly had he sent the telegram than he regretted it. He laughed
bitterly at his eternal illusions. Why go to meet a new sorrow?--But it was
done now. It was too late to change his mind.
These thoughts filled his last hour of waiting--his train at last was
ready. He was the first to get into it, and he was so childish that he only
began to breathe again when the train shook, and through the carriage
window he could see the outlines of the town fading into the gray sky under
the heavy downpour of the night. He thought he must have died if he had
spent the night in it.
At the very hour--about six in the evening--a letter from Hassler came for
Christophe at his hotel. Christophe's visit stirred many things in him.
The whole afternoon he had been thinking of it bitterly, and not without
sympathy for the poor boy who had come to him with such eager affection
to be received so coldly. He was sorry for that reception and a little
angry with himself. In truth, it had been only one of those fits of sulky
whimsies to which he was subject. He thought to make it good by sending
Christophe a ticket for the opera and a few words appointing a meeting
after the performance--Christophe never knew anything about it. When he did
not see him, Hassler thought:
"He is angry. So much the worse for him!"
He shrugged his shoulders and did not wait long for him.
Next day Christophe was far away--so far that all eternity would not have
been enough to bring them together. And, they were both separated forever.
* * * * *
Peter Schulz was seventy-five. He had always had delicate health, and age
had not spared him. He was fairly tail, but stooping, and his head hung
down to his chest. He had a weak throat and difficulty in breathing.
Asthma, catarrh, bronchitis were always upon him, and the marks of the
struggles he had to make--many a night sitting up in his bed, bending
forward, dripping with sweat in the effort to force a breath of air
into his stifling lungs--were in the sorrowful lines on his long, thin,
clean-shaven face. His nose was long and a little swollen at the top. Deep
lines came from under his eyes and crossed his cheeks, that were hollow
from his toothlessness. Age and infirmity had not been the only sculptors
of that poor wreck of a man: the sorrows of life also had had their share
in its making.--And in spite of all he was not sad. There was kindness and
serenity in his large mouth. But in his eyes especially there was that
which gave a touching softness to the old face. They were light gray,
limpid, and transparent. They looked straight, calmly and frankly. They hid
nothing of the soul. Its depths could be read in them.
His life had been uneventful. He had been alone for years. His wife was
dead. She was not very good, or very intelligent, and she was not at all
beautiful. But he preserved a tender memory of her. It was twenty-five
years since he had lost her, and he had never once failed a night to have a
little imaginary conversation, sad and tender, with her before he went to
sleep. He shared all his doings with her.--He had had no children. That was
the great sorrow of his life. He had transferred his need of affection to
his pupils, to whom he was attached as a father to his sons. He had found
very little return. An old heart can feel very near to a young heart and
almost of the same age; knowing how brief are the years that lie between
them. But the young man never has any idea of that. To him an old man is a
man of another age, and besides, he is absorbed by his immediate anxieties
and instinctively turns away from the melancholy end of all his efforts.
Old Schulz had sometimes found gratitude in his pupils who were touched
by the keen and lively interest he took in everything good or ill that
happened to them. They used to come and see him from time to time. They
used to write and thank him when they left the university. Some of them
used to go on writing occasionally during the years following. And then old
Schulz would hear nothing more of them except in the papers which kept him
informed of their advancement, and he would be as glad of their success
as though it was his own. He was never hurt by their silence. He found a
thousand excuses for it. He never doubted their affection and used to
ascribe even to the most selfish the feelings that he had for them.
But his books were his greatest refuge. They neither forgot nor deceived
him. The souls which he cherished in them had risen above the flood of
time. They were inscrutable, fixed for eternity in the love they inspired
and seemed to feel, and gave forth once more to those who loved them. He
was Professor of AEsthetics and the History of Music, and he was like an old
wood quivering with the songs of birds. Some of these songs sounded very
far away. They came from the depths of the ages. But they were not the
least sweet and mysterious of all.--Others were familiar and intimate to
him, dear companions; their every phrase reminded him of the joys and
sorrows of his past life, conscious or unconscious:--(for under every day
lit by the light of the sun there are unfolded other days lit by a light
unknown)--And there were some songs that he had never yet heard, songs
which said the things that he had been long awaiting and needing; and his
heart opened to receive them like the earth to receive rain. And so old
Schulz listened, in the silence of his solitary life, to the forest filled
with birds, and, like the monk of the legend, who slept in the ecstasy of
the song of the magic bird, the years passed over him and the evening of
life was come, but still he had the heart of a boy of twenty.
He was not only rich in music. He loved the poets--old and new. He had a
predilection for those of his own country, especially for Goethe; but he
also loved those of other countries. He was a learned man and could read
several languages. In mind he was a contemporary of Herder and the great
_Weltbuerger_--the "citizens of the world" of the end of the eighteenth
century. He had lived through the years of bitter struggle which preceded
and followed seventy, and was immersed in their vast idea. And although
he adored Germany, he was not "vainglorious" about it. He thought, with
Herder, that "_among all vainglorious men, he who is vainglorious of his
nationality is the completest fool_," and, with Schiller, that "_it is a
poor ideal only to write for one nation_." And he was timid of mind, but
his heart was large, and ready to welcome lovingly everything beautiful in
the world. Perhaps he was too indulgent with mediocrity; but his instinct
never doubted as to what was the best; and if he was not strong enough
to condemn the sham artists admired by public opinion, he was always
strong enough to defend the artists of originality and power whom public
opinion disregarded. His kindness often led him astray. He was fearful of
committing any injustice, and when he did not like what others liked, he
never doubted but that it must be he who was mistaken, and he would manage
to love it. It was so sweet to him to love! Love and admiration were even
more necessary to his moral being than air to his miserable lungs. And so
how grateful he was to those who gave him a new opportunity of showing
them!--Christophe could have no idea of what his _Lieder_ had been to him.
He himself had not felt them nearly so keenly when he had written them. His
songs were to him only a few sparks thrown out from his inner fire. He had
cast them forth and would cast forth others. But to old Schulz they were a
whole world suddenly revealed to him--a whole world to be loved. His life
had been lit up by them.
* * * * *
A year before he had had to resign his position at the university. His
health, growing more and more precarious, prevented his lecturing. He was
ill and in bed when Wolf's Library had sent him as usual a parcel of the
latest music they had received, and in it were Christophe's _Lieder_. He
was alone. He was without relatives. The few that he had had were long
since dead. He was delivered into the hands of an old servant, who profited
by his weakness to make him do whatever she liked. A few friends hardly
younger than himself used to come and see him from time to time, but they
were not in very good health either, and when the weather was bad they too
stayed indoors and missed their visits. It was winter then and the streets
were covered with melting snow. Schulz had not seen anybody all day. It was
dark in the room. A yellow fog was drawn over the windows like a screen,
making it impossible to see out. The heat of the stove was thick and
oppressive. From the church hard by an old peal of bells of the seventeenth
century chimed every quarter of an hour, haltingly and horribly out of
tune, scraps of monotonous chants, which seemed grim in their heartiness to
Schulz when he was far from gay himself. He was coughing, propped up by a
heap of pillows. He was trying to read Montaigne, whom he loved; but now
he did not find as much pleasure in reading him as usual. He let the book
fall, and was breathing with difficulty and dreaming. The parcel of music
was on the bed. He had not the courage to open it. He was sad at heart. At
last he sighed, and when he had very carefully untied the string, he put
on his spectacles and began to read the pieces of music. His thoughts were
elsewhere, always returning to memories which he was trying to thrust
The book he was holding was Christophe's. His eyes fell on an old canticle
the words of which Christophe had taken from a simple, pious poet of the
seventeenth century, and had modernized them. The _Christliches Wanderlied_
(The Christian Wanderer's Song) of Paul Gerhardt.
_Hoff! O du arme Seele,
Hoff! und sei unverzagt.
Enwarte nur der Zeit,
So wirst du schon erblicken
Die Sonne der schoensten Freud._
Hope, oh! thou wretched soul,
Hope, hope and be valiant!
* * * * *
Only wait then, wait,
And surely thou shalt see
The sun of lovely Joy.
Old Schulz knew the ingenuous words, but never had they so spoken to him,
never so nearly.... It was not the tranquil piety, soothing and lulling the
soul by its monotony. It was a soul like his own. It was his own soul, but
younger and stronger, suffering, striving to hope, striving to see, and
seeing, Joy. His hands trembled, great tears trickled down his cheeks. He
_Auf! Auf! gieb deinem Schmerze
Und Sorgen gute Nacht!
Lass fahren was das Herze
Betruebt und traurig macht!_
Up! Up! and give thy sorrow
And all thy cares good-night;
And all that grieves and saddens
Thy heart be put to flight.
Christophe brought to these thoughts a boyish and valiant ardor, and the
heroic laughter in it showed forth in the last naive and confident verses:
_Bist du doch nicht Regente,
Der alles fuehren, soll,
Gott sitzt im Regimente,
Und fuehret alles wohl._
Not thou thyself art ruler
Whom all things must obey,
But God is Lord decreeing--
All follows in His way.
And when there came the superbly defiant stanzas which in his youthful
barbarian insolence he had calmly plucked from their original position in
the poem to form the conclusion of his _Lied_:
_Und obgleich alle Teufel
Hier wollten wiederstehn,
So wird doch ohne Zweifel,
Gott nicht zuruecke gehn.
Was er ihm vorgenommen,
Und was er haben will,
Das muss doch endlich Rommen
Zu seinem Zweck und Ziel._
And even though all Devils
Came and opposed his will,
There were no cause for doubting,
God will be steadfast still:
What He has undertaken,
All His divine decree--
Exactly as He ordered
At last shall all things be.
... then there were transports of delight, the intoxication of war, the
triumph of a Roman _Imperator_.
The old man trembled all over. Breathlessly he followed the impetuous music
like a child dragged along by a companion. His heart beat. Tears trickled
down. He stammered:
"Oh! My God!... Oh! My God!..."
He began to sob and he laughed; he was happy. He choked. He was attacked by
a terrible fit of coughing. Salome, the old servant, ran to him, and she
thought the old man was going to die. He went on crying, and coughing, and
saying over and over again:
"Oh! My God!... My God!..."
And in the short moments of respite between the fits of coughing he laughed
a little hysterically.
Salome thought he was going mad. When at last she understood the cause of
his agitation, she scolded him sharply:
"How can anybody get into such a state over a piece of foolery!... Give it
me! I shall take it away. You shan't see it again."
But the old man held firm, in the midst of his coughing, and he cried to
Salome to leave him alone. As she insisted, he grew angry, swore, and