Part 9 out of 11
repacked, the inn-keeper was paid, the postilion dismissed, and, without
too great anxiety over her toilet, she herself made ready, and drove off
in high spirits to the palace, never guessing in what a strange fashion
her spouse had introduced himself there.
He, meanwhile, was most comfortably and delightfully entertained. He had
met Eugenie, a most lovely creature, fair and slender, gay in shining
crimson silk and costly lace, with a white ribbon studded with pearls in
her hair. The Baron, too, was presented, a man of gentle and frank
disposition, but little older than his fiancee and seemingly well suited
The jovial host, almost too generous with his jests and stories, led the
conversation; refreshments were offered, which our traveler did not
refuse. Then some one opened the piano, upon which _Figaro_ was lying,
and Eugenie began to sing, to the Baron's accompaniment, Susanne's
passionate aria in the garden scene. The embarrassment which for a
moment made her bright color come and go, fled with the first notes from
her lips, and she sang as if inspired.
Mozart was evidently surprised. As she finished he went to her with
unaffected pleasure. "How can one praise you, dear child," he said.
"Such singing is like the sunshine, which praises itself best because it
does every one good. It is to the soul like a refreshing bath to a
child; he laughs, and wonders, and is content. Not every day, I assure
you, do we composers hear ourselves sung with such purity
and simplicity--with such perfection!" and he seized her hand
and kissed it heartily. Mozart's amiability and kindness, no less than
his high appreciation of her talent, touched Eugenie deeply, and her
eyes filled with tears of pleasure.
At that moment Madame Mozart entered, and immediately after appeared
other guests who had been expected--a family of distant relatives, of
whom one, Franziska, had been from childhood Eugenie's intimate friend.
When all the greetings and congratulations were over, Mozart seated
himself at the piano. He played a part of one of his concertos, which
Eugenie happened to be learning. It was a great delight to have the
artist and his genius so near--within one's own walls. The composition
was one of those brilliant ones in which pure Beauty, in a fit of
caprice, seems to have lent herself to the service of Elegance, but,
only half disguised in changing forms and dazzling lights, betrays in
every movement her own nobility and pours out lavishly her glorious
The Countess noticed that most of the listeners, even Eugenie herself,
were divided between seeing and hearing, although they gave the close
attention and kept the perfect silence which were due to such enchanting
playing. Indeed it was not easy to resist a throng of distracting and
wondering thoughts as one watched the composer--his erect, almost stiff
position, his good-natured face, the graceful movements of his small
hands and curved fingers.
Turning to Madame Mozart, as the playing ceased, the Count began: "When
it is necessary to give a compliment to a composer--not everybody's
business--how easy it is for kings and emperors. All words are equally
good and equally extraordinary in their mouths; they dare to say
whatever they please. And how comfortable it must be, for instance, to
sit close behind Herr Mozart's chair, and, at the final chord of a
brilliant Fantasia, to clap the modest and learned man on the shoulder
and say: 'My dear Mozart, you are a Jack-at-all-trades!' And the word goes
like wild-fire through the hall: 'What did he say?' 'He said Mozart was a
Jack-at-all-trades!' and everybody who fiddles or pipes a song or
composes is enraptured over the expression. In short, that is the way of
the great, the familiar manner of the emperors, and quite inimitable. I
have always envied the Friedrichs and the Josefs that faculty, but never
more than now when I quite despair of finding in my mind's pockets the
The Count's jest provoked a laugh, as usual, and the guests followed
their hostess toward the dining-hall, where the fragrance of flowers and
refreshingly cool air greeted them. They took their places at the table,
Mozart opposite Eugenie and the Baron. His neighbor on one side was a
little elderly lady, an unmarried aunt of Franziska's; on the other side
was the charming young niece who soon commended herself to him by her
wit and gaiety. Frau Constanze sat between the host and her friendly
guide, the Lieutenant. The lower end of the table was empty. In the
centre stood two large _epergnes_, heaped with fruits and flowers. The
walls were hung with rich festoons, and all the appointments indicated
an extensive banquet. Upon tables and side-boards were the choicest
wines, from the deepest red to the pale yellow, whose sparkling foam
crowns the second half of the feast. For some time the conversation,
carried on from all sides, had been general. But when the Count, who,
from the first, had been hinting at Mozart's adventure in the garden,
came mysteriously nearer and nearer to it, so that some were smiling,
others puzzling their brains to know what it all meant, Mozart at last
took the cue.
"I will truthfully confess," he began, "how I came to have the honor of
an acquaintance with this noble house. I do not play a very dignified
role in the tale; in fact, I came within a hair's breadth of sitting,
not here at this bountiful table, but hungry and alone in the most
remote dungeon of the palace, watching the spider-webs on the wall."
"It must, indeed, be a pretty story," cried Madame Mozart.
Then Mozart related minutely all that we already know, to the great
entertainment of his audience. There was no end to the merriment, even
the gentle Eugenie shaking with uncontrollable laughter.
"Well," he went on, "according to the proverb I need not mind your
laughter, for I have made my small profit out of the affair, as you will
soon see. But first hear how it happened that an old fellow could so
forget himself. A reminiscence of my childhood was to blame for it.
"In the spring of 1770, a thirteen-year-old boy, I traveled with my
father in Italy. We went from Rome to Naples, where I had already played
twice in the conservatory and several times in other places.
"The nobility and clergy had shown us many attentions, but especially
attracted to us was a certain Abbe, who flattered himself that he was a
connoisseur, and who, moreover, had some influence at court. The day
before we left he conducted us, with some other acquaintances, into a
royal garden, the Villa Reale, situated upon a beautiful street, close
to the sea. A company of Sicilian comedians were performing there--'Sons
of Neptune' was one of the many names they gave themselves.
"With many distinguished spectators, among whom were the young and
lovely Queen Carolina and two princesses, we sat on benches ranged in
long rows in a gallery shaded with awnings, while the waves splashed
against the wall below. The many-colored sea reflected the glorious
heavens; directly before us rose Vesuvius; on the left gleamed the
gentle curve of the shore.
"The first part of the entertainment was rather uninteresting. A float
which lay on the water had served as a stage. But the second part
consisted of rowing, swimming, and diving, and every detail has always
remained fresh in my memory.
"From opposite sides of the water two graceful light boats approached
each other, bent, as it seemed, upon a pleasure-trip. The larger one,
gorgeously painted, with a gilded prow, was provided with a
quarter-deck, and had, besides the rowers' seats, a slender mast and a
sail. Five youths, ideally handsome, with bared shoulders and limbs,
were busy about the boat, or were amusing themselves with a like number
of maidens, their sweethearts. One of these, who was sitting in the
centre of the deck twining wreaths of flowers, was noticeable as well
for her beauty as for her dress. The others waited upon her, stretched
an awning to shield her from the sun, and passed her flowers from the
basket. One, a flute player, sat at her feet, and accompanied with her
clear tones the singing of the others. The beauty in the centre had her
own particular admirer; yet the pair seemed rather indifferent to each
other, and I thought the youth almost rude.
"Meanwhile the other boat had come nearer. It was more simply fashioned,
and carried youths only. The colors of the first boat were red, but the
crew of this one wore green. They stopped at sight of the others, nodded
greetings to the maidens, and made signs that they wished to become
better acquainted. Thereupon the liveliest of the girls took a rose from
her bosom, and roguishly held it on high, as if to ask whether such a
gift would be welcome. She was answered with enthusiasm. The red youths
looked on, sullen and contemptuous, but could not object when several of
the maidens proposed to throw to the poor strangers at least enough to
keep them from starving. A basket of oranges--probably only yellow
balls--stood on deck; and now began a charming display, accompanied by
music from the quay.
"One of the girls tossed from light fingers a couple of oranges; back
they came from fingers in the other boat, as light. On they went, back
and forth, and as one girl after another joined in the sport dozens of
oranges were soon flying through the air. Only one, the beauty in the
middle of the boat, took no part, except to look on, curiously, from
her comfortable couch. We could not sufficiently admire the skill on
both sides. The boats circled slowly about, turning now the prow, now
the sides, toward each other. There were about two dozen balls
continually in the air, yet they seemed many more, sometimes falling in
regular figures, sometimes rising high in lofty curves, almost never
going astray, but seeming to be attracted by some mysterious power in
the outstretched hands.
"The ear was quite as well entertained as the eye--with charming
melodies, Sicilian airs, dances, Saltorelli, _Canzoni a ballo_--a long
medley woven together like a garland. The youngest princess, an
impulsive little creature, about my own age, kept nodding her head in
time to the music. Her smile and her eyes with their long lashes I can
see to this day.
"Now let me briefly describe the rest of the entertainment, though it
has nothing to do with my affair in the garden. You could hardly imagine
anything prettier. The play with the balls gradually ceased, and then,
all of a sudden, one of the youths of the green colors drew out of the
water a net with which he seemed to have been playing. To the general
surprise, a huge shining fish lay in it. The boy's companions sprang to
seize it, but it slipped from their hands to the sea, as if it had
really been alive. This was only a ruse, however, to lure the red youths
from their boat; and they fell into the trap. They, as well as those of
the green, threw themselves into the water after the fish. So began a
lively and most amusing chase. At last the green swimmers, seeing their
opportunity, boarded the red boat, which now had only the maidens to
defend it. The noblest of the enemy, as handsome as a god, hastened
joyfully to the beautiful maiden, who received him with rapture,
heedless of the despairing shrieks of the others. All efforts of the red
to recover their boat were vain; they were beaten back with oars and
weapons. Their futile rage and struggles, the cries and prayers of the
maidens, the music--now changed in tone--the waters--all made a scene
beyond description, and the audience applauded wildly. Then suddenly the
sail was loosed, and out of it sprang to the bowsprit a rosy,
silver-winged boy, with bow and arrows and quiver; the oars began to
move, the sail filled, and the boat glided away, as if under the
guidance of the god, to a little island. Thither, after signals of truce
had been exchanged, the red youths hastened after boarding the deserted
boat. The unhappy maidens were released, but the fairest one of all
sailed away, of her own free will, with her lover. And that was the end
of the comedy."
"I think," whispered Eugenie to the Baron, in the pause that followed,
"that we had there a complete symphony in the true Mozart spirit. Am I
not right? Hasn't it just the grace of _Figaro_?"
But just as the Baron would have repeated this remark to Mozart, the
composer continued: "It is seventeen years since I was in Italy. But who
that has once seen Italy, Naples especially, even with the eyes of a
child, will ever forget it? Yet I have never recalled that last
beautiful day more vividly than today in your garden. When I closed my
eyes the last veil vanished, and I saw the lovely spot--sea and shore,
mountain and city, the gay throng of people, and the wonderful game of
ball. I seemed to hear the same music--a stream of joyful melodies, old
and new, strange and familiar, one after another. Presently a little
dance-song came along, in six-eighth measure, something quite new to me.
Hold on, I thought, that is a devilishly cute little tune! I listened
more closely. Good Heavens! That is Masetto, that is Zerlina!" He smiled
and nodded at Madame Mozart, who guessed what was coming.
"It was this way," he went on; "there was a little, simple number of my
first act unfinished--the duet and chorus of a country wedding. Two
months ago, when in composing my score I came to this number, the right
theme did not present itself at the first attempt. It should be a simple
child-like melody, sparkling with joy--a fresh bunch of flowers tucked
in among a maiden's fluttering ribbons. So, because one should not
force such a thing, and because such trifles often come of themselves, I
left that number, and was so engrossed in the rest of the work that I
almost forgot it. Today, while we were driving along, just outside the
village, the text came into my head; but I cannot remember that I
thought much about it. Yet, only an hour later, in the arbor by the
fountain, I caught just the right _motif_, more happily than I could
have found it in any other way, at any other time. An artist has strange
experiences now and then, but such a thing never happened to me be fore.
For to find a melody exactly fitted to the verse--but I must not
anticipate. The bird had only his head out of the shell, and I proceeded
to pull off the rest of it! Meantime Zerlina's dance floated before my
eyes, and, somehow, too, the view on the Gulf of Naples. I heard the
voices of the bridal couple, and the chorus of peasants, men and girls."
Here Mozart gayly hummed the beginning of the song. "Meantime my hands
had done the mischief, Nemesis was lurking near, and suddenly appeared
in the shape of the dreadful man in livery. Had an eruption of Vesuvius
suddenly destroyed and buried with its rain of ashes audience and
actors, the whole majesty of Parthenope, on that heavenly day by the
sea, I could not have been more surprised or horrified. The fiend!
People do not easily make me so hot! His face was as hard as bronze--and
very like the terrible Emperor Tiberius, too! If the servant looks like
that, thought I, what must His Grace the Count be! But to tell the truth
I counted--and not without reason--on the protection of the ladies. For
I overheard the fat hostess of the inn telling my wife, Constanze there,
who is somewhat curious in disposition, all the most interesting facts
about the family, and so I knew--"
Here Madame Mozart had to interrupt him and give them most positive
assurance that he was the one who asked the questions, and a lively and
amusing discussion followed.
"However that may be," he said at last, "I heard something about a
favorite foster-daughter who, besides being beautiful, was goodness
itself, and sang like an angel. '_Per Dio_!' I said to myself, as I
remembered that, 'that will help you out of your scrape! Sit down and
write out the song as far as you can, explain your behavior truthfully,
and they will think it all a good joke.' No sooner said than done! I had
time enough, and found a blank piece of paper--and here is the result! I
place it in these fair hands, an impromptu wedding-song, if you will
He held out the neatly written manuscript toward Eugenie, but the Count
anticipated her, and quickly taking it himself, said: "Have patience a
moment longer, my dear!"
At his signal the folding-doors of the salon opened, and servants
appeared, bringing in the fateful orange-tree, which they put at the
foot of the table, placing on each side a slender myrtle-tree. An
inscription fastened to the orange-tree proclaimed it the property of
Eugenie; but in front of it, upon a porcelain plate, was seen, as the
napkin which covered it was lifted, an orange, cut in pieces, and beside
it the count placed Mozart's autograph note.
"I believe," said the Countess, after the mirth had subsided, "that
Eugenie does not know what that tree really is. She does not recognize
her old friend with all its fruit and blossoms."
Incredulous, Eugenie looked first at the tree, then at her uncle. "It
isn't possible," she said; "I knew very well that it couldn't be saved."
"And so you think that we have found another to take its place? That
would have been worth while! No! I shall have to do as they do in the
play, when the long-lost son or brother proves his identity by his moles
and scars! Look at that knot, and at this crack, which you must have
noticed a hundred times. Is it your tree or isn't it?"
Eugenie could doubt no longer, and her surprise and delight knew no
bounds. To the Count's family this tree always suggested the story of a
most excellent woman, who lived more than a hundred years before their
day, and who well deserves a word in passing.
The Count's grandfather--a statesman of such repute in Vienna that he
had been honored with the confidence of two successive rulers--was as
happy in his private life as in his public life; for he possessed a most
excellent wife, Renate Leonore. During her repeated visits to France she
came in contact with the brilliant court of Louis XIV., and with the
most distinguished men and women of the day. She sympathized with the
ever-varying intellectual pleasures of the court without sacrificing in
the least her strong, inborn sense of honor and propriety. On this very
account, perhaps, she was the leader of a certain naive opposition, and
her correspondence gives many a hint of the courage and independence
with which she could defend her sound principles and firm opinions, and
could attack her adversary in his weakest spot, all without giving
Her lively interest in all the personages whom one could meet at the
house of a Ninon, in the centres of cultivation and learning, was
nevertheless so modest and so well controlled that she was honored with
the friendship of one of the noblest women of the time--Mme. de Sevigne.
The Count, after his grandmother's death, had found in an old oaken
chest, full of interesting papers, the most charming letters from the
Marquise and her daughter.
From the hand of Mme. de Sevigne, indeed, she had received, during a
fete at Trianon, the sprig from an orange-tree, which she had planted
and which became in Germany a flourishing tree. For perhaps twenty-five
years it grew under her care, and afterward was treated with the
greatest solicitude by children and grandchildren. Prized for its own
actual worth, it was treasured the more as the living symbol of an age
which, intellectually, was then regarded as little less than divine--an
age in which we, today, can find little that is truly admirable, but
which was preparing the way for events, only a few years distant from
our innocent story, which shook the world.
To the bequest of her excellent ancestor Eugenie showed much devotion,
and her uncle had often said that the tree should some day belong to
her. The greater was her disappointment then, when, during her absence
in the preceding spring, the leaves of the precious tree began to turn
yellow and many branches died. The gardener gave it up for lost, since
he could find no particular cause for its fading, and did not succeed in
reviving it. But the Count, advised by a skilful friend, had it placed
in a room by itself and treated according to one of the strange and
mysterious prescriptions which exist among the country folk, and his
hope of surprising his beloved niece with her old friend in all its new
strength and fruitfulness was realized beyond expectation. Repressing
his impatience, and anxious, moreover, lest those oranges which had
ripened first should fall from the tree, he had postponed the surprise
for several weeks, until the day of the betrothal; and there is no need
of further excuse for the good man's emotion, when, at the last moment,
he found that a stranger had robbed him of his pleasure.
But the Lieutenant had long before dinner found opportunity to arrange
his poetical contribution to the festive presentation, and had altered
the close of his verses, which might otherwise have been almost too
serious. Now he rose and drew forth his manuscript, and, turning to
Eugenie, began to read.
The oft-sung tree of the Hesperides--so ran the story--sprang up, ages
ago, in the garden of Juno on a western island, as a wedding gift from
Mother Earth, and was watched over by three nymphs, gifted with song. A
shoot from this tree had often wished for a similar fate, for the custom
of bestowing one of his race on a royal bride had descended from gods to
mortals. After long and vain waiting, the maiden to whom he might turn
his fond glances seemed at last to be found. She was kind to him and
lingered by him often. But the proud laurel (devoted to the Muses), his
neighbor beside the spring, roused his jealousy by threatening to steal
from the talented beauty all thought of love for man. In vain the myrtle
comforted him and taught him patience by her own example; finally the
absence of his beloved increased his malady till it became well-nigh
But summer brought back the absent one, and, happily, with a changed
heart. Town, palace, and garden received her with the greatest joy.
Roses and lilies, more radiant than ever, looked up with modest rapture;
shrubs and trees nodded greetings to her; but for one, the noblest, she
came alas! too late. His leaves were withered, and only the lifeless
stem and the dry tips of his branches were left. He would never know his
kind friend again. And how she wept and mourned over him!
But Apollo heard her voice from afar, and, coming nearer, looked with
compassion upon her grief. He touched the tree with his all-healing
hands. Immediately the sap began to stir and rise in the trunk; young
leaves unfolded; white, nectar-laden flowers opened here and there.
Yes--for what cannot the immortals do-the beautiful, round fruits
appeared, three times three, the number of the nine sisters; they grew
and grew, their young green changing before his eyes to the color of
gold. Phoebus--so ended the poem--
Phoebus, in his work rejoicing,
Counts the fruit; but, ah! the sight
Tempts him. In another moment
Doth he yield to appetite.
Smiling, plucks the god of music
One sweet orange from the tree
"Share with me the fruit, thou fair one,
And this, slice shall Amor's be."
The verses were received with shouts of applause, and Max was readily
pardoned for the unexpected ending which had so completely altered the
really charming effect which he had made in the first version.
Franziska, whose ready wit had already been called out by the Count and
Mozart, suddenly left the table, and returning brought with her a large
old English engraving which had hung, little heeded, in a distant room.
"It must be true, as I have always heard, that there is nothing new
under the sun," she cried, as she set up the picture at the end of the
table. "Here in the Golden Age is the same scene which we have heard
about today. I hope that Apollo will recognize himself in this
"Excellent," answered Max. "There we have the god just as he is bending
thoughtfully over the sacred spring. And, look! behind him in the
thicket is an old Satyr watching him. I would take my oath that Apollo
is thinking of some long-forgotten Acadian dances which old Chiron
taught him to play on the cithern when he was young."
"Exactly," applauded Franziska, who was standing behind Mozart's chair.
Turning to him, she continued, "Do you see that bough heavy with fruit,
bending down toward the god?"
"Yes; that is the olive-tree, which was sacred to him."
"Not at all. Those are the finest oranges. And in a moment--in a fit of
abstraction--he will pick one."
"Instead," cried Mozart, "he will stop this roguish mouth with a
thousand kisses." And catching her by the arm he vowed that she should
not go until she had paid the forfeit--which was promptly done.
"Max, read us what is written beneath the picture," said the Countess.
"They are verses from a celebrated ode of Horace. The poet Ramler,
of Berlin, made a fine translation of them a while ago. It is in most
beautiful rhythm. How splendid is even this one passage:
"--And he, who never more
Will from his shoulders lay aside the bow,
Who in the pure dew of Castalia's fountain
Laves loosened hair; who holds the Lycian thicket
And his own native wood--
Apollo! Delian and Patarean King."
"Beautiful!" exclaimed the Count, "but it needs a little explanation
here and there. For instance, 'He who will never lay aside the bow,'
would, of course, mean in plain prose, 'He who was always a most
diligent fiddler.' But, Mozart, you are sowing discord in two gentle
"Eugenie is envying her friend--and with good reason."
"Ah! you have discovered my weak point. But what would the Herr Baron
"I could forgive for once."
"Very well, then; I shall not neglect my opportunity. But you need not
be alarmed, Herr Baron. There is no danger as long as the god does not
lend me his countenance and his long yellow hair. I wish he would. I
would give him on the spot Mozart's braid and his very best hair-ribbon
"Apollo would have to be careful, in future, how he gracefully laved his
new French finery in the Castalian fountain," laughed Franziska.
With such exchange of jests the merriment grew; the wines were passed,
many a toast was offered, and Mozart soon fell into his way of talking
in rhyme. The Lieutenant was an able second, and his father, also, would
not be outdone; indeed, once or twice the latter succeeded remarkably
well. But such conversations cannot well be repeated, because the very
elements which make them irresistible at the time--the gaiety of the
mood and the charm of personality in word and look--are lacking.
Among the toasts was one proposed by Franziska's aunt--that Mozart
should live to write many more immortal works. "Exactly! I am with you
in that," cried Mozart, and they eagerly touched glasses. Then the Count
began to sing--with much power and certainty, thanks to his inspiration:
"Here's to Mozart's latest score;
May he write us many more."
"Works, da Ponte, such as you
(Mighty Schikaneder, too),"
"And Mozart, even, until now
Never thought of once, I vow."
"Works that you shall live to see,
Great arch-thief of Italy;
That shall drive you to despair,
Clever Signor Bonbonniere."
"You may have a hundred years,"
"Unless you with all your wares,"
_All three, con forza_.
"Straight _zum Teufel_ first repair,
Clever Monsieur Bonbonniere."
The Count was loth to stop singing, and the last four lines of the
impromptu terzetto suddenly became a so-called "endless canon," and
Franziska's aunt had wit and confidence enough to add all sorts of
ornamentation in her quavering soprano. Mozart promised afterward to
write out the song at leisure, according to the rules of the art, and he
did send it to the Count after he returned to Vienna.
Eugenie had long ago quietly examined her inheritance from the
shrubbery of "Tiberius," and presently some one asked to hear the new
duet from her and Mozart. The uncle was glad to join in the chorus, and
all rose and hastened to the piano, in the large salon.
The charming composition aroused the greatest enthusiasm; but its very
character was a temptation to put music to another use, and indeed it
was Mozart himself who gave the signal, as he left the piano, to ask
Franziska for a waltz, while Max took up his violin. The Count was not
slow in doing the honors for Madame Mozart, and one after another joined
in the dance. Even Franziska's aunt became young again as she trod the
minuet with the gallant Lieutenant. Finally, as Mozart and the fair
Eugenie finished the last dance, he claimed his promised privilege.
It was now almost sunset, and the garden was cool and pleasant. There
the Countess invited the ladies to rest and refresh themselves, while
the Count led the way to the billiard room, for Mozart was known to be
fond of the game.
We will follow the ladies.
After they had walked about they ascended a little slope, half inclosed
by a high vine-covered trellis. From the hill they could look off into
the fields, and down into the streets of the village. The last rosy rays
of sunlight shone in through the leaves.
"Could we not sit here for a little," suggested the Countess, "if Madame
Mozart would tell us about herself and her husband?"
Madame Mozart was willing enough, and her eager listeners drew their
chairs close about her.
"I will tell you a story that you must know in order to understand a
little plan of mine. I wish to give to the Baroness-to-be a souvenir of
a very unusual kind. It is no article of luxury or of fashion but it is
interesting solely because of its history."
"What can it be, Eugenie?" asked Franziska. "Perhaps the ink-bottle of
some famous man." "Not a bad guess. You shall see the treasure within
an hour; it is in my trunk. Now for the story and with your permission
it shall begin back a year or more.
"The winter before last, Mozart's health caused me much anxiety, on
account of his increasing nervousness and despondency. Although he was
now and then in unnaturally high spirits when in company, yet at home he
was generally silent and depressed, or sighing and ailing. The physician
recommended dieting and exercise in the country. But his patient paid
little heed to the good advice; it was not easy to follow a prescription
which took so much time and was so directly contrary to all his plans
and habits. Then the doctor frightened him with a long lecture on
breathing, the human blood, corpuscles, phlogiston, and such unheard-of
things; there were dissertations on Nature and her purposes in eating,
drinking, and digestion--a subject of which Mozart was, till then, as
ignorant as a five-year-old child.
"The lesson made a distinct impression. For the doctor had hardly been
gone a half hour when I found my husband, deep in thought but of a
cheerful countenance, sitting in his room and examining a walking-stick
which he had ferreted out of a closet full of old things. I supposed
that he had entirely forgotten it. It was a handsome stick, with a large
head of lapis lazuli, and had belonged to my father. But no one had ever
before seen a cane in Mozart's hand, and I had to laugh at him.
"'You see,' he cried, 'I have surrendered myself to my cure, with all
its appurtenances. I will drink the water, and take exercise every day
in the open air, with this stick as my companion. I have been thinking
about it; there is our neighbor, the privy-councilor, who cannot even
cross the street to visit his best friend without his cane; tradesmen
and officers, chancellors and shop-keepers, when they go with their
families on Sunday for a stroll in the country, carry each one his
trusty cane. And I have noticed how in the Stephansplatz, a quarter of
an hour before church or court, the worthy citizens stand talking in
groups and leaning on their stout sticks, which, one can see, are the
firm supports of their industry, order, and tranquillity. In short, this
old-fashioned and rather homely custom must be a blessing and a comfort.
You may not believe it, but I am really impatient to go off with this
good friend for my first constitutional across the bridge. We are
already slightly acquainted, and I hope that we are partners for life.'
"The partnership was but a brief one, however. On the third day of their
strolls the companion failed to return. Another was procured, and lasted
somewhat longer; and, at any rate, I was thankful to Mozart's sudden
fancy for canes, since it helped him for three whole weeks to carry out
the doctor's instructions. Good results began to appear; we had almost
never seen him so bright and cheerful. But after a while the fancy
passed, and I was in despair again. Then it happened that, after a very
fatiguing day, he went with some friends who were passing through Vienna
to a musical soiree. He promised faithfully that he would stay but an
hour, but those are always the occasions when people most abuse his
kindness, once he is seated at the piano and lost in music; for he sits
there like a man in a balloon, miles above the earth, where one cannot
hear the clocks strike. I sent twice for him, in the middle of the
night; but the servant could not even get a word with him. At last, at
three in the morning, he came home, and I made up my mind that I must be
very severe with him all day."
Here Madame Mozart passed over some circumstances in silence. It was not
unlikely that the Signora Malerbi (a woman with whom Frau Constanze had
good reason to be angry) would have gone also to this soiree. The young
Roman singer had, through Mozart's influence, obtained a place in the
opera, and without doubt her coquetry had assisted her in winning his
favor. Indeed, some gossips would have it that she had made a conquest
of him, and had kept him for months on the rack. However that may have
been, she conducted herself afterward in the most impertinent and
ungrateful manner, and even permitted herself to jest at the expense of
her benefactor. So it was quite like her to speak of Mozart to one of
her more fortunate admirers as _un piccolo grifo raso_ (a little
well-shaven pig). The comparison, worthy of a Circe, was the more
irritating because one must confess that it contained a grain of truth.
As Mozart was returning from this soiree (at which, as it happened, the
singer was not present), a somewhat excited friend was so indiscreet as
to repeat to him the spiteful remark. It was the more amazing to him
because it was the first unmistakable proof of the utter ingratitude of
his protegee. In his great indignation he did not notice the extreme
coolness of Frau Constanze's reception. Without stopping to take breath
he poured out his grievance, and well-nigh roused her pity; yet she held
conscientiously to her determination that he should not so easily escape
punishment. So when he awoke from a sound sleep shortly after noon, he
found neither wife nor children at home, and the table was spread for
Ever since Mozart's marriage there had been little which could make him
so unhappy as any slight cloud between his better half and himself. If
he had only known how heavy an anxiety had burdened her during the past
few days! But, as usual, she had put off as long as possible the
unpleasant communication. Her money was now almost spent, and there was
no prospect that they should soon have more. Although Mozart did not
guess this state of affairs, yet his heart sank with discouragement and
uncertainty. He did not wish to eat; he could not stay in the house. He
dressed himself quickly, to go out into the air. On the table he left an
open note in Italian:
"You have taken a fair revenge, and treated me quite as I deserved.
But be kind and smile again when I come home, I beg you. I should like
to turn Carthusian or Trappist and make amends for my sins."
Then he took his hat, but not his cane--that had had its
day--and set off.
Since we have excused Frau Constanze from telling so much of her story
we may as well spare her a little longer. The good man sauntered along
past the market toward the armory--it was a warm, sunshiny, summer
afternoon--and slowly and thoughtfully crossed the Hof, and, turning to
the left, climbed the Moelkenbastei, thus avoiding the greetings of
several acquaintances who were just entering the town.
Although the silent sentinel who paced up and down beside the cannon did
not disturb him, he stopped but a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful
view across the green meadows and over the suburbs to the Kahlenberg.
The peaceful calm of nature was too little in sympathy with his
thoughts. With a sigh he set out across the esplanade, and so went on,
without any particular aim, through the Alser-Vorstadt.
At the end of Waehringer Street there was an inn, with a bowling alley;
the proprietor, a master rope-maker, was as well known for his good beer
as for the excellence of his ropes. Mozart heard the balls and saw a
dozen or more guests within. A half-unconscious desire to forget himself
among natural and unassuming people moved him to enter the garden. He
sat down at one of the tables--but little shaded by the small
trees--with an inspector of the water-works and two other Philistines,
ordered his glass of beer, joined in their conversation, and watched the
Not far from the bowling-ground, toward the house, was the open shop of
the rope-maker. It was a small room, full to overflowing; for, besides
the necessaries of his trade, he had for sale all kinds of dishes and
utensils for kitchen, cellar, and farm-oil and wagon grease, also seeds
of various kinds, and dill and cheap brandy. A girl, who had to serve
the guests and at the same time attend to the shop, was busy with a
countryman, who, leading his little boy by the hand, had just stepped up
to make a few purchases--a measure for fruit, a brush, a whip. He
would choose one article, try it, lay it down, take up a second and a
third, and go back, uncertainly, to the first one; he could not decide
upon any one. The girl went off several times to wait on the guests,
came back, and with the utmost patience helped him make his choice.
Mozart, on a bench near the alley, saw and heard, with great amusement,
all that was going on. As much as he was interested in the good,
sensible girl, with her calm and earnest countenance, he was still more
entertained by the countryman who, even after he had gone, left Mozart
much to think about. The master, for the time being, had changed places
with him; he felt how important in his eyes was the small transaction,
how anxiously and conscientiously the prices, differing only by a few
kreutzers, were considered. "Now," he thought, "the man will go home to
his wife and tell her of his purchases, and the children will all wait
until the sack is opened, to see if it holds anything for them; while
the good wife will hasten to bring the supper and the mug of fresh
home-brewed cider, for which her husband has been keeping his appetite
all day. If only I could be as happy and independent waiting only on
Nature, and enjoying her blessings though they be hard to win! But if my
art demands of me a different kind of work, that I would not, after all,
exchange for anything in the world, why should I meanwhile remain in
circumstances which are just the opposite of such a simple and innocent
life? If I had a little land in a pleasant spot near the village, and a
little house, then I could really live. In the mornings I could work
diligently at my scores; all the rest of the time I could spend with my
family. I could plant trees, visit my garden, in the fall gather apples
and pears with my boys, now and then take a trip to town for an opera,
or have a friend or two with me--what delight! Well, who knows what may
He walked up to the shop, spoke to the girl, and began to examine her
stock more closely. His mind had not quite descended from its idyllic
flight, and the clean, smooth, shining wood, with its fresh smell,
attracted him. It suddenly occurred to him that he would pick out
several articles for his wife, such as she might need or might like to
have. At his suggestion, Constanze had, a long time ago, rented a little
piece of ground outside the Kaernthner Thor, and had raised a few
vegetables; so now it seemed quite fitting to invest in a long rake and
a small rake and a spade. Then, as he looked further, he did honor to
his principles of economy by denying himself, with an effort and after
some deliberation, a most tempting churn. To make up for this, however,
he chose a deep dish with a cover and a prettily carved handle; for it
seemed a most useful article. It was made of narrow strips of wood,
light and dark, and was carefully varnished. There was also a
particularly fine choice of spoons, bread-boards, and plates of all
sizes, and a salt-box of simple construction to hang on the wall.
At last he spied a stout stick, which had a handle covered with leather
and studded with brass nails. As the strange customer seemed somewhat
undecided about this also, the girl remarked with a smile that that was
hardly a suitable stick for a gentleman to carry. "You are right,
child," he answered. "I think I have seen butchers carry such sticks.
No, I will not have it. But all the other things which we have laid out
you may bring to me today or tomorrow." And he gave his name and
address. Then he went back to the table to finish his beer. Only one of
his former companions was sitting there, a master-tinker.
"The girl there has had a good day for once," he remarked. "Her uncle
gives her a commission on all that she sells."
Mozart was now more pleased with his purchase than ever. But his
interest was to become still greater. For, in a moment, as the girl
passed near, the tinker called out, "Well, Crescenz, how is your friend
the locksmith? Will he soon be filing his own iron?" "Oh," she answered
without stopping, "that iron is still growing deep in the mountain."
"She is a good goose," said the tinsmith. "For a long time she kept
house for her stepfather, and took care of him when he was ill; but
after he died it came out that he had spent all her money. Since that
she has lived with her uncle, and she is a treasure, in the shop, in the
inn, and with the children. There is a fine young apprentice who would
have liked to marry her long ago, but there is a hitch somewhere."
"How so? Has he nothing to live on?"
"They both have saved a little, but not enough. Now comes word of a good
situation and a part of a house in Ghent. Her uncle could easily lend
them the little money that they need, but of course he will not let her
go. He has good friends in the council and in the union, and the young
fellow is meeting with all sorts of difficulties."
"The wretches!" cried Mozart, so loud that the other looked around
anxiously, fearing that they might have been overheard. "And is there no
one who could speak the right word or show those fellows a fist? The
villains! We will get the best of them yet."
The tinker was on thorns. He tried, clumsily enough, to moderate his
statements, and almost contradicted himself. But Mozart would not
listen. "Shame on you, how you chatter! That's just the way with all of
you as soon as you have to answer for anything!" And with that he turned
on his heel and left the astonished tinker. He hastened to the girl, who
was busy with new guests: "Come early tomorrow, and give my respects to
your good friend. I hope that your affairs will prosper." She was too
busy and too much surprised to thank him.
He retraced his way to the city at a quick pace, for the incident had
stirred his blood. Wholly occupied with the affairs of the poor young
couple, he ran over in his mind a list of his friends and acquaintances
who might be able to help them. Then, since it was necessary to have
more particulars from the girl before he could decide upon any step, he
dismissed the subject from his thoughts and hastened eagerly toward
He confidently expected a more than cordial welcome and a kiss at the
door, and longing redoubled his haste. Presently the postman called to
him and handed him a small but heavy parcel, which was addressed in a
fair clear hand which he at once recognized. He stepped into the first
shop to give the messenger his receipt, but when once in the street
again his impatience was not to be checked, so he broke the seal, and,
now walking, now standing still, devoured his letter.
"I was sitting at my sewing-table," continued Madame Mozart, in her
story, "and heard my husband come upstairs and ask the servant for me.
His step and tone were more cheerful and gay than I had expected, and
more so than I quite liked. He went first to his room, but came
immediately to me. 'Good-evening!' he said. I answered him quietly,
without looking up. After walking across the room once or twice, with a
smothered yawn he took up the fly-clap from behind the door--a most
unusual proceeding--and remarking, 'Where do all these flies come from?'
began to slap about, as loudly as possible. The noise is particularly
unpleasant to him, and I had been careful not to let him hear it. 'H'm,'
I thought, 'when he does it himself it's another matter.' Besides, I had
not noticed many flies. His strange behavior vexed me much. 'Six at a
blow!' he cried. 'Do you see?' No answer. Then he laid something on the
table before me, so near that I could not help seeing it without lifting
my eyes from my work. It was nothing less than a heap of ducats. He kept
on with his nonsense behind my back, talking to himself, and giving a
slap now and then. 'The disagreeable good-for-nothing beasts! What were
they put in the world for"' _Pitsch_. 'To be killed, I suppose!'
_Patsch_. 'Natural history teaches us how rapidly their numbers
multiply.' _Pitsch, patsch_. 'In my house they are soon dispatched. Ah,
_maledette! disperate_! Here are twenty more. Do you want them?'
And he came and laid down another pile of gold. I had had hard work to
keep from laughing, and could hold out no longer. He fell on my neck and
we laughed as if for a wager.
"'But where did the money come from' I asked, as he shook the last
pieces from the roll. 'From Prince Esterhazy,rough Haydn. Read the
letter.' I read:
"'_My good friend_.--His Highness has, to my great delight, intrusted
me with the errand of sending to you these 60 ducats. We have been
playing your quartettes again, and his Highness was even more charmed
and delighted than at the first hearing, three months ago. He said to
me (I must write it word for word): "When Mozart dedicated these
works to you, he thought to honor you alone. Yet he cannot take it
amiss if I find in them a compliment to myself also. Tell him that I
think as highly of his genius as you do, and more than that he could not
wish." "Amen," said I. Are you satisfied?
"'_Postscript_ (for the ear of the good wife).--Take care that the
acknowledgment be not too long delayed. A note from Mozart himself
would be best. We must not lose so favorable a breeze.'
"'You angel! You divine creature!' cried Mozart again and again. It
would be hard to say which pleased him most, the letter, or the praise
of the prince, or the money. I confess that just then the money appealed
most to me. We passed a very happy evening, as you may guess.
"Of the affair in the suburb I heard neither that day nor the next. The
whole week went by; no Crescenz appeared, and my husband, in a whirl of
engagements, soon forgot her. One Sunday evening we had a small
musicale. Captain Wasselt, Count Hardegg, and others were there. During
a pause I was called out, and there was the outfit. I went back to the
room and asked, 'Have you ordered a lot of woodenware from the
"'By thunder, so I did! I suppose the girl is here? Tell her to come
"So in she came, quite at ease, with rakes, spades, and all,
and apologized for her delay, saying that she had forgotten the
name of the street and had only just found it. Mozart took the things
from her, one after another, and handed them to me with great
satisfaction. I thanked him and was pleased with everything, praising
and admiring, though I wondered all the time what he had bought the
garden tools for.
"'For your garden,' he said.
"'Goodness! we gave that up long ago, because the river did so much
damage; and besides we never had good luck with it. I told you, and you
"'What! And so the asparagus that we had this spring--'
"'Was always from the market!'
"'Hear that! If I had only known it! And I praised it just out of pity
for your poor garden, when really the stalks were no bigger than Dutch
"The guests enjoyed the fun, and I had to give them some of the
unnecessary articles at once. And when Mozart inquired of the girl about
the prospects of her marriage, and encouraged her to speak freely,
assuring her that whatever assistance we could offer should be quietly
given and cause her no trouble, she told her story with so much modesty
and discretion that she quite won her audience, and was sent away much
"'Those people must be helped,' said the Captain. 'The tricks of the
union do not amount to much. I know some one who will see to that. The
important thing is a contribution toward the expenses of the house and
the furniture. Let us give a benefit concert, admission fee _ad
"The suggestion found hearty approval. Somebody picked up the salt-box
and said: 'We must have an historic introduction, with a description of
Herr Mozart's purchase, and an account of his philanthropic spirit; and
we will put this box on the table to receive the contributions and
arrange the rakes as decorations.' This did not happen, however, though
the concert came off; and what with the receipts of the concert and
outside contributions, the young couple had more than enough for their
housekeeping outfit, and also the other obstacles were quickly removed.
"The Duscheks, in Prague, dear friends of ours, with whom we are to
stay, heard the story, and Frau Duschek asked for some of the woodenware
as souvenirs. So I laid aside two which I thought were suitable, and was
taking them to her.
"But since we have made another artist friend by the way, one who is,
too, about to provide her wedding furnishings, and who will not despise
what Mozart has chosen, I will divide my gift, and you, Eugenie, may
choose between a lovely open-work rod for stirring chocolate and the
salt-box, which is decorated with a tasteful tulip. My advice is to take
the salt-box; salt, as I have heard, is a symbol of home and
hospitality, and with the gift go the best and most affectionate
So ended Madame Mozart's story. How pleased and gratified her listeners
were is easily to be imagined. Their delight was redoubled when, in the
presence of the whole party, the interesting articles were brought out,
and the model of patriarchal simplicity was formally presented. This,
the Count vowed, should have in the silver-chest of its present owner
and all her posterity, as important a place as that of the Florentine
master's famous work.
It was, by this time, almost eight o'clock and tea-time, and soon our
master was pressingly reminded of his promise to show his friends _Don
Juan_, which lay under lock and key, but, happily, not too deep down in
his trunk. Mozart was ready and willing, and by the time he had told the
story of the plot and had brought the libretto, the lights were burning
at the piano.
We could wish that our readers could here realize a touch, at least, of
that peculiar sensation with which a single chord, floating from a
window as we pass, stops us and holds us spellbound--a touch of that
pleasant suspense with which we sit before the curtain in the theatre
while the orchestra is still tuning! Or am I wrong? Can the soul stand
more deeply in awe of everlasting beauty than when pausing before any
sublime and tragic work of art--Macbeth, OEdipus, or whatever it may be?
Man wishes and yet fears to be moved beyond his ordinary habit; he feels
that the Infinite will touch him, and he shrinks before it in the very
moment when it draws him most strongly. Reverence for perfect art is
present, too; the thought of enjoying a heavenly miracle--of being able
and being permitted to make it one's own--stirs an emotion--pride, if
you will--which is perhaps the purest and happiest of which we are
This little company, however, was on very different ground from ours.
They were about to hear, for the first time, a work which has been
familiar to us from childhood. If one subtracts the very enviable
pleasure of hearing it through its creator, we have the advantage of
them; for in one hearing they could not fully appreciate and understand
such a work, even if they had heard the whole of it.
Of the eighteen numbers which were already written the composer did not
give the half (in the authority from which we have our statement we find
only the last number, the sextet, expressly mentioned), and he played
them in a free sort of transcription, singing here and there as he felt
disposed. Of his wife it is only told that she sang two arias. We might
guess, since her voice was said to be as strong as it was sweet, that
she chose Donna Anna's _Or sai, chi l'onore_, and one of Zerlina's two
In all probability Eugenie and her fiance were the only listeners who,
in spirit, taste, and judgment, were what Mozart could wish. They sat
far back in the room, Eugenie motionless as a statue, and so engrossed
that, in the short pauses when the rest of the audience expressed their
interest or showed their delight in involuntary exclamations, she
gave only the briefest replies to the Baron's occasional remarks.
When Mozart stopped, after the beautiful sextet, and conversation began
again, he showed himself particularly pleased with the Baron's comments.
They spoke of the close of the opera, and of the first performance,
announced for an early date in November; and when some one remarked that
certain portions yet to be written must be a gigantic task, the master
smiled, and Constanze said to the Countess, so loudly that Mozart must
needs hear: "He has ideas which he works at secretly; before me,
"You are playing your part badly, my dear," he interrupted. "What if I
should want to begin anew? And, to tell the truth, I'd rather like to."
"Leporello!" cried the Count, springing up and nodding to a servant.
"Bring some wine. Sillery--three bottles."
"No, if you please. That is past; my husband will not drink more than he
still has in his glass."
"May it bring him luck--and so to every one!"
"Good heavens! What have I done," lamented Constanze, looking at the
clock. "It is nearly eleven, and we must start early tomorrow. How shall
"Don't manage at all, dear Frau Mozart."
"Sometimes," began Mozart, "things work out very strangely. What will my
Stanzl say when she learns that the piece of work which you are going to
hear came to life at this very hour of the night, just before I was to
go on a journey?"
"Is it possible! When? Oh! three weeks ago, when you were to go to
"Exactly. This is how it came about. I came in after ten (you were fast
asleep) from dinner at the Richters'. and intended to go to bed early,
as I had promised, for I was to start very early in the morning.
Meanwhile Veit had lighted the candles on the writing-table, as usual. I
made ready for bed mechanically, and then thought I would take just a
look at the last notes I had written. But, cruel fate! with woman's
deuced inconvenient spirit of order you had cleared up the room and
packed the music--for the Prince wished to see a number or two from the
opera. I hunted, grumbled, scolded-all in vain. Then my eye fell on a
sealed envelope from Abbate--his pot-hooks in the address. Yes; he had
sent me the rest of his revised text, which I had not hoped to see for
months. I sat down with great curiosity and began to read, and was
enraptured to find how well the fellow understood what I wanted. It was
all much simpler, more condensed, and at the same time fuller. The scene
in the churchyard and the _finale_, with the disappearance of the hero,
were greatly improved. 'But, my excellent poet,' I said to myself, 'you
need not have loaded me with heaven and hell a second time, so
"Now, it is never my habit to write any number out of order, be it never
so tempting; that is a mistake which may be too severely punished. Yet
there are exceptions, and, in short, the scene near the statue of the
governor, the warning which, coming suddenly from the grave of the
murdered man, interrupts so horribly the laughter of the revelers--that
scene was already in my head. I struck a chord, and felt that I had
knocked at the right door, behind which lay all the legion of horrors to
be let loose in the _finale_. First came out an adagio--D-minor, only
four measures; then a second, with five. 'There will be an extraordinary
effect in the theatre,' thought I, 'when the strongest wind instruments
accompany the voice.' Now you shall hear it, as well as it can be done
without the orchestra."
He snuffed out the candles beside him, and that fearful choral, "Your
laughter shall be ended ere the dawn," rang through the death-like
stillness of the room. The notes of the silver trumpet fell through the
blue night as if from another sphere--ice-cold, cutting through nerve
and marrow. "Who is here? Answer!" they heard Don Juan ask. Then the
choral, monotonous as before, bade the ruthless youth leave the dead in
After this warning had rung out its last notes, Mozart went on: "Now, as
you can think, there was no stopping. When the ice begins to break at
the edge, the whole lake cracks and snaps from end to end.
Involuntarily, I took up the thread at Don Juan's midnight feast, when
Donna Elvira has just departed and the ghost enters in response to the
And then the whole, long, horrible dialogue followed. When the human
voices have become silent, the voice of the dead speaks again. After
that first fearful greeting, in which the half-transformed being refuses
the earthly nourishment offered him, how strangely and horribly moves
the unsteady voice up and down in that singular scale! He demands speedy
repentance; the spirit's time is short, the way it must travel, long.
And Don Juan, in monstrous obstinacy withstanding the eternal commands,
beneath the growing influence of the dark spirits, struggles and writhes
and finally perishes, keeping to the last, nevertheless, that wonderful
expression of majesty in every gesture. How heart and flesh tremble with
delight and terror! It is a feeling like that with which one watches the
mighty spectacle of an unrestrained force of nature, or the burning of a
splendid ship. In spite of ourselves, we sympathize with the blind
majesty, and, shuddering, share the pain of its self-destruction.
The composer paused. For a while no one could speak. Finally, the
Countess, with voice still unsteady, said "Will you give us some idea of
your own feelings when you laid down the pen that night?"
He looked up at her as if waked from a dream, hesitated a moment, and
then said, half to the Countess, half to his wife: "Yes, my head swam at
last. I had written this dialogue and the chorus of demons, in fever
heat, by the open window, and, after resting a moment, I rose to go to
your room, that I might talk a little and cool off. But another thought
stopped me half way to the door." His glance fell, and his voice
betrayed his emotion. "I said to myself, 'If you should die tonight and
leave your score just here, could you rest in your grave?' My eye fell
on the wick of the light in my hand and on the mountain of melted wax.
The thought that it suggested was painful. 'Then,' I went on, 'if after
this, sooner or later, some one else were to complete the opera, perhaps
even an Italian, and found all the numbers but one, up to the
seventeenth--so many sound, ripe fruits, lying ready to his hand in the
long grass-if he dreaded the finale, and found, unhoped for, the rocks
for its construction close by--he might well laugh in his sleeve.
Perhaps he would be tempted to rob me of my honor. He would burn his
fingers, though, for I have many a good friend who knows my stamp and
would see that I had my rights.'
"Then I thanked God and went back, and thanked your good angel, dear
wife, who held his hand so long over your brow, and kept you sleeping so
soundly that you could not once call to me. When at last I did go to bed
and you asked me the hour, I told you you were two hours younger than
you were, for it was nearly four; and now you will understand why you
could not get me to leave the feathers at six, and why you had to
dismiss the coach and order it for another day."
"Certainly," answered Constanze; "but the sly man must not think that I
was so stupid as not to know something of what was going on. You didn't
need, on that account, to keep your beautiful new numbers all to
"That was not the reason."
"No, I know. You wanted to keep your treasure away from criticism yet a
"I am glad," cried the good-natured host, "that we shall not need to
grieve the heart of a noble Vienna coachman to-morrow, when Herr
Mozart cannot arise. The order, 'Hans, you may unharness!' always makes
This indirect invitation for a longer stay, which was heartily seconded
by the rest of the family, obliged the travelers to explain their urgent
reason for declining it; yet they readily agreed that the start need not
be made so early as to interfere with a meeting at breakfast.
They stood, talking in groups, a little while longer. Mozart looked
about him, apparently for Eugenie; since she was not there he turned
naively with his question to Franziska.
"What do you think, on the whole, of our Don Juan? Can you prophesy
anything good for him?"
"In the name of my aunt, I will answer as well as I can," was the
laughing reply. "My opinion is that if Don Juan does not set the world
mad, the good Lord may shut up his music chests for years to come, and
give mankind to understand--"
"And give mankind," corrected the Count, "the bag-pipes to play on, and
harden the hearts of the people so that they worship Baal."
"The Lord preserve us!" laughed Mozart. "But in the course of the next
sixty or seventy years, long after I am gone, will arise many false
Eugenie approached, with the Baron and Max; the conversation took a new
turn, growing ever more earnest and serious, and the composer, ere the
company separated, rejoiced in many a word of encouragement and good
cheer. Finally, long after midnight, all retired; nor, till then, had
any one felt weary.
Next day--for the fair weather still held--at ten o'clock a handsome
coach, loaded with the effects of the two travelers, stood in the
courtyard. The Count, with Mozart, was waiting for the horses to be put
in, and asked the master how the carriage pleased him.
"Very well, indeed; it seems most comfortable." "Good! Then be so kind
as to keep it to remind you of me."
"What! You are not in earnest?"
"Holy Sixtus and Calixtus! Constanze, here!" he called up to the window
where, with the others, she sat looking out. "The coach is mine. You
will ride hereafter in your own carriage."
He embraced the smiling donor, and examined his new possession on all
sides; finally he threw open the door and jumped in, exclaiming: "I feel
as rich and happy as Ritter Gluck. What eyes they will make in Vienna!"
"I hope," said the Countess, "when you return from Prague, to see your
carriage again, all hung with wreaths."
Soon after this last happy scene the much-praised carriage moved away
with the departing guests, and rolled rapidly toward the road to Prague.
At Wittingau the Count's horses were to be exchanged for post-horses,
with which they would continue their journey.
When such excellent people have enlivened our houses by their presence,
have given us new impulses through their fresh spirits, and have made us
feel the blessings of dispensing hospitality, their departure leaves an
uncomfortable sense of vacancy and interruption, at least for the rest
of the day, and especially if we are left to ourselves. The latter case,
at least, was not true with our friends in the palace. Franziska's
parents and aunt soon followed the Mozarts. Franziska herself, the
Baron, and Max of course, remained. Eugenie, with whom we are especially
concerned, because she appreciated more deeply than the others the
priceless experience she had had--she, one would think, could not feel
in the least unhappy or troubled. Her pure happiness in the truly
beloved man to whom she was now formally betrothed would drown all other
considerations; rather, the most noble and lovely things which could
move her heart must be mingled with that other happiness. So would
it have been, perhaps, if she could have lived only in the present, or
in joyful retrospect. But she had been moved by anxiety while Frau
Mozart was telling her story, and the apprehension increased all the
while that Mozart was playing, in spite of the ineffable charm beneath
the mysterious horror of the music, and was brought to a climax by his
own story of his night work. She felt sure that this man's energy would
speedily and inevitably destroy him; that he could be but a fleeting
apparition in this world, which was unable to appreciate the profusion
of his gifts.
This thought, mingled with many others and with echoes of Don Juan, had
surged through her troubled brain the night before, and it was almost
daylight when she fell asleep. Now, the three women had seated
themselves in the garden with their work; the men bore them company, and
when the conversation, as was natural, turned upon Mozart, Eugenie did
not conceal her apprehensions. No one shared them in the least, although
the Baron understood her fully. She tried to rid herself of the feeling,
and her friends, particularly her uncle, brought to her mind the most
positive and cheering proofs that she was wrong. How gladly she heard
them! She was almost ready to believe that she had been foolishly
Some moments afterward, as she passed through the large hall which had
just been swept and put in order, where the half-drawn green damask
curtains made a soft twilight, she stopped sadly before the piano. It
was like a dream, to think who had sat there but a few hours before. She
looked long and thoughtfully at the keys which _he_ had touched last;
then she softly closed the lid and took away the key, in jealous care
lest some other hand should open it too soon. As she went away, she
happened to return to its place a book of songs; an old leaf fell out,
the copy of a Bohemian folk-song, which Franziska, and she too, had sung
long ago. She took it up, not without emotion, for in her present mood
the most natural occurrence might easily seem an oracle. And the
simple verses, as she read them through again, brought the hot tears to
"A pine-tree stands in a forest--who knows where?
A rose-tree in some garden fair doth grow;
Remember they are waiting there, my soul,
Till o'er thy grave they bend to whisper and to blow.
"Far in the pasture two black colts are feeding.
Toward home they canter when the master calls;
They shall go slowly with thee to thy grave,
Perchance ere from their hoofs the gleaming iron falls."
* * * * *
[Illustration: ANNETTE VON DROSTE-HUeLSHOFF]
ANNETTE ELIZABETH VON DROSTE-HUeLSHOFF
The day was still, the sun's bright glare
Fell sheer upon the Temple's beauteous wall
Withered by tropic heat, the air
Let, like a bird, its listless pinions fall.
Behold a group, young men and gray,
And women, kneeling; silence holds them all;
They mutely pray!
Where is the faithful Comforter
Whom, parting, Thou didst promise to Thine own?
They trust Thy word which cannot err,
But sad and full of fear the time has grown.
The hour draws nigh; for forty days
And forty wakeful nights toward Thee we've thrown
Our weeping gaze.
Where is He? Hour on hour doth steal,
And minute after minute swells the doubt.
Where doth He bide? And though a seal
Be on the mouth, the soul must yet speak out.
Hot winds blow, in the sandy lake
The panting tiger moans and rolls about,
Parched is the snake.
But hark! a murmur rises now,
Swelling and swelling like a storm's advance,
Yet standing grass-blades do not bow,
And the still palm-tree listens in a trance.
Why seem these men to quake with fear
While each on other casts a wondering glance?
Behold! 'Tis here!
'Tis here, 'tis here! the quivering light
Rests on each head; what floods of ecstasy
Throng in our veins with wondrous might!
The future dawns; the flood-gates open free;
Resistless pours the mighty Word;
Now as a herald's call, now whisperingly,
Its tone is heard.
Oh Light, oh Comforter, but there
Alas! and but to them art Thou revealed
And not to us, not everywhere
Where drooping souls for comfort have appealed!
I yearn for day that never breaks;
Oh shine, before this eye is wholly sealed,
Which weeps and wakes.
* * * * *
THE HOUSE IN THE HEATH (1841)
Beneath yon fir trees in the west,
The sunset round it glowing,
A cottage lies like bird on nest,
With thatch roof hardly showing.
And there across the window-sill
Leans out a white-starred heifer;
She snorts and stamps; then breathes her fill
Of evening's balmy zephyr.
Near-by reposes, hedged with thorn,
A garden neatly tended;
The sunflower looks about with scorn;
The bell-flower's head is bended.
And in the garden kneels a child,
She weeds or merely dallies,
A lily plucks with gesture mild
And wanders down the alleys.
A shepherd group in distance dim
Lie stretched upon the heather,
And with a simple evening hymn
Wake the still breeze together.
And from the roomy threshing hall
The hammer strokes ring cheery,
The plane gives forth a crunching drawl,
The rasping saw sounds weary.
The evening star now greets the scene
And smoothly soars above it,
And o'er the cottage stands serene;
He seems in truth to love it.
A vision with such beauty crowned,
Had pious monks observed it,
They straight upon a golden ground
Had painted and preserved it.
The carpenter, the herdsmen there
A pious choral sounding;
The maiden with the lily fair,
And peace the whole surrounding;
The wondrous star that beams on all
From out the fields of heaven--
May it not be that in the stall
The Christ is born this even?
[Illustration: HANS AM ENDE THE FARM HOUSE]
* * * * *
THE BOY ON THE MOOR (1841)
'Tis an eerie thing o'er the moor to fare
When the eddies of peat-smoke justle,
When the wraiths of mist whirl here and there
And wind-blown tendrils tussle,
When every step starts a hidden spring
And the trodden moss-tufts hiss and sing
'Tis an eerie thing o'er the moor to fare
When the tangled reed-beds rustle.
The child with his primer sets out alone
And speeds as if he were hunted,
The wind goes by with a hollow moan--
There's a noise in the hedge-row stunted.
'Tis the turf-digger's ghost, near-by he dwells,
And for drink his master's turf he sells.
"Whoo! whoo!" comes a sound like a stray cow's groan;
The poor boy's courage is daunted.
Then stumps loom up beside the ditch,
Uncannily nod the bushes,
The boy running on, each nerve a twitch,
Through a jungle of spear-grass pushes.
And where it trickles and crackles apace
Is the Spinner's unholy hiding-place,
The home of the cursed Spinning-witch
Who turns her wheel 'mid the rushes.
On, ever on, goes the fearsome rout,
In pursuit through that region fenny,
At each wild stride the bubbles burst out,
And the sounds from beneath are many.
Until at length from the midst of the din
Comes the squeak of a spectral violin,
That must be the rascally fiddler lout
Who ran off with the bridal penny!
The turf splits open, and from the hole
Bursts forth an unhappy sighing,
"Alas, alas, for my wretched soul!"
'Tis poor damned Margaret crying!
The lad he leaps like a wounded deer,
And were not his guardian angel near
Some digger might find in a marshy knoll
Where his little bleached bones were lying.
But the ground grows firmer beneath his feet,
And there from over the meadow
A lamp is flickering homely-sweet;
The boy at the edge of the shadow
Looks back as he pauses to take his breath,
And in his glance is the fear of death.
'Twas eerie there 'mid the sedge and peat,
Ah, that was a place to dread, O!
* * * * *
ON THE TOWER (1842)
I stand aloft on the balcony,
The starlings around me crying,
And let like maenad my hair stream free
To the storm o'er the ramparts flying.
Oh headlong wind, on this narrow ledge
I would I could try thy muscle
And, breast to breast, two steps from the edge,
Fight it out in a deadly tussle.
Beneath me I see, like hounds at play,
How billow on billow dashes;
Yea, tossing aloft the glittering spray,
The fierce throng hisses and clashes.
Oh, might I leap into the raging flood
And urge on the pack to harry
The hidden glades of the coral wood,
For the walrus, a worthy quarry!
From yonder mast a flag streams out
As bold as a royal pennant;
I can watch the good ship lunge about
From this tower of which I am tenant;
But oh, might I be in the battling ship,
Might I seize the rudder and steer her,
How gay o'er the foaming reef we'd slip
Like the sea-gulls circling near her!
Were I a hunter wandering free,
Or a soldier in some sort of fashion,
Or if I at least a man might be,
The heav'ns would grant me my passion.
But now I must sit as fine and still
As a child in its best of dresses,
And only in secret may have my will
And give to the wind my tresses.
* * * * *
THE DESOLATE HOUSE (1842)
Deep in a dell a woodsman's house
Has sunk in wild dilapidation;
There buried under vines and boughs
I often sit in contemplation.
So dense the tangle that the day
Through heavy lashes can but glimmer;
The rocky cleft is rendered dimmer
By overshadowing tree-trunks gray.
Within that dell I love to hear
The flies with their tumultuous humming,
And solitary beetles near
Amid the bushes softly drumming.
And when the trickling cliffs of slate
The color from the sunset borrow,
Methinks an eye all red with sorrow
Looks down on me disconsolate.
The arbor peak with jagged edge
Wears many a vine-shoot long and meagre
And from the moss beneath the hedge
Creep forth carnations, nowise eager.
There from the moist cliff overhead
The muddy drippings oft bedew them,
Then creep in lazy streamlets through them
To sink within a fennel-bed.
Along the roof o'ergrown with moss
Has many a tuft of thatch projected,
A spider-web is built across
The window-jamb, else unprotected;
The wing of a gleaming dragon-fly
Hangs in it like some petal tender,
The body armed in golden splendor
Lies headless on the sill near-by.
A butterfly sometimes may chance
In heedless play to flutter hither
And stop in momentary trance
Where the narcissus blossoms wither;
A dove that through the grove has flown
Above this dell no more will utter
Her coo, one can but hear her flutter
And see her shadow on the stone.
And in the fireplace where the snow
Each winter down the chimney dashes
A mass of bell-capped toad-stools grow
On viscid heaps of moldering ashes.
High on a peg above the rest
A hank of rope-yarn limply dangles
Like rotted hair, and in the tangles
The swallow built her last year's nest.
An old dog-collar set with bells
Swings from a hook by clasp and tether,
With rude embroidery that spells
"Diana" worked upon the leather.
A flute too, when the woodsman died,
The men who dug his grave forgot here;
The dog, his only friend, they shot here
And laid her by her master's side.
But while I sit in reverie,
A field-mouse near me shrilly crying,
The squirrel barking from his tree,
And from the marsh the frogs replying--
Then eerie shudders o'er me shoot,
As if I caught from out the dingle
Diana's bells once more a-jingle
And echoes of the dead man's flute.
* * * * *
THE JEW'S BEECH-TREE (1841)
BY ANNETTE ELIZABETH VON DROSTE-HUeLSHOFF
TRANSLATED BY LILLIE WINTER, A.B.
Frederick Mergel, born in 1738, was the son of a so-called _Halbmeier_
or property holder of low station in the village of B., which, however
badly built and smoky it may be, still engrosses the eye of every
traveler by the extremely picturesque beauty of its situation in a green
woody ravine of an important and historically noteworthy mountain chain.
The little country to which it belonged was, at that time, one of those
secluded corners of the earth, without trade or manufacturing, without
highways, where a strange face still excited interest and a journey of
thirty miles made even one of the more important inhabitants the Ulysses
of his vicinage--in short, a spot, as so many more that once could be
found in Germany, with all the failings and the virtues, all the
originality and the narrowness that can flourish only under such
Under very simple and often inadequate laws the inhabitants' ideas of
right and wrong had, in some measure, become confused, or, rather, a
second law had grown up beside the official, a law of public opinion, of
custom, and of long uncontested privilege. The property holders, who sat
as judges in the lower courts, meted out punishments or rewards in
accordance with their own notions, which were, in most cases, honest.
The common people did what seemed to them practicable and compatible
with a somewhat lax conscience, and it was only the loser to whom it
sometimes occurred to look up dusty old documents. It is hard to view
that period without prejudice; since it has passed away it has been
either haughtily criticised or foolishly praised; for those who lived
through it are blinded by too many precious recollections, and the newer
generation does not understand it. This much, however, one may assert,
that the shell was weaker, the kernel stronger, crime more frequent,
want of principle rarer. For he who acts according to his convictions,
be they ever so faulty, can never be entirely debased; whereas nothing
kills the soul more surely than appealing to the written law when it is
at variance with one's own sense of what is right.
The inhabitants of the little country of which we speak, being more
restless and enterprising than their neighbors, certain features of life
came out more sharply here than would have been the case elsewhere under
like conditions. Wood stealing and poaching were every-day occurrences,
and in the numerous fights which ensued each one had to seek his own
consolation if his head was bruised. Since great and productive forests
constituted the chief wealth of the country, these forests were of
course vigilantly watched over, less, however, by legal means than by
continually renewed efforts to defeat violence and trickery with like
The village of B. was reputed to be the most arrogant, most cunning, and
most daring community in the entire principality. Perhaps its situation
in the midst of the deep and proud solitude of the forest had early
strengthened the innate obstinacy of its inhabitants. The proximity of a
river which flowed into the sea and bore covered vessels large enough to
transport shipbuilding timber conveniently and safely to foreign ports,
helped much in encouraging the natural boldness of the wood-thieves; and
the fact that the entire neighborhood swarmed with foresters served only
to aggravate matters, since in the oft-recurring skirmishes the peasants
usually had the advantage. Thirty or forty wagons would start off
together on beautiful moonlight nights with about twice as many men of
every age, from the half-grown boy to the seventy-year-old village
magistrate, who, as an experienced bell-wether, led the procession
as proudly and self-consciously as when he took his seat in the
court-room. Those who were left behind listened unconcernedly to the
grinding and pounding of the wheels dying away in the narrow passes, and
slept calmly on. Now and then an occasional shot, a faint scream,
startled perhaps a young wife or an engaged girl; no one else paid any
attention to it. At the first gray light of dawn the procession returned
just as silently--every face bronzed, and here and there a bandaged
head, which did not matter. A few hours later the neighborhood would be
alive with talk about the misfortune of one or more foresters, who were
being carried out of the woods, beaten, blinded with snuff, and rendered
unable to attend to their business for some time.
In this community Frederick Mergel was born, in a house which attested
the pretensions of its builder by the proud addition of a chimney and
somewhat less diminutive window panes, but at the same time bespoke the
miserable circumstances of its owner by its present state of
dilapidation. What had once been a hedge around the yard and the garden
had given way to a neglected fence; the roof was damaged; other people's
cattle grazed in the pastures; other people's corn grew in the field
adjoining the yard; and the garden contained, with the exception of a
few woody rose bushes of a better time, more weeds than useful plants.
Strokes of misfortune had, it is true, brought on much of this, but
disorder and mismanagement had played their part. Frederick's father,
old Herman Mergel, was, in his bachelor days, a so-called orderly
drinker--that is, one who lay in the gutter on Sundays and holidays, but
during the week was as well behaved as any one, and so he had had no
difficulty in wooing and winning a right pretty and wealthy girl. There
was great merrymaking at the wedding. Mergel did not get so very drunk,
and the bride's parents went home in the evening satisfied; but the next
Sunday the young wife, screaming and bloody, was seen running through
the village to her family, leaving behind all her good clothes and new
household furniture. Of course that meant great scandal and vexation for
Mergel, who naturally needed consolation; by afternoon therefore there
was not an unbroken pane of glass in his house and he was seen late at
night still lying on his threshold, raising, from time to time, the neck
of a broken bottle to his mouth and pitifully lacerating his face and
hands. The young wife remained with her parents, where she soon pined
away and died. Whether it was remorse or shame that tormented Mergel, no
matter; he seemed to grow more and more in need of "spiritual"
bolstering up, and soon began to be counted among the completely
The household went to pieces, hired girls caused disgrace and damage; so
year after year passed. Mergel was and remained a distressed and finally
rather pitiable widower, until all of a sudden he again appeared as a
bridegroom. If the event itself was unexpected, the personality of the
bride added still more to the general astonishment. Margaret Semmler was
a good, respectable person, in her forties, a village belle in her
youth, still respected for her good sense and thrift, and at the same
time not without some money. What had induced her to take this step was
consequently incomprehensible to every one. We think the reason is to be
found in her very consciousness of perfection. On the evening before the
wedding she is reported to have said: "A woman who is badly treated by
her husband is either stupid or good-for-nothing; if I am unhappy, put
it down as my fault." The result proved, unfortunately, that she had
overestimated her strength. At first she impressed her husband; if he
had taken too much, he would not come home, or would creep into the
barn. But the yoke was too oppressive to be borne long, and soon they
saw him quite often staggering across the street right into his house,
heard his wild shouting within, and saw Margaret hastily closing doors
and windows. On one such day--it was no longer a Sunday now--they saw
her rush out of the house in the evening, without hood or Shawl, with
her hair flying wildly about her head. They saw her throw herself down
in the garden beside a vegetable bed and dig up the earth with her
hands, then, anxiously looking about her, quickly pick off some
vegetables and slowly return with them in the direction of the house,
but, instead of entering it, go into the barn. It was said that this was
the first time that Mergel had struck her, although she never let such
an admission pass her lips. The second year of this unhappy marriage was
marked by the coming of a son--one cannot say gladdened, for Margaret is
reported to have wept bitterly when the child was handed to her.
Nevertheless, although born beneath a heart full of grief, Frederick was
a healthy, pretty child who grew strong in the fresh air. His father
loved him dearly, never came home without bringing him a roll or
something of that sort, and it was even thought he had become more
temperate since the birth of the boy; at least the noise in the house
Frederick was in his ninth year. It was about the Feast of the Three
Kings, a raw and stormy winter night. Herman had gone to a wedding, and
had started out early because the bride's house was three miles away.
Although he had promised to return in the evening, Mistress Mergel
hardly counted on it because a heavy snowfall had set in after sunset.
About ten o'clock she banked the fire and made ready to go to bed.
Frederick stood beside her, already half undressed, and listened, to the
howling of the wind and the rattling of the garret windows.
"Mother, isn't father coming home tonight?" he asked.
"No, child; tomorrow."
"But why not, mother? He promised to."
"Oh, God, if he only kept every promise he makes!--Hurry now, hurry and
They had hardly gone to bed when a gale started to rage as though it
would carry the house along with it. The bed-stead quivered, and the
chimney-stack rattled as if there were goblins in it.
"Mother, some one's knocking outside!"
"Quiet, Fritzy; that's the loose board on the gable being shaken by the
"No; mother, it's at the door."
"It does not lock; the latch is broken. Heavens, go to sleep! Don't
deprive me of my bit of rest at night!"
"But what if father should come now!"
His mother turned angrily in her bed. "The devil holds him tight
"Where is the devil, mother?
"Wait, you restless boy! He's standing at the door, ready to get you if
you don't keep quiet!"
Frederick became quiet. A little while longer he listened, and then fell
asleep. A few hours later he awoke. The wind had changed, and hissed
like a snake through the cracks in the window near his ear. His shoulder
was stiff; he crept clear under his quilt and lay still and trembling
with fear. After a while he noticed that his mother was not asleep
either. He heard her weep and moan between sobs: "Hail, Mary!" and "Pray
for us poor sinners!" The beads of the rosary slid by his face. An
involuntary sigh escaped him. "Frederick, are you awake?
"Child, pray a little--you know half of the Paternoster already, don't
you?-that God protect us from flood and fire."
Frederick thought of the devil, and wondered how he looked, anyway. The
confused noise and rumbling in the house seemed strange to him. He
thought there must be something alive within and without. "Listen,
mother! I am sure I hear people knocking."
"Oh, no, child; but there's not an old board in the house that isn't
"Hark! Don't you hear? Someone's calling! Listen!"
His mother sat up; the raging of the storm subsided a moment. Knocking
on the shutters, was distinctly audible, and several voices called:
"Margaret!. Mistress Margaret! Hey there! Open the door!" Margaret
ejaculated violently, "There, they're again bringing the swine home to
The rosary flew clattering down on the wooden chair; hastily she
snatched her clothes; she rushed to the hearth, and soon Frederick heard
her walk across the hall with defiant steps. Margaret did not return;
but in the kitchen there was a loud murmuring of strange voices. Twice a
strange man came into the bedroom and seemed to be nervously searching
for something. Suddenly a lamp was brought in; two men were supporting
his mother. She was white as chalk and her eyes were closed; Frederick
thought she was dead. He emitted a fearful scream, whereupon some one
boxed his ear. That silenced him; and now he gradually gleaned from the
remarks of the bystanders that his father had been found dead in the
woods by his Uncle Franz Semmler and by Huelsmeyer, and was now lying in
As soon as Margaret regained consciousness she tried to get rid of the
strangers. Her brother remained with her, and Frederick, who was
threatened with severe punishment if he got out of bed, heard the fire
crackling in the kitchen all night and a noise like stroking something
back and forth, and brushing it. There was little spoken and that
quietly, but now and then sobs broke out that went through and through
the child, young as he was. Once he understood his uncle to say,
"Margaret, don't take it so badly; we will all have three masses read,
and at Eastertide we'll make together a pilgrimage to the Holy Virgin of
When the body was carried away two days later, Margaret sat on the
hearth and covered her face with her apron. After a few minutes, when
everything had become quiet, she mumbled, "Ten years, ten crosses! But
we carried them together, after all, and now I am alone!" Then louder,
"Fritzy, come here!"
Frederick approached her timidly; his mother had become quite uncanny to
him with her black ribbons and her haggard, troubled face. "Fritzy," she
said, "will you now really be good and make me happy, or will you be
naughty and lie, or drink and steal?"
"Mother, Huelsmeyer steals."
"Huelsmeyer? God forbid! Must I spank you? Who tells you such wicked
"The other day he beat Aaron and took six groschen from him."
"If he took money from Aaron, no doubt the accursed Jew had first
cheated him out of it. Huelsmeyer is a respectable householder, and the
Jews are all rascals!"
"But, mother, Brandes also says that he steals wood and deer."
"Child, Brandes is a forester."
"Mother, do foresters tell lies?"
Margaret was silent a moment, and then said, "Listen, Fritz! Our Lord
makes the wood grow free and the wild game moves from one landowner's
property into another's. They can belong to no one. But you do not
understand that yet. Now go into the shed and get me some fagots."
Frederick had seen his father lying on the straw, where he was said to
have looked blue and fearful; but the boy never spoke of it and seemed
indisposed to think of it. On the whole, the recollection of his father
had left behind a feeling of tenderness mingled with horror, for nothing
so engrosses one as love and devotion on the part of a person who seems
hardened against everything else; and in Frederick's case this sentiment
grew with the years, through the experience of many slights on the part
of others. As a child he was very sensitive about having any one mention
his deceased father in a tone not altogether flattering to him--a cause
for grief that the none too delicate neighbors did not spare him. There
is a tradition in those parts which denies rest in the grave to a person
killed by accident. Old Mergel had thus become the ghost of the forest
of Brede; as a will o' the wisp he led a drunken man into the pond by a
hair; the shepherd boys, when they crouched by their fires at night and
the owls screeched in the hollows, sometimes heard quite clearly in
broken accents his "Just listen, sweet Lizzie;" and an unprivileged
woodman who had fallen asleep under the broad oak and been overtaken by
nightfall, had, upon awakening, seen his swollen blue face peeping
through the branches. Frederick was obliged to hear much of this from
other boys; then he would howl and strike any one who was near; once he
even cut some one with his little knife and was, on this occasion,
pitilessly thrashed. After that he drove his mother's cows alone to the
other end of the valley, where one could often see him lie in the grass
for hours in the same position, pulling up the thyme.
He was twelve years old when his mother received a visit from her
younger brother who lived in Brede and had not crossed his sister's
threshold since her foolish marriage.
Simon Semmler was a short, restless, lean man with bulging fishlike eyes
and a face altogether like a pike--an uncanny fellow, in whom
exaggerated reserve often alternated with affability no less
affected--who would have liked to pass for a shrewd intellect but was
considered disagreeable instead. He was a quarrelsome chap, and
everybody grew more anxious to avoid him the farther he advanced toward
that age when persons of limited intellect are apt to make up in
pretensions for what they lose in usefulness. Nevertheless poor Margaret
was glad to see him, as she had no other relatives living.
"Simon, is that you?" she asked, trembling so that she had to steady
herself on a chair. "You want to see how I am getting along with my
Simon looked at her earnestly and clasped her hand. "You have grown old,
Margaret sighed. "I've had much sorrow and all kinds of bad luck since I
"Yes, girl, marry at leisure, repent in haste! Now you are old and the
child is small. Everything has its time. But when an old house is
burning nothing will quench the fire." A flame, red as blood, flashed
across Margaret's care-worn face.
"But I hear your son is cunning and smart," Simon continued.
"Well, rather, but good withal," replied Margaret.
"H'm, some one once stole a cow; he was called 'good' too. But he is
quiet and thoughtful, isn't he? He doesn't run around with the other
"He is a peculiar child," said Margaret, as though to herself; "it's not
a good thing."
Simon laughed aloud. "Your boy is timid because the others have given
him a few good thrashings. Don't worry, the lad will repay them!
Huelsmeyer came to see me lately; said the boy was like a deer."
What mother's heart does not rejoice when she hears her child praised?
Poor Margaret seldom had this pleasure; every one called her boy
malicious and close-mouthed. Tears started to her eyes. "Yes, thank God,
his limbs are straight!"
"What does he look like?" continued Simon.
"He's a good deal like you, Simon, a good deal." Simon laughed. "Indeed,
he must be a rare fellow; I'm getting better-looking every day. Of
course he shouldn't be wasting his time at school. You let him pasture
the cows? Just as well; what the teacher says isn't half true anyway.
But where does he pasture? In the Telgen glen? In the Roder woods? In
the Teutoburg forest? At night and early in the morning, too?"
"All through the night; but what do you mean?"
Simon seemed not to hear this. He craned his neck toward the door.
"Look, there comes the youngster! His father's son! He swings his arms
like your departed husband. And just see! The lad actually has my light
A proud smile spread secretly over the mother's face; her Frederick's
blond curls and Simon's reddish bristles! Without answering she broke a
branch from the hedge near-by and went to meet her son, apparently to
hurry on a lazy cow, in reality, however, to whisper a few hasty, half
threatening words into his ear; for she knew his obstinate disposition,
and Simon's manner today had seemed to her more intimidating than ever.
But everything ran smoothly beyond expectation; Frederick showed himself
neither obdurate nor insolent-rather, somewhat embarrassed and anxious
to please his uncle. And so matters progressed until, after half an
hour's discussion, Simon proposed a kind of adoption of the boy, by
virtue of which he was not to take him entirely away from his mother but
was, nevertheless, to command the greater part of his time. And for this
the boy was eventually to inherit the old bachelor's fortune, which, to
be sure, couldn't have escaped him anyway. Margaret patiently allowed
her brother to explain how great the advantages of the arrangement would
be to her, how slight the loss. She knew best what a sickly widow misses
in the help of a twelve-year-old boy whom she has trained practically to
replace a daughter. But she kept silent and yielded to everything. She
only begged her brother to be firm, but not harsh, with the boy.
"He is good," she said, "but I am a lonely woman; my son is not like one
who has been ruled by a father's hand."
Simon nodded slyly. "Leave it to me; we'll get along all right; and, do
you know what?--let me have the boy right now; I have two bags to fetch
from the mill; the smallest is just right for him and that's how he'll
learn to help me. Come, Fritzy, put your wooden shoes on!" And presently
Margaret was watching them both as they walked away, Simon ahead with
his face set forward and the tails of his red coat flying out behind him
like flames, looking a good deal like a man of fire doing penance
beneath the sack he has stolen. Frederick followed him, tall and slender
for his age, with delicate, almost noble, features and long blond curls
that were better cared for than the rest of his exterior appearance
would have led one to expect; for the rest, ragged, sunburnt, with a
look of neglect and a certain hard melancholy in his countenance.
Nevertheless a strong family resemblance between the two could not be
mistaken, and as Frederick slowly followed his leader, with his eyes
riveted on the man who attracted him by the very strangeness of his
appearance, involuntarily he reminded one of a person who with anxious
interest gazes on the picture of his future in a magic mirror.
They were now approaching the place in the Teutoburg Forest where the
Forest of Brede extends down the slope of the mountain and fills a very
dark ravine. Until now they had spoken little. Simon seemed pensive, the
boy absent-minded, and both were panting under their sacks. Suddenly
Simon asked, "Do you like whiskey?" The boy did not answer. "I say, do
you like whiskey? Does your mother give you some once in a while?"
"Mother hasn't any herself," answered Frederick.
"Well, well, so much the better! Do you know the woods before us?"
"It is the Forest of Brede."
"Do you know what happened here?" Frederick remained silent. Meanwhile
they came nearer and nearer to the gloomy ravine.
"Does your mother still pray much?" Simon began again.
"Yes, she tells her beads twice every evening."
"Really? And you pray with her?"
Somewhat ill at ease, the boy looked aside slyly and laughed. "At
twilight before supper she tells her beads once--then I have not yet
returned with the cows; and again in bed--then I usually fall asleep."
"Well, well, my boy!" These last words were spoken under the sheltering
branches of a broad beech-tree which arched the entrance to the glen. It
was now quite dark and the new, moon shone in the sky, but its weak rays
served only to lend a strange appearance to the objects they
occasionally touched through an aperture between the branches. Frederick
followed close behind his uncle; his breath came fast and, if one could
have distinguished his features, one would have noticed in them an
expression of tremendous agitation caused by imagination rather than
terror. Thus both trudged ahead sturdily, Simon with the firm step of
the hardened wanderer, Frederick unsteadily and as if in a dream. It
seemed to him that everything was in motion, and that the trees swayed
in the lonely rays of the moon now towards one another, now away. Roots
of trees and slippery places where water had gathered made his steps
uncertain; several times he came near falling. Now some distance ahead
the darkness seemed to break, and presently both entered a rather large
clearing. The moon shone down brightly and showed that only a short
while ago the axe had raged here mercilessly. Everywhere stumps of trees
jutted up, some many feet above the ground, just as it had been most
convenient to cut through them in haste; the forbidden work must have
been interrupted unexpectedly, for directly across the path lay a
beech-tree with its branches rising high above it, and its leaves, still
fresh, trembling in the evening breeze. Simon stopped a moment and
surveyed the fallen tree-trunk with interest. In the centre of the open
space stood an old oak, broad in proportion to its height. A pale ray of
light that fell on its trunk through the branches showed that it was
hollow, a fact that had probably saved it from the general destruction.
Here Simon suddenly clutched the boy's arm. "Frederick, do you know that
tree? That is the broad oak." Frederick started, and with his cold hands
clung to his uncle. "See," Simon continued, "here Uncle Franz and
Huelsmeyer found your father, when without confession and extreme
unction he had gone to the Devil in his drunkenness."
"Uncle, uncle!" gasped Frederick.
"What's coming over you? I should hope you are not afraid? Devil of a
boy, you're pinching my arm! Let go, let go!" He tried to shake the boy
off. "On the whole your father was a good soul; God won't be too strict
with him. I loved him as well as my own brother." Frederick let go his
uncle's arm; both walked the rest of the way through the forest in
silence, and soon the village of Brede lay before them with its mud
houses and its few better brick houses, one of which belonged to Simon.