Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon, Tonya Allen, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: “The Count then opened the door and overcome with emotion he fell at the feet of the Countess.”–From _”Royal Palace to Lowly Hut”_]
_SUNSHINE AND SHADOW SERIES_
AFTER LONG YEARS
TRANSLATIONS FROM THE GERMAN BY
SOPHIE A. MILLER
AGNES M. DUNNE
These ethical stories have been translated from the German with the view of instilling into the minds of youthful readers such truths as will help materially toward building a character that will withstand the trials and temptations of life.
It is conceded by educators that ethics presented in the lecture form fails of its purpose; therefore the writers have presented this subject in the form most appealing to children–the story.
I. AFTER LONG YEARS
I. The Journey
III. Alfred Banford
IV. The Stranger
II. THE CAPTIVE
II. The Slave
III. In the Turkish Family
IV. The Lion
V. The Offer
VI. The Plans
VII. Restored to Freedom
III. THE ARTIST’S MASTERPIECE
I. The Gift
II. Under the Emperor’s Bush
III. No Prophet in His Own Country
IV. The Condition
V. The Fulfilment
IV. THE VINEYARD ON THE HILLSIDE
II. The Faithful Dog
III. The Fond Foster-Parents
IV. The Errand
V. The Old Man
VI. The Legacy
VII. The Journey
V. THE DAMAGED PICTURE
I. The Artist
II. The Picture
III. The Discovery
VI. MEMORIES AWAKENED
I. The Change of Circumstances
II. The Revelation
VII. THE INHERITANCE
I. Mr. Acton and his Son
II. The Uninvited Guest
III. The Flowering Plant
IV. The Two Families
V. The Feast
VIII. HOW IT HAPPENED
I. The Wooded Island
II. Far From Home
III. The Smoke
IX. FROM ROYAL PALACE TO LOWLY HUT
I. The Suburbs
II. The Retreat
III. The Prison
IV. The Purchase
X. THE UGLY TRINKET
I. The Opened Door
II. The Test
AFTER LONG YEARS
I. THE JOURNEY.
III. ALFRED BANFORD.
IV. THE STRANGER.
[Illustration: “He halted, offered his assistance to the two half-frozen men, helped them into the sleigh and hurried on with them.”]
AFTER LONG YEARS
The Duchess of Banford and her two children were driving toward their villa, when, owing to the roughness of the road, the front wheel of their coach was suddenly broken. Considerably frightened, mother and children quickly alighted. The approaching darkness, coupled with the loneliness of the place, added to the difficulty; for the prospect of spending the night in the woods was particularly distressing.
Just then a stable-boy chanced along and seeing the predicament, said: “Oh, that wheel can be easily mended. Not far from here there lives a wheelwright, and I am sure he can repair it in a very short time.” The boy then looked about him, and seeing a long pole, said: “We can use this to support the wagon as it drags along. The road is rugged, and it will take us about an hour to get there.”
“Is there no shorter route?” inquired the Duchess.
“This is the only wagon road; but if you wish, I will lead you along a shorter path across the fields which will cut the distance in half.”
The Duchess thanked him, and asked: “Do you think that we may take this pole? It seems to me as though some wood-cutter had left it here to prop a tree.”
“Oh, yes,” he answered, “it belongs to the wheelwright to whom I am taking you. All the wood around here belongs to him, and he will be glad to have this pole so handy.” So saying, he hurried to get the pole and helped the coachman fasten it in place. The horses then drew the carriage slowly over the rocky road, while the coachman walked alongside.
The family, however, followed the footpath, which led between tall elms and blooming shrubbery along the edge of a babbling brook.
The silence was broken now and then by the plaintive song of a nightingale. The Duchess and her two children seated themselves upon the trunk of a fallen tree and listened to the music till it ceased. A gentle wind sighed softly through the leaves of the trees, and merrily flowed the near-by brook. As the nightingale repeated its song, they all listened intently.
When the song was ended, the Duchess said: “I would give twenty pounds if I had such a bird in my garden. I have heard many nightingales sing in the city, but here in the country, in this wooded region and deep stillness, and at this twilight hour, its song seems doubly enchanting. Oh, that I might hear it sing in the little bower near my villa.”
“Hm,” whispered the stable-boy, who stood near her oldest son, Alfred, “those twenty pounds could be easily earned.”
Alfred nodded, and motioned to the boy to be still, for just then the nightingale began to sing. When the song ceased the Duchess arose to continue her way. Alfred, however, lagged behind with the stable-boy, with whom he was soon busily engaged in earnest talk.
“A nightingale in a cage is not what my mother wants; what she wants is a nightingale that is at liberty, to sing and nest and fly as it pleases in our beautiful garden, and to return to us in the spring from its winter home.”
“I understand very well what you mean. I should not want to catch a bird and deliver it into captivity.” After questioning Alfred more closely about the trees near his villa, the boy said: “I feel sure that I can get a nightingale and its nest for you. I know just how to go about it. You will soon hear its song resound from all parts of your garden– possibly not this week, but surely next.”
Alfred stood still for a moment and looked at the boy–clothed in a shabby suit, with his hair protruding from his torn hat. Then he asked, wonderingly, “What would you do with the money?”
“Oh,” said the boy, and the tears stood in his eyes, “twenty pounds would help us out of our troubles. You see, my father is a day-laborer. He is not a very strong man, and I was just on my way to visit him, and do what I could to help him. My foreman has given me a few days’ leave of absence. I don’t earn much, but it helps my father a little. I often feel that it would be a great help to him if I could earn more. I certainly should like nothing better than to be a wheelwright. It must be grand to be able to take the wood that lies here in the forest, and make a beautiful carriage out of it, like the one you own. I have often talked with the wheelwright, but he will not take me as an apprentice until I have a certain amount of money. Besides, I should need money to buy tools. It would cost twenty pounds, and my father and I haven’t as much as that together.
“Poor boy,” thought Alfred, “if what he says is true, we must help him.” Then he said aloud, “Bring me a written recommendation from your schoolmaster; and if the wheelwright really wants to take you, I will give you ten pounds as soon as the nightingale sings in our garden; and I know that the missing ten pounds will soon be forthcoming. But you must say nothing about this to anyone until my mother’s wish is gratified. I should like to give her an unexpected pleasure.”
Soon they struck the main road again, and the rest of the distance was quickly covered.
While the wheelwright was repairing the carriage, Alfred engaged him in conversation concerning the stable-boy, all of whose statements the man corroborated. He also showed a willingness to apprentice the boy on the terms stated.
The damage had now been repaired, so the Duchess paid the charges, giving the stable-boy a few coins, and seated herself in the carriage with her children.
After whispering a few words to the boy, to tell him how to reach the villa, Alfred joined his mother and sister, and with tooting of horns they proceeded on their journey in high spirits.
The little stable-boy, Michael Warden, hurried on to his sick father. It was late, and the journey would take him two hours. On his way he stopped to buy a few delicacies for his father with the coins the Duchess had given him. To his surprise, he found on arrival that his father was very much improved.
Before daybreak on the following morning, Michael hurried to the woods to find the nightingale’s nest he knew so well. When he had last visited it, he had seen five brownish-green eggs there. But as he now peered into it he found, to his great astonishment, that the young birds had broken through their shells. With all haste he set out for the villa, several miles distant, to study the situation and decide where he could best fasten the nest. Arriving there, he found a suitable place, and then hurried back to the woods.
In the course of a few days, he succeeded in caging the parent birds. Placing the nest beside them in the cage, he carried it to the garden of the Duchess. He arrived there toward evening, and was hospitably received by the gardener, who had been fully acquainted with the idea.
Adjoining the villa was a large tract of land, well wooded, which was beautifully laid out with garden plots, pebbly, shaded paths, vine-covered bowers and rustic seats. In one corner of the garden there stood an odd little thatch-covered arbor, nestling between high rocks in the shadow of the tall trees. A brook which fell in foaming whiteness flowed past this little nook, clear as crystal, and made the stillness fascinating by its intermittent murmuring. This spot the Duchess loved well, and many hours of the day she spent here.
Scarcely a hundred feet distant, there stood a willow tree closely resembling the late home of the caged nightingales. The boy had chosen this tree and had prepared a place for the nest on a forked branch. He went there late one evening, as the moon was shining brightly, and placed the nest securely on this tree; then he gave the parent birds their freedom.
The next morning, the boy returned to the spot and hid himself in the thick shrubbery, to see whether the birds would feed their young, who were loudly crying for food. In a little while the parent birds returned and fed them.
“Now I have triumphed,” said Michael; and he hurried to the villa to carry to Alfred the welcome news that in a few days the nightingales would be singing their song in his garden.
“Fine,” said Alfred, “and then the money will be yours. Stay a few days longer and you can take it with you.”
Two days later, the Duchess invited her friends to a lawn-party. The sun had risen in all its glory, the sky was unclouded, and the breezes were light and refreshing. The garden, with all its natural beauty, afforded a most entrancing spot for the feast, which proved perfect in every detail and was enjoyed in full measure.
After the guests had departed, the Duchess said to her children, “Let us spend this delightful twilight hour here in quiet. My soul is satisfied; for what can compare with this blessed evening hour? What comparison can there be between the grandeur of our salon and the beauty of nature?”
Just then the nightingale broke the stillness with its ecstatic song. The Duchess was surprised, and listened intently until the song was ended.
“I wonder how this nightingale came to my garden. The oldest residents cannot remember ever having heard one in this region.”
“Dear mother,” said Alfred, “you often wished that a nightingale would lend its song and its presence to grace this beautiful spot. The same boy who assisted us out of a difficulty recently, helped me gratify your wish. You remember, dear mother, that you said at that time: ‘I would give twenty pounds to have a nightingale in my garden.’ That boy has helped us please you, and we have paid him half this amount out of our savings. The boy is worthy of the money, and it may be the foundation of his future success.”
“You have acted nobly,” said the Duchess. “I am transported with ecstasy at hearing the nightingale sing for the first time in my garden, and also at the love which you have shown for your mother. It moves me still more, however, when I think that my children possess a heart big enough to part with money intended for their own use, and voluntarily give it up to afford help and joy to others. I, too, will reward the boy generously. I wonder what use he would make of the money.”
“We could not give the money to a more worthy person,” said Alfred, who then related to his mother the boy’s aspirations. “Besides, I have written to his teacher, and this is what he says about him: ‘A greater deed of charity you could not perform than to help Michael Warden carry out his desire to learn a trade. He is a clever, ingenious boy, and would learn quickly. I think he would like best to be a wheelwright, and I would suggest that you apprentice him with the master in our village.’ So you see, mother, the money would not be spent in vain.”
“Very well, the money shall be his.”
On the following morning, Alfred sent for Michael, and counted out to him the money, increasing it to fifty pounds. Michael’s astonishment almost carried him off his feet, and he thanked Alfred profusely for the extra money. He hurried home to his father and laid his wealth before him on the table. The old man stared at it in blank amazement, and said: “My boy, I hope you have not stolen this money!”
“No, father, but a little bird in the forest helped me,” and Michael related the incident.
His father, overjoyed, now made all preparations for Michael’s outfit. He then conducted him to the master wheelwright, paid the stipulated sum and entered him as an apprentice. At the end of three years, the boy was as accomplished in his trade as his master.
Before starting out into the world, Michael returned to the Castle of Banford to tell of his progress, and once more thank the Duchess and her children for their kindness to him. They praised him heartily for the strides he had made. The Duchess then gave him another gift of money for his journey, and said: “Success be yours. We must never do good by halves; the sapling that we plant we should also water.” Then with many encouraging remarks, the Banfords bade him good-bye.
Touched by their interest and charity, Michael was so stupefied that he could scarcely speak. When he recovered his self-control, he thanked them all, and promised faithfully to do his best and always remember their good advice.
Alfred Banford had always been kind to the poor and dutiful and affectionate to his mother. Suddenly he was seized with patriotic fervor. For some time he had nursed the desire to be a soldier. At the age of seventeen, he studied the art of warfare at a military academy. He surprised all the officers with his military genius.
The Duchess, too, loved her fatherland, and at last she tearfully recognized that she must give up her son to fight in defense of his country.
“Go, then,” said she, “fight for the right and your country; and may God protect you.”
Alfred fought valiantly and well, and at last was forced to proceed with the great French army against Russia. On the way to Moscow the ranks were greatly depleted, owing to the long, wearisome marches and privations. After untold hardships and bloodshed, the army at last reached Moscow, with her many palaces and temples and spires and the old palace, the Kremlin. It was a pleasing picture. Alfred, like every other soldier, now hoped to recuperate from the hardships of warfare. But he found the city uninhabited, the streets deserted, the palaces and houses empty.
At midnight, a dreadful fire which had been smoldering for several days, broke out in wild fury and laid the greater part of the city in ashes. The army was obliged to retreat; and many thousand brave soldiers, exposed to snow and ice, hunger and cold, met a horrible death. One single freezing night killed thousands of horses, Alfred’s among them. He was obliged to walk knee deep in icy water.
They traversed miles and miles of country without passing one hut; and when in the distance a human habitation appeared and gave promise of warmth and food, they found upon approach that it was deserted and devoid of everything.
The poor, miserable, weakened soldiers were obliged to spend many a weary night on the snow-covered ground, with no roof but the sky. The need of food became more and more imperative each moment; yet if they had had the wealth of kings, they could not have bought a dry crust of bread; so they were reduced to the extremity of eating the flesh of their fallen horses. They quenched their thirst with snow.
The street upon which the greater part of the army had gathered was marked with deserted cannons and powder wagons; and on both sides lay the dead, upon whom the fast falling snow had spread a white coverlet. Many of the soldiers of Alfred’s regiment had fallen, and lay frozen in the snow; others were scattered here and there.
Alfred and a chum, both in a weakened condition, tried to go on. They descried a little village, about half an hour distant; but before they reached it, Alfred had become so weak that he fell exhausted in the snow, saying: “Thus must I die here!” He extended his hand to his friend and with tears in his eyes said: “Should you ever reach the Castle of Banford, bear my love to my mother and sisters. Tell them that Alfred Banford fought bravely, and fell in the service of his country.”
These words reached the ears of a Russian gentleman, Vosky by name, who in a rude sled was going in the direction of the village. He halted, offered his assistance to the two half-frozen men, helped them into the sleigh and hurried on with them. A few minutes’ drive brought them to a little inn, half concealed by the drifted snow.
The men were conducted into the house and furnished with food and warmth. The host asked them no questions, for he saw that they were benumbed and almost unconscious. At last, when they had recovered, he raised his glass and said: “To your health, gentlemen. All brave soldiers should live. I sympathize with you, although I am a Russian subject. The sad fate of your fellow soldiers pains me. I will do all in my power to help you. I know you are not our enemy. We have but one enemy–the man whose iron will has forced all these hundreds of thousands of men into our country.” Then he arose and went about the place, giving orders to his assistant.
The sleigh still stood at the door, and the horses impatiently shook the sleigh bells and pawed the snow. As Vosky re-entered the room, his two guests had finished their repast.
“Now,” said he, “let me conduct you to a room where you can rest and sleep, undisturbed and undiscovered.” After climbing a ladder and walking through a narrow passage, they came to a secret door which opened into a bedroom. Alfred Banford looked about him, and was startled when he saw in a mirror the reflection of such a pale, hungry-looking visage and such tattered clothes.
Pity was plainly written in Vosky’s kind face, but all he said was: “Stay here and recuperate. To my sorrow, I must leave you for a little while in order to transact some urgent business; but I will instruct my valet to provide you with every possible comfort. Everything in this house stands at your service.”
Alfred Banford ventured to ask whether it would be perfectly safe to remain, for he feared that Russian soldiers might capture him and that he would be sent to Siberia.
“I give you my word,” said Vosky. “You will be as safe here as the Czar is in his Castle. Give me your word of honor to remain until my return. I will then devise means to help you reach your country. But I must be off now. Take good care of yourselves.” And hurriedly he closed the door behind him.
Alfred Banford marveled at the friendliness and goodness of this strange man who had come to his rescue so unexpectedly and so opportunely, like an angel from heaven. “It seems like awakening from a dream, to find myself transported from an icy field to a warm, cozy room,” said he. “It borders on the miraculous–I cannot fathom it.” But sleep was fast overpowering him. He had lain for so long on straw, on icy ground, and even in the snow, that it seemed as if he had never felt anything softer or warmer than this bed. He soon fell asleep and rested quietly and peacefully till the dawn.
On the following morning, at breakfast, Alfred Banford turned to the kind-hearted Russian servant, and said: “Do tell me what sort of man your master is, and what is his name?”
“He is a very good man,” said the servant. “I can think of no one who is kindlier. His name is Vosky, the Czar’s chief financial adviser, and he is particularly concerned with the care of the Russian army. He has always shown me great consideration, for I was only a poor beggar boy.
“One day one of Mr. Vosky’s assistants lost a package containing some valuable papers and a large sum of money. It was extensively advertised. I fortunately found the package and brought it to Mr. Vosky, who was so pleased with my honesty that he offered me a home, had me trained for a commercial life, and now takes me with him on his journeys, partly as secretary and partly as valet.
“His home is in St. Petersburg. This house is only used as a stopping place when his business carries him to this region, which happens quite frequently. Before leaving yesterday, he gave me strict orders to look after your welfare. I trust you will be pleased with my efforts, and give Mr. Vosky a good report when he returns.”
By slow degrees Alfred Banford recovered his strength. He found books with which to while away the time. The stillness of this secluded spot was a gratifying change from the noisy battlefield.
One night, Mr. Vosky returned. As he entered the house, his face shone with enthusiasm and gay spirits. “I come,” said he, turning to Alfred, “to give you liberty after your long confinement. I stand at your service, and wish to do everything in my power to see you safely restored to your own country. I would suggest that you go with me to St. Petersburg; from there you can easily return to your own home by water. I should like to introduce you to my wife and children. Besides, I could not let you depart without suitable clothing, and I cannot provide you with that here.”
“My good man,” said Alfred, “your extraordinary kindness to me exceeds all measure. I cannot understand how I should merit such consideration from you.”
“But,” said Mr. Vosky, almost choked with emotion, “I find nothing extraordinary or bountiful in my acts. It is my duty, an act of gratitude.”
“I fail to understand you,” said Alfred. “I cannot remember the slightest favor that I have ever proffered you. I never saw you before, and what is more, I never heard of you in my life.”
“Never?” cried Mr. Vosky. “Then listen to what I have to say. My entire fortune I owe to you. All my success I lay at your door.”
Alfred looked at him in astonishment and shook his head.
“Did you never help a poor boy, by giving him fifty pounds?”
“Just now I don’t remember ever having done any poor boy such a charity.”
“Now,” said Vosky, “perhaps you may remember a nightingale that you wished to have brought to your mother’s garden. You will recall that poor stable-boy who managed it for you.”
“Oh, yes,” said Alfred, “I remember the boy very well. He was a poor, worthy, ambitious lad, named Michael Warden. The last I heard of him was when he went out into the world as a wheelwright, to make his fortune.”
“So, you do remember him. Well, that boy Michael was none other than myself. Now I am the owner of a large factory, besides being financial adviser to the Czar. I had my name legally changed to Vosky. I was that stable-boy, that wheelwright.”
“You!” cried Alfred, filled with admiration and astonishment. He sprang forward and embraced his benefactor. “But why didn’t you tell me all this at first?”
“That was impossible,” said Vosky. “It would have taken too long to explain; and my business affairs were so pressing, and you were so exhausted, that you could not have listened to a detailed account. I deferred it for a more quiet, restful time, when I could express to you my thanks. I saw that you did not recognize me, and I, too, would never have recognized you had you not said that day as you sank in the snow, ‘Give my love to my mother and sisters and say that Alfred Banford fell in the service of his country.’ Let us be thankful that we have been brought together, and that the opportunity has been afforded me to show you that I am not ungrateful. I cannot express to you the joy it gives me to see you, and to be able to serve you.”
Mr. Vosky then related some of the events of his life. How he had visited the principal cities of Europe; and how he had studied under the best men, in order to make himself proficient in his line of work. Having heard that many Londoners were competing for the construction of carriages for Russia, he had hastily sent in his estimate. The work was accorded to him, and in a few years time he had amassed a large fortune. He had also opened a large wagon factory, and as soon as the war broke out with France, he had received orders from the Czar to supply the Russian army with additional powder wagons. The government had been as pleased with his promptness as with his honesty. Later, he had received the title of “Imperial Financial Adviser.”
Alfred listened earnestly, and said: “God blessed you with excellent talents. Even as a child you showed genius. You certainly made good use of your gifts. I see from all that you have told me, that you were always ready to embrace an opportunity; that you worked with diligence, honesty and system, and that you began and ended all your work with an honest purpose. God, upon whom you relied, has blessed all your undertakings.”
“That is true,” said Mr. Vosky. “The fortune which I have accumulated gives me pleasure; for with it I can help the needy. Many a poor lad, like myself, have I (in memory of my own childhood) taken by the hand and helped to become a man of standing in the world.”
Mr. Vosky became silent, and after a long pause said, “I sorely regret that my poor father did not live, to see how valuable was the good training which he gave me, and that I was not permitted to make some return to him for his love and devotion.”
On the following day, Mr. Vosky and his guests started on their journey to St. Petersburg. The route lay along a beautiful section of the country; and so, with entertaining conversation, they reached their destination before they had expected.
Mr. Vosky’s home was a beautiful place. His family came forward with warm greetings, and were introduced to Alfred Banford. The children could hardly understand how any man who looked so shabby and worn could ever have been their father’s benefactor. The father, however, explained to them that the trials and tribulations of warfare, through which Alfred had passed, accounted for his appearance; and they were moved to sympathy for his sufferings.
Mr. Vosky had his tailor furnish Alfred with a complete outfit, suitable to his station.
Alfred remained with the Vosky family until the following spring, when they escorted him to the wharf. Mr. Vosky gave him a large roll of bills, for which Alfred thanked him, and said: “I will send you a check for this amount as soon as I reach home.”
“Oh, no,” said Mr. Vosky; “rather give the money to some poor boy. What we give to the poor always returns to us.”
With many adieus and handshakes, Alfred departed; and the Vosky family continued waving their handkerchiefs until the vessel was lost to view.
II. THE SLAVE.
III. IN THE TURKISH FAMILY.
IV. THE LION.
V. THE OFFER.
VI. THE PLANS.
VII. RESTORED TO FREEDOM.
[Illustration: The Master of the House.]
Early one morning, Antonio, a noble youth of sixteen, was wandering by the seashore. He had just come from a high school in Salerno, Italy, and wished to spend the Easter holidays at his father’s ancestral home. The earth looked gay in all the beauty of spring, and the sea shone in the rosy light of the morning sun. Antonio’s heart glowed with adoration as he gazed upon the scene, and he thanked the Creator of all these wonders. With hurried steps he continued his way, thinking of his home and the reception awaiting him.
His parents were of noble birth. They had lost considerable property and money; but they desired to give their son every advantage and–what was worth more than money–an excellent education. From his earliest childhood, they had taught him to reverence God and respect the laws. All his talents were being carefully developed. At a great personal sacrifice, they had sent him to the high school. Here Antonio denied himself many pleasures in which his richer classmates indulged, and tried in every way to live economically. He made no secret of his lack of money, nor did he envy those who possessed more than he did. So on this particular morning we find Antonio saving traveling expenses by making the journey to his home on foot.
The path led through some tall bushes and curved around a huge rock. Here he suddenly espied a queer looking vessel lying at anchor. Several men with swarthy faces, clothed in a strange, odd fashion, were drawing water from a spring which gushed from the rock. They were pirates from Algiers. As soon as they caught sight of the boy, they sprang upon him, like tigers upon a harmless lamb, seized him, dragged him to the ship, robbed him of his beautiful clothing, dressed him like a slave, bound him hand and foot and placed him beside some other captives, who greeted Antonio with loud cries.
When Antonio had recovered from the first great shock, he folded his chained hands, and turning his eyes towards the heavens, he cried aloud to God for strength to bear this great trial, and for safe deliverance from, the hands of his enemies.
The other prisoners, mostly Italians, had understood his prayers and were deeply touched by his great faith. They soon became confidential, and little by little they unfolded to one another the story of their lives. One prisoner, well versed in law, who knew Antonio’s father, showed the boy much sympathy. Another prisoner, a sailor, grieved over the old parents whose mainstay he had been for many years. “Oh,” sighed he, “now hunger and want will overtake them.” Another, a fisherman, somewhat older than the rest, was the saddest of them all. He sat apart at one end of the ship, holding his head in his hand and weeping silently. He was the father of five children. He grieved sorely when he thought what his absence would mean to them. Antonio tried to comfort the old man with the assurance that some rescuer would be sent to save them.
All the prisoners listened to Antonio. His appearance, his friendliness, his cheerfulness, his faith, his trust brightened them all and gave them renewed hope. Then the fisherman stood up and said: “This boy has been sent to cheer us. Let us trust as he does, and some day, perhaps, our chains may be removed.” Then he began to sing and all the prisoners joined in the song.
The pirates now weighed anchor, and slowly the ship began to move. Antonio watched the mountains, the hills, the temples and the palaces gradually become smaller and smaller and finally fade from view. Then a great pain at leaving his beloved fatherland, his sunny Italy, clutched his heart. Soon he was able to see nothing but the heavens and the vast expanse of water.
For several days the vessel sailed hither and thither, in search of more prey. Suddenly the pirates spied in the distance a warship, which was in pursuit of them. The prisoners rejoiced in silence and felt buoyed by the hope of an early rescue. The pirates lashed the prisoners to greater activity, and made them help with the oars. Under cover of the night, the pirates made their escape.
As the morning sun broke over the sea, Antonio gazed upon the waters, and saw nothing of the warship. His heart sank, and he could scarcely repress his tears. But suddenly he raised his voice, and said to his fellow-prisoners, “Though our trusting prayers have not been answered, they will not pass unheeded, and our deliverance will surely come.”
In less than an hour they saw in the distance the city of Algiers, glistening in the sunlight. Little by little they were able to distinguish the houses, and the Temple of the Turks, with the sign of the Crescent upon it.
The ship anchored, the prisoners were landed, and after a short rest were led through the narrow, dirty streets to the market place. Here they were exhibited for sale like cattle. The purchasers passed among the prisoners, and examined them as they would horses. In order to display their strength, the prisoners were obliged to lift heavy stones, placed there for that purpose. Many sales were made. The lawyer, the sailor and several others went for a good price. As Antonio could not lift the heavier stones, the buyers considered him too weak for a slave and scornfully passed him by.
A little removed from the crowd, there stood a merchant with a very wrinkled face, who seemed to be taking but little interest in the sale. After all the captives had been sold, except Antonio, the merchant stepped nearer, put on his spectacles, and surveyed Antonio from head to foot. He examined his hands, and hesitated when he found them soft and white. “But,” said the merchant, speaking in Italian, “there must be something that you have learned.” Antonio thought a moment, and not wishing to hide anything, said confidently that he could do clerical work and could write in the Italian and French languages. “Hm, hm,” said the merchant, “that is something, but what else can you do?”
Antonio said, “I understand Latin and Greek.”
“Oh, my, such wares we cannot use here. Is there nothing else that you know?”
“Yes,” answered Antonio, “I can sing and play the guitar.”
“I wish I had an instrument at hand,” said the merchant; “but suppose you sing a song for me.”
Antonio did as the old man wished, and his voice was sweet and clear.
The merchant offered three gold pieces for Antonio, but as the dealers kept on raising the price, the merchant shrugged his shoulders, turned and went on.
The pirates called him back and offered him the boy for ten gold pieces. The merchant paid the price, and the boy belonged to him.
It grieved Antonio to think that he had been bought like a horse or a dog; but his trust and faith were so steadfast that he knew, in the fullness of time, some good would result from it.
The merchant was named Jesseph. He carried on a slave business, but only occasionally. Slaves who were accustomed to rough, hard work he never deigned to purchase; such as were young, active, refined or clever suited his purpose best. Besides, he tried to buy at the lowest figure, and sell at a great profit. He certainly hoped to sell Antonio at a high price.
When he reached home, he said to his overseer: “See what a fine specimen I have brought. Notice his manly bearing and refined, handsome face. See the intelligence that beams from his eyes. All these things fill me with the expectation of soon disposing of him profitably.
“Now,” said he, turning to Antonio, “go with my overseer and buy yourself a guitar of the very best make.” Then, addressing the overseer, he said, “Be sure you pay the very least amount possible.”
When they returned Jesseph bade Antonio play and sing.
“Oh, that is beautiful!” cried he. “That touches the heart. You talk well and you sing well; both are good recommendations and will certainly secure for you a fine position.” And, thought he to himself, “will bring me a good price, too.”
Jesseph did not try to sell Antonio immediately. He hoped to teach him a little of the language, manners and customs of the Turks, so that he could the better fill a position in a Turkish household. He gave him instruction, and was surprised at his rapid progress. He fed him well and housed him well, and exacted from him daily labor at clerical work. Often Antonio was obliged to unpack large cases of goods; but he performed all the work with patience, cheerfulness and obedience.
IN THE TURKISH FAMILY
A year had slowly passed. One day Jesseph called Antonio to him and said: “I have some good news to impart. I have secured a very desirable position for you, and I am certain that you will meet all the requirements.”
Jesseph bade Antonio gather together his things, and provided him with a suitable outfit. At the end of the week, he conducted Antonio to a Turkish house in the heart of the city. The servant, having announced their arrival, ushered them into a magnificent reception room.
The master of the house, a Turk, clad in rich Turkish garments, sat upon a divan, smoking a long bamboo pipe which was filled with fragrant tobacco. Beside him, on a low table, stood a cup of coffee.
Turning to Antonio, the Turk said, “I have been told that you are a fine singer and player. Let me hear you perform.”
Modestly Antonio addressed the Turk and said: “I can sing nothing in your language; I know only Italian songs.”
“That will please me, as I understand Italian. Just sing and play what you know best,” said the Turk.
Then Antonio, who felt himself an outcast from his own pleasant, sunny Italy, and transported as a captive to Africa, softly lifted his voice, and sang a song of home and fatherland, with deep tenderness and soulfulness.
The Turk listened attentively, the smoke rising from his pipe, and said as soon as the song was ended: “Bravo! your talent exceeds my expectation.”
After plying Antonio with a few more questions, he said, “I think you possess the necessary qualifications.”
Then the Turk counted out one hundred gold pieces to Jesseph and laid them upon the table. Jesseph counted them and placed them in his leather bag. “Your honor,” said he, turning to the Turk, “will be pleased with this bargain, I am sure; and you, Antonio, must show by your good works that you are worthy the price. Live well! Adieu!”
The Turk, Ashmed by name, was a rich merchant who traded extensively with other countries. He wished Antonio to carry on his correspondence with French and Italian merchants, and to serve in his house.
As it was now time to dine, he directed Antonio to prepare himself and then proceed to the dining-room.
[Illustration: “Now you may sing and play for us.”]
Here Antonio became acquainted with the other members of the household. At the table there were four persons, Ashmed, his wife, Fatime, and their two children, a boy and a girl.
As Ashmed’s wife removed the veil which had concealed her face, Antonio was struck by her exquisite beauty. The children, who were very well behaved, greeted him in a friendly way and watched him attentively. Antonio tried to do his best, and felt amply repaid when Ashmed said: “Your services this day have pleased us. Now you may sing and play for us.”
As Antonio had noticed the affection which existed in this household, he sang a sweet Italian song of motherly love.
“The song is beautiful,” said the girl. And the boy said, “I wish I could sing like that.”
“Very well,” said the father, “Antonio shall teach you.”
The children were overjoyed, and Antonio assured the father that it would give him great pleasure to instruct them. The music served as a bond to draw them closer, and soon the children grew very fond of Antonio. This pleased the parents, and won for Antonio their full appreciation.
Ashmed now decided to take his family, Antonio included, to visit his country estate, which lay in the southwestern part of Algeria near the mountains. Here he owned a large house, surrounded by a beautiful garden. A short distance from the house stood a great number of olive trees belonging to the estate. Many slaves were busily employed gathering the olives, which were afterwards pressed to extract the oil.
Shortly after their arrival, Ashmed took his family to view the estate and to watch the laborers finishing their day’s work. The sun was fast declining and the men, before leaving the grounds for the day, tried to extinguish a small fire which they had shortly before lighted. They stamped on the burning material and scattered it, leaving a brand or two to die out slowly.
Ashmed and Fatime walked on to view the mountains, whose tops glowed in the sunlight, while the valley lay in shadow. The two children enjoyed themselves chasing insects that looked to them like flying diamonds.
Suddenly there came down the mountain path a ferocious lion, with bristling mane and wide open month. All fled toward the house, pale with fright. The little girl, Almira, who could not run so fast, lost her footing and fell helpless on the ground as the lion was approaching her. Antonio quickly seized a glowing fire-brand, swung it in circles and thus renewed the flames. With this fiery torch whirling before him, he walked boldly in the direction of the lion.
He knew that all animals fear fire. The lion stumbled, stood still, shook his mane, uttered a roar that brought a thunderous echo from the mountains, then slowly retreated, always keeping his eyes fixed upon the torch. The enraged lion again stood still, growled and roared louder than before, and once more stood ready to spring. Antonio plucked up courage, and steadily swung his fiery weapon before him. The lion stood still for the third time. Suddenly it turned, trotted up the mountain path, and soon disappeared in the darkness of the approaching night.
In the meantime the frightened child had reached her mother, who had tried hard to save her, but had found herself too helpless to move. Almira sank into her mother’s arms, overcome with the shock. The mother pressed her child’s pale face close to her own, and their tears mingled. The father turned his eyes, full of gratitude, toward heaven. He drew Antonio, inwardly trembling, close to his side and pressed his hands in silent thanks. Little Aladin caressed his sister and said: “How glad I am that you are saved. If Antonio had not been here, the lion would have eaten you.”
The father and mother praised Antonio for his heroism. But Antonio was only too glad to have saved Almira; and at night he thanked God for the strength and courage which He had sent him to save a human life.
In his whole life Antonio had never slept so peacefully as he did on this night; never had he arisen from his bed in such a happy frame of mind as on the following morning. He walked out into the garden and gazed for a long time at the sun, just peeping over the hills; he thought it had never shone so brightly. Never had the heavens appeared so blue or the flowers more vivid. Each dewdrop, too, seemed to be more brilliant. All nature proclaimed itself friendlier than ever. With the fragrance of the flowers, his grateful prayer ascended to heaven. As he went about gathering blossoms for the decoration of the house, he met his master, Ashmed, who wished him a pleasant good-morning.
“Come with me; I have something important to tell you,” said Ashmed.
He took Antonio affectionately by the hand and led him to a pathway lined on both sides with flowering bushes, where they walked up and down for a few moments in deep silence. After a short pause, Ashmed said: “I am greatly indebted to you, Antonio. You have saved my child. Each moment I realize your bravery more and more fully. From this hour you shall no longer be my slave, but I will look upon you as my son. You shall share all our joys.”
For a moment Antonio seemed unable to utter a word, so completely was he lost in thought and overcome with emotion. Oh, the delight of being once more free, with the possibility of some day clasping in his arms his loved ones, still so far away. Suddenly awaking from his reverie, Antonio thanked Ashmed again and again.
Resuming their walk, Antonio talked of his childhood and his home in Italy; and so tenderly and pathetically did he speak of his parents that Ashmed’s heart was deeply moved.
Appreciating the confidence and love which he felt drawing him closer and closer to the Turk, Antonio continued the conversation. He vividly described his home and country, and expressed a great longing to visit the familiar scenes again, and be clasped in the arms of his parents.
This awoke in Ashmed a sense of the great loss which Antonio and his parents had suffered. As he had on the previous day almost lost his dear Almira, he now understood much better what the loss of a child could mean. He began to think how noble it would be to restore Antonio to his parents. He said nothing, however, and together they walked toward home.
When Antonio entered the house he found Fatime awaiting her husband.
“Good Antonio!” she cried, as he entered, “you certainly performed a heroic deed yesterday. You snatched my child from death’s grasp, and you did it at the risk of your own life.”
“It was no more than my duty,” said Antonio.
Then Almira took his hand and said: “Antonio, how good you were to save me”; and she kissed him again and again.
Fatime then led him to talk of himself, and became intensely interested in the tale of his home and early training. Her mother’s heart went out to the boy who had saved her child.
Breakfast had been long delayed. As Ashmed now entered the room, the meal was soon dispatched, and the children went with Antonio to an adjoining room, where they sang and played till dinner time.
Ashmed and Fatime withdrew to the library, and seated themselves to enjoy a quiet half-hour in conversation.
“My dear husband,” said his wife, “I wish you had come a few moments sooner, and you would have heard a sad story. It was so full of love and longing that if I could help Antonio get back to his mother I feel that I should be repaying him, in a measure at least, for saving my child. Oh, how much better I understand now what a mother must feel at the loss of a child.”
Ashmed’s face brightened as he heard these words. “How thankful I am that you are so minded,” said he. “I feel just as you do, and I wish to discuss the matter fully with you.”
Fatime was ready with plans at once. “You have,” said she, “often spoken of taking a trip to Italy and making your residence there. What could better suit your purpose than to do it now. Our treasures of gold and silver, pearls, diamonds and other valuables we could take with us. Our landed estates and all your wares we could sell. Let us do so as soon as possible, and leave Algiers forever.”
Ashmed praised his wife for her cleverness, and resolved to carry out her plans immediately.
After a few more months of planning, he met with unusual success in disposing of his property, real and personal, and with his wife, the children and Antonio soon took passage on a steamer bound for Italy.
As the city of Algiers receded from view, Ashmed and his family felt happy. Antonio was the happiest boy in the world. The thought of home and parents made the voyage seem a short one to him; and soon the city of Salerno could be seen in the distance. When the steamer reached port, Ashmed and his family took up their quarters at a hotel, while Antonio was permitted to seek his home and family.
One evening, as Antonio’s parents were seated beneath a tree at the door of their cottage, thinking and talking of their loved boy, there came toward them a stranger. At first they did not recognize him as their Antonio, for he had grown taller and his complexion browner; but when they looked into his face, they saw there such an expression of love and tenderness, that they immediately knew their son. Oh, the great joy of this meeting, and the embracing and hand-shaking! Words failed them; for they were so overcome with emotion that they could not speak; but they drew him in triumph into the house. Antonio removed his cloak and stood before them, richly clad, suitable to his station. His mother soon prepared a sumptuous meal for him, and while partaking of it, he related to his parents the events that had occurred during his long absence. They wept over his woes, and rejoiced over his bravery, and praised him for his steadfastness.
At the end of the week Ashmed and his family called upon Antonio’s people. Ashmed honored them as if they were his own. He knew, too, that they had met with many financial losses, so he had made out a deed to them, which he handed to them, saying: “As I have been benefited through you and your son, whom you trained so well, and who saved my child, I feel that it is my duty to share my fortune with you. Here is a deed which represents one-fourth of my wealth.”
“No–no,” answered Antonio’s father. “Far be it from me to accept one penny. True, we are not rich; but neither are we poor, and in the return of our long-lost Antonio we feel richly repaid. We offer you our gratitude and thank you for your protection of him, and for your generosity.”
“I regret that you will not accept my offer, but I trust you will not prevent me from bestowing it upon your son, Antonio. He has been so well tested that I know riches will not spoil him. Here, my dear Antonio, take this deed.”
“I,” answered Antonio, “cannot accept your handsome gift, but if I may, I would beg you to use your riches in behalf of those men who were taken captive with me on that pirate ship, particularly the young lawyer, the poor sailor and the old fisherman, and buy their freedom for them. There is a society here in Salerno which devotes its time and attention to the needs of the outcast, the lost and the captive; and as it is in great need of funds, I know that your donation would be most acceptable to it and be productive of much good. I beg you to use the money in this way. A greater charitable work you can never perform.”
Ashmed answered: “Not only half, but all of this money, I will give as a ransom for the three unfortunates you name, and for many more.”
This greatly pleased Antonio, and he said: “I thank you sincerely, and I am sure that many blessings will be sent you in return.”
RESTORED TO FREEDOM
After searching for a suitable place to settle, Ashmed purchased a beautiful house not far from Antonio’s home. The families exchanged visits, and their friendly relations continued for years and years. Antonio resumed his studies at the best colleges, his tuition being paid by his friend and benefactor.
One day, at Eastertide, Antonio returned home for a short visit. Ashmed and his family called upon Antonio, to whom they presented a letter which they had just received. In it, Antonio read the greetings which his friend, the lawyer, extended to him, together with thanks to him and Ashmed for their kind helpfulness in securing his liberty for him.
On the following day, as the guests were all seated at the table, a knock announced some strangers. They were the old fisherman and the young sailor who had been captives with Antonio, but were now free and had come to offer their thanks. It was a touching sight.
Ashmed said, “Don’t thank me, but rather this boy. He is your emancipator.”
“Yes,” said the old fisherman, “this is the boy who appeared to us, like an angel, and comforted us as we sat in chains. We now lay our thanks at his feet.”
Antonio waved them back and said, “Thank my dear parents, for they taught me by word and example; and everything I have done is due to their training.”
Then Antonio’s father stepped into their midst and raising his eyes to heaven, said: “All honor and praise we give to God. As always, He has made everything turn out for the best. He sends us great sorrows for some good purpose; but He also sends us great joys. When a child follows the good instructions received from good parents, makes good use of his talents, and forgets not to be grateful, he will become an instrument of good for the benefit of humanity. Antonio was sent to you in your captivity, and through Antonio you were all led back to your liberty. Let us give thanks.”
After a long silence, the conversation again became animated. The men narrated the varied incidents in their lives, and talked about their future prospects.
Ashmed gave the men some ready money with which to start in business, and they promised to repay him as soon as they were able. Ashmed did not wish the money refunded, but they felt that it would be more manly to do this.
As the time for departure arrived, the men bade Antonio and Ashmed good-bye, and were off.
The next day Antonio returned to college. He continued his studies there for several years, and was graduated with high honors.
In the course of time he became an opera singer of international fame. He always maintained a dignified bearing, free from any vanity; and recognizing his gift as coming from God, accepted the praise and acclamation of the world in all humility.
He found time in his busy life to help the needy, and later became a director of the society which we have said was organized for the rescue of the outcast. He devoted his voice, his hands, his strength and his life to the betterment of mankind.
THE ARTIST’S MASTER-PIECE
I. THE GIFT.
II. UNDER THE EMPEROR’S BUSH.
III. No PROPHET IN HIS OWN COUNTRY.
IV. THE CONDITION.
V. THE FULFILMENT.
[Illustration: “Hans, undaunted, stepped up to her father.”]
THE ARTIST’S MASTERPIECE
A little village with its scattered glimmering lights lay in peaceful dreams. Just as a black swan draws her young under her, so the mighty Cathedral rested in the midst of the low houses, which seemed to creep, like birds, under its wing.
It struck twelve from the church tower, and larger and smaller clocks, near and far, carried the message onward. Dead silence again hovered over the sleeping village.
Just as dawn bathed the hills in sunlight, two stately men wandered along the Cathedral Square. One seemed somewhat older, with his full gray beard. His hair, rich and abundant, curled beneath his velvet cap. He walked so majestically that one could see, at the very first glance, that he was no ordinary person, but one upon whose shoulders an invisible weight rested. Handsome, tall and noble, just as one would picture the highest type of man–a king from head to foot.
Here, in the little village of Breisach, as he named it, Emperor Maximilian liked to rest from the cares of his Empire. Here, in this little retreat, filled with calm and quietude, he loved to wander. From here he sent letters full of tender thoughts to his daughter in the Netherlands.
He loved the place well, and christened it “Care-Free.”
As Emperor Maximilian walked proudly, but with heavy tread, along the parapet of the Cathedral Square, his eye rested upon the gay scene at his feet. To-day the invisible world of care pressed heavily upon his shoulders. Suddenly he stood still, and turning to his private secretary, he said, “I wonder who those children are who are so industriously planting a rose-bush in the niche of the wall?”
The children, a girl and a boy (the former about eight, and the latter twelve years of age), were so engrossed in their work that they had not noticed the approach of the Emperor, until his presence was so near that it startled them. They turned full face upon him. Then the boy touched the girl and said, “It’s the Emperor!”
“What are you doing there?” he asked, and his artistic eye feasted on the beauty of this charming pair.
“We are planting a rose-bush,” said the boy, undaunted.
The Emperor smiled, and said, “What is your name?”
“Hans Le Fevre, sir.”
“And the little one, is she your sister?”
“No, she is Marie, our neighbor’s child.”
“Ah!–you like each other very much?”
“Yes, when I’m old enough, and when I own a knife, I’m going to marry her.”
The Emperor opened his eyes wide, and said, “Why do you need a knife?”
“Surely,” answered the boy, earnestly, “if I have no knife I cannot cut, and if I cannot cut I can earn no money. My mother has always said that without money one cannot marry. Besides, I should have to have much money to enable me to marry my little friend Marie, as she is the Counselor’s daughter.”
“But,” questioned the Emperor, “what do you want to cut?”
“Ha! ha! I understand. You want to be a wood-carver. Now, I remember that I once met two young boys, named Le Fevre. They were studying in Nurnberg, with Durer, ‘The Prince of Artists.’ Were they, perhaps, your relatives?”
“Yes, my cousins, and once I saw them carve, and I would like to learn how, too; but my father and uncle are dead, and my mother never buys me a knife.”
The Emperor thrust his hand into his pocket, and after much fumbling and jingling, pulled out a knife with an artistically carved handle. “Will that do?” said he.
The boy flushed, and one could see how beneath his coarse, torn shirt his heart beat with joy.
“Yes,” stammered the boy, “it’s beautiful.”
“Well, take it and use it diligently,” said the Emperor.
The boy took the treasure from the Emperor’s hand as carefully as if it were red hot and might burn his fingers.
“I thank you many times!” was all that he could say; but in his dark eyes there beamed a fire of joy whose sparks of love and gratitude electrified the Emperor.
“Would you like to go to your cousins in Nurnberg, and help them in plate-engraving! There’s plenty of work there.”
“I would like to go to Durer in Nurnberg, but I don’t want to be a plate-engraver. I would rather cut figures that look natural.”
“That’s right,” said the Emperor, “you will be a man, indeed; always hold to that which is natural and you will not fail.”
At that moment the Emperor drew a leather bag from his velvet riding jacket and gave it to the boy.
“Be careful of it. Save the golden florins within; give them to no one. Remember, the Emperor has ordered that they be used toward your education. Study well, and when you are full-grown and able to travel, then go to Durer, in Nurnberg. Convey to him my greetings; say to him that, as I, while in his studio one day, held the ladder for him lest he fall, so should he now hold the ladder of fame for you, that you may be able to climb to the very top of it. Will you promise me all that, my boy?”
“Yes, your majesty!” cried Hans, inspired, and, seizing the Emperor’s right hand, he shook it heartily and kissed it. Then the Emperor passed on, while the boy stood there in a dream. Marie still held tightly to her apron.
Just at that moment a servant appeared who had been in search of Marie. The children ran to meet her and related their experience with the Emperor. The servant called all the townsfolk together to see the knife and the contents of the bag, but wise Hans kept the bag closed.
The next day the Emperor rode off; but for many days to come his talk with Hans was the town topic. “Surely, it is no wonder,” said the envious ones. “Hans always was a bold boy and knew how to talk up for himself, so why shouldn’t he know how to talk to the Emperor?” This speech was decidedly undeserved; but Hans was too young to understand their meanness. He was absorbed in the Emperor’s greatness and kindliness.
UNDER THE EMPEROR’S BUSH
Years passed. Hans Le Fevre lost his mother and Marie hers; and closer and closer did the bond of companionship draw these children.
In the evening, when her father was busy with a committee-meeting and the housekeeper was gossiping with the neighbors, Hans and Marie would climb the garden wall. Here they would sit together, while Hans cut beautiful toys for her, such as no child of those times had. He would talk with her about all the beautiful pictures and carvings he had lately seen, and of the masters in the art of wood-carving; for now he was attending art lectures and studying hard. Hours were spent in this way; but often, when the opportunity offered, they would run off to the Cathedral and water the rose-bush, which Hans had now christened the “Emperor’s Bush.”
There they loved best to linger, for there they hoped always that the Emperor would return. And often they would cry out aloud, “Your Majesty, Your Majesty, come again!”
But their voices died away unanswered; for, far from them, the Emperor was concerned with the affairs of State. The children waited for him in vain. The Emperor came no more.
As the time went by, the children grew, and the rose-bush grew also. Just as if the tender threads of love in their hearts had unconsciously entwined them as one around the roots of the little bush, it kept drawing them to itself, there in the niche of the wall. There they found each other, day after day. The bush was like a true friend, who held their two hands fast in his. But their true friend was not strong enough to hold together what other people wished to separate.
The lovely, highly respected Counselor’s daughter was no longer permitted to meet Hans. Her father forbade her one day, saying that Hans was not only poor but was not even a native of the town. His ancestors were Hollanders who had wandered into Breisach. A stranger he was, and a poor stranger at that. He was a sort of Pariah and could not be fitted into their time-honored customs. Then, too, he did not pursue any regular trade. “He expects to be an artist.” At that time that was as good as to be a robber, or a tramp or a conjurer.
Whatever Hans did or whatever he worked at, he kept a secret. He had bought the little house in which he dwelt, and since his mother’s death had lived there all alone. Nobody came or went, except a famous sculptor who had quarreled one day with a native in Breisach and been obliged to leave the town. People said that Hans helped him get away. Ever since that time Hans had been in ill-repute with his rich neighbor, the Counselor.
Often Hans met Marie at the “Emperor’s Bush,” and these little meetings seemed to make them like each other more than they had ever dreamed. After Hans had missed Marie for many days, he sang a little song beneath her window.
The next day she met Hans at the “Emperor’s Bush,” and there they promised to be true to each others always. Then, in a moment of ecstasy, Hans cried out, “Would that the Emperor were here!” Just as if he felt that no one but the Emperor was worthy of sharing his great joy.
As the Emperor did not come, Hans cut the initials “M.” and “H.” in the bark of the rosebush, and above it a little crown. This meant “Marie, Hans and Emperor Maximilian.”
The fall passed and winter came; and the children now seldom saw each other. Hans sang so frequently beneath Marie’s window that her father heard him one night, and in great anger threatened to punish her if she continued her acquaintance with this boy.
One evening Hans and Marie stood for the last time under the rose-bush which they had planted eight years before. He was now a youth of twenty years; she a rosebud of sixteen summers.
It was a lowering day in February. The snow had melted and a light wind shook the bare branches of the bush. With downcast eyes she had related to him all she had been forced to hear concerning him; and big tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Marie,” said the boy in deep grief, “I suppose you will finally be made to believe that I am really a bad person?”
Then she looked full upon him, and a light smile played over her features as she said: “No, Hans, never, never. No one can make me doubt you. They do not understand you, but I do. You have taught me (what the others do not know) everything that is good and great and noble. You have made me what I am; just as your artistic hands have cut beautiful forms out of dead wood.” She took his big, brown hands and gently pressed them to her lips. “I believe in you, for you worship the Supreme with your art; and the man who does that, in word or deed, cannot be wicked.”
“And will you always remain true, Marie, till I have perfected myself and my art, and can return to claim you?”
“Yes, Hans, I will wait for you; and should I die before you return, it is here under this rosebush, where we have spent so many happy hours, that I wish to be buried. You must return here to rest, when wearied by your troubles; and every rose-leaf that falls upon you will be a good wish from me.”
Her tears fell silently, and their hearts were sorely tried by the grief of parting.
“Don’t cry,” said Hans, “all will yet be well. I am going to Durer, as the Emperor bade me. I will learn all that I can; and when I feel I know something, I will seek the Emperor, wherever he may be, tell him my desires, and beg him to intercede for me with your father.”
“Oh, yes, the Emperor–if he were only here, he would help us.”
“Perhaps he will come again,” said Hans. “We will pray that he be sent to us, or I to him.”
They sank upon their knees in the cold, soft winter grass; and it seemed to them as if a miracle would be performed, and the rose-bush be changed into the Emperor.
There–what was that? The big clock on the church struck slowly, solemnly, sadly–
The two looked up. “What is it, do you suppose? A fire–enemies, perhaps? I sense a great calamity,” said she.
Just at that moment people were coming toward the church. Hans hurried up to them, to find out what was the trouble, while Marie waited.
“Where have you been, that you don’t know? Why, yonder in the market place the notice was read–‘the Emperor is dead!'” they cried.
“The Emperor is dead?”
There stood Hans, paralyzed. All his hopes seemed shattered. As soon as quiet reigned again, he returned to Marie, and seated himself on a bench. Leaning his head in uncontrollable grief against the slender stem of the rose-bush, he moaned aloud: “Oh, my Emperor, my dear, good Emperor, why did you leave me?” Lightly Marie touched his shoulder in sympathy.
The last rays of the setting sun had now departed. The last tones of the dirge had died away. Everything was still and deserted, as if there could never again be spring.
“Oh, Marie!” lamented Hans, hopelessly, “the King will never come again.”
“Bear up,” said Marie, “for we have each other.” And as she gazed far off in the twilight, her eyes seemed like two exiled stars, yearningly seeking their home.
As Hans gazed at her, standing there before him with her hands crossed over her breast, in all her purity and humility, a great joy lit up his countenance. He folded his hands, inspired.
“Marie,” he whispered, “let us not despair. In this very moment I have received an inspiration, and if I can bring to pass that which I now see in my mind’s eye, I shall be an artist who will need the help of no one –not even an Emperor.”
The dawn of the next day found Hans ready to set out on his journey. He carried a knapsack on his back, and on his breast the little leather bag which the Emperor had given him, with the few florins that remained. He closed the door of his little house, put the key into his pocket, and walked slowly off. Loud and clear sounded his rich, soft voice as he sang, “On the rose thorn, on the rose thorn, there my hope is hanging!”
Softly in Marie’s house a window was raised, and with a little white handkerchief she gently waved her mute farewell.
Quickly mastering himself, Hans grasped his staff more firmly, and now only his heavy tread echoed through the streets.
NO PROPHET IN HIS OWN COUNTRY
Year after year passed. Hans Le Fevre had not been heard from. People thought of him, however, when they passed his house with the front door firmly locked and the shades drawn, and wondered who would next lay claim to it.
Only Marie thought constantly of him, and hoped and waited longingly. No pleading, no scolding, no threats could arouse her. She never left the house, unless it was to visit the rose-bush which she watered and tended so well that it had now grown tall and stately. She knew that the sight of it would cheer his faithful heart on his return. It was the only bond between them. He had planted it with her, and they both loved it. It was almost as high as the niche where it stood, and seemed as if it wished to stretch beyond. Marie bent it and fastened it to the wall with a string, so that its flowering top had to bend beneath the vaulted niche.
These quiet acts were her only joy, her only recreation. In work and prayer she passed her days, and her fresh young cheeks began to pale. Her father noticed the change, but without pity.
It was fortunate for her that his busy life took him away from home so often.
Just at this time the people of Breisach desired a new altar for their church. A proclamation was accordingly sent forth to all German artists to compete, by submitting drawings and estimates for the work. To the one who sent the best the contract would be given to carry out the design.
Marie heard little about this, as she seldom came in contact with the people. She lived lonely in her little home. It was now the fifth year since Hans’ departure, and long ago his letters had ceased to come, because her father had forbidden any correspondence. Hans had no friends in Breisach through whom he could communicate. But such uncertainty gnaws. Marie was tired of waiting–very tired.
One afternoon she seated herself at her desk and started to write her last wish. Her father was absent, and she was unwatched.
“When I die,” she wrote, “I beg you to bury me yonder beside the Cathedral wall, under the rose-bush which I planted in my childhood. Should Hans Le Fevre ever return, I beg you–” she paused, for just then a song, at first soft, then louder, greeted her ears.
No star ever fell from heaven, no swallow ever flew more quickly than flew the maiden to her window, drawn by this call.
In trembling tones the final words of the song died away. Her paper, her ink, her pen, everything had fallen from her in her haste. As a captive bird, freed from its cage, flies forth joyously, so Marie bounded forth from her home. Faster and faster she went, never stopping till she reached the rose-bush. Breathless and with beating heart, she halted. There before her stood Hans Le Fevre.
They seated themselves upon the bench. Long, long they sat silently.
At last Hans said, “My dear, true girl, how pale you have grown. Are you ill?”
She shook her head. “No more, and I trust never again. But you stayed away much too long. Couldn’t you have come back sooner?”
“No, my dear, I could _not_. Had I returned as a poor, struggling carver your father would have banished me from his door-step. We should then have seen each other again, only to be parted for the second time. So I waited till I had accomplished what I set out to do. I have traveled extensively and feasted my eyes on the beautiful works of art in great cities. I have studied under Durer, and now my name is mentioned with honor as one of Durer’s pupils.”
“Oh, Hans, do you really believe that that will soften my father’s heart?” said Marie, anxiously.
“Yes, Marie, I don’t think that he can fail me. I heard in Nurnberg that a new altar is to be built in this Cathedral, so I hastened here to compete. Should I be deemed worthy to do such a piece of work, what could your father have against me?”
Marie, however, shook her head doubtfully; but Hans was full of hope.
“But see how our rose-bush has grown!” cried Hans in astonishment. “You tended it well; but it seems almost as if the roses had taken from you all your life and strength and health. Return my darling’s strength to her,” Hans said laughingly; and taking a handful of roses, he softly stroked her face with them; but her cheeks remained white.
“Rejoice, my rosebud, rejoice, my darling, for the spring will soon be here; and with my care you will soon be well.”
A half hour later, the beadle walked timidly into the council hall of the high-gabled Council House, and said, “Honored Counselor, will you graciously pardon me, but there is a man without who pressingly begs to be ushered into your presence.”
“Who is it?” asked the Counselor.
“It is Hans Le Fevre,” answered the beadle, “but he is handsomely attired. I hardly recognized him.”
This was a great surprise to all. Hans, the runaway, the tramp, who slipped away by night–to me. “See! see! ingeniously thought out,” cried he.
“But just to design a thing is far easier than to carry it out,” said another.
“Hans Le Fevre never did this kind of work before.”
“Perhaps he has progressed,” remarked the Mayor, “and possibly he would do it cheaper than the renowned Master Artist.”
This idea took root. “But,” said one, “it would be an unheard of thing to give such an exalted work to a simple boy like Hans Le Fevre, whom everybody knew as a stupid child, and whom we looked upon disdainfully. The appearance of the thing alone would not justify us in selecting him.”
But this remark had its good side, too; for the gentlemen now decided that, in order that the work be given to the most competent, it would be advisable to send to Durer all the designs thus far submitted, and ask his opinion in the matter.
Marie cried bitterly when she heard of the treatment Hans had received; but Hans did not yet despair. At the same time that these worthy gentlemen dispatched the designs to Durer, Hans sent a letter to his great friend and teacher, in whom he had great faith.
Weeks elapsed. The Counselor’s attention was directed to affairs of state, and thus withdrawn from his daughter, who lived and bloomed with the returning spring.
Hans had opened his desolate house, for which, in the meantime, he had carved a beautiful front door. Notwithstanding all the depreciation expressed for the native artist’s ability, this door caused quite a sensation.
Durer’s answer was long delayed. At last, after four weeks, the letter arrived. Who can describe the astonishment of the assembled committee, as the contents of the letter revealed the design of the disdainfully rejected applicant, Hans Le Fevre.
Durer wrote, “With the very best intentions, I could recommend no wiser course for you to pursue than to use the sketch presented by my friend and pupil, Hans Le Fevre; and I will furnish security for the complete execution of his plan. I cannot understand how a town that harbors in its midst such a genius, should look abroad for other artists. Hans Le Fevre is such an honorable lad and such a great artist, that the town of Breisach should be proud to name him as her own, and should do everything in its power to hold him captive; for to Hans the world lies open, and only his attachment to Breisach has moved him to return there once more.”
Directly upon receipt of this letter, an unheard of number of villagers crowded the narrow street. Hans, who was working quietly in his shop ran to the window to see what the noise was about. But lo! the crowd had stopped at his house and loudly did they make the brazen knocker resound, as it struck the carved lion’s head upon the door.
Hans came forth, and before him stood a deputation of men in festive attire, followed by a throng of residents.
“What do you desire of me?” asked Hans, surprised.
“Hans Le Fevre,” began the speaker, “the honorable Counselor makes known to you that he has finally decided to honor your application, with the instruction that if money be needed for the purchase of materials, application may be made to the clerk of the town.”
Hans clapped his hands in glee. “Is it true–is it possible!” said he. “To whom am I indebted for this good fortune?”
“The Council sends you this letter which we will now read before these assembled people.” Hans had not noticed in his joy that his neighbor, the Counselor, had angrily closed his windows, as if the praise bestowed upon the young artist might offend his ears.
After the deputation had departed, and Hans found himself alone, he dressed, put a flower in his buttonhole, and walked over to the Counselor’s house; for now the moment had arrived when he could prove his worth.
Marie opened the door. A loud cry of joy escaped her, and she ran to her room.
Hans, undaunted, stepped up to her father.
“What do you wish?” said the Counselor, with flashing eyes.
“I wish first to thank you for your faith in me.”
“You need not thank me,” interrupted her father. “I did not cast my vote for you.”
“So?” said Hans, disappointed. “That was not kind. What did you have to say against me?”
“What, do you still ask the same old question? You well know my opinion of you. You know that I wish my daughter to marry a good and honorable man.”
“Well,” said Hans, “I know a worthy man and I have come to bring him before you.”
“Pray, who can he be?”
“I, worthy Counselor.”
“You? Did anyone ever hear such audacity from a beggar boy?”
“Mr. Counselor, I never was a beggar. I was poor, but let that person come before you who dares say he ever gave me a cent. My father supported me until his death, when my mother took up the burden. The only thing I ever received was the King’s gift, and for that I never begged. The King gave it to me out of his big heart. His eye could pierce with love the soul of humanity; and in me, a poor boy, he sensed appreciation. Truly, his money has accumulated interest. I am no beggar, Mr. Counselor, and will not tolerate such a speech.”
“No, you will not tolerate it;” said he, somewhat calmed. “Where, then, is your wealth?”
“Here,” said Hans Le Fevre, and he touched his head and his hands. “I have a thinking head and skilled hands.”
“Well, what do you purpose doing?”
“For the next two years I shall be busy with the altar, which will yield me ample means to marry your daughter.”
Long and wearily they argued, till Hans felt as if he could control himself no longer.
“O, patience!” he cried, “if it were not that I regard you as something holy, because you are the father of Marie, I would not brook your disdain. A king held the ladder for Durer, and a Counselor treats his beloved pupil like a rogue. Yonder is a laughing, alluring world. There I have enjoyed all the honors of my calling; and here, in this little dark corner of the earth, I must let myself be trodden upon. All because I bring a ray of sunshine and beauty that hurts your blinded eyes–in short, because I am an artist.”
“Go, then, into your artistic world. Why didn’t you stay there? Why did you bother to return to this dark corner, as you name it?”
“Because I love your daughter so much, that no sacrifice I could make would be too great.”
“Did you for one moment think that I could sink so far as to allow my daughter to marry an artist?”
“Yes, considering the respect I enjoyed.”
“Well, I don’t care how many times the King held the ladder, or whether or not he cleaned Durer’s shoes, I will hold to this: that as impossible as it is for you to build within the Cathedral an altar that is yet higher than the Cathedral, just so impossible is it for you to marry my daughter, who is so much above you in station.”
“Mr. Counselor, is this your last word?” said Hans.
The Counselor laughed scornfully, and said, “Carve an altar that is higher than the church in which it is to stand. Then, and not before then, you may ask for my daughter.”
Hans hastened from his presence and turned his steps to the rose-bush. It was a beautiful day. Shadowless the world lay before him. Splendor and glory streamed from the sky. But nature in all her beauty seemed to him, this day, like a disinterested friend, who laughs while another grieves. He seated himself in the niche under the rose-bush, where somehow he always felt the Emperor’s presence and influence, and where, too, he always found peace and hope.
But what hope could ever come to him again? Could the bush uproot itself and plead with the Counselor? Could the King, who had never returned in life, return from death to help him? No one could help him, for had not the Counselor taken an oath, that he would not give his daughter to him, unless he built an altar higher than the church in which it should stand. This, of course, was impossible. His overcharged feelings gave vent to tears, and he cried, “My Emperor, my Emperor, why did you desert me?” This time Marie was not at his side to cheer him, and tell him that God would not desert him.
All was still, except the humming of the bees among the roses; and in the distance the birds sang. All of a sudden something struck him in the back. He thought that maybe the Emperor had returned. But what was it but the rosebush, which by the force of its own weight had loosened itself from the arched wall and had pressed itself outward. For the first time, Hans noticed that the bush had grown much higher than the niche in which it had been planted. As quick as lightning a thought flashed through his brain. What had the rose-bush taught him?
Hans could not see Marie, for her father had sent her far away.
From early morn till late at night Hans worked, without rest or quiet. Neither pleadings nor threats moved him to desist from his labors. He lived like a hermit in his workshop. Two long years had passed; and at last Hans appeared at the Council Chamber and made known the fact that he had accomplished the work assigned him.
Great excitement reigned in Breisach. The Cathedral was locked for three days, during which time the altar was to be placed. Many inquisitive neighbors gathered around the Cathedral to get a glimpse of the work, if possible. But well-wrapped and concealed, Hans brought the pieces, one by one, from his house–and so the excitement grew intenser every moment.
On the fourth day the altar was to be dedicated. Early in the day the people started for the Cathedral. Joyously the big clock resounded. From all sides, by foot and by wagon, the country folk swarmed to see the wonderful work, the talk of the neighborhood for the past two years.
At break of day Hans had hastened to the Cathedral once more to test his work with his critical eye. Just then the bell pealed forth. He dropped his hat, and with folded hands offered a short prayer.
Anyone who has worked for years, in the sweat of his brow, for future