BOOKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
KATE WETHERILL A PILLAR OF SALT THE SON OF A FIDDLER UNCLE WILLIAM SIMEON TETLOW'S SHADOW HAPPY ISLAND MR. ACHILLES THE TASTE OF APPLES THE WOMAN IN THE ALCOVE AUNT JANE THE IBSEN SECRET THE SYMPHONY PLAY
STORIES OF MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS
Schubert Titian Chopin Giorgione Bach Leonardo Albrecht Duerer
NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1916
Copyright, 1916, by Charles Scribner's Sons Published September, 1916
GERALD STANLEY LEE
"THE GREAT ROAD THAT LEADS FROM THE SEEN TO THE UNSEEN"
There Was in Florence a Lady 1
Thumbs and Fugues 29
A Window of Music 79
Frederic Chopin—A Record 135
The Man With the Glove 151
The Lost Monogram 207
THERE WAS IN FLORENCE A LADY
The soft wind of an Italian spring stirred among the leaves outside. The windows of the studio, left open to the morning air, were carefully shaded. The scent of mulberry blossoms drifted in. The chair on the model-stand, adjusted to catch the light, was screened from the glare; and the light falling on the rich drapery flung across its back brought out a dull carmine in the slender, bell-shaped flowers near by, and dark gleams of old oak in the carved chair. The chair was empty; but the two men in the studio were facing it, as if a presence were still there.
The painter, sketching idly on the edge of his drawing-board, leaned back to survey the child's head that developed under his pencil. "She will not come this morning, then?" he asked almost indifferently.
The older man shook his head. "She said not. She may change her mind."
The painter glanced up quickly. He could see nothing in the face of the other, and he devoted himself anew to the child's head. "It does not matter," he said. "I can work on the background—if I feel like working at all," he added, after a moment's pause.
The older man stared moodily at the floor. He flicked a pair of long riding-gloves lightly through his fingers. He glanced toward the easel standing in front of the painter, a little to the left. "It is barbarous that you have had to waste so much time!" he broke out. "How long is it? Two—no, three years last Christmas time since you began. And there it stands." The figure on the easel, erect, tranquil, in the old chair, seemed to half shrug its shapely shoulders in defense of the unfinished face. He looked at it severely. The severity changed to something else. "And it is so perfect—damnably perfect," he said irritably.
The artist raised his eyebrows the least trifle. A movement so slight might have indicated scrutiny of his own work. "You are off for the day?" he asked, glancing at the riding-whip and hat on a table by the door.
"Yes; I shall run up, perhaps, as far as Pistoia. Going to see the new altarpiece." He took up the hat and whip. He waited, fingering them indecisively. "She seems to me more fickle than ever, this last month or two."
"I see that she is restless." The painter spoke in a low tone, half hesitating. "I have wondered whether—I had hoped that the Bambino"—he touched the figure lightly with his foot—"might not be needed."
The other started. He stared at him a full minute. His eyes fell. "No, no such good luck," he said brusquely. "It is only caprice."
The draperies near him parted. A boyish figure appeared in the opening. "Castino wishes me to say that the musicians wait," said the youth.
The painter rose and came toward him, a smile of pleasure on his face. "Tell them that there will be no sitting to-day, Salai," he said, laying his hand, half in greeting, half in caress, on the youth's shoulder.
"Yes, Signor." Salai saluted and withdrew.
The painter turned again to the older man. "It was a happy thought of yours, Zano—the music. She delights in it. I almost caught, one day last week, while they were playing, that curve about the lips."
They stood for a moment in silence, looking toward the portrait. The memory of a haunting smile seemed to flicker across the shaded light.
"Well, I am off." The man held out his hand.
The artist hesitated a second. Then he raised the hand in his supple fingers and placed it to his lips. "A safe journey to you, Signor," he said, in playful formality.
"And a safe return, to find our Lady Lisa in better temper," laughed the other. The laugh passed behind the draperies.
The artist remained standing, his eyes resting absently on the rich colors of the Venetian tapestry through which his friend had disappeared. His face was clouded with thought. He had the look of a man absorbed in a problem, who has come upon an unexpected complication.
When the chess-board is a Florentine palace, and the pieces are fifteenth-century human beings, such complications are likely to occur. The Lady Lisa had more than once given evidence that she was not carved of wood or ivory. But for three years the situation had remained the same—the husband unobservant, the lady capricious and wilful. She had shown the artist more kindness than he cared to recall. That was months ago. Of late he had found scant favor in her sight.... It was better so.
He crossed to the easel, and stood looking down at it. The quiet figure on the canvas sent back a thrill of pride and dissatisfaction. He gazed at it bitterly. Three years—but an eternal woman. Some day he should catch the secret of her smile and fix it there. The world would not forget her—or him. He should not go down to posterity as the builder of a canal! The great picture at the Dominicans already showed signs of fading. The equestrian statue of the Duke was crumbling in its clay—no one to pay for the casting. But this picture——For months—with its rippling light of under sea, its soft dreamy background, and in the foreground the mysterious figure.... All was finished but the Child upon her arm, the smile of light in her eyes.
The lady had flouted the idea. It was a fancy of her husband's, to paint her as Madonna. She had refused to touch the Bambino—sometimes petulantly, sometimes in silent scorn. The tiny figure lay always on the studio floor, dusty and disarranged. The artist picked it up. It was an absurd little wooden face in the lace cap. He straightened the velvet mantle and smoothed the crumpled dress. He stepped to the model-stand and placed the tiny figure in the draped chair. It rested stiffly against the arm.
A light laugh caused him to turn his head. He was kneeling in front of the Bambino.
"I see that you have supplied my place, Sir Painter," said a mocking voice.
He turned quickly and faced the little doorway. She stood there, smiling, scornful, her hands full of some delicate flimsy stuff, a gold thimble-cap on her finger. "It would not make a bad picture," she said tranquilly, "you and the Bambino."
His face lighted up. "You have come!" He hastened toward her with outstretched hand.
With a pretty gesture of the fragile sewing she ignored the hand. "Yes, I dared not trust you. You might paint in the Bambino face instead of mine, by mistake."
She approached the chair and seated herself carelessly. The Bambino slipped meekly through the arm to the floor.
"Zano told me"—he began.
"Yes, I know. He was very tiresome. I thought he would never go. I really feared that we might quarrel. It is too warm." She glanced about the shaded room. "You manage it well," she said approvingly. "It is by far the coolest place in the palace."
"You will be going to the mountains soon?" He saw that she was talking lightly to cover herself, and fell in with her mood. He watched her as he arranged the easel and prepared his colors. Once he stopped and sketched rapidly for a minute on the small drawing-board.
She looked inquiry.
"Only an eyebrow," he explained.
She smiled serenely. "You should make a collection of those eyebrows. They must mount into the hundreds by this time. You could label them 'Characters of the Lady Lisa.'"
"The Souls of Lady Lisa."
The lady turned her head aside. "Your distinctions are too subtle," she said. Her eye fell on the Bambino, resting disgracefully on its wooden head. "Poor little figurine," she murmured, reaching a slender hand to draw it up. She straightened the tumbled finery absently. It slipped to her lap, and lay there. Her hands were idle, her eyes looking far into space.
The painter worked rapidly. She stirred slightly. "Sit still," he said, almost harshly.
She gave a quick, startled look. She glanced at the rigid little figure. She raised it for a minute. Her face grew inscrutable. Would she laugh or cry? He worked with hasty, snatched glances. Such a moment would not come again. A flitting crash startled him from the canvas. He looked up. The Bambino lay in a pathetic heap on the floor, scattered with fragments of a rare Venetian glass. She sat erect and imperious, looking with scorn at the wreck. Two great tears welled. They overflowed. The floods pressed behind them. She dropped her face in her hands. Before he could reach her she had darted from the chair. The mask of scorn was gone. She fled from him, from herself, blindly, stopping only when the wall of the studio intervened. She stood with her face buried in the drapery, her shoulders wrenched with sobs.
He approached her. He waited. The Bambino lay with its wooden face staring at the ceiling. It was a crisis for them all. The next move would determine everything. He must not risk too much, again. The picture—art—hung on her sobs. Lover—artist? He paused a second too long.
She turned toward him slowly, serenely. Her glance fell across him, level and tranquil. The traces of ignored tears lay in smiling drops on her face. The softened scorn played across it. "Shall we finish the sitting?" she asked, in a conventional voice.
He took up his brush uncertainly. She seated herself, gathering up the scattered work. For a few moments she sewed rapidly. Then the soft fabric fell to her lap. She sat looking before her, unconscious, except that her glance seemed to rest now and then on the fallen figure in its fragments of glass.
For two hours he worked feverishly, painting with swiftest skill and power. At times he caught his breath at the revelation in the face. He was too alert to be human. The artist forgot the woman. Faithfully, line by line, he laid bare her heart. She sat unmoved. When at last, from sheer weariness, the brush dropped from his hand, she stepped from the model-stand, and stood at his side. She looked at the canvas attentively. The inscrutable look of the painted face seemed but a faint reflex of the living one.
"You have succeeded well," she said at last. "We will omit the Bambino."
She moved slowly, graciously, toward the door, gathering the fragile sewing as she went. He started toward her—suddenly conscious of her power—a man again. A parting of the draperies arrested them. It was Salai, his face agitated, looking from the lady to the painter, inarticulate.
"The Signor"—he gasped—"his horse—they bring him—dead."
She stirred slightly where she stood. Her eyelids fell. "Go, Salai. Await your master's commands in the hall below."
She turned to the painter as the draperies closed. "I trust that you will make all use of our service, Signor Leonardo, in removing from the palace. The apartments will, I fear, be needed for relatives. They will come to honor the dead."
He stood for a moment stupefied, aghast at her control of practical, feminine detail; then moved toward her. "Lisa——"
She motioned toward the easel. "Payment for the picture will be sent you soon."
"The picture goes with me. It is not finished."
"It is well." She bowed mockingly. The little door swung noiselessly behind her. He was left alone with the portrait. It was looking sideways at the fallen Bambino amid the shattered fragments on the floor.
It was the French monarch. He fluttered restlessly about the studio, urbane, enthusiastic. He paused to finger some ingenious toy, to praise some drawing or bit of sunlit color that caught his fancy. The painter, smiling at the frank enthusiasm, followed leisurely from room to room. The wandering Milanese villa was a treasure house. Bits of marble and clay, curious mechanical contrivances, winged creatures, bats and creeping things mingled with the canvases. Color and line ran riot on the walls. A few finished pieces had been placed on easels, in convenient light, for the royal inspection. Each of these, in turn, the volatile monarch had exalted. He had declared that everything in the villa, including the gifted owner, must return with him to France.
"That is the place for men like you!" he exclaimed, standing before a small, exquisitely finished Madonna. "What do these Milanese know of art? Or the Florentines, for that matter? Your 'Last Supper'—I saw it last week. It is a blur. Would that the sainted Louis might have taken it bodily, stone by stone, to our France, as he longed to do. You will see; the mere copy has more honor with us than the original here. Come with us," he added persuasively, laying his hand on the painter's shabby sleeve.
The painter looked down from his height on the royal suitor. "You do me too much honor, sire. I am an old man."
"You are Leonardo da Vinci," said the other stoutly, "the painter of these pictures. I shall carry them all away, and you will have to follow," laughed the monarch. "I will not leave one." He rummaged gayly in the unfinished debris, bringing out with each turn some new theme of delight.
The painter stood by, waiting, alert, a trifle uneasy, it might seem. "And now, sire, shall we see the view from the little western turret?"
"One moment. Ah, what have we here?" He turned the canvas to the light. The figure against the quaint landscape looked out with level, smiling glance. He fell upon his knees before it. "Ah, marvellous, marvellous!" he murmured in naive delight. He remained long before it, absorbed, forgetful. At last he rose. He lifted the picture and placed it on an easel. "Is she yet alive?" he demanded, turning to the painter.
"She lives in Florence, sire."
"And her name?"
"Signora Lisa della Gioconda."
"Her husband? It matters not."
"Dead these ten years."
"A boy. Born shortly after the husband's death," he added, after a slight pause. "Shall we proceed to the turret? The light changes fast at sunset."
"Presently, presently. The portrait must be mine. The original—We shall see—we shall see."
"Nay, your Majesty, the portrait is unfinished."
"Unfinished?" He stared at it anew. "Impossible. It is perfect."
"There was to be a child."
"Ah!" The monarch gazed at it intently for many minutes. The portrait returned the royal look in kind. He broke into a light laugh. "You did well to omit the child," he said. "Come, we will see the famous sunset now." He turned to the regal figure on the easel. "Adieu, Mona Lisa. I come for you again." He kissed his fingers with airy grace. He fluttered out. The mocking, sidelong glance followed him.
The western sun filled the room. On a couch drawn near the low French window lay the painter. His eyes looked across the valley to a long line of poplars, silver in the wind. Like a strange processional, up the hill, they held him. They came from Lombardy. In the brasier, across the room, burned a flickering fire. Even on the warmest days he shivered for sunnier skies. Above the fire hung a picture—a woman seated in a rock-bound circle, looking tranquilly out upon the world of life.
The painter touched a silver bell that stood on a table at hand. A figure entered. It crossed to the window. The face was turned in shadow. It waited.
"Has our good physician gone, Francesco?" asked the painter.
Francesco bowed. There was silence in the room except for the fire.
"What does he say of us to-day?"
The youth brushed his hand across his eyes impatiently. "He always croaks. He is never hopeful." He approached the couch and knelt by it, his face in the shadow still.
The painter lay tranquil, watching the poplars. "Why grieve? An exile has not so many joys that he need fear to lose them, Francesco."
The younger man made no reply. He was adjusting the pillows. He slipped a fresh one beneath the long white hair. The locks strayed in a dull silvery glimmer over it.
"Ah, that is good," murmured the old man. "Your hand is like a woman's. I have not known many women," he said, after a pause.... "But I have not been lonely. Friends are faithful"—he pressed the youth's warm hand. "His Majesty?"—the voice ended with a question.
"No, master. But there is yet time. He often comes at sunset. See how bright it grows."
The painter turned his head. He looked long. "Tell us what the wise physician said, Francesco. Will it be soon?"
"Nay, master, I know not. He said if you have any wishes——"
"Ah, yes." He lay musing, his eyes looking across the room. "There will be few bequests. My pictures—they are mine no longer. Should a painter barter the sons and daughters of his soul?... Gold cannot buy.... They are mine.... Four thousand shining gold pieces Francis put into my hand. He took away the Lisa. He would not be refused. But I followed. I could not live without her. When a man is old, Francesco, his hand trembles. He must see something he has done, something perfect...." He lay looking long at the portrait. "And yet it is not finished.... There was to be the child." He smiled dreamily. "Poor Bambino." His eyes rested again on the portrait.... He smiled back upon it. "Yes, you will live," he said softly. "Francis will have you. You scorned him. But he was generous. He gave you back to me. You will be his—his and his children's. I have no child——At least.... Ah, well—Francis will have you. Leda and Pomona will pass. The Dominican picture ... all but gone. The hand of time has rested on my work. Crumbling—fading—nothing finished. I planned so much. Life runs, Francesco, while one sits and thinks. Nothing finished. My manuscripts—do with them what you will. I could not even write like other men—this poor left hand." He lifted the filmy lace ruffle falling across his hand. He smiled ironically at the costly folds, as they fluttered from his fingers. "A man is poor who has few wants. Then I have not been poor. But there is nothing left. It will be an empty name."
Silence fell between them.
"There is in Florence a lady. You must seek for her, Francesco. She is rich and beautiful. She did me once a kindness. I should like her—this ring—" He slipped it from his finger—a heavy stone, deep green, with translucent lights. "It was my father's crest. He gave it to my mother—not his wife—a woman—faithful. She put it on my finger when she died—a peasant woman. Tell the lady when you give it her ... she has a son.... Tell her...." The voice fell hushed.
The young man waited, with bowed head. He looked up. He started quickly, and leaned his ear to listen. Then he folded the hands across the quiet breast. He passed swiftly from the silent chamber, down to the courtyard, out on the King's highway, mounted and fleet.
The French King was riding merrily. He carolled a gay chanson. His retinue followed at a distance. Francesco Melzi saluted and drew rein. He spoke a word in the monarch's ear. The two men stood with uncovered heads. They looked toward the western windows. The gay cavalcade halted in the glow of light. A hush fell on their chatter. The windows flamed in the crimson flood. Within the room, above the gleaming coals, a woman of eternal youth looked down with tranquil gaze upon an old man's face.
THUMBS AND FUGUES
"Ready, father—ready!" shouted the small boy. He was standing on the top step of a flight of stairs leading to the organ-loft of the Hofchapel, peering in. His round, stolid face and short, square legs gave no hint of the excitement that piped in his shrill voice.
The man at the organ looked leisurely around, nodding his big head and smiling. "Ja, ja, S'bastian—ja," he said placidly. His fingers played slowly on.
The boy mounted the steps to the organ and rubbed his cheek softly against the coat sleeve that reached out to the keys. The man smiled again a big, floating smile, and his hands came to rest.
The boy looked up wistfully. "They'll all get there before we do," he said quickly. "Come!"
The man looked down absently and kindly. "Nein, S'bastian." He patted the round head beside him. "There is no need that we should hurry."
They passed out of the chapel, across the courtyard and into the open road. For half an hour they trudged on in silence, their broad backs swinging from side to side in the morning light. Across the man's back was slung a large violin, in its bag; and across the back of the boy hung a violin like that of the father, only shorter and fatter and squarer, and on his head was a huge woollen cap. He took it off and wiped the perspiration from his white forehead.
The man looked down at him once more and halted. "Now, but we will rest here," he said gently. He removed the violin-bag carefully from his back and threw himself on the ground and took from his pocket a great pipe.
With a little sigh the boy sat down beside him.
The man nodded good-naturedly. "Ja, that is right." He blew a puff of smoke toward the morning clouds; "the Bachs do not hurry, my child—no more does the sun."
The boy smiled proudly. He looked up toward the ball of fire sailing above them and a change came over his face. "We might miss the choral," he said wistfully. "They won't wait, will they?"
The big man shook his head. "We shall not be late. There is my clock." He nodded toward the golden sun. "And I have yet another here," he added, placing a comfortable hand on his big stomach.
The boy laughed softly and lay quiet.
The man opened his lips and blew a wreath of smoke.
"There will be more than a hundred Bachs," he said slowly, "and you must play what I have taught you—not too slow and not too fast." He looked down at the boy's fat fingers. "Play like a true Bach and no other," he added.
The boy nodded. "Will Uncle Christoph be there?" he asked after a pause.
"And Uncle Heinrich?"
The boy gave a quick sigh of contentment.
His father was looking at him shrewdly. "But it is not Uncle Heinrich that will be making a player of you, and it is not Uncle Christoph. It is only Johann Sebastian Bach that can make himself a player," he said sternly.
"Yes, father," replied the boy absently. His eyes were following the clouds.
The man blew great puffs of smoke toward them. "It is more than a hundred and twenty years ago that we came from Hungary," he said proudly.
The boy nestled toward him. "Tell me about it." He had heard the story many times.
"Ja, ja," said the man musingly.... "He was my great-grandfather, that man—Veit Bach—and your great-great-grandfather."
The boy nodded.
"And he was a miller——"
He dropped into silence, and a little brook that ran over the stones near by babbled as it went.
The boy raised his eyes. "And he had a lute," he prompted softly.
"Ja, he had a lute—and while the mill-wheel turned, he played the lute—sweet, true notes and tunes he played—in that old mill."
The boy smiled contentedly.
"And now we be a hundred Bachs. We make music for all Germany. Come!" He sprang to his feet. "We will go to the festival, the great Bach festival. You, my little son, shall play like a true Bach."
As they walked along the road he hummed contentedly to himself, speaking now and then a word to the boy. "What makes one Bach great, makes all. Remember, my child, Reinken is great—but he is only one; and Bohm and Buxtehude, Pachelbel. But we are many—all Bachs—all great." He hummed gayly a few bars of the choral and stopped, listening.
The boy turned his face back over the road. "They are coming," he said softly.
"Ja, they are coming."
The next moment a heavy cart came in sight. It was laden to the brim with Bachs and music; some laughing and some singing and some playing—on fiddles or flutes or horns—beaming with broad faces.
The man caught up Sebastian by the arm and jumped on to the tail-board of the cart. And thus—enveloped in a cloud of dust, surrounded by the laughter of fun-loving men and youths—the boy came into Erfurt, to the great festival of all the Bachs.
"Sh-h! It is Heinrich! Listen to him—to Heinrich!" There were nods and smiles and soft thudding of mugs, and turning of broad faces toward the other end of the enclosure, as a small figure mounted the platform.
He was a tiny man, unlike the others; but he carried himself with a gentle pomposity, and he faced the gathering with a proud gesture, holding up his hand to enjoin silence. After a few muttering rumbles they subsided.
Sebastian, sitting between his father and a fat Bach, gulped with joy. It was the great Heinrich—who composed chorals and fugues and gavottes and—hush! Could it be that he was rebuking the Bachs—the great Bachs!... Sebastian's ears cracked with the strain. He looked helplessly at his father, who sat smiling into his empty beer-mug, and at the fat Bach on the other side, who was gaping with open mouth at the great Heinrich.
Sebastian looked back to the platform.
Heinrich's finger was uplifted at them sternly.... "It was Reinken who said it. He of the Katherinenkirche has said it, in open festival, that there is not a Bach in Germany that can play as he can play. Do you hear that!" The little man stamped impatiently with his foot on the platform. "He has called us flutists and lutists and 'cellists—" He stopped and held up a small instrument that he carried in his hand—"Do you know what this is?"
A response of grunts and cheers came from the crowd.
Sebastian stretched his neck to see. It was a kind of viol, small and battered and torn. Worn ribbons fluttered from the handle.
The small man on the platform lifted it reverently to his chin. He ran his fingers lightly along the broken strings. "You know the man who played it," he said significantly, "old Veit Bach—" Cheers broke from the crowd. He stopped them sternly. "Do you think if he were alive—if Veit Bach were alive, would Reinken, of Hamburg, dare challenge him in open festival?"
Cries of "Nein, nein!" and "Ja, ja!" came back from the benches.
"Ja, ja! Nein, nein!" snarled back the little man. "You know that he would not. He had only this—" He held up the lute again. "Only this and his mill. But he made the greatest music of his time. While you—thirty of you this day at the best organs in Germany.... And Reinken defies you.... Reinken!" His lighted eye ran along the crowd. "Before the next festival, shall there be one who will meet him?" There was no response. The Bachs looked into their beer-mugs. The great Heinrich swept them with his eagle glance. "Is there not one," he went on slowly, "who dares promise, in the presence of the Bachs that before Reinken dies he will meet him and outplay him?"
The Bachs were silent. They knew Reinken.
Sebastian, wedged between his father and the fat Bach, gulped mightily. He struggled to get to his feet. But a hand at his coat-tails held him fast. He looked up imploringly into his father's face—but the hand at his coat-tails restrained him. "I will promise," he whispered, "I want to promise."
"Ja, ja, little son," whispered the father; and he and the fat Bach exchanged smiles across the round head.
Heinrich's glance swept the crowd once more.... "You will not promise? Then let me tell you—" He raised his small hand impressively.
"There shall come of the Bachs one so great that all others shall fade. He only shall be known as Bach—he and his sons; and before him the name of Reinken shall be as dust!" With a hiss upon the last word, he threw open his arms. "Come!" he said, "take your instrument and play."
Then fell upon the assembly a series of squeaks and gruntings and tunings and twinges and groans and wails such as was never heard outside a Bach festival. And little Sebastian, tugging at his violin, tuned and squeaked and grunted with the rest, oblivious to the taps that fell on his small head from surrounding bows. And when at last the tuning was done and there burst forth the wonderful new melody of the choral, Sebastian's heart went dizzy with the joy of it. And Uncle Heinrich on the platform, strutting proudly back and forth, conducting the choral—his own choral—forgot his anger and forgot Reinken, and forgot everything except the Bachs playing there before him—playing as only the Bachs, the united Bachs, could play—in all Germany or in all the world.
The two boys had come to a turn in the road, and stood looking back over the way they had come. The younger of the two looked up wistfully to the cherry-blossomed trees overhead. "It is hot, Sebastian!—Let us rest."
With a smile the other boy threw himself on the grass. The large, flat book that he carried under his arm fell to the ground beside him, and his hand stole out and touched it. He had a wide, quiet face, with blue eyes and a short nose, and lips that smiled dreamily to themselves. As he lay looking up into the white blossoms that swayed and waited against the clear blue of the sky, the lips curved in gentle content.
His companion, who had thrown himself on the cool grass beside him, watched him admiringly. His glance shifted and rested on the book that lay on the grass. "What is it?—What is it, Sebastian?" he asked timidly. He put out an inquisitive finger toward the book.
Sebastian turned it quietly aside. "Let be," he said.
The boy flushed. "I was not going to touch it."
The other smiled, with his slow, generous eyes fixed on the boy's face. "Thou art a good boy, Erdman!" ... "It is only thy fingers that itch to know things." He patted them gently, where they lay on the grass beside him.
Erdman was still looking at the book. "Was it your brother's?" he asked in a half whisper.
"Christoph's?" Sebastian shook his head. "No, it is mine—my own."
The soft wind was among the blossoms overhead—they fell in petals, one by one, upon the quiet figures.
"Want to know 'bout it?" asked Sebastian, half turning to meet his companion's eye.
The boy nodded.
"It's mine. I copied it, every note—six months it took me—from Christoph's book."
"Did he let you?"
Sebastian shook his head, a grim, sweet smile curving the big mouth. "Let me?—Christoph!"
The boy crept nearer to him. "How did you do it?"
"I stole it—carried it up to my room while the others were asleep—and did it by the moon."
The boy nodded, laughing. "Didst never hear of the moon, brave boy!"
Erdman smiled pettishly. "There isn't a moon—always," he said, after a moment.
"And that also is true," quoth the boy gravely. "But some time, late or early, one gets a glimpse of her—if one lies awake to see," he added softly.
The other glanced again at the book. "Let me look at it," he pleaded.
Sebastian smiled and reached over a hand to the book. "Don't touch. I'll show it thee." He untied the strings and spread it on the ground, throwing himself in front of it and resting his chin in his hands. "Come," he said, "I'll show it thee."
Erdman threw off his heavy cap and bent toward the book, with a little gesture of wonder. "I heard about Christoph's book—a good many times," he said softly.... "I didn't ever think I'd see it." He reached out his hand and touched the open page.
"Nobody ever saw it," said Sebastian absently. He was humming to himself. "Listen to this!" he said eagerly. He hummed a few bars. "That's Buxtehude's—isn't it great!" His face went tumpty-tumpty with the notes, and the blue eyes shone. "But this is the one I like best—listen!" He turned over the pages rapidly. "Here it is. This is Reinken's. 'By the waters of Babylon, by the waters, by the waters of Babylon.'" He hummed the tune below his breath—and then louder and fuller.... The clear, sweet soprano of the notes died away softly. "Some day I shall play it," said Sebastian lingeringly. "Some day. See—here is the place for the harps! And here are the great horns. Listen!" His voice droned away at the bass and ran into the swift high notes of the treble. "Some day I shall play it," he repeated wistfully.
Erdman's slow gaze was following the page. "I can't read so fast," he said enviously.
Sebastian smiled back. "I know it by heart—almost. When the moon was behind the clouds I waited. I sang them over and over."
"Very softly," said Erdman, as if seeing the picture of the boy and the darkened room.
"Very softly," assented Sebastian, "so that no one should hear. And now I have them all!" He spoke exultingly. "And next month I shall see Reinken.... I shall hear him play!"
The other stared at him. "But Reinken is at Hamburg," he said at last.
"And that, too, is so," said Sebastian smiling.
"And we go to Lueneburg——"
"And we go to Lueneburg!" repeated the boy, with a mocking lilt in his voice. "And Lueneburg is twenty miles from Hamburg. Hadst thought of that!" He laughed exultingly.
The other shook his head. "I don't know what you mean," he said.
Sebastian was fastening the big violin in place on his back. He looked up under smiling brows, as he bent to draw the last strap. Then he touched his sturdy legs with his hand and laughed. "I mean that these are the horses to carry me to Hamburg and back many times. I shall hear the great Reinken play!—And I, too, shall play!" he added proudly.
"Do you never doubt, Sebastian?" asked the other thoughtfully, as they moved on.
"Whether you will be a great musician?... Sometimes I see myself going back—" He paused as if ashamed to have said so much.
Sebastian shook his head. His blue eyes were following the clouds in the spring day. "Sometimes I doubt whether I am among the elect," he said slowly. "But never that I am to be a musician." His full lips puckered dreamily, and his golden head nodded, keeping slow time. "By the waters—" he broke out into singing. "Is it not wunderschoen!" The blue eyes turned with a smile. "It is wunderschoen! Ach—wunderschoen! Is it not, Erdman?" He seemed to awake and laid his hand affectionately on the boy's shoulder.
The other nodded. "Yes, it is schoen," he said wistfully.
"Come, I will teach it to thee!"
And the notes of Reinken's choral, "An den Wasserfluessen Babylon," floated with a clear, fresh sound on the spring morning air, two hundred years ago, and more, as two charity pupils walked along the road to Lueneburg.
A tall man with keen eyes and a round stomach stood in the shadow of the Johanneskirche, lost in thought and humming to himself. Now and then he took off his glasses and rubbed them vigorously, and put them on again to peer absently down the street.
A heavy figure, clad in the faded blue uniform of the Michaelsschule, rounded the corner, puffing heavily.
"Ach, Kerlman!" The tall man started forward with a stride. "You are late."
The other nodded imperturbably.
"Ja, I am late. Those boys—I cannot make to hurry." He spoke as if assigning sufficient reason and wiped his brow.
A twinkle came into the keen eyes. "And one of them you have lost to-day," he said dryly. He cocked his eye a trifle toward the heavy church that rose behind them.
The other looked quickly around.
"That S'bastian—was he here?" he demanded.
"In there," replied the tall man, smiling. "No, no!" he laid his hand on his companion's arm as he started forward. "Let be—let be!... We must help him—that boy. You have not heard him play my organ. Wait!" He held up his hand.... Music was stealing from the gloomy shadows of the church.
"Come in," said the master. He pushed open a low door and they entered the great church. Far up in the loft, struck by a shaft of light from a gable in the roof, the boy was sitting, absorbed in sound. His face was bent to the keys as his hands hovered and paused over them and drew forth the strangely sweet sounds that filled the great building.
The two musicians below stood looking up, their big heads nodding time.... Suddenly they paused and looked at each other with questioning glance. The music was quickening and broadening with a clear, glad reach of sound, and underneath it ran a swiftly echoing touch that bound the notes together and vibrated through them.
"How was he doing that?" whispered the small man excitedly. "You have taught him that?"
The other shook his head.
"Come, we will see."
Together they tiptoed through the dark church, softly—up to the organ-loft and peered in. The boy, oblivious to sight and sound, played on.
Kerlman leaned far forward, craning his neck. He drew back, a look of stupefaction in his face. He held up his large thumb and looked at it soberly.
"What is it?" whispered the other.
"You see, Johannes Bohm?" He shook the fat thumb in his companion's face. "He does it with that!"
The master peered forward, incredulous. Slowly he crept up behind the boy, his eyes fastened on the moving hands. His shadow fell on the keys and the boy looked up. His face lighted with a smile.
"Go on," said the master sternly. His eyes still watched the hands. Slowly his big fingers reached over and grasped the thumb as it pressed lightly on a key. "Who told you that?" he demanded.
The boy looked down at it, puzzled. Then his face grew a little ashamed and doubtful. "It is wrong, I know," he admitted. "Yes, it is wrong."
"Who taught you?"
"Nay, no one would teach it. I just happened—one day. It makes it so easy."
"Yes, I see." The master's voice was curt.
"I will never do it again," said the boy humbly.
"No—you might play it for me once—just once, for me," said the master.
The boy's hands ran lovingly to the keys. They crept along the maze of sound and rose and fell in the changing rhythm. Shyly the small thumb darted out and found its key, and filled the great church with the tremulous, haunting call of note answering note.
The master bending over the keys wiped his brow and looked at the boy proudly, with a little wonder in his face. "Good.... Ach—but good, good!" he murmured softly.
The boy looked up quickly. His clear skin flushed. "May I use it—sometimes?" he asked, doubting.
Bohm gave a sharp, generous laugh. "You may use it." He laughed again. "All the world will use it!" he said, patting him on the back. "It is a great discovery. Play more."
The boy turned obediently to the keys, and while he played, the master slipped away. "Come down," he whispered to Kerlman, whose fat bulk filled the doorway. "Let us come down and get some beer. I am very dry this day."
Over their mugs, in the garden across the way, they looked at each other solemnly. Then they threw back their big heads and laughed till their sides shook and their wigs stood askew. Kerlman laid his fat thumb on the table and regarded it respectfully. "Gott im Himmel!" he said.
Bohm nodded, his eyes twinkling.
The fat man raised his thumb from the table and twiddled it in the air. It fell with a stiff thud. "Ja, ja," he said, half impatient, half laughing. "How is one to do it—such fool tricks! Ja, ja!"
The keen eyes watching him had a proud look. "You know what he will be—that boy," he said exultingly. "He will be a great musician!"
"He will be a great bother," grumbled Kerlman. "First," he checked off the vices on his fingers—"first, he comes to us three weeks late—three weeks late—because his brother promises, and takes it back and waits to die—Bah!" He took a sip of beer and laid out another fat finger. "Second, he sings two octaves at the same time—two octaves! Did one ever hear such nonsense! Third, he loses his voice, his beautiful voice, and sings no more at all." He shook his head heavily. "Fourth, he is running away to Hamburg to listen—always to Hamburg, to listen to Reinken, and coming back to be forgiven. Ja, ja! Seven times I have forgiven him. I think he is making ready now to go once more!" He glared at his companion.
Bohm nodded slowly. "I was to ask you for that to-day," he said, smiling.
"Ja! ja—I have thought so." He looked sadly at the four short fingers resting on the table. "And fifth—fifth—now what is that fifth? Ach, it is that! That thumb!" He scowled at it. "That crawling, snivelling, stiff-necked one!" He brought it down with a thump on the table. "To make me all my days ashamed!" He held up the thumb and shook it scornfully.
High up in the Johanneskirche, in front of the big organ, the boy was playing—with head and hands and heart and feet and thumb—swaying to the music, lifting it from the great organ till it pealed forth, a mighty sound, and, breaking from the gloomy church, floated on the still air.... In the garden across the way, above their mugs, two old, white-wigged heads nodded and chuckled in the sun.
The Katherinenkirche was dark, and very still—except for a faint noise that came from a far corner of the upper left-hand gallery. The old verger, moving about in felt slippers below, paused now and then, and looked up as the sound grew louder or died away. It was like a mouse nibbling—and yet it was not a mouse.
The verger lighted a taper and prepared to ascend the stairs.
He heaved a sigh as he climbed the steep step, throwing the candle rays ahead of him into the gloom of the gallery. Not a sound. The silence of death was in the big church.... Muttering to himself, he traversed the long aisle at the top of the gallery, peering down into the vacant seats that edged the blackness below.
Suddenly he stopped. His eye had caught a gleam of something to the left of the last pillar. He snuffed the wavering taper with his fingers and leaned forward. A face grew out of the darkness and stood up.
"What are you doing?" demanded the old man, falling back a step.
"Eating my supper," said the youth. He held up a handkerchief. In the dim light two pieces of crisp, dry bread shaped themselves, and a generous odor of cheese floated out.
"In the church!" said the verger, with an accent of horror.
The youth's face regarded him pleadingly.
"Come away!" said the old man sternly.
He led the way down the steep stair, into a high, small room, lighted by a narrow window over which cobwebs ran. "Here you may eat," he said laconically.
With a grateful glance the youth seated himself on the edge of a chair and opening his handkerchief took out a piece of the dry bread. His teeth broke it crisply, and crunched sharply upon it as he ate.
The old man nodded with satisfaction. "That is the mouse," he said.
The youth smiled faintly.
"Where do you come from?" asked the verger.
The youth nodded.
"I have seen you before, here."
The old man watched him a minute. "You ought to have some beer with that bread and cheese," he said. "Have you no coppers?"
The youth shook his head. "Reinken is my beer," he said, after a little. His face was lighted with a sweet smile.
The old man chuckled. "Ja, ja!" He limped from the room. Presently he returned with a pewter mug. It was foaming at the top. "Drink that," he commanded.
The youth drank it with hearty quaffs and laughed when it was done. "Ja, that is good!" he said simply.
The old man eyed him shrewdly. "In half an hour Reinken comes to play," he suggested craftily.
The youth started and flushed. "To-night?"
"I did not think he came at night," he said softly.
"Not often, but to-night. He wants to practise something for the festival—with no one to hear," he added significantly.
The boy looked at him pleadingly. His hand strayed to his pockets. They brought back two coppers, the only wealth he possessed.
The old man looked at him kindly and shook his head. "Nein," he said. "It is not for the money I shall do it. It is because I have seen you before—when he played. You shall hear him and see him. Come." He put aside the youth's impulsive hand, and led the way up a winding, dark stairway, through a little door in the organ-loft. Groping along the wall he slipped back a panel.
The boy peered out. Below him, a little to the left, lay the great organ, and far below in the darkness stretched the church. When he turned, the old man was gone. Down below in the loft he watched his twinkling path as the taper flashed from candle to candle.
The great Reinken was a little late. He came in hurriedly, pushing back the sleeves of his scholar's gown as they fell forward on his hands. The hands were wrinkled, the boy noted, and old. He had forgotten that the master was old. Sixty years—seventy—ah, more than seventy. Nine years ago he was that—at the Bach festival. The boy's heart gave a leap. Seventy-nine—an old man! ... he should never meet him in open festival and challenge him. There would not be time.... The music stole about him and quieted his pulse. He stood watching the face as it bent above the keys. It was a noble face. There was a touch of petulance in it, perhaps of pride and impatience in the quick glance that lifted now and then. But it was a grand face, with goodness in it, and strength and power. The boy's heart went from him.... If he might but touch a fold of the faded gown—seek a blessing from the wrinkled hands on the keys. Spring was about him—white clouds and blossoms and the smell of fresh earth. "By the waters, the waters of Babylon; by the waters." The slender, delicate hands called out the notes one by one. Tears ran down the boy's face. Gropingly he felt for the door—only to seek a blessing of the hands....
The old verger waited at the foot of the stairs, nodding in the dim light. He sprang up, startled and rubbing his eyes.
"I want to speak to him," said the youth humbly. "Only a word!"
The old man hesitated. The music had ceased and a slow step was coming down the church—an old man's step.
"Ja. Stand there," he whispered. "It shall be as you wish. Stand there!" He pushed the youth behind a pillar and stepped forward, his taper held aloft.
"Mein Herr," he said softly.
The organist paused and looked at him inquiringly. His face was very tired. "What wouldst thou, Wilhelm?" he said gently.
"It is a young man—" he stammered and paused.
"A young man?"
"He would speak with you, Mein Herr—but a word." The old man's voice waited.
"Speak with me? Does he bring credentials?"
"Nay, your honor——"
The great organist drew his gown about him. "I have not time, Wilhelm. Many seek me and life runs fast. I have not time." He bowed courteously and moved on. As he passed the pillar a fold of his robe floated out and touched the hand of the youth, kneeling there, hidden in the dim light.
The choirmaster smiled deprecatingly. He had small, obsequious eyes and narrow shoulders. "If the gracious Herr would be so good," he said, shrugging them a little. "The people have assembled." He glanced back over the fast-filling church and raised his eyebrows a trifle to indicate the honor.
Bach smiled gravely. A humorous look came into his eyes. "Let the service go on as usual," he said quietly. "When it is done, I will play—if time allows."
The choirmaster squeezed his moist palms and wiped an anxious brow. "And that, too—will be well," he murmured gratefully. "It will please the old organist," he added apologetically.
Bach nodded his head. "I had thought of that."
The other stared. "You know Reinken?" he asked.
The great organist shook his head. "I have seen him." The humorous smile played about his lips. "I have never spoken with him."
"He has been a great player—in his day," said the choirmaster. The note of apology in his voice had deepened.
"That I know," said Bach shortly.
"And now it is the people—they will not let him go," murmured the choirmaster despairingly. "Each Sunday he must play—every motet and aria and choral—and he is ninety-nine. Mein Gott!" The choirmaster wiped his brow.
"It is a long life," said Bach musingly. A sweet look had come into his face, like the sunlight on an autumn field. He raised his hand with a courteous gesture. "Let me be summoned later—at the right time."
The choirmaster bowed himself away.
Already the notes of the great organ filled the church. It was Reinken's touch upon the keys—feeble and tremulous here and there—but still the touch of the master.
With bent head Bach moved to a place a little apart and sat down. Curious glances followed him and whispers ran through the church, coming back to gaze at the severe, quiet face, with its look of sweetness and power.
He was unconscious of the crowd. His thoughts were with the old man playing aloft—the thin, serene face—the wrinkled hands upon the keys—twenty years.... The time had come—at last.... The music stole through his musings and touched him. He lifted his face as the sound swept through the church. The fire and strength of youth had gone from the touch, but something remained—something inevitable and gentle that soothed the spirit and lifted the heart—like the ghost of a soul calling to itself from the past.
Bach started. A hand had fallen on his shoulder. It was the choirmaster, small-eyed and eager. Bach followed him blindly.
At the top of the stairs the choirmaster turned and waited for him. "At last we have the honor. Welcome to the greatest master in Germany!" he said smoothly, throwing open the door.
Without a word Bach brushed past him. His eye sought the great organ. The master had left the bench and sat a few steps below, leaning forward, his hands clasped on his cane, his white head nodding tremblingly above it. Far below the words of the preacher droned to a close, and the crowd stirred and craned discreet necks.
Quietly the organist slipped into the vacant place. The Bach festival danced before him.... Uncle Heinrich on the platform—"The great Reinken—will no one of you promise?" His father's face smiling, his father's hand on his head.... Slowly his hands dropped to the keys.
The audience settled back with a sigh. At last they should hear him—the great Bach.
The silence waited, deep and patient and unerring, as it had waited a decade—the touch of this man. A sound crossed it and the audience turned bewildered faces. Question and dissent and wonder were in them.... Not some mighty fugue, as they had hoped—not even an aria, but a simple air from a quaint, old-fashioned choral,—"By the waters, the waters of Babylon." They looked at one another with lifted brows. Reinken's choral!—and played with Reinken's very touch—a gentle, hurrying rhythm ... as Reinken used to play it—when he was young.... In a moment they understood. Tears stood in bewildered eyes and a look of sweet good-will swept the church. He had given back to them their own. Their thought ran tenderly to the old man above, hearkening to his own soul coming to him, strong and swift and eternal, out of the years. Underneath the choral and above it and around, went the soul of Bach, steadfast and true, wishing only to serve, and through service making beautiful. He filled with wonder and majesty and tenderness the simple old choral.
A murmur ran through the church, a sound of love and admiration. And above, with streaming eyes, an old man groped his way to the organ, his hands held out to touch the younger ones that reached to him. "I thought my work had died," he said slowly, "Now that it lives, I can die in peace."
A WINDOW OF MUSIC
"About so high, I should think," said the girl, with a swift twinkle. She measured off a diminutive man on the huge blue-and-white porcelain stove and stood back to survey it. "And about as big," she added reflectively.
Her sister laughed. The girl nodded again.
"And terribly homely," she said, making a little mouth. Her eyes laughed. She leaned forward with a mysterious air. "And, Marie, his coat is green, and his trousers are—white!"
The two girls giggled in helpless amusement. They had a stolid German air of family resemblance, but the laughing eyes of the younger danced in their round setting, while the sleepy blue ones of the older girl followed the twinkling pantomime with a look of half protest.
"They were in the big reception-room," went on the girl, "and I bounced in on them. Mamma Rosine was giving him the family history—you and me."
They giggled again.
The younger one drew down her face and folded her hands in matronly dignity, gazing pensively at the blue-and-white stove, her head a little to one side.
"My own voice is alto, Herr Schubert, and my daughter Caroline's; but my daughter Marie has a beautiful soprano." She rolled her eyes, with an air of resigned sentiment, and shook the bobbing black curls gently from side to side. "And he just twiddled his thumbs like this, and grunted." She seized her sister around her plump waist and shook her vigorously. "Don't you see it?" she demanded.
The older girl laughed hysterically, with disturbed eyes.
"Don't, Cara!" she protested.
The dark eyes bubbled again.
"And his hair curls as tight—" She ran a hand along her rumpled curls, then a look of dismay crossed the laughing face. She subsided into a chair and folded her hands meekly. The little feet, in their stout ankle-ties, swung back and forth beneath the chair, and the round, German face assumed an air of wholesome stupidity.
Her sister, whose slow glance had followed hers, gave a little gasp, and sank into a chair on the opposite side of the stove, in duplicate meekness.
The door at the other end of the room had swung open, and a tall woman swept in, followed by a diminutive figure in green coat and white trousers. A pair of huge spectacles, mounted on a somewhat stumpy nose, peered absently from side to side as he approached.
"My daughters, Herr Schubert," said the tall lady, with a circumflex wave of her white hand that included the waxlike figures on each side the stove.
They regarded him fixedly and primly.
His glance darted from one to the other, and he smiled broadly.
"I haf seen the young Fraeulein before," he said, indicating the younger with his fat hand.
The dark, round eyes gazed at him expressionless. His spectacles returned the gaze and twinkled.
"She has come into the reception-room while you were explaining about the voice of Fraeulein Marie," he said, with a glance at the other sister.
The waxlike faces shook a little.
The lady regarded them severely.
"She is only eleven," she murmured apologetically to the little man.
"Ja! So?" he muttered. His glance flashed again at the immovable face.
"Caroline, my child, come here," said her mother.
The child slipped down from the stiff chair and crossed to her mother's side. Her little hands were folded, and her small toes pointed primly ahead.
"My youngest daughter, Herr Schubert," said the lady, slipping an arm around the stiff waist. "Caroline, this is your new music tutor, Herr Schubert."
The child bobbed primly, and lifted a pair of dark, reflective eyes to his face.
His own smiled shrewdly.
"She will be a good pupil," he said; "it is the musical type." The green coat and white trousers bowed circumspectly to the small figure.
"Now, Marie"—the tall lady shook out her skirts—"Herr Schubert will try your voice. But first, Herr Schubert, will you not give us the pleasure?" She motioned politely toward the piano, and sank back with an air of fatigued sentiment.
He sat down on the stool and ran his white, fat fingers through his curling hair. It bristled a little. The fingers fell to his knees, and his big head nodded indecisively. Then it was thrown back, and the fingers dropped on the keys: the music of a Beethoven sonata filled the room.
The grand lady forgot her sentiment, and the little waxlike figures gave way. Their eager, tremulous eyes rested wonderingly on the broad back of the player.
The white fingers had dropped on the keys with the lightness of a feather. They rose and flashed and twinkled, and ran along the keyboard with swift, steel-like touch. The door at the end of the room opened softly. A tall man entered. He looked inquiringly at the grotesque green-and-white figure seated before the piano, then his glance met his wife's, and he sank into a big chair by the door, a pleased look on his dark face. The younger child glanced at him shyly. He returned the look and smiled. The child's face brightened.
The door opened again, and a slight figure stood in the doorway. He looked approvingly toward the piano, and dropped into a chair at the other side of the door, twirling his long, light mustaches.
The player, wrapped in sound, was oblivious to the world outside. The music enveloped him and rose about him, transfiguring the plain, squat figure, floating above the spectacled face and crisp, curling locks. His hearers glanced approvingly at one another now and then, but no one spoke or moved. Suddenly they were aware that a new mood had crept into the notes. Quick, sharp flashes of fear alternated with passages of clear, sunlit strength, and underneath the changing melody galloping hoof-beats rose and fell.
The dark-eyed child sat poised forward, her hands clasped about her knees, her tremulous gaze fixed on the flying fingers. She started and caught her breath sharply. Faster and faster thudded the hoofs; the note of questioning fear beat louder, and into the sweet, answering melody crept a note of doubt, undefined and terrible, a spirit echo of the flying hoofs. It caught up question and answer, and turned them to sharp, swift flight. The pursuing hoofs struck the sound and broke it; with a cry the child leaped to her feet. Her hands were outstretched, and her face worked. The man by the door turned slightly. He held out a quiet, imperious hand, and the child fled across the room, clasping the hand in both her own, and burying her face in his shoulder. The swift sound was upon them, around them, over them, sweeping past, whirling them in its leaping, gigantic grasp. It hesitated a second, grew strangely sweet and hushed, and dropped through a full, clear octave on a low note. It ceased. The air quivered. The player sat motionless, gazing before him.
The dark man sprang to his feet, his face illumined, the child clinging to his hand. He patted the dark curls carelessly as he flashed a smile to the young man at the other side of the room.
"That's mine, Schoenstein," he said exultantly; "your tenor voice won't carry that."
The other nodded half grudgingly.
They were both looking toward the player. He swayed a little on the stool, stared at the ceiling a moment, and swung slowly about, blinking uncertainly.
The older man stepped forward, holding out a quick hand.
"Wunderschoen!" he said warmly. "What is it? Are there words to it? Can you get it for me?"
The tiny man seemed to shrink a little. He put out his fat hand and waited a moment before he spoke. The full, thick lips groped at the words.
"It is—it is something—of my own," he said at last.
They crowded about him, questioning and delighted.
"Have you published it? What is it?"
"'Der Erlkoenig,'" said Schubert shortly. The child's face quivered.
"I know," she said.
Her father glanced down at her, smiling.
"What do you know?" he said gently.
"I read it," said the child, simply. She shivered a little. "The Erlking carried him off," she said. She covered her face, suddenly in tears. She was quivering from head to foot.
The count glanced significantly at his wife. She came forward and laid her hand on the child's shoulder.
"Come, Caroline. Come, Marie," she said. "Later, Herr Schubert, I shall have the pleasure of thanking you." She swept from the room.
The three men remained, looking a little uncomfortably toward the closed door.
The count shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the musician.
"A very impressionable child," he said lightly.
"A very unusual child," returned the small man gravely. He was blinking absently at the count's dark face. "She has the temperament," he murmured softly; "she will learn."
The count beamed on him.
"We depend on you to teach her," he said suavely. "You will go with us next week to Zelitz?"
The young man bowed uncertainly. His full lips smiled doubtfully. "It is an honor," he said, "but I must work. There is not time to lose. I must work." He moved his big head from side to side and twirled his fingers.
The count smiled genially.
"It shall be arranged—a little house by yourself, apart from the castle—a piano, absolute quiet, lessons only by your own arrangement." He spoke quietly, in the tone of a superior granting terms.
The thick lips opposite him were puckering a little, and the eyes behind the great spectacles blinked mistily.
"I must have time," repeated the little man—"time to think of it."
The count's face clouded a shade.
"We depend on you," he said. The tone had changed subtly. It was less assertive. "With the Baron von Schoenstein—" he motioned toward his companion; the two young men bowed slightly—"with the baron we have a fine quartet, and with you to train us—oh, you must come!" His face broke into a winning smile.
The young man smiled in return.
"I will come," he said; "but—free," he added.
"Free as the wind," assented the count easily. The note of patronage was gone.
A big sunny smile broke over the musician's face. It radiated from the spectacles and broadened the wide mouth.
"Ach! We shall do great things!" he announced proudly.
"Great things," assented the count. "And 'Der Erlkoenig'—I must have 'Der Erlkoenig.' Bring it with you."
"'Der Erlkoenig' shall be yours," said Schubert grandly. There was the air of granting a royal favor in the round, green-and-white little figure as it bowed itself from the room.
In the hall he stumbled a little, looking uncertainly about. A small figure glided from a curtained window and approached him timidly.
"Your hat is on the next landing, Herr Schubert," she said.
He looked down at her. His big face flushed with pleasure. "You like my music," he said bluntly.
She shook her head gravely.
"It is terrible," she replied.
The spectacles glared at her.
"It hurts me here." She raised a small, dark hand to her chest.
The musician's eyes lighted.
"That is right," he said simply; "ja, that is right—it hurts."
They stood looking at each other in the dim light. The child's eyes studied the big face wistfully.
"I wish you would never play it again."
"Not play my 'Erlkoenig!'" He glared at her.
She nodded slowly.
"Never," she said.
He waited a moment, looking at her sternly. He pushed his spectacles far up on the short curls and rubbed his nose vigorously.
The child's eyes waited on the queer, perturbed face. She gave a quick little sigh. Her lips had parted.
He looked down with a sudden big smile.
"I will never play it for you again," he said grandly. The spectacles descended swiftly, the door banged behind him, and the child was left alone in the great dim hall.
The heat of the day was nearly spent, but the leaves of the oaks hung motionless. The two young men walking beneath them had bared their heads. One of them glanced up now and then, as if looking for coolness in the green canopy.
"It will rain before night," said the baron, casually, noting the glance. His lithe figure, in its white suit and blue tie, showed no sign of heat or fatigue.
The musician, puffing beside him, wiped a handkerchief across his warm face.
"Ja, it will rain," he assented hopefully.
The baron glanced at him, smiling.
"You find ten miles a good stretch," he remarked. "We went too far, perhaps."
"Nein, not too far. We have had great talk," responded Schubert. His face under its mask of perspiration shone gloriously. He glanced down a little ruefully at his short, fat legs in their white casings. "But my legs they do not talk," he announced naively. "Ja, they are very weary, perhaps; but my soul is not weary." He struck his breast a resounding blow with the palm of his hand and straightened his short body.
The baron laughed musically.
A low, sweet sound, stealing among the oaks, answered the laugh. They stopped short, looking at each other. The sound came again, a far-off, haunting peal, with a little catch and sob in its breath.
They stole swiftly forward on tiptoe. Among the trees a roof and the outline of a small building glimmered. It was covered with dark ivy. Smoke came from the chimney, and through the open window drifted the strange, alluring sound.
"The house of the little folk of the wood," whispered Schubert, pressing forward.
"The wash-house," returned the baron, with a laugh.
The sound had ceased. The wood, in the soft heat, was very still.
"It is Marka," said the baron, glancing toward the house. "Marka has charge of the linen. I heard her the other day, in one of the corridors, singing; but Fritz hushed her up before she'd begun. She's a Hungarian——"
"Hush!" Schubert lifted a finger.
The music had begun again. The sadness was gone from it. It laughed and smiled to itself, and grew merry in a sweet, shy fashion that set the air about them astir in little rippling runs.
Schubert had started forward.
"I must have it!" he said impetuously.
"Take care!" warned Schoenstein; "she is a witch."
The musician laughed, stealing away among the tree-trunks. He moved softly forward, his short fingers fumbling at his pockets. A torn envelope and the stub of a pencil rewarded the search. His face lighted as he grasped the pencil more firmly in his fingers, moistening it at his thick lips; he approached the open window.
He peered uncertainly into the dim room. By the fireplace stood a lithe, quick figure, sorting the pile of linen at her side. As she lifted each delicate piece she examined it for holes or rents. Careless little snatches of song played about her lips as she worked.
The torn envelope rested on the sill, and the stubby pencil flew across its surface. The big face of the musician, bent above it, was alight with joy. The sound ceased, and he straightened himself, pushing back the hat from his brow, and gazing fondly at the little dots on the torn bit of paper.
The girl looked up with a start. The shadow had fallen on her linen. She gazed with open, incredulous lips at the uncouth figure framed in the window.
A broad smile wreathed the big face.
"Go on, Marka," he said. He nodded encouragement.
She looked down at the pillow-slip in her hands, and back again to the face in the window. The linen slip was plaited uncertainly in her fingers.
"Go on," said Schubert peremptorily. "You were singing. What was it, that tune? Go on."
She looked up again with bold shyness, and shook her head.
The face glared at her.
She smiled saucily, and, putting two plump hands into her apron pockets, advanced toward the window. Her steps danced a little.
Franz stared at the vision. He took off his spectacles and rubbed them, blinking a little.
"Waugh!" he said.
She laughed musically.
He replaced the spectacles, and looked at her more kindly.
She was leaning on the other side of the casing, her arms folded on the sill. Her saucy face was tilted to his.
He bent suddenly, and kissed it full on the mouth.
She started back, fetching him a ringing slap on the cheek.
"You ugly thing!" she said. She laughed.
Franz gazed serenely at the sky, a pleased smile on his lips.
"You're too ugly to look at," said the girl promptly.
He looked down at her and smiled.
"That tasted good," he said.
She pouted a little and glanced at the door.
His glance followed hers.
"Sing me some more," he suggested craftily.
She threw back her head, and her lips broke into a strange, sweet sound. The dark eyes were half veiled, and her full throat swelled.
The wood about them darkened as she sang. Swift birds flashed by to their nests, and the green leaves quivered a little. A clash broke among the tree-tops; they swayed and beat heavily, and big drops fell. The girl's eyes flashed wide. The song ceased on her lips. She glanced at the big drops on the sill and then at the open door.
"Come in," she said shyly.
He opened the door and went in.
"We feared that you were not coming, Herr Schubert," said the countess suavely.
The group had gathered in the music-room.... The storm had ceased, and a cool breeze came through the window. Outside in the castle grounds dim lights glimmered.
The young man advanced into the group a little awkwardly, rubbing his eyes as if waking from a dream.
The baron, standing by the piano, glanced at him sharply under lowered lids. His lips took on a little smile, not unkind, but full of secret amusement.
The musician passed him without a glance, and, seating himself at the piano, threw back his head with an impatient gesture. He turned swiftly the leaves of music that stood on the rack before him.
"Sing this," he said briefly.
He struck a few chords, and they gathered about him, taking up their parts with a careless familiarity and skill. It was Haydn's "Creation." They had sung it many times, but a new power was in it to-night. The music lifted them. The touch on the keys held the sound, and shaped it, and filled it with light.
When it was finished they glanced at one another. They smiled; then they looked at the player. He sat wrapped in thought, his head bowed, his fingers touching the keys with questioning touch. They moved back noiselessly and waited. When he was like this, they did not disturb him.
The melody crept out at last, the strange, haunting Hungarian air, with unrest and sadness and passion and sweetness trembling through it.
The baron started as he heard it. He moved carelessly to the window and stood with his back to the room, looking out.
The countess looked up with a startled air. She glanced inquiringly toward her husband. He was leaning forward, a look of interest on his dark face. The child at his knee shrank a little. Her eyes were full of a strange light. On the opposite side of the room her sister Marie sat unmoved, her placid doll eyes resting on the player with a look of gentle content.
The passionate note quickened. Something uncanny and impure had crept into it. It raised its head and hissed a little and was gone, gliding away among the low notes and losing itself in a rustling wave of sound.... The music trembled a moment and was still; then the passion burst in a flood upon them. Dark chasms opened; strange, wild fastnesses shut them in; storm and license and evil held them. Blinding flashes fell on them. Slowly the player emerged into a wide sunlit place. The music filled it. Winds blew from the four quarters to meet it, and the air was full of melody.
The count stirred a little as the last notes fell.
"A strange composition," he said briefly.
The child at his knee lifted her head. She raised a tiny hand and brought it down sharply, her small face aglow with suppressed anger.
"It was not good!" she said.
The player turned to look at her. His big face worked strangely.
"No, it was not good," he said. "I shall not play that again. But it is great music," he added, with a little laugh.
The count looked at him shrewdly. He patted the child's trembling hand.
"Now," he said soothingly, "something to clear away the mists! 'Der Erlkoenig,' We have never had it; bring it out."
Schubert hesitated an instant. He glanced at the child.
"That music—I have it not, Herr Count—I left it in Vienna."
The count moved impatiently.
"Play it from memory," he said.
The musician turned slowly to the piano.
The child's eyes followed him. She shivered a little.
He swung back with a swift gesture, feeling absently in his pockets.
"A piece of tissue-paper," he murmured. He had extracted a small comb from one of his pockets. He regarded it thoughtfully. "If I had one little piece of paper—" He looked about him helplessly.
"There is some in the music-rack, Marie. Find it for him," said the count.
The girl found it and laid it in his hand.
He turned back to the piano, adjusting and smoothing it. His broad back was an effective screen. The group waited, a look of interest on their faces.
Suddenly he wheeled about, his hands raised to his mouth, the comb, thinly covered with tissue-paper, at his lips, and his fat cheeks distended. His eyes behind the big spectacles glowed portentously.
They gazed at him in astonishment.
He drew a full breath and drove it forth, a lugubrious note. With scowling brows and set face he darted the instrument back and forth across his puckered lips. It wailed and shrieked, and out of the noise and discord emerged, at a galloping trot, "Der Erlkoenig!"
The child, who had been regarding him intently, threw back her head, and a little laugh broke from her lips. Her face danced. She came and stood by the player, her hand resting on his knee.
Herr Schubert puffed and blew, and "The Erlking" pranced and thumped. Now and then he stumbled and fell, and the fugitives flew fast ahead.
The player's face was grave beyond belief, filled with a kind of fat melancholy, and tinged with tragic intent.
The faces watching it passed from question to amusement, and from amusement to protest.
"Nein, nein, mein Herr!" said the countess, as she wiped her mild blue eyes and shook her blond curls. "Nicht mehr! nicht mehr!"
With a deep, snorting sob the sound ceased. The comb dropped from his lips, and the player sat regarding them solemnly. A smile curved his big lips.
"Ja," he said simply, "that was great music. I have made it myself, that music."
With laughter and light words the party broke up. At a touch from the count the musician lingered. The others had left the room.
The count walked to the open window and stood for a moment staring into the darkness. Then he wheeled about.
"What was it you played?" he said swiftly.
"A Hungarian air," replied Schubert briefly.
The count looked incredulous.
"It was your own," he said.
"Partly," admitted the musician.
The count nodded.
"I thought so." He glanced toward the piano. "It is not too late——"
Schubert shrugged his shoulders.
"I told the child—you heard—I cannot play it again, that music."
The count laughed lightly.
"As you like." He held out a hand. "Good night, my friend," he said cordially. "You are a strange man."
The grotesque, sensitive face opposite him quivered. The big lips trembled a little as they opened.
"I am not a strange man," said Schubert vehemently. "That music—it was—the devil!"
The count laughed again lightly. He held out his hand.
"Good night," he said.
A soft haze hung over Zelitz. The moonlight, filtering through it, touched the paths and shrubs with shifting radiance and lifted them out of shadow. Under the big trees the darkness lay black, but in the open spaces it had given way to a gray, elusive whiteness that came and went like a still breathing of the quiet night.
A young girl, coming down one of the winding paths, paused a moment in the open space to listen. The hand that held her trailing, shimmering skirts away from the gravel was strong and supple, and the face thrown back to the moonlight wore a tense, earnest look; but the dark eyes in their curving lids were like a child's eyes. They seemed to laugh subtly. It may have been that the moonlight shifted across them.
A young man, standing in the shadow of the trees, smiled to himself as he watched her. He stepped from beneath the trees and crossed the open space between them.
The girl watched him come without surprise.
"It is a beautiful night, Herr Schubert," she said quietly as he stood beside her.
"A wonderful night, my lady," he answered softly.
She looked down at him.
"Why are you not in the castle, playing?" she demanded archly.
"The night called me," he said.
She half turned away.
He started forward.
"Do not go," he breathed.
She paused, looking at him doubtfully.
"I came to walk," she said. She moved away a few steps and paused again, looking back over her shoulder. "You can come——"
He sprang to her side, and they paced on in silence.
She glanced at him from under her lids.
His big face wore a radiant, absent-minded look. The full lips moved softly.
"What are you thinking of?" she said swiftly.
He flushed and came back to her.
"Only a little song; it runs in my head."
"Hum it to me," she commanded.
He flushed again and stammered:
"Nein, nein; it is not yet born."
Her eyes were on the shifting light.
"Will you play it to me when it is done?" she asked softly.
"You know that I will."
She waited a moment.
"You have never dedicated a song to me," she said slowly. "There are the four to my father—but he is the count; and the one last year for Marie—why to Marie?—and one for them all. But not one least little song for me!" The words had dropped under her breath. Her dark eyes were veiled. No one could say whether they laughed now.
He looked up with a swift, brusque gesture.
"They are all yours; you know it." The low voice rebuked her gently. "For six years they are yours—all that I have done." The face was turned toward her. It was filled with pleading and a kind of gentle beauty, clumsy and sweet.
She did not look at it.
"There is one that I should like to hear," she said musingly. "You played it once, years ago, on a comb. I have not heard it since." She laughed sweetly.
Schubert smiled. The hurt look stole from his eyes.
"You will hear it—my 'Erlkoenig'?" he demanded.
"I will play it to you when I come back," he said contentedly.
She stopped short in the path.
"When you come back!" The subtle eyes were wide. They were not laughing.
"Ja, I shall——"
"Where are you going?"
He rubbed his great nose in the moonlight.
"Nein, I know not. I know I must go——"
She stopped him impatiently.
"You will not go!" she said. He turned his eyes and looked at her. After a moment her own fell. "Why will you go?" she asked.
The face with its dumb look was turned toward her.
"That little song—it calls me," he said softly. "When it is done I will come back again—to you."
She smiled under the lids.
"That little song—is it for me?" she asked sweetly.
"Ja, for you." He looked pleadingly at the downcast face. "The song—it is very sweet; it teases me."
The lids quivered.
"It comes to me so close, so close!" He was silent, a rapt look of listening in his face. It broke with a swift sigh. "Ach! it is gone!"
She glanced at him swiftly.
"I thought the songs came quickly."
He shook his head.
"The others, yes; but not this one. It is not like the others. It is so sweet and gentle—far away—and pure like the snow.... It calls me—" He broke off, gazing earnestly at the beautiful, high-bred face, with its downcast eyes.
"Nein! I cannot speak it," he said softly. "But the song it will speak it for me—when I come."
She lifted her head, and held out her hand with a gesture half shy and very sweet.
The moonlight veiled her. "I shall wait," she said gently—"for the song."
He held the slender hand for a moment in his own; then it was laid lightly against his lips, and turning, he had disappeared among the shadows.
"Hallo, Franz! Hallo—there!"
Two young men, walking rapidly along the low hedge that shuts in the Zum Biersack from the highway, lifted heated faces and glanced toward the enclosure, where a youth seated at one of the tables had half risen from his place, and was gesticulating with the open book in his hand to vacant seats beside him.
"It is Tieze," said Schubert, with a smile. "Come in."
His companion nodded. The next instant a swift waiter had served them, and three round, smiling faces surveyed one another above the foaming mugs.
"Ach!" said Tieze, looking more critically at the shorter man, "but you have grown thin, my friend. You are not so great."
Schubert smiled complacently. He glanced down at his rotund figure.
"Nein, I am little," he assented affably.
His companions broke into a roar of laughter.
"Drink her down, Franz! drink her down!" said Tieze, lifting the heavy stein.
Schubert wiped the foam from his lips.
"Ja, that is good!" He drew a deep sigh.
He reached out his hand for the open volume that lay by his companion's hand. It was given over in silence, and he dipped into it as he sipped the beer, smiling and scowling and humming softly. Now and then he lifted his head and listened. His eyes looked across the noisy garden into space.
His companions ignored him. They laughed and chatted and sang. Other young men joined the group, and the talk grew loud. It was the Sunday festival of Warseck.
Schubert smiled absently across the babel.
"A pencil—quick!" he said in a low tone to Tieze. His hand holding the open book trembled, and the big eyes glowed with fire.
Tieze fumbled in his pockets and shook his head.
Schubert glared at the careless group.
"A pencil, I tell you!" he said fiercely.
There was a moment's lull. Nobody laughed. Some one thrust a stub of pencil across the table. A fat young man sitting at Schubert's side seized it and, drawing a few music-bars on the back of a programme, pushed it on to him.
"Ach!" said Schubert, with a grateful sigh, "Goot—goot!" In another moment he was lost.
The talk grew louder. Hurried waiters rushed back and forth behind his chair with foaming mugs and slices of black bread, and gray and brown. Fiddles squeaked, and skittle-players shouted. Now and then the noise broke off and changed to the national air, which the band across the garden played loudly. But through it all Schubert's big head wagged absently, and his short-sighted eyes glared at the barred lines and flying pencil.
Suddenly he raised his head with a snort. His spectacles flew to his forehead, and his round face smiled genially at the laughing group.
"Done?" asked the fat young man with a smile. He reached out his hand for the scrawled page.
Schubert drew it jealously back.
"Nein," he said quickly.
Tieze, who had come around the table, stood behind them, scanning the barred lines and the scattered shower of notes. He raised a quick hand to the group about the table.
"Gott im Himmel!" he said excitedly. "Listen, you dunderheads!"
Silence fell on the group. Every glance was turned to him. He hummed softly a few bars of sweetest melody—under the garden's din.... The notes stopped in a choking gasp, Schubert's hand on his throat.
"Stop that!" he said hoarsely. The paper had been thrust loosely into his coat pocket. His face worked fiercely.
Tieze drew back, half laughing, half alarmed.
"Franz! Franz!" he said.
The other brushed his hand across his forehead and drew a deep breath.
"Ja," he said slowly, "I might have killed you."
Tieze nodded. A look of curiosity held his face.
"It is schoen!" he said softly. "Schoen!"
Schubert turned abruptly.
"It is not for you.... For years I search that song, over mountains, in the storm, in the sunshine; but it has never come—till here." His eye swept the crowded place. "Now I have it"—he patted the rough coat pocket—"now I have it, I go away."
The girl sitting on a rough bench by the low building stirred slightly. She glanced behind her. Deep blackness in the wood, shifting moonshine about her. She breathed a quick sigh. It was like that other night. Ah, he would not come!
Her face fell forward into her slender fingers. She sat immovable. The shadow trembled a little, but the girl by the low house was blind and deaf. Melodies of the past were about her. The shadow moved, but she had no eyes to see; slowly it travelled across the short-cropped grass, mystically green and white in the waning moon. Noiselessly it came; it sank noiselessly into the shadow of the low house. A sound clicked and was still. But the girl had not moved—memory music held her. It moved upon her spirit, low and sweet, and stirred the pulse, and breathed itself away.
She stirred a little, and laid her cheek upon her palm. Her opened eyes rested carelessly on the ground; her look flashed wide and leaped to the lattice window beside her, and back again to the ground. A block of light lay there, clear and defined. It was not moonlight or dream-light. She sprang to her feet and moved a step nearer the window. Then she stopped, her hand at her side, her breath coming quickly. The high, sweet notes were calling from the night. Swiftly she moved. The door gave lightly beneath her touch. She crossed the smooth floor. She was by his side. The music was around them, above them, shimmering. It held them close. Slowly he turned his big, homely face and looked at her, but the music did not cease. It hovered in the air above, high and pure and sweet. The face of the young countess bent lower; a look of tenderness waited in her subtle eyes.
He sprang to his feet, his hands outstretched to ward it off.
"Nein. It is not I. It is the music. You shall not be bewitched!" His hands made swift passes, as if he would banish a spell.
She caught them to her and waited.
"Am I bewitched—Franz?" she said at last. The voice was very low. The laughing eyes were looking into his.
"Ja, you are bewitched," he returned stoutly.
"I have only love for you."
"And I have only love for you," she repeated softly. She hummed a bit of the melody and stopped, looking at him sweetly. "It is my song," she questioned—"the song you went to seek for me?"
He lifted his head proudly.
"It came for you."
She nodded with brimming eyes. Her hands stole softly up to the big face. They framed it in, with its look of pride, and touched it gently. "Dear face!" she breathed, "dear ugly face—my music face!"
They moved swiftly apart. The figure of the count was in the open doorway.
She moved forward serenely and slipped her hand in his.
"I am here, Father Johann," she said quietly.
His fingers closed about the white ones.
"Go outside, Cara. Wait there till I come."
Her dark, troubled eyes looked into his. They were not laughing now.
"Nay, father," she said gently, "it is you who will wait outside—while we say farewell."
The count regarded her for a long moment, then he turned toward the young musician, his face full of compassion and a kind of envy.
"My friend," he said slowly, "for five minutes I shall leave her with you. You will go away—forever."
Schubert bowed proudly. His eyes were on the girl's face.
As the door closed, she turned to him, holding out her hands.
He took them in his, and they stood silent, looking into each other's eyes.
She drew a long breath.
"What do people say when they are dying?" she asked.
"Nein, I know not." His voice trembled.
"There is so much, and it is nothing," said the girl dreamily. She moved a step toward the piano, his hands locked fast in hers. "Tell me again you love me!" she whispered.
He took off the great spectacles, and laid them beside the scrawled page.
"Look in my eyes," he said gently. A kind of grandeur had touched the homely features. The soul behind them looked out.
She bent toward him. A little sob broke from her lips. She lifted the hands and moved them swiftly toward the keys.
"Tell me!" she said.
With a smile of sadness, he obeyed the gesture.
Melody filled the room. It flooded the moonlight. The count, pacing back and forth, halted, a look of bewilderment in his face. He stepped swiftly toward the door.
The lights on the piano flared uncertainly. They fell on the figure at the piano. It loomed grotesque and grim, and melted away in flickering shadow. Music played about it. Strains of sadness swept over it in the gloom and drifted by, and the sweet, high notes rose clear. A little distance away the figure of the young countess stood in the shifting light. Her clasped hands hung before her. She swayed and lifted them, groping, and turned. Her father sprang to her. Side by side they passed into the night. The music sounded about them far and sweet.
* * * * *
Franz Schubert, with his youth and his wreaths of fame, his homely face and soul of fire, is dead these many years; but the soul of fire is not dead.... The Countess Esterhazy, framed for love, is dust and ashes in her marble house. The night music plays over her tomb.
The night music plays wherever night is.
FREDERIC CHOPIN—A RECORD
PARIS, October 6, 1837.
It has rained all day. No one has been in. No fantasies have crept to my soul. Nothing to break the ceaseless, monotonous drip, drip, drip on my heart. No one but a garcon from the florist's bringing violets—the great swelling bunch of English violets—Jane Stirling's violets! Heavens, what a woman! I am like her now, in the little mirror on my desk. Merely thinking of her has made me so! The great aquiline nose—the shrewd, canny Scotch look—and the big mouth—alas, that mouth! When it smiles I am enraged. Oh, Jane! Why dost thou haunt me, night and day, with thy devotion and thy violets—and thy nose! Let women be gentle, with soft glances that thrill—soft, dark flames. Constantia's glance? Constantia? Nay, fickle. Fickle moon of yesternight that drips—drips—drips. Will it never cease! I cannot play the pain away. It eats into my heart. Yet life was made for joy and love—love—love—sweet as dream-light—sweet as music—sad and sweet and gay—love! The weariness rests upon me. The silver clock ticks. It chimes the pain. One—two—three—nine—ten. The night wears slowly. I must break the burden. I will look into a woman's face, and rest.
PARIS, October 10, 1837.
It was a thought of inspiration. I threw off the ugly loose coat and my ennui together. I plunged into the fragrant bath. Little tunes hummed to me as I rose from it. I put on clean, fresh linen—fine as silk—and evening dress. My blood coursed freely, and the scent of violets came to me sweetly. It followed through the wet, dripping streets, and clung to me as I ascended the softly carpeted stair to the salon of the Countess Czosnowska. I was merry in my soul. Then a shadow crossed me. It fell upon my shoulder, and I turned in fear to look. No one—except a naked Venus on the wall. My good angel drew me on. I have seen her thrice since then. It seems a day. She came and looked into my eyes, while I played. It was fairy-music, witching and sweet—a little sad—the fairies of the Danube. My heart danced with them in the fatherland. Her eyes looked into mine. Sombre eyes—strange eyes. What did they say? She leaned forward on the piano, gazing at me passionately. My soul leaped back and stood at bay. The strange eyes smiled. It was a man's face—breadth and depth and coarseness—and the strange, sad eyes. I longed for them and shrank upon myself. She moved away. Later we spoke together—commonplaces. Liszt brought her to me, where I was sitting alone. Camellias framed us in. A sweet shadow rested on my heart. She praised my playing—gently. She understood. But the strong, sad, ugly face! I have seen her twice since then. In her own salon, with the noblest minds of France about her—and once alone. Beautiful face—haunting sadness! Aurora—sweetest name! She loves me! Day-spring—loved-one! The night lags——
PARIS, November 5, 1838.
We are to go away together—to the South. There is a strange pain at my chest, a haunting cough. It will not let me go. I shall escape it—in the South. She cares for me, day and night. Her sweet breath! My mother's face is sad in my dreams. I shall not dream when the sun shines warm upon me—in the South——
MAJORCA, November 16, 1838.
We are alone—two souls—in this island of the sea. The surf beats at night. I lie and listen. Jane Stirling came to see us off. She brought violets—great, swelling English violets. I smell them in the mouldy cloister cells, night and day. This monks' home is cold and bleak. The wind rattles through it, and at night it moans. A chill is on me. When I cough it echoes through my heart. I love the light. Sweet music waits the light. I will not die. The shadow haunts. But life is strong. Jane's violets on my grave! I will not die.
PARIS, March 14, 1839.
Paris—gay, live Paris! The cabs rattle sweetly on the stones. I can breathe now. The funeral dirge will wait. In Marseilles we came upon Nourrit—dead. Poor Adolphe! He could not bear the weight. A crash into eternity! I knew it all. The solemn mass ascended for his soul—and high above it all, I spoke in swelling chords—mystery—pain—justice—the fatherland. A requiem for his soul—for Chopin's soul? And Heine smiles. Brave Heine! With death upon his heart—inch by inch he fights it—with laughs. I saw him yestermorn. His great eyes winked. They made a bet at me. He will outlast us yet, he swore, ten years. Brave fight! Shall I live to see it stop—gasp—the last quip fail on sunny lips? I peer into the years between. They hang among the mists. Aurora comes. It is a week. Sweet day-spring!
NOHANT, October 11, 1839.
They tell me I am well. The cough has ceased and the pain. But deep below, it beats. Aurora's eyes are veiled. Only when I play will they glow. They fill the world with light. I sit and play softly—her pen moves fast. She can write with music—music—over her—around—Chopin's music, whispered low—but clear as love. They said once George Sand was clever. It is Chopin's touch that makes her great. It eats the soul. For thee, Aurora, I could crawl upon the earth. I would not mind. I give thee all. I ask a glance—a touch—a smile when thou art weary—leave to love thee and to make sweet music. Thou wilt not be too cruel, love—with thy veiled eyes?
NOHANT, May 3, 1847.
I must have money. I am a burden—sick—a cough that racks the soul. Aurora comes but seldom. The cough hurts her. She is busy. I do not look into her eyes. I lie and gaze across the field. It stretches from my window—sunny, French field! Miles away, beneath a Polish sky, I see my mother's eyes. Unshed tears are heavy. "Fritz, little Fritz," she calls to me, "thou wilt be a great musician. Poland will be proud of thee!" Poland—dear land—proud of Frederic Chopin! My heart is empty. It aches.
NOHANT, June 1, 1847.
It is over. Life has stopped. A few years more or less, perhaps. But never life again. I do not write the words. They hammer at my brain. She spoke so sharply—and my soul was sick. I did not think she could. If she had waited—I would not have tarried long, not too long, Aurora. Hadst thou waited—weary of the burden, the sick burden of my complaint! Money—I shall work—Waltzes that the public loves—and pays for. Mazurkas from a torn heart! I shall work—a little while—20,000 francs to set me free! I will die free!
PARIS, June 10, 1847.
Strange fortune that besets a man! The 20,000 franc paper is in my hand. I turn it. I look at it. Jane Stirling and her goodness haunt my gloom. She only asks to give. Strange, uncouth, Scotch lady! With thy heart of gold, thy face of iron, and thy foot of lead! Thy francs lie heavy in my hand. "Master," she writes my name. She only asks to give. But women should be gentle, with soft, dark eyes that thrill. The day has closed. I shall die free!
STIRLING CASTLE, SCOTLAND, June 16, 1848.
I am lying in a great chamber of the castle. The house is still. The guests have creaked to their rooms. The last hoarse voice is hushed. When I played for them below, my fingers twitched and my heart ached with the numbness. I could have cried with weariness and pain. The faithful Daniel lifted me like a child. He has undressed me and laid me here among the swelling pillows. The light burns fitfully. It dances among the shadows. Outside the bleak Scotch mist draws near. It peers into my window. It is Jane's soul—soft and floating wool—and clammy. My heart is ice—ingratitude and ice. She sits beside me all the day. We talk of music! Strange, disjointed talk—with gaps of common sense—hero-worship—and always the flame that burns for me—slow and still. She has one thought, one wish—to guard my days with sweet content. And in my soul the quenchless fire burns. It eats its way to the last citadel. I have not long to wait. I shall not cry out with the pain. Its touch is sweet—like death. "I'll beat you yet," brave Heine writes. His soul is emptied. But the lips laugh. Jane's slow Scotch eyes keep guard at death. My lightest wish grows law. The treasures of my salon—shall they be hawked about the town? "Chopin's wash-basin—going!—for ten sous—going!" My pictures, caskets, tapestries, each rug and chair that I have loved, and the great piano with its voice and soul of love. She will guard them. Faithful lady! Cruel one—my soul curses thee, crushes thee forever—false dawn that could not stand the sun's deep kiss—Aurora. Unrest—unrest—will it never cease? Shall I lie quiet? There will be Polish earth upon me. The silver goblet holds it. It is here beside me now. I reach and touch it with my hand. Dear land of music and the soul! The silver cupful from thy teeming fields is always near. It shall spill upon my breast—upon this racked and breathless burden! But the heart within that beats and burns—it shall be severed, chord by chord—it shall return to the land that gave it. Dear Poland! I see thee in the mists—with my mother's brow and mouth and chin. Poland that sings and weeps—sad land. My heart is thine! Cleanse it in sweet-smelling earth! In thy bosom it shall rest—at last—rest!
THE MAN WITH THE GLOVE
"Ho, Tiziano! Ala-ala-ho! Tizi-ah-no!"
The group in the gondola raised a merry call. The gondola rocked at the foot of a narrow flight of steps leading to a tall, sombre dwelling. The moonlight that flooded the gondola and steps revealed no sign of life in the dark front.
The young man sitting with his back to the gondolier raised the call again: "What, ho!—Tiziano!" The clear, tenor voice carried far, and occupants of passing gondolas turned to look and smile at the dark, handsome youth as they drifted past.
The door at the top of the steps opened and Titian ran lightly down. He carried in his hand a small lute with trailing purple ribbons, and the cap that rested on his thick curls was of purple velvet. He lifted it with gentle grace as he stepped into the gondola and took the vacant seat beside a young woman facing the bow of the boat.
Her smiling face was turned to him mockingly. "Late again, Signor Cevelli, and yet again!" She plucked at the strings of a small instrument lying on her lap, and the notes tinkled the music of her words.
"Pardon, Signora, a thousand pardons to you and to your gracious lord!" He bowed to the man opposite him.
"Giorgio? Oh—Giorgio doesn't mind." Her soft lips smiled. "He's too big and lazy. He never minds." Her laugh rose light and sweet. The three men joined in.
The boat shot into midstream. It threaded its way among the brilliant craft that floated in the moonlight, or shot by them under vigorous strokes. Many glances were turned toward the boat as it passed. The face of Titian was well known and that of the woman beside him was the face of many pictures; while the big man opposite—her husband—the famous Giorgione, was the favorite of art-loving Venice. It was a group to attract attention at any time. But it was the fourth member of the group that drew the eyes and held them to-night.