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