The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Max Pauli: The Story of a Man's Life.
by Heinrich Hoffman.
MAX IS IN HARZIG AGAIN.
Everything that happens to us leaves some trace behind; everything contributes imperceptibly to make us what we are...The surest plan is just to do the nearest task that lies before us. --GOETHE.
Set a stone rolling down hill and you cannot stop it. It is wonderful how slight an initiatory movement sets events going in our lives. The event comes upon us with surprising suddenness, but it is but the firing of a train which has been for years a-laying. After the two conversations we have recorded everything shaped itself to Max Pauli's hand; circumstances seemed to urge him on so that he could not stop if he would. His four young friends came forward with capital, Bruhm consented to share his work, a suitable shop and house offered in the most stirring part of Hamburg, and Max attained to the manly dignity of being a householder. Was there no thought of a Frau? A circular went the rounds of the city which occasioned a good deal of talk. A simple man-to-man statement takes people by surprise; and --"A young man of twenty-three! It's plucky of him to think of establishing a business of his own, but it behoves one to to be cautious."
Kieger did not quite like it; but --well, the new shop was not to be too close to his; what will happen must happen; Max was a good fellow on the whole--and much of the like, summed up in the fact that Kieger put no obstacles in the way, and his principal assistant quitted him at Easter, to go south once more and try his fortunes amongst the publishers assembled at the Harzig Easter fair.
Many recalled Pauli's ingenuous countenance, and greeted him with great heartiness. A few remembered his business aptitudes; but he found his best friends slow to be persuaded that a young man with a chin smooth as a girl's could conduct a book business. "It takes a greybeard to do that." So one and another of the old men hesitated to give him credit:
"That is all true enough; it is the new fashion to send your books about, and let the bookseller return, if he can't sell them. It may work, or it may not. But there is a difference between trusting a man of established credit with your property and trusting a young man who risks nothing of his own and everything of other people's."
Max did not like it, but he did not lose heart. You can't explain to an outsider how your plan is better than any hitherto tired, but you have your convictions. He could not get credit so freely as he expected, but he got the loan of as many thousand dollars from three or four of his old Harzig well-wishers, including Moser, and further investments from young Winndt and the other Hamburg partners, so he bought his books where he couldn't borrow them, and even the publishers who would not trust him could but admire the insight he showed in making is selections.
So those weeks at Harzig were full of painful perplexity, of endless comings and goings, of long-winded discussions and explanations. Now and again a horrible dread came upon Pauli lest he were no better than an adventurer, with no end higher than his own advancement; and perhaps that of being made to doubt his own integrity is the worst misery that can befal a sensitive man. But while, one night, he would toss and tumble about till daylight in perplexity and self-distrust, the next, he couldn't sleep for pleasure; people were so kind, all was going well, and he should yet repay a hundredfold those good Hamburg friends. Then, too, he was asked out here and there and treated as a rising man, of whom Harzig was not ashamed. On the whole, alleviations more than counterbalanced his distresses--at first.
But we are playing Hamlet without the part of the Prince of Denmark. In the midst of the throng and tumult of business his old passion came upon him with sevenfold force. He had persuaded himself that his love for Hedwig Moser was no longer a passion, but calm contemplative pleasure in her beauty and grace. Was not beauty his present cult, and what easier way of worship than this of spelling over the charms of the beautiful girl he no longer loved, because, had he not fought down himself and engaged to give her up to his friend?
But when she came into the familiar little salon with undulating grace of movement that would have won her distinction at a Court, her countenance animated, her long lustrous eyes beaming with tender pleasure,--why, Max had to hold on to the back of a chair. He felt himself sinking out of life to the accompaniment of heavy throbs. As for thought, his mind was blank, except that he heard himself ask himself "Can this be love, or only aesthetic emotion?" For our tricks of thought never desert us, however inopportune their play.
"And you are doing so well, Herr Pauli? Father tells us great things of you."
"Do you remember a hundred years ago when you were good to me, Fraulein Hedwig; how I told you of--of--well, a sort of vision I had about the possibilities of the book-trade as I sat on the top of a ladder in your father's shop?"
Yes, she remembered; and as she sat before him, the lines of her figure in repose, looking into his with eyes full of thought and comprehension, free from all petty vanity, even the vanity of youth, which might have played Max's "hundred years," her pure and friendly gaze stirred depths of as pure passion in his heart. His soul did reverence to the soul of this beautiful girl; and that not merely for her beauty's sake, but for the life and expression beaming from every feature, for the intelligence and sympathy and power of loving which found expression in her soft rich tones and her graceful bearing.
"So when I return I shall be a house-master; think of it! May I call you 'Hedwig' any more?"
"Oh yes, Max, why not? Do I not owe everything to you? It was you who taught me to think and to have a purpose. But about your house. Tell me everything, all about the rooms and who will help you make them nice."
(Lower Voice) "Loves she me?" (Aloud) "No, indeed, it was you who taught me; how could I ever help one whom I have looked up to since first I entered your father's house?"
"He thinks so now, but I have always known how he looked down on me. (Aloud) But I want to know about your house; tell me all."
"Ah, the house will be lonely and dull. What so dreary as a house without a mistress?"
(Max, Max! Is this your loyalty to Bruhm?)
But even with such an opening they did not flirt. Hedwig was too simple, and Max really wished to be true to Bruhm, if possible--saving clause! So they talked away, like old friends, of hte past, and the present, and the future, and Hedwig soon knew all about his Hamburg friends, making, woman-like, a mental picture of each, more especially of "the Countess" and of the fine young Winndt.
Was it association of ideas linked by the place--though Max slept in better quarters in these better days, but with no whit more ease--was it the recollection of nights of sleepless and restless anguish, all for the love of Hedwig, that brought him a recurrence of those early tortures? His interviews with Hedwig, most often at the family meals, she possibly avoided seeing him alone, were placid and delightful. Her very presence soothed his nervous unrest. But,--the Hedwig who came at night to torture him into madness of longing and loving!--
"I can stand this no longer!" and, prompt and resolute as ever, Pauli conceived and executed a plan, and, O ye gods and men, what a plan!
At four a.m. on the ninth of his Walpugis nights, Max jumped out of bed, struck a light, and proceeded to indite a letter. Did he sue Herr Moser for the hand of that gracious lady, his lovely daughter Hedwig? By no means. Did he, in the face of propriety, pour out his passion to that gracious lady herself? Not at all. This was the letter (please, dear reader, do not call our Max a "fantastic idiot" again; it grates on our nerves, we do assure you):--
"Peter Bruhm, I can bear this no longer! Do you want to see me a raving lunatic? Let us put it to the touch, neither having the least advantage. I have seen her too much as it is, wherefore do you choose a friend, a good man and true. Let him tell the tale of your love first. Heavenly blush and drooping eye may respond before he has well begun; but, suppose, forgive me, Peter, just for a moment suppose that she has nothing to give you, then let your friend tell the tale of love for me. Get a man who can feel and can speak; though, for the matter of that, how the tale is told skills little. If her answer be ready we shall have it one way or other. Do this, Peter, and give rest to your afflicted "MAX."
And Peter did.
Some days later, as Hedwig was seated in maiden meditation with her embroidery in the little salon which came to be regarded as her boudoir, Johanna broke open the door with the announcement, "Herr Hans Andressen," accompanied with a code of signals of eye and thumb directed to the tall young Swede who preceded her into the room.
We say "proceded" advisedly, for Johanna had not half satisfied her curiosity, and came forward to plant herself in front of the visitor, hardly yet over the doublings and undoublings of his person with which he introduced himself to the gracious Fraulein.
"Is it coffee you will have, mein Herr, or what else is is they make giants of in your land?"
"Go away, Johanna," said the discomfited young mistress, turning to her visitor.
"I have to apologise to you, gracious Fraulein, for the irregularity of my intrusion upon you personally."
"It is not usual," she replied, with simplicity which carried reproof.
"Forgive me, madam; I come on behalf of another, of others, who are suffering."
"My friend, my valiant generous friend, Peter Bruhm, suffers from a deadly wound received in his most vital part."
"I'm sorry, but I am not surgeon."
"May I be forgiven for venturing to contradict you, madam, but you alone can treat this wound of his."
Hedwig bowed again, and found herself compelled to listen to the tale, really well told, of how Bruhm had loved her as Jacob his Rachel these more than seven years. Of how he was too generous to tease her with his personal vows, and so had sent him, his humble friend, to whom, if so needs must be, she could say "No" with less compunction than to her suppliant himself. But, ah, had she no pity? Esteem is too cold a word. "Lady, I beseech you on my knees to listen to his suit, and do not blight this good man's life."
Hedwig listened with mixed feelings: in the first place a love tale movingly told must needs move a loving woman. So must the considerate modesty which spares her all pain in the telling. But, on the other hand, where were the pain if she could answer love with love? Peter Bruhm she liked and respected, pitied and admired, --but loved? Well, her heart had never beat fast for thought of him.
"I respect and like your friend with all my heart, but I tell you truly I have nothing more to give him."
"Is there no hope, lady? This will blight his life. Take time to consider, I beseech you!"
"I cannot love by considering. Believe me, sir, no change can take place in the nature of my friendly regard for Herr Bruhm. Please thank him from me for the honour he does me. Allow me to say good day; it is useless and painful to discuss this matter further."
Young Andressen thought of his own betrothed, and how the sound of his name would bring light to his Olga's eye, and a flush to her fair cheek; and here was this beautiful girl, sorry, friendly, kindly, but showing no change of countenance beyond a little pallor of distress for the trouble she could not help. Clearly there was nothing to be gained by much talking. He would spare Peter the indignity of urging for him a hopeless suit.
"Forgive me, madam, but I may not go yet. Failing that of my friend I am charged with another suit. It is a chivalrous tale, a romance of to-day. May I say it without presumption? Even you are strangely honoured to be the object of two such noble passions."
Quivering chin and drooping eyes and a sad droop of figure--she had stood up to dismiss Andressen--told how deeply Hedwig was moved; but the keen eyes of her observer saw no more than distress and self-reproach and a sad sense of undeservingness; no stir of love fluttered her bosom, hovered about the exquisite mouth. She sighed a sigh of nervous exhaustion and motioned Andressen to sit.
Again he told his tale well; how the two had loved her with the unreasoning passion of youth; how they were rivals and hated each other, how Pauli loved virtue also, and dared not lose his manhood even for love of her; how he gave her up to Bruhm; how his friend would not be outdone, but resigned her to Pauli; how they swore eternal brotherhood, and that each should live to advance the suit of the other; how all this had proved no boyish folly at which they laughed now they were in the prime of their manhood. As it had been, so it was still, and ever would be. He would appeal to Pauli's letters; was there any attempt to advance his own cause? Was not all his ardour for his chosen brother? Not that he knew more than that there had been a correspondence; he judged by the man; even in one or two conversations he had seen the nobility and beauty of his nature. What then must the Fraulein, who knew him so well, think of this knightly soul? But now, in her presence once more, reason itself must leave him if he might not know his fate.
"And think of it, madam; think of the chivalry of this spotless knight; he is consumed with his love for you, yet makes no sign. He thinks first of Bruhm; writes to him; says he can bear no more; shall they decide their fate, and, that neither may take advantage of the other, send a third to sue for both--a third whom Bruhm should name. I have the honour to be that third, and though Bruhm is my friend, my heart is taken captive by the nobility of soul and the personal charm of Pauli, whom I have seen but twice. If I were a woman, surely I must reward one of these two. Is it, dear lady, that you cannot give your heart to Bruhm because it is already Pauli's?"
But this astute Andressen knew better. Though brightening eye greeted every praise of Pauli, and uplifted head as of mother elated at the fine doings of her son, every appeal to her love was met with pitiful and piteous down-dropping of the corners of her mouth. Clearly, Max was dearer than Peter, but, equally clearly, neither of the two had fettered her virgin freedom with even lightest chain of love. Andressen was not surprised that exceeding weariness appeared in look and movement as she rose once more and said,
"Max I love, and Peter I love; but I can never marry either; my love is not of that kind. Thank you for your gentleness. Adieu."
"I have seldom had a stiffer job. What a splendid girl she is, though, and what a brute I must have seemed to go on tormenting her when she was ready to faint, worn out with sheer pity. Lucky fellow who gets her, that's all I say."
And Hedwig said to herself--nothing. She crouched on the ground, laid her arms on her chair and her face upon them, and sobbed, sobbed, sobbed; how she yearned for a mother's bosom, even for her mother's! At last she fell asleep; and when her father came to look for her, the white face and forlorn attitude of his child went to his heart. He did what he had not done since she was a little child; he took her up in his arms, sat down with her, and kissed the cold face warm. Nothing could have helped poor little Hedwig more than this unusual comforting from her father. She must think it all strange presently; now, she was too tired and sick.
Poor Andressen felt it was rather hard on him to be the bearer of ill-tidings; now he must seek Pauli, and then, and worst of all, there was Bruhm to be encountered.
"Never no more shall this nincompoop meddle in other men's love matters. 'Every man for himself' is the safe rule here, anyway."
So far as the mere telling went, telling Pauli was by no means a hard task. He did not storm, nor weep, nor make any show of his anguish; did not even heap reproaches on this unhappy go-between. But Andressen, when he was an old man, would tell how, that day, he witnessed a strange sight. People knew less about such things then than we do, and his Swedish friends held it a marvel of the nature of witchcraft of miracle when old Andressen related how he had in one half-hour watched fifty years pass over a man, seen his figure shrink, his eyes sink, his face and hair both take on the grey, worn look of a weary old man.
"Mind, I don't say the change lasted; his hair soon warmed again into that auburn hue so full of life, and, I daresay, he was himself again within a twelvemonth; but, I tell you, I saw him that day an old man--older, I warrant, than he looks to-day. We two counted equal years, and seventy-five is not to say old for a man. What sayst thou, Fu?"
And Fru Olga responded as in duty bound, and looked herself comely, plump, and fair enough to be barely on the verge of middle age.
As for Max Pauli, it is horrible to get what you have hungered for, and to find it as sawdust in your mouth. Here, in Harzig, and in Hamburg, all went well, but Max was a broken man. He saw that his life had ever had but one meaning for him. "Hedwig, Hedwig!" moaned itself within him, by day, by night, in silence, in talk. Had it not been for the others who shared with him in this much-prospering adventure, he would have thrown the thing up and gone to America, or Russia, or anywhere, if only distance and new scenes might help him to forget. But would they? Well, well! he must make the best of life as it came to his hand.
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading. --FIELDS.
"My whole life-plan is ruined--ruined by her. I am done with life." So wrote Max Pauli to his Uncle Fritz; that dear heart, he knew, would measure his pain. If he could, Max would have run off to Wilhemstadt for the comforting of the gentle old man's eye and touch--the weariness of words would, he knew, be spared him. But "the next thing" is inexorable--you must go on with that; and if it is bitter to work, and worse to smile and talk, why, it's the bitterness of a tonic, and does you good. Our new householder began by hating, but went on to liking and to loving, the little home he had made with the sole purpose (so he found out to his dismay) of enthroning Hedwig as queen of it and of him.
The new bookshop excited more interest in Hamburg than you would have supposed. Max had, one way or another, a considerable acquaintance amongst the class that cares for books, and these took hearty interest in, and took pains to introduce him.
"Have you seen Pauli's new place? Oh, you must. He has started on new lines--just the thing we want. Let us turn in after coffee; you see everything there."
And the gentleman would stroll in to what was a new thing in those days--a shop with a snug inner compartment, arranged like a private library, with this difference, that every work in it had its own particular value and interest. The "standard" old books, and the best new books, and the books people were talking about--you could put your hand on anything you itched for a peep at, and that without trouble. The books were shelved according to their kind, and the habitues of "Pauli's" came to be able to walk up tot the last new book on any subject without a question as to where it was. Pauli's orderly instincts served him. A book out of place was woe to somebody, and Bruhm, who had joined him, was of the same mind.
There was another attraction to "Pauli's"--a table spread with periodicals of the day, German, French, English, Italian; comfortable chairs where you could sit and read, a stove in cold weather (Max remembered the days of his youth), and the certainty of meeting people you were glad to have a word with, amongst whom Max himself was by no means the least considered. In fact, this adventurous Pauli conferred upon the cultured classes of Hamburg an open club with a capital library, and those concerned were not slow to make use of the piece of good luck which had fallen in their way. You might see a dozen men, half a dozen of them men of European reputation, standing about among the shelves, devouring, between the uncut leaves, some coveted volume. All this is common enough to-day, but to do as others do, and to start on unheard-of lines, are--two things.
"But does it pay? That sort of thing is pleasant enough socially, but does it do to give people for nothing what they should pay for? What you get for nothing is worth nothing, n'est ce pas?"
"To watch people with the books," answered Pauli to Winndt, "is a study in human nature. There was a man who came here every day for a whole month to skim the 'Aufklarung.' Every day he would stand for a couple of hours in that recess, peering between the leaves of sheet after sheet. At last he cold read no more without cutting, so he came no more, you say? Quite the contrary. The more you touch, taste, handle the object of your desire, the more do you covet it. He came next day and bought the book to read it at home with his paper knife!"
"Why, what Machiavellian craft. Who'd have thought our simple Max such a master of trade dodgers! Inveigling the poor fellow into buying the book, willy nilly."
"Nay, now! One minute you cry, What a fool! the next, What a knave! Suppose you strike the happy mean."
"Why, Max, man, all is so delightful that we are anxious for you. Who's to pay the piper? say your friends."
"Getting and having are not the only roads to fortune, or even to rent, rates, and wages. Be easy; I'm not going headlong."
"Tell me about your house."
"Literary from top to toe; bookshelves on the ground floor, bookshelves on the second floor; on the third floor Dr. Ehrens, the editor of a newspaper; on the fourth, a French bookseller in front, and our own sleeping-rooms behind. We are full of books and bookmen as an egg is full of meat."
ONE MORE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE.
There is a universe within--
"Sir, forgive me--don't think me mad; the moment you entered my shop my heart bowed before you. I know your teaching. I have read 'Waldemar.' Now I see your face, and I love you. It is a little thing, but it is all one man can give another."
"Well, well, my dear fellow, much obliged to you; but, you see, you don't know me. Now, how can a man love a man he doesn't know?"
"Ah, sir, you are mocking me! Can the author of 'Waldemar' ask that question? I know you better, perhaps, than the people who live with you. I know your soul--your very heart. Is it not you who teach us to rely on our spiritual intuitions as on infallible guides? Help me! I am in great distress, and in your writings I see the glimmerings of a new light."
Even Jacobi, for he it was, was posed by this startling application of his own teachings. He would have man recognise all things human and divine by that portion of the divine light within him--his conscience, his consciousness, his reason--what you will. But when a young man in a shop broke out with sudden passionate recognition, why, this sweet but dignified gentleman hardly knew what to do with the flotsam the tide of that morning's events had brought to his feet.
As for Max Pauli, this aberration was not without excuse. His rejection by Hedwig had thrown him back on those riddles of existence upon which he had already spent himself sorely. Now, he was between Scylla and Charybdis. If he wrenched his thoughts away from Hedwig, straight they took themselves to the old problems--"Am I sure, after all, that what I think is right? Can I trust my own reason? As for goodness, am I lapsing? truly I am not attaining." For years had this poor Max wearied himself to bring his will and his life into subjection to moral laws fixed by the understanding only, with which emotions must nowise intermeddle. "It gives me pleasure to serve my friends," says Schiller, throwing the Kantian philosophy into an epigram; "it is agreeable to me to do my duty; this makes me uneasy, for then I am not virtuous." This pleasantry hardly exaggerates the hopeless struggle after virtue, the anxious introspection which had occupied the whole of Max's youth. Then, we know how he was led to seek in his feelings--not his understanding--the guide to a good life, and how these must first be educated and purified by Art and the Beautiful, how that Morning Gate of the Beautiful glittered before him, within touch almost, portals invitingly open, and he could not, no, he could not win an entrance. Then, we know, he fell back on his beautiful human love; was she not the key to this Sphynx's riddle? She failed him; and once more he trod the old paths with the perpetual pacings of his thoughts. Oh, the weariness and the painfulness of it all! His friends watched him with uneasiness; were concerned about about cavernous eyes and hollow cheeks.
"That business is too much for Pauli! Think of the responsibility for a young fellow like him!"
But they were wrong, as our best friends may be. It seldom happens that great stress and strain of the inner life and great stress of the outer life come together upon a man--one of a thousand facts which might serve to remind us that we are not left to ourselves to arrange the programme of our lives. All went well with the business; it was a pleasant distraction from anxious thought, an anaesthetic in hours of mental torture; but, enough to sustain his life? Nay, you might as well offer a stone to a child who is crying for bread.
Again, hope shed fugitive lights on his uneasy soul. He had been led by an appreciative review of "Waldemar" to study Jacobi. Here was a new philosophy of life, a captivating recognition of both the understanding and the feelings, a glimpse into the world of spirit, a revelation (if a partial one) of the beautiful mysteries of religion; here was new food for an empty heart; new aliment for an exhausted brain. No wonder this enthusiast--belonging to a nation of enthusiasts--clutched at Jacobi that first day he came to his shop, as a drowning man clutches a rope. But Jacobi and the school he led are subjects too full for the tail-end of a chapter.
Typed by Blossom Barden, June 2013
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