The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Heinerle: The Peasant Artist.

by Emil Frommel.
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 223-232

Translated from the German by K. W. Bent. (With permission.)


Chapter II. The Godfather's Home.

Such was the godfather before whose house Huber, his wife and Heinerle were now standing. He came out to the entrance towards them, and shook hands with them. "God be with you, kinsfolk," said he, "I have seen nothing of you since Midsummer Day, or is it Candlemas, that I was with you? and when you were last with me I cannot remember, it must be quite Michaelmas five years. But it's pleasant to see you now. Take your coat off, father, for you have on your heavy Sunday one, and make yourself comfortable; and you, Crescenz, take off your shoes, for the way is stony over the mountain, and that makes women footsore." Then he went down into the cellar and filled the little blue crockery jug, and arranged the table as daintily as if he had lernt it under a head waiter in a hotel. In the meanwhile Heinerle had looked round the room, and had seen wonder upon wonder. It was the first time that he had ventured into his godfather's house. His brothers and sisters had told him much, but what was that to seeing? The great clothes press attracted him above all things, which looked as venerable as a grandfather amongst his grandchildren. It was in truth solid and built of durable wood, not of consumptive deal [cheap veneer] with a mahogany binding, like the wardrobes of the present day--feeble things which sigh in the first months of their existence, and then suddenly crack in the night with the sound of an exploding gun, and one of a timid disposition draws the cover-lid over his head, and does not notice until the bright morning that the cracked wardrobe was the miscreant.

This one was all of good oak, and outside it was inlaid with stars and all kinds of figures, the posts beautifully twisted like the old knotty thorn stick of the journeyman of former days; and the lock upon it was as bright as if it were only three years old, made of the best iron, and the key not moulded as the present ones, which, with a little rough handling, leave half in the lock and the other half in the owner's figures, but so well wrought that one saw that the workman had had pleasure in his work. The whole press testified from top to bottom in its firmness, solidity, and its ingenious art withal, to the saying which applies chiefly to the craftsman, but in the end to every one: "Everything that you do, do it from your heart." Unfortunately there are few modern masters who put their heart into their work.


Therefore Heinerle stood gazing at the great press; his brothers and sisters had only told him that there was a chest in the godfather's room as big as Noah's ark, and that godfather had preserved a vast number of things in it, but the carved work interested him, and the beautiful designs upon its surface. And from the press his attention was drawn to the bird-cages in the window. These were all carved alike, large and wide, and the godfather had made them so comfortable within that the little birds had their dwelling and sleeping rooms and even their drawing-room; yes, one cage he had carved with a Gothic roof like a church, and had hung up a little bell in it, and placed a little musical snuff-box there which played a melody to the birds, and more than one learned gentleman sat within who had studied his subject from the beginning. On the shelf, almost up to the ceiling, stood portly old jugs with narrow necks, as one like to have them, and the greater number inscribed with old mottoes. Then there were weather-glasses, some possessed of green-coated weather prophets who pursued their business on ladders; others with long and twisted reeds and quicksilver in them, or a blood red fluid, all the degrees from "storm," "steady," "find," to "very dry," being marked upon them; and Heinerle wondered afresh beyond measure that the little men and the fluid in the glasses should know what sort of weather it would be, since his father always knew it without any glass. For he had something on the little toe of his left foot; and when that smarted and stung him he always said: "Crescenz, look out, there will be a change of weather, it is shooting badly!" But what puzzled Heinerle most was why godfather needed all these things; why he did not let the birds fly away; what the weather-glasses and the great press might be for.

He would certainly have continued to investigate everything and to reflect upon all he saw in his godfather's room, not to say upon his godfather himself, had not the meal now begun. For he really studied his godfather without knowing it by means of is room, as at the present time one can study little boys and girls even when they are not at home. One need only go to the bookcase, or examine the school satchel, as the captain does the recruit's knapsack, to find out something of the owner's nature; or at night, when the young sleeper lies down in bed, one can tell by the clothes on the chair what notion of order he or she has. So to Heinerle, his godfather grew more and more wonderful the more he studied his room.

But the meal was on the table, and the godfather had brought out his best, and when the coffee steams and the honey looks such a golden yellow, most people would forego philosophy. The Hubers set to work, and Heinerle was not behindhand. Afterwards the men filled their pipes, and Heinerle was told to take himself off into the garden to enjoy the fresh air, that his parents might talk with the godfather. The departure did not exactly take place with rapidity, for children are often attacked with a kind of paralysis and deafness, and sit as firmly on their chairs as if they had grown to them. At last he dragged himself off slowly, for he would willingly have been present while his future was decided for him. He was allowed to wander about everywhere, except to the little gate that led to the clockwork machinery.

Chapter III. "The Consultation."

"Now then, kinsfolk," said the godfather, when they were alone, "what has brought you here? You have something on your minds, that I can see without your telling me."

"Huber, you speak of it," replied the Frau.

"Crescenz, you understand it betteryou tell it to the godfather; words come easier to you than me."

"No, Huber," said she, "you are the man, and the man comes first."

The godfather smiled, and thought that if they went on like that he would hear nothing in the end. So he asked Frau Huber to speak. She then related everything from the birth of the child through the whole course of is life, with many parentheses and digressions, and often found it difficult to get back to the main line of her story. And then the godfather would help her sympathetically out of the thicket, or the tangles maze of her tale, in which she occasionally lost herself. At last came the story of the picture-dealer, at which the godfather drew in the corners of his mouth, and one could see that he had to control himself not to laugh, because he considered it unkind to laugh when any one in their ardour said a little too much. Finally, she came to her pointnamely, how now for the first time there had been two opinions between her and her Huber about Heinerle's future, and how in consequence they wished to choose him for an umpire, and to abide by his decision, let it be what it might. She would willingly allow her head to be guided, for she had already experienced that if one rushed on head foremost, and went through the wall, one's body could not follow, and it generally got some harm.

The godfather sent out two or three puffs from his pipe, looked at both of them with his deep blue eyes, and then said: "What you say is good, Crescenz; for what is the use of advice when one has determined beforehand not to allow one's head to be guided. Friend Huber," continued he, "I see that the affair does not commend itself to you, and that you have not a high opinion of painters. And you, Crescenz, have ambitious thought in your mind; and the child has them also in his head; that I have noticed in him. But take care lest you have kindled a spark which may grow into a fire, if the hay and stubble in the heart are caught, and which would cause you the greatest suffering, and your Heinerle also. I have seen more of such people, and have learnt to know many painters in my travels. Believe me, they are a suffering people, though their faces are cheerful, and they sit together as merrily as if it was always Sunday."

"Then you mean that it must not be?" said Frau Huber, raising her eyes sadly.

"Crescenz, have you not said that you would be guided and give in to my counsel? But you are not quite ready to do so yet, and down deep in your heart there is something which contradicts it and troubles it."

Frau Huber lowered her eyes and was silent. The godfather had hit the truth, and had read her heart as if it were an open book. Now she felt for the first time how she and the child had grown to one another, and how they two in their walks through the quiet wood had lived in each other's lives and shared their future in idea. And now the question was one of uprooting; and it is thus that one first becomes aware how much more closely one clings to some object than one had thought beforehand. There may be many loose teeth in the mouth which it would seem easy to draw out with the fingers, and not until the dentist sets a man on the ground and applies the forceps does he know how firmly they are set. Yonder, under the crucifix at the foot of the Cross was written:

     "What though the world to pieces go,
           The Cross shall still remain unshaken;
     When the bruised soul may know
           Itself by Jesus unforsaken."

And under the crucifix had Frau Huber just been sitting, looking up thence to the mountains. But it is one thing to sit under the Cross, and another to hang thereon and allow one's will to be crucified; then one looks down on the world from above in quite another way.

All these thoughts passed through Frau Huber's mind, and she could only keep silence, and that was best. The godfather looked kindly at her, for he saw that she fought bravely, and such people are worthy of succour.

"Now, Crescenz," said he, "you have not heard me to the end. I would not make a woodcutter of your boy, since he has no turn for it, and is fit for something better in the world. Our Heavenly Father has assigned us different gifts; and you know yourself, kinsman, that in the forest there are not only blackbirds, but all sorts of pensioners, who fly about therein, each one begging his bread, not in vain, and yet no two have nests alike, and the note of one is like no other of his comrades. Therefore you must consider: one mother has to bring up seven children, all different, and you have one more, so here the proverb applies; therefore let him be dealt with individually. I will hear how your bird sings, and what sort of a nest he builds for himself what sort of feathers he has on his body, and how big his wings are. Perhaps it will be necessary to let them grow, or perhaps they will have to be clipped and made shorter. That will soon be seen. Let me tell you something: I am old, and have surmounted the chief part of my journey here below, thank God, and I am alone. Give the boy over to me for a time, and apprentice him to me; it shall cost you nothing, but all shall go down to the godfather's account. Old and young fit in together if they only take each other rightly. For the young have not travelled far from Heaven, and the old have not far to get there; so there they are, near each other."

Huber and his wife looked at each other and did not know at first what to say. They would willingly have slept upon the matter again.

"Are you doubtful about it?" said the godfather; "then consider it again. My word remains, and before I know the boy I can say nothing more. but Heinerle is still young, and you will lose nothing by waiting."

Then they were both contented, and promised to give their answer when they had decided.

Meanwhile Heinerle had gone all round the godfather's garden, and had thoroughly looked at the pond and beehives, and had reached the wicket that let to the clockwork machinery. But that was fastened, and the window was so thick with smoke and soot that he could discover nothing but a forge and various anvils. He sat himself upon a bench in front of the door, and the tired child soon fell asleep, overcome by all the fine sights he had seen. As before, when he spent the might at the picture-dealer's, so now in this summer afternoon, he was haunted by visions of the godfather's clothes-press and weather-glasses, and all would have been well had not the godfather himself looked so grave, and had not his white hair fluttered about so oddly. So he was found by his parents, and it was well that his brothers were not there, for they would certainly have said, like Joseph's brethren when they met him at Dothan, "See, here comes this dreamer!" For something of Joseph's gay-coloured little coat and the jealousy of the brothers was here also.

The sun had nearly set and the way home was rather long, and the godfather urged them to start on their homeward way. So the four went together up the hill as far as the crucifix. The sun had just set, leaving a glow behind which still lit up the hills, and of which the figure of the Saviour on the crucifix partook.

The godfather folded his hands and took off his cap, Huber did the same, and Heinerle, looking at his father, copied him; Frau Huber gazed for a long time at the crucifix and no longer at the mountain, and her heart was at rest, and when she saw the godfather praying so reverently, she thought to herself:

"With him your Heinerle will be well brought up, and better than with the picture-dealer."

There they took leave, pressing each other's hands; the godfather went down the stony path, and the Hubers through the wood. And they both spoke little, giving Heinerle hardly any answers to his questions, but putting him off until they were at home.


Chapter IV. "The Departure."

"I know, O Lord, that the way of a man stands not in his power, and it is in no one's might how he walks or directs his path." So said the prophet Jeremiah, and he is nearer the truth with his decisive "I know," than other people are now with their "I think." For it is the opinion of all the world that a man can do what he likes, and although every one may not learn a smith's trade, yet each one can be the forger of his own happiness; and this only depends on whether a man hammers well or ill, crookedly or straight. There is naturally no talk of the One who furnishes both fire and iron, who gives the arm its strength, or, if needs be, deals it such a blow that the smith's work is at an end. He is out of the reckoning, and beyond the smithy. But man thinks he is free, and yet he is not. He has to do with One stronger than himself in the course of his life, and liberty in life and action seem to the writer to be reproduced in a game of chess, where two play against each other, of whom one is the superior, invincible combatant. Each has his free move, and each follows upon the other; and at last the one compels the other to make such and such a move, until he has checkmated him. So is it in life as in chess, although it does not follow that life is a game. Man makes his move and God makes His, and God's move is in reference to that made by the  man--that is, a piece of his gentleness and condescension; and yet He ever presses man more and more, and takes from him the castle, then the bishop, and leaves the knights cripples; and His aim is to checkmate the kingthe heart, that isto get it into His power. And happy is he who so loses the game and says, "Thou hast subdued me, and I have let myself be overcome; Thou has been too strong for me."

And then there is freedom on the side of the man, and yet it stood not in his own might how he walked and directed his course. But many thousands lose the game, and have laid down their arms in despair, and are checkmated by Him of Whom it is said, "It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God." For no one has checkmated Him, and no one has grown old enough to survive the everlasting God.

So it did not lie in the power of the Hubers nor in their might, when they decided, after long deliberation, to give up their Heinerle to his godfather, and to tell the picture-dealer he might let the matter rest for the present; Heinerle was not to come to him, but would go for a time to his godfather's in Grindbachthal. For they thought at first that they ought not to refuse the picture-dealer, because he might consider his honour involved. But the Heavenly Father had made a powerful move forwards, and the Hubers had followed His lead.

The wood had already become autumnal when Heinerle stood ready for his departure. His new clothes and boots, his songbook, and his confirmation certificate were packed in a great ticking-sack.

Frau Huber had taken all sorts of things from the cellar and the chimney-place in order to please the godfather, and not to appear with empty hands.

Now came the parting. From his brothers and sisters it was not particularly hard, for his brothers and sisters know least in youth what they possess in each other, and only find out in old age how true the Dutch proverb is, "That blood is thicker than water," and are delighted to have any one to whom they can say everything without reserve. it was harder with his father.

Heinerle had gone so often with him into the wood, and although old Huber was as silent as the wood, yet the boy was pleased to be with him, and when he took his hand on the homeward way, and was allowed to carry his axe, he was happy. For in those days it did not take much to make Heinerle  happy, as it should be with all good children. And therefore it was very hard to him to kiss his father and say good-by.

Heinerle would willingly have said something, but his brothers and sisters were standing by, and that oppressed him, and the father also would willingly have said something, but it would not come easily, so it happened that the two only took a long look at each other, and then separated.

Frau Huber took the bag, Heinerle the basket with the messages, and they soon disappeared into the forest. Clouds lay thick upon the mountain, and they both walked in silence beside each other. At last Frau Huber broke the silence and said: "Listen, Heinerle!"

"What is it?" he asked.

"You must bring no disgrace upon me at the godfather's, and follow him as if he were your father."

"Yes, indeed, mother you may depend on that. But I am afraid of him."

"Why, Heinerle? He has never done you any harm."

"His eyes are so big, and he looks at one so, as if he would look through you."

"No man makes his own eyes, Heinerle; God makes them. But a man can certainly put something into them, and much lies in the godfather's eyes."

"What lies in them, mother?" asked the little fellow again.

"I can't tell you that all at once; but only believe that what shines out of his eyes is love to God and man."

"Then can one see that in a person?"

"Yes, indeed, one can see it; one can see it in our pastor."

"But the godfather is no pastor."

"No, he is not; but one need not be a pastor for that. It behooves all men to love God and man, and when there is a little flame in the heart it shines out at the eyes, just as one sees the firelight in a room through the window panes."

Heinerle said nothing for awhile, then he began again.

"Mother, listen! Is godfather a painter, that I am going to him?"

Here Frau Huber was brought to a standstill. For it was just this about which she did not wish to speak to her boy, but to let it become revealed to him when he was with his godfather. But she had not taken into consideration that Heinerle would immediately ask about it.

"Heinerle," she said, "you must not ask questions; you will soon hear all about that at the godfather's."

"Sha'n't I become a painter, then?" he rejoined, and the tears filled his eyes.

Now, for the first time, Frau Huber was quite at a loss, and was like nothing else than a fortress, so closely beleagured that a mouse could not even get out. For what the godfather intended to make of him she had quite forgotten to ask.

"Listen, Heinerle, godfather will try you at first, just to see what you can do, and after that we will see what next is to be done."

"Then shall I never come back to you again, and must I always stay with godfather?" he asked further.

"Heinerle, you make my heart heavy when you ask so many questions. Try to be contented, child, otherwise it will make me sad when I see you."

"Why should it make you sad, mother," asked Heinerle sorrowfully.

They had reached the end of the wood, and were again at the crucifix when Heinerle questioned. And that was a boon to Frau Huber and her escape from the fortress. For he looked up again at the mountains, and let the matter drop, and she could rest for awhile under the crucifix, and consider.

"Come along now, Heinerle, it is not much further down to the godfather's, but we will say good-by up here, that he may not notice us. Stay as long as you can at godfather's, and when you can stand it no longer, then come over to me and pour out your heart, and I will help you further, if you can't get on at all. But for the present it must be as it is, and we must make up our minds to it, you and I. And godfather is a good, pious man, who will keep you faithfully."

Heinerle sobbed a good deal at these words, but he understood them better than his mother, for she hardly knew what she said, and therefore he was not so troubles as she thought him. After they had embraced each other, they went down the stony path to the godfather's.

(To be continued.)

Proofread by LNL, Sept. 2023