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. 299-308

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


Chapter V. His Welcome.

The godfather stood at his forge in the workshop, and had bolted himself in, and his great dog growled at the door, so that Heinerle was frightened. When the godfather heard them he told them to sit in the balcony for a minute, he would be with them directly. He took the pot from the fire and covered the charcoal with ashes that it might remain alight, wiped the soot from his face, and came to his guests.

"Now, God bless thy going out and coming in, Heiner," said the godfather in his deep voice. "Look what is put over my door, and over the other one there:

      "If God gives not the house His grace,
      All is vain that's done in the place.'

That's what we must notice, you and I; and now come in."

They found everything ready for their reception. Next to the godfather's sleeping room, in which the great four-post bedstead stood, into which any other but the tall godfather would have had to climb by a ladder, was the room prepared for Heinerle. His bed was a straw pallet as hard as the patriarch's pillow at Bethel, and made of stiff fustian; close by it was a polished pinewood table, on which stood a large Bible, together with the Catechism. A Black Forest clock, with alarum weights, and a loud, clear stroke, hung on the wall, and at the foot of the bed there stood a large oaken chest with roses and Heinerle's initials painted on it.

Pretty curtains hung before one window, whilst the other was screened by the boughs of a large nut-tree. In the room hung a cage, and Heinerle was soon to know who lived in it. In short, it was a little room in which one might feel at home. Outside the window were all kinds of autumnal flowers placed on the carved sill, and on one side a little weather-man in the shape of a brown Capuchin, who in fine weather took his cowl off himself, and when it was likely to be bad, put it on slowly. Frau Huber regarded the room with silent pleasure, and for Heinerle all the home-sickness had gone, and the godfather feasted on the quiet pleasure of the boy. Thus had he known how to meet a boy's tastes, and without a word the little room said plainly to Heinerle: "See how godfather loves you."

Ah, yes, that which is valuable in a room is what another prepares for us out of which love shines everywhere; not what is put into it to prevent its being empty, but that which has been thought over, and considered as likely to be dear to the other, and according to his taste. The godfather talked for a long time with Frau Huber alone in the garden, sitting on the bench under the copper-beech. What they discussed together has never been told to any one, but it must have been something which had a lasting effect. There are words and conversations, both good and bad, whose influence lasts for years, and one short hour is not like another, nor one talk like another. The parting was short; Heinerle had unpacked his trifles from the ticking-sack, had observed everything in the room, and, absorbed in his new affairs, had hardly any more tears at his disposal, so that the mother had an easy task in leaving her Benjamin. Through the evening he was allowed to ramble about outside in the garden, but when the hour for bed-time struck, he was called in by the godfather. He did not find him at once, for he was neither in the first nor second room, but in the third he heard the soft tone of an organ. when he entered the room was lighted, and godfather was sitting at a good-sized organ with bright pipes; at his feet the big dog moved about, and the godfather played a soft chord, and yet so peculiarly thrilling that Heinerle quite shuddered. Then he passed into a chorale, and sang with his deep voice:

      "Lord Jesus Christ with us abide,
      As falls the shadowing eventide,
      Nor quenched within us be the light
      Thy godly word sheds ever bright.

      "To our last and troubled hour,
      Grant us, O Lord, enduring power,
      That we thy word and sacrament
      May purely hold till life is spent."

The godfather sang for a long time, and Heinerle listened without joining; for he did not know the hymn. Then the godfather rose and fell on his knees, and prayed so devoutly for all men under Heaven, for light and comfort for the sorrowful, also for Heinerle's parents, and brothers and sisters, and commended his house and his soul into God's care for the night, all so earnestly and without a book, that it seemed wonderful to Heinerle that a man could pray so and yet not be a pastor.

And now for the first time he saw the godfather in his true light, for his face was so friendly that he looked as if something very delightful had happened. Then they had potatoes and milk upon which they supped; after which Heinerle was dismissed to bed with a blessing. No light was given him, for godfather had told him the men could accustom themselves to see in the dark, which was not quite obvious to Heinerle. The godfather, however, stayed up for a long time, and fetched out of the big chest a book bound in hogskin, yellow with age, and pen and ink with it; tied back his hair with the silk band, and began to write. Only through the chink of the door did Heinerle see him as he sat, then he got frightened again, so he sprang into his hard bed, which seemed very different from his mother's soft one, and he was soon asleep. But the godfather wrote late into the night. So whilst Heinerle is asleep we will look over the godfather's shoulder, turn back a few pages, and read what is in the book.

Chapter VI. From the Godfather's Hogskin Book.

"I have often thought to myself in constructing a small organ that in the true community no spirit exists for itself, but one spirit needs another, as one little organ pipe needs another. The same amount of wind comes out of the bellows, but does not go through all the pipes with the same power, but through each with as much as the pipe requires. But without the wind, which here denotes the spirit, they are all dead and give no sound. And it is not only the trumpet and trombone stops which give delight, but also the Salicionale and Flauto d'amour. And the organ is just a symbol of the community in the Church here below, where great and small, weak and strong, sit side by side, just as my pipes are next each other in the octave, some of metal and some of woodwork, yet all sounding well. But I always have much to contend with when it is damp weather, for that puts it out of tune; and, moreover, the valves are not always clear, however well the bellows work. So also there is an east wind which affects the harmony of the community here below.

"On Wednesday I went to see the farmer at Hasel; in ploughing he had found a very old Spanish gold piece, such as the soldiers had lost. Thereupon he with all his people had gone to that same field, and had dug round it carefully and thoroughly with spades in case he should find more. Whereupon I wished for him that he would explore his Bible wherein he might find a gold piece, and begged him diligently to search over the field of which St. Matthew speaks in the 13th chapter, also not to forget to take his workmen with him.

"Early to-day the bullfinch in the cage piped his lessons right, and then he relapsed into his old woodland note, which made me think how many people there are who have received education and yet many a time fall back into their old note; from which one concludes that all such people are only instructed on the surface and not manifesting an improvement which has taken place within. Lord, let not my Christianity nor my speech be like that of the bullfinch, and close my lips when the wild natural note will come, and make me shame my teacher.

"Then I received a letter with a seal, which showed a ship lying at anchor, and underneath was inscribed: 'As God will.' I also am a mariner, and lie at anchor; but I do not venture to weigh anchor or trim the sails, for I am in a sacred place. Before me is the tabernacle, hidden from me by pillars of cloud and fire. I wait upon the Lord, and lie still until the clouds are lifted by Jehovah's breath. If they travel away to Thee, then I will follow and put in where Thou are; if they descend elsewhere, then I will rest there.

"What in German we call Geist is called Spiritus in Latin, so much I have heard. But it is the same with the spirit in man as with that which we fetch from the apothecary or the distiller; when I concentrate all the power of the spirit and keep in its essence by means of a stopper, then it is strong and works powerfully as often as I need it. But if I omit to do this, and leave the stopper out of the bottle, and through carelessness neglect to stop it, then it loses its essence and its power is dissipated. So it is with the spirit of man. O Lord, keep my spirit pure that I lose it not by scattering it to the winds, but may, like St. Stephen, commit it into Thy hands.

"Everything on which man fixes his heart apart from God, will in the end become his peace destroyer and a gnawing canker, even if it be his dearest. I have often wondered that people so frequently say that God's ways are dark; yet the same people when they are in church sing the hymn of the blessed Gerard with expression:

      "His action is pure blessing,
      His way is clear as light.'

Therefore they might the more reasonably conclude that their eyes, and not the ways of God, are dim. To-day I studied the bees, and learnt wisdom. How the little creatures fly towards the flowers and suck them so diligently! And when they have sucked them they go into cells, and work for the use of others, for they enjoy the honey least of all themselves. Whereupon I reflected that it may be the same in the kingdom of God. For there are some people like spiders, who draw the threads of wisdom which they spin out of themselves to entangle the foolish flies, and pouncing upon them, compass their death and ruin by getting all they can out of them; while there are others who, like the industrious ants, seek nourishment by storing up the grain of the word, and gather together a good store; but often with all their riches suffer want, because all such possessions remain in the chamber where memories are stored; and there are a few bees who suck the honey out of the word, work it up in their hearts, and use it, not for themselves alone, but for the refreshment of others.

"To-day a wanderer from Poland begged of me, and I talked to him in his mother tongue, which I had learnt as a soldier; whereupon he wept, and his heart was deeply moved at hearing his own language, in which he had so often talked with his father and mother, spoken in a foreign land. This aroused thoughts in me, and I reflected that it is the same with the Word of God. For the soul is a stranger who no longer hears in the world her own language in which she once conversed with her Heavenly Father; but when once she hears the Word of the Lord aright, it awakes remembrances in her, and she recognizes in the sweet sound, and in the vibration of the heart, that this is the language of her home, and that in which God spoke to us when we were at home and not in a strange land.

"Have been to the joiner Fritz and fetched some shavings. He had a cradle and a coffin close to each other in his workshop. Upon which I thought they preached a silent sermon from I Tim. vi. of which the cradle speaks the first part: We brought nothing into the world,' and the coffin the second: We shall take nothing out;' and yet men toil so much between these two little habitations. "O Lord, let me be satisfied with Thee.' The heathen had a story, as I have seen in an old book, which related that a certain Milo of Kroton daily carried a little calf on his shoulders. From this his shoulders gradually became so strong that when the calf grew into an ox, he was able to carry it just as easily. Whereupon I thought of the word in Lamentations: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.' He who bears the cross and yoke which God in His foresight lays upon him just in proportion to his strength, will be able hereafter, if he shrink not from the daily burden, to carry it when it has become heavy and is the way of salvation to him."

Enough has now been shared with the reader out of the godfather's hogskin book. And if anything is not entirely clear to him, he may reflect that the godfather had never been at a high school, nor acquired his wisdom from the learned Bench. Perhaps also it may be that if the gentle reader come across the little book again in the course of another year, he may understand it better. Meanwhile let him pass over what he finds too hard to understand, so that no breach may ensue. We lay the book then very carefully, as the godfather did, in the big press.

Midnight was already long past; Heinerle breathed deeply in his sleep, when the godfather mounted into his lofty bed.

In the meanwhile Frau Huber had taken her lonely way over the mountain, and the watchman in the place had already sounded eleven o'clock, and sang:

      "Hear, ye people, and hear me tell
      Eleven has struck on the belfry bell;
      Judas' kiss and Joab's truth,
      That hour shall warn both age and youth."

The watchman looked at her, and turned his lantern upon her face, and knew her directly, in spite of her great wrapper. "Oh! it's you, mother," said he. "Where are you going so late at night? It's no weather for a walk."

"I have been over in Grindbachthal to see the godfather. The road has seemed long to me through the thick wood."

"With your leave, what have you been doing yonder?"

"I have taken my Heinerle over there for his learning," replied Frau Huber.

"You've taken him to a good teacher then, mother; he has done me many a service, and when I take the staff and horn in the evening I think of him."

"I can't understand what you mean, friend," said Frau Huber.

"Crescenz, that would take me a long time to tell you, and the horn-blowing would be forgotten by the end, if I once began, and morning would be here. When he is underground, and if you and I are both still living, then you shall hear it. But now. God be with you to-night."

Frau Huber went still more thoughtfully homewards than she had started. She knocked at the shutter, and Huber got up to let her in; but Heinerle slept better and more soundly than his mother, who before she fell asleep had much to think about.

Chapter VII. Daily Duty.

Morning dawned in Grindbachthal, and Heinerle was aroused by the alarum, and directly after he heard a cheerful twittering of birds; but the bullfinch in his room shook himself, plumed himself, and behaved as if he would rub the sleep out of his eyes and clear his throat, and then began with great clearness to pipe the chorale:

      "Awake my heart and sing
      To the Creator of all things,
      To the Giver of all good things,
      To the kindly Guardian of mankind!"

And all at once the whole chorus of the other feathered musicians filled the godfather's room, and Heinerle jumped out of bed, for he had never heard anything like it in his life, nor had he ever been awaked in that way before. As he was dressing, godfather, who was already dressed, called to him, "God bless you, Heiner, has the bullfinch waked you? Is not he a master? Have you slept soundly? and are you strong for prayer and work?"

Heinerle only looked at his godfather, bewildered by so many questions, and nodded his head. "Then come," said the godfather, and took him by the hand; the great quadruped also rose from his seat of honour by the oven, and the three went again into the little room where they had been the evening before. Now it was light there, and Heiner saw the organ with its bright metal pipes, and understood why the dog had come with them; for he was the organ-blower, and worked a wheel which pumped up the air. The godfather played a prelude again quite out of his own head, and then passed into the chorale, which he sang heartily, and in which, as before, Heinerle could not join. After that came the prayer, in which again all mankind were included; then breakfast, which consisted of hot porridge, of which Heinerle might eat as much as he could.

The godfather lighted his pipe, a beautifully grained piece of wood with a silver mounting; and Heiner thought they would now go straight to the painting. But instead of pencils and brushes a broom was given to him, and he received orders to sweep the room, and godfather showed him how to do it so that no dust rose in the air. A large brass funnel, which was filled with water, performed the service, and godfather drew with the stream of water all kinds of circles and figures on the ground, and then it was the turn for the broom. Next Heinerle had to make his bed, which he learnt from the godfather at his own four-poster; to clean his boots, to feed the bullfinch, to water his flowers; all which appeared to him beside the mark, for he kept on expecting to hear the godfather say: "So, now let us get to the painting." However, he did not say it, but always knew of something else to be done when he had finished one thing. Then he took him out into the shed, where he had to feed the cow and the goat, and had to do it exactly as godfather wished.

"So," said he, "every morning that will be your work, Heiner. He who rides early soon reaches his journey's end. First let the man be clean, and then the house in which he is placed; then the work will be clean. What one can do for oneself one must never burden another with. If you ever are a great painter, and have servants about you, then you can show them how the bed is made, and the room swept, the birds fed and the flowers watered, and the cow given her fodder. And if you are no painter, then you can al least be your own servant, and know that the work is well done, and demands no wages. And now come to your learning, for I noticed yesterday that you had need of it."

The godfather fetched an old song-book from the shelf, and read him the song which he should learn with feeling voice, and explained to him what was necessary, and sang the first verse to him. "Now you can learn that till I come to you again," he said, took a large bunch of keys out of his press, which he carefully locked up again, and went upstairs. Heiner sat down before his book, and propped up his head with both hands, and looked away, over the book, as small boys do. And the thoughts went all round in his head; he did not know how it was, and home-sickness attacked him, and his eyes were as full of water as the fir-tree bough outside was heavy with dewdrops. Then he took courage again, and began to study his verses and say them to himself, and it was not long before one of the birds in the cage sang, and helped Heinerle to learn it. And the second time it went better, and proved the truth of the words, "It is not good for man to be alone."

When the godfather came back, the verses were learnt, and Heinerle was eager to know what would happen next. A big basket was given him, with instructions to go into the village to the butcher and baker. "That was Leo's business formerly," said godfather, "but he is rather old, and your legs are better than his; but, he will show you the way this time." When the dog saw the basket he placed himself in position like a soldier, and waited for the note which should be laid in it. For many years he had gone backwards and forwards to the baker's and butcher's, and had punctually executed his commissions without having lost any of the goods, or even a kreuzer of money; and had stood his test better than many a maid at the settling of accounts in the evening. So the two went off together down the road, while the old man returned to his work. All kinds of thoughts about his godfather were repeated in Heinerle's mind, and he greeted the people whom he passed absently. The baker would willingly have had a chat with the boy; and his cousin the butcher also asked him all kinds of questions about the godfather and himself; but Leo had seized his trousers and dragged him forcibly to the door, when the bread and meat were in the basket, as if to say, "We are in a hurry, Mr. Baker. We are sorry that we cannot give you any news." So they were quickly back again, and the godfather took the basket, and the meat was put into the pot, which was warm in readiness for it.

While at dinner the godfather inquired what had happened to him in the village, and if the baker and butcher had asked him any questions.

"Yes, indeed, Herr Godfather," said Heinerle, "the would have liked to have known a great deal, but Leo was in a great hurry, and pulled me away, so that there was no chance for talking."

"Then you can learn something, Heiner, from the unreasoning animal. He does not tattle out of the house about what he sees or hears there. Those who carry things out of the house are commonly called thieves, and it is the same with those who talk about home matters. They steal its quiet and its secrets from the house. Therefore you behave like Leo when people question you. You may say of much, without being ashamed of it, 'I don't know.'"

After their meal the godfather brought out the big Bible and pushed it over to Heinerle, so that he might read aloud to him. And Heinerle read the whole chapter aloud. The only thing that puzzled him was, that the Bible was covered over with fine writing in the margin; beside some verses was set the date of certain days, and he did not know whether to read that as well nor what it meant. For there was nothing written in his father's Bible, except the names of his parents on the first page and the date of their birth, and then the eight children in order, and he had thought that one ought on no account to write anything between the leaves of the Bible. The godfather understood Heinerle's thought quite well, but he said nothing; only thought "That will come out by itself." For one must not always try to make people explain everything, but leave them something to think over. Whereupon the old man leant back in his great armchair, folded his hands on his breast, and went to sleep. Heinerle cleared the table, fed the dog, and betook himself into the garden till his godfather's voice called him.

(To be continued.)

Proofread by LNL, Sept. 2023