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. 541-547

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


Chapter X. Discontent.

Over in Lindelbronn everything was going on just the same as formerly with the old people. Huber's house, and the sparrow's nest on the Town Wall, were in the same position. Only the house, as well as its occupants, was getting more shaky. For old Huber had a deep cough, and was obliged to sit upright in bed at night to draw his breath. And Frau Huber had much to bear and overcome, for old age itself is mild illness, which only patience can cure. And since Heinerle had been away they were alone together at home, for the other children dwelt elsewhere. It seemed strange to the Hubers to see their table, at which eight children, with sixteen restless feet, had sat, so quiet and empty, and they would think how like it was to the first days of their married life, while they were yet alone. For life on many sides is like a circle, where the beginning and the end meet. Heinerle, indeed, came over every quarter on the first of the month, and brought his washing in the ticking-sack to his mother, and some stockings with holes in them as a present, and there were many questions and answers. And each time Frau Huber sat up the night in which Heinerle was expected, for she wished to greet him first, and could not sleep if she had not greeted him. When she had seen him go up to his room on the opposite side of the house and light his candle, she would open her shutter and call across to him "Good-night, Heinerle!" and Heinerle slept peacefully and happily each time after this greeting. And in the morning he would tell her how things were going on at his godfather's, and did not conceal that he loved him like his father. And although Frau Huber was glad when Heinerle spoke so of the godfather, yet she felt a slight stab of pain at her heart, for a mother's heart remains a mother's heart always, even when covered by a peasant's dress. She soon saw that she must share Heinerle's heart with the godfather, and that was difficult to her. And yet the godfather was innocent, for he would not steal the child's heart from the mother.

But over there in his new home Heinerle had so much to interest him, and it was so quiet at his parents', and his father was more silent than ever. And though his mother made him his favourite dish each time, and packed up something new with his clean linen in his bag, like Joseph for his brother Benjamin, yet she was disappointed that he would not be detained, and after a couple of days wanted to go back again. And something came of these visits to his home. Now and then Heinerle brought with him some of his drawings, and his mother could not stare enough at them; to think that her Heinerle should have made all that; and had also drawn her once with charcoal, so that all who saw it immediately exclaimed: "That is Huber's Crescenz, as she is--her very self!"

It happened that a new Pastor came into the place because the old one had died, who, on his parish rounds, visited the Hubers on the Wall, and they told him about their children, and also about their Heiner, who lived with his godfather and could paint so beautifully. And at the Pastor's request that they would show him some, Frau Huber fetched from her wedding chest some of Heinerle's drawings, and the Pastor admired them also, and thought that it was a pity that he should be nothing better than a watchmaker. For he might get known as a painter. But his Reverence had not considered how far his words reached, for if he had known, perhaps he would not have spoken so quickly. For it makes a great difference in a word as to who has said it. From this time it was all up with Frau Huber's peace of mind, and all her old thoughts about her Heiner rose up again. The next time Heinerle came for his visit she told him eagerly what the Pastor had said, and what all the people in the village thought, and there were still some sparks left alive in the heap of ashes to which his hopes of being an artist had been reduced--moreover, praise is just what folks can least bear, especially when they are seventeen years old. Now as he heard people talking--some declaring they had never seen the like of what Heiner achieved, some relating how this one and that had gone away poor and come back rich, and that watchmaking was a tiresome trade--then the little fire began to burn, and for the first time he would willingly have remained there, and it would have been all right with him if it had rained buckets, so that his linen could not be ready.

When he returned to his godfather again, he did not feel so much at home as formerly. Many times he forgot to feed his bullfinch and to give the dog his meals; and he was often ill-humoured when an old watch was given him to clean. And the godfather noticed there was something, and looked at Heinerle in the mirror and found him altered; he no longer sang so cheerfully, and only when he went to his drawing did he become lively, and often begged the godfather to let him stay up late into the night to draw, which the old man never granted, for he would not depart from the rules of his house. Yet he said nothing, but waited and thought of his watches, which often had their caprices too, and of his pipes in the organ which so easily went out of tune. So he would not immediately lay hold of it, but leave it to time to bring things again into the track. Therefore he was quite friendly, but a little constrained towards him, and that also Heinerle laid hold of on the wrong side, and he thought the godfather was different towards him. And yet it was he himself who was changed. But folks are not aware of the truth under these circumstances, and always think when they are really changed themselves that it is others who are. There was still half a year more of his apprenticeship, and, whilst formerly the days ran by like a weaver's spool, now they passed as heavily with him as if he could hardly endure his life, and one could see him gradually languishing and growing thinner. Still the old man said nothing, only he chose special songs at the morning and evening singing, which should touch the heart; and often in the evening, when they sat together in the dusk, it seemed as if he must then tell the godfather everything which he had heard, and the words rose to his lips and sank back again into his heart. Oh, it often goes on for a long time before a man can bring himself to do his heart the good service once for all of pouring it out to the very last drop.

That is the reason why so many go about in an impoverished condition, who confess neither to God nor man, and, knowing not what is the matter with them, are a burden to themselves and others. The godfather did not wish to press the matter, for he thought: If singing and praying and the word of God does not do it, nothing else will as yet be of use.

Chapter XI. Change.

But when the next quarter came round, which would be the last of his apprenticeship, then the old man said: "Heiner, this time you remain here, and I will go yonder and look after the linen."

Heinerle looked anxiously at his godfather, and was surprised, but he knew that it would not avail anything to remonstrate, for godfather had a way with him of speaking which no one could gainsay. He soon made his appearance, took the bag on his shoulders, packed all sorts of things into it, fetched also all the drawings which Heinerle had prepared, and went across the mountain. Frau Huber was terrified when she saw the godfather come quite early in the afternoon, and could think of nothing but that Heinerle was ill or dead, of which fear the godfather soon relieved her. Then he sat by the bed of old Huber, who could no longer get up, felt his pulse, looked into his eyes, and said: "Kinsman, you have not much further to go; you will soon be home. I think you will be glad enough and rejoice, when you can rest your tired bones."

Huber nodded his head. "You are right, kinsman," said he slowly. "The breath is short, and the grave is there; I only pray our Lord God that He will make the way short."

"You won't remain a minute longer in the fire, friend, than is necessary. That would be a bad goldsmith who left the silver and gold one moment even too long in the crucible. Our Lord softens us with affliction, but He will not let His children burn."

"Yes," said Huber, "if only it was not breathlessness, I would rather have another illness."

"Kinsman, be content. You know the doctor always lays on the plaster where it draws, and does not prescribe for the patients what they like, but what is good for them. Therefore only think; want of breath is exactly what is right for me. Each one's cross is as rightly measured as the shoe for the foot; and each shoe presses when it is still new, and if it does not press a little, then it does not fit firmly."

Huber smiled and said: "Kinsman, you are a good comforter. Would God I had you always sitting by my bed, then I might bear it with more patience."

The two talked for a long time together, and the godfather helped Huber to bind up his pack and to make himself ready for his journey. But after that he went into the kitchen to Frau Huber, and begged her to come out into the arbour in the garden with him, for he had something to discuss with her. When they were outside and alone, the godfather began: "Crescenz, since your Heiner was with you last time he has not been like he was before, and that grieves me. Do you know what is the matter with him?"

Frau Huber lowered her eyes and said nothing. But the godfather would not be turned aside, and said:

"Crescenz, you are my sister's daughter, and she bound you to my heart; I think that I am worth an answer. So make short work of it."

And here no opposition availed; that Frau Huber felt as well as Heiner. First she spoke round about it, then of the people's and the Pastor's opinion, and at last she said it all out. For her eagerness helped her, and many a pleading word accompanied her tale, which she thought must touch her kinsman's heart. He heard her in silence, and let her have her say out, for he had none of that want of tact which makes many people put in a word without waiting the instant an idea comes into their mind.

But, when she had finished, a trace of bitter sadness played about his lips. He remained quiet for a time, then he said; "That is where the shoes pinches Heinerle then. You should have mentioned it, and you and I would have been spared much heartache. I have nothing to say against his becoming a painter, Crescenz, if only he makes a true one. And that you may see that I will not stand in his way, I will myself inquire for a master, and take counsel with the Pastor. Crescenz, I will say nothing of myself; I have experienced too much of the thoughts and ways of men, and kept my heart free from the children of men, so that I wonder at nothing in them. Therefore I don't take what you have told me amiss, and that you will take Heinerle away from my heart. For I have loved him, God knows, and you have a treasure in him, if you take care of it, that is also true. I shall feel it very much, when I never hear him sing, for his voice is as high and pure as a bell. I have said nothing to him about it, and he may not have noticed it, for it is not good for young blood to be much praised. But I will say it to you, for you are the daughter of my dear sister. See, Heiner now has his daily bread, and can earn it with any watchmaker, and he can also write and do accounts. For, with nothing but art to fall back upon, one may starve on occasion. Few artists prosper, and most are likely to go begging. Therefore I have made as competent a workman of him as I am myself a competent master, and he shall have his workman's certificate with letter and seal. But you have ambitious ideas for your boy. While you are about rising to a high position, do not stop short of Heaven--higher than this you cannot aim for your Heiner. An alien spirit has entered you, and your mother-spirit is not longer in you, Crescenz, and you are far from your simplicity; and that is a woman's finest ornament; your mother's heart has played you a bad trick, and would have your Heinerle great in the world. It may be that he will, his wings are grown--but take care that he does not fly far away from you. I would not alter it, nor over-persuade you, neither would I put any pressure upon you, I know it does no good; but I would say what I have, that you may know how you should act. But consider: First the parents bring up the children; then it gets reversed, the children influence the parents; and you know the proverb: When the children are little they rest upon the mother's lap, and when they grow big, on her heart.' And that is well. Continue fervent in prayer for your Heiner, and so a rampart will be built all round about him, over which others, and even he himself, cannot easily climb, and then he may become both a good and pious painter."

The godfather got up, stretched out his hand to her and looked at her, but Frau Huber had gained no courage to look at him. Then he spoke a few comforting words to Huber, took leave with "May we meet again, here or above," and set out on his way.

In the meanwhile Heinerle waited eagerly for the godfather, and ran to the courtyard door a hundred times to see if he was in sight; and when the evening came he felt lonely, and he sat by himself at the organ and sang godfathers' songs; but as he thought about it, it made him sad, compunction seized him, and he determined when he came back to tell him everything that he had heard, and to beg his forgiveness. Late that might the old man returned, and he was very loving and friendly, and told him how near his end his father was, and many things more--and then Heiner could say nothing. For the godfather was too kind and friendly for it then, and he feared to grieve him. But the next day the old man said to him: "Heinerle, I have to go away for some days, and I must have a talk with you beforehand." And the talk was a long one, as long as the one once before with his mother under the copper beech tree. But after it both came happily and peacefully out of the chamber, though Heinerle's cheeks looked as if it had been raining hard.

A few days afterwards the godfather returned again, and had a brand-new suit of clothes and an apprentice's indenture in his hand, according to which Heinerle was to enter into residence within the month with the then famous artist H-----.

(To be continued.)

Proofread by LNL, Sept. 2023