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. 626-634

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


Chapter I. "The Studio."

Who does not know the wonderful town which is built fan-shaped, in which all the chief streets converge towards the central point, the Castle, so that every stranger can find the right way at once? Where, in the middle of the town, a pyramid stands, not quite so high as the one near Cairo in the wilderness, but whose point none of the boys have attained, who play there daily in defiance of the police?

People abuse the town, because instead of being on the banks of the Rhine it is situated beside a dry ditch; and they may say anything else they like about it, the author can allow none of these detractions; and the reason is that it is dear to him, and he can never forget it. And if any one wishes to know why, he is at his service, and he will not grudge the postage stamp which the information would cost. There in a side street, which in former days was not so finished as now, stood Heinerle's new home. I have helped the courteous reader over the parting, for if one has to stand by while two take leave of each other (often prolonging it immoderately), one may be excused for feeling impatient, and that the reader should not become, much less Herr Publisher, or the printer. With the godfather it was very short, for we know him from his own pen, and as he wrote so he was; and one could say of him in the fullest sense: "The bird is known by its feathers."

All that belonged to Heinerle in his room was packed up to go with him. His bed, his chest, his pictures, the big watch, even the bullfinch. He must take everything with him, and not a thread should remain there of what the godfather had appropriated to Heinerle. In the town he would also have his room, which he should feel home-like; for the godfather knew what it is to sing in a strange town:

      "There is nothing dearer in the world to me
      Than my little room where I live."

And so he had arranged it for him himself, and Heiner was astonished beyond measure at the way in which he found his own former room repeated.

Whilst he was with his parents it had happened. There the parting was harder, not merely because his father was near his end, but because Frau Huber was full of anxieties after her talk with the godfather. Old Huber gave Heiner a parting word: "Heiner, you are taking a different way to the one I thought of and wished. It has been said, a man's will makes his heaven;' but it may be also his hell, according to the use each one makes of it. But I will give you my blessing on your way. Don't forget your mother, she is the only inheritance I can leave you."

All these words cost Heinerle much heartache. His mother went a couple of miles with him, and on the way took heart to admonish Heinerle not to forget his morning and evening prayers, and bade him consider that to become holy is also an art, and indeed a great one, and begged him not to forget what he had learnt at the godfather's. Heinerle promised all these things without reserve, also that he would come over every quarter as formerly, to see his mother. Then they parted, and Heinerle waved his handkerchief to his mother for a long time.

The godfather had taken lodgings for him at an old widow's near his master's house, high up in a garret, from whence he could look out upon the open country far away above the roofs. It was arranged with his master that Heinerle should be engaged to work with a watchmaker in the evenings, in order to improve his knowledge and to help to maintain himself; the remaining part of the day he should devote to Art.

The master sat in his room beside his palette, and went on working without looking up as Heinerle entered. A violet-coloured cap was set on his grey locks, his whole face testified to work and thought, and had something noble and fine about it. And yet it looked different to the godfather's for all its similarity. For between spirit and spirit there is a difference. All round the walls were the finest engravings of celebrated painters, and on a table covered with a white cloth stood, over an oil-lamp, a cup of tea. Heinerle cleared his throat in order to attract attention, and the master looked up and glanced at Heinerle, looking so fresh and already well grown, with his ruddy cheeks and blue eyes.

"Aha," said he, "here is the artist from the Black Forest. Sit down here for the time. You have had a noble godfather and master, who has won my heart. You will give me no trouble here, I hope. Behave well and keep from bad company, and bethink you that Art is a high vocation, and if you can make nothing good out of it, leave it alone and remain a watchmaker. But if you are steady you can learn something here. For here you will have to work, and without toil man has nothing in this world. And now I will tell you your day's work. In the summer at four o'clock, and in the winter at five, you come here and sweep the room and light the fire; and every Saturday you wash the floor clean. And then you sharpen the graving tool and whatever else is necessary; then you put the etching-room in order, and take care of the passages. At twelve o'clock you have dinner, and at one o'clock come here again; and at five you go to the watchmaker. So now you know what you have to do, and keep to it."

Heinerle gazed at the master, took the offered hand, shook it duly, and said: "Yes, sir."

Then his work was shown to him, and he went into the studio, which to artists is the same as the "shop" to the tailor, or the workshop to any other honest artisan.

There working behind great screens of tissue-paper were the pupils, six of them in two rooms. Some were standing, others sitting, at their work. By their coats one could see their handiwork, or rather their art, for their industry peeped out at their elbows; and one had a great stain of oil, which was of various colours, and a third had lost one of the tails of his coat; while the once white coat of the fourth was painted all over the back with all kinds of little figures of men and beasts. But they were all quiet, and none spoke a word to the other, for the master's door stood open, so that all the rooms could be seen. And he, the master himself, was the most industrious of all. Behind the house there was a smithy, and the workmen were early at their work, but the master and Heinerle were always earlier in their places than the blacksmiths. It stood Heiner in good stead (it may be said, by the way) that he had learnt among other things to rise early at his godfather's; for the godfather was a relentless enemy to all slothfulness, and "the one doze more" of young people. Heinerle looked with wonder at the backs of these industrious men, who never looked up once as the master went through the rooms with him. The whetstone was shown to him in the closet, and the different oils and colours which are used in copper etching. The youngest of the pupils showed Heiner how to use it, but he said, smiling: "That I know already." For the godfather had also had graving tools, polishers, and all kinds of needles, which he used in his work, and Heinerle had learnt to sharpen them in a masterly manner; and in a short time he was ready with all the little sheaf, brought them to the master, and said: "Sir, I am ready."

And the old master, who never let himself be disturbed, laughed at Heinerle, tested his work, and said: "You have been in a good school; do it always so. Now you can go to your drawing-board."

His table was arranged for him like the others, and he felt thoroughly happy when the copy was put before him, and he could begin to draw. But soon the little man was in difficulties; for he had never yet had so hard a task. At the godfather's he could always say: "Godfather, it is not going right;" and then he had helped him, but now he knew not whence to expect help, and if he cleared his throat, no one came to him from his work. At last, when it was ten o'clock in the morning, and the quarter of an hour's rest came, and the "Herr Painters" placed themselves together round the stove, with their hands behind their backs, one of the gentlemen looked over Heinerle's shoulder, took the pencil out of his hand, and helped him. Then a basket was given him, and he had to go to the baker's to fetch rolls to satisfy the gentlemen's appetites. When he had brought them, and each one had his own, and was eating it up carefully to the very last carraway seed, Heiner could look in their faces, and they regarded him also. The master came and introduced Heinerle as the youngest pupil, whereupon they all shook hands with him, and he felt himself highly honoured. He was put under the special oversight of one of the senior pupils, who was to help him. At noon he dined at the widow's, and shared his midday meal with her and a great yellow cat; of this meal Heiner would most gladly (hungry as he was) have proposed an immediate repetition. For he was growing fast, and it was lucky for him that his mother had put up all kinds of smoked provisions in his chest. In the evening he lighted the lamps, and knew how to make them very bright and clear, as the godfather used to like to have them, so that all were pleased with the quick, neat boy. Then he wished them all "good-night," shook hands again heartily, even with the master, took the house-key with him for the morning, and went to his watchmaker's.

He immediately gave him a sufficiently complicated watch, and looked sharply at his fingers, but his hands made quick work of it, for the godfather had often drawn this kind of watch for him in charcoal on the wall, and he soon saw what was wrong with it, and arranged his hospital at the watchmaker's just like the one at the godfather's, with which idea the watchmaker was highly delighted. "But it's a pity that you don't remain a watchmaker," said he to him, "for you have a great turn for it, and it would be a thousand times better for you than being an engraver in copper. For a man can't live without a watch, unless he is a very extraordinary fellow, but every one can live without copper etchings."

Heiner was tired when he reached home that evening, and dipped his roll in a bowl of cold milk, and then went up into his cold room, set his alarum, and read a chapter in his Bible at the same place as his godfather would be. In the morning the bullfinch began to sing his song, whose vocal efforts the town air had not repressed, and Heinerle jumped out of bed, for he thought he had overslept himself. It was quite early, but he was at the master's house-door before five o'clock, and swept the room out clean, and lighted the stove and the candles, and forgot himself so far that he began to sing in an undertone to himself during his work. Then the door was opened, and the master came in, in his dressing-gown, and was pleased to see him so early, and to find him ready.

"Who woke you, Huber?" asked he.

"Sir, the bullfinch did that," said Heinerle, and told him about the little creature which his godfather had given him, and how it performed like that every morning, and how they sang in emulation.

"So you can sing, also?" asked the master.

"Certainly," replied Heiner; "whatever the master would like."

"You have been singing already?"

"Yes, I beg pardon," stammered Heinerle.

"No, no; I meant no reproach. Go on singing cheerfully: that will drive away all bad thought."

"Yes," said Heinerle, "as King David drove away Saul's bad spirit."

"What do you mean?" asked the master.

"Don't you know that, sir? It is in the Bible; and my godfather has often said: "Heiner, Heiner, sing something for King Saul;' and it was always successful."

And then Heinerle related with fervour the story of Saul and David to his master, and wondered to himself in silence that such a famous man as the master did not know it. The master listened attentively and enjoyed the vividness with which Heiner related it. Still more might he have envied him his childlike spirit and faith.

"I shall be surprised," said he to himself softly, "if he remains like that." For the master was old enough to see and to experience that a man does not remain as he is, wherever he comes from; and that some trees when they are transplanted perish.

But Heinerle went on with his work cheerfully and with ardour, and competed with the blacksmith to see which should be first at work. His meals, indeed, were small at the widow's, especially after the provisions from home were finished; the bed coverlet in his attic was often full of snow, which was blown in; and the bullfinch had been driven by the severe winter weather down to the warmer room where they took their meals. But all that was no trouble to Heinerle, any more than the morose watchmaker, who could not leave off grumbling because Heinerle would not remain at his trade.

Chapter II. His Father's Death.

The first three months had passed, and on the Saturday appointed, Heinerle made himself ready in the afternoon, and carried his linen across the mountains to his mother. It was a long way off, and he did not get there till far into the night. But scarcely was his candle lighted, when the shutter above was opened, and the old voice called out again: "Good-night, Heinerle, good-night!" and he nodded back again; but this time it had a different sound in his ears to that of former days.

In the morning his mother came up to his bed and leant over him, as he was still fast asleep, and looked at him. It seemed to her as if he had grown thinner and paler than he had been formerly, and she immediately thought, "he does not get enough to eat;" and turned over in her mind what she could give him to take on the way. At breakfast she had cooked all his favourite things for him. When he came down and sat on the bench, she told him what she had noticed in him, and that he was not so cherry-cheeked as formerly.

"Ah, mother," said he, "be contented. All artists are pale, that comes from their art and sitting so long."

But even the thick cakes with a lard crust, and the fried onions, which he used to eat with such relish, no longer tasted to him as they did formerly, which distressed Frau Huber. Then he told her all about his life and doings, and how the gentlemen joked with him, and were always merry; and on week-days wore very shabby clothes, but on Sundays they came out so beautifully dressed that one scarcely knew them. Frau Huber listened attentively; but only old Huber, who sat up in bed all the time, coughed more at that and grew restless. But he said nothing.

It was the last time that Heinerle saw him. For he was scarcely back at his new home again, when he got a letter from his godfather to tell him that his father was already dead and buried. Then Heiner wept bitterly, as it rushed over him how good his father had always been to him, when he used to go into the wood with him, and how he always had something to say about the trees, especially how each one had a life of its own, and this gave him a twofold realisation in his heart of the legacy of which his godfather wrote to him: "Thy father has bequeathed to thee a capital of which the interest will run through time and eternity. You know already, Heiner, whom I mean. Do all that is good and loving for your mother; for you have no one else (I will not count myself) in whom you can confide as you can in her. And though she is a countrywoman, and you will become a town gentleman, she will still remain your mother, who has brought you up with care. A strange nest suits every bird ill except the cuckoo, who alone can make itself comfortable in one. But you know a cuckoo is a cuckoo, and remains one just because he throws his foster parents out of the nest when he has grown big, therefore he is still a cuckoo, marked amongst birds." So far the godfather. But in proportion to the vehemence of his first grief was the swiftness with which it was over, as is the way with young people, who have as yet had small experience of loss which grows bitterer the longer it is borne.

The gentlemen had grown more friendly towards him; one had given him this, another that, of his old clothes, and he came out quite smart when he strutted about on Sunday in their clothes, and thought everybody must think when they saw him, "What a fine fellow Huber's Heinerle has become."

At first, at ten o'clock he had only approached the stove timidly to eat his roll, but now he stepped up with much more confidence. He had made himself useful in the house, for he could do anything; and once, when the master's maid was ill, he cooked, to the satisfaction of his master, after one of the godfather's receipts. He repaired the watches of the students gratis, and his watchmaker master praised him above measure. He also made progress in drawing, and had begun to engrave his first plate; in short, Heiner came forward in his world.

Only one thing troubled him, which was that he often did not understand what the talk was about, for they spoke of things of which he had not learnt and seen nothing at the godfather's, and things which were Greek to him. It is true he laughed with them when there was anything to laugh at, even if he did not understand it; but yet it teased him not to understand. So he once asked one of the gentlemen shyly, "if there was a book in which such things were to be found as they talked about?"

The student laughed and said: "I will take care of your education," and gave him a volume of poetry. Heiner hid his treasure, and could scarcely wait till his time with the watchmaker was over to read it; and read till he was nearly frozen late into the night. Until so far he had only known hymns and songs which can be sung, and had no suspicion that there were any other songs; but now he had a great many to read all at once. Soon he brought the book back to the student and asked him, "if those were all that there were?" Whereupon he laughed heartily, and said: "Why, Huber, how stupid you are!" on which Heiner replied quite coolly: "There must be some such people." So he read on and looked forward with delight to Sunday, when he would have nothing to do but read. Although he did not understand all in the poems, yet he noticed a great deal which was quite different to that which his godfather had taught him.

When the quarter came round again, he packed up his book and took it with his linen, and arrived much later than usual as he often stopped to read. And yet the shutter was thrown back as usual, and the old greeting sounded: "Good-night, Heinerle; Heinerle, good-night." And it often mingled strangely with poetry, yet was pleasant to hear. To his mother, who was still in mourning, he related everything he had heard and read since his last visit. When she heard him talk so, her face was clouded as with a dark shadow, and she began to weep. And Heinerle thought she was weeping on account of the beautiful poetry, some of which he had learnt by heart and repeated; and yet she was weeping from quite another cause.

"Heiner," said she, "do you still love me as much as ever?"

"Yes, mother," replied he; "that you can believe of me. How should I not love you?"

"Heiner, do you go to church on Sunday, and do you still pray?"

Then Heiner flushed up, and was silent for a short time.

But then he said: "Mother, the gentlemen told me that it is not fitting for an artist to go to church; they have a religion of their own, and need no parson. But I do pray still."

(To be continued.)

Proofread by LNL, Sept. 2023