The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Heinerle: The Peasant Artist.
by Emil Frommel.
Translated from the German by K. W. Bent. (With permission.)
BOOK IV.--YEARS OF TRAVEL.
Chapter III. At the Café Greco
Nearly two years had gone by and he had sent home no tidings of himself. Frau Huber had let him go with a heavy heart, and a hundred times had thought of the godfather's speech: "Take heed that he does not fly right away from you." Now he had gone away and she could not keep him, because he said: "Mother! every one travels, and an artist who has not been Italy is a poor simpleton." But what was bitterest to her was that she had herself helped him to it. In her distress, she often ran to the cross-road which passed through the high road, to see whether her Heinerle would not come. She saw indeed many young fellows on the road, whom she greeted, but none could give her information when she asked "whether they had by any chance seen her Heiner."
Once she took courage and went over to the godfather's, although the whole way was painful to her, not merely on account of her old feet, but from quite another cause, which the reader can easily guess. At last she reached the house and knocked, and the godfather opened the door to her. If the courteous reader thinks now the godfather would have put on an awfully earnest face and have reproached Frau Huber with, "Did I not tell you it would happen so?" then he is mistaken. The godfather saw that her heart was troubled, and that she was accusing herself, and where a heart does that, then it is no good to press it any harder. The merciful Samaritan did not stay to chide the poor man fallen among thieves, looking down upon him from the back of his mule, telling him that he should not have traveled alone, or chosen that road in particular, but he dismounted from his animal and washed his wounds and bound them up, and brought him to the inn. So did the godfather, and did not break the bruised reed, but tied it up; and that comforted and distressed Frau Huber at the same time. For nothing bows a man down so much as to experience true love when he is humbled and thinks that he has lost all love. When the good God with His severity has begun to break the heart, then He comes with His love which breaks it down completely. And so the godfather comforted her and showed her how she was now on the right road, and the good God would cure her thoroughly through her Heiner. For there where the evil began it must also be healed, and when you come again into the right road, then Heinerle will also come upon it; you must not have a single uneasy moment about that. She should only pray diligently, and pursue her Heinerle with her prayers, for that is the best warrant which one can send after a traveller; that will find people where the police would be quite at fault. So she arose comforted, and at the crucifix prayed for her Heinerle more heartily than ever before.
But Heinerle was now trying to gain a footing for himself, arranged his portfolio with his drawings, and prepared himself to find the artists at the Café Greco. It was towards evening when he entered the low house with its little room, where the artists lay upon cushions. He soon discovered his acquaintance of the previous evening, who introduced him to the others. He also inquired for the old gentleman and showed his card, but he was told that he very seldom came there, that he lived a long way off and was difficult to get speech of, for he was very famous and it was not easy to approach him. At that Heinerle's spirits sank, as he was very anxious to thank him for having paid for his night's lodging. So he took the card back again. He was soon at home in the café, and he was liked on account of his simple-hearted talk, and especially for his beautiful voice. For he had soon learnt Italian songs in addition to his German ones, and played on the guitar in a masterly manner. So he saw all the glorious sights, and was even more astonished than in Florence; and when he came into the artist's studios and saw how they painted, and how he could only draw, then ambition seized him, so that he could not rest by day or night.
The company into which he came was not the best, but it was well enough for him. And a man should always seek out the people who know and understand more than he does himself, for from others who know less than oneself one can learn nothing. The less they can do themselves, the more they speak and criticise and talk, which is natural enough. For when a man knows something thoroughly, he does not talk much about it.
Many a night was spent there in enthusiastic converse, and one inspired the other until they reached a state of exaltation, in which, if one heard them talk, one would have thought they were nothing less than so many Raphaels, who could do more than any human being can achieve. And Heinerle also was carried away by it, and had almost forgotten everything which he had formerly thought when he saw the pictures of the great masters.
He had already begun oil painting, and had made strides in it, but he looked at his work with the magnifying glass and examined it with his own conceit, and he was ready now to make one great venture and show the world what he could do. So he shut himself up in his room for a couple of weeks and let nobody in, for he was painting a large oil picture, before which he believed the whole world would be compelled to stand agape. He had expended his last sum of money upon it, and in consequence was living in poor fashion, but he thought, "When the picture is bought, you will have it back a hundredfold."
Chapter IV. "The Picture is Painted."
From early morning till late evening was he at work correcting and improving it. There was to be an exhibition next month to which artists were invited to send pictures, and prizes were to be awarded; and he already dreamed how one would stand before the picture, and would say, "By whom is that? I must know him." And how others would come to him, clap him on the shoulders and say, "Huber, you are a clever fellow," and how rich princes would inquire the price.
When it was ready he ordered a gold frame upon credit for it, and had brought to the exhibition. On the first day he would not go into the picture gallery from anxiety, lest he should be spoken to, and in the Society in the evening he listened waiting to hear when the pictures were criticised whether his turn would soon come. But no one said a word of his picture. So when the second day passed without his hearing anything about it, he went on the third day and hurried feverishly through the salon to see his picture, but it was nowhere to be found. In painful embarrassment he was quite at a loss what next to do. At last he turned to one of the hall-keepers and inquired for his picture.
"I have not seen it, go to that gentleman, he is one of the 'hanging committee,'"--that is, one of those who sit in judgment on the pictures, like a sworn-in jury on a trial of criminals, and who have to decide according to right and conscience whether a picture should be admitted or not. Then he took courage, went up to the gentleman and asked about his picture."
"What did it represent?"
"The murder of Caesar by Brutus," said Heiner.
"Oh, that capital thing, that won't be yours? That is how beginners paint."
"No, it is not mine," stammered Heinerle, getting out his lie with much confusion. "It is by a friend."
"Tell your friend, young man, that he would do better to give up painting; he may draw fairly, but he will never be able to paint, for genius is wanting to him."
Heiner had heard enough; so his picture had not even been accepted, but condemned to stand with its back to the public. His cheeks were glowing, and yet he felt frozen; he took up his hat, and without saying a word, he rushed downstairs into the open air. With this blow, annihilation seemed to have overtaken him.
"I am ruined," he exclaimed when he got home; "debts upon debts, and blamed as well."
Then came the thought all at once to him: "It is all through malice and jealousy that the others will not let you rise;" and his heart boiled within him as if it were the volcano Vesuvius just ready for an outbreak. He quickly took up his hat again and his last sixpence, and hastened to the Society which had assembled for this evening outside on the Monte-testaccio. When he entered the tavern he was received with loud acclamations and much laughter. He could not make out why, until one, who at that moment came up from the cellar with a flask, exclaimed, laughing: "Behold there, Julius Caesar!"
Then they all began in chorus; Heiner was completely disconcerted, and did not know how to compose himself. At last they pulled him down on to the bench, and he heard that the whole story of his picture was known, and had bee related.
"Too much red, my youngster, that is the only fault," said one.
"Red is an expensive colour, so one must not use too much of it." And this sort of talk continued. For he who is down is sure to be kicked.
One of them wished to cheer him up, and made excuses for him. "You must do better next time, Huber, and ask other people's advice."
But Heiner did not listen long. Mute and pale with rage, he tossed down glass after glass of the fiery wine. The wine at last made him talkative, and he began to say things which offended the others, and declared: "You are not a hair better than I am, and are curmudgeons into the bargain, and don't know in the least what Art is."
He had not finished his speech when a fearful fight and struggle began, and Heiner defended himself with his strong fists, but it was of no avail. At last one of them threw a flask into the midst of the fight, in order to stop the thing, but it struck Heinerle on the head and burst into a thousand splinters. All at once it became as still as death. Heinerle lay on the floor unconscious, and the blood poured down over his face. All stood by confused. At last one of them seized him and called out: "Bring water, or he'll die." They bathed him, but consciousness did not return. The landlord advised them to carry him across to the Cloister to the monks, who had a hospital, as he would be best cared for there. But the company suddenly separated.
Chapter V. In The Cloister
"He breathes again, and opens his eyes, Brother Angelo," said an old monk softly, behind the curtains of a sick bed.
"He must have dreamed wildly; have you heard him to-night, Domenico?" said the young monk whom he had addressed.
"I don't understand his speech, but when he opened his eyes he used one word which sounded like 'Mutter, Mutter!'"
"Then most likely he is a foreigner, and has called for his mother. He has been ill-treated, and has a great crack in his skull. God be praised that he is saved!"
He who lay on the clean bed, looking before him as if trying to recollect where he was, is no other than our Heiner. Three weeks had already flown by since that evening. The monks had taken care of him, and had treated him compassionately. They now told him how he had come there, and how he had often cried out many things in a foreign tongue. Heiner would have begun his narration, but the old monk forbade him with kind words. "Later, my son, when you are in the garden, and have strength." But between him and the old monk there sprang up a tender friendship. His recovery was very slow. Spring was again in the land before Heinerle, supported by the monks, could go into the garden, and sit on the sunny wall, and look down upon the Eternal City. Once while he was sitting there, old Domenico came and sat by him, and looked him earnestly in the face. No one had looked at him like that except the godfather.
He said to him: "My brother, will you tell me the story of your life? You have a heavy heart which you must ease; and we all love you in the Cloister." And Heiner told him about his home and the godfather, and how one thing led to another, and concealed nothing. The old monk listened to him attentively, and when Heiner had finished, said:
"Poor brother! you have followed a very roundabout way. But the by-way is still a road. Your godfather must have been a pious man who would have led you aright."
Then Heinerle began to weep profusely, and it filled him with remorse to think that he had grieved his godfather, and many words occurred to him which the godfather had used.
"Have you still a mother?" inquired the monk further, "you have called her name so often."
"Yes," said Heiner; "whether she is still alive I know not, or whether she may not be dead by this time. I think, while I was so ill, I dreamt a good deal which occurs to me again now. Amongst other things, I dreamt that I was wandering close by a deep abyss, and I was just putting my foot out to spring into it, when I was violently seized and drawn back, and the same voice called me which, in former days, when I came home in the evening, or at night, used to say, 'Good-night Heinerle; Heinerle, good-night!' and I woke up and was saved."
"My son, that was your mother's voice, which would call you to turn back from the path you are following. You have lost the humility which alone is well-pleasing to God, and therefore God has humbled you by human means, as you would not humble yourself before Him. Pray to God and submit yourself, then He will help you."
The brother rose and went back into the Cloister. And Heinerle's mind was in a tumult, and it was some time before he could restrain himself from violent weeping. The brothers brought him back again to his cell, and it seemed as if his illness had begun all over again. For Heinerle had many a splinter of glass on which he had trodden to extract from within, and it took a long time before his pride was thoroughly conquered.
At last the improvement was there, his cheeks again became red, and he could walk alone once more. He mended the clocks in the Cloister, and all liked him, while the young monk was specially drawn to him. There was something sad about him which attracted Heinerle.
"Won't you stay with us, Enrico?" said the monk. "I am so fond of you; and here you will be sheltered from the wicked world. You see it well, but only from above it, and not its dirt and sin."
Heinerle dropped his eyelids, and then said: "Angelo, I thank you for your love. But I can't stay here. I am still sick at heart, with a longing which draws me homewards to ask for my mother's and godfather's forgiveness, and begin a new life, else I shall find no peace."
The young monk was silent, and no more was said about it. Old Domenico had a long conversation with him, and Heinerle told him the last burden which oppressed him--his debts and his longing for home.
"I will help you," said Domenico. And after a few days he brought him his things and some money for his journey as far as Florence.
"I have been amongst your countrymen, and looked them up in the Café Greco and told them your story. Here is what they have collected for you. To accept it will be the final test to which you can submit so as to show your humility. We will not detain you, Enrico, God has given grace for your journey. Greet your mother and the godfather.
He felt the parting a good deal. Fra Angelo accompanied him some distance out of Rome, for Heiner would not stay any longer there. At parting the monk said: "Enrico, I am poor and have nothing but what I carry on my body. But I once made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Holy Land, and have there, on the holy place, twisted a rosary for myself. It is a cross of olive-wood from Gethsemane; think upon it, and don't forget Angelo who is in the Cloister, and pray for him."
They each wept and kissed each other, and Angelo went back again into the Cloister, whilst Heiner stepped forward. Once he looked back upon the city, with its towers and sorrows. St. Peter's Dome towered aloft in the distance, until it also melted away in the mists of the Campagna.
(To be continued.)
Proofread by LNL, Oct. 2023
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