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"I think it is you who will first forget me!" she told him, for she, too, had heard of the sirens of Paris.
"Never shall I cease remembering you! Alone, in exile, among strangers, how could I forget? But you will meet some man of your own rank, and your people will persuade you into taking him." "Ah! indeed I would die sooner!" she declared, with the pardonable exaggeration of the very young.
Emil had bought in Bonn two crystal lockets exactly alike; cheap enough trinkets, but as dear as his purse could afford; painfully ugly but safe guardians for their destined locks of hair. The lovers exchanged these mementoes with due ceremony. They were to be worn day and night as talismans against misfortunes, and pledges of secretly plighted troth. Marie slipped his on to her little gold neck-chain, which she had worn with an Immaculate Conception medal since childhood, and gave him these also. He tied hers with a ribbon round her throat, and hid the locket in the bosom of her dress. And finally, after an incredibly protracted leave-taking, and manifold signs of impatience from the red-eyebrowed lady who played propriety at a little distance off, the young people parted with vows, tears, kisses, and mutual heart-break.
EMIL'S first months in Paris, his solitariness, the difficulties he encountered, and the extent to which he enhanced these by his own proud and impetuous bearing, may be found in the biographies. I leave all this aside, being concerned in following one thread only of his story, in casting light on a single episode in a career which boasted many episodes, and which, dating from his arrival in Paris, embraced wider and more varied interests daily.
By the time that he had published the first book of "Preludes," the worst struggle was over. He was beginning to be favorably noticed. Custom had softened his early detestation of the city and its ways into tolerance, which in its turn grew imperceptibly into affection. As in the beginning he had wondered how he could ever endure the new life and strange people, so at length he asked himself how he could ever again exchange the intellectual brilliancy of Paris for the somnolence of a German town.
At first the idea of Marie Dittenheim had been his constant companion. But as his days grew more busy, he could only remember her in leisure moments, and by
and by when he occasionally recalled her image, it was to reproach himself with having so habitually forgotten it. For he was now beginning to make that long succession of warm friendships which is one of the remarkable features of his life; and to the friend of the hour he was always passionately and exclusively attached. It is true, these intimacies were seldom of long duration, and yet it was not fickleness which brought them to a close. The moment that Schoenemann discovered that he had passed his friend intellectually, he deliberately threw him aside. He said, and with some show of reason, that friendship being an exchange of mutual benefit, directly one ceases to derive advantage from one's friend, the friendship by that very reason is dissolved.
The most durable of his friendships was that, perhaps, with Madame Vasseur, some account of whom is pertinent to my sketch, since it was perhaps as much be cause of the empire which this lady began to exercise over him, as from any other cause, that he eventually held true to his German sweetheart.
Flore Vasseur would be now entirely forgotten but for her connection with Schoenemann (which led to her tragic death in Rome years later), on which account brief notice is given of her by most of his biographers. She was, however, in her day, a flower-painter of some repute. Curiously enough, I recently came across one of her studies in an appartement garni of the Quartier Marais. It was a fruitpiece splashily painted, but all its colors faded to a uniform neutrality of tint. Nothing remained of its pristine glories, save the " Flore" boldly written in vermilion letters across one corner, and the date, "1842," underneath. She voluntarily sacrificed future glory for the praise of her contemporaries, and obtained by illegitimate methods a brilliancy of coloring as unrivalled as it was transitory. When it was pointed out to her that her work would not endure, she replied it would probably endure quite as long as it deserved to do. She had not the smallest desire it should be immortal.
"I wish to leave room for those who come after me," said she, jesting; "and every twenty years will produce a flowerpainter as good or better than I. Such an art is perennial as the flowers themselves. It is not like the genius of Emil Schoenemann. The true musician and the aloeblossom appear only once in a century."
Madame Vasseur lived just outside Paris, at Cerçay-sous-Senart. Het ac
quaintance with Emil dated from the third year of his Paris sojourn. They were introduced to each other at a musical evening given by the Pleyels. Emil had by this time just made the discovery that general society was distasteful to him, that the adulation people now gave him was worse than their former neglect, and that the round of so-called amusement which he had at first followed with youthful ardor was in reality as insipid as it was enervating.
Madame Vasseur attracted him from the first moment he met her. She was not so pretty as many women, but she was vivacious, intelligent, and extraordinarily sympathetic. He acquired the habit of spending a good deal of his time at Cerçay. He found he could work there under happier conditions than in Paris. After an industrious and solitary morning, he liked to spend the rest of the day in Flore's studio. Here, to please him, she had placed a grand-piano, on which he would try over his latest compositions, while she painted with rapid, skilful hand. Or if he wished to talk, she put down her brushes and gave him her whole attention. She had pieced together the scraps he had let fall of his early history, and took so vivid an interest in all that concerned him, that she could speak of the incidents of his boyhood, and of the people of Klettendorf, with almost as much confidence as though personally acquainted with them. She knew, too, all about the Contesse Marie; but on this subject at least, it must be confessed, her attitude was slightly chilling.
When she first knew Emil, four years of freedom still lay before him, and the years ahead seem vague and long as centuries; it is only when one looks back that they seem to have gone like so many days. In the beginning, his infrequent references to the young girl troubled Flore but little; she told herself a thousand things might yet happen to release him from a position she felt sure no longer held for him any charm. But when, at last, he began to speak of his departure for Germany as likely to take place within a year-within a few months her feelings towards Mademoiselle von Dittenheim deepened into dislike. It was characteristic of Schoenemann that, seeing this, he should refer to the subject more often than he might otherwise have done, and that he should adopt a tone of decision he was, in reality, far from feeling.
For he began to ask himself every day more seriously whether it was not a piece
of quixotic folly to remain bound to a woman whom he had long ago recognized as unessential to his scheme of life. His mind swayed this way and that. Whenever he received a letter from Harms, he became for the next few weeks quite determined neither to return to Germany nor to fulfil his engagement; for poor August's expressed or implied confidence he would do both, produced an entirely opposite effect to that which the writer intended. But Emil could not forget his interview with Graf Dittenheim. He would recall the man's shrewd, amused eyes, hear again the complacent superiority of his tone, and again be filled with the strong determination to prove his suspicions had been base. less. And naturally, there were many other motives pressing down the scale on this side or that. In real life, conduct is ever complex; it is only in the story-books that we find it determined by a beautiful singleness of purpose. Thus, much as Schoenemann might believe he despised social rank, he could not be a German and not appreciate the honor of an alliance with a Dittenheim; and, however coldly egotistic he had become, he could not, as a man, stifle all feeling for the young girl, who, as Harms and rumor told him, still loved him so devotedly. Yet he knew that never again could she be anything to him but a burden; he knew he had passed her immeasurably, and that all the stimu lus he found in such companionship as Flore's would be entirely wanting in his home life, should he make Marie his wife. The problem how to act best was a knotty
He sat one evening in the studio, with a letter from Harms in his pocket received that day. It was a more annoying letter than usual; for, whereas Harms as a rule spoke of Emil's return as a matter of course, he now, to the young man's great surprise, urged him vehemently to return at once. "Do not wait for the summer, best of friends," wrote Harms, "but come immediately and claim your betrothed; and then he hinted at some appalling misfortune overhanging the head of the little contesse in dark, enigmatical language, which aroused Emil's anger rather than his sympathy. He sat lost in thought, with set lips and a frown on his handsome forehead, while Madame Vasseur watched him pensively.
"What is the matter with you?" she asked him when the silence had endured some little time; "you are not happy tonight. Tell me what is troubling you."
"Do you think confession would make
me happier?" said the young man, and his calm glances rested on her face with immense inward satisfaction. She had what he called such fragende Augen, eyes that seemed to ask and confide so much more than the smiling lips would admit to. Assuredly! I always find that to confess my troubles is the first step towards dismissing them."
"Because probably your troubles are not real ones. I do not see how a real trouble or perplexity is to be vanquished by imparting it to another mind -especially to a mind less capable of sustaining it."
"A sweet compliment!" said Flore, laughing; and he found her childlike type of face delicious when she laughed. "But tell me, do you make no account of sympathy?"
"Not much. I begin to think that sympathy, like charity, is more harmful than helpful to the recipient."
"You are becoming so self-sufficing," said Flore, "that I should advise you to imitate St. Simon Stylites; build yourself a pillar, and make music on the top of it." "It appears to me," said Emil, musing, "that as we advance-mentally-we do live, so to speak, each of us on the top of a pillar, and have less and less communication with our fellow-men. In childhood the love and praise of our home circle alone is essential to us; later on we seek eagerly the wider appreciation of the world; but finally, we outgrow the necessity for either, and ask nothing but the approbation of our own souls."
Flore, with her graceful head on one side, watched him smilingly. "You have not reached the highest point yet then," said she, "for you do not look to-night entirely convinced of your soul's approbation. And I am glad of it," she added; "when that time comes, my poor praises will no longer give you any pleasure."
"Every man of course likes praise," said Emil, "but it is just as well to learn to do without it. I foresee little enough in the life that lies before me. That is to say, little intelligent praise, and none other is worth the having."
"Are you thinking of your German fiancée ?" asked Flore.
"Yes; of my fiancée who is soon to be
She looked at him in silence, but still smiled. "You are determined to go in the summer?" she said presently.
"Even sooner. In fact I have received news from home which seems to necessitate my immediate departure. I must
return to Paris to-morrow to settle my affairs, and so to-night I have come to bid you good-bye."
The sudden color that rose to her cheek, her momentary hesitation, did not pass unobserved by Schoenemann; but when she spoke, the gaiety of her tone once more perplexed him.
"A most dramatic announcement!" she cried, "although I suspect the decision was only this moment come to. Well, you would have my best wishes were you going away for any other cause than that of your marriage; but I should be a poor friend indeed were I to affect to regard such a step as beneficial to you."
"Ah! I know your objections to marriage," said Emil; "although, coming from a married woman, the advice rings rather oddly."
"Oh, I! what does it matter about me? Whether I make more or less progress, am more or less happy, what difference does it make? But for the true artist, the man of genius, it is otherwise. The world asks from him, and rightly, the best he can give; and for the production of his best, happiness is an essential. How can he possibly be happy married to a woman with whom he has no sympathy?"
"True, undoubtedly," said Emil; "yet what can I do? Morally I am bound to keep my word. Besides, the girl loves me. Her happiness counts for something in the affair."
"She does not love you," cried Flore, "if she cannot sacrifice her happiness to her love! Why, I- that is to say, a woman who really loved a man, would cheerfully see him married to another if it were for his greater good. But when she saw him going blindly to his own destruction, she would let the whole world perish, if by doing so she could save him."
"It is curious," said Schoenemann, speaking more to himself than his companion, "how one's opinions change! Seven years ago it seemed to me that life held nothing more desirable than my little sweetheart. Then I would have married her joyfully, and should have considered myself the most fortunate fellow in the world." He mused, clasping his hands behind his head with the action Flore knew so well. “Then I looked upon the whole of life merely as a preparation for love. Then it seemed to me that music itself was but a means of honoring the beloved one. Now I know that life and love, too, are but steps upwards towards the attainment of the highest art, and the passion which seemed so beautiful in
youth, is only valuable for the deeper and wider emotions it enables us to express." Madame Vasseur watched him with an indefinable air. "So you have outgrown love," she said, “as you have outgrown society, and as you will presently, no doubt, outgrow friendship. You progress so fast that with the best intentions in the world you could not promise to remain to-morrow where you stand to-day. Do you not see that for you it is madness to contemplate matrimony?"
"True again," he answered; "to give up in any measure my liberty and independence, is to deduct just so much from the likelihood of producing good work. Yet it seems to me that if Mademoiselle von Dittenheim still desires it, I am bound in honor to fulfil my engagement."
Flore's smile condensed a vast number of meanings. "What! have you not outgrown such puerile notions of honor also?" she cried.
"In point of fact," said Emil seriously, "I begin to think I have. The honorableness of holding to the letter of a promise, when the spirit which quickened it is dead or changed, does seem sufficiently puerile. And yet
How difficult he found it to decide what to do! He remembered the satisfaction his infidelity would afford Graf Dittenheim, and he inclined to go; but he remembered, too, the urgency of Harms's entreaties that he should return home, and he was almost fixed in his determination to stay.
Madame Vasseur, who openly watched him, seemed to read his thoughts. A flash of triumph lighted her soft eyes. The pleasure she felt was too strong to be concealed, and she betrayed it in her smile, in her dimples, in the animation of her voice.
"You will not go!" she cried gaily. "Ah! I felt sure all along you could not go. And I confess the studio would seem a strange and desolate land without you. I have the fancy I could no longer paint if you were no longer here to play to me.' Schoenemann looked down the long and lofty room, with its half-lighted distances, its widely dispersed lamps, and said to himself he too should feel strange rooted out from a life that had grown so congenial to him. Here at the piano he had spent delicious hours, weaving musical fancies into which all his surroundings made subtle entrance the blossoms, flowers, and creepers, which during more than half the year trailed their lengths, shed their perfume, and spread their
beauty all over the place; those other flowers scarcely less brilliant, which still during the winter months bloomed from the walls; the bizarre properties, the gorgeous bits of drapery, the thousand and one knick-knacks, every fold and piece of which he knew so well; Madame Vasseur's light, graceful figure, and the small brown head held flower-fashion, now this side and now that, as she walked to and fro before her easel.
Yes, he recognized it was Flore herself whom he would miss most of all. She had acquired an influence over him which might in time grow irresistible. As he glanced at her and listened to her confident assertions, he told himself she would use every means to increase and rivet her power. He felt she would make far greater claims on him than a Marie Dittenheim could do. Here, even more than in marriage, was he likely to lose the independence he held so dear. Were he at the end of his life, he might perhaps be ready to acquiesce in this woman's gentle yoke; but now, in the zenith of his youth, with so much still to learn and to achieve, he must break it while he could yet do so without much pain.
As his hesitations finally condensed themselves into settled purpose, his brow cleared. Flore read his meaning in the bright coldness of his glance. Her face lost its smile, and she sat in pale suspense.
"It is getting late," said he, rising, "and I have a great deal to do, so you must allow me to say good-night. Good-night and good-bye both together. For at last I have made up my mind. I return to Germany after all.”
THE Dittenheims, father and daughter, were residing in Berlin. The Graefin had been laid to rest long since in the cemetery at Nice, the town wherein so many European health-seekers find only a grave.
Schoenemann did not purpose going straight to the capital. He broke his journey at Koeln, in order to spend half a week at Klettendorf. He desired particu larly to see Harms, that he might reproach him for the irritating urgency of his letter. He intended to recapitulate to him all Flore's arguments against marriage, to prove incontestably that for him, Emil, it would be especially fatal; then having reduced the unfortunate Harms to a state of abject despair, to go to move heaven and earth to make that marriage an accomplished fact. Quite at the back of his mind he rejoiced in the idea that when all
his predicted misery should have actually come to pass, he would be able to inflict on Harms a still more poignant regret. Outside of these intentions he found a real pleasure in returning to Klettendorf. He wanted to see the village, the old home, his own people again. He loved them all because of the relation in which they stood to himself. He remembered with the greatest affection the little Emil of long ago; the boy who had run so light-heartedly up and down the highways of Klettendorf, or in the dark cottage room had sat so many hours at the loosetongued old piano, trying to reproduce the song of the birds, or the gush and babble of the mountain streams. From the beginning all the world had made music to him; it was to beautiful and harmonious sounds his affections had first responded. Almost a baby, he had heard melodies in the winter winds which torment the woods above Klettendorf, and the Rhine forever flowing swiftly seawards taught him harmonies.
He remembered now as though it were yesterday, numberless incidents which had impressed themselves on his child's mind, in which either his dead father or mother, Marie or Harms, arose as attendant figures; the humble house, the poor village as familiar background.
There was a unique occasion on which he had come into collision with his father, who had reprimanded him with some roughness. For two hours afterwards he had lain upon the floor, weeping tropically, and refusing to be comforted. He was about five years old then, and he had said to his mother in reference to the event a few days later, “I am always happy, and I wanted to be unhappy to see what it was like."
The man Emil smiled as he looked back on the child's curiosity to probe sensations, a curiosity which, on another occasion, had made him persist, despite of gathering nausea, in assisting at the slaughter of a pig. He had stood a stubborn and white-faced spectator of the scene, until he had fallen down on the stones in a faint. But the smoking blood, the shrieks of the victim, had worked upon his mind, and he had composed a little battle-song for piano and fiddle, to commemorate the impression. He had tried to represent horror and tumultuous movement, and to simulate by long, wailing notes on the violin the cries of the dying. He wondered what had become of this early opus, which Harms had praised enthusiastically, as by the way he had praised
every single work Schoenemann had pro. duced since.
He remembered how as a child he had adored his mother; how she had once seemed to him not only the most beautiful and the kindest of women, but the cleverest also. It was only very gradually he came to discover her wanting in perceptions, and too occupied in mending and cooking to have time to listen to his music. By the age of ten he had already begun to lean more on his sister Marie, who was then seventeen, and full of the hopes, the gaiety, the uncarefulness of a young girl. Marie was devoted to the clever little brother, and no sacrifice was too much for her to make him. When he wanted her company she would give up any personal pleasure, or rise at four to get through the household tasks, so as to be free for his service. He remembered the hours he had spent with her dreaming aloud, while she listened and praised. And then as he came to be fifteen, she was less necessary to him than Harms; he had learned all she was able to teach him; she was as a book he had read through, and one of those books that do not bear reading twice. Henceforth all his spare time was spent in August's room discussing life, music, glory; improvising on his piano, or climbing with him the wooded hills that shelter Klettendorf, walking through the apple and cherry orchards that gather round it. At that time he simply could not have e isted in his narrow village but for the sympathy and affection he found in Harms. No wonder he had opposed August's desire to marry his sister; and Marie herself had become dear to him as ever, the moment there had seemed a possibility of losing her. But as it turned out, they might have married so far as he was concerned; and he thought with a faint and natural contempt of the weakness of poor Harms in allowing the whole course of his life to be altered by the will of a boy.
Memories such as these beguiled the way to Klettendorf; and for himself he was filled with a tender compassion. What a foolish, affectionate fellow he had been! Ever ready to expend his heart on other people, ever believing he had found in each new personality the brother soul which was to satisfy him, ever condemned to struggle upwards alone. His past was strewn with the friendships he had tried in the balance and found wanting.
He was already beginning to gauge the limits of Harms's capacities when he had met Marie Dittenheim. His passion for