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[Illustration: THE NOON ENCAMPMENT. [See Violin Village.]]
[Copyright, 1878, by Scribner & Co.]
THE VIOLIN VILLAGE.
By Edith Hawkins.
On the borders of the Tyrol and the lovely district known as the
"Bavarian Highlands," there is a quaint little village called
"Mittenwald," which at first sight appears shut in by lofty mountains as
by some great and insurmountable barrier. The villagers are a simple,
industrious people, chiefly occupied in the manufacture of stringed
musical instruments, the drying of which, on fine days, presents a very
droll appearance. The gardens seem to have blossomed out in the most
eccentric manner; for there, dangling from lines like clothes, hang
zithers, guitars, and violins, by hundreds, from the big bass to the
little "kit," and the child's toy.
In this valley, one clear morning in August, as the church clock struck
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five, a lad issued from the arched entrance of one of the pretty gabled
houses along the main street. He was not more than twelve years of age,
yet an expression of thoughtfulness in his clear, blue eyes, gave and
added an older look to his otherwise boyish face. His costume was a gray
suit of coarse cloth, trimmed with green; his knees and feet were bare,
but he wore knitted leggings of green worsted. A high-crowned hat of
green felt, adorned with some glossy black cock's feathers, a whip and a
small brass horn slung by a cord from his shoulder completed the outfit
of the village goatherd. He hastened along by the green-bordered brook
crossed by planks, over one of which Stephan - for that was our hero's
name - leaped as he came up to the simple wooden fountain, which, as in
most Bavarian villages, stood in the middle of the road.
A piece of black bread and a long draught from the fountain was
Stephan's breakfast, which being speedily finished, he broke the morning
stillness with repeated blasts from the horn, which seemed to awake the
valley as by magic; for scarcely had the more distant mountains echoed
the summons, than from almost every door-way scampered one or more
goats. All hurried in the direction of the water-tank, where they stood
on their hind legs to drink, jostled one another or frisked about in the
highest spirits, till fully two hundred were assembled, rendering the
street impassable. A peculiar cry from the boy and a sharp crack of the
whip were the signals for a general move. Away they skipped
helter-skelter through the town, along the accustomed road, high up the
rocky mountain-side. The little animals were hungry, so stopped every
now and then to nibble the attractive grassy tufts, long before the
allotted feeding ground was reached. There was, however, little fear of
losing them, as each wore a tiny bell round the neck, which, tinkling at
every movement, warned the boy of the straggler; a call invariably
brought it back, though often by a circuitous route, enabling the animal
to keep beyond the reach of the whip, which Stephan lashed about with
Noon found the goats encamped under the shade of some tall pine-trees,
and Stephan Reindel was busily arranging a bunch of bright red
cranberries at the side of his hat, when a shot arrested his attention.
He jumped up, and with boyish curiosity explored the pine wood; but
fearing to go too far on account of his flock, he was returning, when a
second shot followed by a sharp cry, convinced him it was some hunter
who had driven his game much lower down than was at all usual. The
second report had sounded so near that he continued his fruitless search
till it was time to go home, when, as usual, he drove his flock back by
Directly they entered the village, each goat trotted off to its own
abode, and Stephan to his, where, after eating his supper of black bread
and cheese, he sat listlessly watching his mother varnish violins, by
which she earned a trifle every week. This was due to the kindness of
the chief manufacturer in the village, who, since her husband's death,
had supplied her regularly with some of the light work usually performed
by women, and to which she was well accustomed, having frequently
assisted her husband, who had been one of Herr Dahn's best workmen, and
whose death had left her entirely dependent on her own exertions for the
support of herself and child; for the last two years, however, Stephan
had bravely earned his mite by taking daily care of the goats belonging
to the whole valley. He was now discussing with his mother the
possibility of his ever being able to maintain them both by following
his father's trade of making guitars and violins, when a loud knock put
the future to flight, and caused Stephan to open the door so suddenly
that a very excited old woman came tumbling into the room.
"Oh! Bridgetta, how could you lean against the door?" said Frau Reindel,
hastening to her assistance. "I hope you are not hurt, and do pray
remember, in future, that our door opens inside, and that you must step
down into the room. Sit down, neighbor," she added, placing a stool for
the old woman, who was, however, far too angry to notice it; but turning
toward Stephan, whom she unfortunately caught smiling, she pointed to
her large fur cap, that had rolled some distance across the floor,
saying: "Pick it up, boy, and don't stand grinning like that, especially
as you must know why I have come here so late in the evening." Then
snatching it from him, without heeding his apologies, she added: "Yes,
indeed, you have more cause to cry than laugh. A pretty herd-boy you
are, to come home without people's goats! sitting here as contentedly as
if you had done your day's duty! You had better be more careful or you
will certainly lose your work, if I have a voice in the village!"
Stephan and his mother stood aghast at this angry tirade, and it was
only after repeated questions, sulkily answered, that they finally
understood that her own goat was really missing. She had, as usual, gone
into the stable to milk it, and after waiting in vain till past seven
o'clock, she had come to tell Stephan he must at once seek for it among
the neighbors' goats. He was quite willing, nay, anxious to do so, being
unable to account in any way for its absence; for he could not remember
having noticed the little gray goat with the white face since the early
part of the morning. There was consequently nothing left to be done that
night but to make an immediate inquiry at every house in the village. He
did not return till past nine o'clock, - a very late hour in that
primitive spot, where people usually rise at four or five and go to bed
at eight. No one had seen the goat, but almost all blamed his
carelessness, so that he was too unhappy to sleep, especially as he
could not forget how distressed his poor mother looked, knowing, as she
did, that somehow or other she must pay the value of the goat, though
how such a sum was to be earned was beyond guessing.
A week passed, nothing was heard of the strayed one; Stephan had
searched every possible spot up the mountain, and inquired of every
person he met coming from the neighboring villages or beyond the
frontier of the Tyrol, - but all in vain. A report had spread in the
valley that he had lamed the goat with a stone, and so caused it to fall
over a precipice. Many people believed this, which greatly increased the
unhappiness of Stephan and his mother, though he had denied the charge
"I, at least, believe you, my son," said his mother, one day, when
Bridgetta was present. "You never told me a lie, and I thank God for my
truthful child, more than for all else."
"You can believe what you like," said Bridgetta, angrily; "but, as your
boy has lost my goat, and as I am poor, and have already waited longer
than I can afford, I must ask you to pay me by to-morrow evening, so
that I may buy another, for you forget that I have done without milk all
"No, I do not forget," said the widow, sadly. "I will do my best to get
the money for you. It is right you should have your own, and you know I
would have paid you at once had it been in my power. I will, however,
see what I can do by to-morrow, so good-night."
As they walked home, they discussed for the hundredth time the
impossibility of getting five florins; they could not save that sum in
six months. "There is nothing to be done unless Herr Dahn would lend it
to us," suggested Stephan. "We could pay him by degrees, and he is so
rich that I dare say he would be satisfied with that."
"I have thought of asking him," replied the mother, "and, even if he
refuses, he will do so kindly."
As she spoke, they saw the important little gentleman coming out of a
house, and hastened to overtake him. He greeted them with the extreme
politeness so noticeable among all classes in Bavaria, even in the
remote villages. After hearing the widow's request, he stood musing a
minute, looked up and down the street, took off his hat, and polished
his bald head, ejaculating the usual "So! so!" then, as if a bright
thought had cleared up all doubts, he said: "Now, don't you think it
would be pleasanter and more independent if you gave something in
exchange for the five florins? Something that can be of no use to
yourself - your husband's tools, for instance? I will give you a fair
price, - enough to pay for this unlucky goat, and something over for a
rainy day. But, my good woman, what's the matter?" he added, seeing
tears in her eyes and Stephan eagerly clutching her arm, as if to get
"Nothing, sir, nothing; you are quite right; I had forgotten the tools
would bring money; but you must excuse me if I do not decide till
to-morrow, for my boy here has set his heart on being a guitar and
zither maker, like his poor father, and always fancies he would work
better with those tools."
"What! Stephan make violins? How is he ever to do that, when he spends
all his days up the mountains? Have you not told me yourself that you
cannot manage without his earnings?"
"Neither do I think we could, sir, or I should have tried it long ago,
for it is hard for him to be minding goats, when he might be earning
something to help him on in life."
"Can he do anything? Has he any taste for the work?"
"Yes, I think so; he generally works at it in the evening, and has made
several small violins for Christmas gifts to the neighbors' children.
But they are toys. Perhaps you would allow me to bring one to show you
to-morrow," she ventured to add.
"Certainly, neighbor, but I don't promise anything, mind, except about
the tools. I shall be at the warehouse at six o'clock. Be punctual.
"O, mother! Don't give him the tools. Give him anything else. There's my
new green hat - my best jacket - I can easily do with the one I have on,"
said Stephan, anxiously, as he watched the receding figure of the rich
man of the village.
"My dear child! of what use could your clothes be to the gentleman? He
wants the tools. I am very sorry, but there is really nothing else of
any value, and we have no right to borrow money when we can obtain it by
the sacrifice of something we should like to keep. We must never
hesitate to perform a plain duty, however disagreeable. So, now show
yourself a brave boy, and help me to do this one cheerfully."
The next day, Stephan began his day's work with a determination to look
on the bright side of his troubles. His goats, however, had in some way
become a greater charge than he had ever felt them before. He feared to
lose sight of one for an instant; so, what with racing after the
stragglers and searching, as was now his habit, for the lost one, he was
so tired and worn out by noonday, that instead of eating his dinner, he
threw himself on the ground and cried bitterly. The goats sniffed round
and round him, as if puzzled at the unwonted sounds. He often sang and
whistled as he sat among them carving some rough semblance of animals
with his pocket-knife, but these unmusical sounds were new to them and
seemed to make them uneasy. A sudden pause in the monotonous tinkle of
the little bells caused Stephan to raise his head, and he encountered
the amused gaze of two gentlemen in the Bavarian hunting costume of
coarse gray cloth and green facings; thick boots studded with huge nails
and clamps to prevent slipping in the dangerous ascent after game;
high-crowned hats, with little tufts of chamois beard as decoration and
proof of former success; the younger of the two having, in addition, a
bunch of pink Alpen-rose showing he must have climbed high up the
"What sort of music do you call that?" asked the latter, resting his
gun-stock on the ground. "If you howl in that way, there will be no use
hunting in your neighborhood for a month; you would frighten the tamest
game over the frontier in five minutes. A little more of this music and
there wont be a chamois for miles round. But what's the matter? Have you
had a fight with your goats and got the worst of it? How many horns have
been run through your body, and where are the wounds?"
Stephan had fancied that his goats were his only auditors, so felt
thoroughly ashamed of himself, but jumping up, he answered with some
"I have not any wounds, sir, and should never cry if I had. I lost a
goat some days ago and now my mother has to pay for it by giving up the
only valuable thing she has in the world."
"That can't be yourself, then," said the young man, laughing; "for such
a careless little chap would not be of much value, I should think. But
tell us the story. When did you lose it?"
After listening to Stephan's account, the hunters spoke apart with each
other for some minutes, and then the young one took out his purse and
gave the astonished boy six florins - about ten English shillings.
"There, you can get a very good goat for that, but remember, no more
howling, and if you ever find your own again, I shall expect you to
repay me this money."
"That I will, indeed, gentlemen, and I thank you heartily," said the
boy, so earnestly that both laughed, as, nodding him an adieu, they
began descending the mountain, and were soon lost among the trees.
Stephan threw his hat into the air with a joyous cheer, and the echoes
repeated his gleeful shout.
The day appeared very long, and glad enough he was when the sinking sun
warned him that it was time to return. He found his mother dusting the
tools, and looking sadder than he had ever seen her since his father
"We wont sell them, dear mother," he cried exultingly, dancing round the
table and shaking the florins in his hat. "See what luck your blessing
brought me this morning!" and he related his adventure with the hunters.
They at once started off to pay Bridgetta the five florins, and, as
compensation for the loss of the milk for so many days, they offered her
the extra florin, which she coldly and decidedly refused, asking no
questions, and appearing very anxious to get rid of them. As they walked
home, they entered the church for a few minutes, and, after reverently
kneeling at one of the side altars, the widow dropped the remaining
florin into the poor-box. It was the largest thank-offering she had ever
been able to make in her life. The warehouse was at the corner of the
street on the south side of the church, and as the clock struck six they
hurried up the stairs of the long, low building, and entered a small
room fitted up as an office. Herr Dahn was busily writing in a large
ledger, but quitting it as they entered, he said approvingly:
"So here you are! That's right; business people should be
punctual - never get on otherwise! But where are the tools?"
The widow told him all about the six florins, and then placing a toy
violin on the counter, she asked him to give his opinion of it. He
twisted the little instrument about, carefully examining the workmanship
while he talked, and finally declared that it was a very fair specimen
for a self-taught lad. He evidently thought more of it than he chose to
say, for after some conversation with his foreman, to whom he showed the
violin, he greatly astonished the poor woman by offering to take Stephan
at once and place him under one of his best workmen if she could do
without his earnings for a time, as of course the goats must be given
up. Then, noticing the boy's delight and the mother's anxious, undecided
countenance, he added before she could reply:
"Perhaps, if Stephan is steady and careful enough, I can trust him here
alone every morning to sweep and dust the warehouses, for which I will
pay him thirty kreutzers a week (nearly a shilling). I suppose he gets
little more than that for tending the goats."
"Oh! thank you, sir," said the boy eagerly, anticipating his mother's
reply, "I will, indeed, be careful and steady."
"Gently, boy, your mother is to decide."
"I cannot thank you enough, sir," she quickly answered. "Your offer is
more than we had ever hoped for, and I trust my child's conduct will
prove how grateful we both feel. He would like to begin at once, I know,
but must, of course, wait a few days till another boy is found to take
his place as herd-boy."
Herr Dahn nodded approvingly, and told them to let him know as soon as a
substitute was found. How thankful they were that evening as they talked
over the happy termination of their troubles, and still more so when a
neighbor came in to tell them that Bridgetta and some others of the
village had voted against Stephan continuing his post as herd, alleging
that they feared to trust him any longer with their goats. This was, of
course, very unpleasant news, for it was a sort of disgrace to be thus
displaced, however undeserved. It also explained the cause of
Bridgetta's extreme coolness and indifference as to how they had
obtained the money. No wonder she was unfriendly after her action,
which, but for the fresh turn affairs had taken, would have seriously
However, Stephan was now free to begin his new work the next day, when
all arrangements were made, and he was introduced as an apprentice to
his new master, Heinrich Brand.
Stephan had been with the violin-maker about six weeks, when one day the
little Gretchen, his master's daughter, rushed in to tell them the cows
were coming down from the Alp.
It is the custom in the Bavarian Tyrol to send the cows to small
pastures high up among the mountains where the grass is green and
plentiful, being watered by the dews and mists, and less exposed to the
scorching sun. Here the cows remain all the summer under the care of two
or three men, called "senner," or women, called "sennerinnen," who are
always busily engaged making butter and cheese, and rarely come down to
the valley, even for a day, till the season is over, when, collecting
their tubs, milk-pans, and other dairy utensils, they descend the
mountain with great rejoicings and consider the day a festival.
This return is an event of importance in every village. Brand, like his
neighbors, hastened out with his little daughter, and told Stephan to
follow them. The gay procession wound slowly along the main road,
accompanied by a band of music playing a cheerful Tyrolese air. The cows
came trooping along, decorated with garlands of wild flowers, preceded
by peasants in their gayest costumes, carrying blue and white flags. The
"sennerinnen" wore their brightest neckerchiefs and gowns, and seemed
quite rejoiced to be down among their friends again.
Stephan joined his mother in the crowd, and they were in the full
enjoyment of the scene when he suddenly exclaimed: "See, mother, there's
the lost goat!" and sure enough there it was, limping along by the side
of a "sennerin." One leg was evidently broken or severely injured, but
otherwise the little animal looked well and fat.
Old Bridgetta had likewise seen it, and the three hastened to question
the "sennerin," who seemed very glad to find the owner, and told them it
had been brought to the Alp by a peasant, who gave her a florin to take
care of it and bring it down to the village as soon as she could. He did
not tell her where he had found it, or indeed any particulars, so she
supposed the poor little thing had fallen over some precipice and broken
its leg, which was, however, nearly well.
[Illustration: STEPHAN SHOWS THE BARON'S LETTER TO GRETCHEN. [SEE PAGE
"Goats don't often fall in that way, - stones are much more likely to
have caused the mischief," said Bridgetta, with a meaning look at
Stephan, which was, however, only noticed by his mother, who replied:
"Well, Bridgetta, if you still think so badly of my boy, you can keep
the money as a recompense for the damage done to your goat, though I am
quite convinced he has had nothing to do with it Some day we shall hear
the truth of the whole affair, and of that I make no doubt."
"I don't want your money," said the old woman, testily, "and shall
return it as soon as I have sold the other goat;" - whereupon, she took
the leading-string from the "sennerin" and hobbled off with her
new-found property, apparently as little pleased as possible.
The next day, the five florins were sent back, and then Stephan told his
mother, for the first time, how he had promised to return the money if
he ever found the goat again. This now seemed impossible, for he knew
neither the name nor address of the gentleman. The money was, therefore,
put away safely, and the savings of a few months soon made up the
original sum of six florins, but still nothing could be heard of the
Time wore on, and the boy was rapidly becoming an expert workman. He had
regularly swept the warehouse for three years, then finding he could
earn more by violin-making during the time so occupied, he resigned in
favor of a boy as poor as he had been. Brand had pronounced him quite
worthy of regular work, having often tested his ability by leaving to
him the most difficult parts of the instruments. He had made himself a
zither, and could play all those national airs so peculiarly the
property of the mountaineers, and which are so suited to the plaintive
sweetness of that instrument.
Before Stephan was eighteen, his fame as a zither-player had spread far
and wide; no marriage, or festival of any kind, was complete without his
well-looking, good-humored face.
One day, Stephan was putting away his tools when he was sent for by a
nobleman, who had stopped overnight at the village, and he soon came
back with the news the Baron Liszt had engaged him to act as guide to
the Krotten Kopf mountain the next day, and Brand was also wanted to
help to carry the wraps and needful provisions.
Early in the morning the party started. The Baroness accompanied her
husband, and there were one or two gentlemen with their wives. Stephan
and Brand, laden with shawls, umbrellas, and knapsacks, then led the way
with the slow, steady pace always adopted by the mountaineers, who know
that speed avails nothing when great heights have to be climbed, as it
cannot possibly be kept up, and only exhausts the strength at the onset.
After climbing two hours, a turn in a very steep portion of the path
brought them suddenly upon a green plateau, walled in, as it were, by
mountain peaks, which looked of no particular height till the ascent
began. Though the sun had scarcely set, yet, at such an elevation, the
air was more than chilly, and as the Baroness put on a warm shawl she
said, one could easily account for the fresh looks of the "sennerinnen,"
who spend the intensely hot months in so cool and healthful an
atmosphere; for the Alps are never scorched and dried up as elsewhere
during the summer. The Esterberg Alp, as it is called, consists of two
large tracts of rich meadow, green and fresh as in our own fertile land,
with a border of underwood straggling some distance up the mountain, and
whence at midday issue the clear sounds of the musical cow-bells, the
only signs of life in that wild, solitary spot.
They soon came in sight of a long low house, one-half of which was
devoted to the cows and the hay. The earth around was trodden down and
bare; a few flowers grew against the house-wall, and some milk-pans were
ranged along it to dry. The door was opened by a wild-looking man devoid
of shoes and coat; his long, shaggy hair looked as if it had never
experienced the kindly influence of a comb or brush. He had evidently
been roused from a heavy sleep, but soon understanding that they wished
to spend the night in the hut, he told them, in a most singular German