Beatrice Harraden.

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He was well known in the fiddle world ; and there were
few violinists coming from all parts of the Continent who
did not, whilst they were in London, seek him out and
bring him their sick instruments. Sometimes, if he were
in a sulky mood, he would shut the door in the face of the
most distinguished artists. But if they returned at a
more propitious moment, they invariably found that they
had not in vain reckoned on his amazing cleverness and
his anxious and, indeed, passionate concern.


So Riemer now reckoned on it. As they drove along,
he glanced at Paul from time to time, and noted that the
fiddle-mender's eyes were riveted on the Stradivari case
and saw nothing else no wonders, no mysteries of the
mountains, no glimpses of the snow-peaks, no glories of
the autumn tints : nothing except that wooden box in
which the wrecked violin lay in all its helplessness, awaiting
the healing touch of his deft hands.

Once or twice he spoke, half to himself.

" A fearful crack in the belly," he said, shaking his
head. " The worst I have ever seen."

" Yes," said poor Riemer, his thoughts leaping instantly
back from the beauty of the scenery to the memory of
his misfortune.

Paul frowned.

" No, it isn't the worst," he added sulkily. " You don't

Riemer made no comment, but sought refuge once
more in the moving clouds and changing visions around

" All the same," Paul said, after a long period of silence,
" I believe the tone can be saved. The crack does not
actually reach the sound post."

" No, I don't think it does," Riemer said eagerly.

Paul frowned.

" Yes, it does," he said still more sullenly. " You
don't know."

After this second rebuff, Riemer resisted all impulses
either to agree with or contradict Paul's intermittent
remarks. But his crisis of passive heroism occurred when
Paul suddenly leaned forward and proceeded to open the
violin case.

" I can't be sure about that crack," he muttered.

Riemer longed to help him, longed to take the Stradivari
in his own hands, longed to see for himself whether or not
that terrible crack did actually reach the region of the
sound post. But he did not move a muscle. He sat
patiently, pretending to be a detached person who had no
connection whatsoever with the tyrant by his side, nor
with that loved companion of many years lying on the


seat opposite. He looked steadfastly at the mist, which
was fading away and revealing yet another glistening
snow-peak. He was more than rewarded for his self-
control by Paul's next remark made after he had shut
the case.

" I have never disliked your playing," he said vaguely.
" I have never minded hearing you."

Riemer smiled. He knew that this statement from
Paul Stilling was the height of praise and signified that
he was in great favour, and that Paul was pleased to help

" Thank you, Paul," he said gravely.

Paul nodded and relapsed into himself again.

" The crack stops short of the sound post," he said,
after a long pause.

" Ah," remarked Riemer indifferently.

And he added :

" Do you know, I have never seen such beautiful colour-
ing in the mountains anywhere. These wonderful tints
of autumn fill my heart with rapture."

" I don't believe the tone will be ruined," Paul said,
with one of his radiant smiles. " I "

He broke off and whistled softly to himself.

A light came into Riemer's eyes. What did he hear ?
His Stradivari was not to lose its splendid tone. If
Paul believed this, it was probably true. The heaviness
of the violin-player's heart was dispelled, and he would
have fain have made the mountains echo with a shout
of gladness. He became indiscreet, and resolved to ask
Paul how long he would take to restore the Stradivari.

" Paul," he said eagerly, " how long do you think it
will be before "

He stopped suddenly, for Paul had ceased whistling,
and his face had darkened ominously with the suspicion
that Riemer was intruding on private preserves.

" Before we reach Mittenwald" Riemer finished, with
sudden inspiration.

The shade on the violin-mender's countenance passed
away as though by magic, and he just shook his head


"As if it mattered," he said cheerfully. " A stupid

" Yes, you are right." Riemer laughed, thankful to
have escaped from dangerous rocks. " Of course it doesn't
matter. The longer the better, so far as I am concerned."

But after this lesson of warning, he ventured on no more
probings. He watched the superb Karwendel group of
mountains disclosing themselves in all their glory : took
note of the flame-red colour of the mountain ash berries,
seen here in great profusion : revelled in the rich russet
carpet of the woods nestling against the lower hill slopes :
felt the invigorating air touch his nerves with buoyant
renewal : saw shadows and reflections of trees and peaks
in the lovely little marshy lake on the left-hand side of
the road ; and thus full of the comfort and strength which
Nature alone can give to those who love her, arrived with
his strange comrade at the fiddle village of Mittenwald.

They drew up at the Hotel zur Post. Before Riemer
had time to get out of the carriage and ring the bell, Paul,
whose face had become crafty and whose manner furtive,
seized his treasure and vanished from sight.


PAUL'S Mittenwald home was not in one of the grander
houses decorated on the front with brightly- coloured
pictures of saints, apostles and angels, or with paintings
of scenes and subjects both sacred and secular. Years
ago, when he was first brought to Mittenwald, so as to
live in the atmosphere of fiddle-making and perfect him-
self in the craft which was the one absorbing passion of
his whole being, he had been placed in the care of old
Mathias Hoffmann and his widowed daughter Justina.
They had been Paul's own choice. He had seen Mathias
working at a scroll, had sat down by his side in the humble
little cottage, and had never left him for hours, so enrap-
tured was he with the masterly and bold touch of the old
craftsman. Justina had put aside her task of varnishing
fiddles, and had made some fragrant coffee for them all,


on the green china stove in the corner. Then she had
produced some delicious Zwieback, at which Paul munched
delightedly, now nodding at her in approval, now following
with lynx eyes every movement of the old scroll-maker's
clever hand, and now darting up and examining the con-
dition of one of the fiddles which had just received from
her practised brush its fourth coat of varnish.

" Good, good, amazingly even good, good, amazingly
even ! " he said, laughing with pleasure. " Clever people.
Splendid coffee, too. And that scroll I must make a
scroll like that. And such biscuits. A very fine varnish ;
not too quick at soaking in, either. And that scroll. Yes,
I must make a scroll like that. I must begin now this

Just then Paul's people Robert, his step-brother and
Harriet, his wife found him in this cottage. They
had been searching for him everywhere, for he had slipped
away from the Hotel zur Post, where they had taken up
their quarters.

"Ah, Paul, here you are," Robert said gently, and
without any sign of anxiety or annoyance. " Now we
must all go together and find a home for you."

Paul looked up.

" A home ? " he asked simply. " But this is going to
be my home, isn't it ? "

" Is this where you would like to be, Paul ? " Harriet

" Why, of course," Paul answered, glancing in happy
confidence first at the old man and then at his daughter.
" Any person in his right senses knows at once where he
wants to be, doesn't he ? "

" Quite right, Paul," his brother said, concealing the
smile, half of amusement and half of respect, always called
forth by Paul's simple way of settling everything by a
leading idea divorced from detail. " Quite right. We'll
arrange it somehow."

So, in this wise, Paul had settled down in the scroll-
maker's cottage ; and when he was in Mittenwald, nothing
would have induced him to live anywhere except with
these friends, whom a true instinct told him he could


safely trust. That was many years ago now, but they
had never failed him ; and when he was away from them,
with his own people in London, they counted the days
until they should once more see him bending happily and
contentedly over his own bench near the green china
stove. Justina had learnt to know his queer ways almost
as well as she knew the mysteries of the art of varnishing ;
and if he were in one of his sullen, black moods, she waited
patiently, and, with watchful care, chose the right moment
and the right method for enlisting his help and interest.

" Paulchen," she would say, " this stubborn fiddle won't
take the varnish. I'm in despair about it."

" You're stupid that's what you are," Paul would
answer. " Here, give it to me. I'll see to it."

:< Yes," she said humbly, " I'm getting old old and

" Yes," he answered severely, " that's what's the matter
with you, Justina. There is nothing the matter with the

But he generally took over the task with which she
pretended to have failed ; and when she heard him whist-
ling softly to himself, she was satisfied that his dark hour
had passed.

This, then, was the home where Paul worked at Riemer's
Stradivari, whilst Riemer, like a wandering spirit for
which there is no rest, haunted the precincts of the cottage,
visited the violin factory, climbed the mountain paths,
strolled through the lovely woods. When he dared, and
when good, understanding Justina, who was exceedingly
sorry for him, signed to him that all was well, he stole
into the living-room, and sat by Paul's side, grateful even
for the concession of proximity.

" Come in," she said one morning. " Paulchen is very
kind to-day. And he even saved half of his coffee for you.
What do you think of that ? Doesn't that show he is
sorry for you ? And old father says it is wonderful what
he is doing. I, too, think it is wonderful. Now, come
in without fear, and drink your coffee."

Paul looked up when Riemer entered, and nodded to him.
The scroll-maker, who, although more than eighty years


old, still worked at his little bench, carving out the scrolls
for which he was famous in Mittenwald, looked up and
greeted Riemer.

" Ah, you've coma to see my new scroll," Mathias said,
his handsome face beaming with pride and pleasure.

" No, he hasn't come to see your scroll, Mathias," Paul
said sharply. " He has come to see my Stradivari. That
is what he has come to see. What else could he want to
see ? "

The old man shook his head.

" It's my scroll," he said quite firmly.

" You're both wrong," Justina remarked soothingly.
" He has come to help me with my varnishing. I need a
little help this morning, for I want to do some washing
yes, and to make more Zwieback. Paulchen was greedy,
and ate it all up in the night, except one bit."

" For Riemer," Paul said, recovering his good temper
at once. " And the coffee, Justina, for him, too. Then
he can do some of your varnishing."

It amused him vastly to think of Riemer. varnishing.
And he laughed happily and waved his tool in the air.

" What a good thing if more people did the varnishing
and fewer people the playing ! " he said merrily. " But
I've never disliked Riemer 's playing never."

They all laughed, and settled down together. They
made a picturesque group, which no one having once
seen could ever forget.

Thus, helped by Justina's tactful management of her
strange charge, Riemer was able, more or less, to follow
Paul's work of restoration ; and there were even times
when Paul, if he were in a good-natured mood, explained
what he thought of doing to the instrument, and prophesied
that it would, without any doubt, be finer than ever. On
other days, if he were sullen, he would cover it up with
his apron and refuse to let any human eye see it ; and
if he were depressed, he would keep on murmuring to
himself : " Never will it sing again never ! "

This phase usually heralded a temporary collapse. Paul
took to his bed and slept for a couple of days, awoke fresh
as a flower, happy, good-humoured, and ready to work


again on the fiddle, which they had not dared to take
away from his side.

" Listen," he said gaily, on the occasion of one of his
recoveries, as he munched an apple and returned to his
bench, " this fiddle, Mathias, is going to have a finer tone
than ever. I dreamt I heard it. Such a tone, Justina.
I wish Biemer could have heard it. But he could never
make it sound like that. Quite impossible. No one could."

" No one could if Herr Riemer couldn't, that's quite
certain," Justina said. " Ach, he has been playing to
us so beautifully, Paulchen. So kind he has been to us
and to the children. You would have laughed to see them
running after him. The children have danced to his
music, and the old people have wept to it."

" I have wept to it," the scroll-maker said. " Never
has such music been heard in Mittenwald."

" You ought to go and hear him this afternoon," Justina
urged, half to tease him, for she knew that he would not
stir from his bench to listen to anyone's fiddling. " Herr
Riemer has promised to play in the school-house again,
and everyone is going from the factory. They told me
so yesterday. I shall put away my work. Won't you ?
Won't you come with me ? "

Paul frowned and shook his head.

" I can't waste my time," he said severely. " Much
more important things than that in my life, Justina.
Concerts are all very well for idle people who have nothing
to do."

" What's that about concerts and idle people ? " Riemer
asked, coming in at that moment.

" Paulchen says that concerts are all very well for idle
people," Justina explained, with a smile oh her face.

" Well, let us hope that the idle people will always be
on the increase," Riemer said, laughing. " No idle people,
no audiences, no musicians, no instruments. No need in
the world for you or me, Paulchen. What a prospect
before us ! What a problem ! "

Paul looked worried. Then his face lit up. He had
solved the difficulty to his own satisfaction.

" There will always be idle people," he said, returning


to his work ; and after that no one could get a word out
of him. Riemer saw it was useless to linger in the hopes
of receiving attention of any description from Paulchen,
and had to be satisfied that his long spell of sleep was
over, and that he was once more at work on the Stradivari.

It was a trying time for Riemer, especially after the
first novelty of his life in Mittenwald had worn off ; but
he made the best of circumstances, and was determined
not to leave the village until the violin was rehabilitated
and once more in his possession.

It was torture to him not to possess it. It had been
his daily and intimate companion for more than fifteen
years ; and though he had other beautiful instruments, a
lovely Bergonzi and a superb Joseph Guarneri, it was
the wrecked Stradivari which was knitted to his soul and
interlaced with all those longings and aspirations, those
failures, those fulfilments of expression which are the artist's
true heritage. There were days when he felt that he could
have killed Paul, and carried off the violin in murderous
triumph, no matter what its impaired condition. But
when these fierce and primitive moods were past, he resigned
himself afresh to the bitter sacrifice of ownership for the
sake of his love's welfare. And no one seeing him roaming
quietly around the village, would have believed him to be
capable of the wild outbreaks of impatience and anger
to which he gave vent in secret.

The children certainly would not have believed it. He
loved children, and they knew it, and followed him fear-
lessly in his wanderings, until he began to look upon him-
self as the Pied Piper of Hamelin ; and one day, for fun's
sake, he played his fiddle out of doors, down this street,
and in front of the statue of Mathias Klotz, who had
first started the fiddle-making industry in Mittenwald,
and then up this turning, and down that, and so out of the
village in the direction of the mountains, with all the little
ones after him. A new audience for him, and the most
flatteringly exacting he had ever had. Encores number-
less, and no refusals taken ! No chance of bowing and

ing away into a safe retreat. There was no retreat,
'or that day he was the children's captive.


Thus he won their hearts and eased his own spirit.
But in spite of his good fellowship with everyone in the
village, he would have come off very badly if he had not,
at the onset, been inspired with a fine theme for a violin
concerto which he set himself to write as an offering to
his Stradivari. It was a labour of love as well as a real
consolation to him ; and he worked at it hour after hour,
and lived with it and in it. He wove into it the whole
history of the tragedy his despair, his relief, his hopes,
his wonder over Paul's skill, his gratitude, his longing and
loneliness, his anger, his impatience, his jealousy, his
remorse, his joy in the children, and " the sleep that is in
the starry skies, the rest that is among the hills."

He called it " The Mittenwald Concerto " ; and he had
made up his mind to play some of it to his little mountain
audience that afternoon in the school-house. When he
arrived there, he looked round and saw to his pleasure
that the whole village apparently had assembled to sup-
port him varnishers and fitters, scroll-makers, back- and
belly-makers, packers, bow-makers, old and young, men
and women, the priest, the mayor, the manager of the
factory, everyone except Paul.

He saw, with his mind's eye, that strange, fitful worker
bending over his bench, dead to every outside influence,
with brain, body, and spirit concentrated on the Stradivari.
And Riemer said to himself :

" Even although he is not here, I shall play to him.
Something may reach him. My gratitude, for instance
my real and deep gratitude and not my impatience."

Something did reach Paulchen after a time. Was it,
perhaps, that beautiful passage hi the Andante which em-
bodied praise and gratitude ? Anyway, he ceased work
and leaned back in his chair. He seemed pleased and
smiled radiantly. Then he frowned and shook his head
rather crossly, and returned to his task for a few moments.
He left off again, and glanced towards the door, a little
longingly, a little shamefacedly, perhaps. He half rose.
He stared sullenly at the green china stove.

" Why not ? " he murmured. " I have never disliked


He broke off and stole into the streets. He stood and
gazed around him. Everyone seemed to have vanished
off the face of the earth. No children were playing near
the statue of Mathias Klotz outside the church. No women
were fetching water from the fountain. Through the
windows of the cottages no figures of workmen were seen
bending over their benches. The fiddles themselves were
there, of course the backs, the bellies, the scrolls, the
pegs, the tailpieces, all of them integral parts of the life and
atmosphere, as permanent and characteristic as the great
Karwendel mountains dominating the village.

But this marked absence of the human element struck
a chill at Paul's heart. The realisation swept as an aval-
anche over him that he was alone, aloof, cut off by invisible
barriers from that world where people walked together,
did things together, were happy together. Why could
he not be of their number ? What was it that prevented
him, Paul, from sharing in the everyday affairs and interests
which knitted human beings together for better or for
worse ?

The question died in his brain at the moment of its
birth. The consciousness of the suffering passed, even
as it made itself felt. But the tense expression on Paul-
chen's face showed that, within that narrow boundary of
time, there had been space enough for a vision of eternity.

The last lingering trace of mental strain faded. Paul,
dead once more to the inner call of Riemer's music and
the secret cry of his own solitary spirit, returned to his
work. Old father, Justina, and Riemer found him there
as they had left him, and never knew that he had made
the attempt to reach them and failed.


ONE night, in the middle of the night, when everyone
was sleeping, Paul put the last touches to his work of
restoring the Stradivari, and gave vent to his joyfulness
and satisfaction in his own peculiar way. He left it on
the bench at first, surveyed it from a distance, then gradually
approached nearer to it, keeping his eye fixed on it as if


he were trying to mesmerise it. After a time he nodded,
and his face was wreathed in smiles. Very tender grew
the expression round his lips. A light came into his eyes.

"Mine," he murmured. "My own. No one else's."

He took it in his hands, tenderly, proudly, and turned
it over, whistling happily whilst he examined it. He raised
it into position under his chin, and with his bow arm
drew an imaginary bow over its strings. He tapped the
ground with his left foot, and marked time to some
imaginary music.

" Yes, yes, I knew it would be better than ever," he
said to himself. " Better than ever."

He clasped it to his breast.

"Mine," he murmured again. "Mine."

Suddenly he became fierce.

"No one else's," he said angrily. "Let there be no
mistake about that. Mine and mine only."

He stood thinking, and the fierceness of his mood faded
into furtiveness. He laughed softly.

"Ah," he said, "if they think they are going to find

He broke off, glanced stealthily round the room, listened
to make sure that no one was stirring, opened a drawer
where Justina kept his clothes, took out a flannel shirt
and wrapped the Stradivari in it, listened once more,
with his finger on his lips and a curious smile on his face,
stole on tiptoe to the door, unlatched it with unbelievable
noiselessness and fled from the village.

It was a lovely moonlight night, and the stars were
jewelling the heavens with unwonted resplendency. But
Paul had no eyes for the wonder of the scene spread before
him. His dominating idea at the moment was to hide
his treasure in some safe and secret spot at which no one
could possibly guess ; and he made his way in the direc-
tion of the Hussel Miihle, hurrying always as if he were
being pursued, yet careful of every step he took, lest he
might trip and wreck the precious instrument so lovingly
re-created by his hands.

" No one shall rob me of it," he said from time to time.
"The robbers will never find it never."


He crossed the Isar and began to ascend the path which
led to the Seinsgraben. The goal which he had in his mind,
was an old dark brown cow-house next to a disused fores-
ter's hut, about half an hour's stretch between the Sein-
graben and the Vereins Alpe. He went forward through
woods and over rough and rugged tracks, now disappearing
amongst the trees, now emerging into the moonlit vastness,
a solitary figure impelled by one thought symbolic, in
his aloofness, of all those driven forward by an overwhelm-
ing idea. He did not pause to rest and recover, and he
did not cast so much as a fleeting glance at the wild ravines
and the peaks of the Worner and Wetterstein flooded with
the silver splendour of the moon. He did not hear the
sound of the mountain torrent, nor heed the cry of a startled
bird speeding on a sudden flight. All he knew was that
here, in this solitary place, where he had the whole world
to himself, his Stradivari would be safe from prying eyes
and robbing hands.

At last he reached the hut where he used so often to
have his bowl of milk and his bit of cheese and black
bread with the forester and his wife. Frunde, the cow,
and Gemse, the sprightly young goat, had been on excellent
terms with him, and he was often able to coax them back
into the cowshed when every other power on earth seemed
to have failed. He made his way at once to the cowshed,
and laughed softly as he opened the door.

" Frunde's manger," he said. " It will be quite safe
in Frunde's manger. No one would dream of looking
there. Quite safe."

With smiling face he laid the fiddle, still carefully wrapped
in the flannel shirt, in the empty manger which had once
been Frunde's. After reflection, he added his own coat.
He rubbed his hands gleefully, and appeared intensely

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Online LibraryBeatrice HarradenThirteen all told → online text (page 6 of 23)