William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

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forms, in skies resplendent with brilliancy, trees whose every leaf
reflected the golden sunlight. No : his bruised heart sought
after gloom. The sombre interior of a cabaret, the orgies of rude



boors, or tlie gray sky of Flanders, its cliilly rain and muddy
roads — these were his favourite subjects.

" Work ! " repeated he to Paul Rembrandt, who, following
the custom of the artists of his time, had changed his name.
"Work!" he used to say, when, discouraged himself, he threw
aside his pencils and quitted his easel, overwhelmed by his
powerlessness to express in art what was in his soul and imagi-
nation — " work, Paul, for in thee my genius and my glory now
rest. I see no longer but with thee, and by thee I shall be
consoled for my obscurity, if thou attainest to fame ; thou wilt
be my work."

And the silent Paul, hid in the darkest and most solitary
corner of the studio, without answering his master, or speaking
to his comrades, or noticing their pictures, gave himself up with
passionate energy to the labours of his art. Being constantly
with the misanthrope Jacques, he had imbibed slowly, but in a
way that could not be effaced, the bitter ideas of his adopted
father. This deep melancholy and contempt of mankind sud-
denly increased ; and many were the tales told by the other stu-
dents, who were frozen by the haughty, almost rancorous reserve
of their comrade. The most probable version was, that despised
love gave to Rembrandt such enmity to mankind ; but whatever
the reason was, it was merely conjectured.

The grief which devoured Paul Rembrandt was a longing
after fame. His obscurity weighed him down. Like a mute
who despairs of expressing his idea, so Paul became enraged
when his skill in art failed to express his genius. W^hen he
had finished a painting, he brought it to his master, who looked
at the canvas long and earnestly. Then he would say to Paul
— " Child, you are stammering yet," and turn away without
saying a word more. Paul resisted his master's judgment, ac-
cused him of want of taste and justice; sometimes he even
hinted at jealousy, quitted the studio, remained days without
seeing Van Zwanenburg, and entered on some wild excursion.
Then he would return, and be seen to take his accustomed seat in
the studio and begin again.

Paul Rembrandt had finished a picture during a country
excursion. As usual, he came to show it to his master. It was
the interior of Paul's own birthplace ; the old house, with its
sombre courtyard and large gate, all represented with that
splendid effect of light and shade which Rembrandt alone seems
to have understood, for he employed it first, and none after him
could reproduce it.

This time Van Zwanenburg's gray eyes brightened up, his
hand trembled with joy: he was so moved, that he was obliged
to lay the picture down to dry his eyes, which were dimmed
with joyful tears. Then he took the painting again, and
silently examined it anew. Meanwhile Paul, breathless and
pale, watched his master, feeling indescribable pleasure at his




heaii;. Van Zwanenburg laid the picture gently on the easel ;
then he uncovered his bald, venerable head, and bent respect-
fully. " Master," said he, " it is no longer I who should rule
here, but you."

The pupils, surprised and moved by this solemn, touching scene,
gathered round Paul's picture, and congratulated him with an
eager joy, which would have softened any other person. But
Rembrandt, without answering or thanking them, always sad
and gloomy, went away to hide in some solitary place his deep
emotions, his triumph, and an indescribable feeling of mournful

" He has understood me," thought he ; " but will others think
like this old man ? When shall I receive in exchange for my
genius glory^ honours, and riches ? Oh, how agonising is this

Meanwhile Van Zwanenburg, having dismissed his pupils,
called Louise, who was deep in the cooking of a magnificent
goose, destined for the crowning dish of the morrow's banquet.
Louise entered the studio, and inquired of Jacques Van Zwanen-
burg why she was sent for. The old painter took her hand, and
led her before the picture. At first she was deeply moved at the
sight of the house where she was born ; then — already a little
initiated in the appreciation of art — thanks to the incessant con-
versations she heard on the subject — Louise showed the admira-
tion she felt for a w^ork so perfect. " My w^orthy friend," said
she, leaning on the old man's arm, " this time you need not tell
me that the cage restrains the eagle's wings — it has soared boldly
and high. This is your finest work ; it leaves all the former
ones far behind."

Jacques regarded her mournfully, and sighed. " This picture
is not mine, Louise, it is your brother's."

Tears of joy filled the young girl's eyes, and stole down her
cheeks in showers. Then she folded her hands, knelt dow^n,
and thanked God with a bursting fulness ^vhich penetrated the
chilled heart of the painter.

" I jealous of my son — of my pupil?" said he to himself. " No;
far from me be such a wicked thought !"

He put on his mantle, gave Paul's picture to a servant, and
departed immediately, without saying a word to any one of his
intentions, not even to Louise, who was seeking her brother
everywhere, to embrace and congratulate him. Paul did not
return until near bed-time. He retired immediately, when he
heard his door softly opened, and Louise entered, stepping care-
fully. " Sleepest thou Paul ?" she said gently.

" No ; but why come at such an hour ? What pressing affair
brings you ?"

She took both his hands in hers, and looked tenderly in his
face. " And thy picture, Paul : thou dost not, then, wish me to
congratulate thee f"



This time the gloomy Paul was unable to resist the emotions
which agitated him. " My sister, my good sister !" he cried,
di'awing her towards him ; "my sister, my mother T

Half of the nig'ht passed by in sweet confidence and love;
and when they separated, and Louise sought her own room, she
said at the end of her prayer that night — " I thank thee, O
my God, for having touched my brother's heart, and taken
pity on his sadness ; more still, for having chosen me to com-
ibrt him."

Alas ! next morning Paul had relapsed into his melancholy.



Van Zwanenburg had not said whither he was going to take
the picture of Paul, for he wished secretly to give him a greater
pleasure and success. There was at Leyden a rich picture-dealer,
and Van ZAvanenburg' desired that he should be the one to pur-
chase at a good price the picture of the young Rembrandt. Un-
fortunately, Eustache Massark, the broker, not knowing its value,
refused to take the work. This disagreeable intelligence was
brought to the old painter at the same moment when, thanks to
the communicative influence of wine, he was revealing to Paul
the mystery of his negotiation. " They shall pay thee well," he
was saying- : " they shall pay thee a hundred florins, not one
less ; and they shall not have it at all if they are hard to
please. There are dealers and connoisseurs at the Hague, and
there will we go. But see, here is Master Bronsmiche, whom
I desired to bring the answer of Master Eustache Massark.

" Well !" echoed Bronsmiche, hesitating.

" Speak, and speak loud ! Why this mystery ? Everybody
knows from whence thou comest. Speak, and quickly too ! "

" This Massark knows no more than my iron shoe," answered
Bronsmiche, pressed on all sides : " he will not give a hundred
florins for the picture."

" And pray what offers he 1 " asked Van Zwanenburg disdain-
fully. " How much offers this Master Massark, the picture

Bronsmiche bent down to the painter's ear.

" Speak aloud, you eternal mystery-monger, and give yourself
less importance. Well, go on ; this Massark offers "

" Nothing ! He will not have it at any price ; he would not
take it gratis. These are his own words."

The face of A^an Zwanenburg became scarlet. Paul Rem-
brandt, pale and agitated, forced himself to keep calm : some
pupils smiled : all cast down their eyes.



" Go and tell Massark that he is an idiot, an ignoramus, an
ass ! "

" My father, my father, be calm," stammered Paul ; and he
led away the old man, still loudly vociferating".

" This conceited Paul will fall sick with vexation," muttered
one of the pupils, while the two painters were leaving the

" Sick ! he will die of it, I am sure."

" Oh, I hope this little lesson will make him modest and

All rejoiced at Paul's humiliation, for Paul had humiliated
their self-love. Louise, absorbed in her own sorrows, only
learned these events by their consequences — that is to say, the
sudden illness of Van Zwanenburg". But when the old man had
sunk into a comfortable slumber, Louise re-entered her chamber,
and there sounded the depths of her own heart, and its bitter
wounds. Saturnin loved her not — him whom she loved with
her whole soul. The words of love which he had uttered were all
lies; he was deceiving- her; and it was Therese, her sister, who
joined with him in deluding a poor confiding, unsuspicious girl I
Well, if they had done so, they should suffer for their treason.
She would marry Saturnin ; true, she would be wretched, but
then he would be miserable also. She rose abruptly, walked
about, heedless of everything, breathless, disordered ; her chest
suffocated, her cheeks burning. All at once she stopped before
the portrait of her mother. Then she felt her heart melted, and
abundant tears solaced her.

"When the first rays of morning penetrated her little chamber,
they lit up the pale face of Louise, as she knelt with clasped
hands still in prayer. Then, brave and resolute, she arose and
sought Master Van Zwanenburg, who, though ill and sad, was
walking up and down the garden.

" Never, never I " he cried passionately, in reply to the first
words of Louise. " Nothing can persuade me to yield to your
solicitations I"

Louise was obliged to retire, her petition ungranted. It was
the first time in her life that such a thing had happened ; the
first time that ever Van Zwanenburg had addressed Louise in
this briisme, imperious tone. She had asked of him the hand of
Therese for Saturnin !

When the pupils of Van Zwanenburg arrived at the usual
hour, they could not understand the general confusion in the
artist's house. Every one appeared agitated ; the two servants
came and went, uncertain what they were about ; Louise was not
at her usual seat, from whence she was wont to bend her head in
salutation, without giving up her sewing; and Therese, above
all — the pretty Therese, who was always found lingering in
Saturnin's way — Therese was not in the studio, though she, as
well as her lover, used to invent five or six ingenious reasons for



gliding" in there. But what was most wonderful and unheard-of,
was, that deep silence reig-ned in the studio. The measured step
of Van Zwanenburg" no long-er struck the fir planks of the floor,
nor his dry coug-h, and the harsh reproofs of his scolding voice
command attention and diligence lo those young- scapegraces
who, chattering in groups, forgot their easels and pencils. Paul
Gerretz, or rather Rembrandt, as his fellow-pupils called him,
alone occupied his accustomed place, and laboured with his usual

A^an Zwanenburg" forgot his studio and his pupils, because the
love of Satumin and The'rese, which seemed ingratitude and
treason, had brought back in all its energy his old hatred of
mankind — hatred which had until now been calmed and lulled
entirely by the consolations of Louise, and the ineffable charm
shed around her. For seven years he had in vain continued
his bitter and sarcastic words ; this hatred and bitterness grew
daily more feeble in his heart. But the news of the guilty
love of these young people had opened afresh the ancient
wound of the painter; and the shock had caused a g-rief so
lively, that even the almost maternal self-devotion of Louise
was inefficacious to soften the violence of the blow. His
thoughts filled entirely with indig-nation and projects of future
punishment, embittered by the refusal of the broker Massark,
which wounded him, both as a painter and a friend, it was with
a sort of cruel joy that Van Zwanenburg" saw his nephew tra-
verse the corridor of the studio, seeking" with his eyes for the
absent Therese.

" You are not seeking me, but I am seeking" you," said the old
artist in a severe tone, and he conducted to the bottom of the
g-arden the poor young man, who was struck with a strange
fear. " You are a shopkeeper — nothing- but a vile shopkeeper I
By a foolish condescension I have suffered you to enter my
studio and my house at all hours ; I have treated you as my own
son ; I have sought your happiness, and wished to confide to you
what I have most precious, an angel, the model of affection and
virtue. Answer me ! — how have you repaid me for so many
benefits, ungrateful wretch?"

Saturnin started.

" Yes, ungrateful ! I repeat it — a vile and miserable wretch,
who deceives the adopted daughter of his friend and the sister of
his betrothed ; who would dishonour the one, and plunge the
other in sorrow. Listen to me, Saturnin ; between us two there
is henceforth nothing in common. I chase you from my house ;
I forbid you ever entering it. Madman that I am, to have for-
gotten tne cruel experience of my youth 1 Madman, to have
believed in the probity of a man 1 Begone ! and never more
appear in my presence ! "

Saturnin, thunderstruck, fell, feeble and suppliant, at the
knees of Van Zwanenburg. " Do not say such words ! I am



g'uilty, but my fault is not irreparable. Louise knows not my
fatal secret, and my whole life "

" Yes, you would deceive her ! — you would tell her you love
her ! Wretch ! thinkest thou she could be duped by thy cold-
hearted lies 1 — that her loviiig heart and clear-sig-hted affection
would not find out a disguise which could not last for ever ? Thy
fault is monstrous and irremediable. Thou mayest well repent
and despair. It is too late ! She knows all. Quit my presence
for ever ! " And the old man retired, agitated by deep emotion,
scarcely knowing what he did.

" Master Van Zwanenburg, listen to me. What ! — where are
you running to in that way ? I bring you good news," cried
old Bronsmiche, entering.

" Leave me ; I have no time to listen to you."

" But you will listen to me for a minute. Master Vanvou-
stoodt, the famous picture-broker at the Hague, is arrived at
Ley den."

" He is a fool, like Massark."

" No fool, truly ; for he has offered me one hundred florins for
Rembrandt's picture."

The figure of the old painter seemed to expand, and anger
vanished from his heart : he forgot all in his joy at his pupil's
success. He took the purse from the hand of Bronsmiche, ran
into the studio, and, without noticing that the room was deserted
by the other students, he poured out the gold pieces at the feet
of Paul. They rebounded and resounded on the floor with a won-
derful melody.

The eyes of Paul Rembrandt gleamed with joy, and he
stretched out his hands towards the gold ; but, restraining this
instinctive movement, he contented himself with gathering to-
gether the scattered pieces with his foot.

" Thanks, master," he said coldly, and then turned again to
his occupation. But it was vain : his hand trembled, his fore-
head burned, and his eyes turned furtively from the canvas to
that gold whose jingling had produced such an inexplicable sen-
sation on the young man's nerves. It was not the pleasures, not
the comforts, which this gold would procure that agitated him
so much. No ; it was a kind of mournful joy, a sudden instinct
revealed in him, like that of a young tiger nourished with milk,
whose instinct is discovered all at once at the sight of living
prey. But for the presence of Van Zwanenburg, Paul would
have risen, have bathed his very hands, as it were, in the gold,
have kissed it, and carried it secretly to stow it away under a
treble lock, that he might possess it in safety, occupy himself
with it without ceasing, and, in the fear of losing it, guard it as
one would guard his honour, his life, his soul.

But there was a witness present, and Rembrandt did violence
to himself, and restrained the impetuous movements which almost
suffocated him. He remained apparently calm and passive.



"Mycliild, my child, how thou disdainest gold!" cried Van
Zwanenburg-, putting- the florins back into the purse. " I will
go and see if Louise is as regardless of them." And with childish
joy he ran into the apartment of Louise. Seeing her pale and
exhausted, he remembered all, and stopped short. Louise tried
to smile, but her tears burst forth, and she hid her face in the
bosom of the old man.

" Come," said she at last, drying her tears, " all this is weak-
ness. Let us see what good news do you bring. A purse
full of gold ! — the price of Paul's picture. I see that in your
eyes. How content, how happy I am." A cold shudder
passed over her ; she smiled — but what a sad smile to see ! She
felt suffocating, and opened her little window to breathe more
at ease.

" My father," said she, when she was a little recovered, " you
see I am strong and resigned now. Do not, instead of one,
make three persons unhappy. Consent to Saturnin's union with
Therese — with Therese, whose mother I ought to be."

" Do as you will, Louise. You are so noble, so saint-like, I
cannot but reverence and admire you."

" Well, then, while I go to prepare Therese, you, my father,
go and seek Saturnin, and bring him hither." Van Zwanenburg

When Louise entered her sister's chamber, Therese was leaning
on a table, her face covered with her hands, overwhelmed with
the deepest sadness. Louise came softly, and sat down by her

"My child," said she, " why this sadness? why this trouble?"

Therese sobbed, and cast down her ej^es.

" Have you no more confidence in me ? Am I no longer your
sister — your mother?"

" Have I given you reason to doubt my love and gratitude?"
said Therese with harshness, for trouble embittered her.

Louise took her sister's hand. " The'rese, our adopted father
wishes my marriage, as you know."

"Yes, I know and I rejoice at this marriage." What joy!
Her white and convulsed lips could scarcely articulate the

" I have reflected much on this project," said Louise, " and I
fear it will give neither me nor Saturnin happiness."

Therese looked at her with an incredulous air.

" Master Van Zwanenburg is accustomed to my cares ; Paul,
our brother, with his artist-like apathy and severe disposition,

claims them equally ; for myself " She wished to say that

this union would be joyless to her, but she could not utter such
words ; her voice failed her — " I have formed other plans,

Therese listened earnestly. ■

" These plans concern thee a little, Therese."



"Me, Louise?"

" Yes, thee, my child. If I do not marry Satumin, why
should thou not marry him 1 "

" My sister, my sister, do not tell me this ; you will kill me,"
cried Therese, falling on her knees before her sister.

"Be calm, my child, and listen to my words. Thou wilt be
the wife of Saturnin."

" No, no, that is impossible ; I would not accept such a sacri-
fice. You love Saturnin. No — I cannot, my sister; I cannot
do it."

At this moment Van Zwanenburg" appeared with Saturnin.
Louise beckoned him to advance beside Therese ; and whilst the
two lovers, their hands clasped in each other's, looked in one an-
other's eyes, with tears and smiles, Louise said in deep emotion,
" May they be happy ! "

The old artist regarded her with admiration, mingled with
pity. " My daughter, my child," murmured he, stretching out
his hand towards her. She gave him hers ; it was damp and
cold : he pressed it long and affectionately.

" Oh my God ! " thought he, " forgive me for having doubted
the existence of virtue ! "



We must now pass by twenty years — a space of time which
appears an eternity in the future, a dream in the past. During
this period two mournful events had troubled the heart of
Louise, and brought anxiety to her calm and resigned life — the
death of Van Zwanenburg, and the marriage of Paul Rem-
brandt. The death of the old painter happened six years after,
the marriage of Therese and Saturnin. He had been to visit
them with Louise — Louise, who found in their happiness the
reward of her courageous self-devotion, when time, the softener
of all griefs, had changed her sadness into a gentle melan-
choly. After dinner, Van Zwanenburg took his accustomed
sleep. When they came to awaken him he was dead. He
passed thus peaceably from time to eternity without pain or

The marriage of Hembrandt happened soon after, and made
the condition of Louise still more desolate. One fine morning
Paul led into the house where Louise ruled a young and pretty
peasant girl. " Sister," said he, " behold my wife." And Louise
had soon a jealous and formidable rival in her household cares,
and in the affection of her brother.

After three years of patience, Louise quitted, with sorrow, the
house of Rembrandt, to live alone in a small house which she
had purchased near the most solitary part of Leyden. Prayer,



occupation of various kinds, and frequent visits to Satumin
and Therese, filled up her time, and she bore with resig-nation
the lengthened void of her days. After this, Rembrandt sud-
denly quitted Leyden, without taking- leave of Louise — 'with-
out embracing her — and went to dwell in Amsterdam, where he
remained seventeen years, without once writing to his sister.
After this long* term of forgetfulness and injustice, Louise one
da}'^ received a letter, the writing- of which made her heart

" Sister, my wife is dead — ^my son is travelling — I am alone —

Paul Rembrandt."

Next morning" Louise, having embraced her sister and brother-
in-law, set off to Amsterdam. The carriage arrived there at
nightfall. Having" passed thi'ough the richest and most ele-
gant quarters of the town, it turned towards dark wet streets,
mostly inhabited by Jews. At the end of one of these stood a
dark and gloomy-looking house, before which was a wall of ten
or twelve feet, pierced by one httle door, through which a man
could not pass without stooping. This door led to a court,
guarded by two enormous mastilfs, chained at the foot of a flight
of stone steps. On the steps was an old man of an unpleasant
figure, who might have been taken for a Jew merchant. It was

His sister could scarcely recognise him ; and Paul, cold and
sombre as in youth, received the tender caresses of Louise, not
with indifference, but with sadness. Then he took her by the
hand and conducted her silently through the house, whose po-
verty-stricken appearance could not but discourage her. This
visit terminated, he led Louise towards an apartment not less
repulsive, on the hearth of which peat was burning, without
flame, but with a strong and impleasant odour. Taking an arm-
chair, he offered it to Louise, and sat down himself in front of

"Sister," said he, "have you courage to inhabit this melan-
choly house ? to live here alone with me ? to receive no visits but
from Jews and silver-merchants ? Sister, do you feel that you
have sufficient courage for this?"

" ]My brother, if I can render you happy "

" Happy ! — me ?" answered Rembrandt — "happy ! Do you think
there is any happiness for the man who beheved but in gold ? for
the man who has seen all his illusions vanish 1 I have loved
glory, and have found but distaste beneath my fame ; for I have
never felt the joys of triumph, but all the bitterness of jealousy
and hatred. Love ! — I have loved once in my life. I said to
myself she is poor, without education, without family ; she will
owe all to me, and through gratitude she will give me happiness
— that old fool Van Zwanenburg suffered me to believe in grati-
tude. Once in my house, the humble peasant -girl became



haughty: she commanded, overturned, disposed everything*.
She vexed me, opposed me, answered my orders with menaces,
my threats with insults ; in short, she made my life a hell. My

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 44 of 59)