HE did not move the hills and the rocks with his music, because those days are passed away,—the days when Orpheus had all Nature for his audience, when the audience would not keep its seat. In those days trees and rocks may have held less firm root in the soil: it was nearer the old Chaos-times, and they had not lost the habit of the whirling dance. The trees had not found their “continental” home, and the rocks were not yet wedded to their places: so they could each enjoy one more bachelor-dance before settling into their staid vegetable and mineral domestic happiness.
Our musician had no power, then, to move them from their place of ages: he did not stir them as much as the morning and evening breezes among the leaves, or the streams trickling down among the great rocks and wearing their way over precipices. But he moved men and women, of all natures and feelings. He could translate Bach and Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Mozart, — all the great poetmusicians that are silent now, and must be listened to through an interpreter. All the great people and all the little people came to hear him. A princess fell in love with him. She would have married him. She did everything but ask him to marry her. Indeed, some of his friends declared she did this ; but that cannot be believed.
“ You ought to be satisfied,” said one of his friends to the musician, one day ; “ all the world admires you; money drops from the keys of your piano-forte; and a princess is in love with you.”
“ With me ? ” answered the musician; “ with my music, perhaps. You talk nonsense, when you talk of her falling in love with me, of her marrying a poor musician. What then ? To have one instrument more in her palace ! Let her marry her piano-forte,—or her violin, if she objects to a quadruped ! ”
“ You are as blind as Homer,” said his friend. “ Can’t you see that her love is purely personal ? Would she care to give a title to a pianist, if he were any other than Arnold Wulff? If you had other eyes in your head, or if there were another man inside even that same face of yours, the strains might flow out under your fingers like streams from Paradise, in vain, so far as her heart was concerned. Your voice is quite as persuasive as your music, with her.”
“ If so, why must she put a title in front of my name, before I am worthy of her ? ” asked Arnold. “ She offers me some square miles of uninhabitable forest, because, as owner of them, I can wear a Von before my name. I can put it on as an actor on the stage wears a chapeau of the Quatorze time. It is one of the properties of the establishment. You may call it a livery of the palace, if you please. I may make love to her on the stage as ‘ My Lord.’ But my own little meagre part of Arnold, — thank you, I prefer it, without my princess.”
“ And yet, if you have the palace, a princess is necessary. With your love of harmony, you yourself would not be pleased to see a cotton dress hanging across a damask couch, or rude manners interrupt a stately dinner. The sound of the titles clangs well as you are ushered up through the redoubled apartments. If the play is in the Quatorze time, let it be played out. A princess deserves at least a lord for a husband.”
“ Very well, if the question is of marriage,” answered Arnold; “but in love, a woman loves a man, not a title; and if a woman marries as she loves, she marries the man, not the lordship.”
“But this is a true princess,” said his friend Carl.
“ And a true princess,” answered Arnold, “ feels the peas under ever so many mattresses. She would not fall in love with a false lord, or degrade herself by marrying her scullion. But if she is a true princess, she sees what is lordly in her subject. If she loves him, already he is above her in station, — she looks up to him as her ideal. Whatever we love is above self. We pay unconscious homage to the object of our love. Already it becomes our lord or princess.”
“ I don’t see, then,” said Carl, “ but that you are putting unnecessary peas in your shoes. It is this princeliness that your princess has discovered in you; aud the titles she would give you are the signs of it, that she wishes you to wear before the world.”
“ And they never will make me lord or prince, since I am not born such,” answered Arnold. “If I were born such, I would make the title grand and holy, so that men should see I was indeed prince and lord as well as man. As it is, I feel myself greater than either, and born to rule higher things. It would cramp me to put on a dignity for which I was not created. Already I am cramped by the circumstances out of which I was born. I cannot express strains of music that I hear in my highest dreams, because my powers are weak, and fail me as often the strings of my instrument fail my fingers. To put on any of the conventionalities of life, any of its honors, oven the loves of life, would be to put on so many constraints the more.”
“ That is because you have never loved,” said Carl.
“That may be,” said Arnold, — “because I have never loved anything but music. Still that does not satisfy me,— it scarcely gives me joy ; it gives me only longing, and oftener despair. I listen to it alone, in secret, until I am driven by a strange desire to express it to a great world. Then, for a few moments, the praise and flattery of crowds delight and exalt me,—but only to let me fall back into greater despair, into remorse that I have allowed the glorious art of music to serve me as a cup of self exaltation.”
“ You, Arnold, so unmoved by applause ? ” said Carl.
“ It is only an outside coldness,” answered Arnold ; “ the applause heats me, excites me, till a moment when I grow to hate it. The flatteries of a princess and her imitating train turn my head, till an old choral strain, or a clutch that my good angel gives me, a welling-up of my own genius in my heart, comes to draw me back, to cool me, to taunt me as traitor, to rend me with the thought that in self I have utterly forgotten myself, my highest self.”
“ These are the frenzies with which one has to pay for the gift of genius,” said Carl. “ A cool temperament balances all that. If one enjoys coolly, one suffers as coolly. Take these fits of despair as the reverse side of your fate. She offers you by way of balance cups of joy and pleasure and success, of which we commonplace mortals scarcely taste a drop. When my peasant - maiden Rosa gives me a smile, I am at the summit of bliss; but my bliss-mountain is not so high that I fear a fall from it. If it were the princess that gladdened me so, I should expect a tumble into the ravine now and then, and would not mind the bard scramble up again, to reach the reward at the top.”
“ It would not be worth the pains,” said Arnold; “ a princess’s smiles are not worth more than a peasant-girl’s. I am tired of it all. I am going to find another world. I am going to England.”
“ You are foolish,” answered Carl. “ The world is no different there; there is as little heart in England as in Germany, — no more or less. You are just touching success here ; do give it a good grasp.”
“ I am cloyed with it already,” said Arnold.
“ It is not that,” said Carl. “ You are a child crying for the moon. You would have your cake and eat it too. You want some one who shall love you, you alone, — who shall have no other thought but yours, no other dream than of you. Yet you are jealous for your music. If that is not loved as warmly, you begin to suspect your lover. It is the old proverb, ‘Love me, love my dog.’ But if your dog is petted too much, if we dream in last night’s strains of music, forget you a moment in the world you have lifted us into, — why, then your back is turned directly; you upbraid us with following you for the sake of the music, — we have no personal love of you, — you are the violin or the fiddlestick ! ”
“ You are right, old Carl,” said Arnold. “ I am all out of tune myself. I have not set my inward life into harmony with the world outside. It is true, at times I impress a great audience, make its feelings sway with mine; but, alas! it does not impress me in return. There is a little foolish joy at what you call success ; but it lasts such a few minutes! I want to have the world move me; I do not care to move the world ! ”
“ And will England move you more than Germany ? ” asked Carl; “ will the hearts of a new place touch you more than those of home ? The closer you draw to a man, the better you can read his heart, and learn that he has a heart. It is not the number of friends that gives us pleasure, but the warmth of the few.”
“ In music I find my real life,” Arnold went on, “ because in music I forget myself. Is music, then, an unreal life? In real life must self always be uppermost ? It is so with me. In the world, with people, I am self-conscious. It is only in music that I am lifted above myself. When I am not living in that, I need activity, restlessness, change. This is why I must go away. Here I can easily be persuaded to become a conceited fool, a flattered hanger-on of a court.”
We need scarcely tell of the musician’s career in England, We are already familiar with London fashionable life. We have had life-histories, three volumes at a time, that have taken us into the very houses, told us of all the domestic quarrels, some already healed, some still pending. It is easy to imagine of whom the world was composed that crowded the concerts of the celebrated musician. The Pendennises were there, and the Newcomes, Jane Rochester with her blind husband, a young Lord St. Orville with one of the Great-Grand-Children of the Abbey, Mr. Thornton and Margaret Thornton, a number of semi-attached couples, Lady Lufton and her son, the De Joinvilles visiting the Osbornes, from France, Miss Dudleigh and Sarona, Alton Locke, on a visit home, Signor and Signora Mancini, sad-eyed Rachel Leslie with her young brother, a stately descendant of Sir Charles Grandison, the Royal Family, and all the nobility. When everybody went,—every one fortunate enough to get a ticket and a seat in the crowded hall, — it would be invidious to mention names. It was the fashion to go ; and so everybody went who was in the fashion. Then of course the unfasluonables went, that it might not be supposed they were of that class ; and with these, all those who truly loved music were obliged to contend for a place. Fashion was on the side of music, till it got the audience fairly into the hall and in their scats; and then music had to struggle with fashion. It had to fix and melt the wandering eyes, to tug at the worldly and the stony heart. And here it was that Arnold’s music won the victory. The ravishing bonnet of Madam This or That no longer distracted the attention of its envying admirers, or of its owner; the numerous flirtations that had been thought quite worth the price of the ticket, and of the crushed flounces, died away for a few moments ; the dissatisfaction of the many who discovered themselves too late in inconspicuous seats was drowned in the deeper and sadder unrest that the music awakened. For the music spoke separately to each heart, roused up the secrets hidden there, fanned dying hopes or silent longings. It made the lighthearted lighter in heart, the light-minded heavy in soul. Where there was a glimpse of heaven, it opened the heavens wider; where there was already hell, it made the abysses gape deeper. For those few moments each soul communed with itself, and met with a shuddering there, or an exaltation, as the case might be.
After those few moments, outside life resumed its sway. Buzzing talk swept out the memory of the music. One song from an opera brought thought back to its usual level. Men and women looked at each other through their opera-glasses, and, bringing distant outside life close to them, fancied themselves in near communion with it. The intimacy of the opera-glass was warm enough to suit them,—so very near at one moment, comfortably distant at the next. It was an intimacy that could have no return, nor demanded it. One could study the smile on the lip of one of these neighbors, even the tear in her eye, with one’s own face unmoved, an answer of sympathy impossible, not required. Nevertheless, the music had stirred, had excited ; and the warmth it had awakened was often transferred to the man who had kindled it. The true lovers of music could not express their joy and were silent, while these others surrounded Arnold with their flatteries and adoration.
He was soon wearied of this.
“ I am going to America, to a new world,” he said to his friend; “ there must be some variety there.”
“ Perhaps so,” said Carl, — “ something new, something that is neither man nor woman, since they cannot satisfy you. Still I fancy you will find nothing higher than men and women.”
“ A new land must develop men and women in a new way,” answered Arnold.
“ If you would only look at things in my microscopic way,” said Carl, “ and examine into one man or one woman, you would not need all this travelling. But I will go as far as New York with you.”
At New York the name of the musician had already awakened the same excitement as in other places; the concertroom was crowded; there was the same rush for places; the prices paid for the tickets seemed here even more fabulous. Arnold was more of a lion than ever. His life was filled with receptions, dinners, and evening parties, or with parlor and evening concerts. His dreamy, poetic face, his distant, abstracted manner, proved as fascinating as his music.
Carl tired of the whirl, and the adoration, of which he had his share.
“ I shall go back to Germany,” he said. “ I shall go to my Rosa, and leave you your world.”
“ I am tired of my world. I shall go to the Far West,” said Arnold, when Carl left him.
One day he went to a matinee at one of the finest and most fashionable houses in the place. There were beautiful women elegantly dressed, very exquisite men walking up and down the magnificently furnished drawing-rooms. The air was subdued, the voices were low, the wit was quiet, the motion was full of repose, the repose breathed grace. Arnold seated himself at the Steinway, at the half-expressed request of the hostess, and partly from the suggestions of his own mood. He began with dreamy music ; it was heavy with odors, at first, drugged with sense, then spiritualizing into strange, delicate fancies. Then came strength with a sonata of Beethoven’s ; then the strains died back again into a song singing without words.
“ You would like some dance-music now,” said Arnold to the beautiful Caroline, who stood by his side. “ Shall I play some music that will make everybody dance ?”
“ Like the music in the fairy-tale,” said Caroline; “ oh, I should like that! I often hear such dance-music, that sets me stirring; it seems as if it ought to move old and young.”
“ There are no old people here,” said Arnold. “ I have not seen any.”
“It seems to me there are no young,” answered Caroline.
“ There are neither young nor old,” said Arnold ; “ that is the trouble.”
But he began to play a soft, dreamy waltz. It was full of bewitching invitation. No one could resist it. It passed into a wild, stirring polka, into a maddening galop, back again to a dreamy waltz. Now it was dizzying, whirling; now it was languishing, full of repose. Now it was the burst and clangor of a full orchestra ; now it was the bewitching appeal of a single voice that invited to dance. Up and down the long room, across the broad room, the dancers moved. The room, that had been so foil of quiet, was swaying with motion.
Caroline seized hold of the back of a chair to stay herself.
“ It whirls me on ; how dizzying it is ! And you, would you not like to join in the dance'? I would be your partner.”
“ The piano is my partner,” answered Arnold. “ Do you not see how it whirls with me ? ”
“ Yes, everything moves,” said Caroline. “ Are Cupid and Psyche coming to join us ? Will my great-grand-aunt come down to the waltz in her brocade ? My sober cousin, and Marie, who gave up dancing long ago, — they are all carried away. It seems to me like the strange dance of a Walpurgis night,— as though I saw ghosts, and demons too, whirling over the Brocken, across wild forests. It is no longer our gilded drawing-room, with its tapestries, its bijouterie, its sound and light both muffled : we are out in the wild tempest; there are sighing pines, dashing waterfalls. Do you know that is where your music carries me always ? Whether it is grave or gay, it takes me out into whirling winds, and tosses me in tempests. They call society gay here, and dizzying, — dance and music, show, excess, following each other; but it is all sleep, Lethe, in comparison with the mad world into which your music whirls me. Oh, stop a moment, Arnold ! will you not stop ? It is too wild and maddening ! ”
The strains crashed into discord, crashed into harmony, and then there was a wonderful silence. The dancers were suddenly stilled, — looked at each other with flushed cheek, — would have greeted each other, as if they had just met in a foreign land; but they recovered themselves in time. Nothing unconventional was said or done.
“ Did I dance ? ” Marie asked herself, — “ or was I only looking on ? ”
One of the dancers scarcely dared to look round, lest it should prove to be the great - grand - aunt’s brocade that she heard rustle behind her; while another thanked her partner for a chair, with eyes cast down, lest it might be Cupid that offered it. But the room was the same; there was an elegant calm over everything. Tea-poys, light chairs, fragile vases have been undisturbed by crinoline even.
“ Are you quite sure this Chinese joss was on this table, when the music began ? ” asked Marie’s companion of her, whisperingly.
“ Qh, hush, you don’t think that danced, do you ? ” said Marie, with a shudder.
“ I hardly know. I think the musician was on this side of the room a little while ago, piano and all.”
“ Don’t talk so,” replied Marie. “ They are all going now. I am glad of it. You will be at the opera to-night ? I must say I like opera-music better than this wild German stuff that sets one’s brain whirling ! ”
“ Heels, too, I should say,” said her companion ; and they took their leave with the rest.
The next afternoon Arnold was sitting in his room with the windows open. It was an early spring day, when the outer air was breathing of summer. He was thinking of how the beautiful, cold Caroline had spoken to him the day before,— of that wild, appealing tone with which she had called him Arnold. Before, always, she had given him no more than the greeting of an acquaintance. Now, the tone in which she had spoken took a significance. As he was questioning it, recalling it, he suddenly heard his own name called most earnestly and appealingly. There was a softness, and an agony too, in its piercing tone, as if it came straight from the heart. “ Arnold ! come, come back ! ” He hurried to the window, wondering if he were under the influence of some dream. He looked down, and found himself a witness to a scene that he could not interrupt, because he could not help, and a sudden word might create danger. It passed very quickly, though it would take many words to describe it. A piazza led across the windows of the story below, to a projecting part of the building, the sloping roof of which it touched. At the other end of the sloping roof, where it met an alley-way that opened upon a street beyond, there was a little child leaning over to look at some soldiers that were passing through the street across the alley. He was supporting himself, by an iron wire that served as a lightning-rod. Already it was bending beneath his wgight; and in his eagerness he was forgetting his slippery footing, and the dizzy height of thirty feet, over which he was hanging. He was a little three year-old fellow, too, and probably never knew anything about danger. His mother had always screamed as loudly when he fell from a footstool as when she had seen him leaning from a threestory window.
The voice came from a girl, who, at the moment Arnold came to the window, was crossing the iron palisade of the piazza. She was on the slippery, sloping leads as she repeated the cry, in a tone earnest and thrilling,— “ Dear Arnold, come in, only come, and George shall take you to the soldiers.”
The boy only gave another start of pleasure, that seemed to loosen still more his support, crying out, “ The drummer ! Cousin Laura, come, see the drummer ! ”
But Laura kept her way along the edge of the roof, reached the child, seized him, and walked back across the perilous slope with the struggling boy in her arms. Arnold the musician had noticed, even in her hurrying, dangerous passage towards the child, the rich sunny folds of her hair, golden like a German girl’s. Now, as she returned, he saw the soft lines of her terror-moved face, and the deep blue of her wide-opened eyes. Her voice changed as she reached the piazza, and set the child down in safety.
“ Oh, Arnold, darling, how could you, how could you frighten me so ? ”
The child began to cry, because it was reproved, because its pleasure was stopped, and because Cousin Laura, pale and white, held to the railing of the piazza for support. But the mamma came out, Laura was lifted in, the boy was scolded, the windows were shut, and there was the end.
Arnold sat by the window, thinking. The thrilling tones of the voice still rang in his ear, as though they were calling upon him, “ Arnold, come, come back ! ”
“ If any voice would speak to me in that tone ! ” he thought; “ if such a voice would call upon my name with all that heart in its depths ! ”
And he compared it with the tone in which Caroline had appealed to him the day before. Sometimes her voice assumed the same earnestness, and he felt as if she were showing him in the words all her own heart, betraying love, warmth, ardor. Sometimes, in comparison with that cry, her tones seemed cold and metallic, a selfish appeal of danger, not a cry of love. He found himself examining her more nearly than he had ever done before.
“ Was she more than outwardly beautiful ? Was there any warmth beneath that cold manner? Could she warm as well as shine ? ”
He remembered that she had often complained to him of her longing for sympathy; she had spoken to him of the coldness of the world, of the heartlessness of society. She had envied him his genius, — the musical talent that made him independent of the world, of the love of men and women. He could never appreciate what it was to he alone in the world, to find one’s higher feelings misunderstood, to be obliged to pass from one gayety to another, to be dissatisfied with the superficiality of life, and yet to find no relief; —all this she had said to him.
But why was it so with her ? She had a very substantial father and mother, who seemed to devote themselves to her wishes,— some younger brothers, — he had seen them pushed from the drawingroom the day of the matinee, — a sister near her age, not yet out. Caroline had apologized for her sister’s crying while listening to his music. “ She was unsophisticated still, and had not forgotten her boarding-school nonsense.” Then, if Caroline did not enjoy city-life, there was a house in the country to which she might have gone early in the spring. She had, too, her friend Marie. She imparted to him some of Marie’s confidences, her sad history ; Marie must be enough of a friend to be trusted in return. In short, Caroline’s manner had always been so conventional and unimpulsive, that these complaints of life had seemed to him a part of her society-tone, as easily taken on and off as her bonnet or her paletot. They suited the enthusiasm that was necessary with music, and would be forgotten in her talk with Mr. Gresham the banker.
But she had called him by his own name : that bad moved him. And now that another voice had given the words a tone he had not before detected in them, he began to question their meaning. Could Caroline put as much heart into her voice as this golden-haired Laura had shown ? Could Caroline have exposed herself to danger as that girl had done ? Perhaps any woman would have done it. Perhaps the princess would have ventured so, to save a child’s life. Would he have ventured to do it himself? It could not have been a pleasant thing to walk on a pointed roof, with some half-broken spikes to catch one, in case of missing one’s footing, or escaping the fall of thirty feet below. And that little frightened-looking, timid Laura, if he could only see her again !
He questioned whether this were not a possible thing. He had formed a slight acquaintance with Mrs. Ashton, who was occupying the rooms below; he had met her on the stairs, had exchanged some words with her. It struck him it would be a proper thing to offer her some tickets to his next concert. At this moment he was interrupted, was summoned away, and he deferred his intention until the next day.
The next day he presented himself at the door of Mrs. Ashton’s parlor. She invited him to come in, cordially, and he was presented to her niece, who sat in the window with her work. Laura scarcely looked up as he entered, and went on with her crochet.
Presently Arnold opened his business.
“ Would Mrs. Ashton accept some tickets for his concert that evening ? ”
Mrs. Ashton looked pleased, thought him very kind.
Arnold took out the tickets for herself, for Mr. Asbtou. lie offered another.
“ Would her niece be pleased to go? would Miss ”-
Laura looked up from her work and hesitated.
“ She was much obliged, she did n’t know, but she had promised her cousin to go to the theatre with him.”
Mrs. Ashton, thinking the musician looked displeased, attempted to explain.
“ Laura was not very fond of music. She did not like concerts very well. She seldom came to New York, and the theatre was a new thing to her.”
“ I do not wonder,” said Arnold, withdrawing his ticket. “ I sympathize with Mademoiselle in her love for the theatre ; and concert-music is but poor stuff. If one finds a glimpse there of a higher style, a higher art, it is driven away directly by the recurrence of something trifling and frivolous.”
Mrs. Ashton did not agree with the musician. She could not understand why Laura did not like concerts. For herself, she liked the variety : the singing relieved the piano, and one thing helped another.
Arnold looked towards Laura for a contradiction ; he wanted to hear her defence of her philosophy, for he was convinced she had some in not liking music. To him every one had expressed a fondness for music; and it was-a rarity, an originality, to find some one who confessed she did not like it.
But Laura did not seem inclined to reply; she was counting the stitches in her crochet. In the silence, Arnold took his leave.
He had no sooner reached his own room than he reproached himself for his sudden retreat. Why had he not stayed, and tried to persuade the young lady to change her mind ? An engagement for the theatre with a cousin might have been easily postponed. And he would like to have made her listen to some of his music. He would have compelled her to listen. He would have played something that would have stirred all the audience; but for her, it would have been like taking her back to her peril of the day before,—she should have lived over again all its self-exaltation, all its triumph.
Laura meanwhile had laid down her work. .
“ I was stupid,” she said, “ not to take that ticket.”
“ I think you were,” said her aunt, “ when we know so many people who would give their skins for a ticket.”
“ It is not that,” said Laura; “ but I did n’t want to go, till I saw the ticket going out of my grasp. I have always had such dreary associations with concerts, since those I went to with Janet, last spring,—long, dreary pieces that I could n’t understand, interrupted by Italian songs that had more scream in them than music, and Janet flirting with her friends all the time.”
“ I knew you did n’t like music,” said her aunt; “ that was the only way I could get you out of the scrape, for it did seem impolite to refuse the ticket. Of course an engagement to the theatre appeared a mere excuse, as long as Laura Keene plays every night now.”
“ It was not a mere excuse with me,” said Laura; “ I did not fancy the exchange. But now I think I should like to know what his music is. I wonder if it is at all like mine.”
“ The music you make on the little old piano at home ? ” asked Mrs. Ashton ; “ that is sweet enough in that room, but I fancy it is different from his music.”
“ Oh, I don’t mean that,” said Laura; “ it is because the piano seems to say so little, that I care so little for it. The music I mean is what I hear, when, in a summer’s afternoon, I carry my book out into the barn to read as I lie on a bed of hay. I don’t read, but I listen. The cooing of the doves, the clatter even of the fowls in the barn-yard, the quiet noises, with the whisperings of the great elm, and the rustling of the brook in the field beyond,—all this is the music I like to hear. It puts me into delicious dreams, and stirs me, too, into strange longing.”
“ Well, I doubt if our great musician can do all that. Anyhow, he would n’t bring in the hens and chickens,” laughed Mrs. Ashton.
“ But I should like to hear him, if he could show me what real music is,” said Laura, dreamily, as her hands fell on her work.
“ Well, I am sorry,” said Mrs. Ashton, “ and you might take my ticket: you can, if you wish. Only one concert is like another, and I dare say you would be disappointed, after all. I told Mrs. Campbell I should certainly go to one of his concerts, and I suppose Mr. Ashton will hardly care for the expense of tickets, now we have had them presented to us. And as I know that Mrs. Campbell is going to-night, she will see that I am there, so I should much prefer going tonight. But then, Laura, if you do care so much about it ”-
Oh, no, —Laura did not care; only she was sorry she had been so stupid.
She was very much surprised, when, in the evening, towards the end of the performance at the theatre, the musician Came and joined her party, and talked most agreeably with them. Even her cousin George did not resent his intrusion, and on the way home imparted to Laura that he had no doubt the musician’s talk was pleasanter than his music.
Laura did not agree with him. She met with the musician frequently now, and his talk only made her more and more desirous to hear his music, He came frequently to her aunt’s room; he joined her and her aunt at the Academy of Fine Arts many times. Here he talked to her most charmingly of pictures, as a musician likes to talk about pictures, and as a painter discusses music,— as though he had the whole art at his fingers’ ends. It was the opening of a new life to Laura. If he could tell her so much of painting and sculpture, what would she not learn, if he would only speak of music ? Hut he never did, and he never offered to play to them. She was very glad her aunt never suggested it. The piano in the drawingroom must be quite too poor for him to touch. But he never offered her another concert-ticket. She did not wonder that he never did, she had been so ungracious at first. She was quite ashamed that he detected her once in going to the Horse-Opera, he must think her taste so low. She wanted to tell him it was her cousin George’s plan ; but then she did enjoy it.
Arnold found himself closely studying both Caroline and Laura now. “ Carl would be pleased at my microscopic examinations,” he thought.
Frequently as he visited Laura, as frequently he saw Caroline. He was constantly invited to her house, — to meet her at other places. Yet the nearer she came to him, the farther he seemed from her. Can we more easily read a form that flees from us than one that approaches us ? He talked with her constantly of music. She asked him his interpretation of this or that sonata. She betrayed to him the impression he had made with this or that fantasic. It was astonishing how closely she appreciated the vague changes of tones and words of music.
But with Laura he never ventured to speak of music. Whenever he played now, he played as if for her ; and yet he never ventured to ask her to listen.
“ It seems to me sometimes,” said Caroline to him once, “ as though you were playing to some one person. Your music is growing to have a beseeching tone ; there is something personal in it.”
“ It must always be so,” replied Arnold, moodily; “ can my music answer its own questions ? ”
The spring days were opening into summer, the vines were coming into full leaf, the magnolias were in blossom, the windows to the conservatories at the street-corners were thrown open, and let out to sight some of the gorgeous display of bright azaleas and gay geraniums.
Arnold sat with Caroline at an Opera Matinee. A seat had been left for him near her. In an interval, she began to speak to him again of her weariness of life ; the next week was going on precisely as the last had gone, in the same round of engagements.
“ You will envy me my life,” said Arnold. “ I am going out West. I am going to build my own house.”
“ You are joking; you would not think of it seriously,” said Caroline.
“ I planned it long ago,” answered Arnold; “ it was to be the next act after New York, — the final act, perhaps. Scene I: The Log Cabin.”
“ How can you think of it ? ” exclaimed Caroline. “ Give up everything ? your reputation, fortune, everything ? ”
“ New York, in short,” added Arnold.
“Very well, then,—New York, in short; that is the world,” said Caroline. “ And your music, who is to listen to it ? ”
“My music?” asked Arnold; “that is of a subjective quality. A composer, even, need not hear his own music.”
“ I don’t understand you,” said Caroline ; “ and I dare say you are insane.”
“ You do not understand me ? ” asked Arnold, “ yet you could read to me all that fantasie I played to you last night. It was my own composition, and I had not comprehended it in the least.”
“ Now you are satirical,” said Caroline.
“ Because you are inconsistent,” pursued Arnold; “ you wonder I do not stay here, because my fortune can buy me a handsome house, horses, style and all its elegancies ; yet you yourself have found no happiness in them.”
“ But I never should find happiness out of them,” answered Caroline. “It is a pretty amusement for us who have the gold to buy our pleasures with, to abuse it and speak ill of it. But those who have not it, — you do not hear them depreciate it so. I believe they would sell out. their home-evenings, those simple enjoyments books speak of and describe so well,—they would sell them as gladly as the author sells his descriptions of them, for our equipages, our grand houses, our toilet.”
Arnold looked at his neighbor. Her hands, in their exquisitely fitting lilac gloves, lay carelessly across each other above the folds of the dress with which they harmonized perfectly. A little sweetbrier rose fell out from the white lace about her face, against the soft brown of her hair. Arnold pictured Laura gathering just such a rose from the porch she had described by the door of her country-home.
“ Would you not have enjoyed gathering yourself that delicate rose that looks coquettish out of its simplicity '? ” he asked.
“ Thank you, no,” Caroline interrupted. “ I selected it from Madame’s Paris bonnets, because it suited my complexion. If I had picked the rose in the sun, don’t you see my complexion would no longer have suited it ? ”
“ I see you would enjoy life merely as a looker-on,” said Arnold. “ I would prefer to be an actor in it. When I have built my own bouse, and have digged my own potatoes, I shall know the meaning of house and potatoes. My wife, meanwhile, will be picking the roses for her hair.”
“ She will be learning the meaning of potatoes in cooking them,” replied Caroline. “I would, indeed, rather be above life than in it. I have just enjoyed hearing Lucia sing her last song, and seeing Edgardo kill himself. I should not care to commit either folly myself. I pity people that have no money ; I think they would as gladly hurry out of their restraints as Brignoli hurries into his everyday suit, after killing himself nightly as love-sick tenor,”
“ I would rather kill myself than think so,” said Arnold.
This talk, which had been interrupted by the course of the opera, was finished as they left their seats. At the door, Mr. Gresham offered to help Caroline to her carriage. Arnold walked away.
“ I would kill myself, if I could fancy that Laura thought so,” he said, as he hurried home.
There was a cart at the door of the house, men carrying furniture on the stairs. The doors of Mrs. Ashton’s rooms were wide-open; packing-paper and straw were scattered about.
“What is the matter?” he asked of his landlady.
“ A gentleman has taken Mrs. Ashton’s rooms. This is his grand piano.”
“ Mrs. Ashton ! where is she ? ” asked Arnold.
“ She left this morning. I should have been glad of further notice, but fortunately ”-
“ Where have they gone ? ” interrupted Arnold.
“ Home. I don’t know where. I can’t keep the run.”
“ It is in New England. Is there a directory of New England ? ”
“ A directory of New England ! The names of its towns would make a large book ! ”
Arnold went to his room. If be could only recall the name of the town near which Laura lived! But American names had no significance. In Germany each town had a history. The small places were famous because they were near larger ones. And even in the smallest some drop of blood had been shed that had given it a name, or had made its name noted.
She had gone; and why had she gone without telling him ?
If he could only have heard Mrs. Ashton’s talk the evening before with her husband, he need not have asked the question.
“ Do you know, dear, I think we had better leave New York directly, — tomorrow ? ”
Mr. Ashton looked inquiries.
“ I don’t like this intimacy with a foreigner. He really has been very devoted to Laura.”
“ And, pray, what is the harm ? ” asked Mr. Ashton.
“ How can you ask ? A foreigner, and we know nothing about him,” answered Mrs. Ashton.
“ But that he is the richest man in New York, quiet, inexpensive in his ways.”
“ If we were sure of all that! But I don’t think her father would like it. I had a dream last night of Bed RidingHood and the Wolf, and I have n’t thought all day of anybody but Laura. We can get off early to-morrow. I have sent Laura to pack her things now.”
“ I ’m afraid it is too late for her, poor girl! ” said Mr. Ashton.
“ She would be miserable, and her father would blame me, and I don’t like it,” said Mrs. Ashton. “And I am tired of New York.”
“ There ’s your dentist,” suggested Mr. Ashton.
“ I can come again,” answered his wife.
Arnold’s determination was made. He would visit every town in New England ; he would cross every square mile of her territory. Of course he would find Laura. Since he should not stop till he found her, of course he would find her before he stopped.
He began his quest. He gave concerts in all the larger places; he looked anxiously through the large audiences that attended them, — hopelessly, — for how could he expect to find Laura among them ? Often he left the railroads, to walk through the villages. It was the summer time, and he enjoyed the zest of climbing hills and wandering through quiet valleys.
He met with pleasant greetings in farm-houses, so far from the world that a stranger was greeted as a friend, where hospitality had not been so long worn upon but that it could offer a fresh cordiality to an unknown face. He wished he were a painter, that he might paint the pretty domestic scenes he saw: the cat. the coming home at evening, — the children crowding round the school-mistress, as they walked away with her from the school-door,—the groups of girls sitting at sunset on the door-steps under the elms,— the broad meadows, — the rushing mountain-streams. But again, after the fresh delight of one of these country-walks, he would reproach himself that he had left the more beaten ways and the crowded cars, where he might have met Laura.
In passing in one of these from one of the larger towns to another, he met Caroline, on her bridal tour as Mrs. Gresham.
“ You are not gone to Kansas yet ? ” she asked. “ Then you will be able to come and visit us in Newport this summer. I assure you, you will find cottagelife there far more romantic than logcabin life.”
Of course he found success at last. It was just as summer was beginning to wane, but when in September she was putting on some of her last glories and her most fervid heats. He had reached the summit of a hill, then slowly walked down its slope, as he admired the landscape that revealed itself to him. He saw, far away among the hills in the horizon, the town towards which he was bound. The sunset was gathering brilliant colors over the sky; hills and meadows were bathed in a soft light. He stopped in front of a house that was separated from the road by a soft green of clover. By the gate there was a seat, on which he sat down to rest. It was all that was left of a great elm that some Vandal of the last generation had cut away. Nature had meanwhile been doing her best to make amends for the great damage. Soft mosses nestled over the broad, mutilated stump, the rains of years had washed out the freshness of its scar, vines wound themselves around, dandelions stretched their broad yellow shields above, and falling leaves rested there to form a carpet over it.
As Arnold, tired with his day’s walk, was resting himself in the repose of the hour, the old master of the house came to talk with him. They spoke of the distance to the town, of the hilly road that led to it, of the meadows in the valley, and their rich crops. At last the old man asked Arnold into his house, and offered him the old-fashioned hospitality of a mug of cider, apologizing as he did so, telling how the times had changed, and what had become of all the cidermills in the neighborhood. He showed the large stem of the sweetbrier under which they passed as they went into the house, such as Arnold had seen hanging over many a New-England porch, large enough for many initials to be carved upon it. They sat down in the little frontroom, and talked on as the mother brought the promised mug of cider.
“ Are you fond of music here ? ” asked Arnold, as he pointed to the old manylegged piano that stood at one side of the room.
“ My girls play a little,” answered the old man; “ they have gone up to town this afternoon to get some tickets to that famous man’s concert. They play a little, but they complain that the old piano is out of time.”
“ That I could help,” said Arnold, as he took his timing-key out of his pocket.
“ Oh, you are one of those tuners,” said the old man, relieved ; “ my girls have been looking out for one.”
Arnold seated himself at the piano. The old people went in and out of the room, but presently came back when he began to play. They sat in silent listeningWhen Arnold came to a pause, the old man said, —
“ That takes me back to the old meeting-house. Do you remember, wife, when I led in Dedham ? ”
“ I,” said the mother, “ was thinking of that Ordination-ball, and of “ Money Musk’ and ‘Hull’s Victory.’”
“ That Is strange enough,” said the old man, “that it should sound like psalmtunes and country-dances.”
“ It takes us back to our youth; that is it,” she answered.
And Arnold went on. Soft homestrains came from the piano, and the two old people sank into their chairs in happy musing. The twilight was growing dimmer, the strains grew more soft and subdued, dying through gentle shades into silence. There had been a little rustling sound in the doorway. Arnold turned, when he had done, and saw a white figure standing there, in listening attitude, the head half bent, the hands clasped over a straw hat whose ribbons touched the ground. Behind her was the trellis of the porch, with its sweetbrier hanging over it. It was Laura, in the very frame in which his imagination had pictured her.
“Have the girls got home?” asked the old man, rousing himself, and going towards the door. — “ Come in, girls. I half think we have got your great musician here. At any rate, he can work some magic, and has pulled out of the old piano all the music ever your mother and I have listened to all our life long. *—My girls could not have hired me,” he continued to Arnold, “ to go to one of your new-fangled concerts ; but whether it is because the little piano is so old, or because you know all that old music, you have brought it all back as though the world were beginning again.—We must not let him go from here to-night,” he said to his wife and children. And when he found that Laura had met the musician in New York, his urgencies upon Arnold to stay were peremptory and unanswerable.
As Laura's younger sister, Clara, closed her eyes that night, she said,—
“ Mamma and papa think his music sounded of home and old times. How did it sound to you, Laura ? ”
Laura put her hands over her closed eves in the dark, and said, dreamily,—
“It sounded to me like love-songs, sung by such a tender voice, out in the woods, somewhere, where there were pine-trees and a brook.”
“ It seemed to me like butterflies,” said Clara. She did not explain what she meant.
The next morning, as it had been arranged in sisterly council, Laura was to entertain the stranger while Clara made the preparations for breakfast. Laura found him in the porch, already rejoicing in the morning view. But, after the first greeting, she found talking with him difficult. They felt into a silence; and to escape from it Laura finally ran into the kitchen, blue muslin and all. She pushed Clara away from the fireplace.
“ You must let me help,” she said, and moved pots, pans, and kettles.
“ Another stick of wood would make this water boil,” she went on.
“ Where shall I find it ? ” said a voice behind her ; and Arnold directly answered his own question with his ready help.
There followed great bustling, laughter, help, and interruption to work. When Mrs. Ashton came down, she found the breakfast-table in its wonted place in the broad kitchen, instead of being laid in the back-parlor, as was the custom when there were guests in the house. It was a very happy breakfast; the door opened wide upon the green behind the house, and the September morning air brought in an appetite for the generously laden table.
After breakfast, Arnold asked the way to the knoll behind the house, covered with pines. Laura went to show him, though it was but a little walk. In the woods, by the pine-trees, near the sound of the brook, Arnold asked Laura, “What had his music said to her ? ” Whether she answered him in the words she had given her sister the night before I will not say; but late to dinner, out from the woods, two happy lovers walked home in the bright September noon.
The log-cabin was built. If in its walls there were any broad chinks through which a wind might make its way, there were other draughts to send it back again, — strains of music, that helped to kindle the household hearth, — such strains as made sacred the seed that was laid in the earth, that refined coarse labor, that softened the tone of the new colony rising up around, so that life, even the rudest, was made noble, and the work was not merely for the body, but for the spirit, and a new land was planted under these strains of the musician.