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— “And 't is no marvel he is so humorous.
By 'r Lady, he is a good musician.”

Lady P.
— “Then should you be nothing but musical,
For you are altogether governed by humors.”

King Henry VI.

In youth, when each moment brings before us some
new soul with whom ours is to clasp hands or cross
swords, perhaps both, there is an inexpressible charm
in meetings that occur first under beautiful and uncommon
circumstances. To him who has not loved some
man with the ardor of a friendship-at-first-sight, one can
only say, Nature has dealt hardly with you, sir!

For I am quite confident that Love is the only rope
thrown out by Heaven to us who have fallen overboard
into life.

Love for man, love for woman, love for God, — these
three chime like bells in a steeple and call us to worship,
which is, to work. Three notes to a full chord, say the
musicians; and this is the three-toned harmony our
world should make, in this immense musicial festival of
the stars.

Inasmuch as we love, in so much do we conquer death
and flesh; by as much as we love, by so much are we
gods. For God is love; and could we love as He does,
we could be as He is. So thought Philip Sterling, and
loved his friend Paul Rübetsahl.


Page 27

And somehow it did not seem strange to anybody at
Thalberg that Philip should have found this man wandering
among the mountains at sunrise, in that lonely
country. For Rübetsahl talked of mountains as he
would talk of absent friends; he seemed to have peered
into their ravines and nooks as if he were studying a
friend's character, and to have slept upon them as on a
friend's bosom.

An hour after supper on the night of that first day at
Thalberg, John Sterling laid down his pipe, and, as he
had been lost in that cloud of smoke he had puffed
forth, sung out at the top of his voice,

“`And where be ye, my merry, merry men?”'

“Here,” chorused voices in the music-room.

As he entered, Philip was turning over some music
on a stand; Cranston was stretching a new E upon his
violin, frowning savagely and breathing hard the while,
as if he were strangling the poor instrument by the
neck; and Rübetsahl and Felix Sterling were conversing
composedly at the piano.

It was about this moment when Rübetsahl began to
discover that he had mistaken the tall, gray-eyed girl
with whom he was talking; that her coldness was rather
a transparent purity like that of star-beams which seem
cold to the hand but warm to the soul, and that her apparent
unimpressibility was rather the veiled impressibility
of an enthusiasm which was so strong that it
feared itself. He had yet to find that music was the
Moses-wand that could smite this crystalline rock into
a soft refresher of the thirsty. For indeed the soul of
Felix Sterling was like a sea, concealing in its immense
translucency myriads of unknown things; but, when


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music was toward, it was as if a spirit plenipotentiary
sailed down the wind and stood over the centre of this
sea, and uttered some tremendous word at which all the
sea-shapes, terrible and beautiful together, rose in
strange shoals to the surface.

That day, at dinner, Rübetsahl had remarked that
Frankfort-on-the-Maine was his birthplace; and Felix
added that Mr. Cranston had passed some time at that
place when he was in Germany; whereupon quick flashing
glances were exchanged between Cranston and
Rübetsahl; all of which Philip had detected, and he was
puzzling over it, as he idly turned the leaves of his music.

“Come, Phil; your flute, man! I always begin my
musicale with the flute, Mr. Rübetsahl: it is like walking
in the woods, amongst wild flowers, just before you
go into some vast cathedral. For the flute seems to me
to be peculiarly the woods-instrument; it speaks the
gloss of green leaves or the pathos of bare branches; it
calls up the strange mosses that are under dead leaves;
it breathes of wild plants that hide and oak-fragrances
that vanish; it expresses to me the natural magic in
music. Have you ever walked on long afternoons in
warm sunny spots of the woods, and felt a sudden thrill
strike you with the half-fear that a ghost would rise up
out of the sedge or dart from behind the next tree and
confront you, there in the broad daylight? That is the
sensation Phil's solos — he won't have an accompaniment
— always produce upon me.” Old John stopped:
he was out of breath.

“Father, give me half a chance!” said Philip, already
toot-tooting low flourishes and runs.

“`How sharper than a serpent's tooth' and so forth!”


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rejoined the father, holding up his hands in mock horror.
“O filial impiety! But you will believe, Mr.
Rübetsahl, that I love to hear it as much as I do to talk
about it. Go on, Phil — age!

A series of irregular modulations comes purl — purling
along, like a rivulet shooting down smooth moss,
then eddying over rough pebbles, and shooting and
eddying again; straight lines and circles of notes, as it
were. But he manages that through all the modulations
a certain note is dimly but repeatedly presented
to us. Presently he stops on this note, lingers there a
moment, and then glides into a simple liquid adagio of
sixteen notes. Comes suddenly a warbling movement
in which the lower notes are fingered so rapidly that
they make harmony instead of melody, and we quickly
discover the adagio displaying itself in short upper
notes struck between the lower ones, as the sky displays
itself in patches, each with a faint star in it, through the
crevices of an arabesque ruin. Then comes a thin
clear romance, as if stealing from afar, in which the
notes rise and fall, and complain and rejoice, and echo
and answer, till one voice pours out a stream of tender
appealings, which seem to prevail, and the piece ends
with a long sigh of satisfied relief.

“Well, and what do you mean by it?” impatiently
broke in Felix, “for your `descriptive music' is all
humbug unless you give us the idea!”

“Well, I 'll tell you. One day, at college, I had just
read this magnificent line:

— “Or Lady of the Lake
Lone sitting by the shores of old Romance!”
when a messmate broke into the room, and swore our


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ham was out and the mess fund was dry, and begged
my assistance in an expedition then organizing in my
mess to steal the President's turkeys, that night! I
did n't go with 'em, but played that piece, in defense
of my poor, lonely Lady of the Lake!”

Even the ridiculous could not cloud the sparkle that
was now shining in the eyes of Felix Sterling.

“O,” cried she, “I see, I see. Romance, —

`Fresh as a spouting spring amongst the hills,'

seeks to clear itself of the vile commonplace `cares that
have rilled into it,' and asserts itself and exhibits its
beauty, and pleads and prevails and becomes pure
again! It was too beautiful, brother Phil, and I 'll kiss
you this night, and there 's my hand on it!”

“Good!” cried old John, and laughed, and bravoed
uproariously at the girl's sally.

“Himmel!” said Rübetsahl. “Friend Philip, you
are a poet: Miss Sterling, you are a poem!”

Whereat “Bravissimo!” from old John again, while
Cranston sat still, with wicked eye, and lip just curling
into the semblance of a sneer.

“Well,” said John Sterling when he had subsided,
“My time now, eh, Phil? And I do protest, Mr. Rübetsahl”
(“Bless my life, what a listener that German
Rübetsahl was!” old John used to say after Paul had
gone to the wars), “I wonder how it is that many good
American people even now consider music a romantic
amusement, rather than a common necessity, of life!
When surely, of all the commonplaces, none is more
broadly common or more inseparable from daily life.
Music! It is as common as — as — as — Phil, I 'll
thank you for a simile! — as —”


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“Bricks, father!”

“So — common as bricks, common as anvils (I only
wanted a start, d'ye see!), common as water, common as
fire-places! For every brick-mason sings to his trowelstrokes,
and blacksmiths strike true rhythmical time,
even to triplets—I 've heard 'em—and sailors whistle in
calm or windy weather, and households jangle and thrum
and strain on all manner of stringed and wind instruments.
Music is in common life what heat is in chemistry,
an all-pervading, ever-present, mysterious genius.
The carpenter whistles to cheer his work, the loafer
whistles to cheer his idleness. The church for life, and
the bar-room for death; the theatre for tears, and the
circus for smiles; the parlor for wealth, and the street
for poverty — each of these, now-a-days, has its inevitable
peculiar orchestra. And so every emotion continually
calls, like the clown i' the play, `Music without
there!' Victory chants; defeat wails; joy has galops;
sorrow has dirges; patriotism shouts its Marseillaise;
and love lives on music, for food, says old Will!

“Moreover, the Chinese beats his gong and the African
his jaw-bone; the Greek blew Dorian flutes; the
Oriental charms serpents with his flageolet; German
Mendelssohn sends up saintly thanks, Polish Chopin
pleads for a man's broken heart, and American Gottschalk
fills the room full of great sad-eyed ghosts — all
with the piano! Aye, —

`There 's not a star that thou beholdest there
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubim!'

“And so from `street-mud' up to `star-fire,' through
all grades, runs the multitudinous song of time. From


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a christening to a funeral is seventy years: one choir
sings at the christening, another choir sings at the
funeral; all the life between, the dead man sang, in some
sort, what tunes his heart could make.

“Late explorers say they have found some nations
that had no God; but I have not read of any that had
no music! Wherefore, since in all holy worship; in all
unholy sarcasm; in all conditions of life; in all domestic,
social, religious, political, and lonely individual doings;
in all passions; in all countries, earthly or heavenly; in
all stages of civilization, of time, or of eternity; since, I
say, in all these music is always present to utter the
shallowest or the deepest thought of man or spirit — let
us cease to call music a fine art; to class it with delicate
pastry-cookery and confectionery; and to fear to take
too much of it lest it should make us sick! Fine Art,
indeed! It is no more a fine art than — than — than
— help me, Philip, or I sink! — than —”

“What do you think of bacon and greens, for instance,
now, Pa?”

“Good: no more than bacon and greens to a Southerner;
or beans (I 'm off, children!) to a Northerner;
or rats to a Chinaman; or lager-beer to Mr. Rübetsahl

“And that 's a good place to say,” cried Philip,
“that it 's a burning shame that here in the South
so many of those Germans who teach their divine
music are continually found haunting the lager-beer saloon
when they are not giving a lesson. I wish that in
all the colleges the Professor of Music were considered,
as he should be, one of the Professors of Metaphysics,
and that he ranked of equal dignity with them; and that


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he stood as much chance of being elected President of
the college as the Professor of Chemistry or the Languages!
It will be so, it must be so; and I hope, not
long hence!”

“Ah,” exclaimed Felix, “we spin out the subject.
Why not sum all up, and say: Music means harmony,
harmony means love, and love means — God!”

“`A judgment, a judgment,”' said Cranston. “Proven
by irrefragable poet's logic. It reminds me of the old
schoolboy's brocard: An eel-pie is a pie of fish, a fish-pie
is a Jack-pie, a Jack-pie is a John-pie, a John-pie
is a pie-John, a pie-John is a pigeon; ergo, an eel-pie
is a pigeon-pie; and damned be he who doubts logic!”

“Cranston, an' you will scoff,” said John Sterling,
“I'd rather hear you scoff on your violin, than a-talking.
Rübetsahl, he 's the most musical of skeptics;
listen to him; he fiddles Pyrrhonisms and wickedness!
Scrape away, man!”

Cranston seized his violin and played; and although
his black eyes gave no sign of feeling, and a half-smile,
sometimes shading to a half-scowl, dwelt upon his lips,
yet it somehow seemed as if the violin had fastened its
serpent-fangs in the throat of the man, and he had
grasped it, as Laocoon grasped the serpent, to thrust
off the horrible snaky hold; you could almost see the
violin writhe and shudder through its length.

And the music? It was an improvisation; Cranston
never played anything else. The only way to give any
idea of it is to say that it made one think of some
soul that had put out its own eyes in a fury, and gone
blindly dashing about the world in spring, wounding
itself against fair trees, falling upon sweet flowers and


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crushing odors out of them, rising and cursing and
falling again, too busy in imprecating to perceive the
fragrance it created even by its fall. I always knew
that in the glittering brocade of music there ran (as
is the case in all earthy weaving) a dark thread, but,
until I heard Cranston, I never saw this dark thread
grow so large and overshadowing, nor assume such fantastic
and diabolical patterns. Presently, while the
man and his violin still struggled, —

“Quit, Cranston; quit, man!” shouted John Sterling.
“The devil 's in the fiddle, and the lights are burning
blue, and we 'll all be dancing a diabolical saraband in
five minutes more, as if a tarantula from the lower
regions had crawled up and bitten us! Phe-ew! I
smell brimstone!” concluded he, sniffing the air and
awrying his nose.

All were glad to laugh, like children when they 've
just heard a ghost-story before bed-time. Cranston
ha-haed louder than any; but it was too uproarious to
be natural. Evidently, the man was getting excited by
his own diablerie.

“Mr. Cranston,” commenced Felix curiously, as if
she were inquiring the habits of some strange wild beast
of his keeper, and were half afraid he 'd jump out of
his cage, “you do not show any sign of that strange pain
which good music always produces — at least, produces
in me, and in every other musician I ever saw. Why?
Don't you feel it?”

“I may confess to a twinge or two sometimes, very
much like the gout, I imagine; but I always crush it
as a mere sentimental weakness.”

“Humph! a lucky man, you!” said Rübetsahl;
“now I never could crush it, nor wanted to, even!”


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“Jean Paul,” said Philip, “once exclaimed to music,
`Away, away! For thou remindest me of what in all
my endless life I have not seen, and shall not see!'
And Emerson speaks of the strong painful yearning
created by the beautiful either in sound or sight. Even
old rugged Tom Carlyle cries out, `Who shall say what
music means in his soul? It leads us to the verge of
eternity and lets us gaze on that.”'

“Yes,” said Felix, “if, by `the verge of eternity,' he
means a sort of boundary-line between pleasure and
pain; a wavering boundary, too! There must be a
wild debatable-land between joy and sorrow; borderers
are predatory, you know, and this border-land is
one while devastated by forayers from the dark side,
another while cultivated by peaceful villagers from the
bright side; and it 's fine that music should carry us to
such a place! I do not think it is exactly the fascination
of a flame for the moth; for we walk deliberately
into our flame, and our wings don't scorch!”

“Too much flame, Felie, and `fuliginous glare,' about
that! But you are young, yet; and I remember I
used to like to go to a big fire in town, and see the
huge smoke-billows foaming with flame, and did n't
think much of the poor weeping families in the street!
But we 've talked enough. Felix, exorcise Cranston's
devil, there! Sing us a prayer with Rübetsahl's accompaniment!”

Felix chose one of the Lieder ohne Wörter, merely
articulating the tones; and Rübetsahl's accompaniment
did not follow, but went with the voice, waving and
floating and wreathing round the voice like an airy
robe around a sweet flying form above us. The homage


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which the Thalberg household paid to this holy music
of Felix Sterling's and Rübetsahl's and Mendelssohn's,
was perfect stillness, which reigned for some minutes,
until Philip repeated in a low voice,

“`The notes kept falling silverly,
Till it was almost like a pain
Until the next should come again.”'

Was John Cranston drunk? He had only taken a
glass or two of the sherry. Was he intoxicated with
the music, or with Felix Sterling's eyes and queen-limbs,
or with his mysterious hate of Rübetsahl? Who
knows? As the party met in the centre of the room,
all saying good-night and wishing pleasant dreams,
suddenly Cranston looked fiercely into Rübetsahl's face,
held his head aloft, and said, in German, in a harsh
husky voice, —

“I am the man!”

“Then,” answered Rübetsahl, quick as lightning,
speaking also in German, “for her sake, not for mine,
receive that!”

Whereupon, with open palm, he struck Cranston a
mighty blow upon the cheek, that felled him to the

“Sir,” said John Sterling, “you came here unknown,
but supposed to be a gentleman. Must you be brawling
in my parlor the very first time you enter it?
Leave my house instantly.”

“O, Rübetsahl —!” exclaimed Felix, and checked
herself and blushed, as Rübetsahl, who had stood with
folded arms listening to John Sterling, silently turned
towards the door.

This sweet interest made Paul Rübetsahl turn again.


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“Sir,” said he, “you are just; but I was just too. I
am loth to leave your kind house unjustified; but if to
ask for time before I justify myself be to ask too much,
then I must go; I cannot do it now.”

The calm dignity of the man appealed to all manhood.

“Father,” said Philip, “I believe him. I know —!”
and he pointed to Cranston, still prostrate. “Make
Rübetsahl stay.”

An appealing glance from Felix supported Philip's
attack. John Sterling's genial face was full of pain.
That a night so full of music should have so pitiful
end as this! Yet he could not resist Rübetsahl's noble
look of honest self-assertion, and honest regret that
self-assertion was necessary.

“Have your own way, my children!” said he, and
walked hastily to his den, and fell to smoking vigorously.

Meantime, servants had come, and Cranston, still
stupefied with the reaction of his unnatural excitement
and the stunning surprise of the blow, was conveyed to
his apartment.

Presently, he opened his eyes, and sternly commanded
his attendants to leave him.

In the morning, his room was empty. No one knew
whither he had gone.