Resignation! Welch’ elendes Hulfsmittel! und doch bleibt es mir das einzig Uebrige—Briefe Beethoven’s.
Several small events which took place at this time had all their indirect but strong bearing on the histories of the characters in this veracious narrative. The great concert of the “Passions-musik” of Bach came off on the very evening of Sigmund’s departure. It was, I confess, with some fear and trembling that I went to call Eugen to his duties, for he had not emerged from his own room since he had gone into it to send Sigmund away.
He raised his face as I came in; he was sitting looking out of the window, and told me afterward that he had sat there, he believed, ever since he had been unable to catch another glimpse of the carriage which bore his darling away from him.
“What is it, Friedel?” he asked, when I came in.
I suggested in a subdued tone that the concert began in half an hour.
“Ah, true!” said he, rising; “I must get ready. Let me see, what is it?”
“To be sure! Most appropriate music! I feel as if I could write a Passion Music myself just now.”
We had but to cross the road from our dwelling to the concert-room. As we entered the corridor two ladies also stepped into it from a very grand carriage. They were accompanied by a young man, who stood a little to one side to let them pass; and as they came up and we came up, von Francius came up too.
One of the ladies was May Wedderburn, who was dressed in black, and looked exquisitely lovely to my eyes, and, I felt, to some others, with her warm auburn hair in shining coils upon her head. The other was a woman in whose pale, magnificent face I traced some likeness to our fair singer, but she was different; colder, grander, more severe. It so happened that the ladies barred the way as we arrived, and we had to stand by for a few moments as von Francius shook hands with Miss Wedderburn, and asked her smilingly if she were in good voice.
She answered in the prettiest broken German I ever heard, and then turned to the lady, saying:
“Adelaide, may I introduce Herr von Francius—Lady Le Marchant.”
A stately bow from the lady—a deep reverence, with a momentary glance of an admiration warmer than I had ever seen in his eyes, on the part of von Francius—a glance which was instantly suppressed to one of conventional inexpressiveness. I was pleased and interested with this little peep at a rank which I had never seen, and could have stood watching them for a long time; the splendid beauty and the great pride of bearing of the English lady were a revelation to me, and opened quite a large, unknown world before my mental eyes. Romances and poems, and men dying of love, or killing each other for it, no longer seemed ridiculous; for a smile or a warmer glance from that icily beautiful face must be something not to forget.
It was Eugen who pushed forward, with a frown on his brow, and less than his usual courtesy. I saw his eyes and Miss Wedderburn’s meet; I saw the sudden flush that ran over her fair face; the stern composure of his. He would own nothing; but I was strangely mistaken if he could say that it was merely because he had nothing to own.
The concert was a success, so far as Miss Wedderburn went. If von Francius had allowed repetitions, one song at least would have been encored. As it was, she was a success. And von Francius spent his time in the pauses with her and her sister; in a grave, sedate way he and the English lady seemed to “get on.”
The concert was over. The next thing that was of any importance to us occurred shortly afterward. Von Francius had long been somewhat unpopular with his men, and at silent enmity with Eugen, who was, on the contrary, a universal favorite. There came a crisis, and the men sent a deputation to Eugen to say that if he would accept the post of leader they would strike, and refuse to accept any other than he.
This was an opportunity for distinguishing himself. He declined the honor; his words were few; he said something about how kind we had all been to him, “from the time when I arrived; when Friedhelm Helfen, here, took me in, gave me every help and assistance in his power, and showed how appropriate his name was;[C] and so began a friendship which, please Heaven, shall last till death divides us, and perhaps go on afterward.” He ended by saying some words which made a deep impression upon me. After saying that he might possibly leave Elberthal, he added: “Lastly, I can not be your leader because I never intend to be any one’s leader—more than I am now,” he added, with a faint smile. “A kind of deputy, you know. I am not fit to be a leader. I have no gift in that line—”
“Doch!” from half a dozen around.
“None whatever. I intend to remain in my present condition—no lower if I can help it, but certainly no higher. I have good reasons for knowing it to be my duty to do so.”
And then he urged them so strongly to stand by Herr von Francius that we were quite astonished. He told them that von Francius would some time rank with Schumann, Raff, or Rubinstein, and that the men who rejected him now would then be pointed out as ignorant and prejudiced.
And amid the silence that ensued, he began to direct us—we had a probe to Liszt’s “Prometheus,” I remember.
He had won the day for von Francius, and von Francius, getting to hear of it, came one day to see him and frankly apologized for his prejudice in the past, and asked Eugen for his friendship in the future. Eugen’s answer puzzled me.
“I am glad, you know, that I honor your genius, and wish you well,” said he, “and your offer of friendship honors me. Suppose I say I accept it—until you see cause to withdraw it.”
“You are putting rather a remote contingency to the front,” said von Francius.
“Perhaps—perhaps not,” said Eugen, with a singular smile. “At least I am glad to have had this token of your sense of generosity. We are on different paths, and my friends are not on the same level as yours—”
“Excuse me; every true artist must be a friend of every other true artist. We recognize no division of rank or possession.”
Eugen bowed, still smiling ambiguously, nor could von Francius prevail upon him to say anything nearer or more certain. They parted, and long afterward I learned the truth, and knew the bitterness which must have been in Eugen’s heart; the shame, the gloom; the downcast sorrow, as he refused indirectly but decidedly the thing he would have liked so well—to shake the hand of a man high in position and honorable in name—look him in the face and say, “I accept your friendship—nor need you be ashamed of wearing mine openly.”
He refused the advance; he refused that and every other opening for advancement. The man seemed to have a horror of advancement, or of coming in any way forward. He rejected even certain offers which were made that he should perform some solos at different concerts in Elberthal and the neighborhood. I once urged him to become rich and have Sigmund back again. He said: “If I had all the wealth in Germany, it would divide us further still.”
I have said nothing about the blank which Sigmund’s absence made in our lives, simply because it was too great a blank to describe. Day after day we felt it, and it grew keener, and the wound smarted more sharply. One can not work all day long, and in our leisure hours we learned to know only too well that he was gone—and gone indeed. That which remained to us was the “Resignation,” the “miserable assistant” which poor Beethoven indicated with such a bitter smile. We took it to us as inmate and Hausfreund, and made what we could of it.