Read Chapter Nine of The Music Master Novelized from the Play , free online book, by Charles Klein, on

The next morning, while Von Barwig was waiting for a pupil-he had very few in these days-Jenny came into his room with a letter, at the sight of which his heart beat rapidly, for it was post-marked Germany. The handwriting was in a boyish scrawl he did not recognise.

“Not many pupils to-day?” ventured Jenny.

“No, they don’t come; I’m afraid this is not just exactly the neighbourhood. New York is going uptown. I gave only fifteen lessons last week.”

“That’s not bad, is it?” asked Jenny.

“Not so bad when they pay, but they don’t,” laughed Von Barwig, and seeing that his visitor was in no hurry to leave him, Von Barwig ventured to open his letter and read it. He read it again and then looked at Jenny with such a perplexed expression on his face that she was forced to laugh in spite of herself.

“Young Poons is coming,” he said finally.

“Is he?” replied Jenny doubtfully.

“Yes, he is coming. He is the son of an old friend; a very dear old friend. His name is August and he wants me to-to give him a start in life. He is a ’cello player. You know what is a ’cello? It’s a large violin and stands up when you play it, so,” and he took his own violin and placing it between his knees showed her how the ’cello was manipulated.

“He sails on the steamship City of Berlin. He is coming here to make his fortune,” and Von Barwig laughed at the idea of making a fortune at music in America.

“How old is he?” asked Jenny.

“Hum-he must be seventeen by this time!” Jenny became quite interested. “I knew him when he was quite a little chap; his father was a horn player in my orchestra at-at-” Von Barwig hesitated; “in Germany. I must help him. Yes, Jenny, I must help him. Poor old August, I must be a father to his son! He was a dear little chap,” he said reminiscently. “Tell your aunt we shall want one of her bedrooms on the top floor if it is at liberty.”

“The one next to Mr. Pinac is empty. Aunt will be so pleased that a friend of yours is going to take it.” And Jenny rushed off to acquaint her aunt with the good news.

Von Barwig told the news of the impending arrival of his friend’s son to Pinac and Fico, and the three men went down to the docks to meet him. At the docks they learned that he had arrived with eleven hundred other steerage passengers and had landed at Castle Garden, so they went down to the Battery to try and find him. They found him in an inner room off the immigrants’ reception hall, sitting on an old trunk, and busily engaged in trying to prevent his ’cello, which was protected only by a green bag, from being smashed by the rushing, gesticulating crowd of baggage men, porters and immigrants. With his round, smiling face and blond hair he was the picture of his father, and Von Barwig, recognising him in a moment, embraced him cordially.

“I am to be sent back,” he cried in German.

“Nonsense!” said Von Barwig, placing his arm around the young man affectionately. After Von Barwig had introduced his friend, they noticed his crestfallen manner.

“What’s the matter?” asked Pinac, who could not understand German, but who knew something was wrong, and wanted to show Poons that he knew the ropes in the States. Poons poured out a tale of woe which was intended to touch Von Barwig’s heart and gain his sympathy, instead of which it made him laugh heartily.

“Some one is investing his money for him and hasn’t come back yet,” Von Barwig confided to his friends; and they laughed too. Poons could not understand why the men laughed at his troubles. The simple German lad had been swindled out of all his money, two hundred marks, by the simplest and most transparent of the many methods of swindling, the confidence game, and the immigration authorities had refused to allow him to land, as he had no means of subsistence. Von Barwig had very little money with him, so he consulted with his friends. They were playing in a cafe at night and had a few dollars in their pockets, which they cheerfully handed to Von Barwig. Between them they managed to find the necessary money and Poons was allowed to land. On the way uptown the boy was profuse in his gratitude for the money that Von Barwig had sent to his mother while she lived. It was she who had given her son Von Barwig’s address and begged him to seek him out in America and greet him for her. Poons was greatly astonished at Von Barwig’s appearance and condition, for he had always heard of him as one of the great conductors of Germany. He did not understand how Herr Von Barwig could be so poor, but he accepted the facts as they were and ceased to ask himself any further questions.

In due course they arrived at Miss Husted’s and young Poons, bag and baggage and ’cello, was shortly afterward ensconced in a hall bedroom on the top floor of that lady’s establishment. Von Barwig hurried to his room, locked the door and looked around him. A little later when he let himself quietly into the street, he had under his arm, carefully wrapped up, his cuckoo clock and a couple of pictures. That night at Galazatti’s, when he handed to Pinac and Fico the money he had borrowed from them at Castle Garden and paid for the little dinner which he gave them to celebrate the arrival of Poons in America, they did not suspect that he had spent the very last dollar he had in the world.

Young Poons was not a success at first. He had a good technique and was a well-grounded musician, but he could not get an engagement suited to him, as he was not in the Union, and the foolish boy would not play dance music. He said he couldn’t, and unfortunately the responsibility for his financial condition rested on Von Barwig. It was he who was compelled to make arrangements with Miss Husted and it was a hard blow to him to have the additional incumbrance, especially when times were so hard and pupils so scarce. It may be imagined that Miss Husted did not take very kindly to the new arrival, who was unable to pay even his first week’s room rent. Of course she sympathised with his misfortune, but thought he should have taken care of his money and not have handed it to the first person who asked for it, so that now he was a pauper. She discussed this delicate point with Mrs. Mangenborn in the strict privacy of her room, but Jenny’s ears were very sharp and her sympathy went out to young Poons. “Poor young man,” she thought, “what a pity that he had been robbed.” That his mother and father were dead added to the romance, and she felt a sort of a fellow-orphan’s interest in him. “Poor boy! robbed of his fortune on his arrival in a strange country; penniless and homeless; can’t speak a word of English; as helpless as a child.” The maternal instinct in the child was aroused, and his large innocent blue eyes and blond hair made a very strong appeal to her. He needed a mother and she determined to be a mother to him. So, many a little delicacy was left surreptitiously in his room; now a box of chocolates, now a slice of cake, or even a few flowers. When young Poons would thank Miss Husted for these attentions in the choicest German that lady would turn on him and tell him to mind his own business, and he would smile and bow deferentially to her, saying, “Ja, Frau Hooston.”

As the weeks went on, the struggle for Von Barwig to pay expenses became greater and greater. Poons saw that it was an effort and determined to sink his pride, so he begged Pinac to help him get something for him to do; anything, anywhere. It was a great day for Poons when Fico announced to him that the proprietor of the cafe where they played had given them permission to bring him and his ’cello on trial for a week at a salary of six dollars and his supper, at the end of the night concert. Jenny was quite proud. “I told you that Mr. Poons would succeed,” she said joyfully to her aunt.

“Wait,” replied Miss Husted, “he’s not out of the woods yet.”

But she was mistaken, for he held on to his engagement and at the end of the week was taken on permanently. This was most fortunate, for by this time Von Barwig had completely denuded his room of all superfluous articles of value; even the fine old prints that had adorned his bedroom went for a mere trifle. A silver baton that had been given him by the director of the Gewandhaus was the last thing to go. It was quite a wrench to part with it, for it was the last link between Von Barwig and his musical past.

In the meantime he had lowered his prices for music lessons in the hopes of increasing the number of his pupils, and at Miss Husted’s suggestion even had a new sign made with large letters in gold-leaf. But pupils did not come, and Von Barwig felt that he was indeed doomed to failure. Everything he touched turned to dross; his one pupil of promise had died; there was no future, no outlook, no hope, and yet he did not give up, nor did he speak of his troubles to his friends. How he kept Miss Husted paid up she never knew, and yet, punctually every week, he handed to her the sum of money due her. When he suggested taking a smaller room upstairs she offered to lower the price of the room he was occupying. This sacrifice the old man would not accept; so he remained where he was, always hoping, hoping, hoping. He did not complain directly to her, but she knew that he was taking in little or no money. She blamed him for not being more exacting with those who were indebted to him, and as a matter of fact had he been able to collect all that was owing to him he would have been in far better circumstances; but no one seemed to think he needed money-he had such a prosperous air.

“What can I do?” said Von Barwig apologetically, when she told him to sue his delinquent pupils. “I tell them their course of lessons is finished and they make no reply, or if they do, it is an excuse or a promise. I cannot go to law with them, and if I could, just think what it would cost for the lawyer! Besides, they are very poor-these neighbours of ours. Music with them is a luxury, not a necessity. Poor souls, it brings a little joy into their lives! They struggle so hard to get higher in the scale of existence; why should I impede their progress by demanding my pound of flesh? No, my dear Miss Husted, they do the best they can; but they are poor.”

“And so are you,” replied Miss Husted, shaking her curls.

Von Barwig shook his head dubiously. “I’m afraid-I-I don’t put my heart into my work.” He did not like to tell her he thought the neighborhood he lived in was partly to blame.

“Who could put soul into a thing like that?” and he pointed to a cheap violin he had bought to play to his pupils when he taught them. “Or that?” and he dropped the lid of his piano to show his contempt for the tin pan, called by courtesy a concert grand. Miss Husted looked sad; the ever-present tear was close at hand and Von Barwig saw it coming.

“But, never mind, my dear Miss Husted; all comes right in the end! It’s all for some good or other. I can’t see it myself, but I know it’s all for my good. Come! Cheer up, cheer up!” and he looked at her with such a beatific smile that she thought for the moment that she was very unhappy and that he was trying to help her.

“Very well, I will,” she said resignedly, allowing herself to be comforted.

That was one of Von Barwig’s individual traits. No one ever thought of cheering him up, for no one knew that he suffered, except perhaps Jenny. She alone saw through his smile, and felt rather than knew that it hid a heart torn with suffering and emotion.

A few days after this Von Barwig read in one of the papers that a man named Van Praag, whom he knew years before in Berlin as a ticket-taker in one of the theatres, was going to give a series of concerts in one of the large concert halls in New York. He mustered up courage to go and see him. Van Praag received him cordially and invited him to dinner that evening at one of the big hotels. Von Barwig put on his old dress suit, and Houston Mansion quickly recognised the fact. Miss Husted especially was most enthusiastic.

“Oh, professor, how well you look!” she cried. “Mrs. Mangenborn, do come and see the professor with his evening clothes on, he looks a perfect picture!”

Von Barwig was compelled to leave an hour before the time appointed for the dinner, in order to escape from the congratulations of his friends. That night, for the first time in his life, he begged for a position. He had failed at composing, at teaching, at playing, but surely he could still conduct an orchestra. The desire for success grew on him again. Van Praag seemed convinced, and at the end of the dinner, after taking his address, he promised Von Barwig he would do what he could; but he must consult the director first, etc., etc.

Von Barwig went home that night almost happy. A pint of champagne at dinner, with a liqueur afterward, had completely aroused his spirit; and for the first time in many years he felt quite jovial. He went to bed but couldn’t go to sleep, so he rose and awakened Pinac and Fico out of their slumbers to tell them the good news, adding that he intended to engage them for his orchestra. Poons, hearing the sound of voices in the room next to his, came in, and the men sat talking over their prospects. Their hopes, their ambitions were about to be realised, and they talked and smoked the cigars Von Barwig had brought home with him until sleep was out of the question; they were too excited to go to bed again. Twice did Miss Husted send up to beg them to make less noise, as the second floor front, Mrs. Mangenborn, had complained that her slumbers were being rudely disturbed. So the men dressed themselves and went down into Von Barwig’s rooms, where they sat till daylight, talking and smoking; after which they all went out to breakfast at Galazatti’s.

As the weeks went by and Von Barwig received no word from Van Praag the certainty of the engagement died out and became merely a hope. Finally Von Barwig came to the conclusion that Van Praag had forgotten, and wrote to him reminding him of his promise. He received no answer to his letter, and even the hope of getting the engagement died out some few months after its birth.