Read Chapter Fifteen of The Music Master Novelized from the Play , free online book, by Charles Klein, on ReadCentral.com.

Von Barwig arose at daybreak, for a great hope had come to him. At last life held out a promise; of what he knew not. He only knew that he experienced a sensation of joy, and his great, loving heart throbbed in response. His cheerfulness communicated itself to his friends upstairs, for they came into his room and insisted on his accompanying them to breakfast at Galazatti’s. They were all in high spirits. Pinac and Fico were determined to let him see that the loss of their positions had not caused them any uneasiness.

“Bah! we get the engagement back again,” laughed Fico.

Pinac snapped his fingers. “The cafe! Pouf, pouf, pouf!”

Poons grinned amiably. He had been warned by the others, notably by Pinac in very bad German, not to let Von Barwig see that they felt down in the mouth. He kept a smile on his face when he thought of it, and was exceedingly sorrowful when he didn’t; so the expression on his face altered from time to time, much to Von Barwig’s astonishment. Once, during breakfast, Pinac heard Poons sigh and kicked him under the table, whereupon he immediately grinned. Von Barwig saw this lightning change and wondered what was the matter.

“Are you in pain?” he asked.

“No,” replied Poons, trying to smile, but only succeeding in grinning. Then he laughed with real tears in his eyes.

“Are you laughing or crying?” asked Von Barwig. “If you are laughing, please cry; and if you are crying, for heaven’s sake laugh.”

Poons nodded. “I am very happy,” he said tearfully, “so happy.”

“Then you don’t know how to show it,” commented Von Barwig; whereupon they all laughed at him until he laughed too, in spite of himself. They joked all through the breakfast. So noisy were they that they attracted the attention of Galazatti, the proprietor or the cafe, who came over to the four friends and shook hands with them. He had served them for many years, and he was glad to see them enjoy themselves.

“How is the good lady of your house?” he asked.

“Miss Husted is at the top of the notch,” replied Pinac, who generally constituted himself spokesman for the party. “We are all top of the notch,” he added, “eh, Poonsie?” slapping the young man on the back.

“What a strange thing is this human existence!” thought Von Barwig, as he left his friends and walked back to his studio alone. “Here I am in the middle of Houston Street, giving music instructions for fifty cents per lesson, playing out nights in a dime museum, and yet my heart, my mind is with this daughter of a great millionaire. To-day at three I shall be with her, and I can think of nothing else. What is she to me that I should care so much? A chance likeness, perhaps no likeness at all except that which exists in my brain! Am I mad? Is this world of shadows real? What does it all mean? Who will tear the veil from this mystery, and tell me why one human being is so much more to us than another, why one human being so resembles another, and yet is not that one?”

From time to time he looked at the clock wishing the time would pass more quickly. He brushed his clothes very carefully that morning. The frock coat he had worn for a dozen years now proved its claim to being made of the finest texture, for it responded splendidly to the brush, and gave up most of its spots; but it still retained its shine. When he had put on a clean collar and cuffs and his best white dress shirt, Von Barwig looked at himself in the glass.

“If only this shine on my coat were transferred to my boots, what a happy transformation!” thought Von Barwig. “Still, if that button on my sleeve is transferred to my coat, it will restore the balance of harmony,” so Jenny’s services were called into requisition.

“Where are you going this morning?” she asked as she stitched on the button.

“To a new pupil,” replied Von Barwig as carelessly as he could, though his heart fairly bumped as he spoke. He did not like to speak of his visitor of yesterday afternoon to others. It was too sacred a subject to be mentioned in Houston Street.

“The young lady that came yesterday?” inquired Jenny, but Von Barwig made no reply. Jenny looked at him closely; his silence chilled her. There was an imperceptible change in him, she thought. She could not say exactly what it was, but it seemed to her that when his eyes rested on her it was no longer with the same glance of lingering affection that he had always bestowed on her. Now he barely glanced at her, and his eyes did not rest on her for a moment. The girl’s sensitive nature made her conscious that he did not think of her when he spoke to her.

“What’s her name?” asked Jenny, after a long pause, during which Von Barwig put on his cape coat. Once more he did not appear to hear her, and Jenny repeated the question. “What’s her name, Herr Von Barwig?” This time she spoke with directness.

“I beg your pardon,” said Von Barwig, with unconscious dignity. It was the old Leipsic conductor that spoke, and there was such unbending sternness and severity in the tone of his voice, such coldness in his eye, that Jenny shrank back and looked at him as if he had struck her.

“Oh, Herr Von Barwig,” she gasped, and burst into tears.

“Jenny, Jenny, my little Jenny! What is it, what did I say?” he asked in genuine distress. His thoughts had been miles away.

“I didn’t mean to-to-be-rude,” she sobbed. “I-I only-you looked so-so happy! I-wanted to know.”

“Come, come!” he said, taking her in his arms, and patting her affectionately on the cheek. “Don’t cry! I meant nothing, my child; only I did not want to speak of matters that-that you could not understand. Come, it is two o’clock, and I must go,” and he kissed her tenderly on the forehead. “You are all right now, eh?” he said, as she smiled.

“Forgive me, won’t you?” asked Jenny, who was now comforted. He still loved her; that was all she asked.

As he walked up Third Avenue and turned into Union Square, he went into a florist’s.

“A bunch of violets, please,” he said, and the young man tied up a very small quantity of violets with a very large silk tassel and a lot of green leaves, tin foil, oil paper and wire; putting the whole into a box, which he carefully tied up with more ribbon.

“What a ceremony over a few violets!” thought Von Barwig, as he laid a twenty-five cent piece on the counter.

“One dollar, please,” said the young man, surveying the quarter with a somewhat pitying smile.

Von Barwig’s heart sank. He had forgotten that it was winter, that flowers were expensive, that coloured cardboard and tin foil and ribbon cost money, too. He searched his pockets and found the necessary dollar, but it was within a few cents of all he had. “They are not too good for her,” thought Von Barwig as he carried the box away. He walked up Broadway into Fifth Avenue, and stopped at the corner of Fifty-seventh Street. The number he sought was inscribed on the door of a large brownstone mansion with a most imposing entrance, one of those palatial residences that cover the space of four ordinary houses and stamp its owner as a multi-millionaire. As he nervously pulled the bell, he upbraided himself for having dared to think that she was like his child. It was a trick of the fading light, an optical illusion. His reflection was cut short, for the door was opened by a man-servant.

“Have you a card?” inquired the footman, as Von Barwig asked for Miss Stanton.

The old man shook his head.

“Herr Von Barwig is the name; I have an appointment.”

“You can wait in there; I’ll see if Miss Stanton is in,” said the flunky, as he turned on his heel. Such nondescript visitors were most unusual.

“An old person without a card, Mr. Joles,” he confided to that individual below stairs; “name Barkwick or something, says he has an appointment. Quite genteel, but-” and he shrugged his shoulders significantly.

Joles made no reply, but went up to interview Mr. “Barkwick.” The Stantons had so many applications from persons who needed charity for themselves or others that the standing order had gone forth to admit no stranger, under any pretext, unless of course he had complete credentials.

Herr Von Barwig was standing in the reception-room, hat in hand, when Joles entered.

“No card, eh? Ah-um-dear me,” and Mr. Joles rubbed his chin in a perplexed way. He looked around, none of the pictures were missing, nor had the statuary been removed. But Denning shouldn’t have asked the stranger into the reception-room.

Von Barwig ventured to say that he had an appointment. Mr. Joles nodded.

“Oh, you have an appointment! Written?”

“No,” replied Von Barwig.

“Oh, verbal? At what hour?” questioned Mr. Joles.

“Three,” answered Von Barwig.

“Are you quite sure?” inquired Mr. Joles doubtfully. “I have received no orders.”

Von Barwig remained silent. What could he say? The man evidently doubted his word.

“If you will please tell her,” he said gently.

“I am not at all sure that Miss Stanton is in,” said Mr. Joles, and he stood there as if in doubt as to how to proceed. But any further question as to Miss Stanton’s being in or out was settled by the young lady herself, who dashed into the room in evident haste.

“I beg your pardon, Herr Von Barwig; I forgot to leave word that you were coming! Forgive me, won’t you?” and she held out her hand to him in such a friendly manner that it drew from the servant a faint apology.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” he began.

“It’s all right, Joles,” said Miss Stanton, cutting him rather short. She evidently did not value that gentleman’s explanations very highly, and took it for granted that Herr Von Barwig didn’t care to hear them. Joles bowed and left the room.

“Well! I’m right glad to see you. It’s a long way up town, isn’t it?”

Von Barwig nodded. He could not speak; he could only look at her.

“For me?” she asked as he held out the box of violets. “Oh, how kind, how thoughtful!” she murmured, as he bowed in response to her question. She opened the box. “Violets in winter are a luxury, you know!”

Von Barwig smiled with pleasure; he was almost too happy.

“I congratulate myself on having pleased you,” he managed to say.

“Now do sit down and talk to me!” she said, placing a chair for him and almost pushing him into it. He looked rather perplexed.

“I thought,” he began.

“You surely didn’t expect me to take a lesson to-day, did you?” she said, and then she went on: “Oh dear me, no; not to-day! To-morrow. Besides, my music room is upstairs; this is not my part of the house at all. How about the little boy? When does he begin? Do you think he has talent?”

Von Barwig looked bewildered. He had not only forgotten the appointment he had made with the boy to hear him play, but he had forgotten his very existence.

“I-it is not settled,” he faltered. “To-morrow perhaps. Yes, to-morrow, he will call and then I will let you know.”

“Oh, I thought you were to hear him to-day! I was rather anxious to know what you thought.”

Von Barwig felt quite guilty.

“Do you know I’ve been thinking of you quite a great deal,” she said.

“You are too kind,” he replied in a low voice.

Miss Stanton was evidently in a very communicative frame of mind, for from that moment she talked rapidly on current musical topics. She knew the latest operas, and loved the spirit of unrest, the unsettled minor chords of the new school of music; preferred the leit motif to the aria, music drama to opera, and was altogether exceedingly modern in her tastes. She did not like recitative in music, and preferred Wagner and Tschaikowsky to Bach and Verdi. She loved to be stirred up, she said. She liked Beethoven, yes, but he was too mathematical. As for Handel, he was uninteresting in the extreme; and so she went on and on.

The old man could only gaze at her in silence. There she sat, the living image of his dead wife, talking musical matters in a foreign tongue; an absolute stranger to him, and yet he felt drawn toward her in a strange and unusual way. Who was she? What was she? Had the dead come to life? What had happened? He could only look at her, and feel so very, very happy. What did it all mean?

“How is your father?” he asked when there was a lull in the conversation, brought about by Miss Stanton’s pausing to breathe.

Her face fell. “He is in Europe,” she said, and did not continue the subject.

Von Barwig noticed that her face saddened when she spoke of her father’s absence.

“She must love him very much,” he thought, and the thought brought him to his senses.

“Don’t be a fool, Barwig,” he said to himself. “Her father is a multi-millionaire, one of the great men of the country. Her mother is dead, and you must content yourself with having dreamed that she was yours. You must not look at her, you understand? Don’t look at her, or she will suspect what you think and you will be turned away. You have had your dream. Now wake up, wake up!”

It was time for him to awaken, for she was asking him if he thought that musical genius was allied to madness.

“I-I don’t know,” he replied. “I am not a genius!”

“Will you play for me?” he said, to hide his confusion.

“Not now,” she replied. “I have an engagement. Come to-morrow at this hour. I’ll leave word this time,” she added with a smile. “Mr. Stanton is so particular about callers that no one can get near me without being personally guaranteed by Joles or Mr. Ditson.”

“You haven’t seen Mr. Ditson, have you? He is father’s secretary. I don’t like him, and I’m so sorry. I can’t bear not to like any one,” and she sighed.

Von Barwig was looking at her again; in spite of himself he could not keep his eyes from her.

“Of what were you thinking when you looked at me in that way?” she asked, with a curious smile.

“I-I-don’t know,” said Von Barwig, rather startled, and this was literally true.

“You’re thinking that I am a great rattle-box, aren’t you? Now, confess! I am talking a great deal, am I not? But I can’t seem to help it! I’m not always like this; indeed I’m not,” she said earnestly. “It’s a positive luxury to utter the first thought that comes into one’s mind-a luxury I seldom get, I can tell you! Somehow or other you drew me out, and I allowed myself to ramble on and on without in the least knowing why. Can you explain it?” she asked laughingly.

He shook his head. “Perhaps you feel that I am interested in you, if you will pardon the liberty I take in saying so.”

“Very likely,” she said thoughtfully. There was a long pause, for they were so occupied with their own thoughts that neither spoke. The reaction had set in, and she was now strangely quiet; indeed she hardly spoke again that afternoon. After a while Von Barwig rose to take his leave.

“Have I offended her?” he asked himself, as he left the house. “How dare I tell her that I am interested in her! What impertinence, what a liberty! Who am I that I should dare to say such a thing! You old fool!” he now addressed himself directly. “You have happiness well within your grasp, and instead of gently taking it to yourself you grab it with both hands and pluck it up by the roots. You have offended her and she won’t see you again. You’ll see, you won’t be admitted to the house!” The old man almost cried as he thought of his temerity, his folly, his stupidity. He walked faster and faster in his excitement. “I must curb my unfortunate tongue; I must, I will, if I ever get another chance!” He sighed deeply. “And yet-why should she press my hand and ask me to come to-morrow and be sure not to forget the hour? She has forgiven me, yes, yes, she likes me; I know she does, but I must be careful!” And so he walked rapidly home to his lodgings, alternately in a heaven of joy or in a hell of despair.