The Flute Player's Story by Maurice Baring
There is a village in the South of England not far from the sea, which
possesses a curious inn called "The Green Tower." Why it is called thus,
nobody knows. This inn must in days gone by have been the dwelling of some
well-to-do squire, but nothing now remains of its former prosperity,
except the square grey tower, partially covered with ivy, from which it
takes its name. The inn stands on the roadside, on the brow of a hill, and
at the top of the tower there is a room with four large windows, whence
you can see all over the wooded country. The ex-Prime Minister of a
foreign state, who had been driven from office and home by a revolution,
happening to pass the night in the inn and being of an eccentric
disposition, was so much struck with this room that he secured it,
together with two bedrooms, permanently for himself. He determined to
spend the rest of his life here, and as he was within certain limits not
unsociable, he invited his friends to come and stay with him on any
Saturday they pleased, without giving him notice.
Thus it happened that of a Saturday and Sunday there was nearly always a
mixed gathering of men at "The Green Tower", and after they had dined they
would sit in the tower room and drink old Southern wines from the ex-Prime
Minister's country, and talk, or tell each other stories. But the ex-Prime
Minister made it a stringent rule that at least one guest should tell one
story during his stay, for while he had been Prime Minister a Court
official had been in his service whose only duty it was to tell him a
story every evening, and this was the only thing he regretted of all his
On this particular Sunday, besides myself, the clerk, the flute-player,
the wine merchant (the friends of the ex-Prime Minister were exceedingly
various), and the scholar were present. They were smoking in the tower
room. It was summer, and the windows were wide open. Every inch of wall
which was not occupied by the windows was crowded with books. The clerk
was turning over the leaves of the ex-Prime Minister's stamp collection
(which was magnificent), the flute-player was reading the score of
Handel's flute sonatas (which was rare), the scholar was reading a
translation in Latin hexameters of the "Ring and the Book" (which the
ex-Prime Minister has written in his spare moments), and the wine merchant
was drinking generously of a curious red wine, which was very old.
"I think," said the ex-Prime Minister, "that the flute-player has never
yet told us a story."
The guests knew that this hint was imperative, and so putting away the
score, the flute-player said: "My story is called, 'The Fiddler.'" And he
"This happened a long time ago in one of the German-speaking countries of
the Holy Roman Empire. There was a Count who lived in a large castle. He
was rich, powerful, and the owner of large lands. He had a wife, and one
daughter, who was dazzlingly beautiful, and she was betrothed to the
eldest son of a neighbouring lord. When I say betrothed, I mean that her
parents had arranged the marriage. She herself—her name was Elisinde—had
had no voice in the matter, and she disliked, or rather loathed, her
future husband, who was boorish, sullen, and ill-tempered; he cared for
nothing except hunting and deep drinking, and had nothing to recommend him
but his ducats and his land. But it was quite useless for Elisinde to cry
or protest. Her parents had settled the marriage and it was to be. She
understood this herself very well.
"All the necessary preparations for the wedding, which was to be held on a
splendid scale, were made. There was to be a whole week of feasting; and
tumblers and musicians came from distant parts of the country to take part
in the festivities and merry-making. In the village, which was close to
the castle, a fair was held, and the musicians, tumblers, and mountebanks,
who had thronged to it, performed in front of the castle walls for the
amusement of the Count's guests.
"Among these strolling vagabonds was a fiddler who far excelled all the
others in skill. He drew the most ravishing tones from his instrument,
which seemed to speak in trills as liquid as those of the nightingale, and
in accents as plaintive as those of a human voice. And one of the inmates
of the castle was so much struck by the performance of this fiddler that
he told the Count of it, and the fiddler was commanded to come and play at
the Castle, after the banquet which was to be held on the eve of the
wedding. The banquet took place in great pomp and solemnity, and lasted
for many hours. When it was over the fiddler was summoned to the large
hall and bidden to play before the Lords and Ladies.
"The fiddler was a strange looking, tall fellow with unkempt fair hair,
and eyes that glittered like gold; but as he was dressed in tattered
uncouth rags (and they were his best too) he cut an extraordinary and
almost ridiculous figure amongst that splendid jewelled gathering. The
guests tittered when they saw him. But as soon as he began to play, their
tittering ceased, for never had they heard such music.
"He played—in view of the festive occasion—a joyous melody.
And, as he played, the air seemed full of sunlight, and the smell of wine
vats and the hum of bees round ripe fruit. The guests could not keep still
in their places, and at last the Count gave orders for a general dance.
The hall was cleared, and soon all the guests were breathlessly dancing to
the divine lilt of the fiddler's melody. All except Elisinde who, when her
betrothed came forward to lead her to the dance, pleaded fatigue, and
remained seated in her chair, pale and distraught, and staring at the
fiddler. This did not, to tell the truth, displease her betrothed, who was
a clumsy dancer and had no ear for music. Breathless at last with
exhaustion the guests begged the untiring fiddler to pause while they
rested for a moment to get their breath.
"And while they were resting the fiddler played another tune. This time it
was a sad tune: a low, soft tune, liquid and lovely as a human voice. A
great hush came on the company. It seemed as if after the heat and
splendour of a summer's day the calm of evening had fallen; the quiet of
the dusk, when the moon rises in the sky, still faintly yellow in the west
with the ebb of sunset, and pours on the stiff cornfields its cool,
silvery frost; and the trees quiver, as though they felt the freshness and
were relieved, and a breeze comes, almost imperceptible and not strong
enough to shake the boughs, from the sea; and a bird, hidden somewhere in
the leaves, sings a throbbing song.
"Everyone was spellbound, but none so much as Elisinde. The music seemed
to be speaking straight to her, to pierce the very core of her heart. It
was an inarticulate language which she understood better than any words.
She heard a lonely spirit crying out to her, that it understood her sorrow
and shared her pain. And large tears poured down her cheeks.
"The fiddler stopped playing, and for a moment or two no one spoke. At
last Elisinde's betrothed gave a great yawn, and the spell was broken.
"'You play very well—very well, indeed,' said the Count.
"'But that sad music is, I think, rather out of place to-day,' said the
"'Yes, let us have another cheerful tune,' said the Count.
"The fiddler struck up once more and played another dance. This time there
was an almost elfish magic in his melody. It took you captive; it was
irresistible; it called and commanded and compelled; you longed to follow,
follow, anywhere, over the hills, over the sea, to the end of the world.
"Elisinde rose from her chair as though the spirit of the music beckoned
her, but looking round she saw no partner to her taste. She sat down again
and stared at the fiddler. His eyes were fixed on her, and as she looked
at him his squalor and rags seemed to fade away and his blue eyes that
glittered like gold seemed to grow larger, and his hair to grow brighter
till it shone like fire. And he seemed to be caught in a rosy cloud of
light: tall, splendid, young, and glowing like a god.
"After this dance was over the Count rose, and he and his guests retired
to rest. The fiddler was given a purse full of money, and the Count gave
orders that he should be served refreshment in the kitchen.
"Elisinde went up to her bedroom, which overlooked the garden. She threw
the window wide open and looked out into the starry darkness. It was a
breathless summer night. The air was full of warm scents. Lights still
twinkled in the village; now and again a dog barked, otherwise everything
was still. She leant out of the window, and cried bitterly because her lot
was loathsome to her, and she had not a friend in the world to whom she
could confide her sorrow.
"While she was thus sobbing she heard a rustling in the bushes beneath;
she looked down and she saw a face looking up towards her, a beautiful
face, glistening in the moonlight. It was the fiddler.
"'Elisinde,' he called to her in a low voice, 'if you want to escape I
have the means. Come with me; I love you, and I will save you from your
"'I would come with you to the end of the world,' she said, 'but how can I
get away from this castle?'
"He threw a rope ladder up to her. 'Make it fast to the bar,' he said,
'and let yourself down.'
"She let herself down into the garden. 'We can easily climb the wall with
this,' he said; 'but before you come I must tell you that if you will be
my bride your life will be hard and full of misery. Think before you
"'Rather all the misery in the world,' she said, 'than the awful doom that
awaits me here. Besides which I love you, and we shall be very happy.'
"They scaled the wall, and on the other side of it the fiddler had two
horses, waiting tied to the gate. They galloped through many villages, and
by the dawn they had reached a village far beyond the Count's lands. Here
they stopped at an inn, and they were married by the priest that day. But
they did not stop in this village; they sought a further country, beyond
reach of all pursuit. They settled in a village, and the fiddler earned
his bread by his fiddling, and Elisinde kept their cottage neat and clean.
For awhile they were as happy as the day was long; the fiddler found
favour everywhere by his fiddling, and Elisinde ingratiated herself by her
gentle ways. But one day when Elisinde was lying in bed and the fiddler
had lulled her to sleep with his music, some neighbours, attracted by the
sound, passed the cottage and looked in at the window. And to their
astonishment they saw the fiddler sitting by a bed on which lay what
seemed to them to be a sleeping princess; and the whole cottage was full
of dazzling light, and the fiddler's face shone, and his hair and his eyes
glittered like gold. They went away much frightened, and told the whole
village the news.
"Now there were already not a few of the villagers who looked askance on
the fiddler; and this incident set all the evil and envious tongues
wagging. When the fiddler went to play the next day at the inn men turned
away from him, and a child in the street threw a stone at him. Presently
he was warned that he had better swiftly fly or else he would be drowned
as a sorcerer.
"So he and Elisinde fled in the night to a neighbouring village. But soon
the dark rumours followed them, and they were forced to flee once more.
This happened again and again, till at last in the whole country there was
not a village which would receive them, and one night they were obliged to
take refuge in a barn, for Elisinde was expecting the birth of her child.
That night their child was born, a beautiful little boy, and an hour
afterwards Elisinde smiled and died.
"All that night the villagers heard from afar a piteous wailing music,
infinitely sad and beautiful, and those that heard it shuddered and
"The next day the villagers sought the barn, for they had resolved to
drown the sorcerer; but he was not there. All they found was the dead body
of Elisinde, and a little baby lying on some straw. The body of Elisinde
was covered with roses. And this was strange, for it was midwinter. The
fiddler had disappeared and was never heard of again, and an old
wood-cutter, who was too old to know any better, took charge of the baby.
"I will tell you what happened to it another day."
"We wish to hear the end of your story," said the ex-Prime Minister to the
"Yes," said the scholar, "and I want to know who the fiddler was."
This conversation took place at the Green Tower two weeks after the
gathering I have already described. The same people were present; but
there was another guest, namely, the musician, who, unlike the
flute-player, was not an amateur.
"The child of Elisinde and the fiddler," began the flute-player, "was, as
I have already told you, a boy. The woodcutter who took pity on him was
old and childless. He brought the baby to his hut, and gave it over to the
care of his wife. At first she pretended to be angry, and said that
nothing would persuade her to have anything to do with the child, and that
it was all they could do to feed themselves without picking up waifs in
the gutter; but she ended by looking after the baby with the utmost
tenderness and care, and by loving it as much as if it had been her own
child. The baby was christened Franz. As soon as he was able to walk and
talk there were two things about him which were remarkable. The first was
his hair, which glittered like sunlight; the second was his fondness for
all musical sounds. When he was four years old he had made himself a flute
out of a reed, and on this he played all day, imitating the song of the
birds. He was in his sixth year when an event happened which changed his
life. He was sitting in front of the woodcutter's cottage one day, when a
bright cavalcade passed him. It was a nobleman from a neighbouring castle,
who was travelling to the city with his retainers. Among these was a
Kapellmeister, who organised the music of this nobleman's household. The
moment he caught sight of Franz and heard his piping, he stopped, and
asked who he was.
"The woodcutter's wife told him the story of the finding of the waif, to
which both the nobleman and himself listened with great interest. The
Kapellmeister said that they should take the child with them; that he
should be attached to the nobleman's house and trained as a member of his
choir or his string band, according to his capacities. The nobleman, who
was passionately fond of music, and extremely particular with regard to
the manner of its performance, was delighted with the idea. The offer was
made to the woodcutter and his wife, and although she cried a good deal
they were both forced to recognise that they had no right to interfere
with the child's good fortune. Moreover, the gift of a purse full of gold
(which the nobleman gave them) did not make the matter more distasteful.
"Finally it was settled that the child should go with the nobleman then
and there; and Franz took leave of his adopted parents, not without many
and bitter tears being shed on both sides.
"Franz travelled with the nobleman to a large city, and he became a member—the
youngest—of the nobleman's household. He was taught his letters,
which he learnt with ease, and the rudiments of music, which he absorbed
with such astounding rapidity, that the Kapellmeister said that it seemed
as if he already knew everything that was taught him. When he was seven
years old, he could not only play several instruments, but he composed
fugues and sonatas. When the nobleman invited the magnates of the place to
listen to his musicians, Franz, the prodigy, was the centre of interest,
and very soon he became the talk of the town. At the age of ten he was an
accomplished organ player, and he played with skill on the flute and the
"He grew up a tall and handsome lad, with clear, dreamy eyes, and hair
that continued to glitter like sunlight. He was happy in the nobleman's
household, for the nobleman and his wife were kind people; like the
woodcutter they were childless and came to look upon him as their own
child. He was a quiet youth, and so deeply engrossed in his music and his
studies that he seemed to be quite unaware of the outside world and its
inhabitants and its doings. But although he led a retired, studious life,
his fame had got abroad and had even reached the Emperor's ears.
"When Franz was seventeen years old it happened that the Court was in need
of an organist. The Emperor's curiosity had been aroused by what he had
heard of Franz, and one fine day the youth was summoned to Court to play
before his Majesty. This he did with such success that he was appointed
organist of the Court on the spot.
"He was sad at leaving the nobleman, but there was nothing to be done. The
Emperor's wish was law. He became Court organist and he played the organ
in the Imperial chapel during Mass on Sundays. As before, he spent all his
leisure time in composing music.
"Now the Emperor had a daughter called Kunigmunde, who was beautiful and
wildly romantic. She was immediately spellbound by Franz's music, and he
became the lodestar of her dreams. Often in the afternoon she would steal
up to the organ loft, where he was playing alone, and sit for hours
listening to his improvisations. They did not speak to each other much,
but ever since Franz had set eyes on her something new had entered into
his soul and spoke in his music, something tremulous and strange and
"For a year Franz's life ran placidly and smoothly. He was made much of,
praised and petted; but now, as before, he seemed quite unaware of the
outside world and its doings, and he moved in a world of his own, only he
was no longer alone in his secret habitation, it was inhabited by another
shape, the beautiful dark-haired Princess Kunigmunde, and in her honour he
composed songs, minuets, sonatas, hymns, and triumphal marches. As was
only natural, there were not wanting at Court persons who were envious of
Franz, his talent, and his good fortune. And among them there was a
musician, a tenor in the Imperial choir, called Albrecht, who hated Franz
with his whole heart. He was a dark-eyed, dark-haired creature, slightly
deformed; he limped, and he had a sinister look as though of a satyr.
Nevertheless he was highly gifted and composed music of his own which,
although it was not radiant like that of Franz, was full of brilliance and
not without a certain compelling power. Albrecht revolved in his mind how
he might ruin Franz. He tried to excite the envy of the courtiers against
him, but Franz was such a modest fellow, so kindly and good-natured, that
it was not easy to make people dislike him. Nevertheless there were many
who were tired of hearing him praised, and many who were secretly tired of
the perpetual beauty and radiance of Franz's music, and wished for
something new even though it should be ugly.
"An opportunity soon presented itself for Albrecht to carry out his evil
and envious designs. The Court Kapellmeister died, and not long after this
event a great feast was to be held at Court to celebrate Princess
Kunigmunde's birthday. The Emperor had offered a prize, a wreath of gilt
laurels, as well as the post of Court Kapellmeister to him who should
compose the most beautiful piece of music in his daughter's honour. Franz
seemed so certain of success that nobody even dared to compete with him
"When the hour of the contest came—it took place in the great
throne-room before the Emperor, the Empress, their sons, their daughters,
and the whole court after the banquet—Franz was the first to display
his work. He sat down at the clavichord and sang what he had composed in
honour of the Princess. He had made three little songs for her. Franz had
not much voice, but it had a peculiar wail in it, and he sang, like the
born and trained musician that he was, with that absolute mastery over his
means, that certain perfection of utterance, that power of conveying, to
the shade of a shade, the inmost spirit and meaning of the music which
only belong to those great and rare artists whose perfect art is alive
with the inspiration that cannot be learnt.
"The first song he sang was the call of a home-going shepherd to his flock
on the hills at sunset, and when he sang it he brought the largeness of
the dying evening and the solemn hills into the elegant throne-room. The
second song was the cry of a lonely fisherman on the river at midnight,
and as he sang it he brought the mystery of broad starlit waters into the
taper-lit, gilded hall. The third song was the song of the happy lover in
the orchard at dawn. And when he sang it he brought the smell of dewy
leaves and grass, the soaring radiance of spring and early morning, to
that powdered and silken assembly. The Court applauded him, but they were
astonished and slightly disappointed, for they had expected something
grand and complicated, and not three simple tunes. But the nobleman who
had educated Franz, and his Kapellmeister, who were among the guests, wept
tears in silence.
"Albrecht followed him. The swarthy singer sat down to the instrument and
struck a ringing chord. He had a pure and infinitely powerful tenor voice,
clear as crystal, loud as a clarion, strong, rich, and rippling. He sang a
love-song he had composed himself. He called it 'The Homage of King Pan to
the Princess.' It was voluptuous and vehement and sweet as honey, full of
bold conceits and audacious turns and trills, which startled the audience
and took their breath away. He sang his song with almost devilish skill
and power; and his warm, captivating voice rang through the room and shook
the tall window-panes, and finally died away like the vibrations of a
great bell. The whole Court shouted, delirious with applause, and
unanimously declared him to be the victor. A witty courtier said that
Marsyas had avenged himself on Apollo; but the nobleman and his
Kapellmeister snorted and sniffed and said nothing. Albrecht was given the
prize and appointed Kapellmeister to the Court without further discussion.
"When the ceremony was over, Franz, who was indifferent to his defeat,
went to the chapel of the palace, and lighting a candle, walked up into
the organ loft. There he played to himself another song, a hymn he had
composed in honour of Princess Kunigmunde. It was filled with rapture and
a breathless wonder, and in it his inmost soul spoke its unuttered love.
He had not sung this song in public, it was too sacred. As he played and
sang to himself in a low voice he was aware of a soft footstep. He started
and looked round, and there was the Princess, bright in silk and jewels,
with a pink rose in her powdered hair. She took this rose and laid it
lightly on the black keys.
"'That is the prize,' she said. 'You won it, and I want to thank you. I
never knew music could be so beautiful.'
"Franz looked at her, and said 'Thank you.' He had risen from his seat and
was about to go, but the light of his candle caught Princess Kunigmunde's
brown eyes (which were wet with tears), and something rose like fire in
his breast and made him forget his bashfulness, his respect, and his sense
"'Come with me,' he said, in a broken voice. 'Let us fly from this Court
to the hills and be happy.'
"But the Princess shook her head sadly, and said: 'Alas! It is impossible.
I am betrothed to the King of the Two Sicilies.'
"Then Franz mastered himself once more, and said: 'Of course, it is
impossible. I was mad.'
"The Princess kissed her hand to him and fled.
"At that moment Franz heard a noise in the nave of the chapel; he looked
over the gallery of the organ loft, and saw sidling away in the darkness
the dim figure of a deformed man.
"That night Princess Kunigmunde had a strange dream. She thought she was
transported into a beautiful southern country where the azure sky seemed
to scintillate with the dust of myriads and myriads of diamonds, and to
sparkle with sunlight like dancing wine. The low blue hills were bare and
sparsely clothed with delicate trees, and the fields, sprinkled with
innumerable red, yellow, white and purple flowers, were bright as fabulous
Persian carpets. On a grassy knoll before her the rosy columns of a temple
shone in the gleaming dust of the atmosphere. Beside her there was a
running stream, on the bank of which grew a bay-tree. There was a chirping
of grasshoppers in the air, a noise of bees, and a delicious warm smell of
burnt grass and thyme and mint.
"Near the stream a man was standing; he was an ordinary man, and yet he
seemed to tower above the landscape without being unusually tall; his hair
was bright as gold, and his eyes, more lustrous still, reflected the
silvery blue sky and shone like opals. In his hands he held a golden lyre,
and around him a warm golden cloud seemed to rise, on a transparent aura
of light, like the glow of the sunset. In front of him there stood a
creature of the woods, a satyr, with pointed ears, cloven hoofs, and human
eyes, in his hairy hands holding a flute made out of a reed.
"Presently the satyr breathed on his flute and a wonderful note trembled
in the air, soft, low, and liquid. The note was followed by others, and a
stillness fell upon Nature; the birds ceased to sing, the grasshoppers
were still, the bees paused. All Nature was listening and the Princess was
conscious in her dream that there were others besides herself listening,
unseen shapes and sightless phantoms; a crowd, a multitude of attentive
ghosts, that were hidden from her sight. The melody rose and swelled in
stillness; it was melting and ravishing and bold with a human audacity. As
she listened it reminded her of something; she felt she had heard such
sounds before, though she could not remember where and when. But suddenly
it flashed across her that the music resembled Albrecht's song; it was
Albrecht's song, only transfigured as it were, and a thousand times more
beautiful in her dream than in reality. More beautiful, and at the same
time as though it belonged to the days of youth and spring which Albrecht
had never known. The satyr ceased playing and the pleasant noises of the
world began once more. The shining figure who stood before him looked on
the satyr with divine scorn and smiled a radiant, merciless smile. Then he
struck his lyre and Nature once more was dumb.
"But this time the magic was of another kind and a thousand times more
mighty; a song rose into the air which leapt and soared like a flame,
imperious as the flashing of a sword, triumphant as the waving of a
banner, wonderful as the dawn and fresh as the laughing sea. And once more
Princess Kunigmunde was aware that the music was familiar to her. She had
heard something like it in the chapel that evening, when in the darkness
Franz had played and sung the hymn that he had composed in her honour.
Only now it was more than human, unearthly and divine. As soon as he
ceased an eclipse seemed to darken the world, a thick cloud of rolling
darkness; there was a crash of thunder, a flash of lightning, and out of
the blackness came a piteous, human cry, the cry of a creature in anguish,
and then a faint moaning.
"Presently all was still, but the dark cloud remained, and she heard a
mocking laugh and the accents of a clear, scornful voice (she recognised
the voice, it was the voice of Albrecht), and the voice said: 'Thou hast
conquered, Apollo, and cruelly hast thou used thy victory; and cruelly has
thou punished me for daring to challenge thy divine skill. It was mad
indeed to compete with a god; and yet shall I avenge my wrong and thy
harshness shall recoil on thee. For not even gods can be unjust with
impunity, and the Fates are above us all. And I shall be avenged; for all
thy sons shall suffer what I have suffered; and there is not one of them
that shall escape the doom and not share the fate of Marsyas the Satyr,
whom thou didst cruelly slay. The music and the skill which shall be their
inheritance shall be the cause to them of sorrow and grief unending and
pitiless pain and misery. Their life shall be as bitter to them as my
death has been to me. Their music shall fill the world with sweetness and
ravish the ears of listening nations, but to them it shall bring no joy;
for life like a cruel blade shall flay and lay bare their hearts, and
sorrow like a searching wind shall play upon their souls and make them
tremble, even as the scabbard of my body trembled in the breeze; and just
as from that trembling husk of what was once myself there came forth sweet
sounds, so shall it be with their souls, shivering and trembling in the
cold wind of life. Music shall come from them, but this music shall be
born of agony; nor shall they utter a single note that is not begotten of
sorrow or pain. And so shall the children of Apollo suffer and share the
pain of Marsyas.
"The voice died away, and a pitiful wail was heard as of a wind blowing
through the reeds of a river. And the Princess awoke, trembling with fear
of some unknown and impending disaster.
"The next morning Franz, as he walked into the chapel to practice on the
organ, was met by two soldiers, who bade him follow them, and he was shut
up in the prison of the palace. No word of explanation was given him; nor
had he any idea what the crime might be of which he was accused, or of his
ultimate fate. But in the evening, when the gaoler's daughter brought him
his food, she made him a sign, and he found in his loaf of bread a rose, a
file, and a tiny scroll, on which the following words were written;
'Albrecht denounced you. Fly for your life. K.' Later, when the gaolers
had gone to sleep, the gaoler's daughter stole to his cell. She brought
him a rope, and a purse full of silver. He filed the bars and let himself
down into a narrow street of the city.
"By the time the sun rose he had left the city far behind him. He
journeyed on and on till he passed the frontier of the Emperor's dominions
and reached a neighbouring State. By the time he came to a city he had
spent his money, and he was in rags and tatters; nevertheless, he managed
to earn his bread by making music in the streets, and after a time a
well-to-do citizen who noticed him took him into his house and entrusted
him with the task of teaching music to his sons and of playing him to
sleep in the evening. Franz spent his leisure hours in composing an opera
called 'The Death of Adonis,' into which he poured all the music of his
soul, all his love, his sorrow, and his infinite desire. He lived for this
only, and during all the hours he spent when he was not working at his
opera he was like a man in a dream, unconscious of the realities around
him. In a year his opera was finished. He took it to the Intendant of the
Ducal Theatre in the city and played it to him, and the Intendant, greatly
pleased, determined to have it performed without delay. The best singers
were allotted parts in it, and it was performed before the Arch-Duke and
his Court, and a multitude of people.
"The music told the story of Franz's love; it was bright with all his
dreams, and sorrowful with his great despair. Never had such music been
heard; so sweet, so sunlit in its joys, so radiant in its sadness. But the
Arch-Duke and his Court, startled by the new accent of this music, and
influenced by the local and established musicians, who were envious of
this newcomer, listened in frigid silence, so that the common people in
the gallery dared not show signs of their delight. In fact, the opera was
a complete failure. Public opinion followed the Court, and found no words,
bad or strong enough to condemn what they called the new-fangled rubbish.
Among those who blamed the new work there was none so bitter as the
citizen whose children Franz had been teaching. For this man considered
himself to be a genius, and was inordinately vain, and his ignorance was
equal to his conceit. He dismissed Franz from his service. All doors were
now closed to him, and being on the verge of starvation he was reduced to
earning his bread in the streets by playing his pipe. This also proved
unsuccessful, and it was with difficulty that he earned a few pence every
"At last he burnt all his manuscripts, and went into the hills; the hill
people welcomed him, but their kindness came too late; his heart was
broken, and when sickness came to him with the winter snow, he had no
longer any strength to resist it. The peasants found him one day lying
cold and stiff in his hut. They buried him on the hill-side. The night of
his funeral a strange fiddler with a shining face was seen standing beside
his grave and playing the most lovely tunes on a violin.
"The name of Franz was soon forgotten, but although he died obscure and
penniless he left a rich legacy. For he taught the hill-people three
songs, the songs he had sung at Court in honour of Princess Kunigmunde,
and they never died. They spread from the hills to the plains, from the
plains to the river, from the river to the woods, and indeed you can still
hear them on the hills of the north, on the great broad rivers of the
east, and in the orchards of the south."