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Title: An Idyl Of The East Side - 1891
Author: Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone), 1849-1913
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Idyl Of The East Side - 1891" ***


By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers

In the matter of raising canary-birds--at once strong of body and of
note, tamed to associate with humanity on rarely friendly terms, and
taught to sing with a sweetness nothing short of heavenly--Andreas
Stoffel was second to none. And this was not by any means surprising,
for he had been born (and for its saintly patron had been christened)
close by the small old town of Andreasberg: which stands barely
within the verge of the Black Forest, on the southern declivity of the
Harz--and which, while famous for its mines, is renowned above all
other cities for the excellence of the bird songsters which there and
thereabouts are raised.

Canary-birds had been the close companions of this good Andreas through
all the fifty years of his lifetime. They had sung their sweet song of
rejoicing at his birth--when the storks had brought him one day, while
his father was far underground at work in the mines, and was vastly well
pleased, when he came home all grimy at night, to find what a brave
boy God had sent him by these winged messengers. They had sung over his
cradle as his mother, knitting, rocked it in the midst of the long
patch of sunlight that came through the low, wide window of the
_bauernhaus_--the comfortable home with high-peaked roof, partly
thatched and partly shingled, and with great drooping eaves, that was
nooked snugly on the warm southern slope of the Andreasberg beside a
little stream.

[Illustration: High-peaked roof, partly thatched 258]

They had sung him awake many and many a bright summer morning; and one
of his tenderest memories of the time when he was a very little boy--and
was put to bed, as little boys should be, at sundown--was of their
faint, irregular, sleepy-headed chirpings and twitterings as they
settled themselves to slumber on their perches for the night.

And when the time came that Andreas, grown to man's estate, being
one-and-twenty years old, but not to man's strength, for he was small of
stature and frail, was left lonely in the world--the good father killed
by a rock-fall in the mines, and the dear mother thereafter pining away
from earth, and so to the heaven that gave her husband back to her--it
was his house-mates the birds who did their best to cheer him with their
songs. And presently, as it seemed to him, these songs began to tell of
new happiness in a new home far away across the mountains and beyond the
sea--in that distant America where already his father's brother dwelt,
and whereof he had heard wonderful stories of splendors and of riches
incalculable all his life long. Indeed, the adventurous uncle had
prospered amazingly in the twenty years of his American exile: rising,
in due course, from the position of a young man of most promiscuous all
work in a delicatessen shop in New York to the position of owner of the
business, shop and all.

To go to a land where such things as this were possible seemed to
Andreas most wise; and to be near his uncle, and the aunt and cousins
whom he had never seen, his sole remaining kin, held out to him a
pleasant promise of cheer and comfort in his loneliness.

But, in very truth, the sweet burden of the song of his birds was not
born of thoughts of mere commonplace family affection and commonplace
worldly wealth. Far more precious than these was the motive of the
music that Andreas listened to and understood, and yet scarcely would
acknowledge, even to himself; for in America it was that Christine now
had her home--and that which set his heartstrings a-thrilling, as he
listened to the song of his birds, was the deep, pure melody of love.

They had been children together, he and Christine, their homes side by
side on the flanks of the Andreasberg; and when, three years before,
she had gone with her father and her mother on the long journey
westward, the heart of Andreas Stoffel had gone with her, and only his
body was left behind among the mountains of the Harz. And Christine had
dulled to him a little the keen edge of the sorrow of their parting by
admitting that she left her own heart in the place of the heart that she
bore away.

More than once had the rich uncle, owner of the delicatessen shop in New
York, written to urge that his nephew--whose frailty of body made him
unfit to enter upon the hard life of a worker in the mines--should
come to America; and with his large knowledge of affairs the uncle had
explained that the best bill of exchange in which money could be carried
from Andreasberg to New York was canary-birds, that could be bought for
comparatively little in the German town, and that would be worth in the
American city a very great sum. And now on this shrewd advice Andreas
acted. The dear old _bauernhaus_ was sold, and its furnishing with
it; and all the money thus gained, together with the greater sum that,
little by little, his father had added to the store in the old leather
bag (saving only what the journey would cost) was spent in buying the
finest canary-birds which money could buy; so that for a long while
after that time Andreasberg was desolate, for all of its sweetest
singers were gone.

Thus it fell out that even in the time of his long journey his birds
still sang to him; and his fellow-travellers by land and sea regarded
curiously this slim, pale youth, who shyly kept apart from human
converse and communed with his companions the birds. And so lovingly
well did Andreas care for his little feathered friends that not one died
throughout the whole long passage; and as the ship came up the beautiful
bay of New York on a sunny May morning, while Andreas stood on the deck
with his cages about him, very blithely and sweetly did the birds sing
their hopeful song of greeting to the New World.

But it was a false song of hope, after all. Hearts were fickle thirty
years ago, even as hearts are fickle to-day; and the first news that
Andreas heard when he was come to his uncle's home (a very fine home,
over a very fine shop, indeed) was that Christine had been a twelvemonth
married--in very complete forgetfulness of all her fine words about the
heart left behind her, and of all her fine promises that she would be

That there be such things as broken hearts is an open question. Yet when
this news came suddenly to Andreas a keen agony of pain went through
his heart as though it were really breaking; and with his hands pressed
tightly against his breast, and with a face as pale as death itself, he
fell to the floor. He would have died then very willingly; and it was
very unwillingly--the fierce pain leaving him as suddenly as it had
come--that he returned to life. Whatever may be said for or against the
probability of broken hearts, there can be no question as to the verity
of broken lives. That day, assuredly, the life of Andreas Stoffel was
broken, and it never wholly mended again. For a while even the song of
his birds lost all its sweetness, and seemed to him but a discordant

Yet even a broken life, until it be snuffed out entirely, must battle in
the world for standing-room. Luckily for Andreas, there was no need for
him to question how his own particular battle should be made. The
shape in which his little store of worldly wealth was cast obviously
determined the lines on which he should seek maintenance. It was plain
that by the rearing and the selling of canary-birds he must gain support
until the time should come (and he hoped that it would come soon) when
he might find release from this earth, where love so soon grows false
and cold.

The rich uncle, who was a kind-hearted man, gave his help in the
matter of finding a shop wherein the canary-bird business might be
advantageously carried on, and gave also the benefit of his commercial
wisdom and knowledge of American ways. And so, with no great difficulty,
Andreas was soon established in a snug little place of his own on the
East Side; where the friendly German speech sounded almost constantly
in his ears, and where the friendly German customs obtained almost as
completely as in his own dear German home. But, after all, the change
was a dismal one. As his unaccustomed nose was assailed by the rank
oil-vapors blown across from Hunter's Point he longed regretfully for
the fresh, aromatic air that the south winds swept up and over his old
home from the pines of the Schwarz-wald; and the contrast was a sorry
one between a home on the slopes of the Harz Mountains and a home in
Avenue B.

Yet had these been his only sorrows, and had he borne them--as he had
hoped to bear them--with Christine, his lot would have been anything
but hard. It was the deep heart-wound that he had suffered that made his
life for many a year a very dreary one; too dreary for him to find
much pleasure even in the singing of his birds. Now and again he met
Christine. At their first meeting--in his uncle's fine parlor over the
fine delicatessen shop, one Sunday afternoon--she was, as she well might
be, confused in her speech and very shamefaced in her ways. Her husband
was with her, quite a prosperous person, so Andreas was told, who
had built up a great business in the pork and sausage line. He was a
loud-voiced, merry man; and he aired his wit freely, though evidently
with no intent to be unkind, upon the lover out of whose lucklessness
his own luck had come. Even as pretty a girl as Christine could not
have more than one husband at a time, said this big Conrad, with great
good-humor; and so, since they could not both marry her, Andreas would
do well to stop crying over spilled milk. They all would be very good
friends, he added, and Andreas would be godfather to the first child. He
put out his big hand as he made this proffer of friendship; and although
Andreas could not refuse to clasp it, there was not, in truth, any great
store of friendliness for Christine's loud-voiced husband in his heart.
So soon as this was possible, he was glad to get away from the merry
Sunday afternoon gathering in his uncle's fine parlor to the more
sympathetic society of his birds. Yet there did not seem to him much
music in the singing of his birds that day.

Christine was vastly proud of her big, rosy-faced, noisy husband, whose
sausage-making greatly prospered, and to whom the American dollars
rolled in bravely. But even in these days of her good-luck she sometimes
found herself thinking--when Conrad's rough love-making was still
further roughened, and his noisiness greatly increased, by too free
draughts of heady German beer--of the gentler ways and constant
tenderness of her earlier lover, whose love, with her own promise to be
true to it, she had so lightly cast aside. Thoughts of this sort, it is
true, did not often trouble her, but now and then they gave her a little
heart-pang; and the pang would be intensified, sometimes, as the thought
also would come to her that perhaps it was because she had broken
her plighted troth that her many prayers to become a mother remained

As time went on, Christine's sorrows came to be of a more instant sort.
Her too jolly husband's fondness for heady beer grew upon him, and with
its increase came a decrease in the success that until then had been
attendent upon his sausage-making. His business fell away from him by
degrees into soberer and steadier hands, which had the effect of making
him take to stronger drinks than beer in order that he might the more
effectually forget his troubles. He lost his merriness, and somewhat of
his loudness, and became sullen; and the wolf always was shrewdly near
the door. Thus, in a very bad way indeed, things went on for half
a dozen years; then the big Conrad, what with drink and worry, fell
ill--so ill, that for a long while he lay close to the open jaws of

No one ever knew--though several people quite accurately guessed--why
the wolf did not fairly get into the house during that dismal time. It
is certain that when Conrad arose from his bed at last, a thin remnant
of his former bigness, there were few high-priced birds left in Andreas
Stoffel's little shop, where there had been a score or more when
his sickness began. And, possibly, it was something more than a mere
coincidence that nearly all of the few which remained were sold about
the time that Conrad started again, in a very humble way, his business
of sausage-making.

But if Andreas did thus sacrifice his birds for Christine's good, he did
not grudge the sacrifice; for upon the big Conrad poverty and sickness
had exercised a chastening and most wholesome influence. He got up out
of his bed a changed man; and the change, morally at least, was greatly
for the better. Physically the result was less salutary; indeed, he
never quite recovered from his sharp attack; and three or four years
later, just as his business was getting into good shape again, he
sickened suddenly, and then promptly paid to nature the debt that all
men owe, and that his partial return to health had but a little time

But Christine was not left desolate in the world, for in the last year
of her husband's life the strong yearning that so possessed her had been
satisfied, and she was the mother of a baby girl. Andreas, claiming the
fulfilment of the promise made so long before, had stood godfather to
the little Rosa--for so, because of her fresh rosiness, was she named;
and there was a strange, sorrowful longing in his heart when, the rite
being ended, he came again to his lonely home and sat him down to be
comforted by the singing of his birds: for while the children of Alice
call Bartram father, there must be ever a weary weight of sadness in the

Life had not given so much of happiness to Christine--though, possibly,
her happiness was equal to her deserts--that her hold upon life was a
very firm one; and although she tried, for the little Roschen's sake, to
put fresh strength into her grasp, the pressure of poverty and care and
sorrow all combined to make her loosen it. Gently, a little at a time,
her hold gave way. She knew what was coming, and so did Andreas. Once
or twice they spoke about it; and spoke also of the old days on the
Andreasberg, when began the love that in one of their hearts at least
never had grown cold. And for this old love's sake Andreas promised that
when she was gone the little Rosehen should find a home with him and
with his birds. It was not a great while after this promise was made
that the end came.

Some of the women laughed a little, and cried a little too, when, after
the funeral, old Andreas--for so already had they begun to call him,
because of his silent habit and quaint, old-fashioned ways--asked to be
shown how a baby should be carried; and, being in this matter properly
instructed, bore away with careful tenderness in his arms the little
Rosehen to her new home. And when he was come home with her, the birds,
as though in welcome--which seemed the more real because certain of the
tamer ones among them came forth from their open cages and perched upon
his arm--

[Illustration: Chorus of sweetest song 268]

The good-wives living thereabouts were somewhat shocked at the thought
of risking a baby's life in the care of a man who was qualified only to
minister intelligently to the needs of baby canary-birds; yet were they
not a little touched when they came--in unnecessary numbers, as Andreas
thought--to give him the benefit of their superior wisdom in the
premises by finding how well, in a queer, awkward way, he was
discharging the duties of his office; and such gentleness in a man they
all vowed that they had never seen. Yet it was not surprising that his
quaint effort was crowned with so signal a success; as the birds could
have explained, had their song-notes been rendered into human speech,
Andreas had served an apprenticeship in caring for them which well
fitted him to care with a mother's tenderness for this little girl, who,
such was his love for her, seemed to him in all verity to be his own
proper child. Benefiting by the advice which so lavishly was bestowed
upon him, he presently became--as even the most critical of the women
were forced to admit--a much better mother to the little Roschen than
many a real mother might have been. It was, indeed, a sight worth
travelling far to see, this of Andreas washing and dressing the baby
in the sunny room at the back of the shop where hung the cages in which
were the choicest of his birds. Roschen's first conscious memory was
of laughing and splashing in her little tub in the sunshine, while all
around her was a carolling of song.

In the course of the years which had drifted by since Andreas came with
his birds to New York that May morning he had not made for himself many
friends. To be a friend of birds a man must have a quiet habit of body,
and great gentleness of nature, and a true tenderness of heart; which
qualities tend also to solitariness, being for the most part harmed
rather than fostered by association with mankind. As suited him well,
his business was not one that called him much abroad, nor that brought
him greatly into contact with his fellows. In his good care the famous
stock of songsters which he had brought with him from the fatherland
had increased prodigiously; and even the sale of nearly all his best old
birds, about the time that Conrad was ill, had worked, in the long run,
to his benefit; for he had taken these birds to one and another of the
great dealers, who thus came to know that in the little shop on Avenue
B were to be found canaries the like of which for tameness and for
rare beauty of note could not be bought elsewhere in all New York.
Thereafter, as his young birds grew up, learning from Andreas himself
the lesson of gentleness, and from his teaching-birds the lesson of
sweetness of note, he had no lack of high-paying customers; so that from
his business he derived an income far in excess of his modest
needs. What went with the overplus was known only to certain of his
country-folk, whose ill venture after greater fortune in America had
proved to be but a fiercer struggle with still greater poverty than they
had struggled with at home; and no doubt the angels also kept track of
his modest benefactions, for such is reputed to be their way.

Many a wounded life was healed by these hidden ministrations on the part
of Andreas; and, as rightly followed, great love there was for him
in many a humble heart. But love of this sort is not friendship,
for friendship requires some one plane at least of equality, and also
association and converse, which conditions were lacking in the case of
Andreas and those to whom he gave his aid; for the shyness of his nature
led him to keep himself apart--save when the demand upon his charity was
for that comfort and sympathy which can only be given in person--from
those whose burdens he lightened; so that, for the most part, while the
needed help was given the hand that gave it remained concealed.

Yet with a few of his country-folk in New York Andreas had established,
in course of time, relations of warm friendliness. Of his kin only two
cousins were left; for the rich, good uncle, from overmuch eating of his
own delicatessen, had come to a bilious ending; and his uncle's widow,
wise in her generation, had returned to her native town in Saxony, where
she was enabled, by reason of the fortune that the delicatessen-shop had
brought to her, to outshine the local baroness, and presently to attain
the summit of her highest hopes and happiness by wedding an impoverished
local baron, and so becoming a baroness herself. Her two sons were well
pleased with this marriage. They were carrying on a great business
in hog products, and had purchased for themselves fine estates in the
country and fine houses in town. To be able to speak of their mother as
"the baroness" suited them very well. Andreas saw but little of these
gilded relatives--who yet were good-hearted men, and very kindly
disposed towards him--for their magnificent surroundings were appalling
to his simple mind. His few friends were more nearly in his own walk
in life, and his friendship with them had been built up, as substantial
friendship should be, by slow degrees.

At the Café Nürnberger, near by his own little shop--a bakery celebrated
for the excellence of its bread, and for the great variety of its
toothsome. German cakes--it was his custom to make daily purchases. With
the plump, rosy Aunt Hedwig, who presided over the bakery, he passed the
good word of the day shyly; he responded shyly to the friendly nod of
the baker, Gottlieb Brekel, when that worthy chanced to be in the shop;
and he shyly greeted a certain jolly Herr Sohnstein, a German lawyer of
distinction, who was about the bakery a great deal and who popularly was
believed to be a suitor for the plump Hedwig's plump hand. And these shy
greetings might have gone on day after day for all eternity--or at least
for so much of it as these several persons were entitled to live out on
earth--without increasing one particle in cordiality, had there not
been one other dweller in the bakery to act as a solvent upon the
bird-dealer's reserve. This was the baker's daughter Minna, a child a
year or two older than Roschen and cast in a sturdier mould.

There was that about Andreas which drew all children to him, even as his
birds were drawn to him; and a part of the spell certainly was the love
for children that always was in his heart. The small Minna was disposed
not a little to caprice--for she was a motherless child, and Aunt Hedwig
humored her waywardness a trifle more than was good for her--and she
manifested, usually, a certain haughtiness towards those who sought to
make friends with her. Yet of her own accord one day, when Andreas had
ceased to be a stranger to her, she went up to him and offered him a
kiss. Aunt Hedwig volubly explained to Andreas the honor that had been
done him, and from that moment was disposed herself to be most friendly
with him--as was also the baker, and as was also Herr Sohnstein, when
the story of this extraordinary performance duly was related to them.
And thus there began a real friendship between Andreas and these
kindly souls that ever grew riper as the years went on. Sometimes of an
evening, when his birds were all asleep and he was left lonely, Andreas
would step around to the bakery; and would sit for an hour or so in
the little room back of the shop, listening pleasantly to the talk of
Gottlieb and Herr Sohnstein, as they smoked their long pipes, and
even laughing in a quiet way at the merry sallies thrown into the
conversation by Aunt Hedwig as she sat knitting beside the fire.
Andreas himself rarely spoke--it was not his way; but there was such a
sympathetic quality in his silence that his lack of words passed almost
unobserved. Much more attention was attracted by the fact that he did
not smoke--a fact that was looked upon as most extraordinary. But
this also went unheeded after a while, as it well might in a small room
wherein Gottlieb and Herr Sohnstein were smoking with such vigor that
the air was a deep, heavy blue. It was because his birds did not like
smoke that he had given up his pipe, he explained, simply; and only to
Minna did it occur to say, after she had turned the matter over in
her small mind for a while, that the Herr Stoffel must be a
very kind-hearted man to go without smoking because the smell of
tobacco-smoke wasn't nice for his birds.

When Andreas took the little Roschen to his home, that sad day after the
funeral, the good Hedwig was among the first of the womenkind to go to
him with tenders of instruction and advice; for while Hedwig was only,
as it were, a matron by brevet, she was deeply impressed by the extent
of her own knowledge in the matter of how motherless children should be
raised; and it is but just to add that this self-confidence was fully
warranted by the good results that had attended upon her care of her
brother's child. Something of the story of Andreas and Christine, and
something of what he had done for her and for her husband, was known
in the bakery; and enough more was guessed to make these friends of his
feel towards him, because of it all, a still stronger and more earnest
friendship. Herr Sohnstein, who, being a lawyer with an extensive
practice in the criminal courts, was not by any means in the habit of
praising his fellow-men indiscriminately, even went so far as to say
that Andréas was "better than any of the saints already." And when Aunt
Hedwig, somewhat shocked at this comparison to the disfavor at a single
thrust of the whole body of saints put together, reproved Herr Sohnstein
for his irreverence, he stoutly declared that while his knowledge of
saints was comparatively limited--since they did not come within the
jurisdiction of the courts--he certainly never had read of one who
had shown a finer quality of charity, both in forgiveness and in
self-sacrifice, than that which Andreas had displayed.

"Don't you make believe, Hedwig," Herr Sohnstein continued, "that if
you go off after promising yourself to me and marry another fellow, that
I'll take care of him when he's sick, and set him up in business when
he gets well, and wind up by giving him a first-class funeral; and don't
you get it into your head that I'm going to adopt any of your children
that are not mine too--for I'm not a saint already, even if Andreas is."

To which general declaration Aunt Hedwig replied, with much spirit, that
in the first place Herr Sohnstein had better wait until she promised
to marry him--or to marry anybody, for that matter--before he took to
preaching to her; that in the second place it was unnecessary for him
to declare that he was not a saint, since only a deaf blind man would be
likely to take him for one; and that in the third place he would do well
to save his breath to cool his broth: at which lively sally they all
laughed together very comfortably.

With these good friends Andreas consulted in all important matters
relating to Roschen's well-being. Aunt Hedwig's practical advice in
regard to clothing and food and general care-taking was of high value
in the early years; and it was Gottlieb's suggestion, when the time
came for beginning the sowing of seeds of wisdom in her small mind, that
Roschen should go with his own Minna to the school where the Sisters
taught; and of a Sunday the children went also together to be instructed
by the Redemptorist Fathers in the way of godliness. So these little
ones grew in years and in knowledge and in grace together, and towards
each other they felt a sisterly love.

[Illustration: Instructed by the Redemptorist Fathers 278]

Insensibly, too, as Roschen grew out of childhood into girlhood, her
attitude towards her adoptive father changed. In the great matters
of her life he still cared for her, planning always for her good, and
withholding from her nothing suited to her station in life that money
could buy. In the matter of her music, Aunt Hedwig declared that he
was positively extravagant; yet accepted in good part his excuse that
a voice so beautiful deserved to be well trained. It was her mother's
voice alive again, he said; and as he spoke, Aunt Hedwig saw that there
were tears in his eyes. But while Andreas still continued the larger
of his parental duties, in the smaller matters of every-day life his
adopted daughter now cared for him; so beginning to pay the debt (though
to neither of them, such was their love for each other, did any thought
of debt or of payment ever occur) that she owed him for all his goodness
to her and to her dead father and mother in the past.

In truth, it was a pretty sight to see Roschen first beginning to play
at keeping house for her father--for so she always called him--and
then, in a little while, keeping house for him most excellently in real
earnest. Here, again, the good qualities of Aunt Hedwig came to the
front, for to her intelligent direction was due the rather surprising
success that attended Roschen's ambitious attempt to become so early a
_hausfrau_. Time and again was a great culinary disaster averted by a
rapid dash on Roschen's part from her imperilled home to the bakery,
where Aunt Hedwig's advice was quickly obtained and then was promptly
acted upon. And if sometimes the advice came too late to avert the
catastrophe--as on that memorable and dreadful day when Roschen boiled
her sausage-dumplings without tying them in a bag--the lessons taught
by calamitous experience caused only passing trouble, and tended, in the
long-run, to good.

Indeed, by the time that Roschen was sixteen years old, and had so far
passed through her apprenticeship that she no longer was compelled
to make sudden and frantic appeals to Aunt Hedwig for aid, the little
household over which she presided so blithely was very admirably
managed; and it certainly was as quaint and as pretty an establishment
as could be found anywhere upon the whole round globe. Whoever entered
the little shop was greeted with such a thrilling and warbling of sweet
notes that all the air seemed quivering with music, and the leader of
the bird choir was a certain wonderful songster that Andreas had named
the Kronprinz, and for which he repeatedly had refused quite fabulous
sums. Andreas himself had bred the Kronprinz, and had given him the
education that now made him such a wonder among birds, and that made
him also of such great value as an instructor of the young birds whose
musical education was still to be gained. After his adopted daughter,
Andreas held this bird, and justly, to be the most precious thing that
he owned.

But far sweeter than the singing of the prized Kronprinz--at least, to
any but a bird-fancier's ears--was the singing that usually was to be
heard above the trilling of the canaries, and that came from the room
at the back of the shop where Roschen was engaged in her housewifely
duties. It was such music as the angels made, Andreas declared, yet
thinking most of all of one angel voice, the memory of which while still
on earth was very dear to him; and even in the case of those who were
moved by no tender association of the sweet tones of the living and the
dead this estimate of Roschen's singing did not seem unduly high. Gustav
Strauss, the son of the great bird-dealer over in the rich part of the
town, vowed that Andreas was entirely right in his angelic comparison;
and Ludwig Bauer, the young shoemaker, who lived next door but one, went
even further, and said that Hoschen's voice was as much sweeter than any
mere angel's voice as Roschen herself was sweeter and better than all
the angels in Paradise combined. There was nothing halting nor half-way
in Ludwig Bauer's opinion in this matter, it will be observed.

The little room wherein Roschen sang so sweetly while at her work was
their kitchen and dining-room and parlor all in one. As noon-time drew
near there would come out into the shop from this room, through the open
door-way, such succulent and enticing odors of roasting pork and stewing
onions and boiling cabbages, that even Bielfrak--as the Spitz dog,
who was chained as a guard close beneath the cage of the Kronprinz,
appropriately was named--would fall to licking his chops as he hungrily
sniffed these smells delectable; and Andreas suddenly would discover
how hungry he was, and would make occasion to go to the door-way that he
might see if the setting of the table was begun.

"Patience, father! Presently! You are as bad as Bielfrak himself!"
Roschen would say; and as this attribution of gluttony to her father
was a time-honored joke between them, they always would laugh over it
pleasantly. And then Andreas would stand and watch his little _hausfrau_
with a far-away look in his gentle blue eyes as she bustled about her
work in the sunny room, her pretty dimpled arms bared to above the
elbow, her lovely cheeks (because of much stooping over the fire)
brighter even than the roses after which she had been named, her golden
hair done up in a trig, tight knot (as Aunt Hedwig had taught her was
the proper way for hair to be arranged while cooking was going on), and
over her tidy print gown a great white apron, fashioned in an ancient
German shape, as guard against the splash-ings and spillings which even
the most careful of cooks cannot always control. In the sunny windows,
opening to the south, flowers were growing; the Dutch clock, with
pendulous weights made in the similitude of pine-cones, ticked against
the wall merrily; Mädchen, the cat--who, being most prolific of kittens,
notoriously belied her name--sat bunched up in exceeding comfort on
a space expressly left for her upon the sunny window-ledge among the
plants; steam arose in light clouds from the various pots upon the
stove, and in the middle of the little room the table stood ready for
the dinner to be served.

It was a very cheerful, home-like picture this; and yet many a time, as
Andreas stood in the doorway and contemplated it, there would be tears
in his eyes, and a strange feeling, half of glad thankfulness, half of
very sorrowful longing, in his heart. She was so like her dead mother!
In look, in speech, in motions of the body, in turns of the head, and
in gestures of the hands she was Christine over again. Sometimes Andreas
would forget his fifty years and all the sorrows of hope destroyed and
irrevocable death-parting which his fifty years had brought him, and
would fancy for a moment that he was young again, and that the dearest
wish of his life was here fulfilled. And then she would call him
"Father!" and his moment's dream of happiness would die coldly in his
heart. Yet would there come to him always an after-glow of solacing
warmth, as comforting thoughts would steal in upon him of the happiness
not a dream--different from that which he had hoped for in his youth,
but most sweet and real--that God's goodness had given him in these his
later years.

Andreas truly was old Andreas now. As men's lives go, his age was not
great; but sorrow had made him, as it had made many another man, far
older than the mere number of years which he had lived. No, great store
of strength had been his at the beginning, and the heart-break that he
had suffered that day of his landing in the New World, when faith and
love and hope all died together at a single blow, was less a sentimental
figure than a physical reality. A like pang, yet not so keen, had
wrenched him when he first came to know of Christine's sharp trial of
poverty, and another seized him in the night-time following that sad day
when she passed away from earth. And now of late, without any cause at
all, these pangs had come again. Andreas was glad that they had come
always when he was alone; for the pain was too searching to be wholly
hidden, and his strong desire was that Roschen should be spared all
knowledge of his suffering. In his own mind he perceived quite clearly
what before long must come to pass. And it was a good happening, he
thought, that in Gottlieb Brekel and Aunt Hedwig, and the excellent Herr
Sohnstein, who, being a lawyer, could care well for the little store in
the bank and for the little house that Andreas now owned, Roschen had
such stanch and worthy friends. The only signs of these thoughts which
Roschen perceived was that her father grew much keener in the matter of
selling his birds at high prices; and that she was somewhat seriously
reproved when, in her housekeeping or in her occasional expeditions
to the fine shops in Grand Street, she ventured upon any small
extravagance. But Roschen would laugh when thus reproved, and would
declare that her father, who long had been a glutton, was become a miser
already in his old age; whereat Andreas also would laugh, yet not quite
so heartily as Roschen liked to hear him laugh when she cracked her
little jokes upon him, and would say that sometimes a miser was not
thought by his heirs so bad a fellow when they found what a snug little
fortune he had left behind him all safe in the bank.

It was because of these thoughts, which he kept hidden from her, that
Andreas began to take a much more active interest in what Roschen had to
say from time to time about certain young men of her acquaintance.
The young man of whom she spoke most frequently, and with a frank
friendliness, was the handsome young assistant baker at the Café
Nürnberger; a very capable young fellow, Hans Kuhn by name, who of late
had brought that excellent bakery into great vogue because of the almost
miraculously good lebkuchen which he baked there. But Andreas was not at
all alarmed by this open friendship; for Hans and the stout Minna Brekel
were to be married presently, and Roschen's feeling obviously was no
more than hearty good-will towards the lover of her dear sister-friend.
Fine chatterings she and Minna had, as Andreas inferred from her
occasional brief reports of them, about the prodigious matrimonial event
that was so near at hand. As Andreas also inferred, these chatterings
put various notions of an exciting and somewhat disturbing sort into
Roschen's little head. If one young girl might get married, so might
another, no doubt she thought; and it is conceivable that from this
mental statement of a rational abstract possibility her thoughts may
have passed on to consideration of the concrete possibilities involved
in her own relations with the good-looking Gustav Strauss, son of the
rich bird-dealer, or with the good-looking young shoemaker, Ludwig
Bauer, who lived next door but one.

It is certain that when Roschen had arrived at the dignity of eighteen
years, and her hitherto slim figure had taken on quite a plump, pleasing
womanly roundness, the business visits of the young Herr Strauss to the
little bird shop on the East Side became, as it struck Andreas, rather
curiously frequent. And about this time, also, their neighbor Ludwig
developed a very extraordinary interest in the business of raising
canary-birds. It was a business that he long had thought of engaging in,
he explained; and he truly did exhibit an aptitude in comprehending
and in practising its mysteries that greatly exalted him in the little
bird-dealer's esteem. The birds all seemed to recognize a friend in him;
and even those which were but partially tamed, and were gentle only with
Andreas himself, would perch willingly upon his hand. With Andreas
it long had been a maxim that canary-birds were rare judges of human
character, and the testimonial thus given to Lud-wig's worth counted
with him for a great deal--as did also the quite converse opinion of the
birds in regard to the young Herr Strauss: from whom, notwithstanding
his training in the care of their kind, they always flew away, and whose
mere presence in the shop sufficed to make every bird ruffle himself and
to chirp angrily in his cage. Yet Herr Strauss was most agreeable in his
manners, and was a very personable young man. As for his riches, they
spoke for themselves in his fine attire and in his fine gold watch and
chain; and he also spoke for them, making frequent allusions to his
comfortable present position in the world as his father's partner, and
to his still more comfortable prospective position as his father's sole

Ludwig, on the other hand, could not boast of any great amount of
gilding upon, as Andreas believed it to be, the sterling metal of which
he was made. But he was by no means what would be considered by the
dwellers on the East Side a poor man. He was a steady and a good
master-workman, with three or four apprentices under him; and all day
long there was to be heard in his shop the cheerful, business-like sound
of the thumping of short hammers on lap-stones, together with the loud
clicking of the sewing-machine on which the delicate stitching of
uppers was done. In the window, screened with a green curtain of growing
vines--as is the pretty custom with most of the German shoemakers on the
East Side--there always might be seen a pair or two of well-made stout
shoes drying in the sunshine on their lasts; and with these a half-dozen
or more pairs of shoes newly soled and heeled in a substantial,
workmanlike fashion that would have done credit to Hans Sachs himself.
Making and mending together, it was a very good business that Ludwig
was doing; each year a better balance was lodged to his credit in the
savings-bank, and the great golden boot that hung above his door-way
told no more than the truth of the good work that was done and of the
good money that was well earned within. From the stand-point of public
opinion on the East Side, this thriving young shoemaker already was a
man of substance, whose still more substantial future was assured.

There was in the nature of Ludwig much the same simplicity and
gentleness that characterized Andreas--which common qualities, no doubt,
had much to do with the strong friendship that there was between them;
and all his neighbors, remembering how good a son he had been, and
knowing also how deeply he still sorrowed for the dear mother lost to
him in death, were more than ready to vouch for the goodness of his
heart. Indeed, it was while trying to comfort him a little after this
great sorrow fell upon him that Roschen first felt towards him something
more than the passing interest that every maiden reasonably feels in
every seemly young man. Her disposition towards him, to be sure, even
when thus stimulated by a sympathetic melancholy, was only that of
friendliness; but it evidently was a friendliness so cordial and so
sincere that it made quite a tolerable foundation upon which Ludwig
freely built fine air-castles of hope. For his disposition towards
Roschen was altogether that of a lover--as anybody might have known
after hearing that decided expression of his opinion to the effect that
all the angels singing together could not make music so sweet as the
music of her voice.

In due time, in accordance with the decorous German custom, both of
these young men made formal application to Andreas for permission to
be ranked formally as Roschen's suitors; and, as it chanced, they both
preferred their requests upon the same day. The young Herr Strauss
undeniably had some strong points to make in his own favor; and he made
them, to do him justice, without any hesitation or false modesty. As he
truly said--speaking with an easy assurance, and airily fingering his
gold watch-chain as he spoke--in marrying him Roschen would make an
excellent match. In rather marked contrast with this justifiable yet not
wholly pleasing assumption of self-importance, was the modest tone in
which Ludwig urged his suit; yet was Andreas not unfavorably impressed
by the fact that he dwelt less upon his deserts than upon his desire
to be deserving; and that in connection with the creditable presentment
that he made of the condition of his worldly affairs he did not insist,
as the Herr Strauss had insisted, upon a minute examination of Roschen's
dowry. As bearing indirectly yet forcibly upon a general consideration
of the cases of these young men, the statement may be added that one of
them had made for his proposed father-in-law several excellent pairs
of shoes, while the other had made for--or, rather, against--him only a
series of uncommonly sharp bargains.

To neither of the lovers did Andreas give an immediate answer. He must
think a little, he said. The self-esteem of the Herr Strauss was a
trifle ruffled by the suggestion that in such a case waiting of any sort
was necessary; it seemed to him that an offer so desirable as that
which he had made was entitled to instant acceptance. But Ludwig noted
a certain trembling in the voice that bade him wait, and was not so
completely engrossed with his own hopes of happiness but that he could
perceive its cause and could feel sorrow for it. All these years had
Andreas cared for this sweet Roschen, and had cherished her as his
dearest treasure; and now, when the best time of her life had come, he
was asked to give her up to a love that rested its claim for recognition
upon nothing more substantial than promises of care taking which
the future might or might not make good. That Andreas, under such
circumstances, even should consider his request, touched Ludwig's good
heart with gratitude; and the love that he had for a long while felt
towards the old man led him now to pat an arm around his shoulder, as
a son might have done, and to tell him that the home which he had ready
for Roschen was ready for Roschen's father too. And Lud wig's voice also
trembled a little. Andreas did not speak, but he put his thin hand into
the big brown hand--much stained with the dark wax which shoemakers use
and with long handling of leather--that Ludwig held out to him; and
when they had stood together thus affectionately for a little time they
parted, silently.

In truth, Andreas was more deeply moved than even Ludwig, for all his
affectionate sympathy, had divined. His love for Roschen was a double
love. With the love of a father he had watched over her these many
years; yet even stronger had come to be his love for her as her mother
born again. Sometimes, for whole days together, confusing the past with
the present, he would call her Christine; and in his heart he ever
gave greater room to the fancy that the life which he had hoped for was
realized, and that the life which he was living was a dream. No wonder,
then, that he asked for a little time in which to school himself to meet
the fate that at a single blow brought destruction to his dear home on
earth and to his dearer castle in the air.

Roschen was abroad that afternoon, and as Andreas, alone with his birds,
turned over in his mind the answers which he must give to these young
men--who sought to take to themselves, for the greater pleasure of their
young lives, the single happiness which his old life had left to it--a
great bitterness possessed his soul. When they had so much and he so
little, it was cruel of them to seek to rob him thus, he thought. And
their love, after all, was but the growth of a day, while his love had
been growing steadily for forty years. Roschen was to him at once the
sweetheart of his youth and the dear daughter of his age. How could
these young fellows have the effrontery to place their own light love
fancies in rivalry with this profound love of his that was rooted in all
the years of a lifetime? His thoughts went back to those long-past days
when he and Christine first had known each other as little children on
the sunny slopes of the Andreas-berg, and when began the love that still
was a living reality. And then he followed downward through the years
his own love-story from this its beginning--the promise made in the
twilight, while the south wind, laden with the sweet smell of the
pine-trees of the Schwarzwald, played about them; the hard parting; his
joyous journey with his birds westward across the sea; the black day
when that journey ended; the years of sorrow which closed in still
keener sorrow when his Christine was lost to him utterly in death; and
then through the later years, which ever grew brighter and happier as
his love for Christine was born anew and lived its strange, half-real
life in his love for Christine's child, who also was the daughter given
him by Heaven to cheer and comfort him in his old age. And now at the
end of it all he was asked to give to another this sweet flower of love
that for his happiness, almost by a miracle, as it seemed, a second time
had bloomed. Was not this asking more of him, he thought, than rightly
should be asked?

So heavy was the load of bitterness that oppressed him that even the
singing of the Kronprinz, who was moved to break forth into song just
then, failed for a time to arouse him. Yet presently the sweet sound
penetrated the thick substance of his sorrow, and slowly turned the
current of his sombre thoughts. Andreas loved all music; but because
of the long train of associations which it invoked, and because of his
skilled knowledge of its quality, there was no music so sweet to him as
the singing of a bird. And when the singer was the Kronprinz, who sang
with a mellow sweetness rare and wonderful, the music never failed to
move his tender nature to its very depths. And so, as he listened to the
singing of his bird, gentler and better thoughts possessed him; and then
he reproached himself for the selfishness that had so filled his
heart. He had no right, he thought, to stand in the way of Roschen's
happiness--to compel her to take the old love that he had to give in
place of the fresh young love that was offered to her. It was only a
foolish fancy, this that he had cherished, that she was his sweetheart
of long ago; it was the rational truth that he had to deal with--that
she was his daughter, who had given him in full measure a daughter's
love and duty, and for whom now, as was a father's duty, he must secure
a good husband, who would care for her well and loyally when death had
taken her father from her. This was the right conclusion, but all the
strength of his will was required to bring him to it; and when at last
He said to himself that what so plainly was right should be firmly done,
the color suddenly left his face, and there went through his heart the
sharp pang that he had learned to dread because of the agony of it. So
wrenching was the pain that he could not repress a cry; but it was not
a loud cry, and the sound of it was lost in the glad carolling of the
Kronprinz's song.

When Roschen came home, a little later, she was frightened by finding
her father looking so pale and worn; but the sight of her dear face, and
her loving looks and words, revived him quickly, and her fear passed
by. And she forgot her fear the sooner because of the momentous question
which he then opened to her; for this last sharp seizure, keener than
any that had preceded it, had warned Andreas that the duty which he had
to do should not be delayed.

Very tenderly and lovingly did he speak of this heart matter to his
little rose, his Roschen, as she sat beside him on a low stool, after
the childish habit that she never had relinquished, while her head was
nestled against his breast, and while he stroked her fair hair gently
with his thin, delicate hand. And as he made clear to her all that she
was to know, and explained to her that the decision between these rival
lovers, or the rejection of them both, must be made by herself, the
rosiness of this pretty Roschen became a deep crimson, and her head sank
down upon her father's breast so that her face was hid from him; and
as his arms clasped her closely to this loving haven she fell to crying
gently there, as in such cases is a proper maiden's rather unreasonable

"Does the thought of lovers make thee sad, my little one?" Andreas
asked; and he could not quite stifle, though he tried hard to stifle,
the hope that perhaps Roschen might settle this present matter so that
for a little time longer she still would be wholly his own.

"It is not the thought of lovers, dear father," Roschen answered, and
her voice was low and broken, "but the thought that anything should take
me away from thee."

The hope grew larger in the heart of Andreas, but he said: "The young
Herr Strauss will make thee a fine husband, my daughter. He is a rich
young man already, and--"

But Roschen promptly cut short this eulogy by raising her head abruptly
and saying, with great decision: "He is a horrid young man, and nothing
is good about him at all. He tries to cheat thee whenever he comes here
to buy our birds; and--and he has said things to me; and he--and
he tried to kiss me. Ugh! I will have nothing to do with the Herr
Strauss--nothing at all!"

As she spoke, Roschen held up her head firmly and looked Andreas
straight in the eyes. Her own eyes quite sparkled with anger, for all
the tears that were in them; and the tone in which she pronounced the
name of the Herr Strauss suggested pointedly that he was one of the
various unpleasant creatures which humanity disposes of with tongs.
All this was so emphatic that Andreas suffered his hope to grow yet
stronger; for now, certainly, one of these lovers was put safely out of
his way.

"And Ludwig, my little one?"

Roschen did not speak, but the angry sparkle that was in her eyes gave
place to a softer and much pleasanter brightness, and a still deeper
crimson showed in the pretty face that she hid again suddenly upon her
father's breast.

"And Ludwig?" Andreas repeated.

But still Roschen did not speak. She put her arms around her father's
neck, and nestled her head beneath his chin in a lovingly coaxing way
that she had devised when she was a little child; and then she fell
again to sobbing gently.

"Hast thou, then, nothing to say of this friend of ours, my daughter?"
Andreas spoke eagerly, his hope being very strong within him now; for he
was not versed in the ways of maidens, and the silence that would have
been so eloquent to another woman or to a wiser man conveyed a very
false notion to his mind.

"Thou hast told me, dear father, that Ludwig makes very good shoes,"
Roschen said at last, speaking hesitatingly, and in a voice so low that
it was little more than a whisper.

"Yes," Andreas answered, somewhat taken aback by the irrelevant and very
matter-of-fact nature of this remark; "yes, Ludwig makes good shoes."

"And thou likest those which he has made for thee?"

"Truly. They are good shoes. They have cured my corns." Andreas spoke
with feeling. He was sincerely grateful to Ludwig for having cured his
corns. "But it is not of Ludwig's shoes that we are talking now, my
Roschen," he went on. "It is of Ludwig himself. Hast thou nothing to say
in answer to what he asks?"

Through her tears Roschen laughed a little, and she pressed her head
still more closely beneath her father's chin. "Thou dear foolish one,"
she said, "canst thou not understand?" And then, after a moment of
silence, she went on: "Hast thou not seen, dear father, how all the
birds love Ludwig, and of their own accord go to him?"

Then a little light broke in upon Andreas, and the hope that he had
cherished began to pale; but he answered stoutly: "Yes, the birds love
him, for he is a good young man. And thou, my daughter?"

And Roschen answered in a voice so low and tremulous that Andreas
divined rather than heard the words she spoke: "Perhaps it is with me
also, dear father, as it is with the birds!"

[Illustration: Perhaps it is with me also 298]

For a little time there was silence--for Andreas did not trust himself
to speak while his hope was dying in his heart--then he raised the
pretty head from its resting-place upon his breast, and as he kissed the
forehead that was so like the dead Christine's.

"'Perhaps it is with me also, dear father, as it is with the bird'" he
said, reverently and tenderly: "For thy good and happiness, my dear one,
may God's will be done." And as he clasped her again to him closely, the
Kronprinz once more lifted up his voice in sweetest song.

When at last Roschen raised her rosy, happy face from her father's
breast, she was so full of the wonder that had come to pass that she did
not perceive his weary look, nor how pale he was; yet less pale now than
a little time before when his face was unseen by her.

And presently the rosiness of this sweet Roschen grew still deeper as
the shop door opened, with a great tinkling of its little bell, and
Ludwig entered. Andreas arose from his chair slowly--but neither of them
noticed how feeble and labored were his motions, like those of a weak
old man--and clasped in both of his own Ludwig's great brown hand, while
with a look of love he said: "It is as thou wouldst have it, my son.
This dear rose of my growing will bloom in thy garden now"--and he
led Ludwig to where Roschen, who indeed was a true rose just then, was
standing and put her hand in his.

And then, with a wistful eagerness, he went on: "And thou wilt care for
her very tenderly and well, in my place? Thou canst not understand what
my love has been; part of it, I know, has been foolishness--and that
which thou wilt give her, if it be strong and steadfast, will be far
better than ever was mine. For it is the way of life"--and here the
voice of Andreas trembled and fell a little--"that for young hearts love
also must be young."

"With God's help, dear father, I will be true and good to her," Ludwig
answered, speaking with a stout heartiness that gave the ring of truth
to his words; "and I will care well for her and for thee too."

"For me it will not be long," Andreas answered; "but give the care which
thou wouldst have given to me to these my birds."

"Do not make us sad to-day, dear father, by such gloomy words," said
Roschen, as she put her arms around his neck. "To-day a beautiful time
of happiness has begun for us."

"Truly a beautiful time of happiness has begun," Andreas answered; "and
I thank God that I have seen its beginning--for when grief comes to
thee, and grief must come to us all, my daughter, thou hast now a strong
young heart to stay and comfort thee. Yes, this is truly the beginning
of a happy time." It was with a very tender smile that Andreas spoke
these cheery words; and he added, cheerily: "Now go out into the Square,
my children, and say to each other the words which I know are in your
hearts. I will be glad in your happiness as I sit here among my birds."

And so Andreas, for the second time in his life, was left alone with his

As he sat there, desolate, he buried his face in his hands, and between
his thin fingers there was a glistening of tears. It was so hard to
bear! They might have waited just a little while, he thought; it would
not have been very long. For he forgot, and perhaps it would be unfair
to blame him for forgetting, his own desire that before that little time
should pass his Roschen should have assured to her the good care-taker
whom she surely would need when the season of sorrow came. A little
thrill of pain, a premonition of which he knew the meaning, ran through

Then it was that the Kronprinz began to sing. The notes at first were
low and liquid, and they fell soothingly upon the ears, and so into
the heart of this poor Andreas; and as they rose higher and fuller and
clearer, light began to show for him where only darkness had been. The
other birds, fired to emulation by these mellow warblings, joined in a
sweet chorus, above which the strong rich notes of the Kronprinz rose
in triumphant waves of harmony. And gladness came then into the heart of
Andreas, and great thankfulness; for as the music of the birds exalted
him he seemed to see with a strange clearness into the depths of the
future, and all that he saw there promised well for those whom he loved.
Such wonderful music was this that the very air about him seemed to be
growing goldenly radiant; and with a certain awe creeping into his heart
he seemed to hear low echoes of a music even more ravishingly beautiful
that came faintly yet with a bell-like clearness from very far away.

Truly there was something strange about this music, for even Bielfrak,
who was grown to be a deaf, rheumatic old dog now, heard it and was
greatly moved by it. From his comfortable rug in the corner he raised
himself painfully upon his haunches, and, pointing his noise upward,
uttered a long melancholy howl. Then he came by slow effort across the
room to where his master sat and laid his head upon his master's knee.
And there was a puzzled look upon Bielfrak's face, for never before had
he thus manifested the love that was in his honest heart without finding
a quick response to it in the gentle touch of his master's hand. Yet now
that hand remained most strangely still, and it was strangely white, and
Bielfrak drew back suddenly from touching it--finding it most strangely

[Illustration: page 286 303]

The birds had been frightened into silence by Bielfrak's howl, but
now they all burst forth again into the song of strange and wonderful
sweetness that of a sudden they had learned to sing. In waves of
harmony the chorus rose and fell, and above all sounded the notes of
the Kronprinz, rich, full, clear, so delicately perfect as to seem a
blending of sunlight and of sound. And in this song there was a strain
that seemed to tell of restful triumph and eternal joy. And on the
gentle, kindly face of Andreas, as he sat there so very quietly while
all the air around him with these sweet sounds was vibrant, there was a
most tender smile that told of perfect peace.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Idyl Of The East Side - 1891" ***

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