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A Story Of Nuremberg Post by :agreement Category :Short Stories Author :Agnes Repplier Date :September 2010 Read :2106

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A Story Of Nuremberg

It was a Christmas eve in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and through the streets of Nuremberg came drifting a feathery snow that heaped itself in fantastic patterns on the projecting windows and fretted stone balconies of the quaint and crowded houses. It was not an honest and single-minded snow-storm, such as would seek to shroud the whole city in its delicate white mantle, but rather a tricksy and capricious sprite, that neglected one spot to hurl itself with wanton violence on another. Borne on the breath of a keen and shifting wind, it came tossing gleefully full in the face of a solitary artisan who, wrapped in a heavy cloak, was making the best of his way homeward. Truly it was not a pleasant night to be abroad, with the snow-drifts dancing in your eyes like a million of tiny arrow-points, and the sharp wind cutting like a knife; and the wayfarer was consoling himself for his present discomfort by picturing the warm fireside and the hot supper that awaited him at home, when his cheerful dreams were broken by a sharp cry that seemed to come from under his very feet.

Startled, and not a little alarmed, he checked his rapid walk and listened. There was no mistaking the sound: it was neither imp nor fairy, but a real child, from whose little lungs came forth that wail at once pitiful and querulous. As he heard it, Peter Burkgmaeier's kindly heart flew with one rapid bound to the cradle at home where slumbered his own infant daughter, and, hastily lowering his lantern, he searched under the dark archway whence the cry had come. There, sheltered by the wall and wrapped in a ragged cloak, was a baby boy, perhaps between two and three years old, but so tiny and emaciated as to seem hardly half that age. When the lantern flickered in his face he gave a frightened sob, and then lay quiet and exhausted in the strong arms that held him.

"Poor little wretch!" said the man. "Abandoned on Christmas eve to die in the snow!" And wrapping the child more closely in his own mantle, he hurried on until he reached his home, from whose latticed panes shone forth a cheerful stream of light. His wife, with her baby on her breast, met him at the door, and stared with a not unnatural amazement as her husband unrolled his cloak and showed her the boy, who, blinking painfully at the sudden light, tried to struggle down from his arms.

"See, Lisbeth!" he said, "I have found you a Christmas present where I least expected one--an unhappy baby left in the streets to die of cold and hunger."

His wife laid her own infant in the cradle and gazed alternately at her husband and at the child he carried. She was at all times slow to receive impressions, and slower yet to put her thoughts into words. When she spoke, it was without apparent emotion of any kind. "What are you going to do with him, Peter?" she said.

"What am I going to do with him?" was the reply. "I am going to feed and clothe and shelter him, and make an honest man out of him, please God. It cannot be that you would refuse the poor child a home?"

Lisbeth made no answer. She was a large, fair, sleepy-eyed woman, who had been accounted a beauty in her day. A model wife, too, people said; neat in dress, quiet of tongue, her conduct staid, her whole thoughts centred in her household. She now took the boy, noting with a woman's eye his coarse and ragged clothing, and stood him on his unsteady little feet. A faint expression of disgust rippled over her smooth, unthinking face.

"He is a humpback," she said, slowly.

Her husband started to his feet. In all ages physical deformity has been a thing repulsive to our eyes; but at this early day it was regarded with unmixed horror and aversion, and was too often considered as the index of a crooked mind within. Peter Burkgmaeier, tall and erect, with a frame of iron and sinews of steel, as became a master stone-mason, stood gazing at the poor little atom of misshapen humanity who tottered over the polished wooden floor. The spinal column was sadly bent, and from between the humped shoulders the pale face peered with an old, uncanny look. Yet the boy was not otherwise ugly. His forehead was broad and smooth, and his dark blue eyes were well and deeply set. The artisan watched him for a minute in painful silence, then turned to his wife and took her passive hand in his.

"Lisbeth," he said, with grave kindness, "I know that I am asking a great deal of you when I beg you to take this child under our roof. He will be to you much care and trouble, and may never find his way into your heart. At any other time, believe me, I would not put this burden on your shoulders. But it is Christmas eve, and were I to refuse a shelter to this helpless baby I would feel like one of those who had no room within their inns for the Holy Child. Dear wife, will you not receive him for love of me and of God, and let him share with little Kala in your care?"

Lisbeth's only reply was one characteristic of the woman. She was moved by her husband's appeal, against what she considered her better judgment; and without a single word she picked up the boy from the floor and laid him in the cradle by the side of her own little daughter. Then, with a smile--and her smiles came but rarely--she proceeded to carry off Peter's wet cloak and to bring in his supper. So with this mute assent the matter was settled, and the deformed child was received into the stone-mason's family.

And in a different way he became the source of much gratification to both husband and wife. The first regarded him with real kindness and an almost fatherly affection, for the boy soon began to manifest a quick intelligence and a winning gentleness that might readily have found their way into a harder heart. Lisbeth, too, had her reward; for it was sweet to her soul to hear her neighbors say, as they stopped to watch the two children playing in the doorway: "Ah! Lisbeth, it is not many a woman who would take the care you do of a wretched little humpback like that;" or, "It was a lucky chance for the poor child that threw him into such hands as yours, Mistress Burkgmaeier;" or, "Did ever little Kala look so fair and straight as when she had that crooked boy by her side?"

And did not the good pastor from the Frauenkirche say to her, with tears starting in his gentle eyes: "God will surely reward you for your kindness to this helpless little one?" Nay, better yet, did not the Stadtholder's lady lean out from her beautiful carriage, and say before three of the neighbors, who were standing by and heard every word: "You are a good woman, Mistress Burkgmaeier, to take the same care of this miserable child as of your own pretty little daughter"?--which was something to be really proud of; for, whereas it was the obvious duty of a priest to admire a virtuous act, it was not often that a noble lady deigned thus to express her approbation.

Yes, Lisbeth felt, as she listened serenely to all this praise--surely so well merited--that there was some compensation in the world for such charitable deeds as hers, even when they involved a fair amount of sacrifice. And little Gabriel, before whom many of these remarks were uttered, pondered over them in secret, and gradually evolved three facts from the curious puzzle of his life--first, that he did not really belong to what seemed to be his home; second, that he was not loved in it as was Kala; third, that Kala was pretty and he was ugly. So with these three melancholy scraps of knowledge the poor child began his earthly education.

And Kala was very pretty. Tall and strong-limbed, with her mother's beautiful hair and skin, and with her mother's clear, meaningless blue eyes, the little girl attracted attention wherever she was seen. No better foil to her vigorous young beauty could have been found than the pale, misshapen boy whom all the world called ugly. The children played together under Lisbeth's watchful eye, and Gabriel in all things yielded to his companion's imperious will, so that peace reigned ever over their sports. But when Sigmund Wahnschaffe, the son of the bronze-worker in the neighboring street, joined them, then Kala would have no more of Gabriel's company. For Sigmund was strong as a young Hercules and surpassed all the other lads in their boyish games. When he would play with her, Kala turned her back ungratefully upon the patient companion of her idler moments, who was fain to watch in silence the pleasures he might not share.

Yet from Sigmund she met no easy compliance with her wishes. His will was a law not to be disputed, and once, when she had ventured to assert herself in rebellious fashion, he promptly maintained his precedence by pushing her into the mud. Kala began to cry, and, like a flash, Gabriel, in a storm of rage, flung himself upon the older boy, only to be shaken off as a feather into the same muddy gutter. It was over in a minute, nor would Sigmund deign to further punish the little humpback who had been ridiculous enough to attack him. Serenely unmoved he strolled away, while Kala and Gabriel went sadly home together, to be both well scolded for the ruin of their clothes and sent supperless to bed; Lisbeth priding herself, above all things, on the strictly impartial character of her retributive justice.

But Gabriel had at least one pastime which could be shared with none, and which bade fair to recompense him for all the childish sports he was denied. With a small block of wood and a few simple tools his skilful fingers wrought such wonders that Kala and Sigmund, and the very children who hooted at him in the street, could not withhold their admiration,--sometimes a brooding dove with pretty, ruffled plumage; sometimes the head and curving horns of a mountain chamois, instinct with graceful life; sometimes a group of snails, each tiny spiral reproduced with loving accuracy in the hard grained wood. To Peter Burkgmaeier these evidences of a talent then in such high repute gave most unbounded satisfaction. His own trade was far too severe for the boy's frail strength, but wood-carving was fully as profitable, and might lead to wealth and fame. Had not Veit Stoss, of whose genius Nuremberg felt justly proud, already finished his wonderful group of angels saluting the Virgin, which hung from the roof of St. Lorenz? With such an example before him, what might not the boy hope to achieve through talent and persevering labor? And Gabriel felt his own heart burn as he looked with wistful eyes upon that masterpiece of rare and delicate carving.

Nuremberg was then alive with the spirit of art, and everywhere he turned there was something beautiful to quicken his pulse and feed the flame within his soul, that was half rapture and half bitterness. No idle boast was the old rhyme,--

"Nuremberg's hand
Goes through every land."

For the city's renown had spread far and wide, and in its many branches of industry, as well as in the higher walks of art, it had reached the zenith of its fame. Already, indeed, the canker-worm was gnawing at the root, and unerring retribution was creeping on a blinded people; but no sign of the future was manifested in the universal prosperity of the day. Every street furnished its food for the artist's soul: the Frauenkirche, enriched with the loving gifts of devout generations; St. Sebald's, with its carved portal, its stained windows, its treasures of bronze, and, above all, the shrine where Peter Vischer and his sons labored for thirteen years. Gabriel loved St. Sebald's dearly, but closer still to his heart was the majestic church of St. Lorenz, where, in sharp relief against the dull red pillars, rose that dream in stone, the Sacrament House of Adam Krafft, its slender, fretted spire springing to the very roof, clasped in the embrace of the curling vine tendrils carved around it.

Here the boy would linger for hours, never weary of studying every detail of this faultless shrine. With envious eyes he gazed upon the kneeling figures of Adam Krafft and his two fellow-laborers, who, carved in stone, now supported the treasure their hands had wrought. Surely this was the crowning summit of human ambition--to live thus forever in the house of God, and before the eyes of men, a part of the very work which had ennobled the artist's life. Ah! if he, the despised humpback, could but descend to posterity immortalized by the labor of his hands. What to the dreaming lad was the picture of Adam Krafft dying in a hospital, poor, unfriended, and alone, in the midst of a city his genius had enriched? What was it to him that Nuremberg, which now heaped honors on the dead, had denied bread to the living? Such bitter truths come not to the young. They are the heritage of age, and Gabriel was but a boy, with all a boy's fond hopes and aspirations. Often as he studied the graceful beauty of the Sacrament House, where, cut in the pure white stone, he saw the Last Supper and Christ blessing little children, he wondered whether among those Jewish boys and girls was one who, deformed and repulsive to the eye, yet felt the Saviour's loving touch and was comforted.

A few more years rolled by, and each succeeding spring saw Kala taller and prettier, and Gabriel working harder still at his laborious art. Not so engrossed, however, but that he knew that Kala was fair, and that when her soft fingers touched his a swift and sudden fire leaped through his heart. Kala's beauty lurked in his dreams by night and in his long, solitary days of toil, and became the motive power of all his best endeavors. If he should gain wealth, it would be but to lay it at her feet. If he, the desolate waif, should win fame and distinction, it would be but to gild her name with his. Surely these things must be some recompense in a woman's eyes for a pale face and a stunted form; and Gabriel, lost in foolish dreams, worked on.

Sigmund Wahnschaffe, too, had grown into early manhood and had adopted his father's calling. Strong arms were as useful in their way as a creative brain, and if Sigmund could never be an artist like Peter Vischer, he promised at least to make an excellent workman. People said he was the handsomest young artisan in Nuremberg, with his dark skin bronzed by the fires among which he labored, and his black eyes sparkling with a keen and merry light. Times had changed since the day he pushed little Kala into the mud, and he looked upon her now as some frail and delicate blossom, that to handle would be desecration. Yet Kala was no rare flower, but a common plant, with nothing remarkable about her except her beauty; and, once married, Sigmund would be prompt enough to recognize this fact. Gabriel, with a chivalrous and imaginative soul, might perhaps retain his ideal unbroken till his death; but in the young bronze-worker's practical mind ideals had no place, and his bride would slip naturally into the post of housewife, from whom nothing more exalted would be demanded than thrifty habits and a cheerful temper.

And Kala knew perfectly that both these young men loved her, and that one day she would be called upon to choose between them, between Sigmund, strong, handsome, and resolute, with a laugh and a gay word for all who met him; and Gabriel, dwarfed and silent, who had caught the trick of melancholy in his unloved childhood and could not shake it off. But it was not merely the sense of physical deformity that saddened Gabriel's soul. The air he breathed was filled with a subtle spirit of discord; for upon Nuremberg, with her many churches and monuments of mediaeval art, the Reformation had laid its chilling hand. Its influence was felt on every side--in art, where the joyous simplicity of Wohlgemuth had given place to the fantastic melancholy of Albrecht Duerer, fit imprint of a troubled and storm-tossed mind; as well as in literature, where the bitter raillery and coarse jests of Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet, now passed with swift approval from mouth to mouth.

The day had not yet come when Nuremberg, in her blind arrogance, was to close her gates upon those who had given her life and fame; but already were heard the first faint murmurs of the approaching storm. What wonder that Gabriel shrank from the darkening future, and that men like Peter Burkgmaeier, pondering with set mouths and frowning brows, were slowly making up their minds that the city which had been their birthplace should never shelter their old age. But Lisbeth went stolidly about the daily routine of her life; Kala's smiles were as bright and as frequent as ever; and Sigmund troubled himself not at all with matters beyond his ken.

Winter had set in early, and already November had brought in its train snow and biting winds, and the promise of severe cold to come. It was a busy season for the bronze-workers, and Sigmund toiled unceasingly, his cheerful thoughts giving zest to his labors and new strength to his mighty arm. For did not each evening see him by Kala's side, and had she not, after months of vain coquetting, at last fairly yielded up her heart?

"Kala will make a good wife," said Lisbeth, proudly. "And she goes not empty-handed to her husband's house."

"They are a well-matched pair," said Peter, meditatively. "Health and beauty and dulness are no mean heritage in these troubled times."

And though the neighbors hesitated to call the young couple dull, they one and all agreed that the marriage was a suitable one, and that they had long foreseen it. "Why, they were little lovers in childhood, even!" said Theresa, the wife of Johann Dyne, the toy-vender in the next street; and Kala, who had perhaps forgotten the time when her child-lover had knocked her into the gutter, smiled, and showed her beautiful white teeth, and suffered the remark to pass uncontradicted.

But even the most stolid of women have always some lurking tenderness for those who they know have loved them vainly, and Kala, though she had without a demur accepted Sigmund for her husband, yet broke the news to Gabriel with much gentleness, and was greatly comforted by the apparent composure with which it was received. He grew perhaps a trifle paler and quieter than before, if such a thing were possible, and shut himself up more resolutely with his work; but that was all. No one would have dreamed that life with its fair promises had suddenly grown worthless in his hands, and that the rich gifts which still were left him seemed as nothing compared with the valueless treasure he had lost. Even his art had become hateful, freighted as it was with dead hopes; and often, when all believed him to be toiling in his little den, he was wandering aimlessly through the streets of Nuremberg, seeking comfort in those haunts which had once been to him as dear friends and companions. For hours he would linger in the church of St. Lorenz, and then slowly make his way to the Thiergarten Gate, where, along the Seilersgasse to the churchyard, rise at regular intervals the seven stone pillars on which Adam Krafft has carved, in beautiful bas-reliefs, scenes from the Passion of the Lord. Years before the simple piety of a Nuremberg citizen had erected these monuments of holy art, and their founder, Martin Ketzel, had even travelled into Palestine, that he might measure the exact distances of that most sorrowful journey from the house of Pontius Pilate to the hill of Calvary. Heedless of the severe weather, Gabriel visited daily these primitive stations, striving to forget his own bitterness in the presence of a divine grief; and, laying his troubled heart at his Saviour's feet, would return, strengthened and comforted, into the busy city.

Christmas now was drawing near, and with its approach a new resolve took possession of his soul. A fresh light had dawned upon him, and, shaking off his apathy, he started to work in earnest. All day long he toiled with a steady purpose, though none were permitted to see the fruit of his labors. Kala, indeed, unaccustomed to be thwarted in her curiosity, presented herself at his work-shop door and implored admittance; but not even to her was the secret revealed.

"It is very unkind of you!" she pouted, hardly doubting that she would gain her point. "You never kept anything from me in your life before."

Gabriel took her hand and looked with strange, wistful eyes into her pretty face. "I am keeping nothing from you now," he said. "It is your wedding-gift that I am fashioning; but you must be content to wait its completion before you see it. By Christmas it shall be your own."

So Kala, comforted with the thought of future possession, bided her time, and Gabriel was left in undisputed enjoyment of his solitude. At first he worked languidly and with little zest; but from interest grew ambition, and from ambition a passionate love for the labor of his hands, which threw all other hopes and fears into the background. Kala was forgotten, and Gabriel, absorbed in the contemplation of his art and striving as he had never striven before, felt as though some power not his own were working in him, and that the supreme effort of his life had come. Yet ever in the midst of his feverish activity a strange weakness seized and held him powerless in its grasp; and like a keen and sudden pain came the bitter thought that he might die before his work was done. Instinctively he felt that his hopes of future fame rested on these few weeks that were flying pitilessly by, each one carrying with it some portion of his wasted strength; and that if death should overtake him with his labor uncompleted his name and memory must perish from the world. So, like one who flies across a Russian steppe pursued by starving wolves, Gabriel sped on his task, seeking to out-distance the grim and noiseless wolf that followed close upon his track.

* * * * *

It was Christmas eve, the anniversary of that snowy night when Peter Burkgmaeier had carried home the deformed child, and now all was bustle and glad preparation in the stone-mason's household. Within three days Kala was to be married, and Lisbeth, who felt that her reputation as cook and housewife was at stake, spared neither time nor trouble in her hospitable labors. Since early morning the great fires had roared in her spacious kitchen, and all the poor who came to beg a Christmas bounty tasted freely of her good cheer. With light heart and busy fingers Kala assisted her mother, and doled out the bread and cakes--not too lavishly--to the ragged children who clamored around the door; wondering much in the meanwhile what trinket Sigmund would bring her with which to deck herself on Christmas morning.

And in his little room Gabriel stood looking at his finished work, and asking himself if his heart spoke truly when it whispered: "You, too, are great." It was sweet to realize that his task was done and that he might rest at last; it was sweeter still to see in the bit of carved wood before him the fulfilment of all his dearest dreams. So, while daylight faded into dusk and evening into night, he sat lost in a maze of tangled thoughts that crowded wearily through his listless brain. It was now too dark for him to discern the image by his side, but from time to time he laid his hand upon it with a gentle touch, as a mother might caress a sleeping child, and was happy in its dumb companionship.

How long he had been sitting thus he never knew, when suddenly out into the frosty air rang the great bells of St. Lorenz, calling the faithful to midnight Mass.

Clearly and joyfully they pealed, as if their brazen tongues were striving to utter in words their messages of good-will to men. Gabriel's heart leaped at the sound, and a great yearning seized him to kneel once more within those beloved walls, and amid their solemn beauty to adore the new-born Babe. Jubilantly rang the bells, and their glad voices seemed to speak to him as old friends, and with one accord to urge him on. Weak and dizzy, he crept down the narrow stairs and out into the bitter night. The sharp wind struck him in the face, and worried him as it had worried years before the baby abandoned to its cruel embraces. Yet with the appealing music of the bells ringing in his ears he never thought of turning back, but struggled bravely onward until the frowning walls of St. Lorenz rose up before him. Through the open doors poured a little crowd of devotees, and Gabriel, entering, stole softly up to the Sacrament House, where so often the carved Christ had looked with gentle eyes upon his lonely childhood.

Mass had begun, and the great church was hardly a third full, for Nuremberg's weakening faith exempted her children from such untimely services. But in the faces of the scattered worshippers there was something never seen before--a grave severity, a solemn purpose, as when men are banded together to resist in silence an advancing foe. Gabriel, dimly conscious of this, strove to restrain his wandering thoughts, and fixed his eyes upon the gleaming altar. But no prayer rose to his lips, though into his heart came that deep sense of rest and contentment which found an utterance long ago in the words of an apostle: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." Like a child he had come to his Father's feet, and, laying there his rejected human love, his ungratified human ambition, he gained in their place the peace which passeth all understanding. The two shadows which had mocked him during life vanished into nothingness at the hour of death, and with clear eyes he saw the value of an immortal soul.

Mass was over, and the congregation moved slowly through the shadowy aisles out into the starlit night. But Gabriel sat still, his head resting against the stone pillar, his dead eyes fixed upon the Sacrament House, and upon the sculptured Christ rising triumphant from the grave.

* * * * *

Four weeks had gone by since the body of the humpback had been carried sorrowfully past the stations of the Seilersgasse into the quiet churchyard beyond. The dusk of a winter evening shrouded the empty streets when a stranger, of grave demeanor and in the prime of life, knocked at the stone-mason's door. Kala opened it, and her father, recognizing the visitor, rose with wondering respect to greet him. It was Veit Stoss, the wood-carver, then at the zenith of his fame. With quick, keen eyes he glanced around the homely room, taking in every detail of the scene before him--Lisbeth weaving placidly by the fire; Kala fair and blushing in the lamp-light; and Sigmund playing idly with the crooked little turnspit at his feet. Then he turned to Peter, and for a minute the two men stood looking furtively at one another, as though each were trying to read his companion's thoughts. Finally, the wood-carver spoke.

"I grieve, Master Burkgmaeier," he said, with courteous sympathy, "that you should have lost your foster-son, to whom report says you were much attached. And I hear also that the young man promised highly in his calling."

"Then you heard not all," answered the stone-mason, slowly. "Gabriel did more, for he fulfilled his promise."

A sudden light came into the artist's eyes. "It is true, then," he said, eagerly, "that the boy left behind him a rare piece of work, which has not yet been seen outside these walls. I heard the rumor, but thought it idle folly."

Peter Burkgmaeier crossed the room and opened a deep cupboard. "You shall see it," he said simply, "and answer for yourself. No one in Nuremberg is more fit to judge." Then, lifting out something wrapped in a heavy cloth, he carried it to the table, unveiled it with a reverent hand, and, stepping back, waited in silence for a verdict.

There was a long, breathless pause, broken only by the low whir of Lisbeth's busy wheel. Veit Stoss stood motionless, while Peter's eyes never stirred from the table before them. There, carved in the fair white wood, rested the divine Babe, as on that blessed Christmas night when his Mother "wrapped him up in swaddling-clothes and laid him in a manger." The lovely little head nestled on its rough pillow as though on Mary's bosom; the tiny limbs were relaxed in sleep; the whole figure breathed at once the dignity of the Godhead and the pathetic helplessness of babyhood. Instinctively one loved, and pitied, and adored. Nor was this all. Every broken bit of straw that thrust its graceful, fuzzy head from between the rough bars of the manger, every twisted knot of grass, every gnarl and break in the wood itself, had been wrought with the tender accuracy of the true artist, who finds nothing too simple for his utmost care and skill.

Veit Stoss drew a heavy breath and turned to his companion. "It is a masterpiece," he said, gravely, "which I should be proud to call my own. I congratulate you on the possession of so great a treasure."

"It is not mine," returned the artisan, "but my daughter's. Gabriel wrought it for her wedding-gift."

The wood-carver's keen blue eyes scanned Kala's pretty, stolid face, and then wandered to Sigmund's broad shoulders and mighty bulk. A faint, derisive smile curled his well-cut lips. "Your daughter's beauty merits, indeed, the rarest of all rare tokens," he said, slowly. "But perhaps there are other things more needful to a young housewife than even this precious bit of carving. If she will part with it I will pay her seventy thalers, and it shall lie in St. Sebald's Church near my own Virgin, that all may see its loveliness and remember the hand that fashioned it."

Seventy thalers! Sigmund dropped the dog and lifted his handsome head with a look of blank bewilderment. Seventy thalers for a bit of wood like that, when his own strong arms could not earn as much in months! He stared at the little image in wondering perplexity, as though striving to see by what mysterious process it had arrived at such a value; while into his heart crept a thought strictly in keeping with his practical nature. If the humpback could have produced work worth so much, what a thousand pities he should die with only one piece finished!

On Lisbeth, too, a revelation seemed to have fallen. Her wheel had stopped, and in her mind she was rapidly running over a list of household goods valued at seventy thalers. It was a mental calculation quickly and cleverly accomplished; for Lisbeth was not slow in all things, and years of thrift had taught her the full worth of money. Instinctively she glanced at her husband and marvelled at his unmoved face.

"Your offer is a liberal one, Master Stoss," said Peter, gravely. "And I rejoice to think that the poor lad's genius will be recognized. In him Nuremberg would have had another famous son."

"In him Nuremberg has now a famous son," corrected Veit Stoss, laying his hand upon the statue. "No other proof of greatness can be needed." With gentle care he replaced the cloth and lifted the precious burden in his arms, when suddenly Kala sprang forward, her cheeks ablaze, her blue eyes dark with anger. Transfigured for one instant into a new and passionate beauty, she snatched the image from his hands.

"It is mine!" she cried, fiercely; "mine! Gabriel loved me, and carved it for me when he knew that he was dying. It was for me he did it, and you shall not take it from me."

She gathered it to her bosom with a low, broken cry, and darted from the room. God only knows what late love, and pity, and remorse were working in her breast. Veit Stoss turned softly to her father. "It is enough," he said. "Your daughter has the prior right, and I came not here to wrong her."

And so the hand which had robbed Gabriel of love and life robbed him of fame. For the statue which should have given joy to generations remained unknown in the artisan's family. At first many came to see and wonder at its beauty; but with the advent of a colder creed men wanted not such tokens of a vanished fervor, and the little Christ-Child was soon forgotten by the world. Perhaps Kala's sturdy grandchildren destroyed it as a useless toy; perhaps it perished by fire, or flood, or evil accident. No memory of it lingers in the streets of Nuremberg; and Gabriel, lifted beyond the everlasting hills, knoweth the vanity of all human wishes.

The Italian Guest's Selection.

"He is a Tuscan born, of an old
noble race in that part of Italy."


(The end)
Agnes Repplier's short story: A Story Of Nuremberg

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