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with this. Master Rembrandt, that picture must be mine."
"It is impossible! I have painted it at the command of the Princess Clara Eugenia, and she is to pay me a thousand florins for it." "I will give you four thousand. By St. Paul! my gallery were put to shame, if such a master-piece, instead of gracing my dwelling, adorned the palace of the Queen Regent of the Netherlands. Van Dyck, count out four thousand florins to Master Rembrandt." "Van Dyck!" replied Rembrandt, in astonishment; "who are you, then, that Van Dyck serves you as a treasurer?"
'I am Peter Paul Rubens, and I have come from Antwerp to visit you."
"Rubens!" exclaimed Rembrandt, gazing at his rival from head to foot. "Well, then, since you are a brother artist, you know that time is precious; I will continue my work. A man must earn his bread," he added, with a hypocritical sigh. "Ah, me, I have no money to buy paintings at the rate of four thousand florins apiece!"
These dissembling words were uttered by a man who, as was discovered on the day after his death, had three millions of gold in his cellar.
Rembrandt took up his brush again, and in less than an hour the picture was completed, while all present stood around, in deep silence, and Rubens leaned, scarcely breathing, over the artist's chair. He devoured the palette with his eyes, and endeavored to penetrate the secret by which the old man produced those admirable effects of light and shade which distinguished his pictures.
When the painting was finished, Rembrandt rose and said:
"It is not yet noon; I can complete a new work before evening, therefore accept this as a mark of the esteem which I feel for you. If I have at times passed a sleepless night, it has been owing to the success of my rival."
"I am not your rival, Master, but your pupil. To convince you of this, permit me to to take yonder new canvas, and the brush which you have used. I will attempt to imitate your style. Helen, come hither, and sit in that part of the studio where the light falls most directly; place that straw hat upon your head, and be a good and docile model. Master Rembrandt, I introduce to you my dear wife."
Rembrandt glanced at the lovely cresture with a sarcastic smile; he then calli the old woman who was crouching near t chimney, took her by the hand, and returning the courtesy of his guest, he said:
"This woman here is my wife, Master Rubens; permit me to present her to you." In the meanwhile Rubens had begun his work, which he continued without entirely interrupting the conversation.
"I was very anxious on your account a few weeks since," he said; "the rumor was prevalent in Antwerp that you were dead, and a dealer in paintings even showed a letter from your son which confirmed it."
Rembrandt smiled with an air of satisfaction, and said:
66 I needed six thousand florins to complete the sum necessary for the payment of my house; the trick was successful; I sold my paintings for twice their value. But pardon me, the hour for my dinner has struck. I will not venture to invite you to partake of it. Your train also is too numerous for so scanty a meal. Ay, ay, all painters cannot be ambassadors and princes. I have never received the slightest favor from the Kings of Spain and England, I belong to no order of knighthood, and my whole train consists of my ape, my wife, and my son Titus, when he is in Amsterdam. Catherine, bring me my dinner."
Dame Rembrandt, who readily divined her husband's thoughts, at once joined in the cynical humility which he seemed resolved to display before the pompous train of his guest. She spread a table that stood in the middle of the studio with a coarse white and blue checkered table-cloth, placed two earthen plates upon it, and from a dish of the same material she took, with a large wooden spoon, a thick soup prepared of vegetables and bread; she completed the dinner with a piece of lean beef, pickled herrings, cheese and small beer.
Rembrandt dispatched his meal with a hearty appetite. When he rose from the table, Rubens had finished the head upon which he was employed; it was the celebrated Straw Hat, painted under the inspiration of Rembrandt, a picture in which Rubens had displayed the vivid colorings, and the mysterious blending of light and shade, which characterized the works of that old master.
Rembrandt gazed at the noble painting
with constrained joy, in which both admira- | bundle that hung at his girdle, and having tion and jealousy were visible.
"We are now quits, then," he said; "or rather I am a gainer by the exchange."
"We are not yet quits, Master. But for you, but for the lesson which you gave me in permitting me to look on while you were painting, I could not have executed this portrait, which is perhaps my best. Permit me, therefore, to present you with this casket, containing a set of silver ware, which I have had made for you, and marked with your name. As often as you use it, remember your admirer, your pupil-your friend, you will allow me this title." Rembrandt glanced with indifference at the costly gift, while Dame Catherine, with eager curiosity, examined the various pieces of richly embossed silver work which the casket contained.
"You are a great lord, Master Rubens, and it is the duty of a poor artist like myself to receive the gifts with which his patron, his Mæcenas honors him," replied Rembrandt, not without a shade of bitter
"That is a different thing from our tin spoons, ha, Catherine! But now dispatch, and lay all quickly aside, for the time approaches when I cease to be a painter. After the clock strikes two I am a mere man of business. The Jews and merchants with whom I have dealings then visit me, and I already see Levi Zacharias, the silk mercer, below in the court. At what inn do you lodge, Master Rubens, that to-morrow morning, or this evening, I may pay my respects to you?"
"I lodge with the Count Penaflor. Farewell, Master, until this evening." "Until this evening," replied Rembrandt, bowing humbly to the ground.
At a sign from Rubens, Helen and his train retired. All mounted their horses, and the splendid cavalcade set off at a full gallop. Rembrandt followed it, for a while, with
"That is a prince !" he muttered; "a king! He enjoys his life in splendor! Perhaps he is right, perhaps I am a fool to live in poverty and seclusion. Poverty-yes, I am poor, in spite of all my wealth. But what of that? In yonder vault, locked with a key that never leaves me, I hold sums that could content the caprices of a king! Lavish in folly the fruits of thy labor, Rubens! I have here my happiness and my joy."
As he said this, he took a key from the
looked carefully around to satisfy himself that no one, not even his wife, was watching him, he opened a door which was constructed in the wall, and which led to a narrow stairway. He then lighted a lantern, locked the door behind him, cautiously descended fourteen damp steps, and at last reached a second door, which he opened like the first. He now found himself in a vault, in which stood numerous casks filled to the brim with gold coin. He stopped before one of these casks, suffered the rays of the light to play upon the pieces of gold, and after he had gazed upon them for a while, and thrust his fingers to and fro among them, so that the bright metal rang clear and sharp upon his ear, he exclaimed:
"Rubens, thou art a vain and foolish mortal! Out upon thy pride and extravagance! The highest of earthly pleasures, after all, is the possession of a treasure."
Suddenly a slight noise was heard. Rembrandt's delicate and mistrustful ear at once recognized the creaking of the gate of the court-yard. With a bound light as that of a youth he hastened up the stairs, rushed into his studio, drew the tapestry quickly before the place where the secret door opened, and hastened to meet his visitors.
"I greet you, Master Solomon Lirch, and you, Master Samuel Netscham! You are welcome!" he cried, almost out of breath. "Is it aught good that procures me the honor of this late visit?"
"I, for my part," replied the former, "have come to propose a loan to you. The merchant Lannan needs a thousand florins."
"I will lend them to him at twenty per cent.; but he must place in my hands as a pledge double the amount in wares."
"I will inform him of your conditions," rejoined Master Solomon Lirch.
"And I," said the other, after the latter had taken his leave, "wish to purchase a picture from you for Marshal Isenghien."
"I can content you. Here is the portrait of a rabbi, who was unable to pay for it after it was completed."
"What price do you set upon it ?"
"You have heard me promise them to Samuel Netscham. If you will not pay the sum, I must procure them from another, for I have not a stiver in the house."
"I will pay you within three months."
"The Crowned Juno."
"But Master Rembrandt has already sold this engraving," cried a voice.
"Yes, but it was then unfinished; now it is all complete. Look, there was no crown upon Juno's head in the other; this defect is here remedied."
"But the addition seems on the whole quite unessential."
"Master Rembrandt," he said, "the engraving is yours; you have bid a hundred and fifty shillings."
All eyes were at once turned towards the man to whom these words were addressed. But, without manifesting the slightest embarrassment, Rembrandt said:
When the latter had satisfied himself that the door of the vault that held his treasure was well secured, he led one of his large dogs from the court-yard into his studio, to protect it during his absence; he then wrapped himself in his mantle, covered his head with a wide slouched hat, and left the chamber, after having extinguished the lamp which he had lighted during his interview with the Jews. He now directed his steps towards the centre of the city, and proceeded to a building where public auctions were held. With his hat pressed more deeply upon his head, and his face concealed be- "It is a question," said the young man, neath his mantle, he glided unobserved "whether a painter should be admitted to an through the crowd. A man who was mount-auction of his own works. However, Mased upon a table was offering pictures for sale. ter, I offer you two hundred shillings for After having sold some paintings of Mierics this engraving." and Gerhard Douw, he came to an engraving of Rembrandt's.
"I esteem myself fortunate in having come in time to secure this engraving. I sent it to auction by mistake, and I was sadly grieved on account of the error. It is too admirable and excellent for me to think [of parting with it. The only way by which I could obtain it, was to purchase it again, and I have done so."
"It is a sacrifice indeed, but still it is a just punishment for my stupidity. In God's name, then, take the engraving for two hundred shillings."
He then withdrew, not without having breathed a heavy sigh, as if he infinitely regretted having parted with an engraving which was far from possessing any extraordinary merit.
"Since they know that I am here," he said to himself, "I can remain no longer to
bid upon my works. I will visit then the was alone, as he cast himself upon an old great artist who calls himself Peter Paul | leathern chair, "fool that I am to be jealous of Rubens. Good Heaven! what a crowd this man!"
throngs the streets! there go the cannon, and the houses are all illuminated! What can be the matter? Ha, worthy Burgomaster! wherefore are you arrayed thus in your holiday suit? Whence this tumult in the city?" Master Anton Van Opsem, the Burgomaster of Amsterdam, took Rembrandt's arm and drew him onward with him.
"I have no time to stand here talking," he said. "Important tidings have reached the States-General. Master Rubens's efforts to arrange the treaty have been attended with complete success, and all the corporations, with the Burgomaster and the Aldermen at their head, are assembling to do him honor. Do you not hear the shouts of the crowd, 'Long live Rubens, the pride of the Netherlands !'"
Rembrandt drew his arm slowly from that of the Burgomaster.
"How! you will not go with me to greet Master Rubens ?"
"No, it is too late; my wife is waiting for me, and she might be alarmed at my remaining out so long. Farewell!"
With these words he turned, and was soon lost in the crowd.
He then added with a sigh, glancing at his torn mantle, "I am afraid it cannot be mended; at last I shall have to purchase a new one!"
WHEN Master Nicholas Barruello had received that unhoped-for aid from the hands of the unknown horseman, he bitterly reproached himself for having doubted, for an instant, in Providence. He entered his little dwelling with a light heart, and nothing short of the sad spectacle which it displayed could have banished the expression of joy which had, for a moment, enlivened his face.
On the way thither he had purchased bread, some cooked meat, and a can of beer. He placed the stock of provisions upon the chimney-piece, and began to repair the disorder in his chamber. He restored the little window to its position, set new panes in the place of the broken ones, swept the snow into the street, rekindled the fire, and then, not without hesitation, prepared to commence the sad duty which remained to him, and which, yielding to a natural feeling of aversion, he had until now deferred, namely, to bury the dead. Fortifying himself with the sign of the cross, he entered the chamber in which lay the lifeless remains of Netcelli's wife and infant. With trembling hands he arranged the bodies for interment, and then returned to the outer chamber. An unexpected noise now startled him. He looked around, his brow moistened with cold sweat; it was Netcelli, who had seized the bread which lay upon the mantel, and was endeavoring to secrete himself in a corHe quickened his pace, but at the mo-ner, in order to devour his booty in security. ment when he turned to leave the street, the din grew so tumultuous that he retraced his steps to inquire the cause. Rubens had appeared upon the balcony, and was there saluting the crowd. Rembrandt rushed in furious haste toward his dwelling.
"Long live Rubens, the pride of the Netherlands !" he repeated in a low voice, as he proceeded onward. "The man plies all sorts of trades, then, and reaps honor upon honor. Yes, yes, he is a better negotiator perhaps than I am. But I am curious to know whether posterity will admire his paintings as much as they will mine. Old Rembrandt has, after all, his worth. But away from here, for the crowd increases, the shouts grow louder; this enthusiasm is a torment to me!"
"For Heaven's sake! what is the matter?" I cried his wife as he entered. "You are so pale! Are you sick? What ails you? Why, you have torn your mantle, and your clutched hand still holds the shreds."
"It is nothing," he answered rudely, "nothing that concerns you."
"Fool that I am!" he exclaimed when he
This brutish act was even more revolting to
"Yesterday," he said to himself, "this man was inspired with the noblest courage; his sole thought was to rescue his family from destruction. To-day, without consciousness and without thought, in the presence of these dead bodies, he thinks of nothing more than to satisfy the cravings of animal hunger. Yesterday he was scarcely lower than an angel; to-day he is less than a beast."
His heart would have murmured against Providence, but he quickly endeavored to
repress these thoughts, so unworthy of a Christian, by repeating a suitable prayer; and when he had satisfied himself that Antonio lay sunk in profound slumber, he hastened to the priest of the nearest parish, to inform him that two corpses were lying in his house, and to beg him to give them a Christian burial. The priest was well acquainted with Master Nicholas; he told him to be seated, praised him for his charity, and arranged the expenses of the burial at so reasonable a rate, that three of the gold pieces remained untouched in the pocket of the worthy man. The benevolence of the priest somewhat restored Barruello's courage, and he left the good man to repair to a neighboring joiner's. This man also was unwilling to appear ungenerous; he at once set to work, and refused to receive payment for any thing more than the value of the wood which he had used in constructing a last tenement for the dead. In addition to this, he promised to attend to the burial of the deceased. Antonio awaked at the sound of the hammering, and cried after his mother; the maniac also started up in alarm, but it was only to cower again more closely into his corner.
In the meanwhile Master Nicholas had put on his best suit, and stepped from time to time to the window, to see if the generous stranger were not approaching; but the time passed, and he did not make his appearance. When the priest had arrived, accompanied by a boy bearing a cross, Master Nicholas and Antonio alone followed the coffin. The joiner and three other neighbors had undertaken to commit the dead to the earth. On retiring from the churchyard, the tailor inquired of a neighbor's wife who had taken care of his dwelling in his absence, whether any one had called upon him. She had seen no one, however. Master Nicholas breathed a deep sigh of disappointment.
"That is the way with the rich," he said, bitterly. "One turns away his nearest kinsfolk when they have fallen into poverty, and even refuses them a coffin after they are dead; another forgets the promise that he has made, although no one claimed it of him. Ah, Master Eustachius," he added, turning to the joiner who stood near him, "let us thank God that he has kept us poor."
"Perhaps you are right," replied the
joiner, who did not quite seem to share in the philosophical views of his neighbor. "Yet, if you were richer, the question what to do with this little lad would be less embarrassing."
"As to that, my mind is long since made up," answered Barruello; "I will never forsake those who are forsaken by the world. So long as I have a morsel of bread, I will share it with him; and God be thanked, Master Eustachius, we have fingers and a needle, that, with Heaven's blessing, can earn something more than mere bread."
"By the Holy Virgin! you are a worthy man, Master Nicholas, and I will not suffer you to perform the good work alone. I will take Antonio as an apprentice, and with God's help I will make a good joiner of him."
Master Barruello was too deeply moved to reply; he reached the worthy man his hand in token of assent, and the two passed the evening together by the chimney over a can of beer.
Before we conclude this chapter, we must explain to the reader why Master Nicholas did not receive the money which Rembrandt had destined for him, as well as the reason why Rubens had not kept his promise.
In the first place, Dame Catherine had taken advantage of Rubens's visit, to leave her husband's commands unfulfilled, and to appropriate to herself the money intended for Master Nicholas. Secondly, the same courier who had brought the important tidings by which the whole city was set in commotion, was the bearer also of an order to the negotiator to repair at once to Brussels, in order to receive the reward of his diplomatic talents, and to be intrusted with a mission of still greater importance. In the confusion of this unexpected departure, Rubens had forgotten the tailor, and his promise to visit him.
TEN years after his first visit to Amsterdam, Rubens again journeyed to that city. Commissioned by Philip II. to purchase a collection of the most distinguished paintings of the Flemish school, for the Escurial, he resolved to attend to the selection of the pictures himself; and for this purpose he visited all the cities of the Netherlands, and the studios of the most renowned artists. First of all, he naturally applied to Rembrandt. As Rubens en