At first I used to try to make her understand that a true artist is worthy of great respect, that his works sometimes endure for ages, and are admired by many successive generations, and that, in point of fact, a good artist is quite as good as a councillor. Unhappily, I failed to convince her; she merely shrugged her shoulders, clasped her hands in despair, and vouchsafed no answer.
I would have done anything to convert my aunt Catherine to my views—anything; but I would rather die than sacrifice art and an artist’s life, music, painting, and Sebaldus’s tavern!
Sebaldus’s tavern is delightful. It is the corner house between the narrow Rue des Hallebardes and the little square De la Cigogne. As soon as you are through the archway you find within a spacious square court, with old carved wooden galleries all round it, and a wooden staircase to reach it; everywhere are scattered in disorder small windows of last century with leaden sashes, skylights, and air-holes; old wooden posts are nearly yielding under the weight of a roof that threatens to sink in. The barn, the rows of casks piled up in a corner, the cellar door at the left, a pigeon-cote forming the point of the gable end; then, again, beneath the galleries, other darkened windows in the same style, where you can see swillers and topers in three-cornered hats, distinguished by noses red, purple, or crimson; little women of Hundsruck, in velvet caps with long fluttering ribbons, some grave, some laughing, others queer and grotesque-looking; the hay-loft high up under the roof; stables, pigsties, cowsheds, all in picturesque confusion attract and confound your attention. It is a strange sight!
For fifty years not a hammer has been lifted against this venerable ruin. You would think it was left for the special accommodation of rats! And when the glowing autumn sun, red as fire, showers golden rain upon the decaying walls and timbers; when, as daylight fades into evening, the angular projections stand out more boldly, and the shadows deepen; when all the tavern rings with songs, and shouts, and roars of laughter; when fat Sebaldus, in leathern apron, runs to and from the cellar with the big jug in his hand; when his wife Gredel throws up the kitchen window, and with her long knife, well hacked along the edge, cleans the fish, or cuts the necks of hens, ducks, or geese which struggle and gurgle in their own blood; when pretty Fridoline, with her rosy little mouth and her long fair hair, leans out of her window to tend the honeysuckle, and over her head the neighbour’s tabby cat is gently swaying her tail and watching, with her cunning green eyes, the swallow circling in the deepening purple—I do assure you that a man must be utterly devoid of taste for the picturesque not to stop and contemplate in ecstasy and listen to the murmuring sounds, or the louder din, or the falling whispers, and observe with an artist’s eye the trembling lights, the flying shadows, and whisper to himself, “Is not this beautiful?”