Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Artist’s Masterpiece
by [?]



A little village with its scattered glimmering lights lay in peaceful dreams. Just as a black swan draws her young under her, so the mighty Cathedral rested in the midst of the low houses, which seemed to creep, like birds, under its wing.

It struck twelve from the church tower, and larger and smaller clocks, near and far, carried the message onward. Dead silence again hovered over the sleeping village.

Just as dawn bathed the hills in sunlight, two stately men wandered along the Cathedral Square. One seemed somewhat older, with his full gray beard. His hair, rich and abundant, curled beneath his velvet cap. He walked so majestically that one could see, at the very first glance, that he was no ordinary person, but one upon whose shoulders an invisible weight rested. Handsome, tall and noble, just as one would picture the highest type of man–a king from head to foot.

Here, in the little village of Breisach, as he named it, Emperor Maximilian liked to rest from the cares of his Empire. Here, in this little retreat, filled with calm and quietude, he loved to wander. From here he sent letters full of tender thoughts to his daughter in the Netherlands.

He loved the place well, and christened it “Care-Free.”

As Emperor Maximilian walked proudly, but with heavy tread, along the parapet of the Cathedral Square, his eye rested upon the gay scene at his feet. To-day the invisible world of care pressed heavily upon his shoulders. Suddenly he stood still, and turning to his private secretary, he said, “I wonder who those children are who are so industriously planting a rose-bush in the niche of the wall?”

The children, a girl and a boy (the former about eight, and the latter twelve years of age), were so engrossed in their work that they had not noticed the approach of the Emperor, until his presence was so near that it startled them. They turned full face upon him. Then the boy touched the girl and said, “It’s the Emperor!”

“What are you doing there?” he asked, and his artistic eye feasted on the beauty of this charming pair.

“We are planting a rose-bush,” said the boy, undaunted.

The Emperor smiled, and said, “What is your name?”

“Hans Le Fevre, sir.”

“And the little one, is she your sister?”

“No, she is Marie, our neighbor’s child.”

“Ah!–you like each other very much?”

“Yes, when I’m old enough, and when I own a knife, I’m going to marry her.”

The Emperor opened his eyes wide, and said, “Why do you need a knife?”

“Surely,” answered the boy, earnestly, “if I have no knife I cannot cut, and if I cannot cut I can earn no money. My mother has always said that without money one cannot marry. Besides, I should have to have much money to enable me to marry my little friend Marie, as she is the Counselor’s daughter.”

“But,” questioned the Emperor, “what do you want to cut?”


“Ha! ha! I understand. You want to be a wood-carver. Now, I remember that I once met two young boys, named Le Fevre. They were studying in Nurnberg, with Durer, ‘The Prince of Artists.’ Were they, perhaps, your relatives?”

“Yes, my cousins, and once I saw them carve, and I would like to learn how, too; but my father and uncle are dead, and my mother never buys me a knife.”

The Emperor thrust his hand into his pocket, and after much fumbling and jingling, pulled out a knife with an artistically carved handle. “Will that do?” said he.

The boy flushed, and one could see how beneath his coarse, torn shirt his heart beat with joy.

“Yes,” stammered the boy, “it’s beautiful.”

“Well, take it and use it diligently,” said the Emperor.

The boy took the treasure from the Emperor’s hand as carefully as if it were red hot and might burn his fingers.

“I thank you many times!” was all that he could say; but in his dark eyes there beamed a fire of joy whose sparks of love and gratitude electrified the Emperor.