Once many years ago there was a very skillful young man who built organs. He had already made a
good many and when he had completed one the next one he built was always better than the one
before. And now, the organ he had just finished was so refined that it would begin to play by itself
whenever a bridal couple, if God looked on them with favor, would enter the church.
When he had finished that organ he began to show interest in the young women in the town where he
lived. He chose the most beautiful and most devout young woman he could find and before long started
to made preparations for the wedding. When the day came he was about to enter the church with
relatives and friends in a long procession, each holding a bouquet of flowers or wearing one in their lapel,
his heart was filled with pride and ambition. At that moment he was not thinking about his wife or about
God, but only about himself and what a skillful craftsman he was, and that there was no other man like
him, and how everyone would be amazed and admire him when the organ would start to play all by itself.
Then he entered the church with his lovely bride — but the organ made not a sound.
The organ builder was shaken, and in his pride he thought that it could only be his bride’s fault, a sign
that she would not be true to him. All that day he did not speak a word with her, then secretly packed
what he needed and left her. After he had travelled hundreds of miles he settled down in a strange place
where no one knew him and no one asked who he was. There he lived quietly and all alone for ten years.
But the time came when he was overcome by an deep anxiety about what was going on at home and
about his wife whom he had abandoned. Again and again he had to think about how beautiful she had
been and how devout, and how cruel it was to have left her.
After he had done all he could to suppress such thoughts in vain, he decided to go back home and ask
for her forgiveness. He was on the road both day and at night, so that now the soles of his feet were
wounded and sore. But the closer he came to home the greater was his fear that his wife might not be
as good-hearted now as when she was when they had married.
Finally, from afar, he caught sight of the town's towers glowing in the sunlight. He began to run as fast
as he could, which made the people who saw him shake their heads and say: "Either he is a fool or he
has stolen something."
When he entered the gates he saw a long funeral procession coming his way. Everyone was walking
behind a casket and weeping. "Who is it you are burying, good people? You are all in tears." "It is the
wife of the organ builder whose husband abandoned her. She was so loving and kind to all of us, so we
want to bury her inside the church." When the organ builder heard this he did not say a word but only
walked quietly beside the casket with his head lowered, and he even helped to carry it. No one
recognized him, but because they heard him sobbing and crying all the while no one wanted to disturb
him, for they thought that he was probably one of the many poor people the woman had shown mercy
towards during her lifetime.
When the procession reached the church and the pall-bearers crossed over the threshold the organ
began to play all by itself, more magnificently than anyone had ever heard an organ play before. The
casket was placed before the altar and the organ builder leaned against a pillar beside it. He stood still
and listened to the sounds that got louder and louder, so loud that the church’s foundation began to
Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep for he was so exhausted after his long journey. But his heart was
gladdened for he knew that God had forgiven him. But when the last tone of the organ had faded away
he dropped dead on the stone floor. The people lifted him up and when they realized who it was, they
opened the casket and laid him inside beside his wife. And when they closed the casket the organ began
to play again, quite softly now. Then it fell silent, and after that the organ never played by itself again like
it had done so often before.
|The Enchanted Organ
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
|Reveries at French Firesides