LONG ago, in the quaint Rhenish city of Bonn, the bells rang out for a wedding, which caused a great chattering among the gossips gathered for their morning talk in the market-place; for the tenor singer in the Electorial Chapel at Bonn was to marry the daughter of the head cook in the castle of Ehrenbreitstein. It was thought to be a great match for the girl, though the tenor's grandfather was only a gardener, as his name, taken from two German words, beet (root), and hof (garden), would signify. The young couple seemed very happy in spite of the gossips, and the years rolled pleasantly by until in 1770 a baby-boy came to the old house in the Bonngasse where they lived.

Ludwig they christened him, and carefully they cherished him. He had a quiet boyhood; for there was little to amuse him in his quaint home besides the clavier, or piano, on which his father played. Before this, Ludwig would often stand, finding out chords and melodies with his wee fingers. When about four years old, he teased his father to give him lessons. 

Half in fun he consented, and Ludwig worked away faithfully, enjoying it, for he worked from love.

Meantime, the father was growing reckless. Something stronger than lager was now his favorite drink, and harsh words, even blows, were sometimes the lot of his wife and little Ludwig. The evil spirit of drink took possession of the man.

Then came hard days for the poor little boy. His father was pitiless in compelling him to practice, and many a time he made him get up before daylight, to go over the scales. The child cried and pleaded all in vain. His father was determined to make money by exhibiting the wonderful talents of his boy. When Ludwig was thirteen, he led the Court orchestra at Bonn, and pretty soon he became assistant organist. The salary he received was a great help to his family, for the father was now drunk most of the time, and did nothing for their support.  He had hardly been cheered by his success when the good Elector, who ruled Bonn and encouraged its musicians, died, and Ludwig lost his place. He had then to give lessons. 

This he hated. It was prosy work to stand and count, "One, two, three, four," to the same exercise he was once dragged out of bed to practice. 

However, he was a sturdy little man.

"Help thyself" was always his motto, and a good one it is for any boy or girl; so he worked on till some great men found him out, and he was once more made organist, this time with a salary of a hundred thalers, about $750. 

But did he boast over it? Not he. "Mother," he said, "now you need not work so hard, we can have bread, and perhaps, oh, perhaps! I can yet go to Vienna." For Vienna was then, as now, the home of music-lovers. There, Haydn lived and Mozart composed, and of them the boy wanted to learn.

Poor Ludwig! Vienna could not comfort him for his mother, who just then sickened and died, while his father was reeling home from one of the Bonn gardens. I think he loved his mother more than most boys love theirs. He wrote to a friend from Vienna, for he was there at last: "Ah! Who was happier than I, so long as I could still pronounce the sweet name of mother and hear the answer? And to whom can I say it now? To the silent images resembling her, which my fancy presents to me!"

After her death this ambitious young man of seventeen did something most noble. He tried to support his drunken father and young brothers while he worked on in Vienna, learning and composing. A funny life he led there. 

Sometimes he tried to keep house and cook for himself, but the composer was no cook, and as for keeping a house in order, he knew not how. 

Sometimes he tried boarding; that was no better. He left one place because the landlord was too polite, and another because he could not get water enough; for he had a queer habit, when thinking of his new music, of bathing his head and face, and then pacing up and down the room like a wet Newfoundland dog, while he hummed and growled away to himself. At last a friend, a prince with the Polish name of Lichnowski, invited Ludwig to make his home at his palace; and there he lived happily for ten years, composing, and meeting the great men of the day. He was no longer poor young Ludwig, but a famous composer, whose grand music the world will always admire.

But he was no longer to enjoy it. Little by little, the gateway through which all sound enters had been closing, until at last he was entirely deaf. 

He wandered about in the fields and gardens around Vienna as he had done around Bonn when a boy. He saw the tempest, he saw the birds singing in the sunshine; but he heard them not. He was wretchedly unhappy. "If I had not read that man must not of his own free will end his life, I should long ago have done so by my own hands," he said.

Once, when traveling, he was caught in a storm and compelled to spend the night in a peasant's cottage. After tea they brought out some music and played it on their violins. Ludwig saw by watching them that the music was difficult, and judged by their actions that it was beautiful, for at its close, tears stood in the eyes of the performers as they embraced each other in their enthusiastic German fashion. He rose and glanced at the music; it was one of his own symphonies, which he could never hear again. As this thought came to him, he sat down and wept long and violently before he could tell the amazed peasants his name.

No one need be afraid to love and enjoy his music. There is music, which brings bad, coarse thoughts into the mind, and there is music, which helps one up to pure thoughts and hopes; his is of the latter sort. 

There are birdcalls and sweet melodies in his symphonies, which remind you as you hear them how well he who wrote them knew all the delicious wild songs of the woods.

There are grand harmonies like angel hymns, which you do not wonder he could write when you read that he once said: "Nothing can be more sublime than to draw nearer to the Godhead than other men, and to diffuse here on earth these God-like rays." Yet he did not mar the effect of his grand music by boasting of it, for he said near the end of his life: 

"I feel as though I had written scarcely more than a few notes of music."

He had many things to trouble him besides his deafness. He had no home. His brothers, now grown up to men, courted him only for his money. A nephew whom he adopted, and loved devotedly, proved to be an ungrateful fellow, who when his uncle was very sick, went out to get some medicine for him, but, meeting some friends, went off for a spree, leaving his errand with a servant. Two days later the medicine came, but it was too late. One faithful friend, who could little spare the time from earning his own bread, cared for the composer in this his last illness.

Now, his great name and the love we bear him, would surround him with every comfort. I think he would even die as did that famous Frenchman, Mirabeau, literally covered with flowers, each of which would show the affection of some heart. Then, though many loved him, this greatest of all musicians died wanting many comforts, in his humble quarters outside of Vienna. While a violent thunderstorm swept over the city one spring night, the soul of the deaf composer "went away" his last, plaintive words: "I shall hear!"

If you go to Bonn, you will see in the market place a tall marble statue of this great man, who once trod its streets in poverty and shame.

If you visit Vienna, and drive out from the city a few miles, you will see in the beautiful cemetery of Wahring, where many famous men lie, the last resting-place of the man whom the world honors, on whose plain white head-stone is this one word,