History of Literature










John Ruskin


"The King of the Golden River"



 



John Ruskin


 


John Ruskin


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Ruskin first came to widespread attention for his support for the work of J. M. W. Turner and his defence of naturalism in art. He subsequently put his weight behind the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His later writings turned increasingly to complex and personal explorations of the interconnection of cultural, social and moral issues, and were influential on the development of Christian socialism.

 

Life

 Early life and education
Ruskin was born in London and raised in South London, the only child of a wine importer who co-founded the company that became Allied Domecq. He was educated at home and went on to study at King's College London and Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford, he enrolled as a "gentleman-commoner", a class of students who were not expected to pursue a full course of study. His own studies were erratic, and he was often absent. However, he impressed the scholars of Christ Church after he won the Newdigate prize for poetry, his earliest interest. In consequence and despite a protracted period of serious illness, Oxford awarded him an honorary fourth-class degree.


First publications
Ruskin's first published prose work came in 1834 when, at age 15, he began writing a series of articles for Loudon's Magazine of Natural History. In 1836-37, he wrote The Poetry of Architecture, serialised in Loudon's Architectural Magazine, under the pen name "Kata Phusin" (Greek for "according to Nature"). This was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centered around a Wordsworthian argument that buildings should be sympathetic to local environments, and should use local materials. Soon afterward, in 1839, he published, in Transactions of the Meteorological Society (pages 56–59), his "Remarks on the present state of meteorological science".


Modern Painters (1843)
He went on to publish the first volume of one of his major works, Modern Painters, in 1843, under the anonymous identity "An Oxford Graduate". This work argued that modern landscape painters—and in particular J. M. W. Turner—were superior to the so-called "Old Masters" of the post-Renaissance period. Such a claim was controversial, especially as Turner's semi-abstract late works were being denounced by some critics as meaningless daubs. The degree to which Ruskin reversed an anti-Turnerian tide may have been overemphasised in the past, as Turner was a renowned and major figure in the early Victorian art world and a prominent member of the Royal Academy. Ruskin's criticism of Old Masters like Gaspard Dughet (Gaspar Poussin), Claude Lorrain, and Salvator Rosa, was much more controversial, given the immense respect they held at the time. The attack on the old masters centred on what Ruskin perceived as their lack of attention to natural truth. Rather than 'going to nature', as Turner did, the old masters, 'composed' or invented their landscapes in their studios. For Ruskin, modern painters like Turner and James Duffield Harding (Ruskin's art tutor) showed a much more profound understanding of nature, observing the 'truths' of water, air, clouds, stones, and vegetation.

He considered some Renaissance masters, notably Titian and Dürer, to have shown similar devotion to nature, but he attacked even Michelangelo as a corrupting influence on art. The second half of Modern Painters I consists of detailed observations by Ruskin of exactly how clouds move, how seas appear at different times of day, or how trees grow, followed by examples of error or truth from various artists.

Ruskin had already met and befriended Turner, and eventually became one of the executors of his will. Many long believed that, as an executor, Ruskin took it upon himself in 1858 to destroy a large number of Turner's sketches because of their 'pornographic' subject matter but more recent discoveries cast doubt on this idea.

Ruskin followed Modern Painters I with a second volume, developing his ideas about symbolism in art. He then turned to architecture, writing The Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice, both of which argued that architecture cannot be separated from morality, and that the "Decorated Gothic" style was the highest form of architecture yet achieved.

By this time, he was writing in his own name and had become the most famous cultural theorist of his day.

 

Marriage to Effie Gray


Effie Gray painted by Thomas Richmond
 

In 1848, he married Effie Gray, for whom he wrote the early fantasy novel The King of the Golden River. Their marriage was notoriously unhappy, eventually being annulled in 1854 on grounds of his "incurable impotency," a charge Ruskin later disputed, even going so far as to offer to prove his virility at the court's request. In court, the Ruskin family counter-attacked Effie as being mentally unbalanced. Effie later married the artist John Everett Millais, who had been Ruskin's protegé, in July 1855, and bore eight children.

 

Pre-Raphaelite painters
Ruskin came into contact with Millais following the controversy over Millais's painting Christ in the House of His Parents, which was considered blasphemous at the time. Millais, with his colleagues William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had established the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelites were influenced by Ruskin's theories. As a result, the critic wrote letters to The Times defending their work, later meeting them. Initially, he favoured Millais, who travelled to Scotland with Ruskin and Effie to paint Ruskin's portrait. Effie's increasing attachment to Millais, among other reasons (including Ruskin's non-consummation of the marriage) created a crisis, leading Effie to leave Ruskin, which caused a public scandal. Millais abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite style after his marriage, and Ruskin often savagely attacked his later works. Ruskin continued to support Hunt and Rossetti. He also provided independent funds to encourage the art of Rossetti's wife Elizabeth Siddal. Other artists influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites also received both written and financial support from him, including John Brett, Burne-Jones and John William Inchbold. In 1858 he also opened the School of Art in Sidney Street, Cambridge, laying the foundation for what is now Anglia Ruskin University.

During this period Ruskin wrote regular reviews of the annual exhibitions at the Royal Academy under the title Academy Notes. His reviews were so influential and so judgmental that he alienated many artists, leading to much comment. For example, Punch published a comic poem about a victim of the critic, which contained the lines, "I paints and paints, hears no complaints...then savage Ruskin sticks his tusk in and nobody will buy."

Ruskin also sought to encourage new architecture based on his theories. He was friendly with Sir Henry Acland, who supported his attempts to get the new Oxford University Museum of Natural History built as a model of modern Gothic. Ruskin also inspired other architects to adapt the Gothic style for modern culture. These buildings created what has been called a distinctive "Ruskinian Gothic" style.



Later life
Following a crisis of religious belief, and under the influence of his great friend Thomas Carlyle, Ruskin abandoned art criticism at the end of the 1850s, moving towards commentary on politics. In Unto This Last, he expounded theories about social justice, which influenced the development of the British Labour party and Christian socialism. On his father's death, Ruskin declared it was not possible to be a rich socialist, and gave away most of his inheritance. He founded the charity known as the Guild of St George in the 1870s, and endowed it with large sums of money and a remarkable art collection. He gave money to enable Octavia Hill to begin her practical campaign of housing reform. He attempted to reach a wide readership with his pamphlets Fors Clavigera, aimed at the "working men of England". He taught at the Working Men's College, London, and was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, from 1869 to 1879. His lectures were so popular that they had to be given twice—once for the students, and again for the public. Ruskin College, Oxford is named after him.

While at Oxford, Ruskin became friendly with Lewis Carroll, another don, who photographed him. After Carroll parted with Alice Liddell, she and her sisters pursued a similar relationship with Ruskin, according to his autobiography, Praeterita.
 


Rose la Touche, as sketched by Ruskin


During this period Ruskin became enamoured of Rose la Touche, an intensely religious girl, whom he met through his patronage of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, a talented watercolourist. He was introduced to Rose in 1858, when she was only ten years old, proposed to her eight years later, and was finally rejected in 1872. She died in 1875. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to bouts of mental illness. He suffered from a number of breakdowns and delirious visions.

In 1878, he published a scathing review of paintings by James McNeill Whistler exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. He found particular fault with Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, and accused Whistler of "ask[ing] two hundred guineas for throwing a pot of paint in the public's face."  Whistler filed a libel suit against Ruskin. Whistler won the case, but the jury awarded him only one farthing for damages; it split court costs between Ruskin and Whistler. The episode tarnished Ruskin's reputation, and may have accelerated his mental decline.

The emergence of the Aesthetic movement and Impressionism alienated Ruskin from the art world, and his later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He continued to support philanthropic movements such as the Home Arts and Industries Association

Much of his later life was spent at a house called Brantwood, on the shores of Coniston Water located in the Lake District of England. Emily Warren, John Ruskin's last pupil, instigated a successful movement to have Brantwood, made into a museum. His assistant W. G. Collingwood, the author, artist and antiquarian lived nearby and in 1901 established the Ruskin Museum in Coniston as a memorial to Ruskin.


Work
Ruskin's range was vast. He wrote over 250 works which started from art history, but expanded to cover topics ranging over science, geology, ornithology, literary criticism, the environmental effects of pollution, and mythology. After his death Ruskin's works were collected together in a massive "library edition", completed in 1912 by his friends Edward Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. Its index is famously elaborate, attempting to articulate the complex interconnectedness of his thought.


Art and design criticism
Ruskin based his early work in defense of Turner on a belief that art communicated an understanding of nature, and that authentic artists should reject inherited conventions, and study and appreciate effects of form and colour by direct observation. His most famous dictum was "go to nature in all singleness of heart, rejecting nothing and selecting nothing." He later believed that the Pre-Raphaelites formed "a new and noble school" of art that would provide a basis for a thoroughgoing reform of the art world. For Ruskin, art should communicate truth above all things. However, he believed this was not revealed by mere display of skill, but the expression of the artist's whole moral outlook. Ruskin rejected the work of Whistler because he considered it to epitomise a reductive mechanisation of art.

Ruskin's famous diatribe rejecting Classical tradition in The Stones of Venice—one of the 19th century's most influential books—embodies the inextricable mix of aesthetics and morality in his thought:

"Pagan in its origin, proud and unholy in its revival, paralysed in its old age... an architecture invented, as it seems, to make plagiarists of its architects, slaves of its workmen, and sybarites of its inhabitants; an architecture in which intellect is idle, invention impossible, but in which all luxury is gratified and all insolence fortified."


Rejection of mechanisation and standardisation also informed Ruskin's theories of architecture, and his emphasis on the importance of the Medieval Gothic style. He praised the Gothic style for what he saw as its reverence for nature and natural forms; the free, unfettered expression of artisans constructing and decorating buildings; and for the organic relationship he posited between worker and guild, worker and community, worker and natural environment, and between worker and God. Nineteenth century attempts to reproduce Gothic form (pointed arches, etc.) were not enough to make these buildings expressions of what Ruskin (however erroneously, perhaps) saw as true Gothic feeling, faith, and organicism.

For Ruskin, the Gothic style embodied the same moral truths he sought in art. It expressed the 'meaning' of architecture—as a combination of the values of strength, solidity and aspiration—all written, as it were, in stone. For Ruskin, creating true Gothic architecture involved the whole community, and expressed the full range of human emotions, from the sublime effects of soaring spires to the comically ridiculous carved grotesques and gargoyles. Even its crude and "savage" aspects were proof of "the liberty of every workman who struck the stone; a freedom of thought, and rank in scale of being, such as no laws, no charters, no charities can secure." Classical architecture, in contrast, expressed a morally vacuous repressive standardisation. Ruskin associated Classical values with modern developments, in particular with demoralising consequences of the industrial revolution, resulting in buildings such as The Crystal Palace, which he despised as an oversized greenhouse. Although Ruskin wrote about architecture in many works over the course of his career, his much-anthologised essay "The Nature of Gothic" from the second volume of The Stones of Venice (1853) is widely considered to be one of his most important and evocative discussions of his central argument.

Ruskin's arguments encouraged a revival of Gothic styles, but Ruskin himself was often dissatisfied with the results. He objected that forms of mass-produced faux Gothic did not exemplify his principles, but showed disregard for the true meaning of the style. Even the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a building designed with Ruskin's collaboration, met with his disapproval. The O'Shea brothers, freehand stone carvers chosen to revive the creative "freedom of thought" of Gothic craftsmen, disappointed him by their lack of reverence for the task.

Ruskin's distaste for oppressive standardisation led to later works attacking Laissez-faire capitalism, which influenced many trade union leaders of the Victorian era. He also was an inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Movement, the founding of the National Trust, the National Art Collections Fund, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.


Ruskin's views on art, wrote Kenneth Clark, "cannot be made to form a logical system, and perhaps owe to this fact a part of their value." Ruskin's accounts of art are descriptions of a superior type that conjure images vividly in the mind's eye. Certain principles, however, remain consistent throughout his work, which Clark summarised as:

Art is not a matter of taste, but involves the whole man. Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity, all focused in a flash on a single point. Aesthetic man is a concept as false and dehumanizing as economic man.
Even the most superior mind and the most powerful imagination must found itself on facts, which must be recognized for what they are. The imagination will often reshape them in a way which the prosaic mind cannot understand; but this recreation will be based on facts, not on formulas or illusions.
These facts must be perceived by the senses, or felt; not learnt.
The greatest artists and schools of art have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts of vision, but about religion and the conduct of life.
Beauty of form is revealed in organisms which have developed perfectly according to their laws of growth, and so give, in his own words, 'the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function.'
This fulfillment of function depends on all parts of an organism cohering and cooperating. This was what he called the 'Law of Help,' one of Ruskin's fundamental beliefs, extending from nature and art to society.
Good art is done with enjoyment. The artist must feel that, within certain reasonable limits, he is free, that he is wanted by society, and that the ideas he is asked to express are true and important.
Great art is the expression of epochs where people are united by a common faith and a common purpose, accept their laws, believe in their leaders, and take a serious view of human destiny.


Historic preservation
Ruskin's belief in preservation of ancient buildings had a significant influence on later thinking about the distinction between conservation and restoration of old buildings. Ruskin was a strong proponent of the former, while his contemporary, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, advocated for the latter. In The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Ruskin writes:

Neither by the public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture.

This abhorrence for restoration is in marked contrast to Viollet-le-Duc, who wrote that restoration is a "means to reestablish [a building] to a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time."

Ruskin had a deep respect for Gothic architecture and old buildings in general. To him, the building's age was the most important aspect of its preservation: "For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.”



Social theory
Cannery operation in the Ruskin Cooperative, 1896Ruskin's pioneering of ideas that helped lead to the Arts and Crafts movement was related to the growth of Christian socialism, an outlook that he helped formulate in his book Unto This Last, in which he attacked capitalism on the ground that it failed to acknowledge complexities of human desires and motivations. Ruskin believed that jobs should be paid at a fixed rate, so that the best workmen got employed, instead of those that offered to do the job at a lower price:

"Nay, but I choose my physician and my clergyman, thus indicating my sense of the quality of their work. By all means, also, choose your bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the good workman, to be "chosen." The natural and right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed. The false, unnatural, and destructive system is when the bad workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, and either take the place of the good, or force him by his competition to work for an inadequate sum."

He argued that the State should intervene to regulate the economy in the service of such higher values. These ideas were closely related to those of Thomas Carlyle, but whereas Carlyle emphasised the need for strong leadership, Ruskin emphasised what later evolved into the concept of "social economy"—networks of charitable, co-operative and other non-governmental organisations.

In The Stones of Venice, the previously mentioned chapter "The Nature of Gothic" attacked the division of labour, which Adam Smith advocated in the early books of The Wealth of Nations. Ruskin believed the division of labour to be the main cause of the unhappiness of the poor. Ruskin argued that the rich had never been so generous in the past, but the poor's hatred of the rich was at its greatest point. This was because the poor were now unsatisfied by monotonous work that used them as a tool, instead of a person. These ideas later influenced William Morris.


Art
Though he never exhibited his paintings, Ruskin's own work was very distinctive. He created many careful studies of natural forms, adapting the style of Turner to detailed botanical, geological and architectural observation. He also painted a decorative floral border in the central room of Wallington Hall in Northumberland, home of his friend Pauline Trevelyan. The stained glass window in the Little Church of St Francis Funtley, Fareham, Hampshire is reputed to have been designed by him. Originally placed in the St. Peter's Church Duntisbourne Abbots near Cirencester, the window depicts the Ascension and the Nativity.




"The King of the Golden River" by John Ruskin, Illustrated by Frances Brundage


The fantasy novel
Ruskin's fantasy novelette The King of the Golden River (1841) prepared the ground for the major fantasy novels of his close friend George MacDonald, who in 1858 wrote what may be the first fantasy novel for adults, Phantastes. The manner in which Ruskin wrote The King of the Golden River—as a gift to the twelve year old Effie Gray—is remarkably parallel to Lewis Carroll's later work, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which Carroll wrote for Alice Liddell and later revised and published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Ruskin also contributed to the scholarship on this newly emerging genre later in his life, defining the aims of fantasy literature in his lecture "Fairy Land" (in The Art of England, 1884).

 

Legacy

Ruskin's influence extends far beyond the field of art history. The author Leo Tolstoy described him as, "one of those rare men who think with their heart." Marcel Proust was a Ruskin enthusiast and helped translate his works into French. Mahatma Gandhi quoted Ruskin's Unto this last frequently, and even translated the work into Gujarati, calling it Sarvodaya. He spoke often of the influence Ruskin had on his philosophy. Ruskin's views also attracted Oscar Wilde's imagination in the late 19th century.

A number of Utopian socialist "Ruskin Colonies" attempted to put his political ideals into practice. These communities included Ruskin, Nebraska; Ruskin, Florida; Ruskin, British Columbia; and the Ruskin Commonwealth Association, a colony which existed in Dickson County, Tennessee from 1894 to 1899. Ruskin's ideas also influenced the development of the British Labour Party. In Britain, many streets, places and colleges are named after Ruskin.

Ruskin College, Oxford, founded as a working men's college is named after him. Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford and Cambridge also bears his name: the university traces its origins to the Cambridge School of Art, which Ruskin founded in 1858. John Ruskin College, South Croydon, is also named after him after originally being called John Ruskin Grammar School when it opened in 1945.

The Ruskin Literary and Debating Society was founded in February 1900 in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). This organisation, named in John Ruskin's honour, promotes the development of literary knowledge and public speaking skills in its member and continues to thirve in Toronto to this day.

Professor George Landow of Brown University has classified Ruskin as a sage writer, based on his voluminous output and authoritative tone.




Controversies

Turner erotic drawings

Until 2005, biographies of both J. M. W. Turner and Ruskin had claimed that in 1858 Ruskin burned bundles of erotic paintings and drawings by Turner to protect Turner's posthumous reputation. Ruskin's friend Ralph Nicholson Wornum, who was Keeper of the National Gallery was said to have colluded in the alleged destruction of Turner's works. In 2005, these works, which form part of the Turner Bequest held at Tate Britain, were re-appraised by Turner Curator Ian Warrell, who concluded that Ruskin and Wornum did not destroy them.


Sexuality
Ruskin's sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. His wife, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her "person" (meaning her body) repugnant. "He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April." Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings. "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."

The cause of this mysterious "disgust" has led to much speculation. Ruskin's biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking. This speculation has been repeated by later biographers and essayists and it is now something that "everyone knows" about Ruskin. However, there is no proof for this, and some disagree. Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, "It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife's pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood.". Ruskin's biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odour may have been the problem.

Ruskin's later relationship with Rose la Touche has also led to claims that he was a paedophile, on the grounds that he stated that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine. In fact he did not approach her as a suitor until she was seventeen, and he repeatedly proposed to her for as long as she lived. Ruskin is not known to have had any other romantic liaisons or sexual intimacies. However, during an episode of mental derangement after Rose died he wrote a letter in which he insisted that Rose's spirit had instructed him to marry a girl who was visiting him at the time. Letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway also exist, in which he repeatedly asks her to draw her "girlies" (as he called her child figures) without clothing:

Will you – (it’s all for your own good – !) make her stand up and then draw her for me without a cap – and, without her shoes, – (because of the heels) and without her mittens, and without her – frock and frills? And let me see exactly how tall she is – and – how – round. It will be so good of and for you – And to and for me.
Ruskin's biographers disagree about the allegation of paedophilia. Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that "he was a paedophile", while Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because his behaviour does not "fit the profile". Others also point to a definite pattern of "nympholeptic" behaviour with regards to his interactions with girls at a boarding school.

 

 



Illustrations by Maria L. Kirk
 

 




"THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER"

 

 

 

 





CHAPTER I

 

HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS INTERFERED

WITH BY SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE

 

In a secluded and mountainous part of Stiria there was in old time a valley of the most surprising and luxuriant fertility. It was surrounded on all sides by steep and rocky mountains rising into peaks which were always covered with snow and from which a number of torrents descended in constant cataracts. One of these fell westward over the face of a crag so high that when the sun had set to everything else, and all below was darkness, his beams still shone full upon this waterfall, so that it looked like a shower of gold. It was therefore called by the people of the neighborhood the Golden River. It was strange that none of these streams fell into the valley itself. They all descended on the other side of the mountains and wound away through broad plains and by populous cities. But the clouds were drawn so constantly to the snowy hills, and rested so softly in the circular hollow, that in time of drought and heat, when all the country round was burned up, there was still rain in the little valley; and its crops were so heavy, and its hay so high, and its apples so red, and its grapes so blue, and its wine so rich, and its honey so sweet, that it was a marvel to everyone who beheld it and was commonly called the Treasure Valley.

The whole of this little valley belonged to three brothers, called Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the two elder brothers, were very ugly men, with overhanging eyebrows and small, dull eyes which were always half shut, so that you couldn't see into THEM and always fancied they saw very far into YOU. They lived by farming the Treasure Valley, and very good farmers they were. They killed everything that did not pay for its eating. They shot the blackbirds because they pecked the fruit, and killed the hedgehogs lest they should suck the cows; they poisoned the crickets for eating the crumbs in the kitchen, and smothered the cicadas which used to sing all summer in the lime trees. They worked their servants without any wages till they would not work any more, and then quarreled with them and turned them out of doors without paying them. It would have been very odd if with such a farm and such a system of farming they hadn't got very rich; and very rich they DID get. They generally contrived to keep their corn by them till it was very dear, and then sell it for twice its value; they had heaps of gold lying about on their floors, yet it was never known that they had given so much as a penny or a crust in charity; they never went to Mass, grumbled perpetually at paying tithes, and were, in a word, of so cruel and grinding a temper as to receive from all those with whom they had any dealings the nickname of the "Black Brothers."

The youngest brother, Gluck, was as completely opposed, in both appearance and character, to his seniors as could possibly be imagined or desired. He was not above twelve years old, fair, blue-eyed, and kind in temper to every living thing. He did not, of course, agree particularly well with his brothers, or, rather, they did not agree with HIM. He was usually appointed to the honorable office of turnspit, when there was anything to roast, which was not often, for, to do the brothers justice, they were hardly less sparing upon themselves than upon other people. At other times he used to clean the shoes, floors, and sometimes the plates, occasionally getting what was left on them, by way of encouragement, and a wholesome quantity of dry blows by way of education.

Things went on in this manner for a long time. At last came a very wet summer, and everything went wrong in the country round. The hay had hardly been got in when the haystacks were floated bodily down to the sea by an inundation; the vines were cut to pieces with the hail; the corn was all killed by a black blight. Only in the Treasure Valley, as usual, all was safe. As it had rain when there was rain nowhere else, so it had sun when there was sun nowhere else. Everybody came to buy corn at the farm and went away pouring maledictions on the Black Brothers. They asked what they liked and got it, except from the poor people, who could only beg, and several of whom were starved at their very door without the slightest regard or notice.

It was drawing towards winter, and very cold weather, when one day the two elder brothers had gone out, with their usual warning to little Gluck, who was left to mind the roast, that he was to let nobody in and give nothing out. Gluck sat down quite close to the fire, for it was raining very hard and the kitchen walls were by no means dry or comfortable-looking. He turned and turned, and the roast got nice and brown. "What a pity," thought Gluck, "my brothers never ask anybody to dinner. I'm sure, when they've got such a nice piece of mutton as this, and nobody else has got so much as a piece of dry bread, it would do their hearts good to have somebody to eat it with them."

Just as he spoke there came a double knock at the house door, yet heavy and dull, as though the knocker had been tied up—more like a puff than a knock.

"It must be the wind," said Gluck; "nobody else would venture to knock double knocks at our door."

No, it wasn't the wind; there it came again very hard, and, what was particularly astounding, the knocker seemed to be in a hurry and not to be in the least afraid of the consequences. Gluck went to the window, opened it, and put his head out to see who it was.

It was the most extraordinary-looking little gentleman he had ever seen in his life. He had a very large nose, slightly brass-colored; his cheeks were very round and very red, and might have warranted a supposition that he had been blowing a refractory fire for the last eight-and-forty hours; his eyes twinkled merrily through long, silky eyelashes; his mustaches curled twice round like a corkscrew on each side of his mouth; and his hair, of a curious mixed pepper-and-salt color, descended far over his shoulders. He was about four feet six in height and wore a conical pointed cap of nearly the same altitude, decorated with a black feather some three feet long. His doublet was prolonged behind into something resembling a violent exaggeration of what is now termed a "swallowtail," but was much obscured by the swelling folds of an enormous black, glossy-looking cloak, which must have been very much too long in calm weather, as the wind, whistling round the old house, carried it clear out from the wearer's shoulders to about four times his own length.

Gluck was so perfectly paralyzed by the singular appearance of his visitor that he remained fixed without uttering a word, until the old gentleman, having performed another and a more energetic concerto on the knocker, turned round to look after his flyaway cloak. In so doing he caught sight of Gluck's little yellow head jammed in the window, with its mouth and eyes very wide open indeed.

"Hollo!" said the little gentleman; "that's not the way to answer the door. I'm wet; let me in."

To do the little gentleman justice, he WAS wet. His feather hung down between his legs like a beaten puppy's tail, dripping like an umbrella, and from the ends of his mustaches the water was running into his waistcoat pockets and out again like a mill stream.

"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck, "I'm very sorry, but, I really can't."

"Can't what?" said the old gentleman.

"I can't let you in, sir—I can't, indeed; my brothers would beat me to death, sir, if I thought of such a thing. What do you want, sir?"

"Want?" said the old gentleman petulantly. "I want fire and shelter, and there's your great fire there blazing, crackling, and dancing on the walls with nobody to feel it. Let me in, I say; I only want to warm myself."

Gluck had had his head, by this time, so long out of the window that he began to feel it was really unpleasantly cold, and when he turned and saw the beautiful fire rustling and roaring and throwing long, bright tongues up the chimney, as if it were licking its chops at the savory smell of the leg of mutton, his heart melted within him that it should be burning away for nothing. "He does look very wet," said little Gluck; "I'll just let him in for a quarter of an hour." Round he went to the door and opened it; and as the little gentleman walked in, there came a gust of wind through the house that made the old chimneys totter.

"That's a good boy," said the little gentleman. "Never mind your brothers. I'll talk to them."

"Pray, sir, don't do any such thing," said Gluck. "I can't let you stay till they come; they'd be the death of me."

"Dear me," said the old gentleman, "I'm very sorry to hear that. How long may I stay?"

"Only till the mutton's done, sir," replied Gluck, "and it's very brown."

Then the old gentleman walked into the kitchen and sat himself down on the hob, with the top of his cap accommodated up the chimney, for it was a great deal too high for the roof.

"You'll soon dry there, sir," said Gluck, and sat down again to turn the mutton. But the old gentleman did NOT dry there, but went on drip, drip, dripping among the cinders, and the fire fizzed and sputtered and began to look very black and uncomfortable. Never was such a cloak; every fold in it ran like a gutter.

"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck at length, after watching the water spreading in long, quicksilver-like streams over the floor for a quarter of an hour; "mayn't I take your cloak?"

"No, thank you," said the old gentleman.

"Your cap, sir?"

"I am all right, thank you," said the old gentleman rather gruffly.

"But—sir—I'm very sorry," said Gluck hesitatingly, "but—really, sir—you're—putting the fire out."

"It'll take longer to do the mutton, then," replied his visitor dryly.

Gluck was very much puzzled by the behavior of his guest; it was such a strange mixture of coolness and humility. He turned away at the string meditatively for another five minutes.

"That mutton looks very nice," said the old gentleman at length. "Can't you give me a little bit?"

"Impossible, sir," said Gluck.

"I'm very hungry," continued the old gentleman. "I've had nothing to eat yesterday nor to-day. They surely couldn't miss a bit from the knuckle!"

He spoke in so very melancholy a tone that it quite melted Gluck's heart. "They promised me one slice to-day, sir," said he; "I can give you that, but not a bit more."

"That's a good boy," said the old gentleman again.

Then Gluck warmed a plate and sharpened a knife. "I don't care if I do get beaten for it," thought he. Just as he had cut a large slice out of the mutton there came a tremendous rap at the door. The old gentleman jumped off the hob as if it had suddenly become inconveniently warm. Gluck fitted the slice into the mutton again, with desperate efforts at exactitude, and ran to open the door.

"What did you keep us waiting in the rain for?" said Schwartz, as he walked in, throwing his umbrella in Gluck's face.

"Aye! what for, indeed, you little vagabond?" said Hans, administering an educational box on the ear as he followed his brother into the kitchen.

"Bless my soul!" said Schwartz when he opened the door.

"Amen," said the little gentleman, who had taken his cap off and was standing in the middle of the kitchen, bowing with the utmost possible velocity.

"Who's that?" said Schwartz, catching up a rolling-pin and turning to Gluck with a fierce frown.

"I don't know, indeed, brother," said Gluck in great terror.

"How did he get in?" roared Schwartz.

"My dear brother," said Gluck deprecatingly, "he was so VERY wet!"

The rolling-pin was descending on Gluck's head, but, at the instant, the old gentleman interposed his conical cap, on which it crashed with a shock that shook the water out of it all over the room. What was very odd, the rolling-pin no sooner touched the cap than it flew out of Schwartz's hand, spinning like a straw in a high wind, and fell into the corner at the further end of the room.

"Who are you, sir?" demanded Schwartz, turning upon him. "What's your business?" snarled Hans.

"I'm a poor old man, sir," the little gentleman began very modestly, "and I saw your fire through the window and begged shelter for a quarter of an hour."

"Have the goodness to walk out again, then," said Schwartz. "We've quite enough water in our kitchen without making it a drying house."

"It is a cold day to turn an old man out in, sir; look at my gray hairs." They hung down to his shoulders, as I told you before.

"Aye!" said Hans; "there are enough of them to keep you warm. Walk!"

"I'm very, very hungry, sir; couldn't you spare me a bit of bread before I go?"

"Bread, indeed!" said Schwartz; "do you suppose we've nothing to do with our bread but to give it to such red-nosed fellows as you?"

"Why don't you sell your feather?" said Hans sneeringly. "Out with you!"

"A little bit," said the old gentleman.

"Be off!" said Schwartz.

"Pray, gentlemen."

"Off, and be hanged!" cried Hans, seizing him by the collar. But he had no sooner touched the old gentleman's collar than away he went after the rolling-pin, spinning round and round till he fell into the corner on the top of it. Then Schwartz was very angry and ran at the old gentleman to turn him out; but he also had hardly touched him when away he went after Hans and the rolling-pin, and hit his head against the wall as he tumbled into the corner. And so there they lay, all three.

Then the old gentleman spun himself round with velocity in the opposite direction, continued to spin until his long cloak was all wound neatly about him, clapped his cap on his head, very much on one side (for it could not stand upright without going through the ceiling), gave an additional twist to his corkscrew mustaches, and replied with perfect coolness: "Gentlemen, I wish you a very good morning. At twelve o'clock tonight I'll call again; after such a refusal of hospitality as I have just experienced, you will not be surprised if that visit is the last I ever pay you."

"If ever I catch you here again," muttered Schwartz, coming, half frightened, out of the corner—but before he could finish his sentence the old gentleman had shut the house door behind him with a great bang, and there drove past the window at the same instant a wreath of ragged cloud that whirled and rolled away down the valley in all manner of shapes, turning over and over in the air and melting away at last in a gush of rain.

"A very pretty business, indeed, Mr. Gluck!" said Schwartz. "Dish the mutton, sir. If ever I catch you at such a trick again—bless me, why, the mutton's been cut!"

"You promised me one slice, brother, you know," said Gluck.

"Oh! and you were cutting it hot, I suppose, and going to catch all the gravy. It'll be long before I promise you such a thing again. Leave the room, sir; and have the kindness to wait in the coal cellar till I call you."

Gluck left the room melancholy enough. The brothers ate as much mutton as they could, locked the rest in the cupboard, and proceeded to get very drunk after dinner.

Such a night as it was! Howling wind and rushing rain, without intermission. The brothers had just sense enough left to put up all the shutters and double-bar the door before they went to bed. They usually slept in the same room. As the clock struck twelve they were both awakened by a tremendous crash. Their door burst open with a violence that shook the house from top to bottom.

"What's that?" cried Schwartz, starting up in his bed.

"Only I," said the little gentleman.

The two brothers sat up on their bolster and stared into the darkness. The room was full of water, and by a misty moonbeam, which found its way through a hole in the shutter, they could see in the midst of it an enormous foam globe, spinning round and bobbing up and down like a cork, on which, as on a most luxurious cushion, reclined the little old gentleman, cap and all. There was plenty of room for it now, for the roof was off.

"Sorry to incommode you," said their visitor ironically. "I'm afraid your beds are dampish. Perhaps you had better go to your brother's room; I've left the ceiling on there."

They required no second admonition, but rushed into Gluck's room, wet through and in an agony of terror.

"You'll find my card on the kitchen table," the old gentleman called after them. "Remember, the LAST visit."

"Pray Heaven it may!" said Schwartz, shuddering. And the foam globe disappeared.

Dawn came at last, and the two brothers looked out of Gluck's little window in the morning. The Treasure Valley was one mass of ruin and desolation. The inundation had swept away trees, crops, and cattle, and left in their stead a waste of red sand and gray mud. The two brothers crept shivering and horror-struck into the kitchen. The water had gutted the whole first floor; corn, money, almost every movable thing, had been swept away, and there was left only a small white card on the kitchen table. On it, in large, breezy, long-legged letters, were engraved the words:

SOUTH WEST WIND, ESQUIRE




 





CHAPTER II

 

OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER THE VISIT OF SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE;

AND HOW LITTLE GLUCK HAD AN INTERVIEW WITH THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER

 

Southwest Wind, Esquire, was as good as his word. After the momentous visit above related, he entered the Treasure Valley no more; and, what was worse, he had so much influence with his relations, the West Winds in general, and used it so effectually, that they all adopted a similar line of conduct. So no rain fell in the valley from one year's end to another. Though everything remained green and flourishing in the plains below, the inheritance of the three brothers was a desert. What had once been the richest soil in the kingdom became a shifting heap of red sand, and the brothers, unable longer to contend with the adverse skies, abandoned their valueless patrimony in despair, to seek some means of gaining a livelihood among the cities and people of the plains. All their money was gone, and they had nothing left but some curious old-fashioned pieces of gold plate, the last remnants of their ill-gotten wealth.

"Suppose we turn goldsmiths," said Schwartz to Hans as they entered the large city. "It is a good knave's trade; we can put a great deal of copper into the gold without anyone's finding it out."

The thought was agreed to be a very good one; they hired a furnace and turned goldsmiths. But two slight circumstances affected their trade: the first, that people did not approve of the coppered gold; the second, that the two elder brothers, whenever they had sold anything, used to leave little Gluck to mind the furnace, and go and drink out the money in the alehouse next door. So they melted all their gold without making money enough to buy more, and were at last reduced to one large drinking mug, which an uncle of his had given to little Gluck, and which he was very fond of and would not have parted with for the world, though he never drank anything out of it but milk and water. The mug was a very odd mug to look at. The handle was formed of two wreaths of flowing golden hair, so finely spun that it looked more like silk than metal, and these wreaths descended into and mixed with a beard and whiskers of the same exquisite workmanship, which surrounded and decorated a very fierce little face, of the reddest gold imaginable, right in the front of the mug, with a pair of eyes in it which seemed to command its whole circumference. It was impossible to drink out of the mug without being subjected to an intense gaze out of the side of these eyes, and Schwartz positively averred that once, after emptying it, full of Rhenish, seventeen times, he had seen them wink! When it came to the mug's turn to be made into spoons, it half broke poor little Gluck's heart; but the brothers only laughed at him, tossed the mug into the melting pot, and staggered out to the alehouse, leaving him, as usual, to pour the gold into bars when it was all ready.

When they were gone, Gluck took a farewell look at his old friend in the melting pot. The flowing hair was all gone; nothing remained but the red nose and the sparkling eyes, which looked more malicious than ever. "And no wonder," thought Gluck, "after being treated in that way." He sauntered disconsolately to the window and sat himself down to catch the fresh evening air and escape the hot breath of the furnace. Now this window commanded a direct view of the range of mountains which, as I told you before, overhung the Treasure Valley, and more especially of the peak from which fell the Golden River. It was just at the close of the day, and when Gluck sat down at the window, he saw the rocks of the mountain tops, all crimson and purple with the sunset; and there were bright tongues of fiery cloud burning and quivering about them; and the river, brighter than all, fell, in a waving column of pure gold, from precipice to precipice, with the double arch of a broad purple rainbow stretched across it, flushing and fading alternately in the wreaths of spray.

"Ah!" said Gluck aloud, after he had looked at it for a little while, "if that river were really all gold, what a nice thing it would be."

"No, it wouldn't, Gluck," said a clear, metallic voice close at his ear.

"Bless me, what's that?" exclaimed Gluck, jumping up. There was nobody there. He looked round the room and under the table and a great many times behind him, but there was certainly nobody there, and he sat down again at the window. This time he didn't speak, but he couldn't help thinking again that it would be very convenient if the river were really all gold.

"Not at all, my boy," said the same voice, louder than before.

"Bless me!" said Gluck again, "what is that?" He looked again into all the corners and cupboards, and then began turning round and round as fast as he could, in the middle of the room, thinking there was somebody behind him, when the same voice struck again on his ear. It was singing now, very merrily, "Lala-lira-la"—no words, only a soft, running, effervescent melody, something like that of a kettle on the boil. Gluck looked out of the window; no, it was certainly in the house. Upstairs and downstairs; no, it was certainly in that very room, coming in quicker time and clearer notes every moment: "Lala-lira-la." All at once it struck Gluck that it sounded louder near the furnace. He ran to the opening and looked in. Yes, he saw right; it seemed to be coming not only out of the furnace but out of the pot. He uncovered it, and ran back in a great fright, for the pot was certainly singing! He stood in the farthest corner of the room, with his hands up and his mouth open, for a minute or two, when the singing stopped and the voice became clear and pronunciative.

"Hollo!" said the voice.

Gluck made no answer.

"Hollo! Gluck, my boy," said the pot again.

Gluck summoned all his energies, walked straight up to the crucible, drew it out of the furnace, and looked in. The gold was all melted and its surface as smooth and polished as a river, but instead of reflecting little Gluck's head, as he looked in he saw, meeting his glance from beneath the gold, the red nose and sharp eyes of his old friend of the mug, a thousand times redder and sharper than ever he had seen them in his life.

"Come, Gluck, my boy," said the voice out of the pot again, "I'm all right; pour me out."

But Gluck was too much astonished to do anything of the kind.

"Pour me out, I say," said the voice rather gruffly.

Still Gluck couldn't move.

"WILL you pour me out?" said the voice passionately. "I'm too hot."

By a violent effort Gluck recovered the use of his limbs, took hold of the crucible, and sloped it, so as to pour out the gold. But instead of a liquid stream there came out, first a pair of pretty little yellow legs, then some coat tails, then a pair of arms stuck akimbo, and finally the well-known head of his friend the mug—all which articles, uniting as they rolled out, stood up energetically on the floor in the shape of a little golden dwarf about a foot and a half high.

"That's right!" said the dwarf, stretching out first his legs and then his arms, and then shaking his head up and down and as far round as it would go, for five minutes without stopping, apparently with the view of ascertaining if he were quite correctly put together, while Gluck stood contemplating him in speechless amazement. He was dressed in a slashed doublet of spun gold, so fine in its texture that the prismatic colors gleamed over it as if on a surface of mother-of-pearl; and over this brilliant doublet his hair and beard fell full halfway to the ground in waving curls, so exquisitely delicate that Gluck could hardly tell where they ended; they seemed to melt into air. The features of the face, however, were by no means finished with the same delicacy; they were rather coarse, slightly inclining to coppery in complexion, and indicative, in expression, of a very pertinacious and intractable disposition in their small proprietor. When the dwarf had finished his self-examination, he turned his small, sharp eyes full on Gluck and stared at him deliberately for a minute or two. "No, it wouldn't, Gluck, my boy," said the little man.

This was certainly rather an abrupt and unconnected mode of commencing conversation. It might indeed be supposed to refer to the course of Gluck's thoughts, which had first produced the dwarf's observations out of the pot; but whatever it referred to, Gluck had no inclination to dispute the dictum.

"Wouldn't it, sir?" said Gluck very mildly and submissively indeed.

"No," said the dwarf, conclusively, "no, it wouldn't." And with that the dwarf pulled his cap hard over his brows and took two turns, of three feet long, up and down the room, lifting his legs up very high and setting them down very hard. This pause gave time for Gluck to collect his thoughts a little, and, seeing no great reason to view his diminutive visitor with dread, and feeling his curiosity overcome his amazement, he ventured on a question of peculiar delicacy.

"Pray, sir," said Gluck, rather hesitatingly, "were you my mug?"

On which the little man turned sharp round, walked straight up to Gluck, and drew himself up to his full height. "I," said the little man, "am the King of the Golden River." Whereupon he turned about again and took two more turns, some six feet long, in order to allow time for the consternation which this announcement produced in his auditor to evaporate. After which he again walked up to Gluck and stood still, as if expecting some comment on his communication.

Gluck determined to say something at all events. "I hope your Majesty is very well," said Gluck.

"Listen!" said the little man, deigning no reply to this polite inquiry. "I am the king of what you mortals call the Golden River. The shape you saw me in was owing to the malice of a stronger king, from whose enchantments you have this instant freed me. What I have seen of you and your conduct to your wicked brothers renders me willing to serve you; therefore, attend to what I tell you. Whoever shall climb to the top of that mountain from which you see the Golden River issue, and shall cast into the stream at its source three drops of holy water, for him and for him only the river shall turn to gold. But no one failing in his first can succeed in a second attempt, and if anyone shall cast unholy water into the river, it will overwhelm him and he will become a black stone." So saying, the King of the Golden River turned away and deliberately walked into the center of the hottest flame of the furnace. His figure became red, white, transparent, dazzling,—a blaze of intense light,—rose, trembled, and disappeared. The King of the Golden River had evaporated.

"Oh!" cried poor Gluck, running to look up the chimney after him, "O dear, dear, dear me! My mug! my mug! my mug!"




 




CHAPTER III

 

HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,

AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN

 

The King of the Golden River had hardly made the extraordinary exit related in the last chapter, before Hans and Schwartz came roaring into the house very savagely drunk. The discovery of the total loss of their last piece of plate had the effect of sobering them just enough to enable them to stand over Gluck, beating him very steadily for a quarter of an hour; at the expiration of which period they dropped into a couple of chairs and requested to know what he had got to say for himself. Gluck told them his story, of which, of course, they did not believe a word. They beat him again, till their arms were tired, and staggered to bed. In the morning, however, the steadiness with which he adhered to his story obtained him some degree of credence; the immediate consequence of which was that the two brothers, after wrangling a long time on the knotty question, which of them should try his fortune first, drew their swords and began fighting. The noise of the fray alarmed the neighbors, who, finding they could not pacify the combatants, sent for the constable.

Hans, on hearing this, contrived to escape, and hid himself; but Schwartz was taken before the magistrate, fined for breaking the peace, and, having drunk out his last penny the evening before, was thrown into prison till he should pay.

When Hans heard this, he was much delighted, and determined to set out immediately for the Golden River. How to get the holy water was the question. He went to the priest, but the priest could not give any holy water to so abandoned a character. So Hans went to vespers in the evening for the first time in his life and, under pretense of crossing himself, stole a cupful and returned home in triumph.

Next morning he got up before the sun rose, put the holy water into a strong flask, and two bottles of wine and some meat in a basket, slung them over his back, took his alpine staff in his hand, and set off for the mountains.

On his way out of the town he had to pass the prison, and as he looked in at the windows, whom should he see but Schwartz himself peeping out of the bars and looking very disconsolate.

"Good morning, brother," said Hans; "have you any message for the King of the Golden River?"

Schwartz gnashed his teeth with rage and shook the bars with all his strength, but Hans only laughed at him and, advising him to make himself comfortable till he came back again, shouldered his basket, shook the bottle of holy water in Schwartz's face till it frothed again, and marched off in the highest spirits in the world.

It was indeed a morning that might have made anyone happy, even with no Golden River to seek for. Level lines of dewy mist lay stretched along the valley, out of which rose the massy mountains, their lower cliffs in pale gray shadow, hardly distinguishable from the floating vapor but gradually ascending till they caught the sunlight, which ran in sharp touches of ruddy color along the angular crags, and pierced, in long, level rays, through their fringes of spearlike pine. Far above shot up red, splintered masses of castellated rock, jagged and shivered into myriads of fantastic forms, with here and there a streak of sunlit snow traced down their chasms like a line of forked lightning; and far beyond and far above all these, fainter than the morning cloud but purer and changeless, slept, in the blue sky, the utmost peaks of the eternal snow.

The Golden River, which sprang from one of the lower and snowless elevations, was now nearly in shadow—all but the uppermost jets of spray, which rose like slow smoke above the undulating line of the cataract and floated away in feeble wreaths upon the morning wind.

On this object, and on this alone, Hans's eyes and thoughts were fixed. Forgetting the distance he had to traverse, he set off at an imprudent rate of walking, which greatly exhausted him before he had scaled the first range of the green and low hills. He was, moreover, surprised, on surmounting them, to find that a large glacier, of whose existence, notwithstanding his previous knowledge of the mountains, he had been absolutely ignorant, lay between him and the source of the Golden River. He entered on it with the boldness of a practiced mountaineer, yet he thought he had never traversed so strange or so dangerous a glacier in his life. The ice was excessively slippery, and out of all its chasms came wild sounds of gushing water—not monotonous or low, but changeful and loud, rising occasionally into drifting passages of wild melody, then breaking off into short, melancholy tones or sudden shrieks resembling those of human voices in distress or pain. The ice was broken into thousands of confused shapes, but none, Hans thought, like the ordinary forms of splintered ice. There seemed a curious EXPRESSION about all their outlines—a perpetual resemblance to living features, distorted and scornful. Myriads of deceitful shadows and lurid lights played and floated about and through the pale blue pinnacles, dazzling and confusing the sight of the traveler, while his ears grew dull and his head giddy with the constant gush and roar of the concealed waters. These painful circumstances increased upon him as he advanced; the ice crashed and yawned into fresh chasms at his feet, tottering spires nodded around him and fell thundering across his path; and though he had repeatedly faced these dangers on the most terrific glaciers and in the wildest weather, it was with a new and oppressive feeling of panic terror that he leaped the last chasm and flung himself, exhausted and shuddering, on the firm turf of the mountain.

He had been compelled to abandon his basket of food, which became a perilous incumbrance on the glacier, and had now no means of refreshing himself but by breaking off and eating some of the pieces of ice. This, however, relieved his thirst; an hour's repose recruited his hardy frame, and with the indomitable spirit of avarice he resumed his laborious journey.

His way now lay straight up a ridge of bare red rocks, without a blade of grass to ease the foot or a projecting angle to afford an inch of shade from the south sun. It was past noon and the rays beat intensely upon the steep path, while the whole atmosphere was motionless and penetrated with heat. Intense thirst was soon added to the bodily fatigue with which Hans was now afflicted; glance after glance he cast on the flask of water which hung at his belt. "Three drops are enough," at last thought he; "I may, at least, cool my lips with it."

He opened the flask and was raising it to his lips, when his eye fell on an object lying on the rock beside him; he thought it moved. It was a small dog, apparently in the last agony of death from thirst. Its tongue was out, its jaws dry, its limbs extended lifelessly, and a swarm of black ants were crawling about its lips and throat. Its eye moved to the bottle which Hans held in his hand. He raised it, drank, spurned the animal with his foot, and passed on. And he did not know how it was, but he thought that a strange shadow had suddenly come across the blue sky.

The path became steeper and more rugged every moment, and the high hill air, instead of refreshing him, seemed to throw his blood into a fever. The noise of the hill cataracts sounded like mockery in his ears; they were all distant, and his thirst increased every moment. Another hour passed, and he again looked down to the flask at his side; it was half empty, but there was much more than three drops in it. He stopped to open it, and again, as he did so, something moved in the path above him. It was a fair child, stretched nearly lifeless on the rock, its breast heaving with thirst, its eyes closed, and its lips parched and burning. Hans eyed it deliberately, drank, and passed on. And a dark gray cloud came over the sun, and long, snakelike shadows crept up along the mountain sides. Hans struggled on. The sun was sinking, but its descent seemed to bring no coolness; the leaden height of the dead air pressed upon his brow and heart, but the goal was near. He saw the cataract of the Golden River springing from the hillside scarcely five hundred feet above him. He paused for a moment to breathe, and sprang on to complete his task.

At this instant a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and saw a gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes were sunk, his features deadly pale and gathered into an expression of despair. "Water!" he stretched his arms to Hans, and cried feebly, "Water! I am dying."

"I have none," replied Hans; "thou hast had thy share of life." He strode over the prostrate body and darted on. And a flash of blue lightning rose out of the East, shaped like a sword; it shook thrice over the whole heaven and left it dark with one heavy, impenetrable shade. The sun was setting; it plunged towards the horizon like a redhot ball. The roar of the Golden River rose on Hans's ear. He stood at the brink of the chasm through which it ran. Its waves were filled with the red glory of the sunset; they shook their crests like tongues of fire, and flashes of bloody light gleamed along their foam. Their sound came mightier and mightier on his senses; his brain grew giddy with the prolonged thunder. Shuddering he drew the flask from his girdle and hurled it into the center of the torrent. As he did so, an icy chill shot through his limbs; he staggered, shrieked, and fell. The waters closed over his cry, and the moaning of the river rose wildly into the night as it gushed over

THE BLACK STONE




 




CHAPTER IV

 

HOW MR. SCHWARTZ SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,

AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN

 

Poor little Gluck waited very anxiously, alone in the house, for Hans's return. Finding he did not come back, he was terribly frightened and went and told Schwartz in the prison all that had happened. Then Schwartz was very much pleased and said that Hans must certainly have been turned into a black stone and he should have all the gold to himself. But Gluck was very sorry and cried all night. When he got up in the morning there was no bread in the house, nor any money; so Gluck went and hired himself to another goldsmith, and he worked so hard and so neatly and so long every day that he soon got money enough together to pay his brother's fine, and he went and gave it all to Schwartz, and Schwartz got out of prison. Then Schwartz was quite pleased and said he should have some of the gold of the river. But Gluck only begged he would go and see what had become of Hans.

Now when Schwartz had heard that Hans had stolen the holy water, he thought to himself that such a proceeding might not be considered altogether correct by the King of the Golden River, and determined to manage matters better. So he took some more of Gluck's money and went to a bad priest, who gave him some holy water very readily for it. Then Schwartz was sure it was all quite right. So Schwartz got up early in the morning before the sun rose, and took some bread and wine in a basket, and put his holy water in a flask, and set off for the mountains. Like his brother he was much surprised at the sight of the glacier and had great difficulty in crossing it, even after leaving his basket behind him. The day was cloudless but not bright; there was a heavy purple haze hanging over the sky, and the hills looked lowering and gloomy. And as Schwartz climbed the steep rock path the thirst came upon him, as it had upon his brother, until he lifted his flask to his lips to drink. Then he saw the fair child lying near him on the rocks, and it cried to him and moaned for water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half enough for myself," and passed on. And as he went he thought the sunbeams grew more dim, and he saw a low bank of black cloud rising out of the west; and when he had climbed for another hour, the thirst overcame him again and he would have drunk. Then he saw the old man lying before him on the path, and heard him cry out for water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half enough for myself," and on he went. Then again the light seemed to fade from before his eyes, and he looked up, and, behold, a mist, of the color of blood, had come over the sun; and the bank of black cloud had risen very high, and its edges were tossing and tumbling like the waves of the angry sea and they cast long shadows which flickered over Schwartz's path.

Then Schwartz climbed for another hour, and again his thirst returned; and as he lifted his flask to his lips he thought he saw his brother Hans lying exhausted on the path before him, and as he gazed the figure stretched its arms to him and cried for water. "Ha, ha!" laughed Schwartz, "are you there? Remember the prison bars, my boy. Water, indeed! do you suppose I carried it all the way up here for you?" And he strode over the figure; yet, as he passed, he thought he saw a strange expression of mockery about its lips. And when he had gone a few yards farther, he looked back; but the figure was not there.

And a sudden horror came over Schwartz, he knew not why; but the thirst for gold prevailed over his fear, and he rushed on. And the bank of black cloud rose to the zenith, and out of it came bursts of spiry lightning, and waves of darkness seemed to heave and float, between their flashes, over the whole heavens. And the sky where the sun was setting was all level and like a lake of blood; and a strong wind came out of that sky, tearing its crimson clouds into fragments and scattering them far into the darkness. And when Schwartz stood by the brink of the Golden River, its waves were black like thunder clouds, but their foam was like fire; and the roar of the waters below and the thunder above met as he cast the flask into the stream. And as he did so the lightning glared in his eyes, and the earth gave way beneath him, and the waters closed over his cry. And the moaning of the river rose wildly into the night as it gushed over the

TWO BLACK STONES




 




CHAPTER V

 

HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,

AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN, WITH OTHER MATTERS OF INTEREST

 

When Gluck found that Schwartz did not come back, he was very sorry and did not know what to do. He had no money and was obliged to go and hire himself again to the goldsmith, who worked him very hard and gave him very little money. So, after a month or two, Gluck grew tired and made up his mind to go and try his fortune with the Golden River. "The little king looked very kind," thought he. "I don't think he will turn me into a black stone." So he went to the priest, and the priest gave him some holy water as soon as he asked for it. Then Gluck took some bread in his basket, and the bottle of water, and set off very early for the mountains.

If the glacier had occasioned a great deal of fatigue in his brothers, it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither so strong nor so practiced on the mountains. He had several very bad falls, lost his basket and bread, and was very much frightened at the strange noises under the ice. He lay a long time to rest on the grass, after he had got over, and began to climb the hill just in the hottest part of the day. When he had climbed for an hour, he got dreadfully thirsty and was going to drink like his brothers, when he saw an old man coming down the path above him, looking very feeble and leaning on a staff. "Why son," said the old man, "I am faint with thirst; give me some of that water." Then Gluck looked at him, and when he saw that he was pale and weary, he gave him the water. "Only pray don't drink it all," said Gluck. But the old man drank a great deal and gave him back the bottle two thirds empty. Then he bade him good speed, and Gluck went on again merrily. And the path became easier to his feet, and two or three blades of grass appeared upon it, and some grasshoppers began singing on the bank beside it, and Gluck thought he had never heard such merry singing.

Then he went on for another hour, and the thirst increased on him so that he thought he should be forced to drink. But as he raised the flask he saw a little child lying panting by the roadside, and it cried out piteously for water. Then Gluck struggled with himself and determined to bear the thirst a little longer; and he put the bottle to the child's lips, and it drank it all but a few drops. Then it smiled on him and got up and ran down the hill; and Gluck looked after it till it became as small as a little star, and then turned and began climbing again. And then there were all kinds of sweet flowers growing on the rocks—bright green moss with pale pink, starry flowers, and soft belled gentians, more blue than the sky at its deepest, and pure white transparent lilies. And crimson and purple butterflies darted hither and thither, and the sky sent down such pure light that Gluck had never felt so happy in his life.

Yet, when he had climbed for another hour, his thirst became intolerable again; and when he looked at his bottle, he saw that there were only five or six drops left in it, and he could not venture to drink. And as he was hanging the flask to his belt again, he saw a little dog lying on the rocks, gasping for breath—just as Hans had seen it on the day of his ascent. And Gluck stopped and looked at it, and then at the Golden River, not five hundred yards above him; and he thought of the dwarf's words, that no one could succeed except in his first attempt; and he tried to pass the dog, but it whined piteously and Gluck stopped again. "Poor beastie," said Gluck, "it'll be dead when I come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and closer at it, and its eye turned on him so mournfully that he could not stand it. "Confound the king and his gold too," said Gluck, and he opened the flask and poured all the water into the dog's mouth.

The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared; its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became very red; its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.

"Thank you," said the monarch. "But don't be frightened; it's all right"—for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation at this unlooked-for reply to his last observation. "Why didn't you come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally brothers of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning into stones? Very hard stones they make, too."

"O dear me!" said Gluck, "have you really been so cruel?"

"Cruel!" said the dwarf; "they poured unholy water into my stream. Do you suppose I'm going to allow that?"

"Why," said Gluck, "I am sure, sir,—your Majesty, I mean,—they got the water out of the church font."

"Very probably," replied the dwarf, "but" (and his countenance grew stern as he spoke) "the water which has been refused to the cry of the weary and dying is unholy, though it had been blessed by every saint in heaven; and the water which is found in the vessel of mercy is holy, though it had been defiled with corpses."

So saying, the dwarf stooped and plucked a lily that grew at his feet. On its white leaves there hung three drops of clear dew. And the dwarf shook them into the flask which Gluck held in his hand. "Cast these into the river," he said, "and descend on the other side of the mountains into the Treasure Valley. And so good speed."

As he spoke the figure of the dwarf became indistinct. The playing colors of his robe formed themselves into a prismatic mist of dewy light; he stood for an instant veiled with them as with the belt of a broad rainbow. The colors grew faint; the mist rose into the air; the monarch had evaporated.

And Gluck climbed to the brink of the Golden River, and its waves were as clear as crystal and as brilliant as the sun. And when he cast the three drops of dew into the stream, there opened where they fell a small, circular whirlpool, into which the waters descended with a musical noise.

Gluck stood watching it for some time, very much disappointed, because not only the river was not turned into gold, but its waters seemed much diminished in quantity. Yet he obeyed his friend the dwarf and descended the other side of the mountains towards the Treasure Valley; and as he went he thought he heard the noise of water working its way under the ground. And when he came in sight of the Treasure Valley, behold, a river, like the Golden River, was springing from a new cleft of the rocks above it and was flowing in innumerable streams among the dry heaps of red sand.

And as Gluck gazed, fresh grass sprang beside the new streams, and creeping plants grew and climbed among the moistening soil. Young flowers opened suddenly along the riversides, as stars leap out when twilight is deepening, and thickets of myrtle and tendrils of vine cast lengthening shadows over the valley as they grew. And thus the Treasure Valley became a garden again, and the inheritance which had been lost by cruelty was regained by love.

And Gluck went and dwelt in the valley, and the poor were never driven from his door, so that his barns became full of corn and his house of treasure. And for him the river had, according to the dwarf's promise, become a river of gold.

And to this day the inhabitants of the valley point out the place where the three drops of holy dew were cast into the stream, and trace the course of the Golden River under the ground until it emerges in the Treasure Valley. And at the top of the cataract of the Golden River are still to be seen two black stones, round which the waters howl mournfully every day at sunset; and these stones are still called by the people of the valley

THE BLACK BROTHERS

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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