Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Famous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... online

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do8 Stories Every Child Should Know

I suppose our fathers learned such things: but the old fellow had
patched in Texas, too; he had carried his western boundaiy all the
way to the Pacific, but on that shore he had defined nothing.

'*0 Captain/' he said, "I know I am djring. I cannot get home.
Surdy you will tell me something now? — Stopl stop! Do not speak
till I say what I am sure you know, that there is not in this ship, that
there b not in America — God bless her! — a more loyal man than L
There cannot be a man who loves the old flag as I do, or pra]^ for it
as I do, or hopes for it as I do. There are thirty-four stars in it now,
Danforth. I thank God for that, though I do not know what their
names are. There has never been one taken away: I thank God for
that. I know by that that there has never been any successful Burr,
O Danforth, Danforth," he sighed out, "how like a wretched night's
dream a bo3r's idea of personal fame or of separate sovereignty seems;
when one looks back on it after such a life as minel But tell me — tell
me something — tell me everything, Danforth, before I die! "

Ingham, I swear to you that I felt like a monster that I had not
told him everything before. Danger or no danger, delicacy or no
delicacy, who was I, that I should have been acting the tyrant all this
time over this dear, sainted old man, who had years ago expiated, in
his whole manhood's Ufe, the madness of a boy's treason? "Mr.
Nolan," said I, "I will tell you everything you ask about. Only,
where shall I begin?"

Oh, the blessed smile that crept over his white face! and he pressed
my hand and said, "God bless you! Tell me their names," he said,
and he pointed to the stars on the flag. "The last I know is Ohio.
My father lived in Kentucky. But I have guessed Michigan and
Indiana and Mississippi — ^that was where Fort Adams is — they make
twenty. But where are your other fourteen? You have not cut up
any of the old ones, I hope? "

Well, that was not a bad text, and I told him the names in as good
order as I could, and he bade me take down his beautiful map and
draw them in as I best could with my pencil. He was wild with de-
light about Texas, told me how his cousin died there; he had marked
a gold cross near where he supposed his grave was; and he had guessed
at Texas. Then he was delighted as he saw California and Oregon.
— ^that, he said, he had suspected partly, because he had never been
permitted to land on that shore, though the ships were there so much.
."And the men," said he, laughing, "brought off a good deal beside

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The Man Without a Country 209

furs." Then he went back — ^heavens, how far! — ^to ask about the
Chesapeake^ and what was done to Banon for surrendering her to
the Leopard^ and whether Burr ever tried again — ^and he ground his
teeth with the only passion he showed. But in a moment that was
over, and he said, "God forgive me, for I am sure I forgive him.**
Then he asked about the old war — ^told me the true story of his serving
the gun the day we took the Java — ^asked about dear old David Porter,
as he called him. Then he settled down more quietly, and very
happily, to hear me tell in an hour the history of fifty years.

How I wished it had been somebody who knew something 1 But
I did as well as I could. I told him of the English war. I told him
about Fulton and the steamboat beginning. I told him about old
Scott, and Jackson; told him all I could think of about the Mississippi,
and New Orleans, and Texas, and his own old Kentucky. And do
you think, he asked who was in command of the " Legion of the West."
I told him it was a very gallant ofl&cer named Grant, and that, by our
last news, he was about to establish his headquarters at Vicksbuig.
Then, "Where was Vicksburg?" I woriced that out on the map; it
was about a hundred miles, more or less, above his old Fort Adams
and I thought Fort Adams must be a ruin now. "It must be at old
Vick's plantation, at Walnut Hills, "said he: "well, that is a change I"

I tell you, Ingham, it was a hard thing to condense the history of
half a century into that talk with a sick man. And I do not now
know what I told him — of emigration, and the means of it — of steam-
boats, and railroads, and tel^raphs — of inventions, and books, and
literature — of the colleges, and West Point, and the Naval School —
but with the queerest interruptions that ever you heard. You see it
was Robinson Crusoe asking all the accumulated questions of fifty-
six years!

I remember he asked, all of a sudden, who was President now; and
when I told him, he asked if Old Abe was General Benjamin Lincoln's
son. He said he met Old General Lincoln, when he was quite a boy
himself, at some Indian treaty. I said no, that Old Abe was a Ken-
tuckian like himself, but I could not tell him of what family; he had
worked up from the ranks. "Good for him!" cried Nolan; "I am
glad of that. As I have brooded and wondered, I have thought our
danger was in keeping up those regular successions in the first families."
Then I got talking about my visit to Washington. I told him of meet-
ing the Oregon Congressman, Harding; I told him about the Smith*


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dio Stories Every Child Should Know

aoniao, and the Ezploring Expedition; I tdd him ahout the Capitol
and the statues for the pediment, and Crawford's Liberty, and Greeiv
ough's Washington: Ingham, I told him Everything I could think oi
that would show the grandeur of his country and its prosperity; but
I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this infernal

And he drank it in and enjoyed it as I cannot tell you. He grew
more and more silent, yet I never thought he was tired or faint. I
gave him a glass of water, but be just wet his lips, and UAd me not to
go away. Then he asked me to bring the Presb3rterian ''BodL o£
Public Prayer" which lay there, and said, with a smile, that it would
open at the right place — and so it did. There was his double red
mark down the page; and I knelt down and read, and he repeated
with me, "For ourselves and our country, O gracious God, we thank
Thee, that, notwithstanding our mamfold transgressions of Thy holy
laws. Thou hast continued to us Thy marvellous kindness," and so
to the end of that thanksgiving. Then he turned to the end of the
same book, and I read the words more familiar to me: " Most heartily
we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold and bless Thy servant,
the President of the United States, and all others in authority" — and
Hbe rest of the Episcopal collect. "Danforth," said he "I have re-
peated these prayers night and morning, it is now fifty-five years."
And then he said he would go to sleep. He bent me down over him
and kissed me; and he said, "Look in my Bible, Captain, when I am
gone." And I went away.

But I had no thought it was the end. I thought he was tired and
would sleep. I knew he was happy, and I wanted him to be alone.

But in an hour, when the doctor went in gently, he found Nolan
had breathed his life away with a smile. He had something pressed
dose to his lips. It was his father's badge of the Order of the

We looked in his Bible, and there was a slip of paper at the place
where he had marked the text —

"They desire a country, even a heavenly: wherefore God is not
ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a

On this slip of paper he had written:

"Bury me in the sea; it has been my home, and I love it. But
will not someone set up a stone for my memory at Fort Adams or at


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The Man Without a Country 211

Orleans, that my disgrace may not be more than I ought to bear?
Say on it:

"7« Memory of


*' Lieutenant in the Army of the United States,

**He loved his country as no other man has

lored her; but no man deserved less Ot

her bands.'*


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AUGUST Uved in a little town caUed HaU. HaU b a
favourite name for several towns in Austria and in
Germany; but this one especial little Hall, in the Upper
Innthal, is one of the most charming Old- World places that
I know, and August for his part did not know any other.
It has the green meadows and the great mountains all about
it, and the gray-green glacier-fed water rushes by it. It
has paved streets and enchanting little shops that have all
latticed panes and iron gratings to them; it has a very grand
old Gothic church, that has the noblest blendings of light
and shadow, and marble tombs of dead knights, and a look
of infinite strength and repose as a chiirch should have.
Then there is the Muntze Tower, black and white, rising
out ofgreenery and looking down on a long wooden bridge
and the broad rapid river; and there is an old schlosd which
has been made into a guard-house, with battlements and
frescoes and heraldic devices in gold and colours, and a
man-at-arms carved in stone standing life-size in his niche
and bearing his date 1530. A little farther on, but close at
hand, is a cloister with beautiful marble columns and tombs,
and a colossal wood-carved Calvary, and beside that a
small and very rich chapel: indeed, so full is the little
town of the undisturbed past, that to walk in it is like open-
ing a missal of the Middle Ages, all emblazoned and illumi-
nated with saints and warriors, and it is so clean, and so
still, and so noble, by reason of its monuments and its

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The Nirnberg Stave 213

historic colour, that I marvel much no one has ever cared
to sing its praises. The old pious heroic life of an age at
once more restful and more brave than ours still leaves its
spirit there, and then there is the girdle of the moun-
tains all aroimd, and that alone means strength, peace,

In this litde town a few years ago August Strehla lived
with his people in the stone-paved irregular sqxiare where
the grand church stands.

He was a small boy of nine years at that time — a chubby-
faced little man with rosy cheeks, big hazel eyes, and clusters
of curls the brown of ripe nuts. His mother was dead, his
father was poor, and there were many mouths at home to
feed. In this country the winters are long and very cold, the
whole land lies wrapped in snow for many months, and this
night that he v/as trotting home, with a jug of beer in his
nimib red hands, was terribly cold and dreary. The good
burghers of Hall had shut their double shutters, and the few
lamps there were flickered dully behind their quaint, old-
fashioned iron casings. The moimtains indeed were beauti-
ful, all snow-white under the stars that are so big in frost.
Hardly anyone was astir; a few good souls wending home
from vespers, a tired post-boy who blew a shrill blast from
his tasseled horn as he pulled up his sledge before a hos-
telry, and little August hugging his jug of beer to his ragged
sheepskin coat, were all who were abroad, for the snow feD
heavily and the good folks of Hall go early to their beds.
He could not run, or he would have spilled the beer; he
was half frozen and a little frightened, but he kept up his
courage by saying over and over again to himself, " I shall
soon be at home with dear Hirschvogel."

He went on through the streets, past the stone man-at
arms of the guard-house, and so into the place where the


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2X4 Stories Every Child Should Know

great church was, and where near it stood his father Kail
Strehla's house, with a sculptiured Bethlehem over the door-
way, and the Pilgrimage of the Three Kings painted on its
wall. He had been sent on a long errand outside the gates
in the afternoon, over the frozen fields and broad white
snow, and had been belated, and had thought he had heard
the wolves behind him at every step, and had reached the
town in a great state of terror, thankful with all his little
panting heart to see the oil-lamp burning under the first
house-shrine. But he had not forgotten to call for the beer,
and he carried it carefully now, though his hands were so
nimib that he was afraid they would let the jug down every

The snow outlined with white every gable and cornice of
the beautiful old wooden houses; the moonlight shone on
the gilded signs, the lambs, the grapes, the eagles, and all
the quaint devices that himg before the doors; covered lamps
biuned before the Nativities and Crucifixions painted on
the walls or let into the wood-work; here and there, where
a shutter had not been closed, a ruddy fire-light lit up a
homely interior, with the noisy band of children clustering
roimd the house-mother and a big brown loaf, or some
gossips spinning and listening to the cobbler's or the bar-
ber's story of a neighbour, while the oil-wicks glimmered,
and^the hearth-logs blazed, and the chestnuts sputtered in
their iron roasting-pot. Little August saw all these things
as he saw everything with his two big bright eyes that had
such curious lights and shadows in them; but he went
heedfully on his way for the sake of the beer which
a single slip of the foot would make him spill. At
his knock and call the solid oak door, four centuries
old if one, flew open, and the boy darted in with his
beer, and shouted^ with all the force of mirthful lungs*


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The NUrnberg Stove axj

'*Oh, dear Hirschvogel, but for the thought of you I
should have died!"

It was a large barren room into which he rushed with so
much pleasure, and the bricks were bare and uneven. It
had a walnut-wood press, handsome and very old, a broad
deal table, and several wooden stools for all its furniture;
but at the top of the chamber, sending out warmth and
colour together as the lamp sheds its rays upon it, was a
tower of porcelain, burnished with all the hues of a king's
peacock and a queen's jewels, and surmounted with armed
figurei, and shields, and flowers of heraldry, and a great
golden crown upon the highest summit of all.

It was a stove of 1532, and on it were the letters H. R. H.,
f jr it was in every portion the handwork of the great potter
of Nilmberg, Augustin Hirschvogel, who put his mark thus,
as all the world knows.

The stove no doubt had stood in palaces and been made for
princes, had warmed the crimson stockings of cardinals and
the gold-broidered shoes of archduchesses, had glowed in
presence-chambers and lent its carbon to help kindle sharp
brains in anxious councils of state; no one knew what it
had been or done or been fashioned for; but it was a right
royal thing. .Yet perhaps it had never been more useful
than it was now in this poor desolate room, sending down
heat and comfort into the troop of children tumbled to-
gether on a wolfskin at its feet, who received frozen August
among them with loud shouts of joy.

"O, dear Hirschvogel, I am so cold, so cold I" said August,
kissing its gilded lion's claws. *^ Is father not in,

'* No, dear. He is late."

Dorothea was a girl of seventeen, dark-haired and seriousy,
•Mid with a sweet, sad face, for she had had many cares laid


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9i6 Stories Every Child Should Know

on her shoulders, even whilst still a mere baby. She was
the eldest of the Strehla family; and there were ten of them
in all. Next to her there came Jan and Karl and Otho, big
lads, gaining a little for their own living; and then came
August, who went up in the sununer to the high Alps with
the farmers' cattle, but in winter could do nothing to fill his
own little platter and pot; and then all the little ones, who
could only open their mouths to be fed like young birds —
Albrecht and Hilda, and Waldo and Christof, and last of
all little three-year-old Ermengilda, with eyes like forget-
me-nots, whose birth had cost them the life of their mother.

They were of that mixed race, half Austrian, half Italian,
so common in the Tyrol; some of the children were white
and golden as lilies, others were brown and brilliant as
fresh-fallen chestnuts. The father was a good man, but
weak and weary with so many to find for and so little to do it
with. He worked at the salt-funiaces, and by that gained
a few florins; people said he would have worked better and
kept his family more easily if he had not loved his pipe and
a draught of ale too well ; but this had only been said of him
after his wife's death, when trouble and perplexity had
begun to dull a brain never too vigorous, and to enfeeble
further a character already too yielding. As it was, the
wolf often bayed at the door of the Strehla household, with-
out a wolf from the mountains coming down. Dorothea
was one of those maidens who almost work miracles, so far
can their industry and care and intelligence make a home
sweet and wholesome and a single loaf seem to swell into
twenty. The children were always clean and happy, and
the table was seldom without its big pot of soup once a day.
Still, very poor they were, and Dorothea's heart ached with
shame, for she knew that their father's debts were many for
flour and meat and clothing. Oi fuel to feed the big stove

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The Number e Siam £«}

Ihey had always enough without cost, for their mother's
father was alive, and sold wood and fir cones and coke, and
never grudged them to his grandchildren, though he grum-
bled at Strehla's improvidence and hapless, dreamy ways.

"Father says we are never to wait for him: we will have
supper, now you have come home, dear," said Dorothea,
who, however she might fret her soul in secret as she knitted
their hose and mended their shirts, never let her anxieties
cast a gloom on the children; only to August she did speak a
little sometimes, because he was so thoughtful and so tender
of her always, and knew as well as she did that there were
troubles about money — though these troubles were vague to
them both, and the debtors were patient and kindly, being
neighbours all in the old twisting streets between the guard-
house and the river.

Supper was a huge bowl of soup, with big slices of brown
bread swimming in it and some onions bobbing up and down :
the bowl was soon emptied by ten wooden spoons, and then
the three eldest boys slipped off to bed, being tired with their
rough bodily labour in the snow all day, and Dorothea drew
her spinning-wheel by the stove and set it whirring, and the
little ones got August down upon the old worn wolfskin
and clamoured to him for a picture or a story. For August
was the artist of the family.

He had a piece of planed deal that his father had given
him, and some sticks of charcoal, and he would draw a
himdred things he had seen in the day, sweeping each out
with his elbow when the children had seen enough of it and
sketching another in its stead — faces and dogs' heads, and
men in sledges, and old women in their furs, and pine-trees,
and cocks and hens, and all sorts of animals, and now and
then — ^very reverently — a Madonna and Child. It was all
very rough, for there was no one to teach him anything


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2x8 Stories Every Child Should Know

But it was all life-like, and kept the whole troop of children
shrieking with laughter, or watching breathless, with wide
open, wondering, awed eyes.

They were all so happy: what did they care for the snow
outside? Their little bodies were warm, and their hearts
merry; even Dorothea, troubled about the bread for the
morrow, laughed as she spun; and August, with all his soul
in his work, and little rosy Ermengilda's cheek on his shoul-
der, glowing after his frozen afternoon, cried out loud, smfl-
ing, as he looked up at the stove that was shedding its head
down on them all:

" Oh, dear Hirschvogel! you are almost as great and good
as the sim! No; you are greater and better^ I think, because
he goes away nobody knows where all these long, dark, cold
hours, and does not care how people die for want of him;
but you — ^you are always ready: just a little bit of wood to
feed you, and you will make a sununer for us all the winter

The grand old stove seemed to smile through all its iri-
descent surface at the praises of the child. No doubt the
stove, though it had known three centuries and more, had
known but very little gratitude.

It was one of those magnificent stoves in enamelled faience
which so excited the jealousy of the other potters of Niimberg
that in a body they demanded of the magistracy that
Augustin Hinchvogel should be forbidden to make any
more of them — ^the magistracy, happily, proving of a broader
mind, and having no sympathy with the wish of the artisans
to cripple their greater fellow.

It was of great height and breadth, with all the majolica
lustre which Hirschvogel learned to give to his enamels
when he was making love to the young Venetian girl whom he
afterwards married. There was the statue of a king at

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The Nilrnberg Stove 219

each comer, modelled with as much force and splendour as
his friend Albrecht Diirer could have given imto them on
copperplate or canvas. The body of the stove itself was
divided into panels, which had the Ages of Man painted on
them in polychrome; the borders of the panels had roses
and holly and laurel and other foliage, and German mottoes
in black letter of odd Old- World moralising, such as the old
Teutons, and the Dutch after them, love to have on their
chimney-places and their drinking cups, their dishes and
flagons. The whole was burnished with gilding in many
parts, and was radiant everywhere with that brilliant colour-
ing of which the Hirschvogel family, painters on glass and
great in chemistry as they were, were aK masters.

The stove was a very grand thing, as I say: possibly
Hirschvogel had made it for some mighty lord of the Tyrol
at that time when he was an imperial guest at Innspruck
and fashioned so many things for the Schloss Amras and
beautiful Philippine Welser, the Burgher's daughter, who
gained an Archduke's heart by her beauty and the right to
wear his honours by her wit. Nothing was known of the
stove at this latter day in Hall. The grandfather Strehla,
who had been a master-mason, had dug it up out of some
ruins where he was building, and, finding it without a flaw,
had taken it home, and only thought it worth finding because
it was such a good one to bum. That was now sixty years
past, and ever since then the stove had stood in the big
desolate empty room, warming three generations of the
Strehla family, and having seen nothing prettier perhaps
in all its many years than the children tumbled now in a
cluster like gathered flowers at its feet. For the Strehla
children, bom to nothing else, were all bom to beauty;
white or brown, they were equally lovely to look upon, and
when they went into the church to mass, with their curling


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S20 Stories Every Child Should Know

locks and their clasped hands, they stood under the grim
statues like cherubs flown down ofiTsome fresco.

"Tell us a story, August," they cried, in chorus, when
they had seen charcoal pictures till they were tired; and
August did as he did every night, pretty nearly, looked up
at the stove and told them what he imagined of the many
adventures^and joys and sorrows of the human being who
figured on the panels from his cradle to his grave.

To the children the stove was a household god. In smn-
mer they laid a mat of fresh moss all round it, and dressed it
up with green boughs and the nimiberless beautiful wild
flowers of the Tyrol country. In winter all their joys
centred in it, and scampering home from school over the
ice and snow they were happy, knowing that they would
soon be cracking nuts or roasting chestnuts in the broad
ardent glow of its noble tower, which rose eight feet high
above them with all its spires and pinnacles and crowns.

Once a travelling peddler had told them that the letters
on it meant Augustin Hirschvogel, and that Hirschvogel
had been a great German potter and painter, like his father
before him, in the art-sanctified city of Niimberg, and had
made many such stoves, that were all miracles of beauty
and of workmanship, putting all his heart and his soul and
his faith into his laboiurs, as the men of those earlier ages
did, and thinking but little of gold or praise.

An old trader, too, who sold curiosities not far from the
church, had told August a little more about the brave family
of Hirschvogel, whose houses can be seen in Niimberg to
this day; of old Veit, the first of them, who painted the
Gothic windows of St. Sebald with the marriage of the
Margravine; of his sons and of his grandsons, potters,

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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 16 of 22)