Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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

. (page 17 of 22)
Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 17 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


painters, engravers all, and chief of them great Augustin,
the Luca della Robbia of the North. And August's imagina-



Digitized



by Google



The Nurnberg Stove 2ai

tion, always quick, had made a living personage out of these
few records, and saw Hirschvogel as though he were in the
flesh walking up and down the Maximilian-Strass in his
visit to Innspruck, and maturing beautiful things in his
brain as he stood on the bridge and gazed on the emerald-
green flood of the Inn.

So the stove had got to be called Hirschvogel in the family,
as if it were a living creature, and little August was very
proud because he had been named after that famous old
dead German who had had the genius to make so glorious a
thing. All the children loved the stove, but with August
the love of it was a passion; and in his secret heart he used
to say to himself, " When I am a man, I wiU make just such
things too, and then I will set Hirschvogel in a beautiful
room in a house that I will build myself in Innspruck just
outside the gates, where the chestnuts are, by the river;
that is what I will do when I am a man."

For August, a salt-baker's son and a little cow-keeper
when he was anjrthing, v/as a dreamer of dreams, and when
he was upon the high Alps with his cattle, with the stillness
and the sky around him, was quite certain that he would
live for greater things than driving the herds up when the
springtide came among the blue sea of gentians, or toiling
down in the town with wood and with timber as his father
and grandfather did every day of their lives. He was a
strong and healthy little fellow, fed on the free mountain-
air, and he was very happy, and loved his family devotedly,
and was as active as a squirrel and as playful as a hare:
but he kept his thoughts to himself, and some of them went
a very long way for a little boy who was only one among
many, and to whom nobody had ever paid any attention
except to teach him his letters and tell him to fear God.
August in winter was only a little, hungiy school bov,



Digitized



by Google



233 Stories Every Child Should Know

trotting to be catechised by the priest, or to bring the loaves
from the bake-house, or to carry his father's boots to the
cobbler; and in summer he was only one of hundreds of
cow-boys, who drove the poor, half-blind, blinking, stumb-
ling cattle, ringing their throat-bells, out into the sweet
intoxication of the sudden simlight, and lived up with them
in the heights among the Alpine roses, with only the clouds
and the snow-sunmiits near. But he was always thinking,
thinking, thinking, for all that; and under his little sheep-
skin winter coat and his rough hempen siunmer shirt his
heart had as much coiuuge in it as Hofer's ever had — great
Hofer, who is a household word in all the Innthal, and whom
August always reverently remembered when he went to the
city of Innspruck and ran out by the foaming water-mill and
under the wooded height of Berg Isel.

August lay now in the warmth of the stove and told the
children stories, his own little brown face growing red with
excitement as his imagination glowed to fever heat. That
human being on the panels, who was drawn there as a baby
in a cradle, as a boy playing among flowers, as a lover sighing
under a casement, as a soldier in the midst of strife, as a
father with children roimd him, as a weary, old, blind man
on crutches, and, lastly, as a ransomed soid raised up by
angels, had always had the most intense interest for August,
and he had made, not one history for him, but a thousand;
he seldom told them the same tale twice. He had never
seen a story-book in his life; his primer and his mass-
book were all the volumes he had. But nature had
given him Fancy, and she is a good fairy that makes
up for the want of very many things! only, alas! h»
wings are so very soon broken, poor thing, and then
she is of no use at all.

" It is time for you all to go to bed, children," said



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Niirnberg Stave 223

Dorothea, looking up from her spinning. " Father is very
late to-night; you must not sit up for him."

"Oh, five minutes more, dear Dorothea!" they pleaded;
and little rosy and golden Ermengilda climbed up into
her lap. "Hirschvogel is so warm, the beds are never
so warm as he. Cannot you tell us another tale,
August?"

" No," cried August, whose face had lost its light, now that
his story had come to an end, and who sat serious, with his
hands clasped on his knees, gazing on to the limiinous
arabesques of the stove.

" It is only a week to Christmas," he said, suddenly.

"Grandmother's big cakes!" chuckled little Christof,
who was five years old, and thought Christmas meant a big
cake and nothing else.

"What will Santa Claus find for 'Gilda if she be good?"
murmured Dorothea over the child's sunny head; for, how-
ever hard poverty might pinch, it could never pinch so
tightly that Dorothea would not find some wooden toy and
some rosy apples to put in her little sister's socks.

"Father Max has promised me a big goose, because I
saved the calf's life in June," said August; it was the
twentieth time he had told them so that month, he was so
proud of it.

"And Aunt Mafla will be sure to send us wine and honey
and a barrel of flour; she always does," said Albrecht.
Their aunt Maila had a chilet and a little farm over on the
green slopes toward Dorf Ampas.

"I shall go up into the woods and get Hirschvogel's
crown," said August; they always crowned Hirschvogel
for Christmas with pine boughs and ivy and mountain-
berries. The heat soon withered the crown ; but it was part
9t the religion of the day to them, as much so as it was ta



Digitized



by Google



134 Stories Every Child Should Know

cross themselves in church and raise their voices in the ^ O
Salutaris Hostia."

And they fell chatting of all they would do on the Christmas
night, and one little voice piped loud against another's, and
they were as happy as though their stockings would be full
of golden purses and jewelled toys, and the big goose in the
soup-pot seemed to them such a meal as kings would envy.

In the midst of their chatter and laughter a blast of frozen
air and a spray of driven snow struck like ice through the
room, and reached them even in the warmth of the old wolf-
skins and the great stove. It was the door which had opened
and let in the cold; it was their father who had come home.

The yoimger children ran joyous to meet him. Dorothea
pushed the one wooden arm-chair of the room to the stove,
and August flew to set the jug of beer on a little round table,
and fill a long clay pipe; for their father was good to them
all, and seldom raised his voice in anger, and they had been
trained by the mother they had loved to dutifulness and
obedience and a watchful affection.

To-night Karl Strehla responded very wearily to the
young ones' welcome, and came to the wooden chair with
a tired step and sat down heavily, not noticing either pipe
or beer.

"Are you not well, dear father?" his daughter asked him.

" I am well enough," he answered, dully and sat there with
his head bent, letting the lighted pipe grow cold.

He was a fair, tall man, gray before his time, and bowed
with labour.

"Take the children to bed," he said, suddenly, at last,
and Dorothea obeyed. August stayed behind, curled before
the stove; at nine years old, and when one earns money in
the summer from the farmers, one is not altogether a child
Q.ny more, at least in one's own estimation.



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUrnberg Stave 225

August did not heed his father's silence: he was used to
it. Karl Strehla was a man of few words, and, being of
weakly health, was usually too tired at the end of the day to
do more than drink his beer and sleep. August lay on the
wolfskin dreamy and comfortable, looking up through his
drooping eyelids at the golden coronets on the crest of the
great stove, and wondering for the millionth time whom it
had been made for, and what grand places and scenes it had
known.

Dorothea came down from putting the little ones in their
beds; the cuckoo-clock in the comer struck eight; she looked
to her father and the untouched pipe, then sat down to her
spinning, saymg nothing. She thought he had been drink-
ing in some tavern; it had been often so with him of late.

There was a long silence; the cuckoo called the quarter
twice; August dropped asleep, his curls falling over his face;
Dorothea's wheel hunmied like a cat.

Suddenly Karl Strehla struck his hand on the table,
sending the pipe to the ground.

"I have sold Hirschvogel," he said; and his voice was
husky and ashamed in his throat. The spinning-wheel
stopped. August sprang erect out of his sleep.

"Sold Hirschvogel!" If their father had dashed the holy
crucifix on the floor at their feet and spat on it, they could
not have shuddered imder the horror of a greater blasphemy.

" I have sold Hirschvogel!" said Karl Strehla, in the same
husky, dogged voice. " I have sold it to a travelling trader
in such things for two hundred florins. What would you ? —
I owe double that. He saw it this morning when you
were all out. He will pack it and take it to Munich
to-morrow."

Dorothea gave a low shrill cry :

"Oh, father? — ^the children — in midwinter!"



Digitized



by Google



326 Stories Every Child Should Know

She turned white as the snow without; her words died
away in her throat.

August stood, half blind with sleep, staring with dazed
eyes as his catde stared at the sun when they came out from
their winter's prison.

'' It is not true. It is not true!'' he muttered. *^ You are
jesting, father?**

Strehla broke into a dreary laugh.

''It is true. Would you like to know what is true too?
that the bread you eat, and the meat you put in this pot, and
the roof you have over your heads, are none of them paid
for, have been none of them paid for, for months and months;
if it had not been for your grandfather I should have been
in prison all summer and autumn, and he is out of patience
and will do no more now. There is no work to be had;
the masters go to younger men: they say I work ill; it may
be sa Who can keep his head above water with ten hungry
children dragging him down? When your mother lived it
was different. Boy, you stare at me as if I were a mad dog!
You have made a god of yon china thing. Well — it goes;
goes to-morrow. Two hundred florins, that is something.
It will keep me out of prison for a little and with the spring
things may turn "

August stood like a creature paral3rsed. His eyes were
wide open, fastened on his father's with terror and incredu-
lous horror; his face had grown as white as his sister's; his
chest heaved with tearless sobs.

"It is not true! It is not true!" he echoed stupidly. It
seemed to him that the very skies must fall, and the earth
perish, if they could take away Hirschvogel. They might
as soon talk of tearing down God's sun out of the heavens.

"You will find it true," said his father, doggedly, and
angered because he wa<^ in his own soul bitterly ashamed to



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUrnberg Stave aaj

have bartered " way the heirloom and treasure of his race,
and the conr><ort and healthgiver of his young children.
"You will find it true. The dealer has paid me half the
money to-night, and will pay me the other half to-morrow
when he packs it up and takes it away to Mimich. No
doubt it is worth a great deal more — at least I suppose so,
as he gives that — ^but beggars cannot be choosers. The
little black stove in the kitchen will warm you all just as well.
Who would keep a gilded, painted thing in a poor house like
this, when one can make two hundred florins by it? Doro-
thea, you never sobbed more when your mother died. What
is it, when all is said? — a bit of hardware, much too grand*
looking for such a room as this. If all the Strehlas had not
been bom fools it would have been sold a century ago, when
it was dug up out of the ground. "It is a stove for a mu-
seum," the trader said when he saw it. "To a museum let it
go.''

August gave a shrill shriek like a hare's when it is caught
for its death, and threw himself on his knees at his father's
feet.

"Oh, father, father!" he cried, convulsively, his hands
closing on Strehla's knees, and his uplifted face blanched
and distorted with terror. "Oh, father, dear father, you
cannot mean what you say? Send U away — our life, our
sun, our joy, our comfort? we shall all die in the dark and
the cold. Sell me rather. Sell me to any trade or any pain
you like; I will not mind. But Hirschvogel I it is like selling
the very cross off the altar! You must be in jest. You could
not do such a thing— you could not — you who have always
been gentle and good, and who have sat in the warmth here
year after year with our mother. It is not a piece of hard-
ware, as you say; it is a living thing, for a great man's
thoughts and fancies have put life into it, and it loves, us



Digitized



by Google



338 Stories Every Child Should Know

though we are only poor little chfldren, and we love it with
all our hearts and souls, and up in heaven I am sure the dead
Hirschvogel knows 1 Oh, listen; I will go and try and get
work to-morrow; I will ask them to let me cut ice or m^^e
the paths through the snow. There must be something I
could do, and 1 will beg the people we owe money to, to wait;
they are all neighbours, they will be patient. But sell
Hirschvogel! oh, never I never! never! Giye the florins
back to the vile man. Tell him it would be like selling the
shroud out of mother's coffin, or the golden curls off Ermen-
gilda's head! Oh, father, dear father! do hear me, for pity's
sake!"

Strehla was moved by the boy's anguish. He loved his
children, though he was often weary of them, and their pain
was pain to him. But beside emotion, and stronger than
emotion, was the anger that August roused in him: he hated
and despised himself for the barter of the heirloom of his
race, and every word of the child stung him with a stinging
sense of shame.

And he spoke in his wrath rather than in his sorrow.

" You are a little fool," he said, harshly, as they had never
heard him speak. "You rave like a play-actor. Get up
and go to bed. The stove is sold. There is no more to be
said. Children like you have nothing to do with such
matters. The stove is sold, and goes to Mimich to-morrow.
What is it to you? Be thankful I can get bread for you.
Get on your legs, I say, and go to bed."

Strehla took up the jug of ale as he paused, and drained
k slowly as a man who had no cares.

August sprang to his feet and threw his hair back
off his face; the blood rushed into his cheeks, making
them scarlet: his great soft eyes flamed alight with
furious passion.



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Niirnberg Stove 239

**You dare notl" he cried, aloud, "you dare not sell it,
I say! It is not yours alone; it is ours "

Strehla flimg the emptied jug on the bricks with a force
that shivered it to atoms, and, rising to his feet, struck his
son a blow that felled him to the floor. It was the first time
in all his life that he had ever raised his hand against any one
of his children.

Then he took the oil-lamp that stood at his elbow and
stumbled off to his own chamber with a cloud before his
eyes.

"What has happened?" said August, a little While later,
as he opened his eyes and saw Dorothea weeping above him
on the wolfskin before the stove. He had been struck back-
ward, and his head had fallen on the hard bricks where the
wolfskin did not reach. He sat up a moment, with his face
bent upon his hands.

*' I remember now," he said, very low, under his breath.

Dorothea showered kisses on him, while her tears fell like
rain.

"But, oh, dear, how could you speak so to father?" she
miirmured. " It was very wrong."

"No, I was right," said August, and his little mouth, that
hitherto had only curled in laughter, curved downward
with a fixed and bitter seriousness. "How dare he? How
dare he?" he muttered, with his head sunk in his hands.
" It is not his alone. It belongs to us all. It is as much
yours and mine as it is his."

Dorothea could only sob in answer. She was too fright-
ened to speak The authority of their parents in the house
had never in her remembrance been questioned.

"Are you hurt by the fall dear August?" she murmured,
at length, for he looked to her so pale and strange.

*• Yes — ^no. I do not know. What does it matter?''



Digitized



by Google



230 . Stories Every ChOd Should Know

He sat up upon the wolfskin with passionate pain upon
his face; all his soul was in rebellion, and he was only a
child and was poweriess.

'' It is a sin; it is a theft; it is an infamy," he said slowly,
his e3res fastened on the gilded feeW>f Hirschvogel.

" Oh, August, do not say such things of father!" sobbed
his sister. " Whatever he does, we ought to think it right/*

August laughed aloud.

''Is it right that he should spend his money in drink?-—
that he should let orders lie unexecuted? — that he should
do his work so ill that no one cares to employ him? — ^that
he should live on grandfather's charity, and then dare sell a
thing that is ours every whit as much as it is his? To sell
Hirschvogel! Oh, dear God! I would sooner sell my soul!"

"August!" cried Dorothea, with piteous entreaty. He
terrified her, she could not recognise her little, gay, gentle
brother in those fierce and blasphemous words.

August laughed aloud ag^in; then all at once his laughter
broke down into bitterest weeping. He threw himsetf
forward on the stove, covering it with kisses, and sobbing
as though his heart would burst from his bosom.

What could he do? Nothing, nothing, nothing!

"August, dear August," whispered Dorothea piteously^
and trembling all over — ^for she was a very gentle girl, and
fierce feeling terrified her — " August, do not lie there. Come
to bed: it is quite late. In the morning you will be calmer.
It is horrible indeed, and we shall die of cold, at least the
little ones; but if it be father's will "

"Let me alone," said August, through his teeth, striving
to still the storm of sobs that shook him from head to foot.
"Let me alone. In the morning! — ^how can you speak of
the morning?"

"Come to bed, dear," sighed his sister. "Oh, August,



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Numberg Stove 831

do not lie and look like that! you frighten me. Do come to
bed."

"I shall stay here."

"Here! aU night!"

''They might take it in the night. Besides, to leave it

•kW."

"But it is cold! the fire is out."

" It will never be warm any more, nor shall we."

All his childhood had gone out of him, all his gleefiil|
careless, sunny temper had gone with it; he spoke sullenly
and wearily, choking down the great sobs in his chest To
him it was as if the end of the world had come.

His sister lingered by him while striving to persuade him
to go to his place in the litde crowded bedchamber with
Albrecht and Waldo and Christof . But it was in vain. " I
shall stay here," was all he answered her. And he stayed —
all the night long.

The lamps went out; the rats came and ran across the
floor; as the hours crept on through midnight and past, the
cold intensified and the air of the room grew like ice. August
did not move; he lay with his face downward on the golden
and rainbow hued pedestal of the household treasure, which
henceforth was to be cold for evermore, an exiled thing in a
foreign city in a far-off land.

Whilst yet it was dark his three elder brothers came down
the stairs and let themselves out, each bearing his lantern
and going to his work in stone-yard and timber-yard and at
the salt-works. They did not notice him; they did not
know what had happened.

A little later his sister came down with a light in her hand
to make ready the house ere morning should break.

She stole up to him and laid her hand on his shoulder
timidl*^'



Digitized



by Google



S39 Stories Every Child Should Know

** Dear August, you must be frozen. August, do look upl
doqpeaki''

August raised his eyes with a wild, feverish, sullen look
In them that she had never seen there. His ^e was ashen
white: his lips -were like fire. He had not slept all night;
but his passionate sobs had given way to delirious waking
dreams and numb senseless trances, which had alternated
one on another all through the freezing, lonely, horrible
hours.

**It will never be warm again," he muttered, ** never
again!''

Dorothea clasped him with trembling hands.

** August! do you not know me!" she cried, in an agony*
^ I am Dorothea. Wake up, dear — ^wakeupl It is mornings
only so dark!

August shuddered all over.

**The morning!" he echoed.

He slowly rose up on to his feet

*'I will go to grandfather," he said, very low. ^He is
always good: perhaps he could save it"

Loud blows with the heavy iron knocker of the house-
door drowned his words. A strange voice called aloud
through the keyhole:

**Let me in! Quick! — ^there is no time to lose! More
tnow like this, and the roads will be all blocked. Let me in.
Do you hear ? I am come to take the great stove."

August sprang erect, his fists doubled, his eyes blazing.

**You shall never touch it!" he screamed; "you shall
never touch it!"

"Who shall prevent us?" laughed a big man, who was a
Bavarian, amused at the fierce little figure fronting him.

"I!" said August "You shall never have it! you shall
kill me first!"



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Nurnberg Stove 233

**StreUa," said the big man, as August's father entered
the room, ^'you have got a little mad dog here: muzzle him."

One way and another they did muzzle him. He fought
like a little demon, and hit out right and left, and one of his
blows gave the Bavarian a black eye. But he was soon
mastered by four grown men, and his father flimg him with
no light hand out from the door of the back entrance, and
the buyers of the stately and beautiful stove set to work to
pack it heedfully and carry it away.

When Dorothea stole out to look for August, he was
nowhere in sight. She went back to little 'Gilda, who was
ailing, and sobbed over the child, whilst the others stood
looking on, dimly understanding that with Hirschvogel was
going all the warmth of their bodies, all the light of their
hearth.

Even their father now was very sorry and ashamed; but
two himdred florins seemed a big sum to him, and, after all,
he thought the children could warm themselves quite as well
at the black iron stove in the kitchen. Besides, whether he
regretted it now or not, the work of the Ntimberg potter was
sold irrevocably, and he had to stand still and see the men
from Munich wrap it in manifold wrappings and bear it
out into the snowy air to where an ox-cart stood in waiting
for it.

In another moment Hirschvogel was gone — gone forever
and aye.

August stood still for a time, leaning, sick and faint from
the violence that had been used to him, against the back wall
of the house. The wall looked on a court where a well was,
and the backs of other houses, and beyond them the spire of
the Muntze Tower and the peaks of the mountains.

Into the court an old neighbour hobbled for water, and,
seeing the boy, said to him:



Digitized



by Google



234 Stories Every Child Should Know

^'ChQdy is it true your father is selling the big painted
•tove?''

August nodded his head, then burst into a passion of tears.

"Well, for sure he is a fool," said the neighbour.
' Heaven forgive me for calling him so before his own childl
but the stove was worth a mint of money. I do remember
in my young da3rs, in old Anton's time (that was yoiu: great-
grand&ither, my lad), a stranger from Vienna saw it, and
said that it was worth its weight in gold.''

August's sobs went on their broken, impetuous course.

"I loved it! I loved it!" he moaned "I do not care
what its value was. I loved it! / loved U!**

" You little simpleton!" said the old man, kmdly. "But
you are wiser than yoiur father, when all's said. If sell it
he must, he should have taken it to good Herr Steiner over
at Spriiz, who would have given him honest value. But no
doubt they took him over his beer, ay, ay! but if I were you
I would do better than cry. I would go after it."

August raised his head, the tears raining down his cheeks.

"Go after it when you are bigger," said the neighbour,
with a good-natured wish to cheer him up a little. " The
world is a small thing after all: I was a travelling clock*
maker once upon a time, and I know that your stove will be
safe enough whoever gets it; anything that can be sold for


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 17 of 22)