Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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

. (page 18 of 22)
Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 18 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


a roimd sum is always wrapped up in cotton wool by every*
body. Ay, ay, don't cry so much; you will see your stove
again some day."

Then the old man hobbled away to draw his brazen pail
full of water at the well.

August remained leaning against the wall; his head was
buzzing and his heart fluttering with the new idea which,
had presented itself to his mind. " Go after it," had said
the old man. He thought, " Why not go with it ? " He ioved



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Niimberg Stove ajj;

it better than anyone, even better than Dorothea; and he
shrank from the thought of meeting his father again, his
father who had sold Hirschvogel.

He was by this time in that state of exaltation in which
the impossible looks quite natural and conmionplace. His
tears were still wet on his pale cheeks, but they had ceased
to fall. He ran out of the court-yard by a little gate, and
across to the huge Gothic porch of the church. From there
he could watch unseen his father's house-door, at which
were always hanging some blue-and-gray pitchers, such as
are conmion and so picturesque in Austria, for a part of the
house was let to a man who dealt in pottery.

He hid himself in the grand portico, which he had so often
passed through to go to mass or compline within, and pres-
ently his heart gave a great leap, fcM: he saw the straw-
enwrapped stove brought out and laid with infinite care on
the buUock-dray. Two of the Bavarian men mounted
beside it, and the sleigh-wagon slowly crept over the snow of
the place — snow crisp and hard as stone. The noble old
minster looked its grandest and most solemn, with its dark-
gray stone and its vast archways, and its porch that was
itself as big as many a chiurch, and its strange gargoyles and
lamp-irons black against the snow on its roof and on the
pavement; but for once August had no eyes for it; he only
watched for his old friend. Then he, a little imnoticeable
figure enough, like a score of other boys in Hall, crept, im-
seen by any of his brothers or sisters, out of the porch and
over the shelving uneven square, and followed in the wake
of the dray.

Its course lay toward the station of the railway, whidi is
close to the salt-works, whose smoke at times sullies this
part of clean little Hall, though it does not do very much
damage. From Hall the iron road runs northward through



Digitized



by Google



236 Stories Every Child Should Know

^orions country to Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Buda, and
southward over the Brenner into Italy. Was Hirschvogd
going north or south? This at least he would soon know.

August had often hung about the little station, watching
the trains come and go and dive into the heart of the hills
and vanish. No one said an3rthing to him for idling about;
people are kind-hearted and easy of temper in this pleasant
land, and children and dogs are both happy there. He
heard the Bavarians arguing and vociferating a great deal,
and learned that they meant to go too and wanted to go with
the great stove itself. But this they could not do, for neither
could the stove go by a passenger train nor they themselves
go in a goods-train. So at length they insured their precious
burden for a large sum, and consented to send it by a luggage
train which was to pass through Hall in half an hour. The
swift trains seldom deign to notice the existence of Hall at aU.

August heard, and a desperate resolve made itself up in his
little mind. Where Hirschvogel went would he go. He
gave one terrible thought to Dorothea — ^poor, gentle Doro-
thea! — sitting in the cold at home, then set to work to exe-
cute his project. How he managed it he never knew very
clearly himself, but certain it is that when the goods-train
from the north, that had come all the way from Linz on the
Danube, moved out of Hall, August was hidden behind the
stove in the great covered truck, and wedged, unseen and
undreamt of by any human creature, amidst the cases of
wood-carving, of clocks and clock-work, of Vienna toys, of
Turkish carpets, of Russian skins, of Hungarian wines,
which shared the same abode as did his swathed and boimd
Hirschvogel. No doubt he was very naughty, but it never
occiured to him that he was so: his whole mind and soul
were absorbed in the one entrancing idea, to follow his
beloved friend and fire-kw'



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Nurnberg Steve 237

It was very dark in the closed truck, which had only a
little window above the door; and it was crowded, and had
a strong smell in it from the Russian hides and the hams
that were in it. But August was not frightened; he was
close to Hirschvogel, and presently he meant to be closer
still; for he meant to do nothing less than get inside Hirsch-
vogel itself. Being a shrewd little boy, and having had by
great luck two silver groschen in his breeches-pocket, which
he had earned the day before by chopping wood, he had
bought some bread and sausage at the station of a woman
there who knew him, and who thought he was going out to
his uncle Joachim's ch^et above Jenbach. This he had
with him, and this he ate in the darkness and the lumbering,
poimding, thundering noise which made him giddy, as never
had he been in a train of any kind before. Still he ate,
having had no breakfast, and being a child, and half a Ger-
man, and not knowing at all how or when he ever would cat
again.

When he had eaten, not as much as he wanted, but as
much as he thought was prudent (for who could say when he
would be able to buy anything more?), he set to work like
a little mouse to make a hole in the withes of straw and hay
which enveloped the stove. If it had been put in a packing-
case he would have been defeated at the onset. As it was,
he gnawed, and nibbled, and pulled, and pushed, just as a
mouse would have done, making his hole where he guessed
that the opening of the stove was — ^the opening through
which he had so often thrust the big oak logs to feed it
No one disturbed him; the heavy, train went lumbering on
and on, and he saw nothing at all of the beautiful mountains,
and shining waters, and great forests through which he was
being carried. He was hard at work getting through the
straw and hay and twisted ropes; and get through them at



Digitized byCjOOQlC



S38 Stories Every Child Should Know

last he did, and found the door of the stove, which he knew
so well, and which was quite large enough for a child of faia
age to slip through, and it was this which he had counted
upon doing. Slip through he did, as he had often done at
home for fun, and curled himsel up there to see if he could
anyhow remain during many hours. He found that he
could; air came in through the brass fretwork of the stove;
and with admirable caution in such a little fellow he leaned
out, drew the hay and straw together, rearranged the ropes,
so that no one could ever have dreamed a little mouse had
been at them. Then he curled himself up again, this time
more like a dormouse than an3rthing else; and, being safe
inside his dear Hirschvogel and intensely cold, he went fast
asleep as if he were in his own bed at home with Albrecht,
and Christof on either side of him. The train lumbered on,
stopped often and long, as the habit of goods-trains is,
sweeping the snow away with its cow-switcher, and rumbling
through the deep heart of the mountains, with its lamps
aglow like the eyes of a dog in a night of frost.

The train rolled on in its heavy, slow fashion, and the
child slept soundly, for a long while. When he did awake,
it was quite dark outside in the land; he could not see, and
of course he was in absolute darkness; and for a while he
was solely frightened, and trembled terribly, and sobbed in
a quiet heart-broken fashion, thinking of them all at home.
Poor Dorothea! how anxious she would be! How she would
run over the town and walk up to grandfather's at Dorf
Ampas, and perhaps even send over to Jenbach, thinking
he had taken refuge with Uncle Joachim! His conscience
smote him for the sorrow he must be even then causing to
his gentle sister; but it never occurred to him to try and go
back. If he once were to lose sight of Hirschvogel how
could he ever hope to find it again? how could he ever



Digitized



by Google



The Number g Stove 939

know whither it had gone — ^north, south, east or west? The
old neighbour had said that the world was small; but
August knew at least that it must have a great many places
in it; that he had seen himself on the maps on his school-
house walls. Almost any other little boy would, I think,
have been frightened out of his wits at the position in which
he foimd himself; but August was brave, and he had a firm
belief that God and Hirschvogel would take care of him.
The master-potter of Niimberg was always present to his
mind, a kindly, benign, and gracious spirit, dwelling man-
ifestly in that porcelain tower whereof he had been the
maker.

A droll fancy, you say ? But every child with a soul in him
has quite as quaint fancies as this one was of August's.

So he got over his terror and his sobbing both, though he
was so utterly in the dark. He did not feel cramped at all,
because the stove was so large, and air he had in plenty, as
it came through the fretwork running round the top. He
was himgry again, and again nibbled with prudence at hb
loaf and his sausage. He could not at all tell the hour.
Every time the train stopped and he heard the banging,
stamping, shouting, and jangling of chains that went on,
his heart seemed to jump up into his mouth. If they should
find him out! Sometimes porters came and took away this
case and the other, a sack here, a bale there, now a big bag,
now a dead chamois. Every time the men trampled near
him, and swore at each other, and banged this and that to
and fro, he was so frightened that his very breath seemed to
stop. When they came to lift the stove out, would they
find him? and if they did find him, would they kill him?
That was what he kept thinking of all the way, all through
the dark hours, which seemed without end. The foods-
trains are usually very slow, and are many oays aomg wlMit



Digitized byCjOOQlC



S40 Stories Every Child Should Know

a quick train does in a few hours. This one was qtdcker
than most, because it was bearing goods to the King of
Bavaria; still, it took all the short winter's day and the long
winter's night and half another day to go over ground that
the mail-trains cover in a forenoon. It passed great armoured
Kuffstein standing across the beautiful and^solemn gorge,
denjring the right of way to all the foes of Austria. It passed
twelve hours later, after lying by in out-of-the-way stations,
pretty Rosenheim, that marks the border of Bavaria. And
here the NQmberg stove, with August inside it, was lifted
out heedfuUy and set under a covered way. When it was
lifted out, the boy had hard work to keep in his screams;
he was tossed to and fro as the men lifted the huge thing,
and the earthenware walls of his beloved fire-king were not
cushions of down. However, though they swore and grum-
bled at the weight of it, they never suspected that a living
child was inside it, and they carried it out on to the platform
and set it down under the roof of the goods-shed. There
it passed the rest of the night and all the next morning, and
August was all the while within it.

The winds of early winter sweep bitterly over Rosenheim,
and all the vast Bavarian plain was one white sheet of snow.
If there had not been whole armies of men at work always
clearing the iron rails of the snow, no trains could ever have
run at all. Happily for August, the thick wrappings in
which the stove was enveloped and the stoutness of its own
make screened him from the cold, of which, else, he must
have died — ^frozen. He had still some of his loaf, and a
little — a very little — of his sausage. What he did begin to
suffer from was thirst; and this frightened him almost more
than anything else, for Dorothea had read aloud to them
one night a story of the tortures some wrecked men had
endured because they could not find any water but the salt



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Nurhberg Stave 241

sea. It was many hours since he had last taken a drink from
ihe wooden spout of their old pump, which brought them
the sparkling, ice-cold water of the hills.

But, fortunately for him, the stove having been marked
and registered as "fragile and valuable," was not treated
quite like a mqre bale of goods, and the Rosenheim station-
master, who knew its consignees, resolved to send it on by
a passenger-train that would leave there at daybreak. And
when this train went out, in it, among piles of luggage be*>
longing to other travellers, to "Wenna, Prague, Buda-Pest,
Salzbiurg, was August, still undiscovered, still doubled up
like a mole in the winter under the grass. Those words,
"fragile and valuable," had made th^ men lift Hirschvogel
gently and with care. He had begun to get used to his
prison, and a little used to the incessant pounding and
jumbling and rattling and shaking with which modem
travel is always accompanied, though modem invention
does deem itself so mightily clever. All in the dark he w^as,
and he was terribly thirsty; but he kept feeling the earthen-
ware sides of the Numberg giant and saying, softly, "Take
care of me ; oh, take care of me, dear Hirschvogel ! "

He did not say, "Take me back;" for, now that he was
fairly out in the world, he wished to see a little of it. He
began to think that they must have been all over the world
in all this time that the rolling and roaring and hissing and
jangling had been about his ears; shut up in the dark, he
began to remember all the tales that had been told in Yule
round the fire at his grand&ther's good house at Dorf, of
gnomes and elves and subterranean terrors, and the Erl
King riding on the black horse of night, and — ^and — and he
began to sob and to tremble again, and this time did scream
outright. But the steam was screaming itself so loudly
that no one, had there been anyone nigh, would have heard



Digitized



by Google



94^ Stories Every Child Should Know

him; and in another minute or so the train stopped with a
jar and a jerk, and he in his cage could hear men crying
aloud, '^MQnchen! MOnchenl"

Then he knew enough of geography to know that he was
in the heart of Bavaria. He had had an uncle killed in the
Bayerischenwald by the Bavarian forest guards, when in
the excitement of hunting a black bear he had overpassed
the limits of the lyrol frontier.

That fate of his kinsman, a gallant 3roung chamois*
hunter who had taught him to handle a trigger and
load a muzzle, made the very name of Bavaria a terror
to August.

"It is Bavaria! It is Bavaria!" he sobbed to the stove;
but the stove said nothing to him; it had no fire in it. A
stove can no more speak without fire than a man can see
without light. Give it fire, and it will sing to you, tell tales
to you, offer you in return all the sympathy you ask.

"It is Bavaria!" sobbed August; for it is always a name
of dread augury to the T)rroleans, by reason of those bitter
struggles and midnight shots and untimely deaths which
come from those meetings of j^ger and hunter in the Bay^-
ischenwald. But the train stopped; Munich was reached,
and August, hot and cold by turns, and shaking like a little
aspen-leaf, felt himself once more carried out on the shoul-
ders of men, rolled along on a truck, and finally set down,
where he knew not, only he knew he was thirsty — so thirsty!
If only he could have reached his hand out and scooped up
a little snow!

He thought he had been moved on this truck many miles,
but in truth the stove had been only taken from the railv?ray-
station to a shop in the Marienplatz. Fortunately, the
^tove was always set upright on its four gilded feet, an in-
junction to that effect having been affixed to its written label



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NuTfiberg Steve 243

and on its gilded feet it stood now in the small dark curiosity*
shop of one Hans Rhilfer.

* I shall not unpack it till Anton comes," he heard a man's
voice say; aad then he heard a key grate in a lock, and by
the unbroken stillness that ensued he concluded he was
alone, and ventured to peep through the straw and hay.
What he saw was a small square room fiUed with pots and
pans, pictures, carvings, old blue jugs, old steel armour,
shields, daggers, Chinese idols, Vienna china, Turkish rugs,
and all the art lumber and fabricated rubbish of a hric-O'
brae dealer's. It seemed a wonderful place to him; but, ohl
was there one drop of water in it all? That was his single
thought; for his tongue was parching, and his throat felt
on fire, and his chest began to be dry and choked as with
dust. There was not a drop of water, but there was a lattice
window grated, and beyond the window was a wide stone
ledge covered with snow. August cast one look at the
locked doer, darted out of his hiding place, ran and opened
the window, crammed the snow into his mouth again and
again, and then flew back into the stove, drew the hay and
straw over the place he entered by, tied the cords, and shut
the brass door down on himself. He had brought some big
icicles in with him, and by them his thirst was finally, if only
temporarily, quenched. Then he sat still in the bottom of
the stove, listening intently, wide awake, and once more
recovering his natural boldness.

The thought of Dorothea kept nipping his heart and his
conscience with a hard squeeze now and then; but he
thought to himself, " If I can take her back Hirschvogel then
how pleased she will be, and how little 'Gilda will clap her
hands I " He was not at all selfish in his love for Hirschvogel :
he wanted it for them all at home quite as much as for him-
self. There was at the bottom of his mind a kind of ache oi



Digitized



by Google



944 Stories Boery Child SJundd Know

shame that his fatthov— his own &thtt^-shouId have stripped
their hearth and sold their honour thus.

A robin had been perched upon a stone griffin sculptured
on a house-eaire near. August had felt for the crumbs ol
his loaf in his pockety and had thrown them to the little bird
sitting so easily on the frozen snow.

In the darknww where he was he now heard a little song,
tpade faint bj the fltovo-waH and the window-glass that was
between him and it, but still distinct and exquisitely sweet
It was the robin, singing after feeding on the crumbs.
August, as he heard, burst into tears. He thought of
Dorothea, who every morning threw out some grain or some
bread on the snow before the church. ^'What use is it
going there" she said, ''if we forget the sweetest creatures
God has made?^ Poor Dorothea! Poor, good, tender,
much-burdened little aoull He thouj^t of her till his tears
ran like rain.

Yet it never once occurred to him to dream of going home.
Hirschvogel was here.

Presently the key turned in the lock of the door; he heard
heavy footsteps and the voice of the man who had said to his
father, ''You have a little mad dog; muzzle him!" The
voice said, "Ay, ay, you have called me a fool many times.
Now you shall see what I have gotten for two hundred dirty
florins. Potdausendl never did you do such a stroke of
work."

Then the other voice grumbled and swore, and the steps
of the two men approached more closely, and the heart of
the child went pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, as a mouse's does when
it is on the top of a cheese and hears a housemaid's broom
sweeping near. They began to strip the stove of its wrap-
pings: that he oould tell by the noise they made with the
liay and the straw. Soon they had stripped it wholly: that



Digitized



by Google



The NUmberg Stave 345

too, he knew by the oaths and exclamations of wonder and
surprise and raptiure which broke from the man who had
not seen it before.

''A right royal thing! A wonderful and neva:-to-be-
rivalled thing! Grander than the great stove of Hohen-
Salzburg! Sublime! magnificent! matchless!''

So the epithets ran on in thick guttural voices^ diffusing a
smeU of lager-lDeer so strong as they spoke that it reached
August crouching in his stronghold. If they should open
the door of the stove! That was his frantic fear. If they
should open it, it would be all over with him. They would
drag him out; most likely they would kill him, he thought,
as his mother's young brother had been killed in the Wald.

The perspiration rolled off his forehead in his agony; but
he had control enough over himself to keep quiet, and after
standing by the Ntimb>erg master's work for nigh an hour,
praising, marvelling, expatiating in the lengthy German
tongue, the men moved to a little distance and began talking
of sums of money and divided profits, of which discourse
he could make out no meaning. All he could make out was
that the name of the king— the king — the king came ovei
very often in their arguments. He fancied at times thej;
quarrelled, for they swore lustily and their voices rose hoarst
and high; but after a while they seemed to pacify each other
and agree to something, and were in great glee, and so iC:
these merry spirits came and slapped the luminous sides oi
stately Hirschvogel, and shouted to it:

"Old Mumchance, you have brought us rare good luck I
To think you were smoking in a silly fool of a salt-baker's
kitchen all these years!"

Then inside the stove August jumped up, with flaming
cheeks and clinching hands, and was almost on the point of
shouting out to them that they were the thieves and should



Digitized



by Google



24^ Stories Every Child Should Know

say no evQ of his father, when he remembered, just in time,
that to breathe a word or make a soimd was to bring ruin
on himself and sever him forever from Hirschvogel. So he
kept quite still, and the men barred the shutters of the little
lattice and went out by the door, double-locking it after
them. He had made out from their talk that they were
going to show Hirschvogel to some great person: therefore
he fcept quite still and dared not move.

Muffled sounds came to him through the shutters from
the streets below — the rolling of wheels, 0ie clanging of
church-bells, and bursts of that military music which is so
seldom silent in the streets of Mimich. An hour perhaps
passed by; soimds of steps on the stairs kept him in per-
petual apprehension. In the intensity of his anxiety, he
forgot that he was himgry and many miles away from cheer-
ful, Old World little Hall, lying by the clear gray river-water,
with the ramparts of the moimtains all round.

Presently die door opened again sharply. He could hear
the two dealers' voices murmuring imctuous words, in which
*' honour," ** gratitude," and many fine long noble titles
played the chief parts. The voice of another person, more
clear and refined than theirs, answered them cxutly, and
then, close by the Nttmberg stove and the boy's ear, ejacu-
lated a single " Wunderschonf*' August almost lost his terror
for himself in his thrill of pride at his beloved Hirschvogel
being thus admired in the great city. He thought the
master-potter must be g^d too.

**Wunderschdn/*' ejaculated the stranger a second time,
and then examined the stove in all its parts, read all its
mottoes, gazed long on all its devices.

*' It must have been made for the Emperor Maximilian,"
he said at last; and the poor little boy, meanwhile, within,
was "hugged up int# nothmg," as you diildr^ say, dread-



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUrnberg SUve 247

ing tbat every moHient he would open the stove. And open
it truly he «Ud, and examined the braas-work of the door;
but inside it w^ so dark that crouching August passed un-
noticed, screwed up into a ball like a hedgehog as he was.
The gentleman shut to the door at length, without having
seen anything strange inside it; and then he talked long
aijd low with the tradesmen, and, as his accent was different
from that which August was used to, the child could dis-
tinguish little that he said, except the name of the king and
the word "gulden" again and again. After a while he
went away, one of the dealers accompanying him, one
of them lingering behind to bar up the shutters. Then this
one also withdrew again, double-locking the door.

The poor little hedgehog uncurled itself and dared to
breathe aloud.

What time was it ?

Late in the day, he thought, for to accompany the stranger
they had lighted a lamp; he had heard the scratch of the
match, and through the brass fretwork had seen the lines of
light. -'^^

He would have to pass the night here, that was certain.
He and Hirschvogel were locked in, but at least they were


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22

Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 18 of 22)