Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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

. (page 19 of 22)
Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 19 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


together. If only he could have had something to eat! He
thought with a pang of how at this hour at home they ate the
sweet soup, sometimes with apples in it from Aunt Mafia's
farm orchard, and sang together, and listened to Dorothea's
reading of little tales, and basked in the glow and delight
that had beamed on them from the great Niimberg fire-king.

" Oh, poor, poor little 'Gilda! What is she doing without
the dear Hirschvogel?" he thought. Poor little 'Gilda!
she had only now the black iron stove of the ugly little
kitchen. Oh, how cruel of father!

August could not bear to hear the dealers blame or laugh



Digitized



by Google



34S SUfries Every CkUd Should Knew

at his father, but he did fed that it had been so, so crad to
sell Hirsdivogd. Tlie mere memory of all those long winter
evenings, when they had all dosed roimd it, and roasted
chestnuts or crab-api^es in it, and listened to the howling of
the wind and the deep sound of the church-bells, and tried
very much to make each other bdieve that the wolves still
came down from the mountains into the streets of Hall, and
were that very minute growling at the house door— all this
memory coming on him with the soimd of the city bells, and
the knowledge that night drew near upon him so completdy,
being added to his hunger and his fear, so overcame him
that he burst out crying for the fiftieth time since he had been
inside the stove, and felt that he would starve to death, and
wondered dreamily if Hirschvogd would care. Yes, he was
sure Hirschvogd would care. Had he not decked it all
summer long with alpine roses and edelweiss and heaths and
made it sweet with th3rme and honeysuckle and great garden-
lilies? Had he ever forgotten when Santa Clauscameto
make it its crown of holly and ivy and wreathe it all aroimd ?

"Oh, shelter me; save me; take care of me!*' he prayed
to the old fire-king, and forgot poor little man, that he had
come on this wild-goose chase northward to save and take
care of Hirschvogd !

After a time he dropped asleep, as children can do when
they weep, and little robust hill-bom bo3rs most surdy do,
be they where they may. It was not very cold in this lumber-
room; it was tightly shut up, and very full of things, and at
the back of it were the hot pipes of an adjacent house, where
a great deal of fuel was burnt. Moreover, August's dotbes
were warm ones, and his blood was young. So he was not
cold, though Munich is terribly cold in the nights of Decem*
ber; and he slept on and on — ^which was a comfort to him,
far he forgot his woes, and his perils, and his hunger for a time;



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Nilrtiberg Stove 249

Midnight was once more chiming from all the brazen
tongues of the city when he awoke, and, all being still around
him, ventured to put his head out of the brass door of
the stove to see why such a strange bright light was round
him.

It was a very strange and brilliant light indeed; and yet,
what is perhaps still stranger, it did not frighten or amaze
him, nor did what he saw alarm him either, and yet I think
it woidd have done you or me. For what he saw was nothing
less than all the bric-a-brac in motion.

A big jug, an Apostel-Krug, of Kruessen, was solemnly
dancing a minuet with a plump Faenza jar; a tall Dutch
clock was going through a gavotte with a spindle-legged
ancient chair; a very droll porcelain figure of Zitzenhausen
was bowing to a very stiff soldier in terre cuite of Ulm; an
old violin of Cremona was playing itself, and a queer little
shrill plaintive music that thought itself merry came from a
painted spinet covered with faded roses; some gilt Spanish
leather had got up on the wall and laughed; a Dresden
mirror was tripping about, crowned with flowers, and a
Japanese bonze was riding along on a griflSn ; a slim Venetian
rapier had come to blows with a stout Ferrara sabre, all
about a little pale-faced chit of a damsel in white Nymphen-
burg china; and a portly Franconian pitcher in grh gris
was calling aloud, "Oh, these Italians! always at feud!"
But nobody listened to him at all. A^great number of little
Dresden cups and saucers were all skipping and waltzing;
the teapots, with their broad round faces, were spinning
their own lids like teetotums; the high-backed gilded chairs
were having a game of cards together; and a little Saxe
poodle, with a blue ribbon at its throat, was running from
one to another, whilst a yellow cat of Qjmelis Zachtleven's
«ode about on a Delft horse in blue pottery of 1489. Meai^



Digitized



by Google



950 Stories Every Child Should Know

whQe the brilliant light shed on the scene came from three
silver candelabra, though they had no candles aet up in
them; and, what is the greatest miracle of all, August looked
on at these mad freaks and felt no sensation of wonder! He
only, as he heard the violin and the spinet pla3ring, felt an
irresistible desire to dance too.

No doubt his face said what he wished; for a lovely little
lady, all in pink and gold and white, with powdered hair,
and high-heeled shoes, and all made of the very finest and
fairest Meissen china, tripped up to him, and smiled, and
gave him her hand, and led him out to a minuet. And he
danced it perfectly — poor little August in his thick, clumsy
shoes, and his thick, clumsy sheepskin jacket, and his rough
homespim linen, and his broad Tyrolean hat! He must
have danced it perfectly, this dance of kings and queens in
da3rs when crowns were duly honoured, for the lovely lady
always smiled benignly and never scolded him at all, and
danced so divinely herself to the stately measures the spinet
was playing that August could not take his eyes off her till,
the minuet ended, she sat down on her own white-and-gold
bracket.

" I am the Princess of Saxe-Royal," she said to him, with
a benignant smile; ^'and you have got through that minuet
very fairly."

Then he ventured to say to her:

" Madame my princess, could you tell me kindly why
some of the figures and fiunitiu-e dance and speak, and
some lie up in a comer like liunber? It does make me
curious. Is it rude to ask ? **

For it greatly puzzled him why, when some of the bric-a-
brae was all full of life and motion, some was quite still and
had not a single thrill in it.

"My dear chfld," said the powdered lady, "is it possible



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUrnberg SUnfe 251

that you do not know the reason? Why, those silent, dull
things are imUation,*'

This she said with so much decision that she evidendy
considered it a condensed but complete answer.

"Imitation?" repeated August, timidly, not understand-
ing.

"Of course! Lies, falsehoods, fabrications!" said the
princess in pink shoes, very vivaciously. "They only pre-
tend to be what we are ! They never wake up : how can they ?
No imitation ever had any soul in it yet."

" Oh!" said August, humbly, not even sure that he imder-
stood entirely yet He looked at Hirschvogel: siu"ely it
had a royal soul within it: would it not wake up and speak ?
Oh dear! l^ow he longed to hear the voice of his fire-king!
And he began to forget that he stood by a lady who sat upon
a pedestal of gold-and-white china, with the year 1746 cut
on it, and the Meissen mark.

"What will you be when you are a man?" said the littie
lady, sharply, for her black eyes were quick though her red
lips were smiling. "Will you work for the Konigliche
Porcellan-Manufactur^ like my great dead Kandler?"

"I have never thought," said August, stammering; "at
least — ^that is — I do wish — I do hope to be a painter, as was
Master Augustin Hirschvogel at Nttmberg."

"Bravo!" said all the real bric-a-brac in one breath, and
the two Italian rapiers left off fighting to cry, "Benonel "
For there is not a bit of true bric-a-brac in all Europe that
does not know the names of the mighty masters.

August felt quite pleased to have won so much applause,
and grew as red as the lady's shoes with bashful contentment

" I knew all the Hirschvogel, from old Veit downwards,"
said a fat gris de Flandre beer- jug: " I myself was made at
Niimberg." And he bowed to the great stove very politely.



Digitized



by Google



353 Stories Every Child Shatdd Know

taking off hia own silver hat — I mean lid — ^with a courtl}'
sweep that he could scarcely have learned from burgO'
masters. The stove, however, was silent, and a sickening
suspicion (for what is such heart-break as a suspicion of
what we love?) came through the mind of August: Was
Hirschvogd only imitaiion ?

"No, no, no, no!" he said to himself, stoutly: though
Hirschvogel never stirred, never spoke, yet would he keep aU
faith in itl After all their happy years together, after all the
nights of warmth and joy he owed it, should he doubt his
own friend and hero, whose ^t lion's feet he had kissed in
his babyhood? ''No, no, no, nol" he said, again, with so
much empha^s that the Lady of Meissen looked sharply
again at him.

** No," she said, with pretty disdain ; " no, believe me, they
may ' pretend* forever. They can never look like us! They
imitate even our marks, but never can they look like the
real thing, never can they chassetU de race?^

" How should they ?" said a bronze statuette of Vischer's.
"They daub themselves green with verdigris, or sit out in
the rain to get rusted; but green and rust are not patina;
only the ages can give that!"

"And my imitations are all in primary colours, staring
colours, hot as the colours of a hostelry's sign-board!" said
the Lady of Meissen, with a shiver.

" Well, there is a gris de Flandre over there, who pretends
to be a Hans Elraut, as I am," said the jug with the silver
hat, pointing with his handle to a jug that lay prone on its
side in a comer. "He has copied me as exactly as it is
given to modems to copy us. Almost he might be mistaken
for me. But yet what a difference there b! How crude are
his blues! how evidently done over the glaze are his black
letters! He has tried to give himself my very twist: but what



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



The NUrnberg Stove 253

a lamentable exaggeration of that playful deviation in my
lines which in his becomes actual deformity I"

*'And look at that," said the gilt Cordovan leather, with
a contemptuous glance at a broad piece of gilded leather
spread out on a table. " They will sell him cheek by jowl
with me, and give him my name; but look! / am overlaid
with piure gold beaten thin as a film and laid on me in abso-
lute honesty by worthy Diego de las Gorgias, worker in
leather of lovely Cordova in the blessed reign of Ferdinand
the Most Christian. His gilding is one part gold to eleven
other parts of brass and rubbish, and it has been laid on him
with a brush — a brush — ^pah! of course he will be as black
as a crock in a few years' time, whilst lam as bright aswhen
I first was made, and, unless I am burnt as my Cordova
burnt its heretics, I shall shine on forever."

*'They canre pear-wood because it is so soft, and dye it
brown, and call it me " said an old oak cabinet, with a
chuckle.

** That is not so painful; it does not vulgarise you so much
as the cups they paint to-day and christen after m«," said a
Carl Theodor cup subdued in hue, yet gorgeous as a jewel.

''Nothing can be so annoying as to see common gim-
cracks aping m#," interposed the princess in the pink shoes.

**They even steal my motto, though it is Scripture," said
a Trauerkrug of Regensburg in black-and-white.

''And my own dots they put on plain English china
creatures!" sighed the little white maid of Nymphenburg.

" And they sell hundreds and thousands of conmion china
plates, calling them after me, and baking my saints and my
legends in a muflSle of to-day; it is blasphemy!" said a stout
plate of Gubbio, which in its year of birth had seen the face
of Maestro Giorgio.

"That is what is so t^rible in these bric-a-brac places^''



Digitized



by Google



254 Stories Every Child Should Know

said the princess of Meissen. ''It brings one in contact
with such low, imitative creatures; one really is safe nowhere
nowadays unless under glass at the Louvre or South
Kensington."

"And they get even there," sighed the gris de Flandre.
"A terrible thing happened to a dear friend of mine, a terre
cuite of Blasius (you know the lerres cuites of Blasius date
from 1560). Well, he was put imder glass in a museum
that shall be nameless, and he foimd himself set next to his
own imitation bom and baked yesterday at Frankfort, and
what think you the miserable creature said to him, with a
grin? 'Old Pipeclay,' that is what he called my friend,
'the fellow that bought me got just as much commission on
me as the fellow that bought you^ and that was all that he
thought about. You know it is only the public money that
goesP And the horrid creature grinned again till he actually
cracked himself. There is a Providence above all thingSi
even museums."

"Providence might have interfered before, and saved
the public money," said the little Meissen lady with the
pink shoes.

"After all, does it matter?" said a Dutch jar of Haarlem.
" All the shamming in the world will not make them usl "

" One does not like to be vulgarised," said the Lady of
Meissen, angrily.

"My maker, the Krabbetje,* did not trouble his head
about that," said the Haarlem jar, proudly. "The Krab-
betje made me for the kitchen, the bright, clean, snow-white
Dutch kitchen, well-nigh three centuries ago, and now I
am thought worthy the palace; yet I wish I were at home;
yes, I wish I could see the good Dutch vrouw, and the



Fan Aaselym, caUed Kxabbatie. the Little Crab, bom lixo, master-potter of Delft



* TanAasel
adiiaarlen.



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Nurtiberg Slave 255

shining canals, and the great green meadows dotted with
the kine."

"Ah! if we could all go back to our makers!" sighed the
Gubbio plate, thinking of Giorgio Andreoli and the glad
and gracious days of the Renaissance: and somehow the
words touched the frolicsome souls of the dancing jars, the
spinning teapots, the chairs that were playing cards; and
the violin stopped its merry music with a sob, and the
spinet sighed — ^thinking of dead hands.

Even the little Saxe poodle howled for a master forever
lost; and only the swords went on quarrelling, and made such
a clattering noise that the Japanese bonze rode at them on
his monster and knocked them both right over, and they lay
straight and still, looking foolish, and the little Nymphen-
burg maid, though she was crying, smiled and almost
laughed.

Then from where the great stove stood there came a
solenm voice.

All eyes turned upon Hirschvogel, and the heart of its
little human comrade gave a great jump of joy.

**My friends," said that clear voice from the turret of
Niirnberg faience, "I have listened to all you have said.
There is too much talking among the Mortalities whom one
of themselves has called the Windbags. Let not us be like
them. I hear among men so much vain speech, so much
precious breath and precious time wasted in empty boasts,
foolish anger, useless reiteration, blatant argument, ignoble
mouthings, that I have learned to deem speech a curse, laid
on man to weaken and envenom all his undertakings. For
over two hundred years I have never spoken myself: you,
I hear, are not so reticent. I only speak now because one
of you said a beautiful thing that touched me. If we all
might but go back to our makers! Ah, yes! if we might/



Digitized



by Google



2S6 Stories Every Child Should Know

We were made in days when even men were true creatures,
and so we, the work of their hands, were true too. We,
the begotten of ancient days, derive all the value in us from
the fact that our makers wrought at us with zeal, with piety,
with integrity, with faith — ^not' to win fortunes or to glut a
market, but to do nobly an honest thing and create for the
honour of the Arts and God. I see amidst you a litde
hiunan thing who loves me, and in his own ignorant childish
way loves Art, Now, I want him forever to remember this
night and these words; to remember that we are what we
are, and precious in the eyes of the world, because centuries
ago those who were of single mind and of piu-e hand so
created us, scorning sham and haste and counterfeit. Well
do I recollect my master, Augustin Hirschvogel. He led a
wise and blameless life, and wrought in loyalty and love,
and made his time beautiful thereby, like one of his own
rich, many-coloiu-ed church casements, that told holy tales
as the sun streamed through them. Ah, yes, my friends, to
go back to our masters! — ^that would be the best that could
befall us. But they are gone, and even the perishable
labours of their lives outlive them. For many, many years
I, once honoured of emperors, dwelt in a humble house and
warmed in successive winters three generations of little,
cold, hungry children. When I warmed them they forgot
that they were hungry; they laughed and told tales, and
slept at last about my feet. Then I knew that humble as
had become my lot it was one that my master would have
wished for me, and I was content. Sometimes a tired
woman would creep up to me, and smile because she was
near me, and point out my golden crown or my ruddy fruit
to a baby in her arms. That was better than to stand in a
great hallxof a great city, cold and empty, even though wise
men came to gaze and throngs of fools gaped, passing with



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUmberg Stave 257

flattering words. Where I go now I know not; but since I
go from that humble house where they loved me, I shall be
sad and alone. They pass so soon — those fleeting mortal
lives! Only we endure — ^we the things that the human brain
creates. We can but bless them a little as they glide by: if
we have done that, we have done what our masters wished.
So in us our masters, being dead, yet may speak and live."

Then the voice sank away in silence, and a strange golden
lij^t that had shone on the great stove faded away; so also
the light died down in the silver candelabra. A soft,
pathetic melody stole gently through the room. It came
from the old, old spinet that was covered with the faded
roses.

Then that sad, sighing music of a bygone day died too;
the clocks of the city struck six of the morning; day was
rising over the Bayerischenwald. August awoke with a
great start, and found himself lying on the bare bricks of
the floor of the chamber; and all the bric-d-brac was lying
quite still all around. The pretty Lady of Meissen was
motionless on her porcelain bracket, and the little Saxe
poodle was quiet at her side.

He rose slowly to his feet. He was very cold, but he was
not sensible of it or of the hunger that was gnawing his little
empty entrails. He was absorbed in the wondrous sight, in
the wondrous soimds, that he had seen and heard.

AU was dark around him. Was it still midnight or had
morning come? Morning, surely; for against the barred
shutters he heard the tiny song of the robin.

Tramp, tramp, too, came a heavy step up the stair. He
had but a moment in which to scramble back into the interior
of the great stove, when the door opened and the two dealers
entered, bringing burning candles with them to see their
way.



Digitized



by Google



asS Siories Every Child Should Know

August was scarcdy conscious of danger more than he
was of cdd or hunger. A marvellous sense of courage, of
security, of happiness, was about him, like strong and gentle
arms enfolding him and lifting him upward — upward-
upward I Hirschvogel would defend him.

The dealers undid the shutters, scaring the red-breast
away; and then tramped about in their heavy boots and
chatted in contented voices, and began to wrap up the stove
once more in all its straw and hay and cordage.

It never once occurred to them to glance inside. Why
should they look inside a stove that they had bought and
were about to sell again for all its glorious beauty of exterior.

The child still did not feel afraid. A great exaltation had
come to him: he was like one lifted up by his angek.

Presently the two traders called up their porters, and the
stove, heedfully swathed and wrapped and tended as though
it were some sick prince going on a journey, was borne on
the shoulders of six stout Bavarians down the stairs and out
of the door into the Marienplatz. Even behind all those
wrappings August felt the icy bite of the intense cold of the
outer air at dawn of a winter's day in Munich. The men
moved the stove with exceeding gentleness and care, so that
he had often been far more roughly shaken in his big
brothers' arms than he was in his journey now; and though
both hunger and thirst made themselves felt, being foes that
will take no denial, he was still in that state of nervous ex-
altation which deadens all physical sufiFering and is at once
a cordial and an opiate. He had heard Hirschvogel speak;
that was enough.

The stout carriers tramped through the city, six of them,
with the Niimberg fire-castle on their brawny shoulders, and
went right across Munich to the railway-station, and August
in the dark recognised all the ugly, jangling, pounding,



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The NUrnberg Stove 259

roaring, hissing railway-noises, and thought, despite his
courage and excitement, "Will it be a very long journey?"
For his stomach had at times an odd sinking sensation, and
his head often felt sadly light and swimming. If it was a
very, very long journey he felt half afraid that he would be
dead or something bad before the end, and Hirschvogd
would be so lonely: that was what he thought most about;
not much about himself, and not much about Dorothea
and the house at home. He was " high strung to high
emprise," and could not look behind him.

Whether for a long or a short journey, whether for weal or
woe, the stove with August still within it was once more
hoisted up into a great van; but this time it was not all
alone, and the two dealers as well as the six porters were
all with it.

He in his darkness knew that; for he heard their voices.
The train glided away over the Bavarian plain southward;
and he heard the men say something of Berg and the Wurm-
See, but their German was strange to him, and he could not
make out what these names meant.

The train rolled on, with all its fume and fuss, and roar of
steam, and stench of oil and burning coal. It had to go
quietly and slowly on account of the snow which was falling,
and which had fallen all night.

" He might have waited till he came to the city," grumbled
onjB man to another. "What weather to stay on at Berg I"

But who he was that stayed on at Berg, August could not
make out at all.

Though the men grumbled about the state of the roads
and the season, they were hilarious and well content, for they
laughed often, and, when they swore, did so good-
humouredly, and promised their porters fine presents at
New Year; and August, like a shrewd little boy as he wasg



Digitized



by Google



i6o Stories Every ChUd Shotdd Know

who even in the secluded Innthal had learned that money
is the chief mover of men's mirth, thought to himself, with a
terrible pang:

*^They have sold Hirschvogel for some great sum! They
have sold him already!''

Then his heart grew &int and sick within him, for he
knew very well that he must soon die, shut up without food
%nd water thus; and what new owner of the great fireplace
would ever permit him to dwell in it ?

"Never mind; I will die," thought he; **and Hirschvogel
Urill know it"

Perhaps you think him a very foolish little fellow; but I
do not

It b alwajTS good to be loyal and ready to endure to the
end.

It is but an hour and a quarter that the train usually takes
to pass from Munich to the Wurm-See or Lake of Stamberg;
but this morning the journey was much slower, because the
way was encimibered by snow. When it did reach Possen-
hofea and stop, and the NOmberg stove was lifted out once
more, August could see through the fretwork of the brass
door, as the stove stood upright &cing the lake, that this
Wium-See was a calm and noble piece of water, of great
width, with low wooded banks and distant motmtains, a
peaceful, serene place, full of rest.

It was now near ten o'clock. The sim had come forth;
there was a clear gray sky hereabouts; the snow was not
falling, though it lay white and smooth everywhere, down to
the edge of the water, which before long would itself be ice.

Before he had time to get more than a glimpse of the
green gliding surface, the stove was again lifted up and
{daced on a large boat that was in waiting— one of those very
long and huge boats which the women in these parts use as


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22

Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 19 of 22)