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rich they did get. They generally contrived to keep their
com by them till it was very dear, and then sell it for twice
its value; they had heaps of gold lying about on their floors,
yet it was never known that they had given so much as a
penny or a crust in charity; they never went to mass;
grumbled perpetually at paying tithes; and were, in a word,
of so cruel and grinding a temper, as to receive from all those
with whom they had any dealings the nickname of the
"Black Brothers."

The youngest brother, Gluck, was as completely opposed,
in both appearance and character, to his seniors as could
possibly be imagined or desired. He was not above twelve
years old, fair, blue-eyed, and kind in temper to every living
thing. He did not, of coiu-se, agree particularly well with


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xo Stories Every Child Should Know

his brothers, or, rather, they did not agree with him. He was
usually appointed to the honourable office of turnspit, when
there was anything to roast, which was not often; for, to do
the brothers justice, they were hardly less sparing upon
themselves than upon other people. At other times he used
to clean the shoes, floors, and sometimes the plates, occa-
sionally getting what was left on them, by way of encourage-
ment, and a wholesome quantity of dry blows, by way of

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

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


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The King of ihe Golden River ii

bread, it would do their hearts good to have somebody to
eat it with them."

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

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

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

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

Gluck was so perfectly paralysed by the singular appear-
ance of his visitor that he remained fixed without uttering a


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12 Stories Every Child Should Know

word, until the old gentleman, having performed another,
and a more energetic concerto on the knocker, turned roimd
to look after his fly-away cloak. In so doing he caught
sight of Gluck's little yellow head jammed in the window,
with its mouth and eyes very wide open indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The King of the Golden River 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your cap, sir?"

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

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

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

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


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f4 Stories Every Child Should Know

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

"Impossible, sir," said Gluck.

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

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

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

Then Gluck warmed a plate and sharpened a knife. "I
dont care if I do get beaten for it," thought he. Just as he
had cut a large slice out of the mutton there came a tre-
mendous rap at the door. The old gentleman jiunped off
the hob, as if it had suddenly become inconveniently warm.
Gluck fitted the slice into the mutton again, with desperate
efforts at exactitude, and ran to open the door.

"What did you keep us waiting in the rain for?" said
Schwartz, as he walked in, throwing his umbrella in Gluck's
face. "Ay! what for, indeed, you little vagabond?" said
Hans, administering an educational box on the ear, as he
followed his brother into the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

"How did he get in?" roared Schwartz.

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

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The King of the Golden River 15

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

''Who are you, sir?" demanded Schwartz, turning upon

''What's your business?" snarled Hans.

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

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

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

"Ay!" said Hans, "there are enough of them to keep
you warm. Walk ! "

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

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

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

"A little bit," said the old goitleman.

"Be off!" said Schwartz.

"Pray, gentlemen "

"Off, an4 be hanged 1" cried Hans, seizing him by the
collar. But he had no sooner touched the old gentleman's


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i6 Stories Every Child Should Know

collar, than away he went after the toUing-pin, ^Mnning
round and round, till he fell into the comer on the top of it
Then Schwartz was very angry, and ran at the old gentle-
man to turn him out; but he also had hardly touched him,
when away he went after Hans and the rolling-pin, and hit
his head against the wall as he tumbled into the comer.
And so there they lay, all three.

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

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

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

"You promised me one slice, brother, you know,'* said
^rU **{)YiliTid^f^^!^'^l^H^k\Mtig it fc^'I 'feupj^xtse^ aM>going

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The RtfiM of the Golden River 17

such a thissg again. Leave the room, sir; and have the
kindness to wait in the coal cellar till I call yon.''

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

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

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

"Only I," said the litde gentleman.

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

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

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

"You'll find my card on the kitchen table," the old goitle-
man called after them. "Remember the lasi visit."

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

Dawn came at last and the two brothers looked out of
Gluck's little window in the morning. The Treasure Valley


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i8 Stories Every Child Should Know

was (me mass of ruin and desolation. The inundation had
swept away trees, crops, and cattle, and left in their stead a
waste of red sand and gray mud. The two brothers crept
shivering and honor-struck into the kitchen. The water
had gutted the whole first floor; com, money, almost every
movable thing, had been swept away and there was left only
a small white card on the kitchen table. On it, in larg^,
breezy, long-legged letters, were engraved the words: South-
West Wind, Esquire.


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

"Suppose we turn goldsmiths?" said Schwartz to Hans, as
they entered the large city. "It is a good knave's trade; we

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The King of the Golden River 19

can put a great deal of copper into the gold, without any one's
finding it out."

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

When they were gone, Gluck took a farewell look at his old
friend in the melting-pot. The flowing hair was all gone;


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20 Stories Every Child Should Know

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

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

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

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

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

"Bless me!" said Gluck again; "what is that?" He
looked again into all the comers and cupboards, and then

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The King of the Golden River 21

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

"Hollo!" said the voice.

Gluck made no answer.

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

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

" Come, Gluck, my boy," said the voice out of the pot again,
"Pm all right; pom: me out." «

But Gluck was too much astonished to do an3rthing of the

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


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^2 Stories Every Child Should Know

Still Gluck couldn't move.

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

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

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

This was certainly rather an abrupt and unconnected
mode of commencing conversation. It might indeed be
supposed to refer to the course of Gluck's thoughts, wliicb

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The King of the Golden Rivep ' 23

had first produced the dwarf's observations out of the pot;
but whatever it referred to, Gluck had no inclination to dis-
pute the dictum.

"Woiildn't it, sir?" said Gluck, very mildly and sub-
missively indeed.

"No," said the dwarf, conclusively. "No, it wouldn't.'*
And with that, the dwarf pulled his cap hard over his brows>
and took two turns, of three feet long, up and down the room,

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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 2 of 22)