Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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The Niirnberg Stove 261

laundries, and the men as timber-rafts. The stove, with
much labour and much expenditure of time and care, was
hoisted into this, and August would have grown sick and
giddy with the heaving and falling if his big brothers had
not long used him to such tossing about, so that he was as
much at ease head, as feet, downward. The stove, once in
it safely with its guardians, the big boat moved across the
lake to Leoni. How a little hamlet on a Bavarian lake got
that Tuscan-soimding name I cannot tell; but Leoni it is.
The big boat was a long time crossing; the lake here is about
three miles broad, and these heavy barges are unwieldy and
heavy to move, even though they are towed and tugged at
from the shore.

"If we should be too late!" the two dealers muttered to
each other, in agitation and alarm. ''He said eleven
o'clock."

"Who was he?" thought August; "the buyer, of course,
of Hirschvogel." The slow passage across the Wurm-
See was accomplished at length: the lake was placid; there
was a sweet calm in the air and on the water; there was a
great deal of snow in the sky, though the sun was shining
and gave a solemn hush to the atmosphere. Boats and one
little steamer were going up and down; in the clear frosty
light the distant mountains of Zillerthal and the Algau Alps
were visible; market-people, cloaked and furred, went by
on the water or on the banks; the deep woods of the shores
were black and gray and brown. Poor August could see
nothing of a scene that would have delighted him; as the
stove was now set, he could only see the old worm-eaten
wood of the huge barge.

Presently they touched the pier at Leoni.

"Now, men, for a stout mile and half! You shall drink
your reward at Christmas time«" said one of the dealers to



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2&2 Stories Every Child Should Know

his porters, who, stout, strong men as they were, showed a
disposition to grumble at their task. Encoiiraged by large
promises, they shouldered sullenly the Niimberg stove,
grumbling again at its preposterous weight, but little dream-
ing that they carried within it a small, panting, trembling
boy; for August began to tremble now that he was about to
see the future owner of Hirschvogel.

'' If he looks a good, kind man," he thought, '* I will beg
him to let me stay with it."

The porters began their toilsome journey, and moved off
from the village pier. He could see nothing, for the brass
door was over his head, and all that gleamed through it was
the dear gray sky. He had been tilted on to his ba(±:, and
If he had not been a litde motmtaineer, used to hanging
head-downward over crevasses, and, moreover, reasoned
to rough treatment by the hunters and guides of the hills
and the salt-workers in the town, he would have been made
Ul and sick by the bruising and shaking and many changes
of position to which he had been subjected.

The way the men took was a mile and a half in length,
but the road was heavy with snow, and the burden they bore
was heavier still. The dealers cheered them on, swore at
them and praised them in one breath; besought them and
reiterated their splendid promises, for a dock was striking
eleven, and they had been ordered to reach their destination
at that hour, and, though the air was so cold, the heat-drops
rolled off their foreheads as they walked, they were so fright-
ened at being late. But the porters would not budge a foot
quicker than they chose, and as they were not poor four-
footed carriers their employers dared not thrash them,
though most willingly would thev have done so.

The road seemed terribly long to the anxious tradesmen,
to the plodding porters, to the poor little man inside the stove.



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The Nurnberg Stove 263

as he kept sinking and rising, sinking and rising, >;vith each
of their steps.

Where they were going he had no idea, only after a wry
long time he lost the sense of the fresh icy wind blowing on
his face through the brass-work above, and felt by their
movements beneath him that they were mounting steps or
stairs. Then he heard a great many different voices, but he
could not understand what was being said. He felt that his
bearers paused some time, then moved on and on again.
Their feet went so softly he thought they must be moving
on carpet, and as he felt a warm air come to him he con-
cluded that he was in some heated chambers, for he was a
clever litde fellow, and could put two and two together,
though he was so hungry and so thirsty and his empty stom-
ach felt so strangely. They must have gone, he thought,
through some very great nimiber of rooms, for they walked so
long on and on, on and on. At last the stove was set down
again, and, happily for him, set so that his feet were down-
ward.

What he fancied was that he was in some museum, like
that which he had seen in the city of Innspruck.

The voices he heard were very hushed, and the steps
seemed to go away, far away, leaving him alone with Hirsch-
vogel. He dared not look out, but he peeped through the
brass-work, and all he could see was a big carved lion's
head in ivory, with a gold crown atop. It belonged to a
velvet fauteuil, but he could not see the chair, only the
ivory lion.

There was a delicious fragrance in the air — a fragrance as
flowers. "Only how can it be flowers?" thought August.
"It is November I"

From afar off, as it seemed, there came a dreamy, ex-
quisite music, as sweet as the spinet's had been, but so



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j64 Stories Every Child Should Know

much fuller, so much richer, seeming as though a chorus
of angels were singing all together. August ceased to think
of the museum; he thought of heaven. ''Are we gone to
the Master?" he thought, remembering the words of
Srschvogel.

All was so still around him; there was no sound anywhere
except the sound of the far-off choral music.

He did not know it, but he was in the royal castle of
Berg, and the music he heard was the music of Wagner,
who was playing in a distant room some of the motives of
"Parsival."

Presently he heard a fresh step near him, and he heard a
low voice say, close behind him, "So!" An exclamation no
doubt, he thought, of admiration and wonder at the beauty
of Hirschvogel.

Then the same voice said, after a long pause, during
which no doubt, as August thought, this newcomer was
examining all the details of the wondrous fire-tower, " It was
well bought; it is exceedingly beautiful! It is most un-
doubtedly the work of Augustin Hirschvogel."

Then the hand of the speaker turned the round handle
of the brass door, and the fainting soul of the poor little
prisoner within grew sick with fear.

The handle turned, the door was slowly drawn open,
someone bent down and looked in, and the same voice that
he had heard in praise of its beauty called aloud, in surprise,
^' What is this in it? A live chfld!"

Then August, terrified beyond all self control, and domi-
nated by one master-p)assion, sprang out of the body of the
stove and fell at the feet of the speaker.

** Oh, let me stay! Pray, meinherr, let me stay ! " he sobbedL
•'I have come all the way with Hirschvogel!"

Some gentlemen's hands seized him, not gently by any



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The Nurnberg Stave 265

means, and their lips angrily muttered in his ear, ''Little
knave, peace! be quiet! hold your tongue! It is the king!"

They were about to drag him out of the august atmos-
phere as if he had been some venomous, dangerous beast
come there to slay, but the voice he had heard speak of the
stove said, in kind accents, "Poor little child! he is very
young. Let him go: let him speak to me.'*

The word of a king is law to his courtiers: so, sorely
against their wish, the angry and astonished chamberlains
let August slide out of their grasp, and he stood there in his
little rough sheepskin coat and his thick, mud-covered boots,
with his curling hair all in a tangle, in the midst of the
most beautiful chamber he liad ever dreamed of, and in
the presence of a young man with a beautiful dark face,
and eyes full of dreams and fire; and the young man said
to him:

"My child, how came you here, hidden in this stove?
Be not afraid: tell me the truth. I am the king."

August in an instinct of homage cast his great battered
black hat with the tarnished gold tassels down on the floor
of the room, and folded his little brown hands in supplication.
He was too intensely in earnest to be in any way abashed; he
was too lifted out of himself by his love for Hirschvogel to be
conscious of any awe before any earthly majesty. He was
only so glad — so glad it was the king. Kings were always
kind; so the Tyrolese think, who love their lords.

"Oh, dear king!" he said, with trembling entreaty in his
faint little voice, "Hirschvogel was ours, and we have loved
it all our lives; and father sold it. And when I saw that it
did really go from us, then I said to myself I would go with
it; and I have come all the way inside it. And last night
it spoke and said beautiful things. And I do pray you to
let me live with it, and I will go out every morning and cul"



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366 Stories Every Child Should Know

wood for it and you, if only you will let me stay beside it
No one ever has fed it with fuel but me ance I grew big
enough, and it loves me; it does indeed; it said so last ni^t;
and it said that it had been happier with us than if it were in
any palace *'

And then his breath failed him, and, as he lifted his little
eager, pale &ce to the yotmg king's, great tears were falling
down his cheeks.

Now, the king liked all poetic and imcommon things, and
there was that in the child's face which pleased and touched
him. He motioned to his gentlemen to leave the Utde boy
alone.

''What is your name?" he asked him.

'' I am August Strehla. My father is Hans Strehla. We
live in Hall, in the Innthal; and Hirschvogel has been ours
so long— so long!"

His lips quivered with a broken sob.

** And have you truly travelled inside this stove all the way
from Tyrol?" I

''Yes," said August; "no one thought to look in^de till I

you did." [

The king laughed; then another view of the matter '

occurred to him. I

" Who bought the stove of your father ? " he inquired.

"Traders of Mimich," said August, who did not know
that he ought not to have spoken to the king as to a simple
citizen, and whose little brain was whirling and spinning ,

dizzily round its one central idea. j

"What sum did they pay your father, do you know?" |

a^ed the sovereign.

"Two hundred florins," said August, with a great sigh of
shame. "It was so much money, and he is so poor, and
diere are so many of us." I



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The NUrnberg Stave 267

The king turned to his gentlemen-in-waiting. "Did
these dealers of Munich come with the stove?"

He was answered in the afl&rmative. He desired them to
be sought for and brought before him. As one of his cham-
berlains hastened on the errand, the monarch looked at
August with compassion.

" You are very pale, little fellow: when did you eat last?"

"I had some bread and sausage with me; yesterday
afternoon I finished it."

"You would like to eat now?"

"If I might have a little water I would be glad; my
throat is very dry."

The king had water and wine brought for him, and cake
also; but August, though he drank eagerly, could not swal-
low anything. His mind was in too great a tumult.

"May I stay with Hirschvogel? — may I stay?" he said
with feverish agitation.

" Wait a little," said the king, and asked, abruptly, " What
do you wish to be when you are a man?"

"A painter. I wish to be what Hirschvogel was — I mean
the master that made my Hirschvogel."

" I understand," said the king.

Then the two dealers were brought into their sovereign's
presence. They were so terribly alarmed, not being either
so innocent or so ignorant as August was that they were
trembling as though they were being led to the slaughter,
and they were so utterly astonished too at a child having
come all the way from Tyrol in the stove, as a gentleman of
the court had just told them this child had done, that they
could not tell what to say or where to look, and presented
a very foolish aspect indeed.

"Did you buy this Ntimberg stove of this little boy's
%ther for two hundred florins?" the king asked them; and



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s68 Stories Every Child Shotdd Know

his voice was no longer soft and kind as it had been when
addressing the child, but very stem.

'' Yes, your majesty," murmured the trembling traders.

''And how much did the gentleman who purchased it
for me give to you?"

''Two thousand ducats, your majesty," muttered the
dealers, frightened out of their wits, and telling the truth
in their fright.

The gentleman was not present: he was a trusted counse-
lor in art matters of the king's, and often made purchases
for him.

The king smiled a little, and said nothing. The gentle-
man had made out the price to him as deven thousand
ducats.

" You will give at once to this boy's father the two thou-
sand gold ducats that you received, less the two hundred
Austrian florins that you paid him," said the king to his
humiliated and abject subjects. "You are great rogues.
Be thankful you are not more greatly pimished."

He dismissed them by a sign to his coiutiers, and to one
of these gave the mission of making the dealers of the^
Marienplatz disgorge their ill-gotten gains.

August heard, and felt dazzled yet miserable. Twg
thousand gold Bavarian ducats for his father! Why, his
father would never need to go any more to the salt-baking^!
And yet, whether for ducats or for florins, Hirschvogel was
sold just the same, and would the king let him stay
with it? — ^would he?

" Oh, do! oh, please do!" he murmured, joining his little
brown weather-stained hands, and kneeling down before
the young monarch, who himself stood absorbed in painful
thought, for the deception so basely practised for the greedy
sake of gain on him by a trusted coimsellor was bitter to him.



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The NUmberg Stave 269

He looked down on the chQd, and as he did so smiled once
more.

" Rise up, my little man," he said, in a kind voice; " kneel
only to your God. Will I let you stay with your Hirsch-
vogel? Yes, I will, you shall stay at my court, and you shall
be taught to be a painter — in oils or on porcelain as you will
— and you must grow up worthily, and win all the laurels
at our Schools of Art, and if when you are twenty-one years
old you have done well and bravely, then I will give you
your Niimberg stove, or, if I am no more living, then those
who reign after me shall do so. And now go away with
this gentleman, and be not afraid, and you shall light a fire
every morning in Hirschvogel, but you will not need to go
out and cut the wood."

Then he smiled and stretched out his hand; the courtiers
tried to make August imderstand that he ought to bow and
touch it with his lips, but August could not understand that
anyhow; he was too happy. He threw his two arms about
the king's knees, and kissed his feet passionately; then he
lost all sense of where he was, and fainted away from hunger,
and tire, and emotion, and wondrous joy.

As the darkness of his swoon closed in on him, he heard
in his fancy the voice from Hirschvogel saying:

"Let us be worthy our maker!"

He is only a scholar yet, but he is a happy scholar, and
promises to be a great man. Sometimes he goes back for a
few days to Hall, where the gold ducats have made his
father prosperous. In the old house-room there is a large
white porcelain stove of Munich, the king's gift to Dorothea
and 'Gilda.

And August never goes home without going into the great
church and saying his thanks to God, who blessed his
strange winter's journey in the Niimberg stove. As for



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2JO Stories Every Child Should Know

his dream in the dealers' room that night, he will never
admit that he did dream it; he still declares that he saw it
all and heard the voice of HirschvogeL And who shall
say that he did not? for what is the gift of the poet and the
artist except to see the sights which others cannot see and
to hear the sounds that others cannot hear?



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X

RAB AND HIS FRIENDS

FOUR-AND-THIRTY years ago, Bob Ainslic and I
were coining up Infirmary Street from the Edinburgh
High School, our heads together, and our arms intertwisted,
as only lovers and boys know how, or why.

When we got to the top of the street, and turned north,
we espied a crowd at the Tron Chxirch. "A dog-fight!"
shouted Bob, and was off; and so was I, both of us all but
praying that it might not be over before we got up! And
is not this boy-nature? and human nature too? and don't
we all wish a house on fire not to be out before we see it?
Dogs like fighting; old Isaac says they '^ delight" in it, and
for the best of all reasons; and boys are not cruel because
they like to see the fight. They see three of the great
cardinal virtues of dog or man — courage, endurance, and
skill — in intense action. This is very different from a love
of making dogs fight, and enjo3ring, and aggravating, and
making gain by their pluck. A boy — ^be he ever so fond
himself of fighting, if he be a good boy, hates and despises
all this, but he would run off with Bob and me &st
enough: it is a natural, and not wicked interest, that all
boys and men have in witnessing intense energy in action.

Does any curious and finely-ignorant woman wish to
know how Bob's eye at a glance annoimced a dog-fight to
his brain? He did not, he could not see the dogs fighting;
it was a flash of an inference, a rapid induction. The
crowd round a couple of dogs fighting; is a crowd masculine

371



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27a Stones Every Child Should Know ^

mainly, with an occasional active, compassionate woman,
fluttering wildly round the outside, and using her tongue
and her hands freely upon the men, as so many '' brutes;"
it is a crowd annular, compact, and mobile; a crowd centrip-
etal, having its eyes and its heads all bent downwards and
inwards, to one common focus.

Well, Bob and I are up, and find it is not over: a small
thoroughbred, white bull-terrier, is busy throttling a large
shepherd's dog, unaccustomed to war, but not to be trifled
with. They are hard at it; the scientific little fellow doing
his work in great style, his pastoral enemy fighting wildly,
but with the sharpest of teeth and a great courage. Science
and breeding, however, soon had their own; the Game
Chicken, as the premature Bob called him, working his way
up, took his final grip of poor Yarrow's throat — and he lay
gasping and done for. His master, a brown, handsome,
big young shepherd from Tweedsmuir, would have liked
to have knocked down any man, would ''drink up Esil,
or eat a crocodile," for that part, if he had a chance: it was
no use kicking the little dog; that would only make him
hold the closer. Many were the means shouted out in
mouthfuls, of the best possible ways of ending it. " Water ! "
but there was none near, and many cried for it who might
have got it from the well at Blackfriars W5md. "Bite the
tail!" and a large, vague, benevolent, middle-aged man,
more desirous than wise, with some strug^e got the bushy
end of Yarrow's tail into his ample mouth, and bit it with all
his might. This was more than enough for the much-
enduring, much-perspiring shepherd, who, with a gleam
of joy over his broad visage, delivered a terrific facer upon
our large, vague, benevolent, middle-aged friend — ^who
went down like a shot.

Still the Chicken holds; death not far off. ''Snuff! a



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• Rob and his Friends 273

pinch of snuff!" observed a calm, highly-dressed young
buck, with an eye-glass in his eye. "Snuff, indeed!"
growled the angry crowd, affronted and glaring. "Snuff!
a pinch of snuff!" again observes the buck but with more
urgency; whereon were produced ^veral open boxes, and
from a mull which may have been at CuUoden, he took a
pinch, knelt down, and presented it to the nose of the
Chicken. The laws of physiology and of snuff take their
course; the Chicken sneezes, and Yarrow is free!

The yoimg pastoral giant stalks off with Yarrow in btB
arms — comforting him.

But the Bull Terrier's blood is up, and his soul unsatisfied;
he grips the first dog he meets, and discovering she is not
a dog, in Homeric phrase, he makes a brief sort of amendCy
and is off. The boys, with Bob and me at their head, are
after him ; down Niddry Street he goes, bent on mischief;
up the Cowgate like an arrow — ^Bob and I, and our small
men, panting behind.

There, under the single arch of the South Bridge, is a
huge mastiff, saimtering down the middle of the causeway,
as if with his hands in his pockets: he is old, gray, brindled,
as big as a little Highland bull, and has the Shake-
spearian dewlaps shaking as he goes.

The Chicken makes straight at him, and fastens on his
throat. To our astonishment, the great creatiu-e does
nothing but stand still, hold himself up, and roar — ^yes,
roar; a long, serious, remonstrative roar. How is this?
Bob and I are up to them. He is muzzled! The bailies had
proclaimed a general muzzling, and his master, studying
strength and economy mainly, had encompassed his huge
jaws in a home-made apparatus, constructed out of the
leather of some ancient breechin. His mouth was open as
far as it could; his lips cuded up in rage— a, sort of terrible



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•74 Stories Every CkOd ShoM Know

grin; his teeth gleaming, ready, from out the darkness^
the strap across his mouth tense as a bowstring; his whole
frame stiff with indignation and surprise; his roar asking
us all round, "Did you ever see the like of this?" He
looked a statue of anger and astonishment, done in
Aberdeen granite.

We soon had a crowd: the Chicken held on. "A knife!^
cried Bob; and a cobbler gave him his knife: you know
the kind of knife, worn away obliquely to a point, and
always keen. I put its edge to the tense leather; it ran
before it; and then!— one sudden jerk of that enormous
head, a sort of dirty mist about his mouth, no noise — and
the bright and fierce little fellow is dropped, limp, and dead.
A solemn pause : this was more than any of us had bargained
for. 1 turned the little fellow over, and saw he was quite
dead; the mastiff had taken him by the small of the back
like a rat, and broken it.

He looked down at his victim appeased, ashamed, and
amazed; snuffed him all over, stared at him, and taking a
sudden thought, turned round and trotted off. Bob took
the dead dog up, and said, "John, we'll bury him after
tea.*' "Yes," said I, and was off after the mastiff. He
made up the G>wgate at a rapid swing; he had forgotten
some engagement. He turned up the Candlemaker Row,
and stopped at the Harrow Inn.

There was a carrier's cart ready to start, and a keen
thin, impatient, black-a-vised little man, his hand at his
gray horse's head, looking about angrily for something.
"Rab, ye thief!" said he, aiming a kick at my great friend,
who drew cringing up, and avoiding the heavy shoe with
more agility than dignity, and watching his master's eye,
slunk dismayed imder the cart — ^his ears down, and as
much as he had of tail down too.



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Rob and his Friends 275

What a man this must be — ^thought I — to whom my
tremendous hero turns tail! The carrier saw the muzzle
hanging, cut and useless, from his neck, and I eagerly told
him the story, which Bob and I always thought, and still
think. Homer, or King David, or Sir Walter alone were
worthy to rehearse. The severe little man was mitigated,
and condescended to say, "Rab, my man, puir Rabbie," —
whereupon the stump of a tail rose up, the ears were cocked,
the eyes filled, and were comforted; the two friends were
reconciled. "Hupp I" and a stroke of the whip were given
to Jess; and off went the three.

Bob and I buried the Game Chicken that night (we
had not much of a tea) in the back-green of his house
in Melville Street, No. 17, with considerable gravity and
silence; and being at the time in the Iliad, and, like all
boys, Trojans, we called him Hector of course.



Six years have passed — a long time for a boy and a
dog: Bob Ainslie is off to the wars; I am a medical student
A.nd clerk at Minto House Hospital.

Rab I saw almost every week, on the Wednesday and
we had much pleasant intimacy. I found the way to his


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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 20 of 22)