Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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lifting his legs up very high, and setting them down very hard.
This pause gave time for Gluck to collect his thoughts a
little, and, seeing no great reason to view his diminutive
visitor with dread, and feeling his curiosity overcome his
amazement, he ventured on a question of peculiar delicacy.

"Pray, sir," said Gluck, rather hesitatingly, "were you
my mug?"

On which the little man turned sharp round, walked
straight up to Gluck, and drew himself up to his full height.
"I," said the little man, "am the King of the Golden River.'*
Whereupon he timied about again, and took two more turns,
some six feet long, in order to allow time for the consternation
which this annoimcement produced in his auditor to evapo-
rate. After which, he again walked up to Gluck and stood
still, as if expecting some comment on his communication.

Gluck determined to say something at all events. "1
hope your Majesty is very well," said Gluck.

"Listen!" said the little man, deigning no reply to this
polite inquiry. "I am the King of what you mortals call
the Golden River. The shape you saw me in was owing
to the malice of a stronger king, from whose enchantments
you have this instant freed me. What I have seen of you,
and your conduct to your wicked brothers, renders me
willing to serve you; therefore, attend to what I tell you.
Whoever shall climb to the top of that mountain from which


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24 Stories Every Child Should Know

you see the Golden River issue, and shall cast into the stream
at its source three drops of holy water, for him, and for him
only, the river shall turn to gold. But no one failing in his
first, can succeed in a second attempt; and if anyone shall
cast unholy water into the river, it will overwhelm him, and
he will become a black stone." So saying, the ELing of the
Golden River turned away and deliberately walked into the
centre of the hottest flame of the furnace. His figure be-
came red, white, transparent, dazzling — a blaze of intense
light — ^rose, trembled, and disappeared. The King of the
Golden River had evaporated.

"Oh!" cried poor Gluck, running to look up the chinmey
after him; "oh dear, dear, dear me! My mug! my mug!
my mug!"


The King of the Golden River had hardly made the
extraordinary exit related in the last chapter, before Hans
and Schwartz came roaring into the house, very savagely
drunk. The discovery of the total loss of their last piece
of plate had the effect of sobering them just enough to enable
them to stand over Gluck, beating him very steadily for a
quarter of an hour; at the expiration of which period they
dropped into a couple of chairs, and requested to know what
he had to say for himself. Gluck told them his story, of
which, of course, they did not believe a word. They beat
him again, till their arms were tired, and staggered to bed. In
the morning, however, the steadiness with which he adhered
to his story obtained him some degree of credence; the
inmiediate consequence of which was, that the two brothers,
after wrangling a long time on the knotty question, which

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The King of the Golden River 25

of them should try his fortune first, drew their swords and
began fighting. The noise of the tray alarmed the neigh-
bours who, finding they could not pacify the combatants,
sent for the constable.

Hans, on hearing this, contrived to escape, and hid him-
self; but Schwartz was taken before the magistrate, fined
for breaking the peace, and, having drunk out his last
penny the evening before, was thrown into prison till he
should pay.

When Hans heard this, he was much delighted, and deter-
mined to set out immediately for the Golden River. How
to get the holy water was the question. He went to the
priest, but the priest could not give any holy water to so
abandoned a character. So Hans went to vespers in the
evening for the first time in his life, and, under pretence
of crossing himself, stole a cupful and returned home
in triumph.

Next morning he got up before the sun rose, put the holy
water into a strong flask, and two bottles of wine and some
meat in a basket, slung them over his back, took his alpine
staff in his hand, and set off for the mountains.

On his way out of the town he had to pass the prison, and
as he looked in at the windows, whom should he see but
Schwartz himself peeping out of the bars, and looking very

"Good morning, brother," said Hans; "have you any
, message for the King of the Golden River ? "

Schwartz gnashed his teeth with rage, and shook the bars
with all his strength; but Hans only laughed at him, and
advising him to make himself comfortable till he came back
again, shouldered his basket, shook the bottle of holy water
in Schwartz's face till it frothed again, and marched off in
the highest spirits in the world.


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26 stories Every Child Should Know

It was, indeed, a morning that might have made anyone
happy, even with no Golden River to seek for. Level lines
of dewy mist lay stretched along the valley, out of which rose
the massy moimtains — their lower cliffs in pale gray shadow,
hardly distinguishable from the floating vapour, but gradually
ascending till they caught the sunlight, which ran in sharp
touches of ruddy colour along the angular crags, and pierced,
in long level rays, through their fringes of spear-like pine.
Far above, shot up red splintered masses of castellated
rock, jagged and shivered into myriads of fantastic forms,
with here and there a streak of sunlit snow, traced down their
chasms like a line of forked lightning; and, far beyond, and
far above all these, fainter than the morning cloud, but purer
and changeless, slept, in the blue sky, the utmost peaks of
the eternal snow.

The Golden River, which sprang from one of the lower
and snowless elevations, was now nearly in shadow; all but
the uppermost jets of spray, which rose like slow smoke
above the undulating line of the cataract, and floated away
in feeble wreaths upon the morning wind.

On this object, and on this alone, Hans's eyes and thoughts
were fixed; forgetting the distance he had to traverse, he
set off at an imprudent rate of walking, which greatly ex-
hausted him before he had scaled the first range of the green
and low hills. He was, moreover, surprised, on si'rmounting
them, to find that a large glacier, of whose existence, notwith-
standing his previous knowledge of the mountains, he had
been absolutely ignorant, lay between him and the source of
the Golden River. He entered on it with the boldness of a
practised mountaineer; yet he thought he had never
traversed so strange or so dangerous a glacier in his life.
The ice was excessively slippery, and out of all its chasms
came wild sounds of gushing water; not monotonous of V>w,

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The King of the Golden River 27

but changeful and loud, rising occasionally into drifting
passages of wild melody, then breaking off into short melan-
choly tones, or sudden shrieks, resembling those of human
voices in distress or pain. The ice was broken into thou-
sands of confused shapes, but none, Hans thought like the
ordinary forms of splintered ice. There seemed a curious
expression about all their outlines— a perpetual resemblance
to living features, distorted and scornful. M3niads of
deceitful shadows, and lurid Ughts, played and floated about
and through the pale-blue pinnacles, dazzling and confusing
the sight of the traveller; while his ears grew dull and his
head giddy with the constant gush and roar of the concealed
waters. These painful circumstances increased upon him
as he advanced; the ice crashed and yawned into fresh
chasms at his feet, tottering spires nodded around him,
and fell thundering across his path; and, though he had
repeatedly faced these dangers on the most terrific glaciers,
and in the wildest weather, it was with a new and oppressive
feeling of panic terror that he leaped the last chasm, and
flung himself, exhausted and shuddering, on the firm turf
of the mountain.

He had been compelled to abandon his basket of food,
which became a perilous incumbrance on the glacier, and
had now no means of refreshing himself but by breaking
off and eating some of the pieces of ice. This, however,
relieved his thirst; an hour's repose recruited his hardy
frame, and, with the indomitable spirit of avarice, he
resimied his laborious journey.

His way now lay straight up a ridge of bare red rocks,
without a blade of grass toease the foot , or aprojecting ans^e
to afford an inch of shade from the south sun. It was past
noon, and theraysbeat intensely upon the steep path, while
the whole atmosphere was motionless, and penetrated with


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38 stories Every Child Should Know

heat. Intense thirst was soon added, to the bodily fatigue
with which Hans was now afflicted; glance after glance he
cast on the flask of water which hung at his belt. "Three
drops are enough,'* at last thought he; ''I may, at least, cool
my lips with it."

He opened the flask, and was raising it to his lips, when
his eye fell on an object lying on the rock beside him; he
thought it moved. It was a small dog, apparently in the last
agony of death from thirst. Its tongue was out, its jaws diy,
its limbs extended lifelessly, and a swarm of black ants were
crawling about its lips and throat. Its eye moved to the bottle
which Hans held in his hand. He raised it, drank, spumed
the animal with his foot, and passed on. And he did not
know how it was, but he thought that a strange shadow had
suddenly come across the blue sky.

The path became steeper and more rugged every moment;
and the high hill air, instead of refreshing him, seemed to
throw his blood into a fever. The noise of the hill cataracts
soimded like mockery in his ears; they were all distant, and
his thirst increased every moment. Another hour passed,
and he again looked down to the flask at his side; it was half
empty; but there was much more than three drops in it. He
stopped to open it, and again, as he did so, something moved
in the path above him. It was a fair child, stretched nearly
lifeless on the rock, its breast heaving with thirst, its eyes
closed, and its lips parched and burning. Hans eyed it
deliberately, diank, and passed on. And a dark-gray cloud
came over the sun, and long, snake-like shadows crept up
along the moimtain sides. Hans struggled on. The sun
was sinking, but its descent seemed to bring no coolness; the
leaden weight of the dead air pressed upon his brow and heart,
but the goal was near. He saw the cataract of the Golden
^Ter springing from the hillside, scarcely Ave hundred feet

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The King of the Golden River 29

above him. He paused for a moment to breathe, and sprang
on to complete his task.

At this instant a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and
saw a gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes
were sxmk, his features deadly pale, and gathered into an
expression of despair. "Water I" he stretched his arms to
Hans, and cried feebly, "Water! I am dying."

"I have none," replied Hans; "thou hast had thy share of
life." He strode over the prostrate body, and darted on.
And a flash of blue lightning rose out of the east, shaped like
a sword; it shook thrice over the whole heaven, and left it
dark with one heavy, impenetrable shade. The sun was
setting; it plunged toward the horizon like a red-hot ball.

The roar of the Golden River rose on Hans's ear. He stood
at the brink of the chasm through which it ran. Its waves
were filled with the red glory of the sunset: they shook their
crests like tongues of fire, and flashes of bloody light gleamed
along their foam. Their sound came mightier and mightier
on his senses; his brain grew giddy with the prolonged thunder.
Shuddering he drew the flask from his girdle, and hurled it
into the centre of the torrent. As he did so, an icy chill shot
through his limbs: he staggered, shrieked, and fell. The
waters closed over his cry. And the moaning of the river
rose wildly into the night, as it gushed over The Black


Poor little Gluck waited very anxiously alone in the house
for Hans's return. Finding he did not come back, he was
terribly frightened, and went and told Schwartz in the prison
all that had happened. ThcTi Schwartz was very much pleased,

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30 Stories Every Child Should Know

and said that Hans must certainly have been turned into a
black stone, and he should have all the gold to himself. But
Gluck was very sorry, and cried all night. When he got up
in the morning there was no bread in the house, nor any
money; so Gluck went and hil-ed himself to another gold-
smith, and he worked so hard, and so neatly, and so long
every day, that he soon got money enough together to pay his
brother's fine, and he went and gave it all to Schwartz, and
Schwartz got out of prison. Then Schwartz was quite pleased,
and said he should have some of the gold of the river. But
Gluck only begged he would go and see what had become
of Hans.

Now when Schwartz had heard that Hans had stolen the
holy water, he thought to himself that such a proceeding
might not be considered altogether correct by the King of
the Golden River, and determined to manage matters better.
So he took some more of Gluck's money, and went to a bad
priest who gave him some holy water very readily for it. Then
Schwartz was sure it was all quite right. So Schwartz got
up early in the morning before the sun rose, and took some
bread and wine in a basket, and put his holy water in a flask,
and set off for the mountains. Like his brother, he was much
surprised at the sight of the glacier, and had great difficulty
in crossing it, even after leaving his basket behind him. The
day was cloudless, but not bright: there was a heavy purple
haze hanging over the sky, and the hills looked lowering and
gloomy. And as Schwartz climbed the steep rock path, the
thirst came upon him, as it had upon his brother, imtil he
lifted his flask to his lips to drink. Then he saw the fair
child lying near him on the rocks, and it cried to him, and
moaned for water.

."Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half enou^
for myself," and passed on. And as he went he thought the

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The King of the Golden River 31

sunbeams grew more dim, and he saw a low bank cl black
cloud rising out of the west; and, when he had climbed tor
another hour, the thirst overcame him again, and he would
have drunk. Then he saw the old man lying before him on
the path, and heard him cry out for water. 'Water, indeed,"
said Schwartz; ''I haven't half enough for myself," and on
he went.

Then again the light seemed to fade from before his eyes,
and he looked up, and, behold, a mist, of the colour of blood,
had come over the sun; and the bank of black cloud had
risen very hig^ and its edges were tossing and tumbling like
the waves of an angry sea. And they cast long shadows,
which flickered over Schwartz's path.

Then Schwartz climbed for another hour, and again his
thirst returned; and as he lifted his flask to his lips, he thought
he saw his brother Hans lying exhausted on the path before
him; and, as he gazed, the figure stretched its arms to him,
and cried for water. "Ha, ha," laughed Schwartz, "are you
there? Remember the prison bars, my boy. Water indeed!
Do you suppose I carried it all the way up here for you?^*
And he strode over the figure; yet, as he passed, he thought
he saw a strange expression of mockery about its lips. And,
when he had gone a few yards farther, he looked back; but
the figure was not there.

And a sudden horror came over Schwartz, he knew not
why; but the thirst for gold prevailed over his fear, and he
rushed on. And the bank of black cloud rose to the zenith,
and out of it came bursts of spiry lightning, and waves of
darkness seemed to heave and float between their flashes
over the whole heavens. And the sky where the sun was
setting was all level, and like a lake of blood; and a strong
wind came out of that sky, tearing its crimson clouds into
fragments, and scattering them far into the darkness And


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32 Stories Every Child Should Knam

when Schwartz stood by the brink of the Gdden River, its
waves were black, like thunder clouds, but their foam was
like fire; and the roar of the waters below, and the thunder
above, met, as he cast the fiask into the stream. And, as he
did so, the lightning ^ared into his eyes, and the earth gave
way beneath him, and the waters closed over his cry. And
the moaning of the river rose wildly into the ni^t, as it gushed
over the Two Black Stones.


When Gluck foimd that Schwartz did not come back he
was very sony, and did not know what to do. He had no
money, and was obliged to go and hire himself again to the
goldsmith, who worked him very hard, and gave him veiy
littie money. So, after a month or two, Gluck grew tired,
and made up his mind to go and try his fortune with the
Golden River. "The little king looked very kind," thought
he. "I don't think he will turn me into a black stone." So
he went to the priest, and the priest gave him some holy water
as soon as he asked for it. Then Gluck took some bread in
his basket, and the bottle of water, and set off very early for
the moimtains.

If the glacier had occasioned a great deal of fatigue to his
brothers, it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither
so strong nor so practised on the moimtains. He had several
very bad falls, lost his basket and bread, and was very much
frightened at the strange noises imder the ice. He lay a long
time to rest on the grass, after he had got over, and began to
climb the hill in just the hottest part of the day. When he
had clunbed for an hour, he got dreadfully thirsty, and was

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The King of the Gdden River jj

going to drink like his brothers, when he saw an old man
coming down the path above him, looking very feeble, and
leaning on a staff. "My son," said the old man, "I am faint
vnth thirst, ^ve me some of that water.'' Then Glnck looked
at him, and, when he saw that he was pale and weaiy, he
gave him the water; "Only pray don't drink it all," said
Gluck. But the old man drank a great deal, and gave him
back the bottle two-thirds empty. Then he bade him good
speed, and Gluck went on again memly. And the path
became eaaer to his feet, and two or three blades of grass
appeared upon it, and some grasshoppers began singing on
the bank beside it; and Gluck thou^t he had never heard
such merry singing.

Then he went on for another hour, and the thirst increased
on him so that he thou^t he should be forced to drink. But,
as he raised the flask, he saw a little child lying panting by
the roadside, and it cried out piteously for water. Then
Gluck strug^ed with himself, and determined to bear the
thirst a little longer; and he put the bottle to the child's lips,
and it drank it all but a few drops. Then it smiled on him,
and got up, and ran down the hill; and Gluck locked after it
till it became as small as a little star, and then turned and
began climbing again. And then there were all kinds of sweet
flowers growing on the rocks, bri^t green moss, with pale
pink starry flowers, and soft belled gentians, more blue than
the sky at its deepest, and piure white transparent lilies. And
crimson and purple butterflies darted hither and thither, and
the sky sent down such pure li^t, that Gluck had never felt
so happy in his life.

Yet, when he had climbed for another hour, his thirst
became intolerable again; and, when he looked at his bottle,
he saw that there were only five or six drops left in it, and he
could not venture to drink. And, as he was hanging the


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34 SUffies Every Child Should Know

flask to his belt again, he saw a little dog lying on the roCks»
gasping for breath— just as Hans had seen it on the day of
his ascent. And Gluck stopped and looked at it and then
at the Golden River, not five hundred yards above him; and
he thought of the dwarfs words, '^ that no one could succeed,
except in his first attempt''; and he tried to pass the dog, but
it whined piteously, and Gluck stopped again. ''Poor
beastiel" said Gluck: ''it'll be dead when I come down
again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and closer
at it, and its eyt turned on him so mournfully that he could
not stand it. "Confound the King and his gold too," said
Gluck; and he opened the flask, and poured all the water
into the dog's mouth.

The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail
disappeaftd, its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its
nose became very red, its e3res became very twinkling; in
three seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood hb
old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.

"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be fright-
ened, it's all rig^t"; for Gluck showed manifest symptoms
of consternation at this unlooked-for reply to his last ob-
servation. "Why didn't you come before," continued the
dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally brothers of
yours, for me to have the trouble of tiiming into stones?
Very hard stones they make too."

"Oh dear mel" said Gluck; "have you really been ^

"Cruel!" said the dwarf, "they poured unholy water into
my stream; do you suppose I'm going to allow that?"

"Why," said Gluck, "I am sure, sir — ^your Majesty, I
mean — they got the water out of the church font."

"Very probably," replied the dwarf; "but," and hi?
countenance grew stem as he spoke, "the water which has

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The King of the Golden River 35

been refused to the cry of the weary and d3dng is unholy,
though it had been blessed by every saint in heaven; and
the water which is found in the vessel of mercy is holy, though
it had been defiled with corpses."

So saying, the dwarf stooped and plucked a lily that grew
at his feet. On its white leaves there hung three drops of
clear dew. And the dwarf shook them into the flask which
Gluck held in his lu.,nd. " Cast these into the river," he said,
"and descend on the other side of the mountains into the
Treasure Valley. And so good speed."

As he spoke, the figure of the dwarf became indistinct.
The pla3dng colours of his robe formed themselves into a
prismatic mist of dewy light; he stood for an instant veiled
with them as with the belt of a broad rainbow. The colours
grew faint, the mist rose into the air; the monarch had

And Gluck climbed to the brink of the Ck)lden River, and
its waves were as clear as crystal, and as brilliant as the sun.
And, when he cast the three drops of dew into the stream;
there opened where they fell a small circular whirlpool, into
which the waters descended with a musical noise.

Gluck stood watching it for some time, very much dis-
appointed, because not only the river was not turned into
gold, but its waters seemed much diminished in quantity.
Yet he obeyed his friend the dwarf, and descended the other
side of the mountains toward the Treasure Valley; and,
as he went, he thought he heard the noise of water working
its way imder the groimd. And, when he came in sight of
the Treasure Valley, behold, a river, like the Golden River
was springing from a new cleft of the rocks above it, and
was flowing in innumerable streams among the dry heaps
of red sand.

And as Gluck gazed, fresh grass sprang beside the new


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36 SiorUs Every CkUd Should Know

streams, and creeping plants grew, and climbed among thcr
moistening soil. Young flowers opened suddenly along
the river sides, as stars leap out when twiUght is deepening,
and thickets of myrtle, and tendrils of vine, cast lengthening
shadows over the valley as they grew. And thus the Treas-
ure Valley became a garden again, and the inheritance which
had been lost by cruelty was regained by love.

And Gluck went, and dwelt in the valley, and the poor
were never driven from his door: so that his bams became
full of com, and his house of treasure. And, for him, the
river had, according to the dwarf's promise, become a River
of Gold.

And, to this day, the inhabitants of the valley point out
the place where the three drops of holy dew were cast into

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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 3 of 22)