Sometimes porters came and took away this case and the other, a sack
here, a bale there, now a big bag, now a dead chamois. Every time the
men trampled near him, and swore at each other, and banged this and
that to and fro, he was so frightened that his very breath seemed to
stop. When they came to lift the stove out, would they find him? and
if they did find him, would they kill him? That was what he kept
thinking of all the way, all through the dark hours, which seemed
without end. The goods-trains are usually very slow, and are many days
doing what a quick train does in a few hours. This one was quicker
than most, because it was bearing goods to the King of Bavaria; still,
it took all the short winter's day and the long winter's night and
half another day to go over ground that the mail-trains cover in a
forenoon. It passed great armoured Kuffstein standing across the
beautiful and solemn gorge, denying the right of way to all the foes
of Austria. It passed twelve hours later, after lying by in
out-of-the-way stations, pretty Rosenheim, that marks the border of
Bavaria. And here the Nürnberg stove, with August inside it, was
lifted out heedfully and set under a covered way. When it was lifted
out, the boy had hard work to keep in his screams; he was tossed to
and fro as the men lifted the huge thing, and the earthenware walls of
his beloved fire-king were not cushions of down. However, though they
swore and grumbled at the weight of it, they never suspected that a
living child was inside it, and they carried it out on to the platform
and set it down under the roof of the goods-shed. There it passed the
rest of the night and all the next morning, and August was all the
while within it.
The winds of early winter sweep bitterly over Rosenheim, and all the
vast Bavarian plain was one white sheet of snow. If there had not been
whole armies of men at work always clearing the iron rails of the
snow, no trains could ever have run at all. Happily for August, the
thick wrappings in which the stove was enveloped and the stoutness of
its own make screened him from the cold, of which, else, he must have
died - frozen. He had still some of his loaf, and a little - a very
little - of his sausage. What he did begin to suffer from was thirst;
and this frightened him almost more than anything else, for Dorothea
had read aloud to them one night a story of the tortures some wrecked
men had endured because they could not find any water but the salt
sea. It was many hours since he had last taken a drink from the
wooden spout of their old pump, which brought them the sparkling,
ice-cold water of the hills.
But, fortunately for him, the stove having been marked and registered
as "fragile and valuable," was not treated quite like a mere bale of
goods, and the Rosenheim stationmaster, who knew its consignees,
resolved to send it on by a passenger-train that would leave there at
daybreak. And when this train went out, in it, among piles of luggage
belonging to other travellers, to Vienna, Prague, Buda-Pest, Salzburg,
was August, still undiscovered, still doubled up like a mole in the
winter under the grass. Those words, "fragile and valuable," had made
the men lift Hirschvogel gently and with care. He had begun to get
used to his prison, and a little used to the incessant pounding and
jumbling and rattling and shaking with which modern travel is always
accompanied, though modern invention does deem itself so mightily
clever. All in the dark he was, and he was terribly thirsty; but he
kept feeling the earthenware sides of the Nürnberg giant and saying,
softly, "Take care of me; oh, take care of me, dear Hirschvogel!"
He did not say, "Take me back;" for, now that he was fairly out in the
world, he wished to see a little of it. He began to think that they
must have been all over the world in all this time that the rolling
and roaring and hissing and jangling had been about his ears; shut up
in the dark, he began to remember all the tales that had been told in
Yule round the fire at his grandfather's good house at Dorf, of gnomes
and elves and subterranean terrors, and the Erl King riding on the
black horse of night, and - and - and he began to sob and to tremble
again, and this time did scream outright. But the steam was screaming
itself so loudly that no one, had there been anyone nigh, would have
heard him; and in another minute or so the train stopped with a jar
and a jerk, and he in his cage could hear men crying aloud, "München!
Then he knew enough of geography to know that he was in the heart of
Bavaria. He had had an uncle killed in the Bayerischenwald by the
Bavarian forest guards, when in the excitement of hunting a black bear
he had overpassed the limits of the Tyrol frontier.
That fate of his kinsman, a gallant young chamois-hunter who had
taught him to handle a trigger and load a muzzle, made the very name
of Bavaria a terror to August.
"It is Bavaria! It is Bavaria!" he sobbed to the stove; but the stove
said nothing to him; it had no fire in it. A stove can no more speak
without fire than a man can see without light. Give it fire, and it
will sing to you, tell tales to you, offer you in return all the
sympathy you ask.
"It is Bavaria!" sobbed August; for it is always a name of dread
augury to the Tyroleans, by reason of those bitter struggles and
midnight shots and untimely deaths which come from those meetings of
jäger and hunter in the Bayerischenwald. But the train stopped; Munich
was reached, and August, hot and cold by turns, and shaking like a
little aspen-leaf, felt himself once more carried out on the shoulders
of men, rolled along on a truck, and finally set down, where he knew
not, only he knew he was thirsty - so thirsty! If only he could have
reached his hand out and scooped up a little snow!
He thought he had been moved on this truck many miles, but in truth
the stove had been only taken from the railway-station to a shop in
the Marienplatz. Fortunately, the stove was always set upright on its
four gilded feet, an injunction to that effect having been affixed to
its written label, and on its gilded feet it stood now in the small
dark curiosity-shop of one Hans Rhilfer.
"I shall not unpack it till Anton comes," he heard a man's voice say;
and then he heard a key grate in a lock, and by the unbroken stillness
that ensued he concluded he was alone, and ventured to peep through
the straw and hay. What he saw was a small square room filled with
pots and pans, pictures, carvings, old blue jugs, old steel armour,
shields, daggers, Chinese idols, Vienna china, Turkish rugs, and all
the art lumber and fabricated rubbish of a _bric-à-brac_ dealer's. It
seemed a wonderful place to him; but, oh! was there one drop of water
in it all? That was his single thought; for his tongue was parching,
and his throat felt on fire, and his chest began to be dry and choked
as with dust. There was not a drop of water, but there was a lattice
window grated, and beyond the window was a wide stone ledge covered
with snow. August cast one look at the locked door, darted out of his
hiding place, ran and opened the window, crammed the snow into his
mouth again and again, and then flew back into the stove, drew the hay
and straw over the place he entered by, tied the cords, and shut the
brass door down on himself. He had brought some big icicles in with
him, and by them his thirst was finally, if only temporarily,
quenched. Then he sat still in the bottom of the stove, listening
intently, wide awake, and once more recovering his natural boldness.
The thought of Dorothea kept nipping his heart and his conscience with
a hard squeeze now and then; but he thought to himself, "If I can take
her back Hirschvogel then how pleased she will be, and how little
'Gilda will clap her hands!" He was not at all selfish in his love for
Hirschvogel: he wanted it for them all at home quite as much as for
himself. There was at the bottom of his mind a kind of ache of shame
that his father - his own father - should have stripped their hearth and
sold their honour thus.
A robin had been perched upon a stone griffin sculptured on a
house-eave near. August had felt for the crumbs of his loaf in his
pocket, and had thrown them to the little bird sitting so easily on
the frozen snow.
In the darkness where he was he now heard a little song, made faint by
the stove-wall and the window-glass that was between him and it, but
still distinct and exquisitely sweet. It was the robin, singing after
feeding on the crumbs. August, as he heard, burst into tears. He
thought of Dorothea, who every morning threw out some grain or some
bread on the snow before the church. "What use is it going _there_,"
she said, "if we forget the sweetest creatures God has made?" Poor
Dorothea! Poor, good, tender, much-burdened little soul! He thought of
her till his tears ran like rain.
Yet it never once occurred to him to dream of going home. Hirschvogel
Presently the key turned in the lock of the door; he heard heavy
footsteps and the voice of the man who had said to his father, "You
have a little mad dog; muzzle him!" The voice said, "Ay, ay, you have
called me a fool many times. Now you shall see what I have gotten for
two hundred dirty florins. _Potztausend_! never did _you_ do such a
stroke of work."
Then the other voice grumbled and swore, and the steps of the two men
approached more closely, and the heart of the child went pit-a-pat,
pit-a-pat, as a mouse's does when it is on the top of a cheese and
hears a housemaid's broom sweeping near. They began to strip the stove
of its wrappings: that he could tell by the noise they made with the
hay and the straw. Soon they had stripped it wholly; that too, he
knew by the oaths and exclamations of wonder and surprise and rapture
which broke from the man who had not seen it before.
"A right royal thing! A wonderful and never-to-be-rivalled thing!
Grander than the great stove of Hohen-Salzburg! Sublime! magnificent!
So the epithets ran on in thick guttural voices, diffusing a smell of
lager-beer so strong as they spoke that it reached August crouching in
his stronghold. If they should open the door of the stove! That was
his frantic fear. If they should open it, it would be all over with
him. They would drag him out; most likely they would kill him, he
thought, as his mother's young brother had been killed in the Wald.
The perspiration rolled off his forehead in his agony; but he had
control enough over himself to keep quiet, and after standing by the
Nürnberg master's work for nigh an hour, praising, marvelling,
expatiating in the lengthy German tongue, the men moved to a little
distance and began talking of sums of money and divided profits, of
which discourse he could make out no meaning. All he could make out
was that the name of the king - the king - the king came over very often
in their arguments. He fancied at times they quarrelled, for they
swore lustily and their voices rose hoarse and high; but after a while
they seemed to pacify each other and agree to something, and were in
great glee, and so in these merry spirits came and slapped the
luminous sides of stately Hirschvogel, and shouted to it:
"Old Mumchance, you have brought us rare good luck! To think you were
smoking in a silly fool of a salt-baker's kitchen all these years!"
Then inside the stove August jumped up, with flaming cheeks and
clinching hands, and was almost on the point of shouting out to them
that they were the thieves and should say no evil of his father, when
he remembered, just in time, that to breathe a word or make a sound
was to bring ruin on himself and sever him forever from Hirschvogel.
So he kept quite still, and the men barred the shutters of the little
lattice and went out by the door, double-locking it after them. He had
made out from their talk that they were going to show Hirschvogel to
some great person: therefore he kept quite still and dared not move.
Muffled sounds came to him through the shutters from the streets
below - the rolling of wheels, the clanging of church-bells, and bursts
of that military music which is so seldom silent in the streets of
Munich. An hour perhaps passed by; sounds of steps on the stairs kept
him in perpetual apprehension. In the intensity of his anxiety, he
forgot that he was hungry and many miles away from cheerful, Old World
little Hall, lying by the clear gray river-water, with the ramparts of
the mountains all round.
Presently the door opened again sharply. He could hear the two
dealers' voices murmuring unctuous words, in which "honour,"
"gratitude," and many fine long noble titles played the chief parts.
The voice of another person, more clear and refined than theirs,
answered them curtly, and then, close by the Nürnberg stove and the
boy's ear, ejaculated a single "_Wunderschön_!" August almost lost his
terror for himself in his thrill of pride at his beloved Hirschvogel
being thus admired in the great city. He thought the master-potter
must be glad too.
"_Wunderschön_!" ejaculated the stranger a second time, and then
examined the stove in all its parts, read all its mottoes, gazed long
on all its devices.
"It must have been made for the Emperor Maximilian," he said at last;
and the poor little boy, meanwhile, within, was "hugged up into
nothing," as you children say, dreading that every moment he would
open the stove. And open it truly he did, and examined the brass-work
of the door; but inside it was so dark that crouching August passed
unnoticed, screwed up into a ball like a hedgehog as he was. The
gentleman shut to the door at length, without having seen anything
strange inside it; and then he talked long and low with the tradesmen,
and, as his accent was different from that which August was used to,
the child could distinguish little that he said, except the name of
the king and the word "gulden" again and again. After a while he went
away, one of the dealers accompanying him, one of them lingering
behind to bar up the shutters. Then this one also withdrew again,
double-locking the door.
The poor little hedgehog uncurled itself and dared to breathe aloud.
What time was it?
Late in the day, he thought, for to accompany the stranger they had
lighted a lamp; he had heard the scratch of the match, and through the
brass fretwork had seen the lines of light.
He would have to pass the night here, that was certain. He and
Hirschvogel were locked in, but at least they were 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 Maïla'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 Nürnberg 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 at his
father, but he did feel that it had been so, so cruel to sell
Hirschvogel. The mere memory of all those long winter evenings, when
they had all closed round it, and roasted chestnuts or crab-apples 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 believe 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 sound of the city bells, and the knowledge that
night drew near upon him so completely, 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 Hirschvogel would care. Yes, he was
sure Hirschvogel would care. Had he not decked it all summer long with
alpine roses and edelweiss and heaths and made it sweet with thyme and
honeysuckle and great garden-lilies? Had he ever forgotten when Santa
Claus came to make it its crown of holly and ivy and wreathe it all
"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 Hirschvogel!
After a time he dropped asleep, as children can do when they weep, and
little robust hill-born boys most surely 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 clothes were warm ones, and his blood was young. So he was
not cold, though Munich is terribly cold in the nights of December;
and he slept on and on - which was a comfort to him, for he forgot his
woes, and his perils, and his hunger for a time.
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 would have done you or me.
For what he saw was nothing less than all the _bric-à-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 griffin; 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 Nymphenburg china; and a portly Franconian pitcher in _grès
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 Cornelis Zachtleven's rode
about on a Delft horse in blue pottery of 1489. Meanwhile the
brilliant light shed on the scene came from three silver candelabra,
though they had no candles set 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
playing, 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
homespun linen, and his broad Tyrolean hat! He must have danced it
perfectly, this dance of kings and queens in days 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
"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 furniture dance and speak, and some lie up in a corner like
lumber? It does make me curious. Is it rude to ask?"
For it greatly puzzled him why, when some of the _bric-à-brac_ was all
full of life and motion, some was quite still and had not a single
thrill in it.
"My dear child," said the powdered lady, "is it possible that you do
not know the reason? Why, those silent, dull things are _imitation_."
This she said with so much decision that she evidently considered it a
condensed but complete answer.
"Imitation?" repeated August, timidly, not understanding.
"Of course! Lies, falsehoods, fabrications!" said the princess in pink
shoes, very vivaciously. "They only _pretend_ to be what we are! They
never wake up: how can they? No imitation ever had any soul in it
"Oh!" said August, humbly, not even sure that he understood entirely
yet. He looked at Hirschvogel: surely it had a royal soul within it:
would it not wake up and speak? Oh dear! how 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 little 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
"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
"Bravo!" said all the real _bric-à-brac_ in one breath, and the two
Italian rapiers left off fighting to cry, "_Benone_!" For there is not
a bit of true _bric-à-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
_grès de Flandre_ beer-jug: "I myself was made at Nürnberg." And he
bowed to the great stove very politely, taking off his own silver
hat - I mean lid - with a courtly sweep that he could scarcely have
learned from burgomasters. 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 Hirschvogel only
"No, no, no, no!" he said to himself, stoutly: though Hirschvogel
never stirred, never spoke, yet would he keep all faith in it! 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 gilt lion's
feet he had kissed in his babyhood? "No, no, no, no!" he said, again,
with so much emphasis that the Lady of Meissen looked sharply again at
"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
_chassent 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 _grès de Flandre_ over there, who pretends to be a
Hans Kraut, 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 corner. "He has
copied me as exactly as it is given to moderns to copy us. Almost he
might be mistaken for me. But yet what a difference there is! 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 a
lamentable exaggeration of that playful deviation in my lines which in
his becomes actual deformity!"
"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! _I_ am overlaid with pure gold beaten thin as a film
and laid on me in absolute honesty by worthy Diego de las Gorgias,