worker in leather of lovely Cordova in the blessed reign of Ferdinand
the Most Christian. _His_ gilding is one part gold to eleven other
parts of brass and rubbish, and it has been laid on him with a
brush - _a brush_ - pah! of course he will be as black as a crock in a
few years' time, whilst I am as bright as when I first was made, and,
unless I am burnt as my Cordova burnt its heretics, I shall shine on
"They carve pear-wood because it is so soft, and dye it brown, and
call it _me_" said an old oak cabinet, with a chuckle.
"That is not so painful; it does not vulgarise you so much as the cups
they paint to-day and christen after _me_," said a Carl Theodor cup
subdued in hue, yet gorgeous as a jewel.
"Nothing can be so annoying as to see common gimcracks aping _me_,"
interposed the princess in the pink shoes.
"They even steal my motto, though it is Scripture," said a
_Trauerkrug_ of Regensburg in black-and-white.
"And my own dots they put on plain English china creatures!" sighed
the little white maid of Nymphenburg.
"And they sell hundreds and thousands of common china plates, calling
them after me, and baking my saints and my legends in a muffle of
to-day; it is blasphemy!" said a stout plate of Gubbio, which in its
year of birth had seen the face of Maestro Giorgio.
"That is what is so terrible in these _bric-Ã -brac_ places," said the
princess of Meissen. "It brings one in contact with such low,
imitative creatures; one really is safe nowhere nowadays unless under
glass at the Louvre or South Kensington."
"And they get even there," sighed the _grÃ¨s de Flandre_. "A terrible
thing happened to a dear friend of mine, a _terre cuite_ of Blasius
(you know the _terres cuites_ of Blasius date from 1560). Well, he was
put under glass in a museum that shall be nameless, and he found
himself set next to his own imitation born and baked yesterday at
Frankfort, and what think you the miserable creature said to him, with
a grin? 'Old Pipeclay,' that is what he called my friend, 'the fellow
that bought _me_ got just as much commission on me as the fellow that
bought _you_, and that was all that _he_ thought about. You know it is
only the public money that goes!' And the horrid creature grinned
again till he actually cracked himself. There is a Providence above
all things, even museums."
"Providence might have interfered before, and saved the public money,"
said the little Meissen lady with the pink shoes.
"After all, does it matter?" said a Dutch jar of Haarlem, "All the
shamming in the world will not _make_ them us!"
"One does not like to be vulgarised," said the Lady of Meissen,
"My maker, the Krabbetje, did not trouble his head about that,"
said the Haarlem jar, proudly. "The Krabbetje made me for the kitchen,
the bright, clean, snow-white Dutch kitchen, well-nigh three centuries
ago, and now I am thought worthy the palace; yet I wish I were at
home; yes, I wish I could see the good Dutch vrouw, and the shining
canals, and the great green meadows dotted with the kine."
[Footnote 1: Jan Asselyn, called Krabbetje, the Little Crab, born
1610, master-potter of Delft and Haarlem.]
"Ah! if we could all go back to our makers!" sighed the Gubbio plate,
thinking of Giorgio Andreoli and the glad and gracious days of the
Renaissance: and somehow the words touched the frolicsome souls of the
dancing jars, the spinning teapots, the chairs that were playing
cards; and the violin stopped its merry music with a sob, and the
spinet sighed - thinking of dead hands.
Even the little Saxe poodle howled for a master forever lost; and only
the swords went on quarrelling, and made such a clattering noise that
the Japanese bonze rode at them on his monster and knocked them both
right over, and they lay straight and still, looking foolish, and the
little Nymphenburg maid, though she was crying, smiled and almost
Then from where the great stove stood there came a solemn voice.
All eyes turned upon Hirschvogel, and the heart of its little human
comrade gave a great jump of joy.
"My friends," said that clear voice from the turret of NÃ¼rnberg
faÃ¯ence, "I have listened to all you have said. There is too much
talking among the Mortalities whom one of themselves has called the
Windbags. Let not us be like them. I hear among men so much vain
speech, so much precious breath and precious time wasted in empty
boasts, foolish anger, useless reiteration, blatant argument, ignoble
mouthings, that I have learned to deem speech a curse, laid on man to
weaken and envenom all his undertakings. For over two hundred years I
have never spoken myself: you, I hear, are not so reticent. I only
speak now because one of you said a beautiful thing that touched me.
If we all might but go back to our makers! Ah, yes! if we might! We
were made in days when even men were true creatures, and so we, the
work of their hands, were true too. We, the begotten of ancient days,
derive all the value in us from the fact that our makers wrought at us
with zeal, with piety, with integrity, with faith - not to win fortunes
or to glut a market, but to do nobly an honest thing and create for
the honour of the Arts and God. I see amidst you a little human thing
who loves me, and in his own ignorant childish way loves Art. Now, I
want him forever to remember this night and these words; to remember
that we are what we are, and precious in the eyes of the world,
because centuries ago those who were of single mind and of pure hand
so created us, scorning sham and haste and counterfeit. Well do I
recollect my master, Augustin Hirschvogel. He led a wise and blameless
life, and wrought in loyalty and love, and made his time beautiful
thereby, like one of his own rich, many-coloured church casements,
that told holy tales as the sun streamed through them. Ah, yes, my
friends, to go back to our masters! - that would be the best that could
befall us. But they are gone, and even the perishable labours of their
lives outlive them. For many, many years I, once honoured of emperors,
dwelt in a humble house and warmed in successive winters three
generations of little, cold, hungry children. When I warmed them they
forgot that they were hungry; they laughed and told tales, and slept
at last about my feet. Then I knew that humble as had become my lot it
was one that my master would have wished for me, and I was content.
Sometimes a tired woman would creep up to me, and smile because she
was near me, and point out my golden crown or my ruddy fruit to a baby
in her arms. That was better than to stand in a great hall of a great
city, cold and empty, even though wise men came to gaze and throngs of
fools gaped, passing with flattering words. Where I go now I know
not; but since I go from that humble house where they loved me, I
shall be sad and alone. They pass so soon - those fleeting mortal
lives! Only we endure - we the things that the human brain creates. We
can but bless them a little as they glide by: if we have done that, we
have done what our masters wished. So in us our masters, being dead,
yet may speak and live."
Then the voice sank away in silence, and a strange golden light that
had shone on the great stove faded away; so also the light died down
in the silver candelabra. A soft, pathetic melody stole gently through
the room. It came from the old, old spinet that was covered with the
Then that sad, sighing music of a bygone day died too; the clocks of
the city struck six of the morning; day was rising over the
Bayerischenwald. August awoke with a great start, and found himself
lying on the bare bricks of the floor of the chamber; and all the
_bric-Ã -brac_ was lying quite still all around. The pretty Lady of
Meissen was motionless on her porcelain bracket, and the little Saxe
poodle was quiet at her side.
He rose slowly to his feet. He was very cold, but he was not sensible
of it or of the hunger that was gnawing his little empty entrails. He
was absorbed in the wondrous sight, in the wondrous sounds, that he
had seen and heard.
All was dark around him. Was it still midnight or had morning come?
Morning, surely; for against the barred shutters he heard the tiny
song of the robin.
Tramp, tramp, too, came a heavy step up the stair. He had but a moment
in which to scramble back into the interior of the great stove, when
the door opened and the two dealers entered, bringing burning candles
with them to see their way.
August was scarcely conscious of danger more than he was of cold or
hunger. A marvellous sense of courage, of security, of happiness, was
about him, like strong and gentle arms enfolding him and lifting him
upward - upward - upward! Hirschvogel would defend him.
The dealers undid the shutters, scaring the red-breast away; and then
tramped about in their heavy boots and chatted in contented voices,
and began to wrap up the stove once more in all its straw and hay and
It never once occurred to them to glance inside. Why should they look
inside a stove that they had bought and were about to sell again for
all its glorious beauty of exterior.
The child still did not feel afraid. A great exaltation had come to
him: he was like one lifted up by his angels.
Presently the two traders called up their porters, and the stove,
heedfully swathed and wrapped and tended as though it were some sick
prince going on a journey, was borne on the shoulders of six stout
Bavarians down the stairs and out of the door into the Marienplatz.
Even behind all those wrappings August felt the icy bite of the
intense cold of the outer air at dawn of a winter's day in Munich. The
men moved the stove with exceeding gentleness and care, so that he had
often been far more roughly shaken in his big brothers' arms than he
was in his journey now; and though both hunger and thirst made
themselves felt, being foes that will take no denial, he was still in
that state of nervous exaltation which deadens all physical suffering
and is at once a cordial and an opiate. He had heard Hirschvogel
speak; that was enough.
The stout carriers tramped through the city, six of them, with the
NÃ¼rnberg fire-castle on their brawny shoulders, and went right across
Munich to the railway-station, and August in the dark recognised all
the ugly, jangling, pounding, roaring, hissing railway-noises, and
thought, despite his courage and excitement, "Will it be a _very_ long
journey?" For his stomach had at times an odd sinking sensation, and
his head often felt sadly light and swimming. If it was a very, very
long journey he felt half afraid that he would be dead or something
bad before the end, and Hirschvogel would be so lonely: that was what
he thought most about; not much about himself, and not much about
Dorothea and the house at home. He was "high strung to high emprise,"
and could not look behind him.
Whether for a long or a short journey, whether for weal or woe, the
stove with August still within it was once more hoisted up into a
great van; but this time it was not all alone, and the two dealers as
well as the six porters were all with it.
He in his darkness knew that; for he heard their voices. The train
glided away over the Bavarian plain southward; and he heard the men
say something of Berg and the Wurm-See, but their German was strange
to him, and he could not make out what these names meant.
The train rolled on, with all its fume and fuss, and roar of steam,
and stench of oil and burning coal. It had to go quietly and slowly on
account of the snow which was falling, and which had fallen all night.
"He might have waited till he came to the city," grumbled one man to
another. "What weather to stay on at Berg!"
But who he was that stayed on at Berg, August could not make out at
Though the men grumbled about the state of the roads and the season,
they were hilarious and well content, for they laughed often, and,
when they swore, did so good-humouredly, and promised their porters
fine presents at New Year; and August, like a shrewd little boy as he
was, who even in the secluded Innthal had learned that money is the
chief mover of men's mirth, thought to himself, with a terrible pang:
"They have sold Hirschvogel for some great sum! They have sold him
Then his heart grew faint and sick within him, for he knew very well
that he must soon die, shut up without food and water thus; and what
new owner of the great fireplace would ever permit him to dwell in it?
"Never mind; I _will_ die," thought he; "and Hirschvogel will know
Perhaps you think him a very foolish little fellow; but I do not.
It is always good to be loyal and ready to endure to the end.
It is but an hour and a quarter that the train usually takes to pass
from Munich to the Wurm-See or Lake of Starnberg but this morning the
journey was much slower, because the way was encumbered by snow. When
it did reach Possenhofen and stop, and the NÃ¼rnberg stove was lifted
out once more, August could see through the fretwork of the brass
door, as the stove stood upright facing the lake, that this Wurm-See
was a calm and noble piece of water, of great width, with low wooded
banks and distant mountains, a peaceful, serene place, full of rest.
It was now near ten o'clock. The sun had come forth; there was a clear
gray sky hereabouts; the snow was not falling, though it lay white and
smooth everywhere, down to the edge of the water, which before long
would itself be ice.
Before he had time to get more than a glimpse of the green gliding
surface, the stove was again lifted up and placed on a large boat that
was in waiting - one of those very long and huge boats which the women
in these parts use as 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-sounding 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 his porters, who, stout,
strong men as they were, showed a disposition to grumble at their
task. Encouraged by large promises, they shouldered sullenly the
NÃ¼rnberg stove, grumbling again at its preposterous weight, but little
dreaming 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 clear gray sky. He had
been tilted on to his back, and if he had not been a little
mountaineer, used to hanging head-downward over crevasses, and,
moreover, seasoned to rough treatment by the hunters and guides of the
hills and the salt-workers in the town, he would have been made ill
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 clock 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 frightened 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 they have done so.
The road seemed terribly long to the anxious tradesmen, to the
plodding porters, to the poor little man inside the stove, as he kept
sinking and rising, sinking and rising, with each of their steps.
Where they were going he had no idea, only after a very 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 concluded that he was in some heated
chambers, for he was a clever little fellow, and could put two and two
together, though he was so hungry and so thirsty and his empty stomach
felt so strangely. They must have gone, he thought, through some very
great number 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 downward.
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 Hirschvogel. 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!"
From afar off, as it seemed, there came a dreamy, exquisite music, as
sweet as the spinet's had been, but so 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 Hirschvogel.
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 undoubtedly 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 child!"
Then August, terrified beyond all self control, and dominated by one
master-passion, 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 sobbed. "I have
come all the way with Hirschvogel!"
Some gentlemen's hands seized him, not gently by any 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 atmosphere 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 had 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 cut
wood for it and you, if only you will let me stay beside it. No one
ever has fed it with fuel but me since I grew big enough, and it loves
me; it does indeed; it said so last night; 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 face to the young king's, great tears were falling down his
Now, the king liked all poetic and uncommon things, and there was that
in the child's face which pleased and touched him. He motioned to his
gentlemen to leave the little 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
"Yes," said August; "no one thought to look inside till you did."
The king laughed; then another view of the matter occurred to him.
"Who bought the stove of your father?" he inquired.
"Traders of Munich," 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.
"What sum did they pay your father, do you know?" asked the sovereign.
"Two hundred florins," said August, with a great sigh of shame. "It
was so much money, and he is so poor, and there are so many of us."
The king turned to his gentlemen-in-waiting. "Did these dealers of
Munich come with the stove?"
He was answered in the affirmative. He desired them to be sought for
and brought before him. As one of his chamberlains 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
"You would like to eat now?"
"If I might have a little water I would be glad; my throat is very
The king had water and wine brought for him, and cake also; but