gentleman, having performed another, and a more energetic concerto on
the knocker, turned round to look after his fly-away cloak. In so
doing he caught sight of Gluck's little yellow head jammed in the
window, with its mouth and eyes very wide open indeed.
"Hollo!" said the little gentleman, "that's not the way to answer the
door. I'm wet, let me in."
To do the little gentleman justice, he _was_ wet. His feather hung
down between his legs like a beaten puppy's tail, dripping like an
umbrella; and from the ends of his moustaches the water was running
into his waistcoat pockets, and out again like a mill stream.
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck, "I'm very sorry, but I really can't."
"Can't what?" said the old gentleman.
"I can't let you in, sir - I can't indeed; my brothers would beat me to
death, sir, if I thought of such a thing. What do you want, sir?"
"Want?" said the old gentleman, petulantly, "I want fire, and shelter;
and there's your great fire there blazing, crackling, and dancing on
the walls, with nobody to feel it Let me in, I say; I only want to
Gluck had had his head, by this time, so long out of the window that
he began to feel it was really unpleasantly cold, and when he turned,
and saw the beautiful fire rustling and roaring, and throwing long
bright tongues up the chimney, as if it were licking its chops at the
savory smell of the leg of mutton, his heart melted within him that it
should be burning away for nothing. "He does look _very_ wet," said
little Gluck; "I'll just let him in for a quarter of an hour." Round
he went to the door, and opened it; and as the little gentleman walked
in, there came a gust of wind through the house, that made the old
"That's a good boy," said the little gentleman. "Never mind your
brothers. I'll talk to them."
"Pray, sir, don't do any such thing," said Gluck. "I can't let you
stay till they come; they'd be the death of me."
"Dear me," said the old gentleman, "I'm very sorry to hear that. How
long may I stay?"
"Only till the mutton's done, sir," replied Gluck, "and it's very
Then the old gentleman walked into the kitchen, and sat himself down
on the hob, with the top of his cap accommodated up the chimney, for
it was a great deal too high for the roof.
"You'll soon dry there, sir," said Gluck, and sat down again to turn
the mutton. But the old gentleman did _not_ dry there, but went on
drip, drip, dripping among the cinders, and the fire fizzed, and
sputtered, and began to look very black, and uncomfortable: never was
such a cloak; every fold in it ran like a gutter.
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck at length, after watching the water
spreading in long, quicksilver-like streams over the floor for a
quarter of an hour; "mayn't I take your cloak?"
"No, thank you," said the old gentleman.
"Your cap, sir?"
"I am all right, thank you," said the old gentleman rather gruffly.
"But - sir - I'm very sorry," said Gluck, hesitatingly; "but - really,
sir - you're - putting the fire out."
"It'll take longer to do the mutton, then," replied his visitor dryly.
Gluck was very much puzzled by the behaviour of his guest, it was such
a strange mixture of coolness and humility. He turned away at the
string meditatively for another five minutes.
"That mutton looks very nice," said the old gentleman at length.
"Can't you give me a little bit?"
"Impossible, sir," said Gluck.
"I'm very hungry," continued the old gentleman. "I've had nothing to
eat yesterday, nor to-day. They surely couldn't miss a bit from the
He spoke in so very melancholy a tone, that it quite melted Gluck's
heart. "They promised me one slice to-day, sir," said he; "I can give
you that, but not a bit more."
"That's a good boy," said the old gentleman again.
Then Gluck warmed a plate and sharpened a knife. "I don't care if I do
get beaten for it," thought he. Just as he had cut a large slice out
of the mutton there came a tremendous rap at the door. The old
gentleman jumped off the hob, as if it had suddenly become
inconveniently warm. Gluck fitted the slice into the mutton again,
with desperate efforts at exactitude, and ran to open the door.
"What did you keep us waiting in the rain for?" said Schwartz, as he
walked in, throwing his umbrella in Gluck's face. "Ay! what for,
indeed, you little vagabond?" said Hans, administering an educational
box on the ear, as he followed his brother into the kitchen.
"Bless my soul!" said Schwartz when he opened the door.
"Amen," said the little gentleman, who had taken his cap off, and was
standing in the middle of the kitchen, bowing with the utmost possible
"Who's that?" said Schwartz, catching up a rolling-pin, and turning to
Gluck with a fierce frown.
"I don't know, indeed, brother," said Gluck in great terror.
"How did he get in?" roared Schwartz.
"My dear brother," said Gluck, deprecatingly, "he was so _very_ wet!"
The rolling-pin was descending on Gluck's head; but at the instant,
the old gentleman interposed his conical cap, on which it crashed with
a shock that shook the water out of it all over the room. What was
very odd, the rolling-pin no sooner touched the cap than it flew out
of Schwartz's hand, spinning like a straw in a high wind, and fell
into the corner at the further end of the room.
"Who are you, sir?" demanded Schwartz, turning upon him.
"What's your business?" snarled Hans.
"I'm a poor old man, sir," the little gentleman began very modestly,
"and I saw your fire through the window, and begged shelter for a
quarter of an hour."
"Have the goodness to walk out again, then," said Schwartz. "We've
quite enough water in our kitchen, without making it a drying-house."
"It is a cold day to turn an old man out in, sir; look at my gray
hairs." They hung down to his shoulders, as I told you before.
"Ay!" said Hans, "there are enough of them to keep you warm. Walk!"
"I'm very, very hungry, sir; couldn't you spare me a bit of bread
before I go?"
"Bread indeed!" said Schwartz; "do you suppose we've nothing to do
with our bread but to give it to such red-nosed fellows as you?"
"Why don't you sell your feather?" said Hans, sneeringly. "Out with
"A little bit," said the old gentleman.
"Be off!" said Schwartz.
"Pray, gentlemen - "
"Off, and be hanged!" cried Hans, seizing him by the collar. But he
had no sooner touched the old gentleman's collar, than away he went
after the rolling-pin, spinning round and round, till he fell into the
corner on the top of it. Then Schwartz was very angry, and ran at the
old gentleman to turn him out; but he also had hardly touched him,
when away he went after Hans and the rolling-pin, and hit his head
against the wall as he tumbled into the corner. And so there they lay,
Then the old gentleman spun himself round with velocity in the
opposite direction; continued to spin until his long cloak was all
wound neatly about him; clapped his cap on his head, very much on one
side (for it could not stand upright without going through the
ceiling), gave an additional twist to his corkscrew moustaches, and
replied with perfect coolness: "Gentlemen, I wish you a very good
morning. At twelve o'clock to-night I'll call again; after such a
refusal of hospitality as I have just experienced, you will not be
surprised if that visit is the last I ever pay you."
"If ever I catch you here again," muttered Schwartz, coming half
frightened out of his corner - but, before he could finish his
sentence, the old gentleman had shut the house door behind him with a
great bang: and there drove past the window, at the same instant, a
wreath of ragged cloud, that whirled and rolled away down the valley
in all manner of shapes; turning over and over in the air, and melting
away at last in a gush of rain.
"A very pretty business, indeed, Mr. Gluck!" said Schwartz. "Dish the
mutton, sir. If ever I catch you at such a trick again - bless me, why,
the mutton's been cut!"
"You promised me one slice, brother, you know," said Gluck.
"Oh! and you were cutting it hot, I suppose, and going to catch all
the gravy. It'll be long before I promise you such a thing again.
Leave the room, sir; and have the kindness to wait in the coal cellar
till I call you."
Gluck left the room melancholy enough. The brothers ate as much mutton
as they could, locked the rest in the cupboard and proceeded to get
very drunk after dinner.
Such a night as it was! Howling wind, and rushing rain, without
intermission. The brothers had just sense enough left to put up all
the shutters, and double bar the door, before they went to bed. They
usually slept in the same room. As the clock struck twelve, they were
both awakened by a tremendous crash. Their door burst open with a
violence that shook the house from top to bottom.
"What's that?" cried Schwartz, starting up in his bed.
"Only I," said the little gentleman.
The two brothers sat up on their bolster, and stared into the
darkness. The room was full of water, and by a misty moonbeam, which
found its way through a hole in the shutter, they could see in the
midst of it an enormous foam globe, spinning round, and bobbing up and
down like a cork, on which, as on a most luxurious cushion, reclined
the little old gentleman, cap and all. There was plenty of room for it
now, for the roof was off.
"Sorry to incommode you," said their visitor, ironically. "I'm afraid
your beds are dampish; perhaps you had better go to your brother's
room: I've left the ceiling on, there."
They required no second admonition, but rushed into Gluck's room, wet
through, and in an agony of terror.
"You'll find my card on the kitchen table," the old gentleman called
after them. "Remember the _last_ visit."
"Pray Heaven it may!" said Schwartz, shuddering. And the foam globe
Dawn came at last and the two brothers looked out of Gluck's little
window in the morning. The Treasure Valley was one mass of ruin and
desolation. The inundation had swept away trees, crops, and cattle,
and left in their stead a waste of red sand and gray mud. The two
brothers crept shivering and horror-struck into the kitchen. The water
had gutted the whole first floor; corn, money, almost every movable
thing, had been swept away and there was left only a small white card
on the kitchen table. On it, in large, breezy, long-legged letters,
were engraved the words: _South-West Wind, Esquire_.
II. - OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER THE VISIT OF
SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE; AND HOW LITTLE GLUCK HAD AN INTERVIEW WITH
THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER.
Southwest Wind, Esquire, was as good as his word. After the momentous
visit above related, he entered the Treasure Valley no more; and, what
was worse, he had so much influence with his relations, the West Winds
in general, and used it so effectually, that they all adopted a
similar line of conduct. So no rain fell in the valley from one year's
end to another. Though everything remained green and flourishing in
the plains below, the inheritance of the Three Brothers was a desert.
What had once been the richest soil in the kingdom, became a shifting
heap of red sand; and the brothers, unable longer to contend with the
adverse skies, abandoned their valueless patrimony in despair, to seek
some means of gaining a livelihood among the cities and people of the
plains. All their money was gone, and they had nothing left but some
curious, old-fashioned pieces of gold plate, the last remnants of
their ill-gotten wealth.
"Suppose we turn goldsmiths?" said Schwartz to Hans, as they entered
the large city. "It is a good knave's trade; we can put a great deal
of copper into the gold, without any one's finding it out."
The thought was agreed to be a very good one; they hired a furnace,
and turned goldsmiths. But two slight circumstances affected their
trade: the first, that people did not approve of the coppered gold;
the second, that the two elder brothers, whenever they had sold
anything, used to leave little Gluck to mind the furnace, and go and
drink out the money in the ale-house next door. So they melted all
their gold, without making money enough to buy more, and were at last
reduced to one large drinking-mug, which an uncle of his had given to
little Gluck, and which he was very fond of, and would not have parted
with for the world; though he never drank anything out of it but milk
and water. The mug was a very odd mug to look at. The handle was
formed of two wreaths of flowing golden hair, so finely spun that it
looked more like silk than metal, and these wreaths descended into,
and mixed with, a beard and whiskers of the same exquisite
workmanship, which surrounded and decorated a very fierce little face,
of the reddest gold imaginable, right in the front of the mug, with a
pair of eyes in it which seemed to command its whole circumference. It
was impossible to drink out of the mug without being subjected to an
intense gaze out of the side of these eyes; and Schwartz positively
averred, that once, after emptying it, full of Rhenish, seventeen
times, he had seen them wink! When it came to the mug's turn to be
made into spoons, it half broke poor little Gluck's heart: but the
brothers only laughed at him, tossed the mug into the melting-pot, and
staggered out to the ale-house: leaving him, as usual, to pour the
gold into bars, when it was all ready.
When they were gone, Gluck took a farewell look at his old friend in
the melting-pot. The flowing hair was all gone; nothing remained but
the red nose, and the sparkling eyes, which looked more malicious than
ever. "And no wonder," thought Gluck, "after being treated in that
way." He sauntered disconsolately to the window, and sat himself down
to catch the fresh evening air, and escape the hot breath of the
furnace. Now this window commanded a direct view of the range of
mountains, which, as I told before, overhung the Treasure Valley, and
more especially of the peak from which fell the Golden River. It was
just at the close of the day, and when Gluck sat down at the window he
saw the rocks of the mountain tops, all crimson and purple with the
sunset; and there were bright tongues of fiery cloud burning and
quivering about them; and the river, brighter than all, fell, in a
waving column of pure gold, from precipice to precipice, with the
double arch of a broad purple rainbow stretched across it, flushing
and fading alternately in the wreaths of spray.
"Ah!" said Gluck aloud, after he had looked at it for a while, "if
that river were really all gold, what a nice thing it would be."
"No it wouldn't, Gluck," said a clear, metallic voice close at his
"Bless me! what's that?" exclaimed Gluck, jumping up. There was nobody
there. He looked round the room, and under the table, and a great many
times behind him, but there was certainly nobody there, and he sat
down again at the window. This time he didn't speak, but he couldn't
help thinking again that it would be very convenient if the river were
really all gold.
"Not at all, my boy," said the same voice, louder than before.
"Bless me!" said Gluck again; "what _is_ that?" He looked again into
all the corners and cupboards, and then began turning round, and
round, as fast as he could in the middle of the room, thinking there
was somebody behind him, when the same voice struck again on his ear.
It was singing now very merrily, "Lala-lira-la;" no words, only a soft
running, effervescent melody, something like that of a kettle on the
boil. Gluck looked out of the window. No, it was certainly in the
house. Upstairs, and downstairs. No, it was certainly in that very
room, coming in quicker time, and clearer notes, every moment.
"Lala-lira-la." All at once it struck Gluck that it sounded louder
near the furnace. He ran to the opening, and looked in: yes, he saw
right; it seemed to be coming, not only out of the furnace, but out of
the pot. He uncovered it, and ran back in a great fright, for the pot
was certainly singing! He stood in the farthest corner of the room,
with his hands up, and his mouth open, for a minute or two, when the
singing stopped, and the voice became clear and pronunciative.
"Hollo!" said the voice.
Gluck made no answer.
"Hollo! Gluck, my boy," said the pot again.
Gluck summoned all his energies, walked straight up to the crucible,
drew it out of the furnace, and looked in. The gold was all melted,
and its surface as smooth and polished as a river; but instead of
reflecting little Gluck's head, as he looked in, he saw meeting his
glance from beneath the gold the red nose and sharp eyes of his old
friend of the mug, a thousand times redder and sharper than ever he
had seen them in his life.
"Come, Gluck, my boy," said the voice out of the pot again, "I'm all
right; pour me out."
But Gluck was too much astonished to do anything of the kind.
"Pour me out, I say," said the voice rather gruffly.
Still Gluck couldn't move.
"_Will_ you pour me out?" said the voice passionately. "I'm too hot."
By a violent effort, Gluck recovered the use of his limbs, took hold
of the crucible, and sloped it so as to pour out the gold. But instead
of a liquid stream, there came out, first, a pair of pretty little
yellow legs, then some coat tails, then a pair of arms stuck akimbo,
and, finally, the well-known head of his friend the mug; all which
articles, uniting as they rolled out, stood up energetically on the
floor, in the shape of a little golden dwarf, about a foot and a half
"That's right!" said the dwarf, stretching out first his legs, and
then his arms, and then shaking his head up and down, and as far round
as it would go, for five minutes without stopping; apparently with the
view of ascertaining if he were quite correctly put together, while
Gluck stood contemplating him in speechless amazement. He was dressed
in a stashed doublet of spun gold, so fine in its texture, that the
prismatic colours gleamed over it, as if on a surface of
mother-of-pearl; and, over this brilliant doublet, his hair and beard
fell full halfway to the ground, in waving curls, so exquisitely
delicate that Gluck could hardly tell where they ended; they seemed to
melt into air. The features of the face, however, were by no means
finished with the same delicacy; they were rather coarse, slightly
inclining to coppery in complexion, and indicative, in expression, of
a very pertinacious and intractable disposition in their small
proprietor. When the dwarf had finished his self-examination, he
turned his small eyes full on Gluck, and stared at him deliberately
for a minute or two. "No, it wouldn't, Gluck, my boy," said the little
This was certainly rather an abrupt and unconnected mode of commencing
conversation. It might indeed be supposed to refer to the course of
Gluck's thoughts, which had first produced the dwarf's observations
out of the pot; but whatever it referred to, Gluck had no inclination
to dispute the dictum.
"Wouldn't it, sir?" said Gluck, very mildly and submissively indeed.
"No," said the dwarf, conclusively. "No, it wouldn't." And with that,
the dwarf pulled his cap hard over his brows, and took two turns, of
three feet long, up and down the room, 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 turned about
again, and took two more turns, some six feet long, in order to allow
time for the consternation which this announcement produced in his
auditor to evaporate. 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. "I 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 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 King of the
Golden River turned away and deliberately walked into the centre of
the hottest flame of the furnace. His figure became 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 chimney after him; "oh
dear, dear, dear me! My mug! my mug! my mug!"
III. - HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND
HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
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 immediate consequence of which was, that the two
brothers, after wrangling a long time on the knotty question, which
of them should try his fortune first, drew their swords and began
fighting. The noise of the fray alarmed the neighbours who, finding
they could not pacify the combatants, sent for the constable.
Hans, on hearing this, contrived to escape, and hid himself; 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 determined 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
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 disconsolate.
"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.
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
mountains - 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