August, though he drank eagerly, could not swallow anything. His mind
was in too great a tumult.
"May I stay with Hirschvogel? - may I stay?" he said with feverish
"Wait a little," said the king, and asked, abruptly, "What do you wish
to be when you are a man?"
"A painter. I wish to be what Hirschvogel was - I mean the master that
made _my_ Hirschvogel."
"I understand," said the king.
Then the two dealers were brought into their sovereign's presence.
They were so terribly alarmed, not being either so innocent or so
ignorant as August was that they were trembling as though they were
being led to the slaughter, and they were so utterly astonished too at
a child having come all the way from Tyrol in the stove, as a
gentleman of the court had just told them this child had done, that
they could not tell what to say or where to look, and presented a very
foolish aspect indeed.
"Did you buy this NÃ¼rnberg stove of this little boy's father for two
hundred florins?" the king asked them; and his voice was no longer
soft and kind as it had been when addressing the child, but very
"Yes, your majesty," murmured the trembling traders.
"And how much did the gentleman who purchased it for me give to you?"
"Two thousand ducats, your majesty," muttered the dealers, frightened
out of their wits, and telling the truth in their fright.
The gentleman was not present: he was a trusted counselor in art
matters of the king's, and often made purchases for him.
The king smiled a little, and said nothing. The gentleman had made out
the price to him as eleven thousand ducats.
"You will give at once to this boy's father the two thousand gold
ducats that you received, less the two hundred Austrian florins that
you paid him," said the king to his humiliated and abject subjects.
"You are great rogues. Be thankful you are not more greatly punished."
He dismissed them by a sign to his courtiers, and to one of these gave
the mission of making the dealers of the Marienplatz disgorge their
August heard, and felt dazzled yet miserable. Two thousand gold
Bavarian ducats for his father! Why, his father would never need to go
any more to the salt-baking! And yet, whether for ducats or for
florins, Hirschvogel was sold just the same, and would the king let
him stay with it? - would he?
"Oh, do! oh, please do!" he murmured, joining his little brown
weather-stained hands, and kneeling down before the young monarch, who
himself stood absorbed in painful thought, for the deception so basely
practised for the greedy sake of gain on him by a trusted counsellor
was bitter to him.
He looked down on the child, and as he did so smiled once more.
"Rise up, my little man," he said, in a kind voice; "kneel only to
your God. Will I let you stay with your Hirschvogel? Yes, I will, you
shall stay at my court, and you shall be taught to be a painter - in
oils or on porcelain as you will - and you must grow up worthily, and
win all the laurels at our Schools of Art, and if when you are
twenty-one years old you have done well and bravely, then I will give
you your NÃ¼rnberg stove, or, if I am no more living, then those who
reign after me shall do so. And now go away with this gentleman, and
be not afraid, and you shall light a fire every morning in
Hirschvogel, but you will not need to go out and cut the wood."
Then he smiled and stretched out his hand; the courtiers tried to make
August understand that he ought to bow and touch it with his lips, but
August could not understand that anyhow; he was too happy. He threw
his two arms about the king's knees, and kissed his feet passionately;
then he lost all sense of where he was, and fainted away from hunger,
and tire, and emotion, and wondrous joy.
As the darkness of his swoon closed in on him, he heard in his fancy
the voice from Hirschvogel saying:
"Let us be worthy our maker!"
He is only a scholar yet, but he is a happy scholar, and promises to
be a great man. Sometimes he goes back for a few days to Hall, where
the gold ducats have made his father prosperous. In the old house-room
there is a large white porcelain stove of Munich, the king's gift to
Dorothea and 'Gilda.
And August never goes home without going into the great church and
saying his thanks to God, who blessed his strange winter's journey in
the NÃ¼rnberg stove. As for his dream in the dealers' room that night,
he will never admit that he did dream it; he still declares that he
saw it all and heard the voice of Hirschvogel. And who shall say that
he did not? for what is the gift of the poet and the artist except to
see the sights which others cannot see and to hear the sounds that
others cannot hear?
RAB AND HIS FRIENDS
Four-and-thirty years ago, Bob Ainslie and I were coming up Infirmary
Street from the Edinburgh High School, our heads together, and our
arms intertwisted, as only lovers and boys know how, or why.
When we got to the top of the street, and turned north, we espied a
crowd at the Tron Church. "A dog-fight!" shouted Bob, and was off; and
so was I, both of us all but praying that it might not be over before
we got up! And is not this boy-nature? and human nature too? and don't
we all wish a house on fire not to be out before we see it? Dogs like
fighting; old Isaac says they "delight" in it, and for the best of all
reasons; and boys are not cruel because they like to see the fight.
They see three of the great cardinal virtues of dog or man - courage,
endurance, and skill - in intense action. This is very different from a
love of making dogs fight, and enjoying, and aggravating, and making
gain by their pluck. A boy - be he ever so fond himself of fighting, if
he be a good boy, hates and despises all this, but he would run off
with Bob and me fast enough: it is a natural, and not wicked interest,
that all boys and men have in witnessing intense energy in action.
Does any curious and finely-ignorant woman wish to know how Bob's eye
at a glance announced a dog-fight to his brain? He did not, he could
not see the dogs fighting; it was a flash of an inference, a rapid
induction. The crowd round a couple of dogs fighting, is a crowd
masculine mainly, with an occasional active, compassionate woman,
fluttering wildly round the outside, and using her tongue and her
hands freely upon the men, as so many "brutes;" it is a crowd annular,
compact, and mobile; a crowd centripetal, having its eyes and its
heads all bent downwards and inwards, to one common focus.
Well, Bob and I are up, and find it is not over: a small thoroughbred,
white bull-terrier, is busy throttling a large shepherd's dog,
unaccustomed to war, but not to be trifled with. They are hard at it;
the scientific little fellow doing his work in great style, his
pastoral enemy fighting wildly, but with the sharpest of teeth and a
great courage. Science and breeding, however, soon had their own; the
Game Chicken, as the premature Bob called him, working his way up,
took his final grip of poor Yarrow's throat - and he lay gasping and
done for. His master, a brown, handsome, big young shepherd from
Tweedsmuir, would have liked to have knocked down any man, would
"drink up Esil, or eat a crocodile," for that part, if he had a
chance: it was no use kicking the little dog; that would only make him
hold the closer. Many were the means shouted out in mouthfuls, of the
best possible ways of ending it. "Water!" but there was none near, and
many cried for it who might have got it from the well at Blackfriars
Wynd. "Bite the tail!" and a large, vague, benevolent, middle-aged
man, more desirous than wise, with some struggle got the bushy end of
_Yarrow's_ tail into his ample mouth, and bit it with all his might.
This was more than enough for the much-enduring, much-perspiring
shepherd, who, with a gleam of joy over his broad visage, delivered a
terrific facer upon our large, vague, benevolent, middle-aged
friend - who went down like a shot.
Still the Chicken holds; death not far off. "Snuff! a pinch of
snuff!" observed a calm, highly-dressed young buck, with an eye-glass
in his eye. "Snuff, indeed!" growled the angry crowd, affronted and
glaring. "Snuff! a pinch of snuff!" again observes the buck but with
more urgency; whereon were produced several open boxes, and from a
mull which may have been at Culloden, he took a pinch, knelt down, and
presented it to the nose of the Chicken. The laws of physiology and of
snuff take their course; the Chicken sneezes, and Yarrow is free!
The young pastoral giant stalks off with Yarrow in his
arms - comforting him.
But the Bull Terrier's blood is up, and his soul unsatisfied; he grips
the first dog he meets, and discovering she is not a dog, in Homeric
phrase, he makes a brief sort of _amende_, and is off. The boys, with
Bob and me at their head, are after him: down Niddry Street he goes,
bent on mischief; up the Cowgate like an arrow - Bob and I, and our
small men, panting behind.
There, under the single arch of the South Bridge, is a huge mastiff,
sauntering down the middle of the causeway, as if with his hands in
his pockets: he is old, gray, brindled, as big as a little Highland
bull, and has the Shakespearian dewlaps shaking as he goes.
The Chicken makes straight at him, and fastens on his throat. To our
astonishment, the great creature does nothing but stand still, hold
himself up, and roar - yes, roar; a long, serious, remonstrative roar.
How is this? Bob and I are up to them. _He is muzzled_! The bailies
had proclaimed a general muzzling, and his master, studying strength
and economy mainly, had encompassed his huge jaws in a home-made
apparatus, constructed out of the leather of some ancient _breechin_.
His mouth was open as far as it could; his lips curled up in rage - a
sort of terrible grin; his teeth gleaming, ready, from out the
darkness, the strap across his mouth tense as a bowstring; his whole
frame stiff with indignation and surprise; his roar asking us all
round, "Did you ever see the like of this?" He looked a statue of
anger and astonishment, done in Aberdeen granite.
We soon had a crowd: the Chicken held on. "A knife!" cried Bob; and a
cobbler gave him his knife: you know the kind of knife, worn away
obliquely to a point, and always keen. I put its edge to the tense
leather; it ran before it; and then! - one sudden jerk of that enormous
head, a sort of dirty mist about his mouth, no noise - and the bright
and fierce little fellow is dropped, limp, and dead. A solemn pause:
this was more than any of us had bargained for. I turned the little
fellow over, and saw he was quite dead; the mastiff had taken him by
the small of the back like a rat, and broken it.
He looked down at his victim appeased, ashamed, and amazed; snuffed
him all over, stared at him, and taking a sudden thought, turned round
and trotted off. Bob took the dead dog up, and said, "John, we'll bury
him after tea." "Yes," said I, and was off after the mastiff. He made
up the Cowgate at a rapid swing; he had forgotten some engagement. He
turned up the Candlemaker Row, and stopped at the Harrow Inn.
There was a carrier's cart ready to start, and a keen thin, impatient,
black-a-vised little man, his hand at his gray horse's head, looking
about angrily for something. "Rab, ye thief!" said he, aiming a kick
at my great friend, who drew cringing up, and avoiding the heavy shoe
with more agility than dignity, and watching his master's eye, slunk
dismayed under the cart - his ears down, and as much as he had of tail
What a man this must be - thought I - to whom my tremendous hero turns
tail. The carrier saw the muzzle hanging, cut and useless, from his
neck, and I eagerly told him the story, which Bob and I always
thought, and still think, Homer, or King David, or Sir Walter alone
were worthy to rehearse. The severe little man was mitigated, and
condescended to say, "Rab, my man, puir Rabbie," - whereupon the stump
of a tail rose up, the ears were cocked, the eyes filled, and were
comforted; the two friends were reconciled. "Hupp!" and a stroke of
the whip were given to Jess; and off went the three.
Bob and I buried the Game Chicken that night (we had not much of a
tea) in the back-green of his house in Melville Street, No. 17, with
considerable gravity and silence; and being at the time in the Iliad,
and, like all boys, Trojans, we called him Hector of course.
* * * * *
Six years have passed - a long time for a boy and a dog: Bob Ainslie is
off to the wars; I am a medical student and clerk at Minto House
Rab I saw almost every week, on the Wednesday and we had much pleasant
intimacy. I found the way to his heart by frequent scratching of his
huge head, and an occasional bone. When I did not notice him he would
plant himself straight before me, and stand wagging that butt of a
tail, and looking up, with his head a little to one side. His master I
occasionally saw; he used to call me "Maister John," but was laconic
as any Spartan.
One fine October afternoon, I was leaving the hospital when I saw the
large gate open, and in walked Rab, with that great and easy saunter
of his. He looked as if taking general possession of the place; like
the Duke of Wellington entering a subdued city, satiated with victory
and peace. After him came Jess, now white from age, with her cart; and
in it a woman, carefully wrapped up - the carrier leading the horse
anxiously, and looking back. When he saw me, James (for his name was
James Noble) made a curt and grotesque "boo," and said, "Maister John,
this is the mistress; she's got a trouble in her breest - some kind o'
an income we're thinkin'."
By this time I saw the woman's face; she was sitting on a sack filled
with straw, her husband's plaid round her, and his big-coat with its
large white metal buttons over her feet.
I never saw a more unforgettable face - pale, serious, _lonely_,
delicate, sweet, without being at all what we call fine. She looked
sixty, and had on a mutch, white as snow, with its black ribbon; her
silvery, smooth hair setting off her dark-gray eyes - eyes such as one
sees only twice or thrice in a lifetime, full of suffering, full also
of the overcoming of it: her eyebrows black and delicate, and her
mouth firm, patient, and contented, which few mouths ever are.
As I have said, I never saw a more beautiful countenance or one more
subdued to settled quiet. "Ailie," said James, "this is Maister John,
the young doctor; Rab's freend, ye ken. We often speak aboot you,
doctor." She smiled, and made a movement, but said nothing; and prepared
to come down, putting her plaid aside and rising. Had Solomon, in all
his glory, been handing down the Queen of Sheba at his palace gate he
could not have done it more daintily, more tenderly, more like a
gentleman, than did James the Howgate carrier, when he lifted down Ailie
his wife. The contrast of his small, swarthy, weather-beaten, keen,
worldly face to hers - pale, subdued, and beautiful - was something
wonderful. Rab looked on concerned and puzzled, but ready for anything
that might turn up - were it to strangle the nurse, the porter, or even
me. Ailie and he seemed great friends.
"As I was sayin' she's got a kind o' trouble in her breest, doctor;
wull ye tak' a look at it?" We walked into the consulting-room, all
four; Rab grim and comic, willing to be happy and confidential if
cause could be shown, willing also to be the reverse, on the same
terms. Ailie sat down, undid her open gown and her lawn handkerchief
round her neck, and without a word, showed me her right breast. I
looked at and examined it carefully - she and James watching me, and
Rab eyeing all three. What could I say? there it was, that had once
been so soft, so shapely, so white, so gracious and bountiful, so
"full of all blessed conditions," - hard as a stone, a centre of horrid
pain, making that pale face with its gray, lucid, reasonable eyes, and
its sweet resolved mouth, express the full measure of suffering
overcome. Why was that gentle, modest, sweet woman, clean and lovable,
condemned by God to bear such a burden?
I got her away to bed. "May Rab and me bide?" said James. "_You_ may;
and Rab, if he will behave himself." "I'se warrant he's do that,
doctor;" and in slank the faithful beast. I wish you could have seen
him. There are no such dogs now. He belonged to a lost tribe. As I
have said, he was brindled and gray like Rubislaw granite; his hair
short, hard, and close, like a lion's; his body thick set like a
little bull - a sort of compressed Hercules of a dog. He must have
been ninety pounds' weight, at the least; he had a large blunt head;
his muzzle black as night, his mouth blacker than any night, a tooth
or two - being all he had - gleaming out of his jaws of darkness. His
head was scarred with the records of old wounds, a sort of series of
fields of battle all over it; one eye out, one ear cropped as close as
was Archbishop Leighton's father's; the remaining eye had the power of
two; and above it, and in constant communication with it, was a
tattered rag of an ear, which was forever unfurling itself, like an
old flag; and then that bud of a tail, about one inch long, if it
could in any sense be said to be long, being as broad as long - the
mobility, the instantaneousness of that bud were very funny and
surprising, and its expressive twinklings and winkings, the
intercommunications between the eye, the ear, and it, were of the
oddest and swiftest.
Rab had the dignity and simplicity of great size; and having fought
his way along the road to absolute supremacy, he was as mighty in his
own line as Julius CÃ¦sar or the Duke of Wellington, and had the
gravity of all great fighters.
You must have often observed the likeness of certain men to certain
animals, and of certain dogs to men. Now, I never looked at Rab
without thinking of the great Baptist preacher, Andrew Fuller. The
same large, heavy, menacing, combative, sombre, honest countenance,
the same deep inevitable eye, the same look - as of thunder asleep, but
ready - neither a dog nor a man to be trifled with.
Next day, my master, the surgeon, examined Ailie. There was no doubt
it must kill her, and soon. It could be removed - it might never
return - it would give her speedy relief - she should have it done. She
curtsied, looked at James, and said, "When?" "To-morrow," said the
kind surgeon - a man of few words. She and James and Rab and I retired.
I noticed that he and she spoke little, but seemed to anticipate
everything in each other. The following day, at noon, the students
came in, hurrying up the great stair. At the first landing-place, on a
small well-known blackboard, was a bit of paper fastened by wafers,
and many remains of old wafers beside it. On the paper were the
words - "An operation to-day. J.B. _Clerk_."
Up ran the youths, eager to secure good places: in they crowded, full
of interest and talk. "What's the case?" "Which side is it?"
Don't think them heartless; they are neither better nor worse than you
or I; they get over their professional horrors, and into their proper
work - and in them pity - as an _emotion_, ending in itself or at best
in tears and a long-drawn breath, lessens, while pity as a _motive_,
is quickened, and gains power and purpose. It is well for poor human
nature that it is so.
The operating theatre is crowded; much talk and fun, and all the
cordiality and stir of youth. The surgeon with his staff of assistants
is there. In comes Ailie: one look at her quiets and abates the eager
students. That beautiful old woman is too much for them; they sit
down, and are dumb, and gaze at her. These rough boys feel the power
of her presence. She walks in quickly, but without haste; dressed in
her mutch, her neckerchief, her white dimity short-gown, her black
bombazine petticoat, showing her white worsted stockings and her
carpet-shoes. Behind her was James with Rab. James sat down in the
distance, and took that huge and noble head between his knees. Rab
looked perplexed and dangerous; forever cocking his ear and dropping
it as fast.
Ailie stepped up on a seat, and laid herself on the table as her
friend the surgeon told her; arranged herself, gave a rapid look at
James, shut her eyes, rested herself on me, and took my hand. The
operation was at once begun; it was necessarily slow; and
chloroform - one of God's best gifts to his suffering children - was
then unknown. The surgeon did his work. The pale face showed its pain,
but was still and silent. Rab's soul was working within him; he saw
that something strange was going on - blood flowing from his mistress,
and she suffering; his ragged ear was up, and importunate; he growled
and gave now and then a sharp impatient yelp; he would have liked to
have done something to that man. But James had him firm, and gave him
a _glower_ from time to time, and an intimation of a possible
kick; - all the better for James, it kept his eye and his mind off
It is over: she is dressed, steps gently and decently down from the
table, looks for James; then, turning to the surgeon and the students,
she curtsies - and in a low, clear voice, begs their pardon if she has
behaved ill. The students - all of us - wept like children; the surgeon
happed her up carefully - and, resting on James and me, Ailie went to
her room, Rab following. We put her to bed. James took off his heavy
shoes, crammed with tackets, heel-capt and toe-capt, and put them
carefully under the table, saying, "Maister John, I'm for nane o'yer
strynge nurse bodies for Ailie. I'll be her nurse, and I'll gang aboot
on my stockin' soles as canny as pussy." And so he did; and handy and
clever, and swift and tender as any woman, was that horny-handed,
snell, peremptory little man. Everything she got he gave her: he
seldom slept; and often I saw his small shrewd eyes out of the
darkness, fixed on her. As before, they spoke little.
Rab behaved well, never moving, showing us how meek and gentle he
could be, and occasionally, in his sleep, letting us know that he was
demolishing some adversary. He took a walk with me every day,
generally to the Candlemaker Row; but he was sombre and mild; declined
doing battle, though some fit cases offered, and indeed submitted to
sundry indignities; and was always very ready to turn, and came faster
back, and trotted up the stair with much lightness, and went straight
to that door.
Jess, the mare, had been sent, with her weather-worn cart, to Howgate,
and had doubtless her own dim and placid meditations and confusions,
on the absence of her master and Rab, and her unnatural freedom from
the road and her cart.
For some days Ailie did well. The wound healed "by the first
intention;" for as James said, "Oor Ailie's skin's ower clean to
beil." The students came in quiet and anxious, and surrounded her bed.
She said she liked to see their young, honest faces. The surgeon
dressed her, and spoke to her in his own short kind way, pitying her
through his eyes, Rab and James outside the circle - Rab being now
reconciled, and even cordial, and having made up his mind that as yet
nobody required worrying, but, as you may suppose, _semper paratus_.
So far well: but, four days after the operation, my patient had a
sudden and long shivering, a "groosin'," as she called it. I saw her
soon after; her eyes were too bright, her cheek coloured; she was
restless, and ashamed of being so; the balance was lost; mischief had
begun. On looking at the wound, a blush of red told the secret: her
pulse was rapid, her breathing anxious and quick, she wasn't herself,
as she said, and was vexed at her restlessness. We tried what we
could; James did everything, was everywhere; never in the way, never
out of it; Rab subsided under the table into a dark place, and was
motionless, all but his eye, which followed every one. Ailie got
worse; began to wander in her mind, gently; was more demonstrative in
her ways to James, rapid in her questions, and sharp at times. He was
vexed, and said, "She was never that way afore; no, never." For a time
she knew her head was wrong, and was always asking our pardon - the
dear, gentle old woman: then delirium set in strong, without pause.
Her brain gave way, and then came that terrible spectacle -
"The intellectual power, through words and things,
Went sounding on its dim and perilous way."
she sang bits of old songs and Psalms, stopping suddenly, mingling the
Psalms of David and the diviner words of his Son and Lord, with homely
odds and ends and scraps of ballads.
Nothing more touching, or in a sense more strangely beautiful, did I