fantastic forms, with here and there a streak of sunlit snow, traced
down their chasms like a line of forked lightning; and, far beyond,
and far above all these, fainter than the morning cloud, but purer and
changeless, slept, in the blue sky, the utmost peaks of the eternal
The Golden River, which sprang from one of the lower and snowless
elevations, was now nearly in shadow; all but the uppermost jets of
spray, which rose like slow smoke above the undulating line of the
cataract, and floated away in feeble wreaths upon the morning wind.
On this object, and on this alone, Hans's eyes and thoughts were
fixed; forgetting the distance he had to traverse, he set off at an
imprudent rate of walking, which greatly exhausted him before he had
scaled the first range of the green and low hills. He was, moreover,
surprised, on surmounting them, to find that a large glacier, of whose
existence, notwithstanding his previous knowledge of the mountains, he
had been absolutely ignorant, lay between him and the source of the
Golden River. He entered on it with the boldness of a practised
mountaineer; yet he thought he had never traversed so strange or so
dangerous a glacier in his life. The ice was excessively slippery, and
out of all its chasms came wild sounds of gushing water; not
monotonous or low; but changeful and loud, rising occasionally into
drifting passages of wild melody, then breaking off into short
melancholy tones, or sudden shrieks, resembling those of human voices
in distress or pain. The ice was broken into thousands of confused
shapes, but none, Hans thought like the ordinary forms of splintered
ice. There seemed a curious _expression_ about all their outlines - a
perpetual resemblance to living features, distorted and scornful.
Myriads of deceitful shadows, and lurid lights, played and floated
about and through the pale-blue pinnacles, dazzling and confusing the
sight of the traveller; while his ears grew dull and his head giddy
with the constant gush and roar of the concealed waters. These painful
circumstances increased upon him as he advanced; the ice crashed and
yawned into fresh chasms at his feet, tottering spires nodded around
him, and fell thundering across his path; and, though he had
repeatedly faced these dangers on the most terrific glaciers, and in
the wildest weather, it was with a new and oppressive feeling of panic
terror that he leaped the last chasm, and flung himself, exhausted and
shuddering, on the firm turf of the mountain.
He had been compelled to abandon his basket of food, which became a
perilous incumbrance on the glacier, and had now no means of
refreshing himself but by breaking off and eating some of the pieces
of ice. This, however, relieved his thirst; an hour's repose recruited
his hardy frame, and, with the indomitable spirit of avarice, he
resumed his laborious journey.
His way now lay straight up a ridge of bare red rocks, without a blade
of grass to ease the foot, or a projecting angle to afford an inch of
shade from the south sun. It was past noon, and the rays beat
intensely upon the steep path, while the whole atmosphere was
motionless, and penetrated with heat. Intense thirst was soon added
to the bodily fatigue with which Hans was now afflicted; glance after
glance he cast on the flask of water which hung at his belt. "Three
drops are enough," at last thought he; "I may, at least, cool my lips
He opened the flask, and was raising it to his lips, when his eye fell
on an object lying on the rock beside him; he thought it moved. It was
a small dog, apparently in the last agony of death from thirst. Its
tongue was out, its jaws dry, its limbs extended lifelessly, and a
swarm of black ants were crawling about its lips and throat. Its eye
moved to the bottle which Hans held in his hand. He raised it, drank,
spurned the animal with his foot, and passed on. And he did not know
how it was, but he thought that a strange shadow had suddenly come
across the blue sky.
The path became steeper and more rugged every moment; and the high
hill air, instead of refreshing him, seemed to throw his blood into a
fever. The noise of the hill cataracts sounded like mockery in his
ears; they were all distant, and his thirst increased every moment.
Another hour passed, and he again looked down to the flask at his
side; it was half empty; but there was much more than three drops in
it. He stopped to open it, and again, as he did so, something moved in
the path above him. It was a fair child, stretched nearly lifeless on
the rock, its breast heaving with thirst, its eyes closed, and its
lips parched and burning. Hans eyed it deliberately, drank, and passed
on. And a dark-gray cloud came over the sun, and long, snake-like
shadows crept up along the mountain sides. Hans struggled on. The sun
was sinking, but its descent seemed to bring no coolness; the leaden
weight of the dead air pressed upon his brow and heart, but the goal
was near. He saw the cataract of the Golden River springing from the
hillside, scarcely five hundred feet above him. He paused for a
moment to breathe, and sprang on to complete his task.
At this instant a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and saw a
gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes were sunk, his
features deadly pale, and gathered into an expression of despair.
"Water!" he stretched his arms to Hans, and cried feebly, "Water! I am
"I have none," replied Hans; "thou hast had thy share of life." He
strode over the prostrate body, and darted on. And a flash of blue
lightning rose out of the east, shaped like a sword; it shook thrice
over the whole heaven, and left it dark with one heavy, impenetrable
shade. The sun was setting; it plunged toward the horizon like a
The roar of the Golden River rose on Hans's ear. He stood at the brink
of the chasm through which it ran. Its waves were filled with the red
glory of the sunset: they shook their crests like tongues of fire, and
flashes of bloody light gleamed along their foam. Their sound came
mightier and mightier on his senses; his brain grew giddy with the
prolonged thunder. Shuddering he drew the flask from his girdle, and
hurled it into the centre of the torrent. As he did so, an icy chill
shot through his limbs: he staggered, shrieked, and fell. The waters
closed over his cry. And the moaning of the river rose wildly into the
night, as it gushed over _The Black Stone_.
IV. - HOW MR. SCHWARTZ SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,
AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
Poor little Gluck waited very anxiously alone in the house for Hans's
return. Finding he did not come back, he was terribly frightened, and
went and told Schwartz in the prison all that had happened. Then
Schwartz was very much pleased, and said that Hans must certainly
have been turned into a black stone, and he should have all the gold
to himself. But Gluck was very sorry, and cried all night. When he got
up in the morning there was no bread in the house, nor any money; so
Gluck went and hired himself to another goldsmith, and he worked so
hard, and so neatly, and so long every day, that he soon got money
enough together to pay his brother's fine, and he went and gave it all
to Schwartz, and Schwartz got out of prison. Then Schwartz was quite
pleased, and said he should have some of the gold of the river. But
Gluck only begged he would go and see what had become of Hans.
Now when Schwartz had heard that Hans had stolen the holy water, he
thought to himself that such a proceeding might not be considered
altogether correct by the King of the Golden River, and determined to
manage matters better. So he took some more of Gluck's money, and went
to a bad priest who gave him some holy water very readily for it. Then
Schwartz was sure it was all quite right. So Schwartz got up early in
the morning before the sun rose, and took some bread and wine in a
basket, and put his holy water in a flask, and set off for the
mountains. Like his brother, he was much surprised at the sight of the
glacier, and had great difficulty in crossing it, even after leaving
his basket behind him. The day was cloudless, but not bright: there
was a heavy purple haze hanging over the sky, and the hills looked
lowering and gloomy. And as Schwartz climbed the steep rock path, the
thirst came upon him, as it had upon his brother, until he lifted his
flask to his lips to drink. Then he saw the fair child lying near him
on the rocks, and it cried to him, and moaned for water.
"Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half enough for myself,"
and passed on. And as he went he thought the sunbeams grew more dim,
and he saw a low bank of black cloud rising out of the west; and, when
he had climbed for another hour, the thirst overcame him again, and he
would have drunk. Then he saw the old man lying before him on the
path, and heard him cry out for water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz;
"I haven't half enough for myself," and on he went.
Then again the light seemed to fade from before his eyes, and he
looked up, and, behold, a mist, of the colour of blood, had come over
the sun; and the bank of black cloud had risen very high, and its
edges were tossing and tumbling like the waves of an angry sea. And
they cast long shadows, which flickered over Schwartz's path.
Then Schwartz climbed for another hour, and again his thirst returned;
and as he lifted his flask to his lips, he thought he saw his brother
Hans lying exhausted on the path before him; and, as he gazed, the
figure stretched its arms to him, and cried for water. "Ha, ha,"
laughed Schwartz, "are you there? Remember the prison bars, my boy.
Water indeed! Do you suppose I carried it all the way up here for
_you_?" And he strode over the figure; yet, as he passed, he thought
he saw a strange expression of mockery about its lips. And, when he
had gone a few yards farther, he looked back; but the figure was not
And a sudden horror came over Schwartz, he knew not why; but the
thirst for gold prevailed over his fear, and he rushed on. And the
bank of black cloud rose to the zenith, and out of it came bursts of
spiry lightning, and waves of darkness seemed to heave and float
between their flashes over the whole heavens. And the sky where the
sun was setting was all level, and like a lake of blood; and a strong
wind came out of that sky, tearing its crimson clouds into fragments,
and scattering them far into the darkness. And when Schwartz stood by
the brink of the Golden River, its waves were black, like thunder
clouds, but their foam was like fire; and the roar of the waters
below, and the thunder above, met, as he cast the flask into the
stream. And, as he did so, the lightning glared into his eyes, and the
earth gave way beneath him, and the waters closed over his cry. And
the moaning of the river rose wildly into the night, as it gushed over
the _Two Black Stones_.
V. - HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND
HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN; WITH OTHER MATTERS OF INTEREST
When Gluck found that Schwartz did not come back he was very sorry,
and did not know what to do. He had no money, and was obliged to go
and hire himself again to the goldsmith, who worked him very hard, and
gave him very little money. So, after a month or two, Gluck grew
tired, and made up his mind to go and try his fortune with the Golden
River. "The little king looked very kind," thought he. "I don't think
he will turn me into a black stone." So he went to the priest, and the
priest gave him some holy water as soon as he asked for it. Then Gluck
took some bread in his basket, and the bottle of water, and set off
very early for the mountains.
If the glacier had occasioned a great deal of fatigue to his brothers,
it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither so strong nor so
practised on the mountains. He had several very bad falls, lost his
basket and bread, and was very much frightened at the strange noises
under the ice. He lay a long time to rest on the grass, after he had
got over, and began to climb the hill in just the hottest part of the
day. When he had climbed for an hour, he got dreadfully thirsty, and
was going to drink like his brothers, when he saw an old man coming
down the path above him, looking very feeble, and leaning on a staff.
"My son," said the old man, "I am faint with thirst, give me some of
that water." Then Gluck looked at him, and, when he saw that he was
pale and weary, he gave him the water. "Only pray don't drink it all,"
said Gluck. But the old man drank a great deal, and gave him back the
bottle two-thirds empty. Then he bade him good speed, and Gluck went
on again merrily. And the path became easier to his feet, and two or
three blades of grass appeared upon it, and some grasshoppers began
singing on the bank beside it; and Gluck thought he had never heard
such merry singing.
Then he went on for another hour, and the thirst increased on him so
that he thought he should be forced to drink. But, as he raised the
flask, he saw a little child lying panting by the roadside, and it
cried out piteously for water. Then Gluck struggled with himself, and
determined to bear the thirst a little longer; and he put the bottle
to the child's lips, and it drank it all but a few drops. Then it
smiled on him, and got up, and ran down the hill; and Gluck looked
after it till it became as small as a little star, and then turned and
began climbing again. And then there were all kinds of sweet flowers
growing on the rocks, bright green moss, with pale pink starry
flowers, and soft belled gentians, more blue than the sky at its
deepest, and pure white transparent lilies. And crimson and purple
butterflies darted hither and thither, and the sky sent down such pure
light, that Gluck had never felt so happy in his life.
Yet, when he had climbed for another hour, his thirst became
intolerable again; and, when he looked at his bottle, he saw that
there were only five or six drops left in it, and he could not venture
to drink. And, as he was hanging the flask to his belt again, he saw
a little dog lying on the rocks, gasping for breath - just as Hans had
seen it on the day of his ascent. And Gluck stopped and looked at it
and then at the Golden River, not five hundred yards above him; and he
thought of the dwarf's words, "that no one could succeed, except in
his first attempt"; and he tried to pass the dog, but it whined
piteously, and Gluck stopped again. "Poor beastie!" said Gluck: "it'll
be dead when I come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked
closer and closer at it, and its eye turned on him so mournfully that
he could not stand it. "Confound the King and his gold too," said
Gluck; and he opened the flask, and poured all the water into the
The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared,
its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became very red,
its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog was gone, and
before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.
"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be frightened, it's all
right"; for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation at this
unlooked-for reply to his last observation. "Why didn't you come
before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those rascally
brothers of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning into stones?
Very hard stones they make too."
"Oh dear me!" said Gluck; "have you really been so cruel?"
"Cruel!" said the dwarf, "they poured unholy water into my stream; do
you suppose I'm going to allow that?"
"Why," said Gluck, "I am sure, sir - your Majesty, I mean - they got the
water out of the church font."
"Very probably," replied the dwarf; "but," and his countenance grew
stern as he spoke, "the water which has been refused to the cry of
the weary and dying is unholy, though it had been blessed by every
saint in heaven; and the water which is found in the vessel of mercy
is holy, though it had been defiled with corpses."
So saying, the dwarf stooped and plucked a lily that grew at his feet.
On its white leaves there hung three drops of clear dew. And the dwarf
shook them into the flask which Gluck held in his hand. "Cast these
into the river," he said, "and descend on the other side of the
mountains into the Treasure Valley. And so good speed."
As he spoke, the figure of the dwarf became indistinct. The playing
colours of his robe formed themselves into a prismatic mist of dewy
light; he stood for an instant veiled with them as with the belt of a
broad rainbow. The colours grew faint, the mist rose into the air; the
monarch had evaporated.
And Gluck climbed to the brink of the Golden River, and its waves were
as clear as crystal, and as brilliant as the sun. And, when he cast
the three drops of dew into the stream, there opened where they fell a
small circular whirlpool, into which the waters descended with a
Gluck stood watching it for some time, very much disappointed, because
not only the river was not turned into gold, but its waters seemed
much diminished in quantity. Yet he obeyed his friend the dwarf, and
descended the other side of the mountains toward the Treasure Valley;
and, as he went, he thought he heard the noise of water working its
way under the ground. And, when he came in sight of the Treasure
Valley, behold, a river, like the Golden River was springing from a
new cleft of the rocks above it, and was flowing in innumerable
streams among the dry heaps of red sand.
And as Gluck gazed, fresh grass sprang beside the new streams, and
creeping plants grew, and climbed among this moistening soil. Young
flowers opened suddenly along the river sides, as stars leap out when
twilight is deepening, and thickets of myrtle, and tendrils of vine,
cast lengthening shadows over the valley as they grew. And thus the
Treasure Valley became a garden again, and the inheritance which had
been lost by cruelty was regained by love.
And Gluck went, and dwelt in the valley, and the poor were never
driven from his door: so that his barns became full of corn, and his
house of treasure. And, for him, the river had, according to the
dwarf's promise, become a River of Gold.
And, to this day, the inhabitants of the valley point out the place
where the three drops of holy dew were cast into the stream, and trace
the course of the Golden River under the ground, until it emerges in
the Treasure Valley. And at the top of the cataract of the Golden
River are still to be seen two BLACK STONES, round which the waters
howl mournfully every day at sunset, and these stones are still called
by the people of the valley _The Black Brothers_.
THE SNOW-IMAGE: A CHILDISH MIRACLE
One afternoon of a cold winter's day, when the sun shone forth with
chilly brightness, after a long storm, two children asked leave of
their mother to run out and play in the new-fallen snow. The elder
child was a girl, whom, because she was of a tender and modest
disposition, and was thought to be very beautiful, her parents, and
other people who were familiar with her, used to call Violet. But her
brother was known by the style and title of Peony, on account of the
ruddiness of his broad and round little phiz, which made everybody
think of sunshine and great scarlet flowers. The father of these two
children, a certain Mr. Lindsey, it is important to say, was an
excellent but exceedingly matter-of-fact sort of man, a dealer in
hardware, and was sturdily accustomed to take what is called the
common-sense view of all matters that came under his consideration.
With a heart about as tender as other people's, he had a head as hard
and impenetrable, and therefore, perhaps, as empty, as one of the iron
pots which it was a part of his business to sell. The mother's
character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of
unworldly beauty - a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had
survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive
amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.
So, Violet and Peony, as I began with saying, besought their mother to
let them run out and play in the new snow; for, though it had looked
so dreary and dismal, drifting downward out of the gray sky, it had a
very cheerful aspect, now that the sun was shining on it. The children
dwelt in a city, and had no wider play-place than a little garden
before the house, divided by a white fence from the street, and with a
pear-tree and two or three plum-trees overshadowing it, and some
rose-bushes just in front of the parlour-windows. The trees and
shrubs, however, were now leafless, and their twigs were enveloped in
the light snow, which thus made a kind of wintry foliage, with here
and there a pendent icicle for the fruit.
"Yes, Violet - yes, my little Peony," said their kind mother; "you may
go out and play in the new snow."
Accordingly, the good lady bundled up her darlings in woollen jackets
and wadded sacks, and put comforters round their necks, and a pair of
striped gaiters on each little pair of legs, and worsted mittens on
their hands, and gave them a kiss apiece, by way of a spell to keep
away Jack Frost. Forth sallied the two children, with a
hop-skip-and-jump, that carried them at once into the very heart of a
huge snow-drift, whence Violet emerged like a snow-bunting, while
little Peony floundered out with his round face in full bloom. Then
what a merry time had they! To look at them, frolicking in the wintry
garden, you would have thought that the dark and pitiless storm had
been sent for no other purpose but to provide a new plaything for
Violet and Peony; and that they themselves had been created, as the
snow-birds were, to take delight only in the tempest, and in the white
mantle which it spread over the earth.
At last, when they had frosted one another all over with handfuls of
snow, Violet, after laughing heartily at little Peony's figure, was
struck with a new idea.
"You look exactly like a snow-image, Peony," said she, "if your cheeks
were not so red. And that puts me in mind! Let us make an image out
of snow - an image of a little girl - and it shall be our sister, and
shall run about and play with us all winter long. Won't it be nice?"
"O, yes!" cried Peony, as plainly as he could speak, for he was but a
little boy. "That will be nice! And mamma shall see it!"
"Yes," answered Violet; "mamma shall see the new little girl. But she
must not make her come into the warm parlour; for, you know, our
little snow-sister will not love the warmth."
And forthwith the children began this great business of making a
snow-image that should run about; while their mother, who was sitting
at the window and overheard some of their talk, could not help smiling
at the gravity with which they set about it. They really seemed to
imagine that there would be no difficulty whatever in creating a live
little girl out of the snow. And, to say the truth, if miracles are
ever to be wrought, it will be by putting our hands to the work in
precisely such a simple and undoubting frame of mind as that in which
Violet and Peony now undertook to perform one, without so much as
knowing that it was a miracle. So thought the mother; and thought,
likewise, that the new snow, just fallen from heaven, would be
excellent material to make new beings of, if it were not so very cold.
She gazed at the children a moment longer, delighting to watch their
little figures - the girl, tall for her age, graceful and agile, and so
delicately coloured that she looked like a cheerful thought, more than
a physical reality; while Peony expanded in breadth rather than
height, and rolled along on his short and sturdy legs as substantial
as an elephant, though not quite so big. Then the mother resumed her
work. What it was I forget; but she was either trimming a silken
bonnet for Violet, or darning a pair of stockings for little Peony's
short legs. Again, however, and again, and yet other agains, she could
not help turning her head to the window to see how the children got on
with their snow-image.
Indeed, it was an exceedingly pleasant sight, those bright little
souls at their task! Moreover, it was really wonderful to observe how
knowingly and skilfully they managed the matter. Violet assumed the
chief direction, and told Peony what to do, while, with her own
delicate fingers, she shaped out all the nicer parts of the
snow-figure. It seemed, in fact, not so much to be made by the
children, as to grow up under their hands, while they were playing and