Louise de la Ramee
Part 3 out of 3
in the dust; and he went on his way in faith, as Findelkind of
Arlberg had done before him.
His heart beat high, and his head lost its aching pains, and his
feet felt light; so light as if there were wings to his ankles. He
would not go to Zirl, because Zirl he knew so well, and there
could be nothing very wonderful waiting there; and he ran fast the
other way. When he was fairly out from under the shadow of
Martinswand, he slackened his pace, and saw the sun come on his
path, and the red day redden the gray-green water, and the early
Stellwagen from Landeck, that had been lumbering along all the
night, overtook him.
He would have run after it, and called out to the travelers for
alms, but he felt ashamed; his father had never let him beg, and
he did not know how to begin.
The Stellwagen rolled on through the autumn mud, and that was one
chance lost. He was sure that the first Findelkind had not felt
ashamed when he had knocked at the first castle gates.
By and by, when he could not see Martinswand by turning his head
back ever so, he came to an inn that used to be a posthouse in the
old days when men traveled only by road. A woman was feeding
chickens in the bright clear red of the cold daybreak.
Findelkind timidly held out his hand. "For the poor!" he murmured,
and doffed his cap.
The old woman looked at him sharply. "Oh, is it you, little
Findelkind? Have you run off from school? Be off with you home! I
have mouths enough to feed here."
Findelkind went away, and began to learn that it is not easy to be
a prophet or a hero in one's own country.
He trotted a mile farther, and met nothing. At last he came to
some cows by the wayside, and a man tending them.
"Would you give me something to help make a monastery?" he said
timidly, and once more took off his cap. The man gave a great
laugh. "A fine monk, you! And who wants more of these lazy drones?
Findelkind never answered; he remembered the priest had said that
the years he lived in were very hard ones, and men in them had no
Ere long he came to a big walled house, with turrets and grated
casements,--very big it looked to him,--like one of the first
Findelkind's own castles. His heart beat loud against his side,
but he plucked up his courage, and knocked as loud as his heart
He knocked and knocked, but no answer came. The house was empty.
But he did not know that; he thought it was that the people within
were cruel, and he went sadly onward with the road winding before
him, and on his right the beautiful impetuous gray river, and on
his left the green Mittelgebirge and the mountains that rose
behind it. By this time the day was up; the sun was glowing on the
red of the cranberry shrubs and the blue of the bilberry-boughs;
he was hungry and thirsty and tired. But he did not give in for
that; he held on steadily; he knew that there was near, somewhere
near, a great city that the people called Sprugg, and thither he
had resolved to go. By noontide he had walked eight miles, and
came to a green place where men were shooting at targets, the tall
thick grass all around them; and a little way farther off was a
train of people chanting and bearing crosses and dressed in long
The place was the Hottinger Au, and the day was Saturday, and the
village was making ready to perform a miracle play on the morrow.
Findelkind ran to the robed singing-folk, quite sure that he saw
the people of God. "Oh, take me, take me!" he cried to them; "do
take me with you to do heaven's work."
But they pushed him aside for a crazy little boy that spoiled
"It is only for Hotting folk," said a lad older than himself. "Get
out of the way with you, Liebchen." And the man who earned the
cross knocked him with force on the head, by mere accident; but
Findelkind thought he had meant it.
Were people so much kinder five centuries before, he wondered, and
felt sad as the many-colored robes swept on through the grass, and
the crack of the rifles sounded sharply through the music of the
chanting voices. He went on footsore and sorrowful, thinking of
the castle doors that had opened, and the city gates that had
unclosed, at the summons of the little long-haired boy whose
figure was painted on the missal.
He had come now to where the houses were much more numerous,
though under the shade of great trees,--lovely old gray houses,
some of wood, some of stone, some with frescos on them and gold
and color and mottoes, some with deep barred casements, and carved
portals, and sculptured figures; houses of the poorer people now,
but still memorials of a grand and gracious time. For he had
wandered into the quarter of St. Nicholas in this fair mountain
city, which he, like his country-folk, called Sprugg, though the
government calls it Innspruck.
He got out upon a long gray wooden bridge, and looked up and down
the reaches of the river, and thought to himself, maybe this was
not Sprugg but Jerusalem, so beautiful it looked with its domes
shining golden in the sun, and the snow of the Soldstein and
Branjoch behind them. For little Findelkind had never come so far
as this before. As he stood on the bridge so dreaming, a hand
clutched him, and a voice said:--
"A whole kreutzer, or you do not pass!"
Findelkind started and trembled.
A kreutzer! he had never owned such a treasure in all his life.
"I have no money," he murmured timidly; "I came to see if I could
get money for the poor."
The keeper of the bridge laughed.
"You are a little beggar, you mean? Oh, very well! Then over my
bridge you do not go."
"But it is the city on the other side?"
"To be sure it is the city; but over nobody goes without a
"I never have such a thing of my own! never! never!" said
Findelkind, ready to cry.
"Then you were a little fool to come away from your home, wherever
that may be," said the man at the bridge-head. "Well, I will let
you go, for you look a baby. But do not beg; that is bad."
"Findelkind did it!"
"Then Findelkind was a rogue and a vagabond," said the taker of
"Oh, yes--yes--yes, little sauce-box; and take that," said the
man, giving him a box on the ear, being angry at contradiction.
Findelkind's head drooped, and he went slowly over the bridge,
forgetting that he ought to have thanked the toll taker for a free
passage. The world seemed to him very difficult. How had
Findelkind done when he had come to bridges?--and, oh, how had
Findelkind done when he had been hungry?
For this poor little Findelkind was getting very hungry, and his
stomach was as empty as was his wallet.
A few steps brought him to the Goldenes Dachl.
He forgot his hunger and his pain, seeing the sun shine on all
that gold, and the curious painted galleries under it. He thought
it was real solid gold. Real gold laid out on a house roof--and
the people all so poor! Findelkind began to muse, and wonder why
everybody did not climb up there and take a tile off and be rich?
But perhaps it would be wicked. Perhaps God put the roof there
with all that gold to prove people. Findelkind got bewildered.
If God did such a thing, was it kind?
His head seemed to swim, and the sunshine went round and round
with him. There went by him, just then, a very venerable-looking
old man with silver hair; he was wrapped in a long cloak.
Findelkind pulled at the coat gently, and the old man looked down.
"What is it, my boy?" he asked.
Findelkind answered, "I came out to get gold; may I take it off
"It is not gold, child, it is gilding."
"What is gilding?"
"It is a thing made to look like gold: that is all."
"It is a lie, then!"
The old man smiled. "Well, nobody thinks so. If you like to put it
so, perhaps it is. What do you want gold for, you wee thing?"
"To build a monastery and house the poor."
The old man's face scowled and grew dark, for he was a Lutheran
pastor from Bavaria.
"Who taught you such trash?" he said crossly.
"It is not trash. It is faith."
And Findelkind's face began to burn and his blue eyes to darken
and moisten. There was a little crowd beginning to gather, and the
crowd was beginning to laugh. There were many soldiers and rifle-
shooters in the throng, and they jeered and joked, and made fun of
the old man in the long cloak, who grew angry then with the child.
"You are a little idolater and a little impudent sinner!" he said
wrathfully, and shook the boy by the shoulder, and went away, and
the throng that had gathered round had only poor Findelkind left
He was a very poor little boy indeed to look at, with his
sheepskin tunic, and his bare feet and legs, and his wallet that
never was to get filled.
"Where do you come from, and what do you want?" they asked; and he
answered, with a sob in his voice:--
"I want to do like Findelkind of Arlberg."
And then the crowd laughed, not knowing at all what he meant, but
laughing just because they did not know: as crowds always will do.
And only the big dogs that are so very big in this country, and
are all loose, and free, and good-natured citizens, came up to him
kindly, and rubbed against him, and made friends; and at that
tears came into his eyes, and his courage rose, and he lifted his
"You are cruel people to laugh," he said indignantly; "the dogs
are kinder. People did not laugh at Findelkind. He was a little
boy just like me, no better and no bigger, and as poor; and yet he
had so much faith, and the world then was so good, that he left
his sheep and got money enough to build a church and a hospice to
Christ and St. Christopher. And I want to do the same for the
poor. Not for myself, no; for the poor! I am Findelkind, too, and
Findelkind of Arlberg that is in heaven speaks to me."
Then he stopped, and a sob rose again in his throat.
"He is crazy!" said the people, laughing, yet a little scared; for
the priest at Zirl had said rightly, this is not an age of faith.
At that moment there sounded, coming from the barracks, that used
to be the Schloss in the old days of Kaiser Max and Mary of
Burgundy, the sound of drums and trumpets and the tramp of
marching feet. It was one of the corps of Jagers of Tyrol, going
down from the avenue to the Rudolfplatz, with their band before
them and their pennons streaming. It was a familiar sight, but it
drew the street throngs to it like magic: the age is not fond of
dreamers, but it is very fond of drums. In almost a moment the old
dark arcades and the riverside and the passages near were all
empty, except for the women sitting at their stalls of fruit or
cakes, or toys, They are wonderful old arched arcades, like the
cloisters of a cathedral more than anything else, and the shops
under them are all homely and simple--shops of leather, of furs,
of clothes, of wooden playthings, of sweet and wholesome bread.
They are very quaint, and kept by poor folks for poor folks; but
to the dazed eyes of Findelkind they looked like a forbidden
paradise, for he was so hungry and so heartbroken, and he had
never seen any bigger place than little Zirl.
He stood and looked wistfully, but no one offered him anything.
Close by was a stall of splendid purple grapes, but the old woman
that kept it was busy knitting. She only called to him to stand
out of her light.
"You look a poor brat; have you a home?" said another woman, who
sold bridles and whips and horses' bells and the like.
"Oh, yes, I have a home--by Martinswand," said Findelkind, with a
The woman looked at him sharply. "Your parents have sent you on an
"No; I have run away."
"Run away? Oh, you bad boy!--unless, indeed--are they cruel to
"No; very good."
"Are you a little rogue, then, or a thief?"
"You are a bad woman to think such things," said Findelkind,
hotly, knowing himself on how innocent and sacred a quest he was.
"Bad? I? Oh ho!" said the old dame, cracking one of her new whips
in the air, "I should like to make you jump about with this, you
thankless little vagabond. Be off!"
Findelkind sighed again, his momentary anger passing; for he had
been born with a gentle temper, and thought himself to blame much
more readily than he thought other people were,--as, indeed, every
wise child does, only there are so few children--or men--that are
He turned his head away from the temptation of the bread and fruit
stalls, for in truth hunger gnawed him terribly, and wandered a
little to the left. From where he stood he could see the long,
beautiful street of Teresa, with its oriels and arches, painted
windows and gilded signs, and the steep, gray, dark mountains
closing it in at the distance; but the street frightened him, it
looked so grand, and he knew it would tempt him; so he went where
he saw the green tops of some high elms and beeches. The trees,
like the dogs, seemed like friends. It was the human creatures
that were cruel.
At that moment there came out of the barrack gates, with great
noise of trumpets and trampling of horses, a group of riders in
gorgeous uniforms, with sabres and chains glancing and plumes
tossing. It looked to Findelkind like a group of knights--those
knights who had helped and defended his namesake with their steel
and their gold in the old days of the Arlberg quest. His heart
gave a great leap, and he jumped on the dust for joy, and he ran
forward and fell on his knees and waved his cap like a little mad
thing, and cried out:--
"Oh, dear knights! oh, great soldiers! help me! Fight for me, for
the love of the saints! I have come all the way from Martinswand,
and I am Findelkind, and I am trying to serve St. Christopher like
Findelkind of Arlberg."
But his little swaying body and pleading hands and shouting voice
and blowing curls frightened the horses; one of them swerved and
very nearly settled the woes of Findelkind forever and aye by a
kick. The soldier who rode the horse reined him in with
difficulty; he was at the head of the little staff, being indeed
no less or more than the general commanding the garrison, which in
this city is some fifteen thousand strong. An orderly sprang from
his saddle and seized the child, and shook him, and swore at him.
Findelkind was frightened; but he shut his eyes and set his teeth,
and said to himself that the martyrs must have had very much worse
than these things to suffer in their pilgrimage. He had fancied
these riders were knights--such knights as the priest had shown
him the likeness of in old picture books, whose mission it had
been to ride through the world succoring the weak and weary, and
always defending the right.
"What are your swords for, if you are not knights?" he cried,
desperately struggling in his captor's grip, and seeing through
his half-closed lids the sunshine shining on steel scabbards.
"What does he want?" asked the officer in command of the garrison,
whose staff all this bright and martial array was. He was riding
out from the barracks to an inspection on the Rudolfplatz. He was
a young man, and had little children himself, and was half amused,
half touched, to see the tiny figure of the little dusty boy.
"I want to build a monastery, like Findelkind of Arlberg, and to
help the poor," said our Findelkind, valorously, though his heart
was beating like that of a little mouse caught in a trap; for the
horses were trampling up the dust around him, and the orderly's
grip was hard.
The officers laughed aloud; and indeed he looked a poor little
scrap of a figure, very ill able to help even himself.
"Why do you laugh?" cried Findelkind, losing his terror in his
indignation, and inspired with the courage which a great
earnestness always gives. "You should not laugh. If you were true
knights, you would not laugh; you would fight for me. I am little,
I know,--I am very little,--but he was no bigger than I; and see
what great things he did. But the soldiers were good in those
days; they did not laugh and use bad words--"
And Findelkind, on whose shoulder the orderly's hold was still
fast, faced the horses, which looked to him as huge as Martinswand,
and the swords, which he little doubted were to be sheathed in his
The officers stared, laughed again, then whispered together, and
Findelkind heard them say the word "crazed." Findelkind, whose
quick little ears were both strained like a mountain leveret's,
understood that the great men were saying among themselves that it
was not safe for him to be about alone, and that it would be
kinder to him to catch and cage him--the general view with which
the world regards enthusiasts.
He heard, he understood; he knew that they did not mean to help
him, these men with the steel weapons and the huge steeds, but
that they meant to shut him up in a prison; he, little free-born,
forest-fed Findelkind. He wrenched himself out of the soldier's
grip, as the rabbit wrenches itself out of the jaws of the trap
even at the cost of leaving a limb behind, shot between the
horses' legs, doubled like a hunted thing, and spied a refuge.
Opposite the avenue of gigantic poplars and pleasant stretches of
grass shaded by other bigger trees, there stands a very famous
church, famous alike in the annals of history and of art,--the
church of the Franciscans, that holds the tomb of Kaiser Max,
though, alas! it holds not his ashes, as his dying desire was that
it should. The church stands here, a noble, sombre place, with the
Silver Chapel of Philippina Wessler adjoining it, and in front the
fresh cool avenues that lead to the river and the broad water-
meadows and the grand Hall road bordered with the painted stations
of the Cross.
There were some peasants coming in from the country driving cows,
and some burghers in their carts, with fat, slow horses; some
little children were at play under the poplars and the elms; great
dogs were lying about on the grass; everything was happy and at
peace, except the poor, throbbing heart of little Findelkind, who
thought the soldiers were coming after him to lock him up as mad,
and ran and ran as fast as his trembling legs would carry him,
making for sanctuary, as, in the old bygone days that he loved,
many a soul less innocent than his had done. The wide doors of the
Hofkirche stood open, and on the steps lay a black-and-tan hound,
watching no doubt for its master or mistress, who had gone within
to pray. Findelkind, in his terror, vaulted over the dog, and into
the church tumbled headlong.
It seemed quite dark, after the brilliant sunshine on the river
and the grass; his forehead touched the stone floor as he fell,
and as he raised himself and stumbled forward, reverent and
bareheaded, looking for the altar to cling to when the soldiers
should enter to seize him, his uplifted eyes fell on the great
The tomb seems entirely to fill the church, as, with its twenty-
four guardian figures round it, it towers up in the twilight that
reigns here even at midday. There are a stern majesty and grandeur
in it which dwarf every other monument and mausoleum. It is grim,
it is rude, it is savage, with the spirit of the rough ages that
created it; but it is great with their greatness, it is heroic
with their heroism, it is simple with their simplicity.
As the awe-stricken eyes of the terrified child fell on the mass
of stone and bronze, the sight smote him breathless. The mailed
warriors standing around it, so motionless, so solemn, rilled him
with a frozen, nameless fear. He had never a doubt that they were
the dead arisen. The foremost that met his eyes were Theodoric and
Arthur; the next, grim Rudolf, father of a dynasty of emperors.
There, leaning on their swords, the three gazed down on him,
armored, armed, majestic, serious, guarding the empty grave, which
to the child, who knew nothing of its history, seemed a bier; and
at the feet of Theodoric, who alone of them all looked young and
merciful, poor little desperate Findelkind fell with a piteous
sob, and cried: "I am not mad! Indeed, indeed, I am not mad!"
He did not know that these grand figures were but statues of
bronze. He was quite sure they were the dead, arisen, and meeting
there, around that tomb on which the solitary kneeling knight
watched and prayed, encircled, as by a wall of steel, by these his
comrades. He was not frightened, he was rather comforted and
stilled, as with a sudden sense of some deep calm and certain
Findelkind, without knowing that he was like so many dissatisfied
poets and artists much bigger than himself, dimly felt in his
little tired mind how beautiful and how gorgeous and how grand the
world must have been when heroes and knights like these had gone
by in its daily sunshine and its twilight storms. No wonder
Findelkind of Arlberg had found his pilgrimage so fair, when if he
had needed any help he had only had to kneel and clasp these firm,
mailed limbs, these strong cross-hiked swords, in the name of
Christ and of the poor.
Theodoric seemed to look down on him with benignant eyes from
under the raised visor; and our poor Findelkind, weeping, threw
his small arms closer and closer round the bronze knees of the
heroic figure, and sobbed aloud, "Help me, help me! Oh, turn the
hearts of the people to me, and help me to do good!"
But Theodoric answered nothing.
There was no sound in the dark, hushed church; the gloom grew
darker over Findelkind's eyes; the mighty forms of monarchs and of
heroes grew dim before his sight. He lost consciousness, and fell
prone upon the stones at Theodoric's feet; for he had fainted from
hunger and emotion.
When he awoke it was quite evening; there was a lantern held over
his head; voices were muttering curiously and angrily; bending
over him were two priests, a sacristan of the church, and his own
father. His little wallet lay by him on the stones, always empty.
"Boy of mine! were you mad?" cried his father, half in rage, half
in tenderness. "The chase you have led me!--and your mother
thinking you were drowned!--and all the working day lost, running
after old women's tales of where they had seen you! Oh, little
fool, little fool! what was amiss with Martinswand, that you must
Findelkind slowly and feebly rose, and sat up on the pavement, and
looked up, not at his father, but at the knight Theodoric.
"I thought they would help me to keep the poor," he muttered
feebly, as he glanced at his own wallet." And it is empty--
"Are we not poor enough?" cried his father, with natural
impatience, ready to tear his hair with vexation at having such a
little idiot for a son. "Must you rove afield to find poverty to
help, when it sits cold enough, the Lord knows, at our own hearth?
Oh, little ass, little dolt, little maniac, fit only for a
madhouse, talking to iron figures and taking them for real men!
What have I done, O heaven, that I should be afflicted thus?"
And the poor man wept, being a good affectionate soul, but not
very wise, and believing that his boy was mad. Then, seized with
sudden rage once more, at thought of his day all wasted, and its
hours harassed and miserable through searching for the lost child,
he plucked up the light, slight figure of Findelkind in his own
arms, and, with muttered thanks and excuses to the sacristan of
the church, bore the boy out with him into the evening air, and
lifted him into a cart which stood there with a horse harnessed to
one side of the pole, as the country people love to do, to the
risk of their own lives and their neighbors'. Findelkind said
never a word; he was as dumb as Theodoric had been to him; he felt
stupid, heavy, half blind; his father pushed him some bread, and
he ate it by sheer instinct, as a lost animal will do; the cart
jogged on, the stars shone, the great church vanished in the gloom
As they went through the city towards the riverside along the
homeward way, never a word did his father, who was a silent man at
all times, address to him. Only once, as they jogged over the
bridge, he spoke.
"Son," he asked, "did you run away truly thinking to please God
and help the poor?"
"Truly I did!" answered Findelkind, with a sob in his throat.
"Then thou wert an ass!" said his father. "Didst never think of
thy mother's love and of my toil? Look at home."
Findelkind was mute. The drive was very long, backward by the same
way, with the river shining in the moonlight and the mountains
half covered with the clouds. It was ten by the bells of Zirl when
they came once more under the solemn shadow of grave Martinswand.
There were lights moving about his house, his brothers and sisters
were still up; his mother ran out into the road, weeping and
laughing with fear and joy.
Findelkind himself said nothing.
He hung his head.
They were too fond of him to scold him or to jeer at him; they
made him go quickly to his bed, and his mother made him a warm
milk posset and kissed him.
"We will punish thee to-morrow, naughty and cruel one," said his
parent. "But thou art punished enough already, for in thy place
little Stefan had the sheep, and he has lost Katte's lambs--the
beautiful twin lambs! I dare not tell thy father to-night. Dost
hear the poor thing mourn? Do not go afield for thy duty again."
A pang went through the heart of Findelkind, as if a knife had
pierced it. He loved Katte better than almost any other living
thing, and she was bleating under his window childless and alone.
They were such beautiful lambs, too!--lambs that his father had
promised should never be killed, but be reared to swell the flock.
Findelkind cowered down in his bed, and felt wretched beyond all
wretchedness. He had been brought back; his wallet was empty; and
Katte's lambs were lost. He could not sleep.
His pulses were beating like so many steam hammers; he felt as if
his body were all one great throbbing heart. His brothers, who lay
in, the same chamber with him, were sound asleep; very soon his
father and mother snored also, on the other side of the wall.
Findelkind was alone wide awake, watching the big white moon sail
past his little casement, and hearing Katte bleat.
Where were her poor twin lambs?
The night was bitterly cold, for it was already far on in autumn;
the rivers had swollen and flooded many fields, the snow for the
last week had fallen quite low down on the mountainsides.
Even if still living, the little lambs would die, out on such a
night without the mother or food and shelter of any sort.
Findelkind, whose vivid brain always saw everything that he
imagined as if it were being acted before his eyes, in fancy saw
his two dear lambs floating dead down the swollen tide, entangled
in rushes on the flooded shore, or fallen with broken limbs upon a
crest of rocks. He saw them so plainly that scarcely could he hold
back his breath from screaming aloud in the still night and
answering the mourning wail of the desolate mother.
At last he could bear it no longer: his head burned, and his brain
seemed whirling round; at a bound he leaped out of bed quite
noiselessly, slid into his sheepskins, and stole out as he had
done the night before, hardly knowing what he did. Poor Katte was
mourning in the wooden shed with the other sheep, and the wail of
her sorrow sounded sadly across the loud roar of the rushing
The moon was still high.
Above, against the sky, black and awful with clouds floating over
its summit, was the great Martinswand.
Findelkind this time called the big dog Waldmar to him, and with
the dog beside him went once more out into the cold and the gloom,
whilst his father and mother, his brothers and sisters, were
sleeping, and poor childless Katte alone was awake.
He looked up at the mountain and then across the water-swept
meadows to the river. He was in doubt which way to take. Then he
thought that in all likelihood the lambs would have been seen if
they had wandered the river way, and even little Stefan would have
had too much sense to let them go there. So he crossed the road
and began to climb Martinswand.
With the instinct of the born mountaineer, he had brought out his
crampons with him, and had now fastened them on his feet; he knew
every part and ridge of the mountains, and had more than once
climbed over to that very spot where Kaiser Max had hung in peril
of his life.
On second thoughts he bade Waldmar go back to the house. The dog
was a clever mountaineer, too, but Findelkind did not wish to lead
him into danger. "I have done the wrong, and I will bear the
brunt," he said to himself; for he felt as if he had killed
Katte's children, and the weight of the sin was like lead on his
heart, and he would not kill good Waldmar too.
His little lantern did not show much light, and as he went higher
upwards he lost sight of the moon. The cold was nothing to him,
because the clear still air was that in which he had been reared;
and the darkness he did not mind, because he was used to that
also; but the weight of sorrow upon him he scarcely knew how to
bear, and how to find two tiny lambs in this vast waste of silence
and shadow would have puzzled and wearied older minds than his.
Garibaldi and all his household, old soldiers tried and true,
sought all night once upon Caprera in such a quest, in vain.
If he could only have awakened his brother Stefan to ask him which
way they had gone! but then, to be sure, he remembered, Stefan
must have told that to all those who had been looking for the
lambs from sunset to nightfall. All alone he began the ascent.
Time and again, in the glad springtime and the fresh summer
weather, he had driven his flock upwards to eat the grass that
grew in the clefts of the rocks and on the broad green alps. The
sheep could not climb to the highest points; but the goats did,
and he with them. Time and again he had lain on his back in these
uppermost heights, with the lower clouds behind him and the black
wings of the birds and the crows almost touching his forehead, as
he lay gazing up into the blue depth of the sky, and dreaming,
He would never dream any more now, he thought to himself. His
dreams had cost Katte her lambs, and the world of the dead
Findelkind was gone forever; gone were all the heroes and knights;
gone all the faith and the force; gone every one who cared for the
dear Christ and the poor in pain.
The bells of Zirl were ringing midnight. Findelkind heard, and
wondered that only two hours had gone by since his mother had
kissed him in his bed. It seemed to him as if long, long nights
had rolled away, and he had lived a hundred years.
He did not feel any fear of the dark calm night, lit now and then
by silvery gleams of moon and stars. The mountain was his old
familiar friend, and the ways of it had no more terror for him
than these hills here used to have for the bold heart of Kaiser
Max. Indeed, all he thought of was Katte--Katte and the lambs. He
knew the way that the sheep tracks ran; the sheep could not climb
so high as the goats; and he knew, too, that little Stefan could
not climb so high as he. So he began his search low down upon
After midnight the cold increased; there were snow clouds hanging
near, and they opened over his head, and the soft snow came flying
along. For himself he did not mind it, but alas for the lambs!--
if it covered them, how would he find them? And if they slept in
it, they were dead.
It was bleak and bare on the mountainside, though there were still
patches of grass such as the flocks liked, that had grown since
the hay was cut. The frost of the night made the stone slippery,
and even the irons gripped it with difficulty; and there was a
strong wind rising like a giant's breath, and blowing his small
horn lantern to and fro.
Now and then he quaked a little with fear--not fear of the night
or the mountains, but of strange spirits and dwarfs and goblins of
ill repute, said to haunt Martinswand after nightfall. Old women
had told him of such things, though the priest always said that
they were only foolish tales, there being nothing on God's earth
wicked save men and women who had not clean hearts and hands.
Findelkind believed the priest; still, all alone on the side of
the mountain, with the snowflakes flying round him, he felt a
nervous thrill that made him tremble and almost turn backward.
Almost, but not quite; for he thought of Katte and the poor little
lambs lost--and perhaps dead--through his fault. The path went
zigzag and was very steep; the Arolla pines swayed their boughs in
his face; stones that lay in his path unseen in the gloom made him
stumble. Now and then a large bird of the night flew by with a
rushing sound; the air grew so cold that all Martinswand might
have been turning to one huge glacier. All at once he heard
through the stillness--for there is nothing so still as a
mountainside in snow--a little pitiful bleat. All his terrors
vanished; all his memories of ghost tales passed away; his heart
gave a leap of joy; he was sure it was the cry of the lambs. He
stopped to listen more surely. He was now many score of feet above
the level of his home and of Zirl; he was, as nearly as he could
judge, halfway as high as where the cross in the cavern marks the
spot of the Kaiser's peril. The little bleat sounded above him,
and it was very feeble and faint.
Findelkind set his lantern down, braced himself up by drawing
tighter his old leathern girdle, set his sheepskin cap firm on his
forehead, and went towards the sound as far as he could judge that
it might be. He was out of the woods now; there were only a few
straggling pines rooted here and there in a mass of loose lying
rock and slate; so much he could tell by the light of the lantern,
and the lambs, by the bleating, seemed still above him.
It does not, perhaps, seem very hard labor to hunt about by a
dusky light upon a desolate mountainside; but when the snow is
falling fast,--when the light is only a small circle, wavering,
yellowish on the white,--when around is a wilderness of loose
stones and yawning clefts,--when the air is ice and the hour is
past midnight,--the task is not a light one for a man; and
Findelkind was a child, like that Findelkind that was in heaven.
Long, very long, was his search; he grew hot and forgot all fear,
except a spasm of terror lest his light should burn low and die
out. The bleating had quite ceased now, and there was not even a
sigh to guide him; but he knew that near him the lambs must be,
and he did not waver or despair.
He did not pray; praying in the morning had been no use; but he
trusted in God, and he labored hard, toiling to and fro, seeking
in every nook and behind each stone, and straining every muscle
and nerve, till the sweat rolled in a briny dew off his forehead,
and his curls dripped with wet. At last, with a scream of joy, he
touched some soft close wool that gleamed white as the white snow.
He knelt down on the ground, and peered behind the stone by the
full light of his lantern; there lay the little lambs--two little
brothers, twin brothers, huddled close together, asleep. Asleep?
He was sure they were asleep, for they were so silent and still.
He bowed over them, and kissed them, and laughed, and cried, and
kissed them again. Then a sudden horror smote him; they were so
very still. There they lay, cuddled close, one on another, one
little white head on each little white body--drawn closer than
ever together, to try and get warm.
He called to them; he touched them; then he caught them up in his
arms, and kissed them again, and again, and again. Alas! they were
frozen and dead. Never again would they leap in the long green
grass, and frisk with each other, and lie happy by Katte's side;
they had died calling for their mother, and in the long, cold,
cruel night only death had answered.
Findelkind did not weep, or scream, or tremble; his heart seemed
frozen, like the dead lambs,
It was he who had killed them.
He rose up and gathered them in his arms,--and cuddled them in the
skirts of his skeepskin tunic, and cast his staff away that he
might carry them, and so, thus burdened with their weight, set his
face to the snow and the wind once more, and began his downward
Once a great sob shook him; that was all. Now he had no fear.
The night might have been noonday, the snow storm might have been
summer, for aught he knew or cared.
Long and weary was the way, and often he stumbled and had to rest;
often the terrible sleep of the snow lay heavy on his eyelids, and
he longed to lie down and be at rest, as the little brothers were;
often it seemed to him that he would never reach home again. But
he shook the lethargy off him and resisted the longing, and held
on his way: he knew that his mother would mourn for him as Katte
mourned for the lambs. At length, through all difficulty and
danger, when his light had spent itself and his strength had well
nigh spent itself too, his feet touched the old highroad. There
were flickering torches and many people, and loud cries around the
church, as there had been four hundred years before, when the last
sacrament had been said in the valley for the hunter-king in peril
His mother, being sleepless and anxious, had risen long before it
was dawn, and had gone to the children's chamber, and had found
the bed of Findelkind empty once more.
He came into the midst of the people with the two little lambs in
his arms, and he heeded neither the outcries of neighbors nor the
frenzied joy of his mother: his eyes looked straight before him,
and his face was white like the snow.
"I killed them," he said, and then two great tears rolled down his
cheeks and fell on the little cold bodies of the two little dead
Findelkind was very ill for many nights and many days after that.
Whenever he spoke in his fever he always said, "I killed them!"
Never anything else.
So the dreary winter months went by, while the deep snow filled up
lands and meadows, and covered the great mountains from summit to
base, and all around Martinswand was quite still, and now and then
the post went by to Zirl, and on the holy-days the bells tolled;
that was all. His mother sat between the stove and his bed with a
sore heart; and his father, as he went to and fro between the
walls of beaten snow, from the wood shed to the cattle byre, was
sorrowful, thinking to himself the child would die, and join that
earlier Findelkind whose home was with the saints,
But the child did not die.
He lay weak and wasted and almost motionless a long time; but
slowly, as the springtime drew near, and the snows on the lower
hills loosened, and the abounding waters coursed green and crystal
clear clown all the sides of the hills, Findelkind revived as the
earth did, and by the time the new grass was springing and the
first blue of the gentian gleamed on the Alps, he was well.
But to this day he seldom plays and scarcely ever laughs. His face
is sad, and his eyes have a look of trouble.
Sometimes the priest of Zirl says of him to others, "He will be a
great poet or a great hero some day." Who knows?
Meanwhile, in the heart of the child there remains always a weary
pain, that lies on his childish life as a stone may lie on a
"I killed them!" he says often to himself, thinking of the two
little white brothers frozen to death on Martinswand that cruel
night; and he does the things that are told him, and is obedient,
and tries to be content with the humble daily duties that are his
lot, and when he says his prayers at bedtime always ends them so:
"Dear God, do let the little lambs play with the other Findelkind
that is in heaven."
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