Findelkind By Louise de la Ramee
Louise de la Ramee
Works of Louisa de la Ramee
A Dog of Flanders
The Nurnberg Stove
A Provence Rose
Two Little Wooden Shoes
There was a little boy, a year or two ago, who lived under the
shadow of Martinswand. Most people know, I should suppose, that
the Martinswand is that mountain in the Oberinnthal, where,
several centuries past, brave Kaiser Max lost his footing as he
stalked the chamois, and fell upon a ledge of rock, and stayed
there, in mortal peril, for thirty hours, till he was rescued by
the strength and agility of a Tyrol hunter,--an angel in the
guise of a hunter, as the chronicles of the time prefer to say.
The Martinswand is a grand mountain, being one of the spurs of
the greater Sonnstein, and rises precipitously, looming, massive
and lofty, like a very fortress for giants, where it stands right
across that road which, if you follow it long enough, takes you
through Zell to Landeck,--old, picturesque, poetic Landeck, where
Frederick of the Empty Pockets rhymed his sorrows in ballads to
his people,--and so on by Bludenz into Switzerland itself, by as
noble a highway as any traveller can ever desire to traverse on a
summer's day. It is within a mile of the little burg of Zell,
where the people, in the time of their emperor's peril, came out
with torches and bells, and the Host lifted up by their priest,
and all prayed on their knees underneath the steep, gaunt pile of
limestone, that is the same today as it was then, whilst Kaiser
Max is dust; it soars up on one side of this road, very steep and
very majestic, having bare stone at its base, and being all along
its summit crowned with pine woods; and on the other side of the
road are a little stone church, quaint and low, and gray with
age, and a stone farmhouse, and cattle-sheds, and timber-sheds,
all of wood that is darkly brown from time; and beyond these are
some of the most beautiful meadows in the world, full of tall
grass and countless flowers, with pools and little estuaries made
by the brimming Inn River that flows by them; and beyond the
river are the glaciers of the Sonnstein and the Selrain and the
wild Arlberg region, and the golden glow of sunset in the west,
most often seen from here through the veil of falling rain.
At this farmhouse, with Martinswand towering above it, and Zell
a mile beyond, there lived, and lives still, a little boy who
bears the old historical name of Findelkind, whose father, Otto
Korner, is the last of a sturdy race of yeomen, who had fought
with Hofer and Haspinger, and had been free men always.
Findelkind came in the middle of seven other children, and was
a pretty boy of nine years, with slenderer limbs and paler cheeks
than his rosy brethren, and tender dreamy eyes that had the look,
his mother told him, of seeking stars in midday: de chercher
midi a quatorze heures, as the French have it. He was a good
little lad, and seldom gave any trouble from disobedience, though
he often gave it from forgetfulness. His father angrily
complained that he was always in the clouds,--that is, he was
always dreaming, and so very often would spill the milk out of
the pails, chop his own fingers instead of the wood, and stay
watching the swallows when he was sent to draw water. His
brothers and sisters were always making fun of him; they were
sturdier, ruddier, and merrier children than he was, loved
romping and climbing, and nutting, thrashing the walnut-trees and
sliding down snow-drifts, and got into mischief of a more common
and childish sort than Findelkind's freaks of fancy. For, indeed,
he was a very fanciful little boy: everything around had tongues
for him; and he would sit for hours among the long rushes on the
river's edge, trying to imagine what the wild greengray water had
found in its wanderings, and asking the water-rats and the ducks
to tell him about it; but both rats and ducks were too busy to
attend to an idle little boy, and never spoke, which vexed him.
Findelkind, however, was very fond of his books: he would study
day and night, in his little ignorant, primitive fashion. He
loved his missal and his primer, and could spell them both out
very fairly, and was learning to write of a good priest in Zirl,
where he trotted three times a week with his two little brothers.
When not at school, he was chiefly set to guard the sheep and the
cows, which occupation left him very much to himself, so that he
had many hours in the summer-time to stare up to the skies and
wonder--wonder--wonder about all sorts of things; while in the
winter--the long, white, silent winter, when the post-wagons
ceased to run, and the road into Switzerland was blocked, and the
whole world seemed asleep, except for the roaring of the winds--
Findelkind, who still trotted over the snow to school in Zirl,
would dream still, sitting on the wooden settle by the fire, when
he came home again under Martinswand. For the worst--or the best
--of it all was that he was Findelkind.
This is what was always haunting him. He was Findelkind; and to
bear this name seemed to him to mark him out from all other
children, and to dedicate him to heaven. One day, three years
before, when he had been only six years old, the priest in Zirl,
who was a very kindly and cheerful man, and amused the children
as much as he taught them, had not allowed Findelkind to leave
school to go home, because the storm of snow and wind was so
violent, but had kept him until the worst should pass, with one
or two other little lads who lived some way off, and had let the
boys roast a meal of apples and chestnuts by the stove in his
little room, and, while the wind howled and the blinding snow
fell without, had told the children the story of another
Findelkind,--an earlier Findelkind, who had lived in the flesh on
Arlberg as far back as 1381, and had been a little shepherd lad,
"just like you," said the good man, looking at the little boys
munching their roast crabs, and whose country had been over
there, above Stuben, where Danube and Rhine meet and part.
The pass of Arlberg is even still so bleak and bitter that few
care to climb there; the mountains around are drear and barren,
and snow lies till midsummer, and even longer sometimes. "But in
the early ages," said the priest (and this is quite a true tale
that the children heard with open eyes, and mouths only not open
because they were full of crabs and chestnuts), "in the early
ages," said the priest to them, "the Arlberg was far more dreary
than it is now. There was only a mule-track over it, and no
refuge for man or beast; so that wanderers and peddlers, and
those whose need for work or desire for battle brought them over
that frightful pass, perished in great numbers, and were eaten by
the bears and the wolves. The little shepherd boy Findelkind--who
was a little boy five hundred years ago, remember," the priest
repeated--"was sorely disturbed and distressed to see these poor
dead souls in the snow winter after winter, and seeing the
blanched bones lie on the bare earth, unburied, when summer
melted the snow. It made him unhappy, very unhappy; and what
could he do, he a little boy keeping sheep? He had as his wages
two florins a year; that was all; but his heart rose high, and he
had faith in God. Little as he was, he said to himself he would
try and do something, so that year after year those poor lost
travellers and beasts should not perish so. He said nothing to
anybody, but he took the few florins he had saved up, bade his
master farewell, and went on his way begging,--a little
fourteenth century boy, with long, straight hair, and a girdled
tunic, as you see them," continued the priest, "in the miniatures
in the black-letter missal that lies upon my desk. No doubt
heaven favoured him very strongly, and the saints watched over
him; still, without the boldness of his own courage, and the
faith in his own heart, they would not have done so. I suppose,
too, that when knights in their armour, and soldiers in their
camps, saw such a little fellow all alone, they helped him, and
perhaps struck some blows for him, and so sped him on his way,
and protected him from robbers and from wild beasts. Still, be
sure that the real shield and the real reward that served
Findelkind of Arlberg was the pure and noble purpose that armed
him night and day. Now, history does not tell us where Findelkind
went, nor how be fared, nor how long he was about it; but history
does tell us that the little barefooted, long-haired boy,
knocking so loudly at castle gates and city walls in the name of
Christ and Christ's poor brethren, did so well succeed in his
quest that before long he had returned to his mountain home with
means to have a church and a rude dwelling built, where he lived
with six other brave and charitable souls, dedicating themselves
to St. Christopher, and going out night and day to the sound of
the Angelus, seeking the lost and weary. This is really what
Findelkind of Arlberg did five centuries ago, and did so quickly
that his fraternity of St. Christopher, twenty years after,
numbered among its members archdukes, and prelates, and knights
without number, and lasted as a great order down to the days of
Joseph II. This is what Findelkind in the fourteenth century did,
I tell you. Bear like faith in your hearts, my children; and
though your generation is a harder one than this, because it is
without faith, yet you shall move mountains, because Christ and
St. Christopher will be with you.
Then the good man, having said that, blessed them, and left
them alone to their chestnuts and crabs, and went into his own
oratory to prayer. The other boys laughed and chattered; but
Findelkind sat very quietly, thinking of his namesake, all the
day after, and for many days and weeks and months this story
haunted him. A little boy had done all that; and this little boy
had been called Findelkind: Findelkind, just like himself.
It was beautiful, and yet it tortured him. If the good man had
known how the history would root itself in the child's mind,
perhaps he would never have told it; for night and day it vexed
Findelkind, and yet seemed beckoning to him and crying, "Go thou
and do likewise!"
But what could he do?
There was the snow, indeed, and there were the mountains, as in
the fourteenth century, but there were no travellers lost. The
diligence did not go into Switzerland after autumn, and the
country people who went by on their mules and in their sledges to
Innspruck knew their way very well, and were never likely to be
adrift on a winter's night, or eaten by a wolf or a bear.
When spring came, Findelkind sat by the edge of the bright pure
water among the flowering grasses, and felt his heart heavy.
Findelkind of Arlberg who was in heaven now must look down, he
fancied, and think him so stupid and so selfish, sitting there.
The first Findelkind, a few centuries before, had trotted down on
his bare feet from his mountain pass, and taken his little crook,
and gone out boldly over all the land on his pilgrimage, and
knocked at castle gates and city walls in Christ's name, and for
love of the poor! That was to do something indeed!
This poor little living Findelkind would look at the miniatures
in the priest's missal, in one of which there was the little
fourteenth-century boy, with long hanging hair and a wallet and
bare feet, and he never doubted that it was the portrait of the
blessed Findelkind who was in heaven; and he wondered if he
looked like a little boy there, or if he were changed to the
likeness of an angel.
"He was a boy just like me," thought the poor little fellow,
and he felt so ashamed of himself,--so very ashamed; and the
priest had told him to try and do the same. He brooded over it so
much, and it made him so anxious and so vexed, that his brothers
ate his porridge and he did not notice it, his sisters pulled his
curls and he did not feel it, his father brought a stick down on
his back, and he only started and stared, and his mother cried
because he was losing his mind, and would grow daft, and even his
mother's tears he scarcely saw. He was always thinking of
Findelkind in heaven.
When he went for water, he spilt one-half; when he did his
lessons, he forgot the chief part; when he drove out the cow, he
let her munch the cabbages; and when he was set to watch the oven
he let the loaves burn, like great Alfred. He was always busied
thinking, "Little Findelkind that is in heaven did so great a
thing: why may not I? I ought! I ought!" What was the use of
being named after Findelkind that was in heaven, unless one did
something great, too?
Next to the church there is a little stone lodge, or shed, with
two arched openings, and from it you look into the tiny church,
with its crucifixes and relics, or out to great, bold, sombre
Martinswand, as you like best; and in this spot Findelkind would
sit hour after hour while his brothers and sisters were playing,
and look up at the mountains or on to the altar, and wish and
pray and vex his little soul most wofully; and his ewes and his
lambs would crop the grass about the entrance, and bleat to make
him notice them and lead them farther afield, but all in vain.
Even his dear sheep he hardly heeded, and his pet ewes, Katte and
Greta, and the big ram Zips, rubbed their soft noses in his hand
unnoticed. So the summer droned away,--the summer that is so
short in the mountains, and yet so green and so radiant, with the
torrents tumbling through the flowers, and the hay tossing in the
meadows, and the lads and lasses climbing to cut the rich, sweet
grass of the alps. The short summer passed as fast as a dragon-
fly flashes by, all green and gold, in the sun; and it was near
winter once more, and still Findelkind was always dreaming and
wondering what he could do for the good of St. Christopher; and
the longing to do it all came more and more into his little
heart, and he puzzled his brain till his head ached. One autumn
morning, whilst yet it was dark, Findelkind made his mind up, and
rose before his brothers, and stole down-stairs and out into the
air, as it was easy to do, because the house-door never was
bolted. He had nothing with him; he was barefooted, and his
school-satchel was slung behind him, as Findelkind of Arlberg's
wallet had been five centuries before.
He took a little staff from the piles of wood lying about, and
went out on to the highroad, on his way to do heaven's will. He
was not very sure what that divine will wished, but that was
because he was only nine years old, and not very wise; but
Findelkind that was in heaven had begged for the poor; so would
His parents were very poor, but he did not think of them as in
any want at any time, because he always had his bowlful of
porridge and as much bread as he wanted to eat. This morning he
had nothing to eat; he wished to be away before any one could
It was quite dusk in the fresh autumn morning. The sun had not
risen behind the glaciers of the Stubaithal, and the road was
scarcely seen; but he knew it very well, and he set out bravely,
saying his prayers to Christ, and to St. Christopher, and to
Findelkind that was in heaven.
He was not in any way clear as to what he would do, but he
thought he would find some great thing to do somewhere, lying
like a jewel 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 travellers
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 post-house
in the old days when men travelled 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
haves 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? Not I."
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 faith.
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 flowing robes.
The place was the Hottinger Au, and the day was Saturday, and
the village was making ready to perform a miracle-play on the
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 carried
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-coloured 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 frescoes on them and gold
and colour 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
"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 be 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
"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?" be 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 around had only
poor Findelkind left to tease.
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 head.
"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 river-side 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 heart-
broken, 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 sigh.
The woman looked at him sharply. "Your parents have sent you on
an errand here?"
"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 wise.
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 for ever
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 succouring 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 heart.
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, hut
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 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 around 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
As the awestricken 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, filled 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, armoured, 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-hilted 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 around 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,
"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 leave it?"
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,--
"And 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 neighbours'.
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 of night.
As they went through the city toward 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
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 tomorrow, 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 tonight. 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
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
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,
wore 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
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
Time and again, in the glad spring-time 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 for ever: 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 Martinswand.
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 mountain-side, 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 around 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, half-way as high as where the cross in
the cavern marks the spot of the Kaiser's peril. The little bleat
sounded above him, 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 toward 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 labour 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 laboured 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
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 sheepskin tunic, and cast his staff away that
he might carry them, and so, with their weight, set his face to
the snow and the wind once more, and began his downward way.
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 that 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 above.
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 neighbours 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
Findelkind was very ill for many nights and many days after
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
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 down 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
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
"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."
Back to Full Books