The King of the Golden River
The King of the Golden River
by John Ruskin
"The King of the Golden River" is a delightful fairy tale told
with all Ruskin's charm of style, his appreciation of mountain
scenery, and with his usual insistence upon drawing a moral.
None the less, it is quite unlike his other writings. All his
life long his pen was busy interpreting nature and pictures and
architecture, or persuading to better views those whom he
believed to be in error, or arousing, with the white heat of a
prophet's zeal, those whom he knew to be unawakened. There is
indeed a good deal of the prophet about John Ruskin. Though
essentially an interpreter with a singularly fine appreciation
of beauty, no man of the nineteenth century felt more keenly that
he had a mission, and none was more loyal to what he believed
that mission to be.
While still in college, what seemed a chance incident gave
occasion and direction to this mission. A certain English
reviewer had ridiculed the work of the artist Turner. Now Ruskin
held Turner to be the greatest landscape painter the world had
seen, and he immediately wrote a notable article in his defense.
Slowly this article grew into a pamphlet, and the pamphlet into a
book, the first volume of "Modern Painters." The young man awoke
to find himself famous. In the next few years four more volumes
were added to "Modern Painters," and the other notable series
upon art, "The Stones of Venice" and "The Seven Lamps of
Architecture," were sent forth.
Then, in 1860, when Ruskin was about forty years old, there came
a great change. His heaven-born genius for making the
appreciation of beauty a common possession was deflected from
its true field. He had been asking himself what are the
conditions that produce great art, and the answer he found
declared that art cannot be separated from life, nor life from
industry and industrial conditions. A civilization founded upon
unrestricted competition therefore seemed to him necessarily
feeble in appreciation of the beautiful, and unequal to its
creation. In this way loyalty to his mission bred apparent
disloyalty. Delightful discourses upon art gave way to fervid
pleas for humanity. For the rest of his life he became a very
earnest, if not always very wise, social reformer and a
passionate pleader for what he believed to be true economic
There is nothing of all this in "The King of the Golden River."
Unlike his other works, it was written merely to entertain.
Scarcely that, since it was not written for publication at all,
but to meet a challenge set him by a young girl.
The circumstance is interesting. After taking his degree at
Oxford, Ruskin was threatened with consumption and hurried away
from the chill and damp of England to the south of Europe.
After two years of fruitful travel and study he came back
improved in health but not strong, and often depressed in spirit.
It was at this time that the Guys, Scotch friends of his father
and mother, came for a visit to his home near London, and with
them their little daughter Euphemia. The coming of this
beautiful, vivacious, light-hearted child opened a new chapter in
Ruskin's life. Though but twelve years old, she sought to
enliven the melancholy student, absorbed in art and geology, and
bade him leave these and write for her a fairy tale. He
accepted, and after but two sittings, presented her with this
charming story. The incident proved to have awakened in him a
greater interest than at first appeared, for a few years later
"Effie" Grey became John Ruskin's wife. Meantime she had given
the manuscript to a friend. Nine years after it was written,
this friend, with John Ruskin's permission, gave the story to the
It was published in London in 1851, with illustrations by the
celebrated Richard Doyle, and at once became a favorite. Three
editions were printed the first year, and soon it had found its
way into German, Italian, and Welsh. Since then countless
children have had cause to be grateful for the young girl's
challenge that won the story of Gluck's golden mug and the
highly satisfactory handling of the Black Brothers by Southwest
For this edition new drawings have been prepared by Mr. Hiram P.
Barnes. They very successfully preserve the spirit of Doyle's
illustrations, which unfortunately are not technically suitable
for reproduction here.
In the original manuscript there was an epilogue bearing the
heading "Charitie"--a morning hymn of Treasure Valley, whither
Gluck had returned to dwell, and where the inheritance lost by
cruelty was regained by love:
The beams of morning are renewed The valley laughs their light to
see And earth is bright with gratitude And heaven with charitie.
CHAPTER I HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS
INTERFERED WITH BY SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE
CHAPTER II OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER THE
VISIT OF SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE; AND HOW LITTLE GLUCK HAD AN
INTERVIEW WITH THE KING OF GOLDEN RIVER
CHAPTER III HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN
RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
CHAPTER IV HOW MR. SCHWARTZ SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN
RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
CHAPTER V HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN
RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN, WITH OTHER MATTERS OF
THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER
HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS INTERFERED
WITH BY SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE
In a secluded and mountainous part of Stiria there was in old
time a valley of the most surprising and luxuriant fertility.
It was surrounded on all sides by steep and rocky mountains
rising into peaks which were always covered with snow and from
which a number of torrents descended in constant cataracts. One
of these fell westward over the face of a crag so high that when
the sun had set to everything else, and all below was darkness,
his beams still shone full upon this waterfall, so that it looked
like a shower of gold. It was therefore called by the people of
the neighborhood the Golden River. It was strange that none of
these streams fell into the valley itself. They all descended on
the other side of the mountains and wound away through broad
plains and by populous cities. But the clouds were drawn so
constantly to the snowy hills, and rested so softly in the
circular hollow, that in time of drought and heat, when all the
country round was burned up, there was still rain in the little
valley; and its crops were so heavy, and its hay so high, and its
apples so red, and its grapes so blue, and its wine so rich, and
its honey so sweet, that it was a marvel to everyone who beheld
it and was commonly called the Treasure Valley.
The whole of this little valley belonged to three brothers,
called Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the two
elder brothers, were very ugly men, with overhanging eyebrows and
small, dull eyes which were always half shut, so that you
couldn't see into THEM and always fancied they saw very far into
YOU. They lived by farming the Treasure Valley, and very good
farmers they were. They killed everything that did not pay for
its eating. They shot the blackbirds because they pecked the
fruit, and killed the hedgehogs lest they should suck the cows;
they poisoned the crickets for eating the crumbs in the kitchen,
and smothered the cicadas which used to sing all summer in the
lime trees. They worked their servants without any wages till
they would not work any more, and then quarreled with them and
turned them out of doors without paying them. It would have
been very odd if with such a farm and such a system of farming
they hadn't got very rich; and very rich they DID get. They
generally contrived to keep their corn by them till it was very
dear, and then sell it for twice its value; they had heaps of
gold lying about on their floors, yet it was never known that
they had given so much as a penny or a crust in charity; they
never went to Mass, grumbled perpetually at paying tithes, and
were, in a word, of so cruel and grinding a temper as to receive
from all those with whom they had any dealings the nickname of
the "Black Brothers."
The youngest brother, Gluck, was as completely opposed, in both
appearance and character, to his seniors as could possibly be
imagined or desired. He was not above twelve years old, fair,
blue-eyed, and kind in temper to every living thing. He did
not, of course, agree particularly well with his brothers, or,
rather, they did not agree with HIM. He was usually appointed to
the honorable office of turnspit, when there was anything to
roast, which was not often, for, to do the brothers justice, they
were hardly less sparing upon themselves than upon other people.
At other times he used to clean the shoes, floors, and sometimes
the plates, occasionally getting what was left on them, by way of
encouragement, and a wholesome quantity of dry blows by way of
Things went on in this manner for a long time. At last came a
very wet summer, and everything went wrong in the country round.
The hay had hardly been got in when the haystacks were floated
bodily down to the sea by an inundation; the vines were cut to
pieces with the hail; the corn was all killed by a black blight.
Only in the Treasure Valley, as usual, all was safe. As it had
rain when there was rain nowhere else, so it had sun when there
was sun nowhere else. Everybody came to buy corn at the farm
and went away pouring maledictions on the Black Brothers. They
asked what they liked and got it, except from the poor people,
who could only beg, and several of whom were starved at their
very door without the slightest regard or notice.
It was drawing towards winter, and very cold weather, when one
day the two elder brothers had gone out, with their usual warning
to little Gluck, who was left to mind the roast, that he was to
let nobody in and give nothing out. Gluck sat down quite close
to the fire, for it was raining very hard and the kitchen walls
were by no means dry or comfortable-looking. He turned and
turned, and the roast got nice and brown. "What a pity,"
thought Gluck, "my brothers never ask anybody to dinner. I'm
sure, when they've got such a nice piece of mutton as this, and
nobody else has got so much as a piece of dry bread, it would do
their hearts good to have somebody to eat it with them."
Just as he spoke there came a double knock at the house door, yet
heavy and dull, as though the knocker had been tied up--more like
a puff than a knock.
"It must be the wind," said Gluck; "nobody else would venture to
knock double knocks at our door."
No, it wasn't the wind; there it came again very hard, and, what
was particularly astounding, the knocker seemed to be in a hurry
and not to be in the least afraid of the consequences. Gluck
went to the window, opened it, and put his head out to see who
It was the most extraordinary-looking little gentleman he had
ever seen in his life. He had a very large nose, slightly brass-
colored; his cheeks were very round and very red, and might have
warranted a supposition that he had been blowing a refractory
fire for the last eight-and-forty hours; his eyes twinkled
merrily through long, silky eyelashes; his mustaches curled twice
round like a corkscrew on each side of his mouth; and his hair,
of a curious mixed pepper-and-salt color, descended far over his
shoulders. He was about four feet six in height and wore a
conical pointed cap of nearly the same altitude, decorated with a
black feather some three feet long. His doublet was prolonged
behind into something resembling a violent exaggeration of what
is now termed a "swallowtail," but was much obscured by the
swelling folds of an enormous black, glossy-looking cloak, which
must have been very much too long in calm weather, as the wind,
whistling round the old house, carried it clear out from the
wearer's shoulders to about four times his own length.
Gluck was so perfectly paralyzed by the singular appearance of
his visitor that he remained fixed without uttering a word,
until the old gentleman, having performed another and a more
energetic concerto on the knocker, turned round to look after his
flyaway cloak. In so doing he caught sight of Gluck's little
yellow head jammed in the window, with its mouth and eyes very
wide open indeed.
"Hollo!" said the little gentleman; "that's not the way to answer
the door. I'm wet; let me in."
To do the little gentleman justice, he WAS wet. His feather hung
down between his legs like a beaten puppy's tail, dripping like
an umbrella, and from the ends of his mustaches the water was
running into his waistcoat pockets and out again like a mill
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck, "I'm very sorry, but, I really
"Can't what?" said the old gentleman.
"I can't let you in, sir--I can't, indeed; my brothers would beat
me to death, sir, if I thought of such a thing. What do you
"Want?" said the old gentleman petulantly. "I want fire and
shelter, and there's your great fire there blazing, crackling,
and dancing on the walls with nobody to feel it. Let me in, I
say; I only want to warm myself."
Gluck had had his head, by this time, so long out of the window
that he began to feel it was really unpleasantly cold, and when
he turned and saw the beautiful fire rustling and roaring and
throwing long, bright tongues up the chimney, as if it were
licking its chops at the savory smell of the leg of mutton, his
heart melted within him that it should be burning away for
nothing. "He does look very wet," said little Gluck; "I'll just
let him in for a quarter of an hour." Round he went to the door
and opened it; and as the little gentleman walked in, there came
a gust of wind through the house that made the old chimneys
"That's a good boy," said the little gentleman. "Never mind your
brothers. I'll talk to them."
"Pray, sir, don't do any such thing," said Gluck. "I can't let
you stay till they come; they'd be the death of me."
"Dear me," said the old gentleman, "I'm very sorry to hear that.
How long may I stay?"
"Only till the mutton's done, sir," replied Gluck, "and it's very
Then the old gentleman walked into the kitchen and sat himself
down on the hob, with the top of his cap accommodated up the
chimney, for it was a great deal too high for the roof.
"You'll soon dry there, sir," said Gluck, and sat down again to
turn the mutton. But the old gentleman did NOT dry there, but
went on drip, drip, dripping among the cinders, and the fire
fizzed and sputtered and began to look very black and
uncomfortable. Never was such a cloak; every fold in it ran like
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck at length, after watching the
water spreading in long, quicksilver-like streams over the floor
for a quarter of an hour; "mayn't I take your cloak?"
"No, thank you," said the old gentleman.
"Your cap, sir?"
"I am all right, thank you," said the old gentleman rather
"But--sir--I'm very sorry," said Gluck hesitatingly, "but--
really, sir--you're--putting the fire out."
"It'll take longer to do the mutton, then," replied his visitor
Gluck was very much puzzled by the behavior of his guest; it was
such a strange mixture of coolness and humility. He turned away
at the string meditatively for another five minutes.
"That mutton looks very nice," said the old gentleman at length.
"Can't you give me a little bit?"
"Impossible, sir," said Gluck.
"I'm very hungry," continued the old gentleman. "I've had
nothing to eat yesterday nor to-day. They surely couldn't miss
a bit from the knuckle!"
He spoke in so very melancholy a tone that it quite melted
Gluck's heart. "They promised me one slice to-day, sir," said
he; "I can give you that, but not a bit more."
"That's a good boy," said the old gentleman again.
Then Gluck warmed a plate and sharpened a knife. "I don't care
if I do get beaten for it," thought he. Just as he had cut a
large slice out of the mutton there came a tremendous rap at the
door. The old gentleman jumped off the hob as if it had
suddenly become inconveniently warm. Gluck fitted the slice into
the mutton again, with desperate efforts at exactitude, and ran
to open the door.
"What did you keep us waiting in the rain for?" said Schwartz, as
he walked in, throwing his umbrella in Gluck's face.
"Aye! what for, indeed, you little vagabond?" said Hans,
administering an educational box on the ear as he followed his
brother into the kitchen.
"Bless my soul!" said Schwartz when he opened the door.
"Amen," said the little gentleman, who had taken his cap off and
was standing in the middle of the kitchen, bowing with the utmost
"Who's that?" said Schwartz, catching up a rolling-pin and
turning to Gluck with a fierce frown.
"I don't know, indeed, brother," said Gluck in great terror.
"How did he get in?" roared Schwartz.
"My dear brother," said Gluck deprecatingly, "he was so VERY
The rolling-pin was descending on Gluck's head, but, at the
instant, the old gentleman interposed his conical cap, on which
it crashed with a shock that shook the water out of it all over
the room. What was very odd, the rolling-pin no sooner touched
the cap than it flew out of Schwartz's hand, spinning like a
straw in a high wind, and fell into the corner at the further end
of the room.
"Who are you, sir?" demanded Schwartz, turning upon him. "What's
your business?" snarled Hans.
"I'm a poor old man, sir," the little gentleman began very
modestly, "and I saw your fire through the window and begged
shelter for a quarter of an hour."
"Have the goodness to walk out again, then," said Schwartz.
"We've quite enough water in our kitchen without making it a
"It is a cold day to turn an old man out in, sir; look at my gray
hairs." They hung down to his shoulders, as I told you before.
"Aye!" said Hans; "there are enough of them to keep you warm.
"I'm very, very hungry, sir; couldn't you spare me a bit of bread
before I go?"
"Bread, indeed!" said Schwartz; "do you suppose we've nothing to
do with our bread but to give it to such red-nosed fellows as
"Why don't you sell your feather?" said Hans sneeringly. "Out
"A little bit," said the old gentleman.
"Be off!" said Schwartz.
"Off, and be hanged!" cried Hans, seizing him by the collar. But
he had no sooner touched the old gentleman's collar than away he
went after the rolling-pin, spinning round and round till he fell
into the corner on the top of it. Then Schwartz was very angry
and ran at the old gentleman to turn him out; but he also had
hardly touched him when away he went after Hans and the rolling-
pin, and hit his head against the wall as he tumbled into the
corner. And so there they lay, all three.
Then the old gentleman spun himself round with velocity in the
opposite direction, continued to spin until his long cloak was
all wound neatly about him, clapped his cap on his head, very
much on one side (for it could not stand upright without going
through the ceiling), gave an additional twist to his corkscrew
mustaches, and replied with perfect coolness: "Gentlemen, I wish
you a very good morning. At twelve o'clock tonight I'll call
again; after such a refusal of hospitality as I have just
experienced, you will not be surprised if that visit is the last
I ever pay you."
"If ever I catch you here again," muttered Schwartz, coming, half
frightened, out of the corner--but before he could finish his
sentence the old gentleman had shut the house door behind him
with a great bang, and there drove past the window at the same
instant a wreath of ragged cloud that whirled and rolled away
down the valley in all manner of shapes, turning over and over in
the air and melting away at last in a gush of rain.
"A very pretty business, indeed, Mr. Gluck!" said Schwartz. "Dish
the mutton, sir. If ever I catch you at such a trick again--
bless me, why, the mutton's been cut!"
"You promised me one slice, brother, you know," said Gluck.
"Oh! and you were cutting it hot, I suppose, and going to catch
all the gravy. It'll be long before I promise you such a thing
again. Leave the room, sir; and have the kindness to wait in the
coal cellar till I call you."
Gluck left the room melancholy enough. The brothers ate as much
mutton as they could, locked the rest in the cupboard, and
proceeded to get very drunk after dinner.
Such a night as it was! Howling wind and rushing rain, without
intermission. The brothers had just sense enough left to put up
all the shutters and double-bar the door before they went to bed.
They usually slept in the same room. As the clock struck twelve
they were both awakened by a tremendous crash. Their door burst
open with a violence that shook the house from top to bottom.
"What's that?" cried Schwartz, starting up in his bed.
"Only I," said the little gentleman.
The two brothers sat up on their bolster and stared into the
darkness. The room was full of water, and by a misty moonbeam,
which found its way through a hole in the shutter, they could
see in the midst of it an enormous foam globe, spinning round and
bobbing up and down like a cork, on which, as on a most luxurious
cushion, reclined the little old gentleman, cap and all. There
was plenty of room for it now, for the roof was off.
"Sorry to incommode you," said their visitor ironically. "I'm
afraid your beds are dampish. Perhaps you had better go to your
brother's room; I've left the ceiling on there."
They required no second admonition, but rushed into Gluck's room,
wet through and in an agony of terror.
"You'll find my card on the kitchen table," the old gentleman
called after them. "Remember, the LAST visit."
"Pray Heaven it may!" said Schwartz, shuddering. And the foam
Dawn came at last, and the two brothers looked out of Gluck's
little window in the morning. The Treasure Valley was one mass
of ruin and desolation. The inundation had swept away trees,
crops, and cattle, and left in their stead a waste of red sand
and gray mud. The two brothers crept shivering and horror-struck
into the kitchen. The water had gutted the whole first floor;
corn, money, almost every movable thing, had been swept away, and
there was left only a small white card on the kitchen table. On
it, in large, breezy, long-legged letters, were engraved the
SOUTH WEST WIND, ESQUIRE
OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER THE VISIT OF
SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE; AND HOW LITTLE GLUCK HAD AN INTERVIEW
WITH THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER
Southwest Wind, Esquire, was as good as his word. After the
momentous visit above related, he entered the Treasure Valley no
more; and, what was worse, he had so much influence with his
relations, the West Winds in general, and used it so effectually,
that they all adopted a similar line of conduct. So no rain fell
in the valley from one year's end to another. Though everything
remained green and flourishing in the plains below, the
inheritance of the three brothers was a desert. What had once
been the richest soil in the kingdom became a shifting heap of
red sand, and the brothers, unable longer to contend with the
adverse skies, abandoned their valueless patrimony in despair, to
seek some means of gaining a livelihood among the cities and
people of the plains. All their money was gone, and they had
nothing left but some curious old-fashioned pieces of gold
plate, the last remnants of their ill-gotten wealth.
"Suppose we turn goldsmiths," said Schwartz to Hans as they
entered the large city. "It is a good knave's trade; we can put
a great deal of copper into the gold without anyone's finding it
The thought was agreed to be a very good one; they hired a
furnace and turned goldsmiths. But two slight circumstances
affected their trade: the first, that people did not approve of
the coppered gold; the second, that the two elder brothers,
whenever they had sold anything, used to leave little Gluck to
mind the furnace, and go and drink out the money in the alehouse
next door. So they melted all their gold without making money
enough to buy more, and were at last reduced to one large
drinking mug, which an uncle of his had given to little Gluck,
and which he was very fond of and would not have parted with for
the world, though he never drank anything out of it but milk and
water. The mug was a very odd mug to look at. The handle was
formed of two wreaths of flowing golden hair, so finely spun that
it looked more like silk than metal, and these wreaths descended
into and mixed with a beard and whiskers of the same exquisite
workmanship, which surrounded and decorated a very fierce little
face, of the reddest gold imaginable, right in the front of the
mug, with a pair of eyes in it which seemed to command its whole
circumference. It was impossible to drink out of the mug without
being subjected to an intense gaze out of the side of these eyes,
and Schwartz positively averred that once, after emptying it,
full of Rhenish, seventeen times, he had seen them wink! When it
came to the mug's turn to be made into spoons, it half broke poor
little Gluck's heart; but the brothers only laughed at him,
tossed the mug into the melting pot, and staggered out to the
alehouse, leaving him, as usual, to pour the gold into bars when
it was all ready.
When they were gone, Gluck took a farewell look at his old friend
in the melting pot. The flowing hair was all gone; nothing
remained but the red nose and the sparkling eyes, which looked
more malicious than ever. "And no wonder," thought Gluck, "after
being treated in that way." He sauntered disconsolately to the
window and sat himself down to catch the fresh evening air and
escape the hot breath of the furnace. Now this window commanded
a direct view of the range of mountains which, as I told you
before, overhung the Treasure Valley, and more especially of the
peak from which fell the Golden River. It was just at the close
of the day, and when Gluck sat down at the window, he saw the
rocks of the mountain tops, all crimson and purple with the
sunset; and there were bright tongues of fiery cloud burning and
quivering about them; and the river, brighter than all, fell, in
a waving column of pure gold, from precipice to precipice, with
the double arch of a broad purple rainbow stretched across it,
flushing and fading alternately in the wreaths of spray.
"Ah!" said Gluck aloud, after he had looked at it for a little
while, "if that river were really all gold, what a nice thing it
"No, it wouldn't, Gluck," said a clear, metallic voice close at
"Bless me, what's that?" exclaimed Gluck, jumping up. There was
nobody there. He looked round the room and under the table and a
great many times behind him, but there was certainly nobody
there, and he sat down again at the window. This time he didn't
speak, but he couldn't help thinking again that it would be very
convenient if the river were really all gold.
"Not at all, my boy," said the same voice, louder than before.
"Bless me!" said Gluck again, "what is that?" He looked again
into all the corners and cupboards, and then began turning round
and round as fast as he could, in the middle of the room,
thinking there was somebody behind him, when the same voice
struck again on his ear. It was singing now, very merrily, "Lala-
lira-la"--no words, only a soft, running, effervescent melody,
something like that of a kettle on the boil. Gluck looked out of
the window; no, it was certainly in the house. Upstairs and
downstairs; no, it was certainly in that very room, coming in
quicker time and clearer notes every moment: "Lala-lira-la." All
at once it struck Gluck that it sounded louder near the furnace.
He ran to the opening and looked in. Yes, he saw right; it
seemed to be coming not only out of the furnace but out of the
pot. He uncovered it, and ran back in a great fright, for the
pot was certainly singing! He stood in the farthest corner of
the room, with his hands up and his mouth open, for a minute or
two, when the singing stopped and the voice became clear and
"Hollo!" said the voice.
Gluck made no answer.
"Hollo! Gluck, my boy," said the pot again.
Gluck summoned all his energies, walked straight up to the
crucible, drew it out of the furnace, and looked in. The gold
was all melted and its surface as smooth and polished as a river,
but instead of reflecting little Gluck's head, as he looked in he
saw, meeting his glance from beneath the gold, the red nose and
sharp eyes of his old friend of the mug, a thousand times redder
and sharper than ever he had seen them in his life.
"Come, Gluck, my boy," said the voice out of the pot again, "I'm
all right; pour me out."
But Gluck was too much astonished to do anything of the kind.
"Pour me out, I say," said the voice rather gruffly.
Still Gluck couldn't move.
"WILL you pour me out?" said the voice passionately. "I'm too
By a violent effort Gluck recovered the use of his limbs, took
hold of the crucible, and sloped it, so as to pour out the gold.
But instead of a liquid stream there came out, first a pair of
pretty little yellow legs, then some coat tails, then a pair of
arms stuck akimbo, and finally the well-known head of his friend
the mug--all which articles, uniting as they rolled out, stood up
energetically on the floor in the shape of a little golden dwarf
about a foot and a half high.
"That's right!" said the dwarf, stretching out first his legs and
then his arms, and then shaking his head up and down and as far
round as it would go, for five minutes without stopping,
apparently with the view of ascertaining if he were quite
correctly put together, while Gluck stood contemplating him in
speechless amazement. He was dressed in a slashed doublet of
spun gold, so fine in its texture that the prismatic colors
gleamed over it as if on a surface of mother-of-pearl; and over
this brilliant doublet his hair and beard fell full halfway to
the ground in waving curls, so exquisitely delicate that Gluck
could hardly tell where they ended; they seemed to melt into air.
The features of the face, however, were by no means finished with
the same delicacy; they were rather coarse, slightly inclining to
coppery in complexion, and indicative, in expression, of a very
pertinacious and intractable disposition in their small
proprietor. When the dwarf had finished his self-examination,
he turned his small, sharp eyes full on Gluck and stared at him
deliberately for a minute or two. "No, it wouldn't, Gluck, my
boy," said the little man.
This was certainly rather an abrupt and unconnected mode of
commencing conversation. It might indeed be supposed to refer
to the course of Gluck's thoughts, which had first produced the
dwarf's observations out of the pot; but whatever it referred to,
Gluck had no inclination to dispute the dictum.
"Wouldn't it, sir?" said Gluck very mildly and submissively
"No," said the dwarf, conclusively, "no, it wouldn't." And with
that the dwarf pulled his cap hard over his brows and took two
turns, of three feet long, up and down the room, lifting his
legs up very high and setting them down very hard. This pause
gave time for Gluck to collect his thoughts a little, and, seeing
no great reason to view his diminutive visitor with dread, and
feeling his curiosity overcome his amazement, he ventured on a
question of peculiar delicacy.
"Pray, sir," said Gluck, rather hesitatingly, "were you my mug?"
On which the little man turned sharp round, walked straight up to
Gluck, and drew himself up to his full height. "I," said the
little man, "am the King of the Golden River." Whereupon he
turned about again and took two more turns, some six feet long,
in order to allow time for the consternation which this
announcement produced in his auditor to evaporate. After which
he again walked up to Gluck and stood still, as if expecting some
comment on his communication.
Gluck determined to say something at all events. "I hope your
Majesty is very well," said Gluck.
"Listen!" said the little man, deigning no reply to this polite
inquiry. "I am the king of what you mortals call the Golden
River. The shape you saw me in was owing to the malice of a
stronger king, from whose enchantments you have this instant
freed me. What I have seen of you and your conduct to your
wicked brothers renders me willing to serve you; therefore,
attend to what I tell you. Whoever shall climb to the top of
that mountain from which you see the Golden River issue, and
shall cast into the stream at its source three drops of holy
water, for him and for him only the river shall turn to gold.
But no one failing in his first can succeed in a second attempt,
and if anyone shall cast unholy water into the river, it will
overwhelm him and he will become a black stone." So saying, the
King of the Golden River turned away and deliberately walked into
the center of the hottest flame of the furnace. His figure
became red, white, transparent, dazzling,--a blaze of intense
light,--rose, trembled, and disappeared. The King of the Golden
River had evaporated.
"Oh!" cried poor Gluck, running to look up the chimney after him,
"O dear, dear, dear me! My mug! my mug! my mug!"
HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND
HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
The King of the Golden River had hardly made the extraordinary
exit related in the last chapter, before Hans and Schwartz came
roaring into the house very savagely drunk. The discovery of
the total loss of their last piece of plate had the effect of
sobering them just enough to enable them to stand over Gluck,
beating him very steadily for a quarter of an hour; at the
expiration of which period they dropped into a couple of chairs
and requested to know what he had got to say for himself. Gluck
told them his story, of which, of course, they did not believe a
word. They beat him again, till their arms were tired, and
staggered to bed. In the morning, however, the steadiness with
which he adhered to his story obtained him some degree of
credence; the immediate consequence of which was that the two
brothers, after wrangling a long time on the knotty question,
which of them should try his fortune first, drew their swords and
began fighting. The noise of the fray alarmed the neighbors,
who, finding they could not pacify the combatants, sent for the
Hans, on hearing this, contrived to escape, and hid himself; but
Schwartz was taken before the magistrate, fined for breaking the
peace, and, having drunk out his last penny the evening before,
was thrown into prison till he should pay.
When Hans heard this, he was much delighted, and determined to
set out immediately for the Golden River. How to get the holy
water was the question. He went to the priest, but the priest
could not give any holy water to so abandoned a character. So
Hans went to vespers in the evening for the first time in his
life and, under pretense of crossing himself, stole a cupful and
returned home in triumph.
Next morning he got up before the sun rose, put the holy water
into a strong flask, and two bottles of wine and some meat in a
basket, slung them over his back, took his alpine staff in his
hand, and set off for the mountains.
On his way out of the town he had to pass the prison, and as he
looked in at the windows, whom should he see but Schwartz
himself peeping out of the bars and looking very disconsolate.
"Good morning, brother," said Hans; "have you any message for the
King of the Golden River?"
Schwartz gnashed his teeth with rage and shook the bars with all
his strength, but Hans only laughed at him and, advising him to
make himself comfortable till he came back again, shouldered his
basket, shook the bottle of holy water in Schwartz's face till
it frothed again, and marched off in the highest spirits in the
It was indeed a morning that might have made anyone happy, even
with no Golden River to seek for. Level lines of dewy mist lay
stretched along the valley, out of which rose the massy
mountains, their lower cliffs in pale gray shadow, hardly
distinguishable from the floating vapor but gradually ascending
till they caught the sunlight, which ran in sharp touches of
ruddy color along the angular crags, and pierced, in long, level
rays, through their fringes of spearlike pine. Far above shot up
red, splintered masses of castellated rock, jagged and shivered
into myriads of fantastic forms, with here and there a streak of
sunlit snow traced down their chasms like a line of forked
lightning; and far beyond and far above all these, fainter than
the morning cloud but purer and changeless, slept, in the blue
sky, the utmost peaks of the eternal snow.
The Golden River, which sprang from one of the lower and snowless
elevations, was now nearly in shadow--all but the uppermost jets
of spray, which rose like slow smoke above the undulating line of
the cataract and floated away in feeble wreaths upon the morning
On this object, and on this alone, Hans's eyes and thoughts were
fixed. Forgetting the distance he had to traverse, he set off at
an imprudent rate of walking, which greatly exhausted him before
he had scaled the first range of the green and low hills. He
was, moreover, surprised, on surmounting them, to find that a
large glacier, of whose existence, notwithstanding his previous
knowledge of the mountains, he had been absolutely ignorant, lay
between him and the source of the Golden River. He entered on it
with the boldness of a practiced mountaineer, yet he thought he
had never traversed so strange or so dangerous a glacier in his
life. The ice was excessively slippery, and out of all its
chasms came wild sounds of gushing water--not monotonous or low,
but changeful and loud, rising occasionally into drifting
passages of wild melody, then breaking off into short, melancholy
tones or sudden shrieks resembling those of human voices in
distress or pain. The ice was broken into thousands of confused
shapes, but none, Hans thought, like the ordinary forms of
splintered ice. There seemed a curious EXPRESSION about all
their outlines--a perpetual resemblance to living features,
distorted and scornful. Myriads of deceitful shadows and lurid
lights played and floated about and through the pale blue
pinnacles, dazzling and confusing the sight of the traveler,
while his ears grew dull and his head giddy with the constant
gush and roar of the concealed waters. These painful
circumstances increased upon him as he advanced; the ice crashed
and yawned into fresh chasms at his feet, tottering spires nodded
around him and fell thundering across his path; and though he had
repeatedly faced these dangers on the most terrific glaciers and
in the wildest weather, it was with a new and oppressive feeling
of panic terror that he leaped the last chasm and flung himself,
exhausted and shuddering, on the firm turf of the mountain.
He had been compelled to abandon his basket of food, which became
a perilous incumbrance on the glacier, and had now no means of
refreshing himself but by breaking off and eating some of the
pieces of ice. This, however, relieved his thirst; an hour's
repose recruited his hardy frame, and with the indomitable spirit
of avarice he resumed his laborious journey.
His way now lay straight up a ridge of bare red rocks, without a
blade of grass to ease the foot or a projecting angle to afford
an inch of shade from the south sun. It was past noon and the
rays beat intensely upon the steep path, while the whole
atmosphere was motionless and penetrated with heat. Intense
thirst was soon added to the bodily fatigue with which Hans was
now afflicted; glance after glance he cast on the flask of water
which hung at his belt. "Three drops are enough," at last thought
he; "I may, at least, cool my lips with it."
He opened the flask and was raising it to his lips, when his eye
fell on an object lying on the rock beside him; he thought it
moved. It was a small dog, apparently in the last agony of
death from thirst. Its tongue was out, its jaws dry, its limbs
extended lifelessly, and a swarm of black ants were crawling
about its lips and throat. Its eye moved to the bottle which
Hans held in his hand. He raised it, drank, spurned the animal
with his foot, and passed on. And he did not know how it was,
but he thought that a strange shadow had suddenly come across the
The path became steeper and more rugged every moment, and the
high hill air, instead of refreshing him, seemed to throw his
blood into a fever. The noise of the hill cataracts sounded like
mockery in his ears; they were all distant, and his thirst
increased every moment. Another hour passed, and he again looked
down to the flask at his side; it was half empty, but there was
much more than three drops in it. He stopped to open it, and
again, as he did so, something moved in the path above him. It
was a fair child, stretched nearly lifeless on the rock, its
breast heaving with thirst, its eyes closed, and its lips parched
and burning. Hans eyed it deliberately, drank, and passed on.
And a dark gray cloud came over the sun, and long, snakelike
shadows crept up along the mountain sides. Hans struggled on.
The sun was sinking, but its descent seemed to bring no coolness;
the leaden height of the dead air pressed upon his brow and
heart, but the goal was near. He saw the cataract of the Golden
River springing from the hillside scarcely five hundred feet
above him. He paused for a moment to breathe, and sprang on to
complete his task.
At this instant a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and saw
a gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes were sunk,
his features deadly pale and gathered into an expression of
despair. "Water!" he stretched his arms to Hans, and cried
feebly, "Water! I am dying."
"I have none," replied Hans; "thou hast had thy share of life."
He strode over the prostrate body and darted on. And a flash of
blue lightning rose out of the East, shaped like a sword; it
shook thrice over the whole heaven and left it dark with one
heavy, impenetrable shade. The sun was setting; it plunged
towards the horizon like a redhot ball. The roar of the Golden
River rose on Hans's ear. He stood at the brink of the chasm
through which it ran. Its waves were filled with the red glory
of the sunset; they shook their crests like tongues of fire, and
flashes of bloody light gleamed along their foam. Their sound
came mightier and mightier on his senses; his brain grew giddy
with the prolonged thunder. Shuddering he drew the flask from
his girdle and hurled it into the center of the torrent. As he
did so, an icy chill shot through his limbs; he staggered,
shrieked, and fell. The waters closed over his cry, and the
moaning of the river rose wildly into the night as it gushed over
THE BLACK STONE
HOW MR. SCHWARTZ SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,
AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
Poor little Gluck waited very anxiously, alone in the house, for
Hans's return. Finding he did not come back, he was terribly
frightened and went and told Schwartz in the prison all that had
happened. Then Schwartz was very much pleased and said that
Hans must certainly have been turned into a black stone and he
should have all the gold to himself. But Gluck was very sorry
and cried all night. When he got up in the morning there was no
bread in the house, nor any money; so Gluck went and hired
himself to another goldsmith, and he worked so hard and so neatly
and so long every day that he soon got money enough together to
pay his brother's fine, and he went and gave it all to Schwartz,
and Schwartz got out of prison. Then Schwartz was quite pleased
and said he should have some of the gold of the river. But Gluck
only begged he would go and see what had become of Hans.
Now when Schwartz had heard that Hans had stolen the holy water,
he thought to himself that such a proceeding might not be
considered altogether correct by the King of the Golden River,
and determined to manage matters better. So he took some more of
Gluck's money and went to a bad priest, who gave him some holy
water very readily for it. Then Schwartz was sure it was all
quite right. So Schwartz got up early in the morning before the
sun rose, and took some bread and wine in a basket, and put his
holy water in a flask, and set off for the mountains. Like his
brother he was much surprised at the sight of the glacier and had
great difficulty in crossing it, even after leaving his basket
behind him. The day was cloudless but not bright; there was a
heavy purple haze hanging over the sky, and the hills looked
lowering and gloomy. And as Schwartz climbed the steep rock path
the thirst came upon him, as it had upon his brother, until he
lifted his flask to his lips to drink. Then he saw the fair
child lying near him on the rocks, and it cried to him and moaned
for water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half
enough for myself," and passed on. And as he went he thought the
sunbeams grew more dim, and he saw a low bank of black cloud
rising out of the west; and when he had climbed for another hour,
the thirst overcame him again and he would have drunk. Then he
saw the old man lying before him on the path, and heard him cry
out for water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz; "I haven't half
enough for myself," and on he went. Then again the light seemed
to fade from before his eyes, and he looked up, and, behold, a
mist, of the color of blood, had come over the sun; and the bank
of black cloud had risen very high, and its edges were tossing
and tumbling like the waves of the angry sea and they cast long
shadows which flickered over Schwartz's path.
Then Schwartz climbed for another hour, and again his thirst
returned; and as he lifted his flask to his lips he thought he
saw his brother Hans lying exhausted on the path before him, and
as he gazed the figure stretched its arms to him and cried for
water. "Ha, ha!" laughed Schwartz, "are you there? Remember the
prison bars, my boy. Water, indeed! do you suppose I carried it
all the way up here for you?" And he strode over the figure;
yet, as he passed, he thought he saw a strange expression of
mockery about its lips. And when he had gone a few yards
farther, he looked back; but the figure was not there.
And a sudden horror came over Schwartz, he knew not why; but the
thirst for gold prevailed over his fear, and he rushed on. And
the bank of black cloud rose to the zenith, and out of it came
bursts of spiry lightning, and waves of darkness seemed to heave
and float, between their flashes, over the whole heavens. And
the sky where the sun was setting was all level and like a lake
of blood; and a strong wind came out of that sky, tearing its
crimson clouds into fragments and scattering them far into the
darkness. And when Schwartz stood by the brink of the Golden
River, its waves were black like thunder clouds, but their foam
was like fire; and the roar of the waters below and the thunder
above met as he cast the flask into the stream. And as he did so
the lightning glared in his eyes, and the earth gave way beneath
him, and the waters closed over his cry. And the moaning of the
river rose wildly into the night as it gushed over the
TWO BLACK STONES
HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER,
AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN, WITH OTHER MATTERS OF INTEREST
When Gluck found that Schwartz did not come back, he was very
sorry and did not know what to do. He had no money and was
obliged to go and hire himself again to the goldsmith, who worked
him very hard and gave him very little money. So, after a month
or two, Gluck grew tired and made up his mind to go and try his
fortune with the Golden River. "The little king looked very
kind," thought he. "I don't think he will turn me into a black
stone." So he went to the priest, and the priest gave him some
holy water as soon as he asked for it. Then Gluck took some
bread in his basket, and the bottle of water, and set off very
early for the mountains.
If the glacier had occasioned a great deal of fatigue in his
brothers, it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither so
strong nor so practiced on the mountains. He had several very
bad falls, lost his basket and bread, and was very much
frightened at the strange noises under the ice. He lay a long
time to rest on the grass, after he had got over, and began to
climb the hill just in the hottest part of the day. When he had
climbed for an hour, he got dreadfully thirsty and was going to
drink like his brothers, when he saw an old man coming down the
path above him, looking very feeble and leaning on a staff. "Why
son," said the old man, "I am faint with thirst; give me some of
that water." Then Gluck looked at him, and when he saw that he
was pale and weary, he gave him the water. "Only pray don't
drink it all," said Gluck. But the old man drank a great deal
and gave him back the bottle two thirds empty. Then he bade him
good speed, and Gluck went on again merrily. And the path became
easier to his feet, and two or three blades of grass appeared
upon it, and some grasshoppers began singing on the bank beside
it, and Gluck thought he had never heard such merry singing.
Then he went on for another hour, and the thirst increased on him
so that he thought he should be forced to drink. But as he
raised the flask he saw a little child lying panting by the
roadside, and it cried out piteously for water. Then Gluck
struggled with himself and determined to bear the thirst a
little longer; and he put the bottle to the child's lips, and it
drank it all but a few drops. Then it smiled on him and got up
and ran down the hill; and Gluck looked after it till it became
as small as a little star, and then turned and began climbing
again. And then there were all kinds of sweet flowers growing on
the rocks--bright green moss with pale pink, starry flowers, and
soft belled gentians, more blue than the sky at its deepest, and
pure white transparent lilies. And crimson and purple
butterflies darted hither and thither, and the sky sent down such
pure light that Gluck had never felt so happy in his life.
Yet, when he had climbed for another hour, his thirst became
intolerable again; and when he looked at his bottle, he saw that
there were only five or six drops left in it, and he could not
venture to drink. And as he was hanging the flask to his belt
again, he saw a little dog lying on the rocks, gasping for
breath--just as Hans had seen it on the day of his ascent. And
Gluck stopped and looked at it, and then at the Golden River, not
five hundred yards above him; and he thought of the dwarf's
words, that no one could succeed except in his first attempt; and
he tried to pass the dog, but it whined piteously and Gluck
stopped again. "Poor beastie," said Gluck, "it'll be dead when I
come down again, if I don't help it." Then he looked closer and
closer at it, and its eye turned on him so mournfully that he
could not stand it. "Confound the king and his gold too," said
Gluck, and he opened the flask and poured all the water into the
The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail
disappeared; its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its
nose became very red; its eyes became very twinkling; in three
seconds the dog was gone, and before Gluck stood his old
acquaintance, the King of the Golden River.
"Thank you," said the monarch. "But don't be frightened; it's
all right"--for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation
at this unlooked-for reply to his last observation. "Why didn't
you come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me
those rascally brothers of yours, for me to have the trouble of
turning into stones? Very hard stones they make, too."
"O dear me!" said Gluck, "have you really been so cruel?"
"Cruel!" said the dwarf; "they poured unholy water into my
stream. Do you suppose I'm going to allow that?"
"Why," said Gluck, "I am sure, sir,--your Majesty, I mean,--they
got the water out of the church font."
"Very probably," replied the dwarf, "but" (and his countenance
grew stern as he spoke) "the water which has been refused to the
cry of the weary and dying is unholy, though it had been blessed
by every saint in heaven; and the water which is found in the
vessel of mercy is holy, though it had been defiled with
So saying, the dwarf stooped and plucked a lily that grew at his
feet. On its white leaves there hung three drops of clear dew. And
the dwarf shook them into the flask which Gluck held in his
hand. "Cast these into the river," he said, "and descend on the
other side of the mountains into the Treasure Valley. And so
As he spoke the figure of the dwarf became indistinct. The
playing colors of his robe formed themselves into a prismatic
mist of dewy light; he stood for an instant veiled with them as
with the belt of a broad rainbow. The colors grew faint; the
mist rose into the air; the monarch had evaporated.
And Gluck climbed to the brink of the Golden River, and its waves
were as clear as crystal and as brilliant as the sun. And when
he cast the three drops of dew into the stream, there opened
where they fell a small, circular whirlpool, into which the
waters descended with a musical noise.
Gluck stood watching it for some time, very much disappointed,
because not only the river was not turned into gold, but its
waters seemed much diminished in quantity. Yet he obeyed his
friend the dwarf and descended the other side of the mountains
towards the Treasure Valley; and as he went he thought he heard
the noise of water working its way under the ground. And when he
came in sight of the Treasure Valley, behold, a river, like the
Golden River, was springing from a new cleft of the rocks above
it and was flowing in innumerable streams among the dry heaps of
And as Gluck gazed, fresh grass sprang beside the new streams,
and creeping plants grew and climbed among the moistening soil.
Young flowers opened suddenly along the riversides, as stars
leap out when twilight is deepening, and thickets of myrtle and
tendrils of vine cast lengthening shadows over the valley as they
grew. And thus the Treasure Valley became a garden again, and
the inheritance which had been lost by cruelty was regained by
And Gluck went and dwelt in the valley, and the poor were never
driven from his door, so that his barns became full of corn and
his house of treasure. And for him the river had, according to
the dwarf's promise, become a river of gold.
And to this day the inhabitants of the valley point out the place
where the three drops of holy dew were cast into the stream, and
trace the course of the Golden River under the ground until it
emerges in the Treasure Valley. And at the top of the cataract
of the Golden River are still to be seen two black stones, round
which the waters howl mournfully every day at sunset; and these
stones are still called by the people of the valley
THE BLACK BROTHERS
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