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OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER THE VISIT OF SOUTHWEST

from Types Of Children's Literature - The King Of The Golden River; Or, The Black Brothers





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 any one's finding it out."

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 from 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 while,
"if that river were really all gold, what a nice thing it would be."

"No, it wouldn't, Gluck," said a clear metallic voice, close at
his ear.

"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 pronunciative.

"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
hot."

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
inclined 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 what he said.

"Wouldn't it, sir?" said Gluck, very mildly and submissively
indeed.

"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 any one 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; "oh, dear, dear, dear me! My mug! my mug! my mug!"





Next: HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER

Previous: HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS INTERFERED



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