HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER





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 he was

obliged to go and hire himself again to the goldsmith, who worked

him very hard, and gave him very little money. So, after a month

or two, Gluck grew tired, and made up his mind to go and try his

fortune with the Golden River. "The little king looked very kind,"

thought he. "I don't think he will turn me into a black stone." So

he went to the priest, and the priest gave him some holy water

as soon as he asked for it. Then Gluck took some bread in his

basket, and the bottle of water, and set off very early for the mountains.



If the glacier had occasioned a great deal of fatigue to his brothers,

it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither so strong nor so

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. "My son," said the old man, "I am faint

with thirst, give me some of that water." Then Gluck looked at him,

and when he saw that he was pale and weary, he gave him the water;

"Only, pray, don't drink it all," said Gluck. But the old man drank

a great deal, and gave him back the bottle two-thirds empty. Then

he bade him good speed, and Gluck went on again merrily. And

the path became easier to his feet, and two or three blades of grass

appeared upon it, and some grasshoppers began singing on the bank

beside it; and Gluck thought he had never heard such merry singing.



Then he went on for another hour, and the thirst increased on him

so that he thought he should be forced to drink. But, as he raised

the flask, he saw a little child lying panting by the roadside, and

it cried out piteously for water. Then Gluck struggled with himself,

and determined to bear the thirst a little longer; and he put

the bottle to the child's lips, and it drank it all but a few drops.

Then it smiled on him, and got up, and ran down the hill; and

Gluck looked after it, till it became as small as a little star, and

then turned and began climbing again. And then there were all

kinds of sweet flowers growing on the rocks, bright green moss with

pale pink starry flowers, and soft belled gentians more blue than

the sky at its deepest, and pure white transparent lilies. And crimson

and purple butterflies darted hither and thither, and the sky

sent down such pure light, that Gluck had never felt so happy in his

life.



Yet, when he had climbed for another hour, his thirst became

intolerable again; and, when he looked at his bottle, he saw that

there were only five or six drops left in it, and he could not venture

to drink. And, as he was hanging the flask to his belt again, he saw

a little dog lying on the rocks, gasping for breath--just as Hans

had seen it on the day of his ascent. And Gluck stopped and looked

at it, and then at the Golden River, not five hundred yards above him;

and he thought of the dwarf's word, "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 dog's mouth.



The dog sprang up and stood on its hind legs. Its tail disappeared,

its ears became long, longer, silky, golden; its nose became

very red, its eyes became very twinkling; in three seconds the dog

was gone, and before Gluck stood his old acquaintance, the King

of the Golden River.



"Thank you," said the monarch; "but don't be frightened, it's

all right"; for Gluck showed manifest symptoms of consternation

at this unlooked-for reply to his last observation. "Why didn't you

come before," continued the dwarf, "instead of sending me those

rascally brothers of yours, for me to have the trouble of turning

into stones? Very hard stones they make too."



"Oh, dear me!" said Gluck, "have you really been so cruel?"



"Cruel!" said the dwarf; "they poured unholy water into my

stream: do you suppose I'm going to allow that?"



"Why," said Gluck, "I am sure, sir--your Majesty, I mean--they

got the water out of the church font."



"Very probably," replied the dwarf; "but," and his countenance

grew stern as he spoke, "the water which has been refused to the cry

of the weary and dying, is unholy, though it had been blessed by

every saint in heaven; and the water which is found in the vessel

of mercy is holy, though it had been defiled with corpses."



So saying, the dwarf stooped and plucked a lily that grew at

his feet. On its white leaves there hung three drops of clear dew.

And the dwarf shook them into the flask which Gluck held in his

hand. "Cast these into the river," he said, "and descend on the

other side of the mountains into the Treasure Valley. And so good

speed."



As he spoke, the figure of the dwarf became indistinct. The

playing 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, toward the

Treasure Valley; and, as he went, he thought he heard the noise of

water working its way under the ground. And, when he came in

sight of the Treasure Valley, behold, a river, like the Golden River,

was springing from a new cleft of the rocks above it, and was flowing

in innumerable streams among the dry heaps of red sand.



And as Gluck gazed, fresh grass sprang beside the new streams,

and creeping plants grew, and climbed among the moistening soil.

Young flowers opened suddenly along the river sides, as stars leap

out when twilight is deepening, and thickets of myrtle, and tendrils

of vine, cast lengthening shadows over the valley as they grew.

And thus the Treasure Valley became a garden again, and the inheritance

which had been lost by cruelty was regained by love.



And Gluck went and dwelt in the valley, and the poor were never

driven from his door: so that his barns became full of corn, and his

house of treasure. And, for him, the river had, according to the

dwarf's promise, become a River of Gold.



And, to this day, the inhabitants of the valley point out the place

where the three drops of holy dew were cast into the stream, and

trace the course of the Golden River under the ground, until it

emerges in the Treasure Valley. And at the top of the cataract

of the Golden River are still to be seen TWO BLACK STONES, round

which the waters howl mournfully every day at sunset; and these

stones are still called by the people of the valley THE BLACK





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