HANS AND THE WONDERFUL FLOWER
C. S. B. Adapted from a legend of the Rhine.
A LONG way from here, in Germany, flows a wonderful
river called the Rhine. The waters are so clear and
pure that one can almost see the bottom, where the
mermaids live in their palaces of coral and shell. The
Rhine hurries on through valleys sweet with flowers,
and past mountains and hills. The fields are full of
fairies, and the hills swarm with little people,
dwarfs, and pixies, and elves, and gnomes. Not every
one may see the fairies and the little men, but they
often play the queerest tricks upon the people they do
not like, and sometimes they are good and kind.
This is the story of how they once helped a little boy.
It was little Hans, the shepherd boy, who tended the
king's sheep. Hans lived with his mother in a wee
house, with a tiny garden about it—and all they owned
in the world was the white goat that gave them milk to
drink. Every day Hans drove the king's herds to the
Rhine valley, and watched them, and tended the lambs,
and when night came he drove them back to the fold
again. Then, do you think he played? No, indeed. All
day the good mother had been busy spinning, and
cooking, and sweeping; so Hans, when his
work was done, cut the wood, and milked the white goat,
and weeded the garden. They were busy and happy—Hans
and his mother—but they were also very poor.
And one day, when it was winter, the good mother grew
so ill she could not lift her head up from the pillow.
There was an old, old woman who came to take care of
her, and she shook her head when she saw her. "There
is only one thing that will cure her," she said; "the
little brown herb that grows at the top of the
mountain—and it is covered with ice and snow."
"But I will find it," cried Hans; "I don't mind the
snow." So Hans kissed the good mother, strapped on his
snow-shoes, took his stout stick, and started out to
find the brown herb. Oh, but it was cold! The wind
whistled through the tree-tops and the sleet
blew in Hans's face. The drifts of snow were so deep
in some places that they nearly covered him—but on he
tramped, pushing and poking about with his stick.
"I must find the brown herb," he said over and over to
Up the mountain he climbed to the very top, until he
could see the river down below him. The crust on the
snow was thick and hard, and his fingers ached, but he
pounded with his stick, and stamped. All at once he
came upon the most beautiful flower you ever saw,
growing up through the snow. It was so white that it
sparkled like a hundred snow crystals, and you seemed
to be able to look deep down into its very heart. It
had the sweetest perfume, like the breath of all the
flowers in summer. It seemed to say, "Pick me, pick
me, little boy."
Now, Hans loved flowers more than anything. He
 reached out his hand for this beautiful one, and then
he seemed to see, quite plainly, the poor mother,
waiting so ill at home. A little voice inside him
said: "No, no, Hans; wait until you come back. Find
the brown herb first."
So Hans left the beautiful flower and trudged on
farther, poking about under the snow. Just as it was
nearly dark he found the brown herb, and he put it fast
in his pocket. He was hurrying home, down the mountain
side, when he remembered the white flower.
"Now I may pick it," he said to himself, but when he
went back to the place where the wonderful flower had
been it was not there at all. In its place stood a wee
little brown dwarf bowing and scraping, and taking off
his hat to Hans.
"Don't be afraid," he said to Hans, smiling all over
his wrinkled little face. "Come right in."
Then the strangest thing happened. The side of the
mountain opened wide like a door, the little dwarf
skipped along in front to show the way, and Hans found
himself in the most beautiful castle you ever saw. It
was all so bright that it dazzled his eyes. From room
to room they went, and in every room were piles and
piles of precious stones—emeralds, and rubies, and
"Help yourself, Hans," said the dwarf, as he brought
out a stout sack. "Take home as many as you like. A
little boy who is as good to his mother as you are
deserves a present."
So Hans filled his bag with the most precious of all
the stones, and, however many he put in, the dwarf
urged him to take more. But at last the sack was full,
and suddenly Hans found himself in the snow
without so much as a crack in the ice to show where the
little dwarf had stood.
Hans felt in his pocket. There was the brown
herb—safe. The bag of precious stones, which he had
slung over his shoulder, was still heavy; so he went
home as fast as his snow-shoes would carry him.
"Mother, mother!" he cried, as he ran in and threw his
arms about her. "See!" and he emptied the sack upon
the floor. "We are not poor any more! And see!" he
went on, as he pulled the brown herb from his pocket.
So they brewed the brown herb, and so soon as the good
mother tasted it she was quite well again. And the
wonderful sack of jewels stayed always full.