Two new titles every week when you join Gateway to the Classics
PETER KLAUS THE GOATHERD
 IN the village of Sittendorf in Germany there dwelt, a
long time ago, a poor but worthy man whose name was
Peter Klaus. All the people for miles around knew
Peter. He was not fond of hard work. He could not have
been persuaded for all the money in the world to spend
his days in a shop tinkering at a trade. He liked to be
out of doors. He liked to wander at his ease in the
fields and the woods, enjoying the sunlight and the
flowers and the songs of the birds.
Since he could not be induced to follow any occupation
in the village, his neighbors sometimes hired him to
take care of their goats. Every morning he drove a
great flock of Billies and Nannies out upon the slopes
of the Kyffhäuser Mountain; and while they browsed upon
the grass, he wandered around in the groves and glens
or went to sleep on the sunny slope of some great rock.
In the evening he got the goats together and drove
them slowly back to the village. This was just the kind
of life that he liked, and
 he wished no grander title than that of "Peter Klaus
One morning, soon after reaching the pasture, Peter
missed the prettiest Nanny goat in the flock. He hunted
for her among the rocks and in the thickets of
underbrush; he called her; he climbed to the top of the
hill whence he could see all over the country for miles
around. But no stray goat could he find.
When evening came and it was time to go home, he was in
great despair. Should he go home and say that he had
lost one of his flock? Such a thing had never happened
before. But what was his surprise upon rounding up the
flock, to see the lost Nanny in its midst!
The same thing happened for several days. Every morning
Nanny would disappear and nothing could be seen of her
until late in the evening, when she would suddenly join
her fellows and run, frisking and playing, back to the
Peter was much puzzled, for, do what he could he was
unable to find out what the frolicking creature did
with herself during the day. At length he made up his
mind not to take his eyes off her during the whole day.
He watched her closely and saw that, when the flock
passed the corner of an old
 broken-down wall at the foot of a hill, she quietly
dropped behind and was out of sight in a moment.
Peter examined the wall. He had seen it many a time
before. People said that it was part of the ruins of an
old castle. As he looked closely he saw that, just
behind a hawthorn bush, there was a hole large enough
for a goat, or even a man on all-fours, to pass
through. This, then, was the place where Nanny
disappeared so strangely; indeed, she had worn quite a
path beneath the hawthorn, and the only wonder was that
her master had not discovered it before.
The next day Peter watched her as before, and when she
ran slyly through the wall he followed her. After
creeping on his hands and knees for some distance he
found himself in a long and lofty cavern. The sunlight
streamed through some crevices in the rocks and made
the place look quite light and cheerful. At the farther
end he saw Nanny busily picking up some oats that were
scattered on the floor. How did the oats come there?
The plump grains were constantly trickling down from
above, and the goat had nothing to do but stand and
Peter could not understand it. But as he came nearer he
heard the stamping of heavy feet overhead and the
whinnying of horses.
 "Oh, somebody has a stable up there," he said to
himself; "but how can that be? I have been all over
these hills, and have never seen even the sign of a
As he was looking about him, a door in the side of the
cavern suddenly opened and a queer little fellow with a
big head and saucer eyes came in.
"Good morning to you, sir," said Peter, thinking it was
the stable man. "I beg you will pardon me for coming in
without any invitation. Is there anything I can do to
The little man made no answer, but looked at Peter
funnily with those great eyes, and beckoned him to
Peter was too good-natured to refuse, and besides this
he was curious to learn all about the strange place.
So he followed his queer guide through the door and up
a long flight of stairs until he again felt the warm
sun on his cheeks and saw the green; grass beneath his
He saw that he was now in a square courtyard surrounded
by stone walls and shaded by tall trees. His guide led
him through another broad cavern and then out upon a
green lawn that was fenced in on every side by tall
cliffs and rocky heights. Near one end of the lawn were
twelve old-fashioned knights playing at ninepins. The
 dressed in a very queer way. They wore long hose and
silver-buckled shoes. Their snow-white hair and beards
reached almost to their knees.
They scarcely noticed Peter, so busy were they at their
game, and not one of them spoke a word. The guide
motioned to Peter to pick up the nine-pins and return
the bowls to the bowlers. Peter was so badly frightened
by the strangeness of everything that he dared not
disobey. Trembling in every limb, he hastened to serve
the knights as he was bidden.
He noticed as the bowls were rolled over the
 lawn that they made a noise like thunder rumbling among
the hills, and this frightened him still more. By and
by, however, he began to gain courage. As the players
were never in a hurry, he learned to humor himself and
to do his work as slowly as he pleased. Looking around
him, he saw a pitcher of wine and twelve golden goblets
on a table at the end of the lawn. He did not stop to
think that the goblets were for the knights and that
there was none for him; he was very thirsty, and he
drank right out of the pitcher.
The wine made him very brave. He felt that he would
rather pick up ninepins than mind his neighbors' goats;
and every time one of the bowls rolled toward the table
he would run and take another sip from the pitcher. At
last, however, his head began to feel heavy; and while
he was in the act of picking up the ninepins, he fell
gently over upon the grass and went to sleep.
When Peter Klaus awoke he found himself lying on the
grass where he had been in the habit of feeding his
goats. He sat up and looked around. There were the
same rocks upon which he had sat a hundred times; there
were the same hills among
 which he had so often wandered; and there was the same
noisy brook along which he had walked a thousand times
with so much delight. But the trees and shrubs seemed
strange to him—they were much larger than when he had
seen them before, and there were many new ones that he
did not remember.
He looked for his goats, but they were nowhere in
sight. He called, but not one of them came to him. He
started out to seek them, but was surprised to see that
all the well-known paths among the hills were overgrown
with tall grass. He rubbed his eyes to make sure that
he was awake. "Strange! strange!" he muttered. "I will
go back to the village and see if the beasts are
His legs were so stiff that walking was a hard task. He
stumbled along slowly, wondering why the rheumatism
should trouble him so much. After a while he came to a
spot from which he could see the village spread out
before him at the bottom of the valley. It was the same
pretty village of Sittendorf; he could not see that it
had changed. He hurried along to the main road, hoping
to find his flock there. But not a goat could he see.
Before reaching the village he met a number of people;
but they were all strangers to him, and
 they looked at him so queerly that he did not dare to
ask any questions. In the village the women and
children stood in their doorways and stared at him as
he passed. All were strangers to him. He noticed that
some of them stroked their chins and laughed; and
without thinking much about it, he put his hand to his
own chin. What was his surprise to find that he had a
beard more than a foot long!
"Ah, me!" thought he. "Am I mad, and has all the world
gone mad too? Where am I?"
But he knew that the village was Sittendorf—for there
were the church and the long street which he knew so
well, and towering above them was the great Kyffhäuser
Mountain looking just as it did when he was a child.
He went on until he came to his own house. It was
greatly altered. The roof was beginning to fall in; the
door was off its hinges; the rooms were empty and bare.
He called his wife and children by their names; but no
one answered him. A strange dog came round the corner
and snarled at him. A strange man in the next dooryard
looked over the fence and told him to go away.
Soon a crowd of idlers and women and children gathered
around him. They were laughing at his long beard and
his tattered clothes. A woman who
 seemed more thoughtful than the rest asked him what he
"I don't know what I want," he answered. "I came here
to find my goats and I find everything and everybody
lost. Does anybody know—"
He was about to inquire for his wife and children; but
he thought how odd that would seem, and stopped short.
He was silent for a moment; then he looked around at
the circle of strange faces and asked, "Where is Kurt
Steffen, the blacksmith?"
The crowd stared at him, but no one spoke. Then an old
woman who had hobbled across the street to look at him
answered, "Kurt Steffen! Why, Kurt Steffen went to the
wars years and years ago. Nobody has heard from him
Poor Peter Klaus looked around him, more dazed than
ever. His lips quivered pitifully as he asked, "Then
where is Valentine Meyer, the shoemaker?"
"Ah, me!" answered another old woman. "Valentine has
been lying for nearly twenty years in a house that he
will never leave."
Peter thought that he had seen both of the old women
before—but as he remembered them they were young and
handsome and of about his own age. He was about to ask
another question when he saw a sprightly young mother,
who looked very
 much like his wife, coming down the street. She was
leading a little girl about four years of age, and on
her arm was a year-old baby. He staggered and rubbed
his eyes, and leaned against the wall for support.
"Does anybody know Peter Klaus, the goat-herd?" he
"Peter Klaus!" cried the young mother. "Why, that was
my father's name. It is now twenty years since he was
lost. His flock came home without him one evening, and
all the village searched night and day among the hills
and on the mountain, but could not find him. I was then
only four years old."
"And are you little Maria?" asked Peter, trembling
harder than ever.
"My name is Maria," was the answer, "but I am no longer
"And I am your father!" cried Peter. "I am Peter Klaus
who was lost. Don't any of you know Peter Klaus?"
All who heard him were filled with astonishment; and
Maria, with her two children, rushed into his arms
crying, "Welcome, father! Welcome home again! I felt
sure it was you as soon as I saw you."
And soon all the old people in the village came
 to greet him. "Peter Klaus? Yes, yes, it seems only
yesterday that you drove our goats to the pasture. How
time does fly! Welcome, old neighbor! Welcome home
after being away twenty years."
Such is the old, old story of Peter Klaus. Hundreds of
years ago the people of Germany talked about it and
laughed over it. It is perhaps even older than the
second part of the legend of Frederick Barbarossa,
which, as you will remember, has some resemblance to it
and also relates to a mysterious cavern in the