Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
Progressive blocks: third and fourth steps
OSWALD VON WOLKENSTEIN
HUS the winter passed and the summer came again and John
and Anton once more drove their flocks together to the
John showed Anton the scars on his fingers. "But they
are all old," he said proudly. "I have not cut myself
for a long time."
"What animal shall you carve first?" inquired Anton,
whose faith in John was perfect.
 "I do not know, but I think it will be a horse."
The boys being older now drove their goats and sheep
higher up the mountain to a beautiful alp where the
wild flowers covered the ground, yellow, red, pink,
white, and blue, until the wonder was they did not call
the place a flower garden instead of a pasture. There
were so many flowers and so little grass that one
couldn't help wondering what was to become of the sheep
and goats, unless, indeed, they could eat flowers and
flourish, which probably they could.
The most abundant of these flowers were the gentians.
Everywhere gentians, gentians, gentians, and one slope
was so blue with them that it was as though a piece of
the sky had fallen down. It was enough to make one
wild, all these myriads of gay blossoms,
 but John and Anton were so used to wading about,
knee-deep in flowers, that they scarcely noticed them.
Though they did love to come to this particular
Sometimes they went up the wild stony-bottomed valley
where the old Wolkenstein castle had been built against
the face of the cliff. In the distance, its ruins
looked like windows set high up in the side of the
mountain, as though some one had put a front on a great
cave. The mountain rose in a flat wall above and fell
in a flat wall below it and there was only a narrow
path like a shelf leading along the face of the cliff
While the goats and sheep nibbled the scanty grass
blades from the rocks about, the boys would climb to
the ruined castle, where they could look
 down on the flock and across the narrow valley to the
giant cliffs that propped it on the other side. There
was a green level on top of these cliffs where the shy
chamois came to graze, and the boys would often watch
in great excitement, but they never really saw one.
"It is their pasture," said Anton, "and they are safe
up there from all but the geier and the most
"I should like," said John, "to climb up to the chamois
"Better climb up to the Big Alp," advised Anton, "it is
a long way there, but not hard, and when you get there
it is so wide, a thousand times wider than any chamois
Still, John looked with longing at the rim of the green
plateau that lay on the safe top of the high cliffs
 near the sky that the clouds often rested on it.
Now that John had been to school, and, figuratively
speaking, learned to read, he had a great deal to tell
Anton about the old Wolkenstein castle, for however
John's learning might be regarded by his schoolmates in
the Toy Valley, to Anton it was prodigious. And, John,
flattered and comforted by Anton's faith in his
accomplishments, poured into his attentive ears the
most astonishing tales of knight-errantry ever gleaned
from books or invented by ingenious youth on the spot.
"They built the castle in the hollow of the cliff," he
explained quite correctly, "because in those days all
men were enemies and no one could climb up here unless
the people in the castle were willing."
 "I should think not," assented Anton, appreciatively.
"They could easily knock anybody off that narrow path."
"Yes, and enemies came in across the path opposite
there between the rocky peaks of the mountains. From
here you can see the pass quite plainly—what is that,
Both boys started to their feet and looked steadily at
the terrible pass, but do their best they could not see
a band of robbers coming; in fact, nothing living was
in sight but their own sheep and goats among the rocks
below, and, sailing in circles high above, the great
geier, of which the boys had now no fear, as the lambs
were grown too large to be carried away in his strong
Always with tales of robbers and wild life in the
castle came the story of Oswald von Wolkenstein, who,
every-  body knows, had once lived in this very castle.
"He was a Minnesinger," John explained to Anton, and
when Anton humbly inquired what a Minnesinger was, John
proudly informed him that a Minnesinger was a wonderful
knight, brave and in armor, who went to wars and sang
under ladies' windows and sat with the king at dinner.
Now this was substantially true of John's hero, Oswald
von Wolkenstein, who certainly did all these things,
being a Minnesinger, that is, a sweet-voiced minstrel,
who wandered about and sang lovely songs to please fair
ladies, and a warrior, too. Oswald von Wolkenstein, as
John said, went all over the world making poems and
singing them in kings' courts.
"He ran away from home when he
 was only ten," John told almost in a whisper; it seemed
such a wonderful thing for a boy to do,—as it certainly
was. "And he went into the wars far away and learned to
be a soldier, and he was no older than we are, Anton,
when he took his fiddle in his hand and went all over
the world making poems and singing them in kings'
courts. I should love to do that," he added with a
sigh; "to start out with my fiddle and sing my way over
all the lands and into the hearts of people as the
teacher says he did. But I cannot make poems or play
and," he added quite regretfully, "I cannot sing, I can
only hollo. But you, Anton, why don't you do it? You
can carry a tune and maybe could learn to sing."
"The Big Alp is far enough for me," hastily retorted
Anton, to whom roaming
 about unknown countries with a fiddle he could not play
and a song he could not sing had no charms. Indeed, the
bare thought of anything so foreign to his habits gave
him a scared feeling.
But he liked well enough to hear about Oswald von
Wolkenstein's career as it came from John's lips, lying
there in the idle summer, and particularly—and this was
the part John told oftenest—of how Oswald started to go
to Spain to fight the Moors, and how on the way there
he met the lovely Lady Angelica who knew Oswald's songs
by heart and sang them while she played the harp.
Now the lovely lady whom Oswald met was not named
Angelica at all, but Margerethe, and no doubt John knew
this as well as anybody, but he thought that Anton
wouldn't know the difference, and Angelica was so much
prettier—  and so he always told the story that way.
"Yes, he met the lovely Lady Angelica and they fell in
love with each other, and he sang her all his songs
over and over every day. Yes, and he made a new one
every time he saw her. But he could not stay there and
sing because they needed him to fight the Moors in
"Who were the Moors in Spain?" Anton always inquired at
this point, and John always replied,
"Oh, I don't know, but I guess they were giants. Yes,
they were giants and they had horns as big as trees on
their heads and fire in their mouths. And Oswald fought
and killed them when he got there, but it took him five
years. And all that time the lovely Lady Angelica was
waiting in the tower and
 playing the harp and singing his songs over every day."
"Was she afraid she'd forget them?" inquired Anton,
wondering at such industry, and John, stopped in the
flood of his eloquence, got quite cross and called
Anton a ninny.
"Of course not; she sang them because—because—I don't
remember why—but while Oswald was eating dinner with
the King of Spain she sat at home and sang his songs.
And at last he came back and they were married and came
here to live," and the boys looked with awe at the
crumbling walls about them.
"I wish they were here now," John added wistfully.
"Why?" asked Anton.
"So Oswald could tell us the way to Spain."