|The King of the Golden River|
|by John Ruskin|
|A fairy tale of what happened to two men who tried to get rich in evil ways and of how the fortune they sought came to their younger brother, whose kind and loving heart prompted him to right action. Widely regarded as a masterpiece of 19th century stories for children. Includes four black and white illustrations by Maria L. Kirk. Ages 8-10 |
The King of the Golden River
HOW THE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM OF THE BLACK BROTHERS WAS INTERFERED WITH BY SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE
 IN a secluded and mountainous part of Stiria there was, in
old time, a valley of the most surprising and luxuriant
fertility. It was surrounded, on all sides, by steep and rocky
mountains, rising into peaks, which were always covered with
snow and from which a number of torrents descended in
constant cataracts. One of these fell westward, over the face
of a crag so high, that, when the sun had set to everything
else, and all below was darkness, his beams still shone full
upon this waterfall, so that it looked like a shower of
gold. It was, therefore, called by the people of the
 neighborhood the Golden River. It was strange that none of
these streams fell into the valley itself. They all
descended on the other side of the mountains, and wound away
through broad plains and by populous cities. But the clouds
were drawn so constantly to the snowy hills, and rested so
softly in the circular hollow, that, in time of drought and
heat, when all the country round was burnt up, there was
still rain in the little valley; and its crops were so
heavy, and its hay so high, and its apples so red, and its
grapes so blue, and its wine so rich, and its honey so
sweet, that it was a marvel to everyone who beheld it, and
was commonly called the Treasure Valley.
The whole of this little valley belonged to three brothers,
called Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the two
elder brothers, were very ugly men, with overhanging
eyebrows and small, dull eyes which were always half shut,
so that you couldn't see into
 them, and always fancied they
saw very far into you. They lived by farming the Treasure
Valley, and very good farmers they were. They killed
everything that did not pay for its eating. They shot the
blackbirds, because they pecked the fruit; and killed the
hedgehogs, lest they should suck the cows; they poisoned the
crickets for eating the crumbs in the kitchen; and smothered
the cicadas which used to sing all summer in the lime trees.
They worked their servants without any wages, till they would
not work any more, and then quarreled with them, and turned
them out-of-doors without paying them. It would have been
very odd, if, with such a farm and such a system of farming,
they hadn't got very rich; and very rich they did get. They
generally contrived to keep their corn by them till it was
very dear, and then sell it for twice its value; they had
heaps of gold lying about on their floors, yet it was never
known that they had
 given so much as a penny or a crust in
charity; they never went to mass, grumbled perpetually at
paying tithes; and were, in a word, of so cruel and grinding
a temper, as to receive from all those with whom they had any
dealings, the nickname of the "Black Brothers."
The youngest brother, Gluck, was as completely opposed, in
both appearance and character, to his seniors as could
possibly be imagined or desired. He was not above twelve
years old, fair, blue-eyed, and kind in temper to every
living thing. He did not, of course, agree particularly well
with his brothers, or rather, they did not agree with him.
He was usually appointed to the honorable office of
turnspit, when there was anything to roast, which was not
often; for, to do the brothers justice, they were hardly
less sparing upon themselves than upon other people. At
other times he used to clean the shoes, floors, and
sometimes the plates, occasionally getting
 what was left on
them, by way of encouragement, and a wholesome quantity of
dry blows, by way of education.
Things went on in this manner for a long time. At last came
a very wet summer, and everything went wrong in the country
round. The hay had hardly been got in when the haystacks
were floated bodily down to the sea by an inundation; the
vines were cut to pieces with the hail; the corn was all
killed by a black blight; only in the Treasure Valley, as
usual, all was safe. As it had rained when there was rain
nowhere else, so it had sun when there was sun nowhere else.
Everybody came to buy corn at the farm, and went away pouring
maledictions on the Black Brothers. They asked what they
liked and got it, except from the poor people, who could
only beg, and several of whom were starved at their very
door, without the slightest regard or notice.
It was drawing towards winter, and very
 cold weather, when
one day the two elder brothers had gone out, with their
usual warning to little Gluck, who was left to mind the
roast, that he was to let nobody in, and give nothing out.
Gluck sat down quite close to the fire, for it was raining
very hard, and the kitchen walls were by no means dry or
comfortable-looking. He turned and turned, and the roast got
nice and brown. "What a pity," thought Gluck, "my brothers
never ask anybody to dinner. I'm sure, when they've got such
a nice piece of mutton as this, and nobody else has got so
much as a piece of dry bread, it would do their hearts good
to have somebody to eat it with them."
Just as he spoke there came a double knock at the house
door, yet heavy and dull, as though the knocker had been
tied up—more like a puff than a knock.
"It must be the wind," said Gluck; "nobody else would
venture to knock double knocks at our door."
 No, it wasn't the wind; there it came again very hard, and
what was particularly astounding, the knocker seemed to be
in a hurry and not to be in the least afraid of the
consequences. Gluck went to the window, opened it, and put
his head out to see who it was.
It was the most extraordinary-looking little gentleman that he
had ever seen in his life. He had a very large nose,
slightly brass-colored; his cheeks were very round, and very
red, and might have warranted a supposition that he had been
blowing a refractory fire for the last eight-and-forty
hours; his eyes twinkled merrily through long silky
eyelashes, his moustaches curled twice round like a corkscrew
on each side of his mouth, and his hair, of a curious mixed
pepper-and-salt color, descended far over his shoulders. He
was about four feet six in height, and wore a conical-pointed
cap of nearly the same altitude, decorated with a black
feather some three feet
 long. His doublet was prolonged
behind into something resembling a violent exaggeration of
what is now termed a "swallow-tail," but was much obscured by
the swelling folds of an enormous black, glossy-looking
cloak, which must have been very much too long in calm
weather, as the wind, whistling round the old house, carried
it clear out from the wearer's shoulders to about four times
his own length.
Gluck was so perfectly paralyzed by the singular appearance
of his visitor, that he remained fixed without uttering a
word, until the old gentleman, having performed another and
a more energetic concerto on the knocker, turned round to
look after his fly-away cloak. In so doing he caught sight of
Gluck's little yellow head jammed in the window, with his
mouth and eyes very wide open indeed.
"Hollo!" said the little gentleman; "that's not the way to
answer the door; I'm wet; let me in."
 To do the little gentleman justice, he was wet. His feather
hung down between his legs like a beaten puppy's tail,
dripping like an umbrella; and from the ends of his
moustaches the water was running into his waistcoat pockets
and out again like a mill stream.
TO DO THE LITTLE GENTLEMAN JUSTICE HE WAS WET
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck, "I'm very sorry, but I
"Can't what?" said the old gentleman.
"I can't let you in, sir—I can't, indeed; my brothers would
beat me to death, sir, if I thought of such a thing. What do
you want, sir?"
"Want?" said the old gentleman petulantly, "I want fire and
shelter; and there's your great fire there blazing,
crackling, and dancing on the wall, with nobody to feel it.
Let me in, I say; I only want to warm myself."
Gluck had had his head, by this time, so long out of the
window that he began to feel it was really unpleasantly
cold; and when he
 turned and saw the beautiful fire rustling
and roaring and throwing long bright tongues up the
chimney, as if it were licking its chops at the savory smell
of the leg of mutton, his heart melted within him that it
should be burning away for nothing. "He does look very wet,"
said little Gluck; "I'll just let him in for a quarter of an
hour." Round he went to the door and opened it; and as the
little gentleman walked in there came a gust of wind
through the house that made the old chimneys totter.
"That's a good boy," said the little gentleman. "Never mind
your brothers. I'll talk to them."
"Pray, sir, don't do any such thing," said Gluck. "I can't
let you stay till they come; they'd be the death of me."
"Dear me," said the old gentleman, "I'm very sorry to hear
that. How long may I stay?"
"Only till the mutton's done, sir," replied Gluck, "and it's
 Then the old gentleman walked into the kitchen and sat
himself down on the hob, with the top of his cap
accommodated up the chimney, for it was a great deal too
high for the roof.
"You'll soon dry there, sir," said Gluck, and sat down again
to turn the mutton. But the old gentleman did not dry there,
but went on drip, drip, dripping among the cinders, and the
fire fizzed and sputtered and began to look very black and
uncomfortable; never was such a cloak; every fold in it ran
like a gutter.
"YOU'LL SOON DRY THERE, SIR," SAID GLUCK
"I beg pardon, sir," said Gluck at length, after watching
the water spreading in long, quicksilver-like streams over
the floor for a quarter of an hour; "mayn't I take your
"No, thank you," said the old gentleman.
"Your cap, sir?"
"I am all right, thank you," said the old gentleman rather
 "But—sir—I'm very sorry," said Gluck hesitatingly;
"but—really, sir—you're putting the fire out."
"It'll take longer to do the mutton then," replied his
Gluck was very much puzzled by the behavior of his guest; it
was such a strange mixture of coolness and humility. He
turned away at the string meditatively for another five
"That mutton looks very nice," said the old gentleman at
length. "Can't you give me a little bit?"
"Impossible, sir," said Gluck.
"I'm very hungry," continued the old gentleman; "I've had
nothing to eat yesterday nor to-day. They surely couldn't
miss a bit from the knuckle!"
He spoke in so very melancholy a tone that it quite melted
Gluck's heart. "They promised me one slice to-day, sir,"
said he; "I can give you that, but not a bit more."
 "That's a good boy," said the old gentleman again.
Then Gluck warmed a plate and sharpened a knife. "I don't
care if I do get beaten for it," thought he. Just as he had
cut a large slice out of the mutton there came a tremendous
rap at the door. The old gentleman jumped off the hob, as if
it had suddenly become inconveniently warm. Gluck fitted the
slice into the mutton again, with desperate efforts at
exactitude, and ran to open the door.
"What did you keep us waiting in the rain for?" said
Schwartz, as he walked in, throwing his umbrella in Gluck's
"Ay! what for, indeed, you little vagabond?" said Hans,
administering an educational box on the ear, as he followed
his brother into the kitchen.
"Bless my soul!" said Schwartz when he opened the door.
"Amen," said the little gentleman, who had taken his cap off
and was standing in the
 middle of the kitchen, bowing with
the utmost possible velocity.
"Who's that?" said Schwartz, catching up a rolling-pin, and
turning to Gluck with a fierce frown.
"I don't know, indeed, brother," said Gluck in great terror.
"How did he get in?" roared Schwartz.
"My dear brother," said Gluck deprecatingly, "he was so very
The rolling-pin was descending on Gluck's head; but, at the
instant, the old gentleman interposed his conical cap, on
which it crashed with a shock that shook the water out of it
all over the room. What was very odd, the rolling-pin no
sooner touched the cap than it flew out of Schwartz's hand,
spinning like a straw in a high wind, and fell into the
corner at the further end of the room.
"Who are you, sir?" demanded Schwartz, turning upon him.
 "What's your business?" snarled Hans.
"I'm a poor old man, sir," the little gentleman began very
modestly, "and I saw your fire through the window and begged
shelter for a quarter of an hour."
"Have the goodness to walk out again, then," said Schwartz.
"We've quite enough water in our kitchen, without making it a
"It is a cold day to turn an old man out, sir; look at my
gray hairs." They hung down to his shoulders, as I told you
"Ay!" said Hans; "there are enough of them to keep you
"I'm very, very hungry, sir; couldn't you spare me a bit of
bread before I go?"
"Bread, indeed!" said Schwartz; "do you suppose we've
nothing to do with our bread but to give it to such
red-nosed fellows as you?"
"Why don't you sell your feather?" said Hans, sneeringly.
"Out with you!"
 "A little bit," said the old gentleman.
"Be off!" said Schwartz.
"Off, and be hanged!" cried Hans, seizing him by the collar.
But he had no sooner touched the old gentleman's collar than
away he went after the rolling-pin, spinning round and round,
till he fell into the corner on the top of it. Then Schwartz
was very angry, and ran at the old gentleman to turn him out;
but he also had hardly touched him, when away he went after
Hans and the rolling-pin, and hit his head against the wall
as he tumbled into the corner. And so there they lay, all
Then the old gentleman spun himself round with velocity in
the opposite direction; continued to spin until his long
cloak was all wound neatly about him; clapped his cap on his
head, very much on one side (for it could not stand upright
without going through the ceiling), gave an additional twist
cork-  screw moustaches, and replied with perfect
coolness: "Gentlemen, I wish you a very good morning. At
twelve o'clock tonight, I'll call again; after such a refusal
of hospitality as I have just experienced, you will not be
surprised if that visit is the last I ever pay you."
"If ever I catch you here again," muttered Schwartz, coming,
half frightened, out of the corner—but, before he could
finish his sentence, the old gentleman had shut the house
door behind him with a great bang; and there drove past the
window, at the same instant, a wreath of ragged cloud, that
whirled and rolled away down the valley in all manner of
shapes; turning over and over in the air; and melting away at
last in a gush of rain.
"A very pretty business, indeed, Mr. Gluck!" said Schwartz.
"Dish the mutton, sir. If ever I catch you at such a trick
again—bless me, why the mutton's been cut!"
"You promised me one slice, brother, you know," said Gluck.
"Oh! and you were cutting it hot, I suppose, and going to
catch all the gravy. It'll be long before I promise you such
a thing again. Leave the room, sir; and have the kindness to
wait in the coal-cellar till I call you."
Gluck left the room melancholy enough. The brothers ate as
much mutton as they could, locked the rest in the cupboard,
and proceeded to get very drunk after dinner.
Such a night as it was! Howling wind, and rushing rain,
without intermission. The brothers had just sense enough
left to put up all the shutters and double bar the door,
before they went to bed. They usually slept in the same
room. As the clock struck twelve, they were both awakened by
a tremendous crash. Their door burst open with a violence
that shook the house from top to bottom.
"What's that?" cried Schwartz, starting up in his bed.
"Only I," said the little gentleman.
The two brothers sat up on their bolster, and stared into the
darkness. The room was full of water, and by a misty
moonbeam, which found its way through a hole in the shutter,
they could see, in the midst of it, an enormous foam globe,
spinning round, and bobbing up and down like a cork, on
which, as on a most luxurious cushion, reclined the little
old gentleman, cap and all. There was plenty of room for it
now, for the roof was off.
"Sorry to incommode you," said their visitor, ironically.
"I'm afraid your beds are dampish; perhaps you had better go
to your brother's room; I've left the ceiling on there."
They required no second admonition, but rushed into Gluck's
room, wet through, and in an agony of terror.
"You'll find my card on the kitchen table," the old
gentleman called after them. "Remember, the last visit."
"Pray Heaven it may!" said Schwartz, shuddering. And the
foam globe disappeared.
Dawn came at last, and the two brothers looked out of
Gluck's little window in the morning. The Treasure Valley
was one mass of ruin and desolation. The inundation had
swept away trees, crops, and cattle, and left, in their stead,
a waste of red sand and gray mud. The two brothers crept
shivering and horror-struck into the kitchen. The water had
gutted the whole first-floor; corn, money, almost every
movable thing had been swept away, and there was left only
a small white card on the kitchen table. On it, in large,
breezy, long-legged letters, were engraved the words:
OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE THREE BROTHERS AFTER A VISIT OF THE SOUTHWEST WIND, ESQUIRE; AND HOW LITTLE GLUCK HAD AN INTERVIEW WITH THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER
 SOUTH-WEST 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
 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 anyone'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 ale-house 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 out of 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 ale-house; 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
little 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
"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,
"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
"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
 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 half-way 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 inclining to
coppery in complexion, and
indica-  tive, 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
"Wouldn't it, sir?" said Gluck very mildly and submissively
"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
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
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
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 anyone 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!"
HOW MR. HANS SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
 THE King of the Golden River had hardly made the extraordinary
exit related in the last chapter, before Hans and Schwartz
came roaring into the house very savagely drunk. The
discovery of the total loss of their last piece of plate had
the effect of sobering them just enough to enable them to
stand over Gluck, beating him very steadily for a quarter of
an hour; at the expiration of which period they dropped into
a couple of chairs, and requested to know what he had to
say for himself. Gluck told them his story, of which of
course they did not believe a word. They beat him again,
till their arms were tired, and staggered to bed. In the
morning, however, the
steadi-  ness, with which he adhered to
his story obtained him some degree of credence; the
immediate consequence of which was that the two brothers,
after wrangling a long time on the knotty question, which of
them should try his fortune first, drew their swords, and
began fighting. The noise of the fray alarmed the neighbors,
who, finding they could not pacify the combatants, sent for
Hans, on hearing this, contrived to escape, and hid himself;
but Schwartz was taken before the magistrate, fined for
breaking the peace, and, having drunk out his last penny the
evening before, was thrown into prison till he should pay.
When Hans heard this, he was much delighted, and determined
to set out immediately for the Golden River. How to get the
holy water was the question. He went to the priest, but the
priest could not give any holy water to so abandoned a
character. So Hans went to
 vespers in the evening for the
first time in his life, and, under pretense of crossing
himself, stole a cupful, and returned home in triumph.
Next morning he got up before the sun rose, put the holy
water into a strong flask, and two bottles of wine and some
meat in a basket, slung them over his back, took his alpine
staff in his hand, and set off for the mountains.
On his way out of the town he had to pass the prison, and as
he looked in at the windows, whom should he see but Schwartz
himself peeping out of the bars, and looking very
"Good morning, brother," said Hans; "have you any message
for the King of the Golden River?"
Schwartz gnashed his teeth with rage, and shook the bars with
all his strength; but Hans only laughed at him, and advised
him to make himself comfortable till he came back again,
shouldered his basket, shook the bottle of holy
 water in Schwartz's face till it frothed again, and marched off in
the highest spirits in the world.
It was indeed a morning that might have made anyone happy,
even with no Golden River to seek for. Level lines of dewy
mist lay stretched along the valley, out of which rose the
massy mountains—their lower cliffs in pale gray shadow,
hardly distinguishable from the floating vapor, but gradually
ascending till they caught the sunlight, which ran in sharp
touches of ruddy color along the angular crags, and pierced,
in long level rays, through their fringes of spear-like
pine. Far above, shot up red splintered masses of
castellated rock, jagged and shivered into myriads of
fantastic forms, with here and there a streak of sunlit snow,
traced down their charms like a line of forked lightning;
and, far beyond, and far above all these, fainter than the
morning cloud, but purer and changeless, slept, in the
 blue sky, the utmost peaks of the eternal snow.
The Golden River, which sprang from one of the lower and
snowless elevations, was now nearly in shadow; all but the
uppermost jets of spray, which rose like slow smoke above
the undulating line of the cataract, and floated away in
feeble wreaths upon the morning wind.
On this object, and on this alone, Hans' eyes and thoughts
were fixed; forgetting the distance he had to traverse, he
set off at an imprudent rate of walking, which greatly
exhausted him before he had scaled the first range of the
green and low hills. He was, moreover, surprised, on
surmounting them, to find that a large glacier, of whose
existence, notwithstanding his previous knowledge of the
mountains, he had been absolutely ignorant, lay between him
and the source of the Golden River. He entered on it with
the boldness of a practised mountaineer; yet he thought he
had never traversed so strange or
 so dangerous a glacier in
his life. The ice was excessively slippery, and out of all
its chasms came wild sounds of gushing water; not
monotonous or low, but changeful and loud, rising
occasionally into drifting passages of wild melody, then
breaking off into short melancholy tones, or sudden shrieks
resembling those of human voices in distress or pain. The
ice was broken into thousands of confused shapes, but none,
Hans thought, like the ordinary forms of splintered ice.
There seemed a curious expression
about all their outlines—a perpetual
resemblance to living features, distorted and
scornful. Myriads of deceitful shadows and lurid lights
played and floated about and through the pale blue
pinnacles, dazzling and confusing the sight of the traveler;
while his ears grew dull and his head giddy with the
constant gush and roar of the concealed waters. These
painful circumstances increased upon him as he advanced; the
 crashed and yawned into fresh chasms at his feet,
tottering spires nodded around him, and fell thundering
across his path; and though he had repeatedly faced these
dangers on the most terrific glaciers, and in the wildest
weather, it was with a new and oppressive feeling of panic
terror that he leaped the last chasm, and flung himself,
exhausted and shuddering, on the firm turf of the mountain.
THERE SEEMED A CURIOUS EXPRESSION ABOUT ALL THEIR OUTLINES
He had been compelled to abandon his basket of food, which
became a perilous incumbrance on the glacier, and had no
means of refreshing himself but by breaking off and eating
some of the pieces of ice. This, however, relieved his
thirst; an hour's repose recruited his hardy frame, and with
the indomitable spirit of avarice he resumed his laborious
His way now lay straight up a ridge of bare red rocks,
without a blade of grass to ease the foot, or a projecting
angle to afford an inch of
 shade from the south sun. It was
past noon, and the rays beat intensely upon the steep path,
while the whole atmosphere was motionless, and penetrated
with heat. Intense thirst was soon added to the bodily
fatigue with which Hans was now afflicted; glance after
glance he cast on the flask of water which hung at his belt.
"Three drops are enough," at last thought he; "I may, at
least, cool my lips with it."
He opened the flask, and was raising it to his lips, when his
eye fell on an object lying on the rock beside him; he
thought it moved. It was a small dog, apparently in the last
agony of death from thirst. Its tongue was out, its jaws
dry, its limbs extended lifelessly, and a swarm of black
ants were crawling about its lips and throat. Its eye moved
to the bottle which Hans held in his hand. He raised it,
drank, spurned the animal with his foot, and passed on. And
he did not know how
 it was, but he thought that a strange
shadow had suddenly come across the blue sky.
The path became steeper and more rugged every moment; and
the high hill air, instead of refreshing him, seemed to
throw his blood into a fever. The noise of the hill
cataracts sounded like mockery in his ears; they were all
distant, and his thirst increased every moment. Another hour
passed, and he again looked down to the flask at his side;
it was half empty, but there was much more than three drops
in it. He stopped to open it, and again, as he did so,
something moved in the path above him. It was a fair child,
stretched nearly lifeless on the rock, its breast heaving
with thirst, its eyes closed, and its lips parched and
burning. Hans eyed it deliberately, drank, and passed on.
And a dark gray cloud came over the sun, and long, snake-like
shadows crept up along the mountain sides. Hans struggled
on. The sun was sinking, but its descent seemed to bring no
 coolness; the leaden height of the dead air pressed upon his
brow and heart, but the goal was near. He saw the cataract
of the Golden River springing from the hill-side, scarcely
five hundred feet above him. He paused for a moment to
breathe, and sprang on to complete his task.
At this instant a faint cry fell on his ear. He turned, and
saw a gray-haired old man extended on the rocks. His eyes
were sunk, his features deadly pale, and gathered into an
expression of despair. "Water!" he stretched his arms to
Hans, and cried feebly: "Water! I am dying."
"I have none," replied Hans; "thou hast had thy share of
life." He strode over the prostrate body, and darted on. And
a flash of blue lightning rose out of the east, shaped like
a sword; it shook thrice over the whole heaven, and left it
dark with one heavy, impenetrable
 shade. The sun was
setting; it plunged towards the horizon like a red-hot ball.
The roar of the Golden River rose on Hans' ear. He stood at
the brink of the chasm through which it ran. Its waves were
filled with the red glory of the sunset; they shook their
crests like tongues of fire, and flashes of bloody light
gleamed along their foam. Their sound came mightier and
mightier on his senses; his brain grew giddy with the
prolonged thunder. Shuddering, he drew the flask from his
girdle and hurled it into the center of the torrent. As he
did so, an icy chill shot through his limbs; he staggered,
shrieked, and fell. The waters closed over his cry. And the
moaning of the river rose wildly into the night as it gushed
HOW MR. SCHWARTZ SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN
 POOR little Gluck waited very anxiously, alone in the house,
for Hans' return. Finding he did not come back, he was
terribly frightened, and went and told Schwartz in the prison
all that had happened. Then Schwartz was very much pleased,
and said that Hans must certainly have been turned into a
black stone, and he should have all the gold to himself. But
Gluck was very sorry, and cried all night. When he got up in
the morning, there was no bread in the house, nor any money;
so Gluck went and hired himself to another goldsmith, and he
worked so hard and so neatly, and so long every day, that he
soon got money enough together to pay his brother's fine,
and he went, and
 gave it all to Schwartz, and Schwartz got
out of prison. Then Schwartz was quite pleased, and said he
should have some of the gold of the river. But Gluck only
begged he would go and see what had become of Hans.
Now when Schwartz had heard that Hans had stolen the holy
water, he thought to himself that such a proceeding might
not be considered altogether correct by the King of the
Golden River, and determined to manage matters better. So he
took some more of Gluck's money, and went to a bad priest,
who gave him some holy water very readily for it. Then
Schwartz was sure it was all quite right. So Schwartz got up
early in the morning before the sun rose, and took some
bread and wine, in a basket, and put his holy water in a
flask, and set off for the mountains. Like his brother, he
was much surprised at the sight of the glacier, and had great
difficulty in crossing it, even after leaving his basket
 him. The day was cloudless, but not bright; there was
a heavy purple haze hanging over the sky, and the hills
looked lowering and gloomy. And as Schwartz climbed the
steep rock path, the thirst came upon him, as it had upon his
brother, until he lifted his flask to his lips to drink.
Then he saw the fair child lying near him on the rocks, and
it cried to him, and moaned for water.
"Water, indeed," said
Schwartz; "I haven't half enough for myself," and passed on.
And as he went he thought the sunbeams grew more dim, and he
saw a low bank of black cloud rising out of the west; and,
when he had climbed for another hour, the thirst overcame
him again, and he would have drunk. Then he saw the old man
lying before him on the path, and heard him cry out for
water. "Water, indeed," said Schwartz, "I haven't half
enough for myself," and on he went.
Then again the light
seemed to fade from before his eyes, and he looked up, and,
 a mist, of the color of blood, had come over the
sun; and the bank of black cloud had risen very high, and
its edges were tossing and tumbling like the waves of an
angry sea. And they cast long shadows, which flickered over
Then Schwartz climbed for another hour, and again his thirst
returned; and as he lifted his flask to his lips, he thought
he saw his brother Hans lying exhausted on the path before
him, and, as he gazed, the figure stretched its arms to him,
and cried for water. "Ha, ha!" laughed Schwartz, "are you
there? Remember the prison bars, my boy. Water, indeed! do
you suppose I carried it all the way up here for you?" And
he strode over the figure; yet, as he passed, he thought he
saw a strange expression of mockery about its lips. And, when
he had gone a few yards farther, he looked back; but the
figure was not there.
And a sudden horror came over Schwartz, he knew not why; but
the thirst for gold
pre-  vailed over his fear, and he rushed
on. And the bank of black cloud rose to the zenith, and out
of it came bursts of spiry lightning, and waves of darkness
seemed to heave and float between their flashes over the
whole heavens. And the sky where the sun was setting was all
level and like a lake of blood; and a strong wind came out
of that sky, tearing its crimson clouds into fragments, and
scattering them far into the darkness. And when Schwartz
stood by the brink of the Golden River, its waves were black,
like thunder-clouds, but their foam was like fire; and the
roar of the waters below and the thunder above met, as he
cast the flask into the stream. And, as he did so, the
lightning glared in his eyes, and the earth gave way beneath
him, and the waters closed over his cry. And the moaning of
the river rose wildly into the night, as it gushed over the
HOW LITTLE GLUCK SET OFF ON AN EXPEDITION TO THE GOLDEN RIVER, AND HOW HE PROSPERED THEREIN; WITH OTHER MATTERS OF INTEREST
 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
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 in his
brothers, it was twenty times worse for him, who was neither
so strong nor so practised 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
 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
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 road-side, 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
 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 words, "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
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 goodspeed."
THE DWARF SHOOK THEM INTO THE FLASK WHICH GLUCK HELD IN HIS HAND
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
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
 his friend the dwarf and descended the other side
of the mountains, towards 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
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
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics