« ElőzőTovább »
80 blue, and its wine so rich, and its honey so sweet, that it was a marvel to every one 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 every. thing 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, wbich nised to sing all summer in the lime trees. They worked their servants without any wages, till they would not work any more, and then quarrelled 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. lle 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
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 rain when there was rain no where 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 bey, 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,
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 pieco 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 he bad ever seen in his life. He bad a very large nose, slightly brass-colored; bis cheeks were very round, and very red, and might have warranted a supposition that he had been blowing & 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
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 wearers shoulders to about four times his own length.
Gluck was so perfectly paralysed by the singular appear. ance 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 bend jammed in the window, with its month and eyes very wide open indeed.
“Hollol" 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.
“I beg pardon, sir,” said Gluck, “I'm very sorry, but I really can't.”
“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 p” said the old gentleman petulantly, “I want fire and shelter; and there's your great fire there blazing, crackling, and dancing on the walls, with nobody to foel 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 ho went to the door, and opened it; and as the little gentleman walked in, there came a gust of wind through the house,
“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 po
“Only till the mutton's done, sir,” replied Gluck, “and it's very brown.”
Then the old gentleman walked into the kitchen, and sat himself down on the hob, with the top of his cap accom. modated 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.
“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 cloak ?»
“No, thank you,” said the old gentleman. “Your cap, sir ?»
“I'm all right, thank you," said the old gentleman rather gruffly.
“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 visi. tor drily.
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 minutes.
“That mutton looks very nice,” said the old gentleman at length. “Can't you give me a little bit pas
“ 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!"