A Heart of Stone
Once upon a time, there lived in the Black Forest a widow-woman named Dame Barbara Munk. Her husband was a charcoal-burner, and after his death she brought up her sixteen-year-old son to follow his father's calling. So young Peter Munk used to sit all through the week tending the wood-kiln, and going from time to time into the neighbouring town to sell his charcoal.
A charcoal-burner has plenty of time for thought. When Peter sat by his kiln he felt both depressed and impatient. A charcoal-burner's life seemed a miserable sort of thing. How much pleasanter to be a glass-blower, a clock-maker, or one of the strolling musicians who played for the dancing on Sunday evenings! Even the timbermen on the other side of the forest had a better time. When they came over in their smart costumes, and with outstretched legs and contented glances sat and watched the dancers, or smoked their long pipes, he thought they were the luckiest men in the world. And when they plunged their hands in their capacious pockets and drew out thick florins wherewith to gamble, he became more impatient and discontented than ever, and would slink away to his hut.
There were three of these men he envied very much, though he was not sure which of them he envied most. One was a tall fat man with a red face, and he was supposed to be the richest in the district. He was called "Big Ezekiel." The other was the tallest man in the forest, he was called "Long Solomon," and he was very friendly with all the most prosperous villagers, and took up more room in the inn than even a stout man, for he spread both elbows on the table, and no one dared to complain, for he was too rich to offend. The third was a handsome young man, a splendid dancer, who was nicknamed "the King of the Ball-room." He had been apprenticed to a woodcutter, and now seemed to be very well off. Some said he had found a pot of gold beneath a fir-tree; others thought he might have fished up a sack of gold out of the Rhine on one of his voyages. But all the same, he was evidently a rich man, and treated by old and young as if he were a prince. It is true they all had one fault which caused them to be disliked. They were terribly conceited. But then they had so much money, it seemed as if they shook it off the trees. No one else had so much to squander.
While Peter Munk's father was alive the neighbours often came to visit him, and they would talk about rich people and how they got their money. In all these tales the "little Glass-man" was mentioned as if he had something to do with it. Peter could partly remember a rhyme which, properly recited, would make this little person appear. It began thus:
"Treasure-man in forest old,
More than a hundred years, I'm told,
You own this wood. If this be true–"
But he could remember no more; the last line had entirely slipped his memory. Once, when his mother was speaking about the little Glass-man, she told him that it was only to those who were born on a Sunday between eleven and twelve that the elf would show himself. Peter was one of the lucky ones because he was born one Sunday at noon.
When the charcoal-burner heard this he was full of curiosity to try his luck. So one day after he had sold his charcoal, instead of firing another furnace, he put on his Sunday suit, said good-bye to his mother, telling her he had business in the city, and made his way to the magic grove.
These fir-trees were on the highest point of the Black Forest, but for some miles from the grove there were neither villages nor huts, for these superstitious peasants thought it not well to live too near. Accidents often happened to the woodcutters who worked there, and sometimes half-hewn trees fell on them and killed them. The raftsmen would never attempt to float timbers from this grove, for it was believed nothing but ill-luck would follow.
Peter Munk felt rather nervous, for there was no sound or sign; no voice but his own to be heard, even the birds seemed to avoid this particular spot.
At last he reached the highest point of the fir-grove, and there stood a fir-tree of immense size. "This," thought he, "is where the king of money lives"; and he took off his hat, made a deep bow to the tree, and said falteringly:
"Good morning, Mr. Glass-man."
But there was no reply. "Perhaps I must repeat the verse," he thought, and murmured:
"'Treasure-man in forest old,
More than a hundred years, I'm told,
You own this wood. If this be true–'
While he was speaking, he saw, to his amazement, a tiny figure looking out from behind the huge trunk. He fancied it was the Glass-man; but so quickly did the figure disappear that he thought he was mistaken.
With hasty steps Peter turned to go. The shadow of the forest seemed to grow blacker every moment, and it was not until he saw a hut in the distance that he began to feel less frightened. The people in the hut were woodcutters. They welcomed Peter without any questioning, gave him cider to drink, and when supper-time came a large fowl was set on the table.
After supper the wife and daughters began to spin, and the boys to carve wooden spoons and forks, while the host, his old father, and the guest sat and looked on. Outside in the forest a storm was raging. Heavy claps of thunder were heard, and it seemed as if large trees were falling. The boys wanted to go out, but their grandfather would not allow it.
"I will not let any one leave the house. He who does will never return. Dutch Michael is cutting timber for a new raft to-night."
Peter Munk, who had never before heard of Dutch Michael, asked the old man who he was.
"Dutch Michael is the lord of the forest," answered the old man. "I will tell you about him, not only what I know, but what I have heard.
"More than a hundred years ago, there lived a rich timber merchant who employed many labourers; and his business prospered, for he was a good man.
"One day a stranger came to his door; his dress was that of the Black Forest peasants, but he was quite a head taller than any of them. The man asked for work, and the timber merchant, who saw that he was strong and active, quickly made terms with him and took him into his service.
"Michael was the best workman the merchant had ever had, for he equalled any three of the woodcutters. But after he had worked for about six months, he went one day to his master and said:
"'I am tired of cutting down trees; suppose you let me be a raftsman?'
"The merchant answered:
"'I will not stand in your way, Michael; if you wish to go with the rafts, you can do so.'
"Well, the rafts with which he would voyage were each composed of eight pieces of timber, and the last one was always the longest. But what do you think? On the evening before they were to start, Michael brought down eight pine logs as thick and long as had never yet been seen. Where he cut them no one knows to this day. The merchant laughed to think how much money these timbers would bring in. But Michael said:
"'I shall take charge of this raft myself; I could not trust myself to thin planks.' His master, to show his gratitude, would have given him a pair of wading boots, but Michael brought out his own. My grandfather said positively they were five feet long.
"The rafts started, and if Michael had already surprised the woodcutters, he still more surprised the timbermen, for instead of this long raft floating slowly along, he raced through the Neckar like an arrow. If the river turned suddenly, Michael jumped into the water, gave the logs a push right or left, so that they floated out into the stream, leapt on the first log, bade them fix their tow-ropes, stuck his huge punt-pole in the river bed, and with one push the raft flew ahead and left the trees and villages far behind.
"They reached Cologne in half the usual time, and it was there they usually sold their cargo. But Michael said:
"'You are honest men, and understand our business. Do you think the people here need all this timber for themselves? Certainly not. They take it to Holland and sell it there. Let us sell the smaller logs here, and take the rest to Holland ourselves; and all the extra profit we make we will divide.'
"To his proposition his comrades agreed, partly because they wanted to see what Holland was like, and partly on account of the money. They steered the rafts through the Rhine, Michael leading the way; and at Rotterdam they easily sold their timber at a higher price, while for Michael's special load he made a handsome bargain.
"The woodcutters were delighted to have had such luck; and Michael divided the profit, so much for the master, and so much for each man. And then they sat down in the inn and drank and smoked and gambled, without a thought for the morrow.
"But after this experience, the peasants in the Black Forest looked upon Holland as Paradise, and on Dutch Michael as its king. The masters, however, did not know anything about this. And with the Dutch money, slowly and surely came Dutch bad habits, among others, drinking and gambling.
"Dutch Michael, however, according to the story, suddenly disappeared; but he certainly is not dead, for over a hundred years he has haunted the forest, and it was said that he has often helped peasants to get rich, but only at the cost of their immortal souls. It is enough to say that he is still to be found on stormy nights in the pine-woods, where no one dares to hew the trees, or search for the thickest and longest firs; and my father has seen him break a four-foot-thick trunk of a tree as easily as a twig. Such logs he gives to those who ask his help, and voyagers with them to Holland. But if I were king of the Dutch people, I would shoot him, for all the ships built of Dutch Michael's timber meet with accidents, or sink to the bottom of the sea.
"This is the legend of Dutch Michael, and true enough it is that all the bad luck in the Black Forest can be set down to his evil influence. I should not like to have anything to do with him. Nothing would persuade me to stand in Big Ezekiel's or Long Solomon's shoes. I believe the 'King of the Dancers' is also in his power."
The storm had ceased during the grandfather's tale; but the man gave Peter Munk a bag of hay for a pillow, and wished him good-night.
Charcoal-burner Peter had never had such bad dreams as during this particular night; it seemed to him that Dutch Michael was in the room; then he heard the song of the treasure-man, and a voice whispered in his ear:
"You stupid, Peter! Though you were born punctually at twelve o'clock on a Sunday, you cannot repeat the rhyme correctly!"
He woke with a start, and tried to think of a rhyme to end the verse. But he could not, and fell a-dreaming again. In the morning, as he lay half awake, still thinking of the verse, he heard some peasants passing the cottage on their way to the forest: one of them was singing:
"'As I looked from the hillside
To the valley at my feet,
I saw my own dear maiden,
So beautiful, so sweet.'"
In a moment Peter's mind seemed clear.
"That helps me to my rhyming! Now, Glass-man, I will have a word with you."
He look leave of his kind hosts, and went slowly towards the pine-woods, thinking of the verse. At last he completed the line, and with a joyful cry leapt and ran up the hill. A huge man in rafter's dress, with a long pole, suddenly came from behind a tree. Peter Munk fell on his knees as he saw, so he thought, Dutch Michael coming towards him.
"Peter Munk, what are you doing here?" asked the uncanny fellow in a deep harsh voice.
"Good morning, sir," answered Peter; "I am only going home."
"Peter Munk," said the old rascal, looking at him sharply, "this is not your nearest way home."
"Perhaps not the nearest way," said Peter, "but it is very warm, and I thought the shade here would be pleasant."
"Do not tell lies, Peter," shouted Dutch Michael angrily, "or I will strike you to the earth. Do you think I did not see you talking to the little Glass-man? He is a cheat, the little rascal, and you won't get much from him; but he will get his bargain's worth! Peter, you annoy me! Fancy such a spirited lad, who might see the world, being content to burn charcoal!"
"It is a dull life," said Peter.
"Well, we will alter that," continued Dutch Michael. "You are not the first I've helped. Tell me, how many hundred thalers would you like to have?"
As he shook the money in his pockets, Peter's heart beat fast; he was hot and cold by turns. Trembling with fear, Peter said:
"Thank you, sir, I know who you are, and do not wish to have anything to do with you."
He ran away as fast as he could; but the forester overtook him and said:
"You won't regret it, Peter, you won't regret it. Don't run so fast. Listen to me! There is my boundary!"
When Peter heard this, and saw a small ditch not far away, he tried to cross the boundary; and hurrying, jumped the ditch, and as Dutch Michael vaulted after him the huge pole splintered into pieces and a long bit fell on Peter. Triumphantly he seized this to throw it back to the huge forester, but as he held it he felt the stick twist in his hand, and saw to his horror that he held a horrible snake, which darted its poisonous fangs at him. Its fearful head came nearer and nearer to his face; but just then a fierce eagle swooped down, hit the snake's head with its sharp beak, and flew up with it into the air, while Dutch Michael fumed and raged.
Quite delighted, Peter continued on his way; the path became steeper, and soon he reached the enchanted tree. He made a low bow, as on the previous day, and began:
"Treasure-man in forest old,
More than a hundred years, I'm told,
You own this wood. If this be true,
As Sunday's child I come to you."
"The rhyme is not quite correct, but as it is you, I'll pass it," said a little voice.
Peter looked round, and underneath a beautiful fir-tree sat a little old man in a black waistcoat and red stockings, with a large hat on his head. He was smoking a long pipe made of blue glass, and as Peter drew near to him he noticed that coat, hat, and shoes were of coloured glass, and it seemed as if the dwarf was still rather hot, for at every moment he mopped himself with a pocket-handkerchief.
"You have just met Dutch Michael," said the little man. "He would have beaten you, but I broke his magic pole, so now he can never use it again."
"Yes, Treasure-master," answered Peter, bowing low. "You have indeed been good to me; and I thank you very much. I have come to ask your advice. A charcoal-burner's life is a dull one, I cannot make money quickly, while Ezekiel and the 'Dance-king' seem to coin it like hempseed."
"Peter," said the little man earnestly and puffing at his pipe–"Peter do not talk like this. Is it worth while to tempt Fortune for a time only to be the more unhappy afterwards? You must not neglect your work. I can hardly think that love of dancing brought you here!"
Peter blushed. "No," said he, "dancing is all very well, but you cannot blame me if I wish to improve my position. A charcoal-burner's is not much of a life; and glass-blowers and timberers seem to have a much better time."
"You are a discontented lot, you men! If you were a glass-blower, you would want to be a timber merchant; and if you were a timber merchant, you would want a still better position. However, it can't be helped! If you promise me that you will work hard, I will help you to get on, Peter. I give every Sunday child three wishes. The first two are free, the third I can refuse if it is a foolish wish."
"Hurrah!" cried Peter. "You are a splendid little man! Now I can have whatever I want. So I will first wish to dance better than the King of the Dancers, and to always have as much gold in my pocket as Big Ezekiel!"
"You young stupid!" exclaimed the dwarf; "what an idiotic wish! You ought to be ashamed of yourself. What good will it do you and your poor mother if you dance well? I will give you one more free wish, however; see you chose worthily."
Peter scratched his head, and after some deliberation said:
"I should like to have the best and most complete glass factory in the forest, with sufficient means to work it well."
"Nothing else, Peter?" asked the little man. "Nothing else?"
"Well, you can also give me a horse and carriage."
"Oh, you stupid boy!" cried the dwarf, and threw his pipe with such temper against a tree that it broke into little pieces. "Horses? Carriages? Wisdom, I tell you, prudence, and intelligence are what you should desire, not horses and carriages! But, though I am much disappointed in you, your second wish is not altogether foolish. A good glass factory is worth having; but if you had intelligence and prudence, the carriages and horses would follow as a matter of course."
"But, little Glass-man, I still have a wish to spare; so I could use that and desire the prudence you think so important."
"No, not yet; you have to pass through many experiences before you get the third wish. Now, make haste home! Here are two thousand florins, more than enough for you. And don't come here again asking me for money, or I will hang you to the highest tree. Three days ago old Frederick, the owner of the largest glass factory in the forest, died. Go to-morrow morning to his widow and make a fair offer for the business. Be industrious and careful. And listen to what I am going to say. Beware of the village wine-shop, it is a good friend to no one!" The little man, as he was speaking, drew out a fresh pipe, filled it with chopped fir-cone, and began to smoke. When it was well alight, he shook Peter kindly by the hand, gave him full directions as to the way, and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
When Peter reached home he found his mother very anxious about him, for she thought he must have been taken to serve as a soldier. He told her his adventures and how he had met with a good friend in the forest who had given him a sum of money and had advised him to choose another occupation and buy a glass factory.
Although his mother had lived for more than thirty years in a charcoal-burner's hut, she was vain enough to pride herself on their change of circumstances. "As mother of a son who owns a glass factory, I am very different from neighbour Greta, and shall in future sit with better class people in church." Her son soon concluded his bargain with the heirs of old Frederick, and retained the workmen who had been there so long, and all day and all night they were blowing glass.
At first he liked the work. He rose early, walked to and fro in the factory; looked here, looked there, spoke to this one and that one, much to the amusement of his people, and his greatest pleasure was to watch them blowing the glass. Sometimes he would try it himself, and made all sorts of wonderfully shaped things. But soon he got tired of his new occupation, and only visited the works an hour in the morning, then every two days, then once a week, and his workmen did exactly as they liked.
All this was the fault of the ale-house. On the Sunday after Peter came back from the pine-forest, he went to the ale-house, and already there was the King of the Dancers footing it gaily, and Big Ezekiel, who was drinking and gambling.
Peter put his hands in his pockets to see if the little Glass-man had kept his word, and lo! his pockets were full of gold and silver. His legs, too, felt as if they wanted to be dancing, and when the first dance was over, he and his partner took the floor opposite the "King," and if he jumped three feet high, Peter sprang four feet, and if the "King" performed wonderful steps, Peter did the same, to the wonder and admiration of all who beheld him.
When the people at the gathering heard that Peter had bought a glass factory, when they saw how, every time a dance was over, he threw money to the musicians, there was no end to their surprise. Some thought he must have found some money in the forest; others that he had come into some property; but all could see that he had plenty to spend. He would gamble away twenty gulden in one evening, and yet his pockets seemed as full as ever.
When Peter realised how lucky he was, he could hardly hide his pride and satisfaction. He threw money about freely, and helped the poor generously, for he knew well enough how they suffered.
His wonderful gift of dancing gained him the title of Emperor of the Dance. The hardest gamblers did not wager so much as he, so they lost less. But the more he lost the more he won. It was just as the Glass-man had said. He had wished always to have as much money in his pocket as Big Ezekiel; and so he did. If he lost thirty gulden, he still had the amount in his pocket, if Ezekiel had won. But by degrees he became a worse gambler than the veriest rascal in the Black Forest, and he was more often called gambler than Emperor of the Dance, for he played all day long, and neglected his work.
And so the glass factory did very badly owing to Peter's idleness and inattention to business. Glass was made, certainly, and plenty of it, but in buying the business Peter neglected to buy the secret of the manufacture of its particular sort of glass. He had never really troubled to learn the art of glass-making and at last he sold the business at half-price, and realised just enough to pay his workmen the wages due.
One evening, as he went home from the village inn, he thought with disgust of all the wine he had drunk just to cheer his spirits.
Then suddenly he noticed that some one was walking beside him, and behold! it was the little Glass-man. Peter flew into a rage and swore he was at the bottom of all his troubles.
"What do I want with horse and carriage?" cried he; "what use to me was the factory and the glass? When I was a miserable charcoal-burner I lived happily. Now I never know when the bailiff will come and seize my goods for debt."
"Indeed!" answered the little Glass-man; "I am sorry to have been the cause of your unhappiness. Why did you choose such foolish wishes? Did I not say you should wish carefully? Prudence and understanding, Peter, are what you needed!"
"I am no worse than other young men, as I will prove," cried Peter, as he seized the little man roughly by the collar. "Now I have you fast, Treasure-man. The third wish I will have now, and you must grant it. And I wish for two hundred thousand golden florins at once and a house, and–oh, dear! "cried he, shaking his hand, for the little man had changed himself into molten glass and burnt his hand like a firebrand. And Peter saw him no more.
For many days Peter remembered his burnt hand and his ingratitude and stupidity. Then, however, he recollected that all was not lost.
"For if the glass factory is sold, there is always Big Ezekiel. So long as he has money on Sunday, I am all right."
Yes, Peter, but if he has none? And so it happened. For one Sunday Peter drove to the inn, and the people there stretched their heads out of window, and one said: "Here comes the gambler!" and another, "Yes; the wonderful dancer; the rich glass-man!" and a third shook his head, and said: "With riches comes trouble. I heard that Peter Munk is greatly in debt, and that it won't be long before the bailiff will seize his belongings."
Peter greeted the frequenters of the inn as he got out of his carriage, and cried:
"Well, mine host, is Big Ezekiel here yet?" And a deep voice cried:
"Here I am, Peter! Your place is kept for you, and we have just begun to play cards."
So Peter Munk went into the bar parlour, felt in his pockets, and knew that Ezekiel must have had good luck, for his pockets were full of money.
He sat down at the table and played, and won and lost as time went on, and they played till honest folk had all gone home, saying: "It's time we were going home to our wives and children." But Peter persuaded Ezekiel to stay. He was rather unwilling, but at last said:
"Very well, I will count my money, then we will play dice, the stakes to be five gulden." He drew out his purse and found he had barely one hundred gulden, so Peter knew he had about the same. But though Ezekiel had been winning all the evening, he now began to lose stake after stake, and was perfectly furious. At last he laid his remaining five gulden on the table, and cried: "Once more. If I lose these, you must lend me some of your winnings, Peter; an honourable man is always ready to help another!"
"Just as you like, even if it be a hundred gulden," said Peter, pleasantly; and Ezekiel shook the dice and threw fifteen.
"Pooh!" he cried; "now we shall see!"
Peter, however, threw eighteen, and a deep voice behind him said:
"That's the end of it all."
He looked round, and there stood Dutch Michael behind him; but Big Ezekiel did not seem to notice him, and asked Peter to lend him ten gulden. Half-dreaming, Peter put his hand in his pocket. There was no money! He felt in another pocket, but found none. He turned his coat inside-out, but none fell out, and all at once he remembered his wish always to have as much money as Big Ezekiel. It had all vanished like smoke.
The innkeeper and Ezekiel would not believe him, but after they had searched his pockets they began to be indignant, and said that Peter was a magician and had conjured away the money to his own house. Peter denied this, but appearances were against him, Ezekiel said he would spread the tale all through the Black Forest, and Peter Munk might be sure he would be burnt for a wizard. Then they seized him, tore the coat off his back, and threw him out of the house.
Not a star could be seen in the sky as Peter walked sadly home; but suddenly he was aware of a dark figure which approached him and said:
"You have come to grief, Peter, all your luck is at an end. I could have told you how it would be when you ran from me to the stupid little Glass-man. Now you see how much wiser is he who takes my advice. But I am sorry for you. No one has ever regretted coming to me for help; and remember this, I shall be all day to-morrow in the pine-wood if you want to speak to me. You have only to call to me."
Peter knew only too well who was speaking to him, but he felt afraid to reply, and ran off home.
When he went to his glass factory next morning, there were not only no workmen there, but some very unwelcome visitors, namely, the bailiff and his men. The bailiff wished Peter "Good morning," and drew a long ledger in which he had registered Peter's debts.
"Can you pay or not?" asked the bailiff with a stern look. "Answer me quickly, I have not much time to spare."
Peter stammered out that he could not pay, that he was a ruined man, and the bailiff had better value his house and shop. And while the bailiff and his men went poking and prying about, he thought, "It is not so far to the pinewoods The little Glass-man has not done much for me, I will try my luck with Dutch Michael."
He hastened to the pine wood. As he passed the spot where he had first spoken with the Glass-man, it seemed to him that an unseen hand held him fast; but he wrenched himself free, and ran on to the boundary-line and breathlessly called out:
"Mr. Dutch Michael!" and immediately the giant raftsman, pole in hand, stood before him.
"So you've come," said Michael, laughing. "Did you want the skin off your back? Well, never mind; your fault lay in going to the little Glass-man. When any one makes a gift, it should be royally done, and not as he does. But come, let us go to my house, there we will see if we can come to terms."
"Come to terms!" thought Peter. "What does he mean?"
They first went up a steep path, which led to a deep ravine. Dutch Michael strode over the rocks as if they were ordinary doorsteps, and Peter was nearly dropping with fatigue, when his companion turned back, and straightening his huge figure, stretched out an arm as long as a weaver's beam, with a hand as broad as the table in the village wine-shop, shouting in a voice as loud as a church bell:
"Seat yourself on my hand and hold on to my fingers."
Peter, trembling, did as he was told; he sat on Michael's hand and held his thumb. Dutch Michael, when Peter was seated, had made himself smaller again, and they came to a house such as the richer peasants in the Black Forest live in, and the room into which he led Peter was no different from the rooms of other people.
The wooden clock on the wall, the hideous stove, the two benches were here as everywhere. Michael placed Peter at the table, then went out of the room, returning with a jar of wine and some glasses. He poured some out and they drank together, and Dutch Michael spoke of the misfortunes which Peter had experienced.
"Why should a clever fellow like you worry about these things? Do you really think that you are a villain? Has the bailiff's visit done you bodily harm? What is the matter with you?"
"It is my heart!" said Peter, as he pressed his hand against his side, for it seemed to him that his heart was beating as if it would burst.
"You have thrown away many hundred gulden on beggars and servants," said Dutch Michael. "What good has it done you? What was it prompted you to feel in your pocket every time a beggar stretched out his stupid hand? Your heart, your heart–always your heart. Not your eye, not your ears, but always your heart. You took things, as we say, too much to heart."
"But how could I help it?" cried Peter. "I tried not to feel pity, but my heart always beat so that it positively hurt me!"
"You stupid boy," laughed Michael; "so you were guided by your heart. Give it to me, and you will see you are just as well without it."
"Give you my heart?" cried Peter, quite horrified at the idea. "Then I shall die! Certainly not!"
"Certainly, if a surgeon took your heart out of your body in the course of an operation you would die; but this is altogether a different thing. Come in here and strip yourself."
Michael then rose, and led Peter into an inner room. His heart seemed to contract as he passed in, for the first glimpse was anything but reassuring. On wooden shelves round the room were glass jars filled with spirit, and in each was a heart. One jar was secured with chains, and there was an inscription which Peter read with curiosity. There was Big Ezekiel's heart, the heart of the King of the Dancers, the Head-Forester's heart, six hearts belonging to money-lenders, eight to recruiting-sergeants, three to money-changers–in short, there was a collection of the most undesirable hearts in the neighbourhood for twenty miles round.
"Look," said Dutch Michael, "all these people live free from care and sorrow. Do you not envy them?"
"But what sort of heart do they possess?" asked Peter.
"This sort," replied Dutch Michael, and showed him a stone heart on one of the shelves.
"Really," said Peter, shuddering, "a heart of marble! That must feel very cold inside your body."
"Possibly; but not so very cold! Why should a heart be warm? In summer, when everything is hot, surely such a heart will be hot too! And, best of all, neither anxiety, nor fear, nor foolish pity, nor any sort of grief will cause such a heart one extra beat."
"And is all that you can give me?" asked Peter. "I want money, and you offer me a stone!"
"Well, perhaps a hundred thousand gulden will be sufficient for you at first. With such a sum carefully handled you ought soon to become a millionaire."
"A hundred thousand!" cried poor Peter joyfully. "Here, Michael, give me the stone heart and the money, and the unquiet thing that beats here you can keep in your house as long as you like!"
"I thought you were a sensible lad," said the Dutchman, laughing heartily. "Come, let us pledge each other, and then I will count out the money."
So they sat down again, and drank and drank till Peter fell fast asleep. He awoke to the ringing clang of the post-horn, and lo! he was driving along in a beautiful coach, and the forest lay far behind him. At first he could not believe it was really he who was in the carriage. For even his clothes were different; but he remembered everything so clearly that at last all his doubts vanished, and he cried:
"I am really Peter the charcoal-burner–that is a fact; but how wonderful everything is!"
He felt a little surprised as he passed the quiet cottage where he had so long dwelt with his mother. But even when he thought of her no tears came to his eyes.
"Well, I suppose home-sickness and loneliness come from the heart, and thanks to Dutch Michael–mine is as cold as a stone!"
He laid his hand on his heart and it was quite still.
"If he keeps his word about the hundred thousand gulden as he has about my heart, I shall be very glad," and with these words he sprang out of his carriage in order to search it thoroughly. At last he found a pocket in the lining in which were many thousand florins in gold and silver.
"Now I have all I want," thought he, and threw himself in a corner of the carriage and ordered the coachman to drive "any- or everywhere."
For two years he drove hither and thither in every direction. His only home were the various inns; and the most beautiful things in the towns he visited possessed for him no pleasure. No picture, no house, no music, no pleasure stirred his feelings. His heart was as cold as a stone, and his eyes and ears seemed closed to everything worth seeing or hearing. The only pleasure left to him consisted in eating, drinking, and sleeping; and his whole life was spent in driving about, living well, and sleeping from sheer boredom.
Now and then he remembered that he once was gay and happy; but that was when he was poor and obliged to work. Then every modest pleasure delighted him, and he had often thought for hours together of the simple meals his mother would daily bring him while he was attending to his kiln. Now he certainly felt very comfortable and free from anxiety, but certainly neither contented nor happy. Formerly such a little thing made him light-hearted, now he never cared to laugh. It was neither homesickness nor loneliness, but a desolate, joyless sort of life which determined him to seek his home once more.
As he neared the house, as he saw again for the first time each well-known landmark, each true, honest peasant of the forest, as his ear heard the old familiar sounds, he laid his hand on his heart.
"Surely," thought he, "my blood will flow faster for joy; but I forget–it is only stone."
His first visit was to Dutch Michael, who welcomed him heartily.
"Michael," said he, "I have been everywhere and have seen everything, and am thoroughly bored. Your stone heart has its drawbacks. I am never worried or sad, but, on the other hand, I do not enjoy anything, and it seems to me as if I only half live. Do give me back my own heart; I got quite used to its ways in my twenty-five years, and if it was sometimes a bad adviser, it was always a cheerful and contented heart!"
The Dutchman laughed scornfully.
"When you are dead, Peter Munk, you can have your own soft heart again, and you can feel both pleasure and pain. But here things must go on as they are. Settle down in the forest, build a house, marry a wife, and content yourself with your belongings. You have had nothing to do for some time past, so you blame this unfortunate heart because you found the days hang heavy on your hands."
Peter realised that Michael was right, and determined to work hard so as to become richer and richer.
It soon became known through the Black Forest that Peter the charcoal-burner was back again, and apparently richer than formerly. His life fell into the old grooves. When he was without means, he was turned out of the wine-shop; but now that he went there in style on a Sunday people shook him by the hand, asked him about his travels, and as he gambled as before for dollars with Ezekiel, he was respected too. He did not attempt glass-making again, but only the timber trade. This was, however, only a pretence. His real business was in corn and money. The half of the Black Forest would have borrowed of him, but he would lend nothing under ten per cent. interest. Now he and the bailiff were close friends; and if any one did not repay Peter Munk to the day, the bailiff set out with his men, valued the house and home, sold it at once, and turned father, mother, and children out into the forest.
But by degrees this reacted on Peter, for the unfortunate people besieged his door, and tried to soften his hard heart; but he bought a pair of fierce bloodhounds, and this "cat's music," as he called it, did not disturb him long. They snarled and growled, and the poor beggars ran shrieking away.
No one worried him more than the "old woman." This was none other than his old mother, Dame Munk. She was in great need and misery, for her house had been seized and sold, and although her son had returned rich, he had not troubled himself at all about her. She came occasionally and waited near his house. She dared not go inside, for once he had driven her out; and it grieved her sorely to have to accept charity from neighbours while her son could easily provide for her in her old age. But his cold heart was never moved by her pleading looks, her trembling hands, her feeble figure; but when she knocked at his door on Sunday evenings he would take a sixpence out of his pocket, and, grumbling all the time, would pass it to her through a hole in the door. He did not care if she thanked him or not; he only remembered that he was the poorer by sixpence.
At last Peter thought he would marry. He was particular in his choice, for he wanted the neighbours to envy his good fortune. So he rode through the forest, looked here, looked there, and none of the girls seemed good enough for him. At last he heard that the most beautiful and notable girl in the whole forest was a woodcutter's daughter. She lived at home and managed her father's house, and never was seen at the village dances except at Easter-time or at the annual fair. When Peter heard of this charming girl he determined to see her for himself, and rode to the house in which he had been told she lived. Her father received him with amazement, and was still more surprised when he heard that this was rich Peter Munk who wished to become his son-in-law. He hoped that all Elizabeth's poverty and hard work was now at an end, and without consulting her he gave his consent, and the good child was so obedient to his wishes that without grumbling she became Mrs. Peter Munk.
But it was not so pleasant for the poor girl as she had hoped. She was a good housekeeper, but nothing seemed to please Mr. Peter. She was compassionate to the poor, and as her husband was rich she thought there was no harm in giving a penny to a beggar, or a cup of wine to an old man. But when Peter noticed this one day he said in a voice of thunder:
"Why do you waste my money and food on idle people and beggars? If you do it again I will beat you."
Poor Elizabeth cried and wished herself back in her poor father's hut. If she had only known that Peter's heart was of stone she would not have wondered at his unkindness. So when she sat in the porch and a beggar-man came near, she cast down her eyes so as not to see him, and clenched her hand in case she should be tempted to feel in her pocket for a halfpenny.
So it was whispered all through the forest that the beautiful Elizabeth was even stingier than Peter Munk. But one day, Elizabeth was sitting by her door spinning and singing a little song; and there came along a little old man carrying a heavy sack, and she heard him coughing badly. And as Elizabeth watched him she thought how sad it was that such an old man should have to carry such a heavy burden. Slowly the little old man came along, and when he was not far from Elizabeth he almost fell beneath the weight of the sack.
"Have pity, dear lady," he said, "and give me some water to drink; I cannot go any further, and shall perish with thirst."
"But you are too old to carry such a heavy load," said Elizabeth.
"Alas!" said the old man, "I have no choice. I must earn a living; but such a rich lady as you are cannot think how delicious a drink of cold water is on such a hot day."
When she heard this, Elizabeth hurried into the house, took a jug and filled it with water; then as she was returning with it and saw the little man looking so tired and forlorn, and sitting on the sack, she thought that as her husband was not at home she would bring him something better; so found a goblet, filled it with wine, cut a slice of bread, and gave it to the old man.
"A glass of wine may be better for you than water as you are so old," said she; "but do not drink too fast, and eat some bread with it."
The little man seemed overcome with surprise; and large tears stood in his old eyes. He drank the wine and said:
"I have lived many years, but never have I met with any one who was so good and kind as you, Dame Elizabeth; you will surely meet with your reward in this world and the next!"
"So she will! and part of her reward she shall get at once!" shouted a horrible voice, and looking round they saw Peter's furious face.
"And so you give my best wine to beggar folks, and let tramps drink out of my own goblet? There, take your reward!"
Dame Elizabeth started to her feet and begged his forgiveness, but that heart of stone had no pity, and Peter hit his wife on the forehead with the handle of his whip with such force that she fell lifeless into the old man's arms. When Peter saw this, it seemed as if he did feel some sort of shame, for he bent down to see if there was any sign of life; but the little man said in his well-known voice:
"Don't trouble yourself, Peter. This was the loveliest flower in the Black Forest; you have destroyed it, and it will never bloom again."
Then Peter turned white as a ghost, and he said:
"So it is you, the Treasure-man! Well, what is done, is done, and cannot be undone. I hope, however, you will not charge me before the justices as a murderer!"
"Wretch!" said the little man, "what good would it do me if I brought you to the gallows? No earthly justice need you fear, but a mightier, more righteous one, for you have sold your soul to the Evil One."
"And if I have sold my heart," cried Peter, "whose fault is it but yours? You got me into trouble, and to retrieve my position I had to seek other help. The whole disaster is your fault."
But hardly had he said this than the little Glass-man suddenly became tall and strong; his eyes were like soup-plates, his mouth like a hot oven, and his breath burning flames. Peter threw himself down on his knees, and his stone heart was of so little protection that his limbs shook like an aspen-tree. The wood-spirit seized him roughly by the throat and threw him on the ground with such force that all Peter's bones cracked.
"You miserable worm!" he cried in a voice of thunder. "I could easily kill you for your abominable behaviour to the lord of the forest. But for this dead woman's sake and for her generous kindness to me, I will give you eight days' grace. If you do not repent of your sins in that time, you shall certainly not have another chance!"
It was quite late in the evening when some passers-by saw the rich Peter Munk lying on the ground. They turned him over and felt to see if he still lived. At last one of them went into the house, brought water, and sprinkled his face. Then Peter gave a deep sigh, opened his eyes, looked round, and asked for his wife. No one had seen her. He thanked the men for their help, went into his house and looked all about, but Elizabeth was neither in the rooms nor where she fell, and all that he thought was a dreadful dream was evidently a horrible reality.
Now that he was quite alone, terrible thoughts passed through his mind. When he thought of his wife's death, he remembered also other evil deeds; the tears of poor people, the curses of his victims on whom he had set his bloodhounds, his treatment of his poor old mother, and again, of his poor dead Elizabeth. How could he face his old father-in-law when he asked, "Where is my dear daughter? Where is your wife?"
He had dreadful dreams all night, and every moment he seemed to hear a sweet voice saying, "Peter, pray for a kind heart." And when he awoke, he shut his eyes quickly again, for the warning voice could belong to no one else but his wife Elizabeth.
The next day he went to the wine-shop to distract his thoughts, and there sat Big Ezekiel. Peter sat down by his side and they talked of this and that, of the fine weather, of war, of the harvest, and at last of death; and Peter asked Ezekiel what he thought of death, and if he believed in an after-life.
Ezekiel answered that "Though the body was buried, the soul went either to heaven or hell."
"Then the heart is buried?" said Peter.
"Certainly," said Ezekiel, "the heart is buried."
"But if a man has no heart?" continued Peter.
Ezekiel turned on him furiously.
"Do you wish to insult me? Do you mean to suggest that I have no heart?"
"If you have one it is made of stone!" said Peter.
Ezekiel stared, looked round to see if any one was listening, and then said: "How do you know? Is yours stone too?"
"My heart has ceased to beat, at least here," said Peter, touching his breast. "But, tell me, as you understand what I was meaning, what will become of our hearts?"
"What does that matter?" asked Ezekiel, laughing. "Have you not to live on earth? Is not that enough? We need not think about the future."
"Perhaps not, but one does think, and if I have no fear for the present, I am as afraid of the future as any naughty little boy."
"Oh! that will be all right," said Ezekiel. "I once asked a schoolmaster about it, and he said that after death our hearts would be punished according to their deserts."
"Well," said Peter, "that may be; but it often annoys me that my heart is so indifferent to everything."
And they changed the subject: but in the night Peter heard the well-known voice whispering:
"Peter, pray for a kind heart."
He knew no peace now that he had killed his wife, but when he said to the neighbours that she had gone on a visit, he thought to himself:
"Where can she have gone?"
Six days passed, and each night he heard the voice, and always remembered the wood-spirit's warning, and on the seventh he sprang from his bed and cried:
"Now, at last, I will try if I can exchange this heart of mine, for this stone in my breast makes life only a miserable existence."
He put his Sunday suit on as quickly as possible, and ran to the fir-grove.
When he reached it, he dismounted near a thick clump of trees, tied his horse up, and went as fast as he could to the brow of the hill; and when he came to the large pine-trees, he repeated the little verse
"Treasure-man in forest old,
More than a hundred years, I'm told,
You own the land. If this be true,
As Sunday's child I come to you."
The little Glass-man came out at once, but his manner had completely changed, and he was grave and sad. He wore a little coat of black glass, and a long mourning scarf hung down from his hat.
"What do you want?" he asked in ungracious tones.
"I have only one wish," answered Peter, with downcast face.
"Can hearts of stone wish?" asked the Glass-man. "I have no desire to grant any wish of yours."
"You promised me three wishes, and I still have one to come."
"I can refuse to grant it, if it is foolish," said the Glass-man; "but you can tell me what you want."
"Take out this stone heart, and give me my own!" said Peter.
"Did I make the exchange?" asked the Glass-man. "Am I Dutch Michael, who gives riches and cold hearts away? You must go to him."
"Alas! he will not give it back," said Peter.
"You annoy me with your wickedness," said the little man, after a few moments' thought. "But because your wish is not foolish, I cannot refuse my help. Listen! Your heart you can only regain by cunning, strength will avail you nothing: and it will not be difficult, for Michael is always 'dull Michael,' although he thinks himself very clever. So go at once to him, and do as I tell you."
And then the little Glass-man gave Peter some instructions, and a little cross made of glass.
"Although he has no pity for you, he will help you if you hold this before him, and pray to our Redeemer. And when you have obtained your desire, come back here to me."
Peter Munk took the little cross, and repeating to himself the old man's words, went to find Dutch Michael. He called him three times by name, and the raftsman stood before him.
"You have killed your wife," said Dutch Michael, smiling. "You will have to leave the country for a time, for there will be an inquiry when the murder is discovered; and so I suppose you want some money, and have come to me for it?"
"You are right, and I want a good deal this time. America is a long way off," answered Peter cautiously.
Michael led him into the cottage. There he opened a drawer in which there was much money, and took out some rolls of gold in packets. While he was counting these Peter said:
"You are a sad rascal, Dutch Michael, for you told me that I had a stone in my breast and you had my heart."
"And isn't that true?" asked Michael, astonished. "Do you feel your heart beating?"
"You may have made it stand still, but it is still here, and Ezekiel has his, and it is he who told me how you have deceived us."
"But I assure you," said Michael seriously, "you and Ezekiel and every one who becomes rich through my help, have such cold hearts as yours, and I have their hearts here in my room."
"That some people may believe, but during my travels I saw such things by the dozen. The hearts you keep in your cupboard are only made of wax. You are a rich rascal, but you are not a magician."
This irritated the raftsman, and he threw open the cupboard door and cried:
"Come, I will loose the chains and you will see. There is Peter Munk's heart. Do you see how it beats? Could a wax heart beat like that?"
"A real heart does not beat like that," said Peter Munk. "Mine is still my own. No, you are no conjuror."
"I will convince you," said Michael eagerly. "You shall feel that this is really your heart."
He took it in his hand, tore open Peter's waistcoat, and took a stone heart out of his side and showed it him; then he took the real heart, and put it back in its right place, and immediately Peter felt it beating and was almost overcome with joy.
"How do you feel now?" asked Michael, smiling.
"You are right," answered Peter, as he carefully laid his little glass cross on the table.
"And you admit I am a magician; but come here, and I will put the stone heart back again."
"Beware! Dutch Michael," cried Peter, and held the cross before him. "This time you are the victim." And he began to pray; and as he prayed a strange thing happened; for Michael grew smaller and smaller, fell down and twisted and turned about on the ground as if he were a worm, and sighed and groaned; and all the hearts began to pulse and beat, till it seemed as if it were a watchmaker's workroom.
Peter was frightened; he ran out of the house and climbed the ravine as fast as be could, for he heard Dutch Michael shouting bitter curses after him. As he reached the pine-forest, a dreadful storm arose, lightning flashed in all directions and splintered the trees, but he reached the little Glass-man's dwelling in safety.
His heart, he plainly felt, beat with joy. Then he remembered his life for the last few years and thought of the dreadful deed which had made him a wanderer up and down the forest. He realised what an awful crime he had committed when he killed his excellent wife, and crying bitterly he reached the Glass-man's cottage.
The Treasure-man sat beneath the huge fir-tree smoking his pipe, and seemed more cheerful than before.
"Why are you crying, charcoal-burner Peter? Have you not got back your heart?"
"Good little Glass-man! while I had a stone heart, I never cried, now it seems as if my heart will break when I think of my evil deeds. I set my bloodhounds on the poor and the sick; and you know, perfectly well, that I felled my dear wife to the ground with one blow of my whip."
"Peter, you have been a great sinner," said the little man; "the love of money and amusement has ruined you; but repentance atones, and if I felt sure that you are really sorry from your heart and wish to lead a better life, I would do something to help you."
"I am tired of life," said Peter, sorrowfully drooping his head. "I can no longer enjoy it. Kill me, I pray, good Treasure-man, for I am a miserable wretch."
"Very well," answered the little man, "if you wish it, it shall be so." He quietly took his pipe in his hand, knocked the ashes out, refilled it and put it in his mouth. Then he rose slowly and went behind the fir-tree. Peter stretched himself on the grass, weeping, but patiently awaiting the death-blow. After a few moments he heard steps behind him and thought, "Now all will soon be over."
"Look up, Peter Munk," cried the little Glass-man. He dashed the tears from his eyes, looked up and saw–his mother and Elizabeth, his wife, who both were gazing kindly at him. He sprang up with a cry of joy.
"Then you are not dead, Elizabeth! And you are here too, mother! Can you ever forgive me?"
"They will forgive you," said the Glass-man, "because you feel true sorrow, and all shall be forgotten. Go home to your father's cottage and be a charcoal-burner as before. If you are worth anything you will respect yourself and your occupation, and the neighbours will think more of you than if you had ten tons of gold." And the little Glass-man bade them farewell.
Peter, and Elizabeth, and his mother thanked and blessed the little Glass-man, and went home. But how surprised were they when they reached the old hut! It was now a pretty cottage, and though all the furnishings were simple, they were good and clean.
"This is the good little Glass-man's doing," cried Peter.
"How lovely!" cried Dame Elizabeth. "And how much more like home it seems to me than in that large house with all the workmen!"
From this day Peter was an industrious, steady man. He was contented with his lot, attended to his occupation, and in consequence became well-to-do and was respected in all the country round. He never quarrelled with his wife, he honoured his mother, and gave to the poor who begged at his door. And when Dame Elizabeth's little son was born, Peter went up into the pine-forest and repeated his verse. But the little Glass-man did not appear.
"Treasure-man," cried Peter loudly, "listen to me. I only want to ask you to be my little son's godfather." But there was no answer, only a slight breeze blew through the trees and scattered some fir-cones among the grass.
"Very well, as you will not show yourself to me, I will take these as a souvenir," said Peter, and putting the cones in his pocket he went home. But when he took off his waistcoat later and gave it to his mother to lay in the oak chest, there fell out four thick rolls of money, and when they opened them they found nothing but good golden dollars. And these were the little Glass-man's christening present to little Peter.
So they lived happy and contented, and often when Peter was old and grey-headed, he would say:
"It is better to be satisfied with little than to have money and luxury, and a cold, unfeeling heart."