Page images
[ocr errors]

in wood spirits; only and in recent times has it been possible to rid them of this foolish superstition. But it is strange that even the spirits which are said to dwell in the Black Forest are distinguished by these different costumes. It has been asserted that the Little Glass-man, a good little spirit, three and a half feet in height, never showed itself except in a little peaked hat with a broad brim, a jacket, little trousers, and little scarlet stockings. Dutch Michael, however, who haunts the other side of the forest, is said to be a very tall, broad-shouldered fellow, dressed as a raftsman; and several, having seen him, assert that they would not like to pay out of their purse for the calves, the skins of which were required to make his boots. "So large that an ordinary man could stand up to his throat in them," they said, and would have it that nothing was exaggerated.

With these wood spirits a young Black Forester is said to have had a peculiar adventure, which I will relate. There lived in the Black Forest a widow, Frau Barbara Munk; her husband had been a charcoal-burner, and after his death she trained her son, sixteen years old, gradually to the same kind of business.

Young Peter Munk, who was a cunning fellow, contented himself, because he had seen his father do nothing else, to sit throughout the whole week at the smoking kiln, black and sooty, an aversion to the people, and to drive down into the town to sell them his charcoal. A charcoalburner, however, has plenty of time for reflection about himself and others, and whenever Peter Munk was sitting near his kiln, the dark trees around and the deep silence of the forest moved his heart to tears and unknown longings. There was something which troubled him, something which annoyed him, he did not know exactly what it was. At length he discovered what it was that annoyed him, namely his position. "A black, lonely charcoal-burner! he said to himself; "it is a wretched life. How nice the glass-makers look, the clockmakers, even the musicians on Sunday evening! But if I, Peter Munk, go out washed clean and neatly dressed in father's Sunday jacket with silver buttons and bran-new stockings, and some one goes behind me and thinks: 'Who

may be that handsome fellow?' and admires my stockings and stately gait; if he passes and turns round, he is sure to say: Oh, it is only the charcoal-burner,


Peter Munk.'"

The raftsmen also on the other side were objects of his jealousy. Whenever these forest giants came over in their splendid dresses, carrying half a hundredweight of silver upon their persons in buttons, buckles and chains; whenever, with outstretched legs and distinguished appearance, they watched the dance, swore in Dutch, and smoked like the grandest Mynheers out of Cologne pipes a yard in length, he then regarded such a raftsman as a perfect picture of a happy man. And whenever these fortunate beings dived into their pockets, bringing out whole handfuls of big dollars, throwing the dice for sixbatzen-pieces, losing now five florins, winning again ten, he would go nearly mad, stealing away sadly to his hut, for on many a holiday evening he had seen one or another of these timber merchants lose more at play than poor father Munk earned in a year.

There were three of these men in particular of whom he did not know which to admire most. One was a stout tall man with a red face, and was considered the wealthiest man round about the country. He was called Fat Ezekiel. Twice a year he travelled with timber to Amsterdam, and had the good fortune always to sell it so much dearer than others, that, when the others returned home on foot, he could always drive back in grand style. The next was the tallest and thinnest in the whole forest, and he was called Schlurker Long-shanks, and this one was envied by Munk on account of his extraordinary impudence; he contradicted the most respected people; occupied, however crowded the inn might be, more room than four of the stoutest men-for he either rested his elbows on the table, or put one of his long legs beside him on the seat-and yet no one dared to gainsay him, because he was immensely rich. The third, however, was a handsome young man, who was the best dancer far and wide, and who was therefore called the Dance-room King. He had been a poor man and had acted as a servant to a timber merchant, when all of a sudden he became enor

mously rich. Some said he had found a pot full of money under an old pine; others alleged he had fished up with the pole which the raftsmen occasionally thrust at fish, not far from Bingen on the Rhine, a parcel of gold pieces, and this parcel was said to belong to the treasure of the Nibelungen, which was buried there. In short he had become rich all at once, and was looked upon as a prince by young and old.

Many a time did Peter Munk think of these three men when he was sitting alone in the pine forest. All three had one great fault, which made them hated by the people; this was their inhuman avarice, their harshness towards debtors and the poor-for the Black Foresters are a good-hearted little people. But one knows what usually happens in such cases; and although they were hated for their avarice, yet they were greatly esteemed on account of their money, for who like them could afford to throw away dollars as if money were to be shaken off the pines.


'I cannot endure this any longer," said Peter one day to himself, deeply distressed; for the day before had been a holiday and many people were at the inn. "If I do not make my fortune soon I shall do myself some injury. If I were only so respected and rich as Fat Ezekiel, or so bold and powerful as Lanky Schlurker, or so celebrated as the Dance-room King, and be able to throw dollars to the musicians instead of kreutzers! Where did the fellow get the money from?"

He meditated upon all sorts of means as to how he might get money, but none would occur to him. At last he too remembered the legends about those people who had become wealthy in ancient times through the Dutch Michael and the Little Glass-man. During his father's lifetime, other poor people had often come to see him, and much was said then about wealthy men and how they became rich. On such occasions the Little Glass-man played a prominent figure; indeed, if he remembered rightly, he could almost recall to mind the little verse which it was necessary to say in the middle of the forest whenever it was to make its appearance. It commenced:

"Treasurer in the pine-wood green,
Many hundred years hast seen,

Where pine-trees grow thine is the ground-"

But strain his memory as he would, he could not recollect another single line. He often thought as to whether he should not ask this or that old man, how the verse ran; but a certain shyness always prevented him from betraying his thoughts, and concluded that the legend of the Little Glass-man was little known and the verse only familiar to a few; for there were not many rich people in the forest. But why had not his father and the other poor people tried their good fortune? At last one day he got his mother to talk about the little man; she told him what he knew already, remembering too merely the first line of the verse, and finally told him the little spirit only showed itself to people who were born on a Sunday between the hours of eleven and two. He would do excellently for that, if he only knew the little verse, for he had been born on a Sunday at twelve o'clock at


When Charcoal-burner Peter heard this, he was almost beside himself with joy and eagerness to hazard this adventure. He was satisfied with knowing part of the little verse, and to have been born on a Sunday, to induce the Little Glass-man to come forth. One day, therefore, after having disposed of his charcoal, he did not light another new kiln, but donned his father's best coat and his new scarlet stockings, put on his Sunday hat, took his five-foot blackthorn stick in his hand, and bade farewell to his mother. "I must go into the town to the magistrate's office, for we shall have to draw lots soon who is to be a soldier, and therefore I wish to call his attention again that you are a widow and I your only son." His mother praised his resolution; he went his way however towards the pine thicket. The pine forest is situated on the highest top of the Black Forest, and at that time there was not a single village within two hours' walk, nay, not even a hut, for the superstitious people thought it was not safe there. People were also unwilling to fell trees in that district, in spite of high and magnificent pines which were there; for many times when the wood-cutters worked there the

axe-head had sprung from the haft into the river, or the trees had fallen very quickly, carrying with them the men and injuring or even killing them. The finest trees there could only be used for fuel, and the raftsmen never took a single stem from the thicket on their floats, because it was Isaid that both man and timber would meet with an accident if a tree from the forest were on it.

That was the reason why the trees in the thicket grew so thick and high; so that it was almost dark in broad daylight, and Peter Munk became perfectly terrified there, for no voice was heard, no footsteps except his own, and no sound of an axe. Even the birds appeared to avoid this dense darkness of pine.

The charcoal-burner, Peter Munk, had now reached the highest point of the forest, and was standing before a pine of enormous dimensions, for which a Dutch ship-builder would have given many hundred florins on the spot. "Here," he thought, "probably lives the Treasurer;" took off his big Sunday hat, made a deep bow before the tree, cleared his throat, and said in a trembling voice: "I wish you a very happy good evening, Mr. Glass-man.” No answer however followed, and all round about was as quiet as before. Perhaps I must say the little verse," he thought, and then he murmured:


"Treasurer in the pine-wood green,

Many hundred years hast seen,

Where pine-trees grow thine is the ground-"

Whilst saying these words he saw, to his great terror, a very little, strange figure peeping out behind the thick pine; he fancied he saw the Little Glass-man as he had been described to him—the little black jacket, the little red stockings, the little hat, all exactly like it; even the pale but delicate clever little face, of which he had heard. But alas! just as quickly as the Little Glass-man had peeped out, just as quickly had it also disappeared again! "Mr. Glass-man," exclaimed Peter Munk, after some hesitation, “ kindly do not take me for a fool, Mr. Glassman; and if you think I did not see you, you are greatly mistaken, for I saw you distinctly peeping from behind the tree."

« PreviousContinue »