| The King Of The Golden River; Or, The Black Brothers |
HEN 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.
"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 am 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 visitor dryly.
Gluck was very much puzzled by the behaviour 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?"
"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 face. "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 wet!"
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 drying-house."
"It is a cold day to turn an old man out in, sir; look at my gray hairs." They hung down to his shoulders, as I told you before.
"Ay!" said Hans, "there are enough of them to keep you warm. Walk!"
"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 three.