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THE GOBLIN AND THE HUCKSTER

 

THERE was once a regular studenthe lived in a garretand nothing at all belonged to himbut there was also once a regular hucksterhe lived on the ground floorand the whole house was hisand the Goblin lodged with himfor hereevery Christmasevethere was a dish of porridgewith a great piece of butter float-in in the middleThe huckster could give thatand consequently the Goblin stuck to the huckster's shopand that was very interesting

One evening the student came through the back door to buy candles and cheese for himselfHe had no one to sendand that's why he came himselfHe procured what he wanted and paid for itand the huckster and his wife both nodded agood eveningto himand the woman was one who could do more than merely nod——she had an immense power of tongueAnd the student nodded tooand then suddenly stood stillreading the sheet of paper in which the cheese had been wrappedIt was a leaf torn out of an old booka book that ought not to have been torn upa book that was full of poetry

There lies more of it,”said the huckster:“I gave an old woman a few coffee beans for itgive me three pence and you shall have the remainder.”

Thanks,” said the student,“give me the book instead of the cheeseI can eat my bread and butter without cheeseIt would be a sin to tear the book up entirelyYou are a capital mana practical manbut you understand no more about poetry than does that cask yonder.”

Nowthat was an impolite speechespecially towards the caskbut the huckster laughed and the student laughedfor it was only said in funBut the Goblin was angry that any one should dare to say such things to a huckster who lived in his own house and sold the best butter

When it was nightand the shop was closed and all were in bed except the studentthe Goblin came forthwent into the bedroomand took away the good lady's tonguefor she did not want that while she was asleepand whenever he put this tongue upon any object in the roomthe said object acquired speech and languageand could express its thoughts and feelings as well as the lady herself could have donebut only one object could use it at a timeand that was a good thingotherwise they would have interrupted each other

And the Goblin laid the tongue upon the Cask in which the old newspapers were lying

Is it true,”he asked,“that you don't know what poetry means?”

Of courseI know it,”replied the Cask:“poetry is something that always stands at the foot of a column in the newspapersand is sometimes cut outI dare swear I have more of it in me than the studentand I'm only a poor tub compared to the huckster.”

Then the Goblin put the tongue upon the coffeemillandmercyhow it began to goAnd he put it upon the buttercaskand on the cashboxthey were all of the wastepaper Cask's opinionand the opinion of the majority must be respected

Now I shall tell it to the student!”

And with these words the Goblin went quite quietly up the back stairs to the garretwhere the student livedThe student had still a candle burningand the Goblin peeped through the keyholeand saw that he was reading in the torn book from downstairs

But how light it was in his roomOut of the book shot a clear beamexpanding into a thick stemand into a mighty treewhich grew upward and spread its branches far over the studentEach leaf was freshand every blossom was a beautiful girl's headsome with dark sparkling eyesothers with wonderfully clear blue orbsevery fruit was a gleaming starand there was a glorious sound of song in the student's room

Never had the little Goblin imagined such splendourfar less had he ever seen or heard anything like itHe stood still on tiptoeand peeped in till the light went out in the student's garretProbably the student blew it outand went to bedbut the little Goblin remained standing there neverthelessfor the music still sounded onsoft and beautiful——a splendid cradle song for the student who had lain down to rest

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This is an incomparable place,”said the Goblin:“I never expected such a thingI should like to stay here with the student.”

And then he thought it over——and thought sensiblythen he sighed,“The student has no porridge!”And then he went down again to the huckster's shopand it was a very good thing that he got down there again at lastfor the Cask had almost worn out the good woman's tonguefor it had spoken out at one side everything that was contained in itand was just about turning itself overto give it out from the other side alsowhen the Goblin came inand restored the tongue to its ownerBut from that time forth the whole shopfrom the cashbox down to the fire-woodtook its tone from the Caskand paid him such respectand thought so much of himthat when the huckster afterwards read the critical articles on theatricals and art in the newspaperthey were persuaded the information came from the Cask itself

But the Goblin could no longer sit quietly and contentedly listening to all the wisdom down thereas soon as the light glimmered from the garret in the eveninghe felt as if the rays were strong cables drawing him upand he was obliged to go and peep through the keyholeand there a feeling of greatness rolled around himsuch as we feel beside the everheaving sea when the storm rushes over itand he burst into tearsHe did not know himself why he was weepingbut a peculiar feeling of pleasure mingled with his tearsHow wonderfully glorious it must be to sit with the student under the same treeBut that might not be——he was obliged to be content with the view through the keyholeand to be glad of that

There he stood on the cold landingplacewith the autumn wind blowing down from the loftholeit was coldvery coldbut the little mannikin only felt that when the light in the room was extinguished and the tones in the tree died awayHathen he shiveredand crept down again to his warm cornerwhere it was homely and comfortableAnd when Christmas cameand brought with it the porridge and the great lump of butterwhythen he thought the huckster the better man

But in the middle of the night the Goblin was awakened by a terrible tumult and knocking against the windowshuttersPeople rapped noisily withoutand the watchman blew his hornfor a great fire had broken out——the whole street was full of smoke and flameWas it in the house it-self or at a neighbour'sWhere was itTerror seized on all

The huckster's wife was so bewildered that she took her gold earrings out of her ears and put them in her pocketthat at any rate she might save somethingthe huckster ran up for his sharepapersand the maid for her black silk mantillafor she had found means to purchase oneEach wanted to save the best thing they possessedthe Goblin wanted to do the same thingand in a few leaps he was up the stairs and into the room of the studentwho stood quite quietly at the open windowlooking at the conflagration that was raging in the house of the neighbour oppositeThe Goblin seized upon the wonderful book which lay upon the tablepopped it into his red capand held the cap tight with both handsThe best treasure of the house was savedand now he ran up and awayquite on to the roof of the houseon to the chimneyThere he satilluminated by the flames of the burning house oppositeboth hands pressed tightly over his capin which the treasure layand now he knew the real feelings of his heartand knew to whom it really belongedBut when the fire was extinguishedand the Goblin could think calmly againwhythen

I must divide myself between the two,”he said;“I can't quite give up the hucksterbecause of the porridge!”

Nowthat was spoken quite like a human creatureWe all of us visit the huckster for the sake of the porridge

 


 

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