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THE GOLDEN TREASURE

 

THE drummer's wife wentinto the churchShesawthe new altar with thepainted pictures and thecarved angels they were so beautiful both those upon the canvasin colours and with haloes and those that were carved inwoodand painted and gilt into thebargain Theirhairgleamed golden in the sunshine lovely to behold but thereal sunshine was more beautiful still It shone redderclearer through the dark trees when thesunwentdownIt was lovelythustolook at the sunshineofheavenAndshe looked at the red sun and she thought about it sodeeplyandthought of the little one whomthestork wasto bringand the wife of the drummer was very cheerful and looked and looked and wished that the child mighthavea gleam ofsunshine given to it sothat itmightatleastbecome like oneofthe shining angels over the altar

And when she really had the little child in herarmsand held it up to its fatherthen it was like one ofthe angels in the church to behold with hair like goldthe gleamofthesettingsunwasuponit

"My golden treasuremy riches my sunshine'said the mother and she kissed the shining locks and itsounded like music and song in the roomofthedrummerand there was joy and life and movement The drummerbeata rolla roll of joy And the Drum the Firedrum that was beaten when there was a fire in the town said"Red hairthe little fellow has red hairBelieve thedrum and not what your mother says Rub-adub rub- a- dub"

And the town repeated what the Firedrum had said

The boywastaken to church; the boy was chris-tenedThere was mothing much tobe saidabouthisnamehe was called Peter The whole town and theDrum too called him"Peter the drummer's boy with thered hair" but his mother kissedhis red hair and calledhim her golden treasure. In the hollow way in the clayey bankmany hadscratched their names as a remembrance

"Celebrityis always something"said the drummer

and so he scratched his own name there and his littleson's name likewise

And the swallows came they had on their long journey seen more durablecharacters engraven on rocks andon thewallsofthe temples inHindostan, mightydeeds ofgreatkings immortal names so old that no one now couldread or speak them Remarkablecelebrity

In theclayeybankthe martins built their nesttheyboredholesinthedeepdeclivityandthesplashingrainand the thin mist came and crumbled and washed thenames awayand the drummer's name alsoandthat of hislittle son

"Peter's name remained however a yearand ahalf"said the father

"Fool"thought the Firedrum but it only said"Dub dub dub rub-a-dub"

He was aboyfulloflife and gladness this drummer's son with the red hair He had a lovely voice hecouldsing and he sanglike a bird in the woodland

There was melody and yet no melody

He must become a choirboy said his mother

"He shallsing inthe church and stand under the beautiful gilded angels who are like him"

"Fierycat'said some ofthe witty onesofthetown

The Drum heard thatfrom the neighbours'wives

"Don't go home Peter"cried the street boys"Ifyou sleep in the garret there'll be afire in thehouse and the firedrum will have to be beaten

"Look out for the drumsticks"replied Peter andsmall as he was he ran up boldly and gave the foremost such a punch in the body with his fist that the fellow lost his legs and tumbled over and the others tooktheirlegs offwith themselves very rapidly

The town musician was verygenteel and fineHe wasthe sonofthe royal platewasher He was very fond of Peter and would sometimes take him to his home and hegave him a violin and taught him to play it It seemed asif the whole art lay in the boy's fingers and he wanted tobemore than adrummerhewanted to become musicianto the town

"I'll be a soldier"said Peterfor he was still quitealittlelad anditseemedtohimthefinestthingintheworldto carry a gun and to beable tomarch"left right leftright" and to wear auniformand a sword. "Ahyoumust learnto obeythedrum-skindrum dum dum"said the Drum

"Yesif he could only march hisway up to be a general"observed his father"but before he can do that theremustbe war"

"Heaven forbid!" said his mother

"We have nothing to lose"remarked the father

"Yes we have my boy "she retorted

"But suppose he came back a general" said thefather

"Withoutarmsand legs" criedthe mother"NoIwould rather keepmygolden treasure whole""Drum dumdum TheFire-drum andall theotherdrums were beating for war had come.The soldiers all setout and the son of the drummer followed them" RedheadGolden treasure"The mother wept thefather infancy saw him"fa-mous"the townmusicianwasofopinionthatheoughtnotto go to war but shouldstay at home and learn music

"Redhead "said the soldiers and little Peterlaughed but when one ofthem sometimes said to another"Foxey"he would bite his teeth together and lookanother wayinto the wide world he did not care forthe nickname

The boy was active pleasant of speech and goodhumoured and these qualities are the best canteen saidhis elder comrades

And many a night he had to sleep underthe openskywet throughwith thedrivingrain or thefallingmistbut hisgoodhumour never forsookhim The drum-stickssounded"Rub-a-dub allupallup"Yes he was certainly born to be a drummer.

The day of battle dawned The sun had not yet risenbut the morning has come The air was cold the battle washot therewasmist in the air but stillmore gunpowder-smokeThe bullets and shells flew over the soldiers'heads and into their heads into their bodies and limbsbut still they pressed forward. Hereorthere one orotherofthemwould sinkon hisknees with bleeding temples and aface as white as chalk The little drummer still kept hishealthy colour; he had suffered no damagehe lookedcheerfully at the dog of the regiment which was jumpingalong asmerrilyasifthewhole thing had been got up forhis amusement and as if the bullets were only flying aboutthat he might have a gameof playwiththem.

"March Forward March" These were the words ofcommand for the drum and they were words not to be taben back but they may be taken back at times and theremay be wisdom in doing so and now at last the word"Retire"was givenbut ourlittledrummer beat"Forwardmarch" for so he had understood the commandand the soldiers obeyed the sound of the drumThatwasa good rolland provedthesummonsto victoryforthemenwhohadalreadybeguntogiveway

Life and limb were lost in the battle Bomb- shellstoreawaytheflesh inredstripsbomb-shellslit up into aterrible glow the strawheaps to which the wounded haddragged themselves to lie untended for many hours perhaps for all the hours they had to live.

It's no use thinking of it and yet one cannot helpthinking of it even far away in the peaceful town Thedrummer and his wife also thought of it for Peter was atthe war

"Now I'm tiredofthesecomplaints," said the Fire- drum

Again the day ofbattle dawned; the sun had not yetrisen but it was morningThe drummer and his wife wereasleep which theyhadnot beennearlyall night theyhadbeen talking about their sonwho was out yonderinGod'shandAndthefatherdreamt that the war was overthat the soldiers had returned home and that Peter wore asilver cross onhis breast But themother dreamt that shehad gone into the churchand had seen the painted pic-tures and the carved angels with the gilded hair and herown dear boy the golden treasureof her heart who wasstanding among the angels in white robessingingsosweetly as surely onlythe angels can singandthathehad soared up with them into the sunshine and nodded sokindly athis mother

"My golden treasure!"she criedout and sheawoke"Now the goodGod has taken him to Himself" She folded her hands and hid her face in the cotton curtains of the bed and wept"Where does he rest nowamong the many in the big grave that they have dug forthe dead Perhaps he's in the water in the marsh! No- body knows his grave noholy wordshave been read overit" And the Lord' s Prayerwent inaudibly overher lipsshe bowed her head and was so weary that she went tosleep

And the days went by inlifeand in dreams

It was eveningoverthebattlefield a rainbowspread which touched the forest and the deep marsh. It has been said and is preserved in popular belief that where the rainbow touches the earth a treasure liesburied a golden treasure and here there was one. Noone but his mother thought of the little drummer andtherefore she dreamt of him

And the days went by in life and in dreams

Not a hair of his headhadbeenhurt not a goldenhair

"Drum-marum drummarum there he is theDrum might have said and hismother might have sung ifshe had seen or dreamtit

With hurrah and song adorned with green wreathsof victory they came home as the war was at an end and peace had been signed The dog of the regimentsprang on in front with large bounds and made the waythreetimes as longforhimselfas it really was

And days andweeks went by andPeter cameintohis parents' room he was asbrown as a wild man andhis eyes werebright and his face beamed like sunshine.And his mother held him in her arms she kissed his lipshis eyes his red hairShe had her boy back again he hadnot a silver cross on his breast as his father had dreamtbut he had sound limbs a thing the mother had notdreamtAnd what a rejoicingwasthere They laughed andthey wept and Peter embraced the old Firedrum

"There stands the old skeleton still" he said

And thefatherbeatarolluponit

"One would think that a great fire had broken outhere"said the Firedrum"Bright dayfire inthe heartgolden treasureskratskr-r-atskr-r-r-r-at"And what then What then?—Ask the town musician

"Peter' s far outgrowing the drum" he said"Peterwill be greater thanI"And yet hewasthesonof a royalplate-washerbutall that he had learned in half a lifetime Peter learned inhalfayear

There was something so merry about him somethingso trulykindheartedHiseyesgleamedandhishairgleamed toothere was no denying that

"He ought to have his hair dyed"said the neighbour'swife"Thatanswered capitally with the policeman'sdaughter and she got a husband"

"Butherhairturned as green as duckweedandwasalways having to be colouredup""She canaffordthat"saidthe neighbours"and socan Peter He goes to the most genteel houses even to theburgomaster's where he gives Miss Charlotte pianofortelessons." He could play He could play fresh out of his heartthe most charming pieces that had never been put uponmusicpaper He played in the bright nights and in thedark nights too The neighbours declared it was unbearable and the Firedrum was of the same opinion

He played until his thoughts soared up and burstforth in great plans for the future

"To be famous"

And Burgomaster's Charlotte sat at the piano.Herdelicate fingersdanced overthekeys andmadethemringintoPeter'sheartIt seemedtoo muchforhim to bear; andthishappenednotoncebutmany times and at lastone day he seized the delicate fingers and the white handand kissed it and looked into her great brown eyesHeaven knows what he said but we may be allowed toguess at it Charlotte blushed to guess at it She reddenedfrom brow to neck and answered not a single word; andthen strangers came into the room and one of them wasthe state councillor's son he had a lofty white foreheadand carriedit so highthat itseemedto gobackinto hisneckAnd Peter sat with them a long time and shelooked at him with gentle eyes

At home that evening he spoke of travel in the wideworld and of the golden treasure that lay hidden for himin his violin

"To be famous"

"Tum-me-lumtum-me-lumtum-me-lum"saidthe Fire-drum" Peter has gone clean out of his witsIthink there must be a fire in the house"

Next daythe mother went to market

"ShallItell you newsPeter sheaskedwhenshecamehome."A capitalpieceof news. Burgomaster'sCharlottehas engaged herself tothestate councillor'sson the betrothal took place yesterday evening""No" cried Peter andhesprangupfromhischairButhis mother persisted insaying"Yes"She hadheard it from the barber's wife whose husband had itfrom the burgomaster's own mouth

And Peter became as pale as death and sat downagain. "Good HeavenWhat' s thematter withyou" askedhis mother

"Nothing nothing only leave me to myself"heanswered but the tears were running down his cheeks

"My sweet child my golden treasure" cried themotherandsheweptbut the Fire-drum sangnotoutloudbut inwardly "Charlotte' s gone Charlotte's gone And now thesong isdone"

But the songwasnotdone there weremany moreverses in it long verses the most beautiful verses thegolden treasures of a life

"She behaves like a mad woman" said the neighbour's wife"Alltheworldis to seetheletters she getsfrom her golden treasureand to read the words that are written in the papers about his violinplaying And hesends her money too and that's very useful to her sinceshe has been a widow""He playsbefore emperors and kings" said the townmusician"Inever hadthatfortune;buthe's my pupil and he does not forget his old master

And his mother said "His father dreamt that Peter came home fromthe warwith a silver crossHedid notgain one in thewarbutitis still more difficult togain one in thisway Now hehasthe cross of honour.If his father had only lived to see it" "He'sgrown famous "saidtheFiredrumandallhis native town said the same thing for the drummer'sson Peter with the red hairPeter whom they had knownas a little boyrunning about in wooden shoesandthen asa drummer playing forthe dancerswas become famous

"He played at our house before he played in the presence ofkings said the burgomaster's wife"At that timehe was quite smitten with CharlotteHewasalways ofanaspiring turnAtthat time he was saucyandan enthusiast

My husband laughed when he heard of the foolish affair and now our Charlotte's a state councillor's wife"A golden treasure had been hidden in theheartandsoul of the poor child who had beaten the roll as adrummera roll of victory for those who had beenready toretreatThere was a golden treasurein hisbosom thepowerofsound itburstforth on his violin as iftheinstrument had been a complete organ and as if all the elves ofa midsummernightwere dancing across the strings In itssounds were heard the piping of the thrush and the fullclear noteof the human voice therefore thesoundbroughtrapture to everyheart and carried his name triumphantthrough the land That was a great firebrandthe firebrandof inspiration. "And then he looks so splendid "said the youngladies and the old ladies too and the oldest of all procuredan album for famous locks ofhair wholly and solely thatshe might beg alook of his rich splendid hair that treasurethat goldentreasure. And the son cameinto thepoorroomof the drummerelegantas a prince happierthan a kingHis eyes were as clear and his face as radi-ant as sunshine and heheld his mother in his armsandshe kissed his mouthand wept as blissfully as any onecan weep forjoyand he nodded at everyold piece offurniture in the room at thecupboard with the teacupsand at the flowervase He nodded at the sleepingbenchwhere hehad slept as a little boybut the old Firedrumhe brought out and dragged it intothe middle of theroom and said to it and to hismother

"My father would have beaten afamous roll this evening NowI mustdoit"And he beata thundering rollcallon the instrument and the Drumfelt so highly honoured that the parchment burst with exultation

"Hehasa splendidtouch!"saidthe Drum"I've a remembrance ofhim now that will last Iexpect thatthe same thingwillhappen tohismotherfrom pure joy over her goldentreasure"And this is the story of the Golden Treasure

 


 

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