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The Cold Heart
by [?]

The following strange adventure with these spirits is said to have once befallen a young Schwarzwaelder:–There lived a widow in the Schwarzwald, whose name was Frau Barbara Munk; her husband had been a charcoal-burner, and after his death she had by degrees prevailed upon her boy, who was now sixteen years old, to follow his father’s trade. Young Peter Munk, a sly fellow, submitted to sit the whole week near the smoking stack of wood, because he had seen his father do the same; or, black and sooty and an abomination to the people as he was, to drive to the nearest town and sell his charcoal. Now, a charcoal-burner has much leisure for reflection, about himself and others; and when Peter Munk was sitting by his stack, the dark trees around him, as well as the deep stillness of the forest, disposed his heart to tears, and to an unknown secret longing. Something made him sad, and vexed him, without his knowing exactly what it was. At length, however, he found out the cause of his vexation,–it was his condition. “A black, solitary charcoal-burner,” he said to himself; “it is a wretched life. How much more are the glass-manufacturers, and the clockmakers regarded; and even the musicians, on a Sunday evening! And when Peter Munk appears washed, clean, and dressed out in his father’s best jacket with the silver buttons and bran new red stockings–if then, any one walking behind him, thinks to himself, ‘I wonder who that smart fellow is?’ admiring, all the time, my stockings and stately gait;–if then, I say, he passes me and looks round, will he not say, ‘Why, it is only Peter Munk, the charcoal-burner.”

The raftsmen also on the other side of the wood were an object of envy to him. When these giants of the forest came over in their splendid clothes, wearing about their bodies half a hundred weight of silver, either in buckles, buttons or chains, standing with sprawling legs and consequential look to see the dancing, swearing in Dutch, and smoking Cologne clay pipes a yard long, like the most noble Mynheers, then he pictured to himself such a raftsman as the most perfect model of human happiness. But when these fortunate men put their hands into their pocket, pulled out handsful of thalers and staked a Sechsbatzner piece upon the cast of a die, throwing their five or ten florins to and fro, he was almost mad and sneaked sorrowfully home to his hut. Indeed he had seen some of these gentlemen of the timber trade, on many a holy-day evening, lose more than his poor old father had gained in the whole year. There were three of these men, in particular, of whom he knew not which to admire most. The one was a tall stout man with ruddy face, who passed for the richest man in the neighbourhood; he was usually called fat “Hesekiel.” Twice every year he went with timber to Amsterdam, and had the good luck to sell it so much dearer than the rest that he could return home in a splendid carriage, while they had to walk. The second was the tallest and leanest man in the whole Wald, and was usually called “the tall Schlurker;” it was his extraordinary boldness that excited Munk’s envy, for he contradicted people of the first importance, took up more room than four stout men, no matter how crowded the inn might be, setting either both his elbows upon the table, or drawing one of his long legs on the bench; yet, notwithstanding all this, none dared to oppose him, since he had a prodigious quantity of money. The third was a handsome young fellow, who being the best dancer far around, was hence called “the king of the ball-room.” Originally poor he had been servant to one of the timber merchants, when all at once he became immensely rich; for which some accounted by saying he had found a pot full of money under an old pine tree, while others asserted that he had fished up in the Rhine, near Bingen, a packet of gold coins with the spear which these raftsmen sometimes throw at the fish as they go along in the river, that packet being part of the great “Niebelungenhort,” which is sunk there. But however this might be, the fact of his suddenly becoming rich caused him to be looked upon as a prince by young and old.