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The Porcelain Stove
by [?]

Adapted From Ouida.

“The story-teller must take life into himself in its wholeness, must let it live and work whole and free within him. He must give it out free and unabbreviated, and yet STAND ABOVE THE LIFE which actually is.”–Froebel.

In a little brown house, far, far away in Germany, there lived a father and his children. There were ever so many of them,–let me see,–Hilda, the dear eldest sister, and Hans, the big, strong brother; then Karl and August, and the baby Marta. Just enough for the fingers of one hand. How many is that? But it is Karl that I am going to tell you about. He was nine years old, a rosy little fellow, with big bright eyes and a curly head as brown as a ripe nut. The dear mother was dead, and the father was very poor, so that Karl and his brothers and sisters sometimes knew what it was to be hungry; but they were happy, for they loved each other very dearly, and ate their brown bread and milk without wishing it were something nicer. One afternoon Karl had been sent on a long journey. It was winter time, and he had to run fast over the frozen fields of white snow. The night was coming on, and he was hurrying home with a great jug of milk, feeling cold and tired. The mountains looked high and white and still in the cold moonlight, and the stars seemed to say, when they twinkled, “Hurry, Karl! the children are hungry.” At last he saw a little brown cottage, with a snow-laden roof and a shining window, through which he could see the bright firelight dancing merrily,–for Hilda never closed the shutters till all the boys were safely inside the house. When he saw the dear home-light he ran as fast as his feet could carry him, burst in at the low front door, kissed Hilda, and shouted:–

“Oh! dear, dear Hirschvogel! I am so glad to get back to you again; you are every bit as good as the summer time.”

Now, Hirschvogel was not one of the family, as you might think, nor even a splendid dog, nor a pony, but it was a large, beautiful porcelain stove, so tall that it quite touched the ceiling. It stood at the end of the room, shining with all the hues of a peacock’s tail, bright and warm and beautiful; its great golden feet were shaped like the claws of a lion, and there was a golden crown on the very top of all. You never have seen a stove like it, for it was white where our stoves are black, and it had flowers and birds and beautiful ladies and grand gentlemen painted all over it, and everywhere it was brilliant with gold and bright colors. It was a very old stove, for sixty years before, Karl’s grandfather had dug it up out of some broken-down buildings where he was working, and, finding it strong and whole, had taken it home; and ever since then it had stood in the big room, warming the children, who tumbled like little flowers around its shining feet. The grandfather did not know it, but it was a wonderful stove, for it had been made by a great potter named Hirschvogel.

A potter, you know, children, is a man who makes all sorts of things, dishes and tiles and vases, out of china and porcelain and clay. So the family had always called the stove Hirschvogel, after the potter, just as if it were alive.

To the children the stove was very dear indeed. In summer they laid a mat of fresh moss all around it, and dressed it up with green boughs and beautiful wild flowers. In winter, scampering home from school over the ice and snow, they were always happy, knowing that they would soon be cracking nuts or roasting chestnuts in the heat and light of the dear old stove. All the children loved it, but Karl even more than the rest, and he used to say to himself, “When I grow up I will make just such things too, and then I will set Hirschvogel up in a beautiful room that I will build myself. That’s what I will do when I’m a man.”