This was certainly rather an abrupt and unconnected mode of commencing conversation. It might indeed be supposed to refer to the course of Gluck’s thoughts, which had first produced the dwarf’s observations out of the pot; but whatever it referred to, Gluck had no inclination to dispute the dictum.
“Wouldn’t it, sir?” said Gluck, very mildly and submissively indeed.
“No,” said the dwarf, conclusively. “No, it wouldn’t.” And with that, the dwarf pulled his cap hard over his brows, and took two turns, of three feet long, up and down the room, lifting his legs up very high, and setting them down very hard. This pause gave time for Gluck to collect his thoughts a little, and, seeing no great reason to view his diminutive visitor with dread, and feeling his curiosity overcome his amazement, he ventured on a question of peculiar delicacy.
“Pray, sir,” said Gluck, rather hesitatingly, “were you my mug?”
On which the little man turned sharp round, walked straight up to Gluck, and drew himself up to his full height. “I,” said the little man, “am the King of the Golden River.” Whereupon he turned about again, and took two more turns, some six feet long, in order to allow time for the consternation which this announcement produced in his auditor to evaporate. After which, he again walked up to Gluck and stood still, as if expecting some comment on his communication.
Gluck determined to say something at all events. “I hope your Majesty is very well,” said Gluck.
“Listen!” said the little man, deigning no reply to this polite inquiry. “I am the King of what you mortals call the Golden River. The shape you saw me in was owing to the malice of a stronger king, from whose enchantments you have this instant freed me. What I have seen of you, and your conduct to your wicked brothers, renders me willing to serve you; therefore, attend to what I tell you. Whoever shall climb to the top of that mountain from which you see the Golden River issue, and shall cast into the stream at its source three drops of holy water, for him, and for him only, the river shall turn to gold. But no one failing in his first, can succeed in a second attempt; and if anyone shall cast unholy water into the river, it will overwhelm him, and he will become a black stone.” So saying, the King of the Golden River turned away and deliberately walked into the centre of the hottest flame of the furnace. His figure became red, white, transparent, dazzling—a blaze of intense light—rose, trembled, and disappeared. The King of the Golden River had evaporated.