Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Woodcutter of Gutech

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Woodcutter of Gutech, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  A very short book, and a fairly early one of the author's. The subjectmatter is the early days of the Reformation, and the time at which theRoman Church was trying to prevent ordinary people from reading theBible in general, and the Gospels in particular. The Woodcutter withhis son and his donkey are working in the forest, one evening, when aman asks them for directions to get out of the forest. They offer him abed for the night, so he comes to their home, where he produces hiswares, which consist of Bibles, and he explains them to the enthralledfamily.

  Although it is short this book makes a nice little audiobook.




  A traveller was making his way through the Black Forest in Germany. Apack was on his back, of a size which required a stout man to carry it,and a thick staff was in his hand. He had got out of his path byattempting to make a short cut, and in so doing had lost his way, andhad been since wandering he knew not where. Yet he was stout of heart,as of limb, and a night spent in the depths of the forest would haveconcerned him but little had he not set a value upon time. "I have lostso much in my days of ignorance and folly," he kept saying, "that I mustmake up by vigilance what has been thus misspent. I wish that I hadknown better. However, I am now ready to spend all, and be spent in thework of the Good Master I serve."

  The ground was uneven, his load heavy, and the weather warm. Still hetrudged bravely on, consoling himself by giving forth, in rich fulltones, a hymn of Hans Sachs of Nuremburg, the favourite poet ofProtestant Germany in those days.

  Thus he went on climbing up the steep side of the hill, out of whichdark rocks and tall trees protruded in great confusion. At last he gotinto what looked like a path. "All right now," he said to himself;"this must lead somewhere, and I have still an hour of daylight to findmy way out of the forest. When I get to the top of this hill I shallprobably be better able to judge what direction to take." He trudged onas before, now and then stopping to take breath, and then once moregoing on bravely. At length the sound of a woodman's axe caught hisear.

  "All right," said he. "I should not have allowed my heart to doubtabout the matter. The Good One who has protected me hitherto will stillcontinue to be my Guide and Friend."

  He stopped to listen from which direction the sounds came. The loudcrash of a falling tree enabled him better to judge, and by the light ofthe sinking sun, which found its way through the branches of the talltrees, he made directly towards the spot. He soon caught sight of anold man, stripped to his shirt and trousers, who with his gleaming axewas hewing the branches of the tree he had just felled. Not far offstood a young boy with a couple of donkeys, which he was beginning toload with fagots, near a pile of which they stood.

  "Friend woodman," said the traveller, as he got up to him, and the oldman stood for a moment leaning on his axe, with an inquiring glance inhis eye. "Friend woodman, I have lost my way; can you help me to findit?"

  "Not to-night, friend traveller," answered the woodman. "If I was toattempt to put you on your way, you would lose it again in five minutes.This is no easy country for a man ignorant of it to pass throughwithout a guide, and neither I nor little Karl there have time just nowto accompany you. But you look like an honest man, and if you will comewith me to my cottage, I will help you as far as I can to-morrowmorning."

  "Thank you," said the traveller. "I accept your offer."

  "Well then, I have just made my last stroke," said the old man, liftingup his axe. "We will load our asses and be off. We have some way togo, as I live farther up the valley of Gutech, and even I preferdaylight to darkness for travelling these wild paths. If you had notfound me I cannot say when you would have got out of the forest."

  Without further waste of words, the old man and young Karl set to workto load the asses, strapping on the huge fagots with thongs of leather,while the patient animals, putting out their fore-legs, quietly enduredall the tugs and pulls to which they were subjected.

  "That pack of yours seems heavy, friend traveller," said the old man,glancing at his companion; "let me carry it for you."

  "No, no! Thanks to you," answered the traveller. "I am strong andhearty. I would not put that on your shoulders which I feel burdensometo my own."

  "Then let us put it on the back of one of the asses," said thewoodcutter; "it will make but little difference to our long-earedfriend."

  "A merciful man is merciful to his beast," said the traveller. "Thepoor brutes seem already somewhat overloaded, and I should be unwillingto add to their pain for the sake of relieving myself."

  "Then let Karl, there, carry it; he is sturdy, and can bear it somelittle way, at all events," said the old man.

  "I would not place on young shoulders what I find tire a well-knitpair," said the traveller, glancing at young Karl. "But perhaps he maylike to get some of the contents of my pack inside his head," he added.

  "Down his mouth, I suppose you mean," said the old man, laughing. "Isit food or liquor you carry in your pack?"

  "No, indeed, friend," answered the traveller. "Yet it is food, of asort food for the mind, and better still, food for the soul. Is yoursoul ever hungry, friend?"

  "I know not what you mean," answered the old man. "I have a soul, Iknow, for the priest tells me so; and so have my relatives who have gonebefore me, as I know to my cost; for they make me pay pretty roundly toget their souls out of purgatory. I hope Karl there will in his turnpay for mine when I die."

  "Ah, friend, yes, I see how it is," said the traveller. "Your soulwants a different sort of nourishment from what it ever has had. I havegreat hopes that the contents of my pack will afford it thatnourishment."

  The traveller was walking on all this time with the old man and Karl,behind the asses. Karl kept looking up in the former's face with aninquiring glance, the expression of his countenance varying as thetraveller continued his remarks.

  "I will not keep you in suspense any longer," said the traveller. "Mypack contains copies of that most precious book which has lately beentranslated into our mother tongue by Dr Martin Luther, and from whichalone we have any authority for the Christian faith we profess. I havebesides several works by the same learned author, as also works by otherwriters."

  "I wish that I could read them," said the old man, with a sigh; "but ifI had the power I have not the time, and my eyes are somewhat dim bylamplight. Karl there was taught to read last winter by a young man whowas stopping at my cottage, and whom I took in, having found him with abroken leg in the forest."

  "Oh, grandfather, why he taught you also to read almost as well as Ido!" said Karl. "All you have been wishing for has been a book in bigprint, and perhaps if the merchant has one he will sell it to you."

  "We will examine the contents of my pack when we get to your cottage, myfriend, and I daresay something will be found to suit you," observed thetraveller. "If you have made a beginning, you will soon be able to readthese books, and I am sure when once you have begun you will be eager togo on."