Everything In Its Proper Place


Everything in its proper place
They were the portraits of the peddler and goose-girl, from whom the whole family descended.

IT is over a hundred years ago! Behind the forest near the great lake stood an old country mansion, around which was a deep moat where rushes and reeds grew in abundance. Near the bridge at the entrance gate stood an old willow-tree which leaned over the reeds.
From the narrow way under the hill came the sound of bugles and tramping of horses' feet, and therefore the little goose-girl hastened to get her geese on one side of the bridge before the hunting party came galloping up. They came at such a pace that she had to jump up quickly on to one of the big stones near the bridge to avoid being ridden over. She was scarcely more than a child. She was slightly and delicately built, with a beautiful expression and two lovely bright eyes; but the baron took no notice of all this. As he galloped past her, he took hold of the top of his whip, and in rough play gave her a push with the butt-end, so that she fell backward into the ditch.
Everything in its proper place

"Everything in its proper place," he shouted; "into the mud with you!" And then he laughed at what he thought was wit, and the rest of the company joined in. They shouted and screamed, and the dogs barked. In fact it was truly, "Rich birds come rushing." But goodness knows how rich he was. The poor girl, in trying to save herself as she fell, caught hold of one of the drooping branches of the willow-tree, by which she was able to keep herself from sinking into the mire, and as soon as the company and the dogs had disappeared through the gate she tried to drag herself out; but the branch broke off at the top, and she would have fallen back among the reeds if a strong hand from above had not seized her at the same moment. It was that of a peddler, who had seen what had happened some distance off, and now hastened to help her.
"Everything in its proper place," he said jokingly, mimicking the baron, as he pulled her up on to a dry place. The broken branch he put back against the place where it had been broken off; but "in its proper place" does not always answer, and so he stuck the branch into the soft ground. "Grow, if you can, and furnish a good rod for them up at the mansion yonder; "for he would have liked to see the baron and his companions running the gantlet in earnest. He then walked up to the mansion and went in; but he did not go into the grand rooms -- he was too humble for that. He went to the servants' hall, where all the servants looked at his goods and bargained with him, while from the festive board upstairs came the sound of shouting and bawling, which was intended for singing. They were not in a state to produce anything better. Then followed laughter, accompanied by the howling of dogs. There was great feasting and carousing going on. Wine and old ale foamed in jugs and glasses. The dogs were allowed to feast with their masters; and some of them, after having their snouts wiped with their long ears, were even kissed by them. The peddler was asked to come up with his wares, but only to be made game of. The wine had entered their heads, and their senses had left them. They poured out ale into a stocking for him, so that he could drink with them; but he must drink quickly. This was considered very funny, and caused much merriment. Whole herds of. cattle, farms, and peasants were staked and lost.
"Everything in its proper place," said the peddler when he had got safely away from the "Sodom and Gomorrah," as he called it. "The broad highway is my right place. I did not feel quite myself up there." And the little goose-girl, who looked after the geese, nodded to him from her place at the stile.
Days passed, and weeks passed, when it was found that the branch that had been broken off the willow-tree, and which the peddler had stuck into the ditch, remained fresh and green, and had even put forth fresh shoots. The little goose-girl could see that it had taken root, and she rejoiced greatly, for it was her tree, she thought.
The tree made good progress; but everything else at the mansion was going to ruin through riotous living and gambling -- two wheels on which it is not easy to run securely.
Six years had scarcely passed when the squire had to wander forth, a beggar, with bag and stick in hand. The estate was bought by a rich peddler. It was the very man whom the baron had made game of, and to whom he had offered ale in a stocking; but honesty and industry are like favorable winds to a ship, and had helped the peddler, who was now master of the mansion. From that time card-playing was no longer permitted any more there. "They are bad reading," the master would say. "They are the devil's work. When he saw the Bible for the first time he wanted something to counteract it, and so he invented card-playing."
The new master took a wife, and who do you think she was? Why, the little goose-girl, who had always been so well-behaved, so pious and good. In her new clothes she looked just as grand and beautiful as if she had been of high birth. How did all this happen? Well, that's too long a story in these busy times; but it did happen, and the most important part of it has yet to be told.
There were now happy and prosperous times at the old mansion. The mistress managed all the household affairs, and the master the estate. Blessings seemed to overflow. Where there are riches, riches are sure to follow. The old mansion was repaired and painted, the moat was cleared out and fruit-trees were planted in it. Everything looked bright and cheerful. The floors were as clean as a kitchen dresser. In the large hall the mistress sat in the winter evenings, with all her maids around her, spinning woolen and linen yarn; and every Sunday evening the justice of the peace, for the peddler had been made one, -- a dignity which had been conferred upon him only in his old age, -- would read aloud from the Bible. The children grew up -- for children had come -- and were well educated; but they were not all equally gifted, which may be the case in every family.
Everything in its proper place
The old willow tree.

But the willow branch outside had grown to be quite a fine tree, rearing its head aloft, free and undisturbed. "That is our genealogical tree," the old people said; "and that tree must he held in honor and respect." This they told to all their children, even to those who were not gifted with clever heads.
A hundred years had now rolled by. It was in our time. The lake had grown into a marsh, and the old mansion had almost disappeared. A long, narrow pool of water, with the remains of stone walls along the edges, was all that remained of the deep moat, and here still stood a fine old tree with its drooping branches. It was the "genealogical tree" which stood there, an example of how beautiful a willow-tree may become if left to itself. The trunk had certainly a big crack in it, right from the root to the crown, and the storm had given it a little twist; but it remained firm in its place, and in all the cracks and crevices into which the wind had blown earth grew grasses and flowers, especially near the top where the large branches shot out in all directions. There was a kind of miniature hanging garden, with raspberry bushes and chickweed, and even a little mountain ash had taken root there, and stood erect and elegant among the branches of the old willow-tree, which reflected itself in the dark water when the wind had driven all the duckweed into a corner of the pond. Close by a narrow path led across the fields to the manor.
High on the hill and close to the forest stood the new mansion. It was a large and magnificent building, with a beautiful outlook from the windows, the glass of which was so clear and transparent that one could hardly believe there were any panes in them at all. The large flight of steps in front of the door looked like a bower of roses and large-leaved plants. The lawn was as fresh and green as if every blade of grass had been tended morning and evening. In the drawing-room hung costly pictures; and there were chairs and sofas covered with silk and velvet which seemed to run on their own legs, tables with bright marble tops, and books in morocco bindings with gilt edges. Yes; they must really be wealthy people who lived here. They were people of position. Here lived the baron and his family.
Everything in the house was in harmony. The motto of the family was still, "Everything in its proper place." Therefore all the pictures which at one time were the honor and glory of the old house had now been hung in the passage leading to the servants' hall. They looked like old lumber, especially the two old portraits -- the one of a man in a rose-colored coat and a wig, the other of a lady with powdered, high-dressed hair and a red rose in her hand, while both were surrounded with a wreath of willow leaves. There were a good many round holes in the two pictures, because the young barons were in the habit of using the two old folks as a target when shooting with their cross-bows. They were the portraits of the justice of the peace and his wife, from whom the whole family descended.
"But they did not properly belong to our family," said one of the young barons. "He was a peddler and she a goose-girl. They were not like papa and mama."
The pictures were only old lumber, and as the motto was, "Everything in its proper place," the great-grandfather and great grandmother were sent to the passage leading to the servants' hall.
The son of the clergyman was tutor to the family. He was out walking one day with the young barons and their eldest sister, who had just been confirmed, when they followed the path that led down to the old willow-tree. As they walked on she gathered a bouquet of wild flowers of the field, "each in its proper place," so that the bouquet became altogether a thing of beauty.
At the same time she listened attentively to everything the clergyman's son said. She was pleased to hear him talk about the elements of nature and the great men and women in history. She was of a good and healthy disposition, and possessed great nobility of mind, and a heart which fully appreciated all that God had created.
They came to a halt down by the old willow-tree. The youngest of the barons wanted to have a flute cut for him, such as he had often had made from other willow-trees, and the clergyman's son therefore broke off a branch.
"Oh, don't do that," said the young baroness, but she spoke too late. "It is our famous old tree. I love it very much. And therefore they laugh at me at home, but I don't mind. There is an old tale attached to this tree."
And then she told him everything that we already know about the tree, about the old mansion, about the goose-girl and the peddler who first met here and became the ancestors of the grand family and the young baroness.
"They would not let themselves be ennobled, the good old folks!" she said. "They always used to say, 'Everything in its proper place,' and they did not think they would be in their proper place if they let themselves be exalted through money. It was their son, my grandfather, who was made a baron. He was a very learned man, and was much respected and appreciated by princes and princesses, and was present at all their festivals. The others at home think most of him; but to me -- I don't know why -- there is something about the old couple which draws my heart to them.
It must have been so pleasant, so patriarchal in the old mansion, where the mistress of the house sat at the spinning-wheel with all her maids around her, and the venerable master read aloud from the Bible."
"They must have been excellent people -- sensible people," said the clergyman's son; and then they began talking about nobility and commoners, and one would scarcely have thought he belonged to the latter by the way he spoke about the nobility.
"It is a good thing to belong to a family which has distinguished itself; to possess, so to speak, in one's blood the incentive to lead the way in what is great and noble. It is pleasant to bear the name of a family which is like a card of admission to the best circles. Nobility represents what is pure and lofty, and is a golden coin which has received the stamp that indicates its value. It is one of the mistakes of our day, into which many of our poets have naturally fallen, to proclaim that everything connected with nobility must be bad and stupid, and that among the poor, the lower you go, the more sterling qualities do you find. But that is not my opinion, for it is altogether wrong -- quite wrong. In the higher classes you will find many beautiful and striking traits of character. My mother told me of one, and I could tell you of many more.
"She was on a visit to a grand house in town. I think my grandmother had nursed the lady of the house. My mother was in the room with the fine old baron when he noticed an old woman on crutches down in the courtyard. She used to come every Sunday to get a penny. 'There comes the poor old woman,' said the baron. 'She has great difficulty in getting about;' and before my mother could understand his intentions he was out of the door and down the stairs; he, the old excellency of seventy years, went down himself to the poor woman to save her the trouble of going up the troublesome stairs for the trifling assistance she came for. This is, of course, only a trivial incident, but, like the 'widow's mite,' it came from the bottom of the heart, -- a voice from the very depths of humanity, -- and that's the moral the poet ought to point. Just in our times this is what he ought to sing about. It does good, it soothes and reconciles mankind. But when a person, because he is of good birth and has a pedigree, like the Arabian horses, prances on his hind legs and neighs in the streets, and says, on coming into his room after a commoner has been there, 'People from the street have been in here!' that shows nobility in its decay, for then it has become a mere mask of the kind which Thespis made for himself. Such a person people only laugh at and hand him over to satire."
This was the tutor's discourse. It was somewhat long, but in the meantime the flute had been cut.
There was a great party at the mansion. Many guests from the neighborhood and the capital were present. Some of the ladies were tastefully dressed, while others showed no taste at all. The great hall was quite full of people. The clergy of the district stood respectfully grouped together in a corner. They gave one the impression that there was going to be a funeral. All were, however, intent upon enjoying themselves. But the entertainment had not yet commenced.
A concert formed part of the program, and among the performers was the young baron, who had brought his willow flute with him, but he could not produce a note upon it, nor could his father; it was evidently quite useless.
There was music and there was song, but of the kind which the performers themselves enjoy most. Otherwise everything passed off nicely.
"You also play, I believe?" said a cavalier, whose only recommendation was that he was the son of his parents, addressing himself to the tutor. "You play the flute and make it yourself, I hear. It is genius which rules the world -- which sits on the right side. Heaven knows I try to Follow the times. You have to do that, you know. You will delight us all with your little instrument, I'm sure," he said, handing him the little flute which had been cut from the willow-tree down by the pool. Then he loudly announced that the tutor would oblige with a solo on the flute.
Everything in its proper place
It was a wonderful flute! It was heard all over the mansion, in the garden, in the forest, and for many miles into the country.

They evidently only wanted to make fun of him; so the tutor did not feel inclined to play, although he could perform very well on it. But they pressed him and urged him, and at last he took the flute and put it to his lips.
It was a wonderful flute. A tone was heard -- a tone as sustained as that which one hears from a locomotive -- yes, and even stronger. It was heard all over the mansion, in the garden, and in the forest for many miles into the country. And with the sound came a storm which roared, "Everything in its proper place!" And then the baron flew, just as if he was carried by the wind, right out of the mansion and straight into the herdsman's cottage; and the herdsman flew up -- not into the drawing-room: he could not get there -- but up into the servants' hall, among the grand footmen who were strutting about in silk stockings. And these proud fellows were almost paralyzed with horror on seeing such a common fellow daring to sit down at table among them.
But in the dining-hall the young baroness flew to the upper end of the table, where she worthily filled the seat of honor; and the clergyman's son got a seat next to her, and there the two sat as if they were a newly married couple. An old count, one of the oldest families in the country, remained undisturbed in his seat of honor, for the flute was fair and just, as every one ought to be.
The witty cavalier, who was the cause of the flute having been played -- he whose only recommendation was that he was the son of his parents -- flew head over heels right among the poultry; but he was not the only one.
The flute was heard for a whole mile into the country, and many strange things happened. A rich merchant and his family, who were driving in a coach and four, were blown right out of the coach, and could not even find a place behind it. Two rich farmers who had grown too big to look after their fields were blown into the ditch. It was a dangerous flute. Fortunately, it burst at the first note, and that was a good thing. It was put back in the player's pocket again, and "Everything was in its proper place."
The day after no one spoke of what had happened, and that is how we get the saying, "to pocket the flute." Besides, everything was in its usual place again, with the exception of the two old pictures of the peddler and the goose-girl, which were now hanging in the drawing-room. They had been blown on to the walls there, and when one of the well-known connoisseurs said they were the works of a master, they were allowed to remain and were restored. They did not know before that they were worth anything, for how should they know?
Now they hung in a place of honor. "Everything in its proper place!" And that was now realized. Eternity is long -- much longer than this story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Stories on this site were compiled from the following historical publications and others.

Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Chicago - New York - San Francisco
Belford, Clarke & Co.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen's
for the
Copyrighted 1893, McLoughlin Bros.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
Camden Press
Dalziel Bros. Engravers and Printers Copyright Unknown, est. 1870

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
E.P. Dutton and Co.
© 1906-1907

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
The Century Company,
The DeVinne Press
Copyright 1900