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IT was more than a hundred years ago

Behind the woodby the great lakestood the old baronial mansionRound about it lay a deep moatin which grew reeds and grassClose by the bridgenear the entrance gaterose an old willow tree that bent over the reeds

Up from the hollow lane sounded the clang of horns and the trampling of horsestherefore the little girl who kept the geese hastened to drive her charges away from the bridgebefore the hunting company should come gallopping byThey drew near with such speed that the girl was obliged to climb up in a hurryand perch herself on the coping-stone of the bridgelest she should be ridden downShe was still half a childand had a pretty light figureand a gentle expression in her facewith two chear blue eyesThe noble baron took no note of thisbut as he gallopped past the little gooseherdhe reversed the whip he held in his handand in rough sport gave her such a push in the chest with the buttend that she fell backwards into the ditch

Everything in its place!”he cried;“into the puddle with you!”And he laughed aloudfor this was intended for witand the company joined in his mirththe whole party shouted and clamouredand the dogs barked their loudest

Fortunately for herselfthe poor girl in falling seized one of the hanging branches of the willow treeby means of which she kept herself suspended over the muddy waterand as soon as the baron and his company had disappeared through the castle gatethe girl tried to scramble up againbut the bough broke off at the topand she would have fallen backward among the reedsif a strong hand from above had not at that moment seized herIt was the hand of a pedlarwho had seen from a short distance what had happenedand who now hurried up to give aid

Everything in its right place!”he saidmimicking the gracious baronand he drew the little maiden up to the firm groundHe would have restored the broken branch to the place from which it had been tornbuteverything in its placecannot always be managedand therefore he stuck the piece in the ground.“Grow and prosper till you can furnish a good flute for them up yonder,”he saidfor he would have liked to play the rogue's marchfor my lord the baron and my lord's whole family

And then he betook himself to the castlebut not into the ancestral hallhe was too humble for thatHe went to the servants’ quartersand the men and maids turned over his stock of goodsand bargained with himbut from abovewhere the guests were at tablecame a sound of roaring and screaming that was intended for songand indeed they did their bestLoud laughtermingled with the barking and howling of dogs resoundedfor there was feasting and carousing up yonderWine and strong old ale foamed in the jugs and glassesand the dogs sat with their masters and dined with themThey had the pedlar summoned upstairsbut only to make fun of himThe wine had mounted into their headsand the sense had flown outThey poured ale into a stockingthat the pedlar might drink with thembut that he must drink quicklythat was considered a rare jestand was a causc of fresh laughterAnd then whole farmswith oxen and peasants toowere staked on a cardand lost and won

Everything in its right place!”said the pedlarwhen he had at last made his escape out of what he called Sodom and Gomorrah.”“The open high road is my right place,” he said;“I did not feel at all happy there.”

And the little maiden who sat keeping the geese nodded at him from the gate of the field

And days and weeks went byand it became manifest that the willow branch which the pedlar had stuck into the ground by the castle moat remained fresh and greenand even brought forth new twigsThe little goosegirl saw that the branch must have taken rootand rejoiced greatly at the circumstancefor this treeshe thoughtwas now her tree

The tree certainly came forward wellbut everything else belonging to the castle went very rapidly backwhat with feasting and gambling——for these two are like wheelsupon which no man can stand securely

Six years had not passed away before the noble lord passed out of the castle gatea beggared manand the mansion was bought by a rich dealerand this purchaser was the very man who had once been made a jest of therefor whom ale had been poured into a stockingbut honesty and industry are good winds to speed a vesseland now the dealer was possessor of the baronial estateBut from that hour no more card-playing was permitted there

That is bad reading,”said he:“When the Evil One saw a Bible for the first timehe wanted to put a bad book against itand invented card-playing.”

The new proprietor took a wifeand who might that be but the goosegirlwho had always been faithful and goodand looked as beautiful and fine in her new clothes as if she had been born a great ladyAnd how did all this come aboutThat is too long a story for our busy timebut it really happenedand the most important part is to come

It was a good thing now to be in the old mansionThe mother managed the domestic affairsand the father superintended the estateand it seemed as if blessings were streaming downWhere prosperity isprosperity is sure to followThe old house was cleaned and paintedthe ditches were cleared and fruit trees plantedEverything wore a bright cheerful lookand the floors were as polished as a draught-boardIn the long winter evenings the lady sat at the spinning-wheel with her maidsand every Sunday evening there was a reading from the Bible by the Councillor of Justice Himself——this title the dealer had gainedthough it was only in his old ageThe children grew up——for children had come——and they received the best educationthough all had not equal abilitiesas we find indeed in all families

In the meantime the willow branch at the castle gate had grown to be a splendid treewhich stood there free and unpolled.“That is our family tree,” the old people saidand the tree was to be honoured and respected——so they told all the childreneven those who had not very good heads

And a hundred years rolled by

It was in our own timeThe lake had been converted to moorlandand the old mansion had almost disappearedA pool of water and the ruins of some wallsthis was all that was left of the old baronial castlewith its deep moatand here stood also a magnificent old willowwith pendent boughswhich seemed to show how beautiful a tree may be if left to itselfThe main stem was certainly split from the root to the crownand the storm had bowed the noble tree a littlebut it stood firm for all thatand from every cleft into which wind and weather had carried a portion of earthgrasses and flowers sprang forthespecially near the topwhere the great branches parteda sort of hanging garden had been formed of wild raspberry bushand even a small quantity of rowantree had taken rootand stoodslender and gracefulin the midst of the old willow which was mirrored in the dark water when the wind had driven the duckmeat away into a corner of the poolA field-path led close by the old tree

High by the forest hillwith a splendid prospect in every directionstood the new halllarge and magnificentwith panes of glass so clearly transparentthat it looked as if there were no panes there at allThe grand flight of steps that led to the entrance looked like a bower of roses and broad-leaved plantsThe lawn was as freshly green as if each separate blade of glass were cleaned morning and eveningIn the hall hung costly picturessilken chairs and sofas stood thereso easy that they looked almost as if they could run by themselvesthere were tables of great marble slabsand books bound in morocco and goldYestrulypeople of rank lived herethe baron with his family

All things here corresponded with each otherThe motto was stillEverything in its right place”;and therefore all the pictures which had been put up in the old house for honour and gloryhung now in the passage that led to the servants’ hallthey were considered as old lumberand especially two old portraitsone representing a man in a pink coat and powdered wigthe other a lady with powdered hair and holding a rose in her handand each surrounded with a wreath of willow leavesThese two pictures were pierced with many holesbecause the little barons were in the habit of setting up the old people as a mark for their crossbowsThe pictures represented the Councillor of Justice and his ladythe founders of the present family

But they did not properly belong to our family,”said one of the little barons.“He was a dealerand she had kept the geeseThey were not like papa and mamma.”

The pictures were pronounced to be worthlessand as the motto wasEverything in its right place”,the great-grandmother and great-grandfather were sent into the pas-sage that led to the servants’hall

The son of the neighbouring clergyman was tutor in the great houseOne day he was out walking with his pupilsthe little barons and their eldest sisterwho had just been confirmedthey came along the fieldpath past the old willowand as they walked onthe young lady bound a wreath of field flowers.“Everything in its right place,”and the flowers formed a pretty wholeAt the same time she heard every word that was spokenand she liked to hear the clergyman's son talk of the powers of nature and of the great men and women in historyShe had a goodhearted dispositionwith true nobility of thought and souland a heart full of love for all that God hath created

The party came to a halt at the old willow treeThe youngest baron insisted on having such a flute out for him from it as he had had made of other willowsAccordingly the tutor broke off a branch

Ohdon't do that!”cried the young baronessbut it was done already.“That is our famous old tree,” she continued,“and I love it dearlyThey laugh at me at home for thisbut I don't mindThere is a story attached to this tree.”

And she told what we all know about the treeabout the old mansionthe pedlar and the goosegirlwho had met for the first time in this spotand had afterwards become the founders of the noble family to which the young barons belonged

They would not be ennobledthe good old folks!”she said.“They kept to the motto,‘ Everything in its right place’and accordingly they thought it would be out of place for them to purchase a title with moneyMy grandfatherthe first baronwas their sonHe is said to have been a very learnedvery popular with princes and princessesand a frequent guest at the court festivalsThe others at home love him bestbutI don't know howthere seems to me something about that first pair that draws my heart towards themHow comfortablehow patriarchal it must have been in the old housewhere the mistress sat at the spinningwheel among her maidsand the old master read aloud from the Bible!”

They were charmingsensible people,”said the clergyman's son

And with this the conversation naturally fell upon nobles and citizensThe young man scarcely seemed to belong to the citizen classso well did he speak of things belonging to nobilityHe said

It is a great thing to belong to a family that has distinguished itselfand thus to haveas it werein one's blooda spur that urges one on to make progress in all that is goodIt is delightful to have a name that serves as a card of admission into the highest circlesNobility means that which is nobleit is a coin that has received a stamp to indicate what it is worthIt is the fallacy of the timeand many poets have frequently maintained this fallacythat nobility of birth is accompanied by foolishnessand that the lower you go among the poorthe more does everything around you shineBut that is not my viewfor I consider it entirely falseIn the higher classes many beautiful and kindly traits are foundMy mother told me one of this kindand I could tell you many others

My mother was on a visit to a great family in townMy grandmotherI thinkhad been nurse to the lady thereThe great nobleman and my mother were alone in the roomwhen the former noticed that an old woman came limping on crutches into the courtyardIndeedshe was accustomed to come every Sundayand carry away a gift with her.‘Ahthere is the poor old lady'said the nobleman:‘walking is a great toil to her’ and before my mother understood what he meanthe had gone out of the room and run down the stairsto save the old woman the toilsome walkby carrying to her the gift she had come to receive

Nowthat was only a small circumstancebutlike the widow's two mites in the Scripturesit has a sound that finds an echo in the depths of the heart in human natureand these are the things the poet should show and point outespecially in these times should he sing of itfor that does goodand pacifies and unites menBut where a bit of mortalitybecause it has a genealogical tree and a coat of armsrears up like an Arab horseand prances in the streetand says in the room,‘People from the street have been here’when a commoner has been present,——that is nobility in decay and turned into a mere maska mask of the kind that Thespis createdand people are glad when such a one is made a subject of satire.”

This was the speech of the clergyman's sonIt was certainly rather longbut then the flute was finished while he made it

At the castle there was a great companyMany guests came from the neighbourhoood and from the capitalMany ladiessome tastefully dressed and others dressed without tastewere thereand the great hall was quite full of peopleThe clergymen from the neighbourhood stood respectfully congregated in a cornerwhich made it look almost as if it was a burialBut it was not sofor this was a party of pleasureonly that the pleasure had not yet begun

A great concert was to be performedand consequently the little baron had brought in his willow flutebut he could not get a note out of itnor could his papaand therefore the flute was worth nothingThere was instrumental music and songboth of the kind that delight the performers most——quite charming

You are a performer?”said a fine gentleman——his father's son and nothing else——to the tutor.“You play the flute and make it too——it is genius which commandsand should have the place of honourOh yesI advance with the timesas every one is obliged to doOhyou will enchant us with the little instrumentwill you not?”

And with these words he handed to the clergyman's son the flute cut from the willow tree by the pooland announced aloud that the tutor was about to perform a solo on that instrument

Nowthey only wanted to make fun of himthat was easily seenand therefore the tutor would not playthough indeed he could do so very wellbut they crowded round him and importuned him so stronglythat at last he took the flute and put it to his lips

That was a wonderful fluteA soundas sustained as that which is emitted by the whistle of a steam engineand much strongerechoed far over courtyardgardenand woodmiles away into the countryand simultaneously with the tone came a rushing wind that roared,“Everything in its right place!”And papa flew as if carried by the wind straight out of the hall and into the shepherd'sand the shepherd flewnot into the hallfor there he could not come——nobut into the room of the servantsamong the smart who strutted about there in silk stockingsand the proud servants were struck motionless with horror at the thought that such a personage dared to sit down to table with them

But in the hall the young baroness flew up to the place of honour at the top of the tablewhere she was worthy to sitand the young clergyman's son had a seat next to herand there the two sat as if they were a newlymarried pairAn old count of one of the most ancient families in the country remained untouched in his place of honourfor the flute was justas men ought to beThe witty young gentlemanthe son of his father and nothing elsewho had been the cause of the fluteplayingflew headover-heels into the poultry house——but not alone

For a whole mile round about the sounds of the flute were heardand singular events took placeA rich merchant's familydriving along in a coach and fourwas blown quite out of the carriageand could not even find a place on the footboard at the backTwo rich peasants who in our times had grown too high for their cornfieldswere tumbled into the ditchIt was a dangerous flutethatluckilyit burst at the first noteand that was a good thingfor then it was put back into the owner's pocket.“Everything in its right place.”

The day afterwards not a word was said about this marvellous eventand thence has come the expression,“pocketing the flute”.Everything was in its usual orderonly that the two old portraits of the dealer and the goosegirl hung on the wall in the banquetinghallThey had been blown up thereand as one of the real connoisseurs said they had been painted by a master's handthey remained where they wereand were restoredOne did not know before that they were any goodand how should it have been knownNow they hung in the place of honour:“Everything in its right place.”

And to that it will come hereafterfor hereafter is long——longer than this story



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