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IT is incredible what children know nowadaysOne is almist at alossto say what there is that they do not know

That the stork has fetched them out of the wellor out of the milldamand brought them as little children to theirfather and motheris now such an old storythat they don't believeitandyetitistheonly true one

Buthowdo the children come tobein the mill-dam

andthewellAheveryonedoesnotknowthatbutstill some doHave you ever really looked at the sky on a clear starry nightandseen the manyshootingstars It is as if a star fell and vanished The most learned cannot ex- plain what they do not know themselves but it can be explainedwhen oneknows it It is just as if a little Christmascandle fell from the sky and wasextinguished it is a soulspark from Our Father which travels down towards the earth and whenit comes into our closer heavier atmo sphere the brightness vanishes and thereremainsonlywhat our eyes have not the power to see for it is somethingmuch finer than our air it is a heavenchild which is senta little angel but without wings for the little one shall become a man. Quietly it glidesthrough the airandthe wind carriesit intoaflwer,itmaybeavioleta dande- lion a rose or a ragged robin there it lies and makes itselfstrong It is light and airy a flymightflyaway with itorat any rate abee,and they come by turns to search for the sweetness intheflowerIf nowthe air-childshould lie in their way theydonotwhisk it out theyha not the heart to do that they lay it in the sun on a wate- lily leaf andfrom there it crawls and creeps down into the water where it sleeps andgrows till the storkcan see it and fetches itto a human family which wishes for such a sweet littleone but whether it is sweet or not depends on whetherthe little one has drunk of theclear spring or has swal lowed mud or duckweed the wrong way that makes it soearthyThe stork takes the first heseewithout making any choiceOne comes into a goodhouse to matchless parents another comes tohard people in great poverty itwould have been much better to stay in the milldam The little ones do not remember at all what they dreamt about under the waterlily leaf where in the evening the frogs sang to them"Croak croak creek creek,"which means inthelanguage of men"Will you see now if you can sleep and dream" They cannotremember either in which flower they first lay or how it smelt and yet there is somethingin them when they grow up which says"This is the flower we like best"and that is the one theylay in as airchildren The stork becomes a very old bird and always pays sttention to how things go with the little oneshehas brought and how they behave in theworld He cannot really do anything for them or change their lot as he hashis own family to care for but he never lets them slip outof his thoughts I know an old very honest stork who has a great deal of knowledge and has brought many little ones andknows their storiesinwhich there is always a little mud and duckweed from the mill-dam Ibegged him to give a little life- sketch of one of them and so he said thatI should get three for one from Peterson's house

Itwasa particularly nicefamily Peterson'sThe

man was one of the town's two and thirty men and thatwas a distinction he lived for the two and thirty andwent with the two and thirty The stork came there and brought a little Peter for so the child was called Next year the stork came again with another onehim theycalled Peteand when the third was brought, he got the name of Peterkinforinthe names PeterPeteand Peterkin lies the name Peterson

There were thus three brothers three shootingstarscradled each in his own flower laid under the waterlily leaf in the milldam and brought from there to the familyPetersonwhose house is at the corner as youknow

They grew up bothinbody and souland then they wished to be something still greater than the two and thirty men

Peter said that he would be a robber He had seen the playof"Fra Diavolo"andmade up hismind for therob berbusinessas themost delightful in theworld

Pete would be a rattleman and Peterkin who wassuch a good sweet childround and plump but who bit his nailsthat was his only fault), Peterkin would be"Father" That iswhat eachofthemsaidwhen any one asked what they wanted to be in the world

And then they went to school One became dux and one became dunce and one was betwixt and between butfor all that they might be equally good and equally clever and that they weresaid their very clear-sighted parents

Theywentto children's ballsthey smoked cigars when no one saw them theygrew in learning and knowl- edge

Peter was stubborn from his earliest days as of course a robber must behe was a very naughty boy buthis mother said that was because he suffered from wormsnaughty children have always worms;—mud in the stom- achHis self-willandstubbornness one day spent them selves on his mother's new silk dress

"Don't push the coffeetable my lamb" she had said"you might upset the cream-jugandIshould get a stain on my new silk dress" And the"lamb" took the cream-jug with afirm hand and emptied it right into mother's lap who could not help saying"My lambmylambthatwasnot considerate ofyoumylamb"Butthe child had a willshe must admitWill shows character and that is so promising for a mother Hemight certainly havebecome a robber but he did not become it literallyheonly came to look like a robber went about with a soft hat bare neck and long loose hair he was going to be an artistbut only got into the clothes of one and also looked like a hollyhock all the people he drew lookedlike hollyhocks they were so long and lanky Hewasvery fond of that flower he had in fact lain in a hollyhock thestork said

Pete hadlain in abuttercup Helooked sobutteryround the corners of his mouth and was yellowskinned

one might believe that ifhe was cut in the cheek butter would come out He seemed born to be a butterman and mighthavebeenhisownsign-boardbut inwardly he was a"rattleman" he was the musical portionof thePeter son family"but enough for allofthem together"said the neighbours. He composedseventeendew polkas in a week and made an opera out of them with trumpet and rattle Oh how lovely it was! Peterkin was white and red little and common-looking hehadlain in adaisyHe neverhit out when the otherboys struck him he said that he was the mostsensible and the most sensible always gives way. He collectedfirst slatepencils then seals then he got a little cabinetof natural curiosities in which was the skeleton of astickle-back three blind youngrats in spirits and a stuffed molePeterkin had a taste forthe scientific and aneye for nature and thatwasdelightful for the parents and forPeterkin tooHewould rather go into the woods than theschool and preferred natureto discipline His brotherswere already engaged to bemarried while he still lived only to complete his collection of the eggs of waterfowls He very soon knew more about beasts thanabout human beingsand even thought that we could not approach the beasts in that which weset highest

"love"He saw that when the hen-nightingale sat hatch ing her eggs the fathernightingale sat and sang the wholenight to his little wife"Cluckcluck jug jug jug."Peterkin could never have done that nor devoted himselfto the taskWhen the mother stork lay in the nest with the young ones the father stork stood on the roof the whole night on one legPeterkin could not have stood like that for one hour And when he one day observed the spi- der's web and what was in it he quite gave up all thought of matrimony Mr Spider weaves to catch thoughtless flies young and old bloodfilled andwinddried he lives to weave and nourish his family butMrs Spiderlives forFather aloneShe eats him up form sheerlove she eats his heart his head his stomachonlyhis longthinlegs remain behind in thewebwhere he sat with the task of supporting the whole family That is thesimple truth straight out of natural historyPeterkin saw that and thought itover"to beloved by one's wife like that tobeeaten by herin violentlove. No; no human be- ing goes as far as that and would it be desirable"

Peterdetermined nevertomarry neverto give or to take a kiss that might look like the firit step towards matrimony But still he got one kiss the one we all get thegreat hearty kiss of Death When we have lived long enoughDeath getstheorder"kiss away!" and so the per son is gone There flashes from our Lord a sunblink sostrong that one is almost blinded The soul of man whichcame like a meteorflies hence again like a meteorbut not to rest in a flower or to dream under a waterlily leaf

It has more important things before it it flies into the greatland of Eternity but how things are there or what it lookslike no one can tell No one has seen into it not even thestork however far he can see and however much he mayknow Nor did he know any more about Peterkin thoughhe did about Peter and Pete butI have heard enough about themand so have you so I said"Thanks" to the stork for this timebut now he demands for this common little story three frog sand a young snake he takes his paymentin victualsWill youpay I won't I have neither frogs nor young snakes



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