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Everything in its proper place - a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

 Read "Everything in its proper place" fairy tale for all children. "Everything in its proper place" story, is a short bedtime Story for kids written by Hans Christian Andersen about an old baronial mansion that was located behind a forest and near a deep lake. The entrance to the baronial mansion was on a bridge over the lake full of reeds, a bridge next to which grew a willow-tree. One day, a little girl was walking with her geese by the bridge, and when the baron and his escort crossed the bridge, she climbed the parapet of the bridge for fear of being trampled by horses. The baron, who was a bad man, saw the girl and with the whip pushed her into the lake, but the girl grabbed the willow-tree branches and then was helped by a pedler.

"Everything in its proper place"
a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

More than a hundred years ago, behind the wood, and by a deep lake, stood an old baronial mansion. Round it lay a deep moat, in which grew reeds and rushes, and close by the bridge, near the entrance-gate, stood an old willow-tree, that bent itself over the moat.

From a narrow pass, one day sounded the clang of horns and the trampling of horses, therefore the little girl who kept the geese hastened to drive them away from the bridge, before the hunting party came galloping up to it. They came, however, with such haste that the girl was obliged to climb up and seat herself on the parapet of the bridge, lest they should ride over her. She was scarcely more than a child, with a pretty delicate figure, a gentle expression of face, and two bright, blue eyes, all of which the baron noticed; but as he galloped past the little goose-watcher, he reversed the whip he held in his hand, and in rough play gave her such a push with the butt-end that she fell backward into the ditch. “Everything in its right place” crsied he; “into the puddle with you,” and then he laughed aloud at what he called his own wit, and the rest joined their voices with his. The whole party shouted and screamed, and the dogs barked loudly. In falling, the poor girl fortunately caught hold of one of the overhanging branches of the willow-tree, by which she was able to keep herself suspended over the muddy pool; and as soon as the baron, with his company and dogs, had disappeared through the castle gate, she tried to raise herself up by her own exertions, but the bough broke off at the top, and she would have fallen backwards among the reeds if a strong hand had not at the same moment seized her from above. It was the hand of a pedler, who, at a short distance, had witnessed the whole affair, and hastened up to give assistance. “Everything in its right place,” he said, imitating the noble baron, as he drew the little maiden up on dry ground. He would have restored the broken bough to the place from which it had been broken off, but “everything in the right place” is not always so easy to arrange, so he stuck the bough in the soft earth. “Grow and thrive as much as you can,” said he, “till you produce a good flute for some of them over there. With the permission of the noble baron and his family I should like them to hear my challenge.” So he betook himself to the castle, but not into the noble hall, he was too humble for that. He went to the servants’ apartments, and the men and maids examined and turned over his stock of goods, while from above, where the company were at table, came sounds of screaming and shouting which they called singing, and perhaps they did their best. Loud laughter, mingled with the howling of dogs, sounded through the open windows. All were feasting and carousing. Wine and strong ale foamed in the jugs and glasses; even the dogs ate and drank with their masters. The pedler was sent for, but only to make fun for them. The wine had mounted to their heads, and the sense had flown out. They poured wine into a stocking for him to drink with them, quickly of course, and this was considered very witty, and occasioned fresh bursts of laughter. And then at cards, whole farms with their stock of peasants and cattle, were staked on a card and lost. “Everything in its right place,” said the pedler, when he at last escaped from what he called Sodom and Gomorrah. “The open high-road is my right place; that house did not suit me at all.” And as he stepped along, he saw the little maiden keeping watch over the geese, and she nodded at him in a friendly way.

Days and weeks passed, and it soon became evident that the willow-branch which had been stuck in the ground by the pedler near to the castle moat, had taken root, for it remained fresh and green, and put forth new twigs.

The little girl saw that the branch must have taken root, and she was quite joyful about it. “This tree,” she said, “must be my tree now.”

The tree certainly came forward and flourished; but at the castle, what with feasting and gambling, everything went backward to ruin: for these two things are like rollers upon which no man can possibly stand securely. Six years had not passed away before the noble baron became a poor man, and wandered out of the castle gate, and the mansion was bought by a rich purchaser; and this purchaser was no other than the man of whom he had made fun and laughed at, and for whom he had poured wine into a stocking to drink. But honesty and industry are like favourable winds to a ship, and they had brought the pedler to be master of the baron’s estates. Froin that hour no more card playing was ever permitted there.

“They are bad things to read,” said he. “When the wicked spirit saw a Bible for the first time, he wanted to place a bad picture against it, so he invented card playing.”

The new proprietor took to himself a wife, and who should it be but the little goose-watcher, who had always remained pious and good, and looked as beautiful and fine in her new clothes as if she had been a highly-born lady. It would be too long a story in this busy time to explain how all this came about; but it really did happen, and the most important part is to come. It was pleasant to live in the old court now. The mistress herself managed the housekeeping within, and the master superintended the estate, and their home overflowed with blessings. Where rectitude leads the way, prosperity is sure to follow. The old house was cleaned and painted, the moat dried up, and fruit trees planted in it. The floors of the house were as polished as a draught-board, and everything looked bright and cheerful.

During the long winter evenings, the lady of the house sat with her maidens at the spinning-wheel in the great hall. Her husband had been made a magistrate: this honour he had obtained in his old age. Every Sunday evening he read the Bible with his family, for children had come, and were all instructed in the best manner, although they were not all equally clever, as is the case in all families. In the meantime, the willow-branch at the castle gate had grown quite a splendid tree, and stood there free and unrestrained.

“That is our genealogical tree,” said the old people, “and the tree must therefore be honoured and esteemed, even by those who are not very wise.”

A hundred years passed away, and the place presented a very different aspect. The lake had been converted into moorland, and the old baronial castle had almost disappeared. A pool of water, the deep moat, and the ruins of some of the walls, were all that remained. Close by grew a magnificent willow-tree, with over-hanging branches—the same genealogical tree of old times. Here it still stood, showing to what beauty a willow can attain when left to itself. The trunk was certainly split through, from the root to the top, and the storm had slightly bent it; but it stood firm through all, and from every crevice and opening into which earth had been carried by the wind, shot forth blossoms and flowers. Near the top, where the large boughs parted, the wild raspberry twined its branches, and hung down like a hanging garden. Even the little mistletoe had here struck root, and flourished, graceful and delicate, among the branches of the willow, which were reflected in the dark waters beneath it; while the wind from the sea sometimes scattered its leaves. A path led through the field close by the tree.

On the top of a hill, near the forest, with a splendid prospect before it, stood the new baronial hall, with panes of such transparent glass in the windows, that there appeared to be none. The grand flight of steps leading to the entrance looked like a bower of roses and broad-leaved plants. The lawn was as fresh and green as if each separate blade of grass were cleaned morning and evening. In the hall hung costly pictures. The chairs and sofas were of silk and velvet, that looked as if they could move of themselves; there were tables with white marble tops, and books bound in velvet and gold. Here, indeed, resided wealthy people, people of rank—the new baron and his family.

Each article was made to correspond. The family motto was still, “Everything in its right place;” and therefore the pictures which were once the honour and glory of the old house, now hung in the passage leading to the servants’ hall. They were considered as lumber, especially two old portraits, one of a man in a wig and a rose-coloured coat, the other representing a lady with frizzed and powdered hair, holding a rose in her hand, each in the same manner surrounded by a wreath of willow-leaves. Both the pictures had many holes in them, for the little barons always set up the two old people as targets for their bows and arrows, and yet these were pictures of the magistrate and his lady from whom the present family were descended. “But they did not properly belong to our family,” said one of the little barons, “he was a pedler, and she kept the geese. They were not like papa and mamma.” So the pictures being old were considered worthless, and the motto being “All in the right place,” the great-grandfather and the great-grandmother of the family were sent into the passage leading to the servants’ hall.

The son of the clergyman of the place was tutor at the great house. One day he was out waiking with his pupils, the little barons, and their eldest sister who had just been confirmed. They took the path through the fields which led past the old willow-tree; and while they walked the young lady made a wreath of hedge-blossoms and wild-flowers, “each in its right place,” and the wreath was, as a whole, very pretty. At the same time, she heard every word uttered by the son of the clergyman. She liked very much to hear him talk of the wonders of nature, and of the great men and women in history. She had a healthy tone of mind, with nobility of thought and feeling, and a heart full of love for all God’s creation. The walking party halted at the old willow-tree; the youngest of the barons wanted a branch from it to make a flute, as he had already from other willows. So the tutor broke off a branch. "“Oh, don’t do that,” exclaimed the young baroness; but it was already done. “I am so sorry,” she continued; “that is our famous old tree, and I love it very much; they laugh at me for it at home, but I don’t mind. There is a story told about that tree.” And then she told him what we already know about the old castle, and the pedler and the little girl with the geese, who had met at this spot for the first time, and were the ancestors of the noble family to which the young baroness belonged. “The good old folks would not be ennobled,” said she; “their motto was ‘Everything in the right place,’ and they thought it would not be right for them to purchase a title with money. My grandfather, the first baron, was their son. He was a very learned man, known and appreciated by princes and princesses, and was present at all the festivals at court. At home, they all love him best; but I scarcely know why. There seems to me something in the first old pair that draws my heart towards them. How sociable, how patriarchal it must have been in the old house, where the mistress sat at the spinning-wheel with her maids, while her husband read aloud to them from the Bible!”

“They must have been charming, sensible people,” said the tutor. And then the conversation turned upon nobles and commoners. It was almost as if the tutor did not belong to an inferior class. He spoke so wisely upon the purpose and intention of nobility. “It is certainly good fortune to belong to a family that has distinguished itself in the world, and to inherit the energy which spurs us on to progress in everything noble and useful. It is pleasant to bear a family name, which is like a card of admission to the highest circles. True nobility is always great and honourable. It is a coin which has received the impression of its own value. It is a mistake of the present day, into which many poets have fallen, to affirm that all who are noble by birth must therefore be wicked or foolish, and that the lower we descend in society, we find more frequently among the poor great and shining characters. This, however, is not my opinion; I feel that it is quite false. In the higher classes can be found men and women possessing kindly and beautiful traits of disposition. My mother told me of one, and I could relate to you many more. She was once on a visit to a nobleman’s house in the town; my grandmother, I believe, had been brought up in the family, as a child. One day, while alone with the nobleman in a room, an old woman came limping into the court on crutches. She was accustomed to come every Sunday, and always carried away a gift with her. “Ah, there is the poor old woman,’ said the nobleman; what pain it is for her to walk!’ and before my mother understood what he said, he had left the room, and ran downstairs to the old woman; and the old nobleman, of seventy years himself, carried her the gift she had come for, to spare her the pain of walking any farther. This is only a trifling circumstance; but, like the two mites given by the widow in the Bible, it awakens responsive echoes in the heart of man, when attured to sympathy and pity. These are subjects of which poets should write and sing, for they soften and unite mankind into one brotherhood. But when a mere sprig of humanity, because it has noble ancestors of good blood, rears up and prances like an Arabian horse in the street, or speaks contemptibly of an apartment in which common people have been received; then it is nobility in danger of decay—a mere pretence, like the mask which Thespis invented; and people are glad to see such persons turned into objects of satire.”

This was the tutor’s speech, certainly rather a long one; but he had been busily engaged cutting the flute while he talked.

At the castle one day, a great company were assembled. Many of the guests came from the surrounding neighbourhood, and from the capital. Some of the ladies were dressed very tastefully, and others without any taste at all; and the great hall was quite full of people. The clergymen of the neighbourhood stood respectfully together in a corner of the room, and looked as if they were preparing for a funeral. This was, however, a party of pleasure, waiting for the amusements to commence. A great concert was about to take place, both vocal and instrumental; and the selections, being of the best kind, were likely to delight every one. The little baron brought his flute with him, but he could not produce a single note upon it, neither could his papa; therefore the flute seemed useless.

“You are a performer, I presume,” said a young cavalier to the tutor; “if you can play upon a flute as well as make it, you must be a genius, and deserve a place of honour.”

“No, indeed,” he replied; “I only keep pace with the times, as every one must in these days.”

“But you will entertain us with a performance on the curious little instrument, will you not?” he replied, handing to the tutor as he spoke the flute which he had cut from the willow-tree by the pool; and then he announced aloud that the tutor was about to perform a solo on the flute. Now it could easily be seen that they only wanted to make fun of him, and therefore the tutor would not play, although he could play very well; but they crowded round him, and so urged him, that at last he took the flute and placed it to his lips. What a wonderful flute it was! As he blew, there went forth a sustained sound like the whistle of a steam engine, which echoed far and wide over the courtyard gardens, and wood, and miles away into the country; and, at the same moment, like a roaring, rushing wind, sounded the words, “Everything in its right place.”

What changes followed! The baron was carried away by the wind, straight from the hall into the shepherd’s cot; and the shepherd flew, not into the hall, which was not his right place, but into the servants’ apartments, among the smart footmen, who were strutting about in their silk stockings; and these proud dependants were horrorstruck at the thought of such a person daring to sit down to table with them. But in the hall, the young baroness flew up to the place of honour, at the head of the table, which was really her right place, and the clergyman’s son found himself placed near her; and there the two sat as if they were a bridal pair. An old count, of one of the most ancient families in the country, remained untouched in the place of honour, for the wonderful flute acted with perfect justice, as man ought to act always. The witty cavalier, who had been the cause of the flute-playing, and who could only boast of being his father’s son, flew head over heels into the hen-house; but this was not all. For a whole mile round the sounds of the flute were heard, and strange events happened. A rich banker and his family, who were driving in a carriage and four, were blown quite out of the carriage, and could not even find a place behind it with their footman. Two rich farmers, who had become too proud even to notice their own corn-fields, were tumbled into the ditch. Truly it was a dangerous flute; luckily, however, it burst with the first note, and was put back into the owner’s pocket, which was a good thing, and “its right place.” From this has arisen the saying, “pocketing the flute.”

The next day not a word was said of what had happened. Everything was in its usual order, excepting that the two old pictures of the pedler and the goose-tender now hung in the banqueting hall: they had been blown on to the wall the evening before. A real connoisseur said that these portraits had been painted by a master’s hand; so they were restored, and allowed to remain where they hung.

“Everything in the right place.” It all came to that at last; and so we shall find our right places in eternity, whatever they may be now; as related in this story.

The End

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