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IT was more than a hundred years ago.

Behind the wood,by the great lake,stood the old baronial mansion.Round about it lay a deep moat,in which grew reeds and grass.Close by the bridge,near the en-trance gate,rose an old willow tree that bent over the reeds.

Up from the hollow lane sounded the clang of horns and the trampling of horses;therefore the little girl who kept the geese hastened to drive her charges away from the bridge,before the hunting company should come gallopping by.They drew near with such speed that the girl was obliged to climb up in a hurry,and perch herself on the coping-stone of the bridge,lest she should be ridden down.She was still half a child,and had a pretty light figure,and a gentle expression in her face,with two chear blue eyes.The noble baron took no note of this,but as he gallopped past the little goose-herd,he reversed the whip he held in his hand,and in rough sport gave her such a push in the chest with the butt-end that she fell backwards into the ditch.

“Everything in its place!”he cried;“into the puddle with you!”And he laughed aloud,for this was intended for wit,and the company joined in his mirth:the whole party shouted and clamoured,and the dogs barked their loudest.

Fortunately for herself,the poor girl in falling seized one of the hanging branches of the willow tree,by means of which she kept herself suspended over the muddy water,and as soon as the baron and his company had disappeared through the castle gate,the girl tried to scramble up again;but the bough broke off at the top,and she would have fallen backward among the reeds,if a strong hand from above had not at that moment seized her.It was the hand of a pedlar,who had seen from a short distance what had happened,and who now hurried up to give aid.

“Everything in its right place!”he said,mimicking the gracious baron;and he drew the little maiden up to the firm ground.He would have restored the broken branch to the place from which it had been torn,but“everything in its place”cannot always be managed,and therefore he stuck the piece in the ground.“Grow and prosper till you can furnish a good flute for them up yon-der,”he said;for he would have liked to play the “rogue's march”for my lord the baron and my lord's whole family.

And then he betook himself to the castle,but not into the ancestral hall,he was too humble for that!He went to the servants’ quarters,and the men and maids turned over his stock of goods,and bargained with him;but from above,where the guests were at table,came a sound of roaring and screaming that was intended for song,and indeed they did their best.Loud laughter,mingled with the barking and howling of dogs resounded,for there was feasting and carousing up yonder.Wine and strong old ale foamed in the jugs and glasses,and the dogs sat with their masters and dined with them.They had the pedlar summoned upstairs,but only to make fun of him.The wine had mounted into their heads,and the sense had flown out.They poured ale into a stocking,that the pedlar might drink with them,but that he must drink quickly;that was considered a rare jest,and was a causc of fresh laughter.And then whole farms,with oxen and peasants too,were staked on a card,and lost and won.

“Everything in its right place!”said the pedlar,when 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 by;and it became manifest that the willow branch which the pedlar had stuck into the ground by the castle moat remained fresh and green,and even brought forth new twigs.The little goose-girl saw that the branch must have taken root,and rejoiced greatly at the circumstance;for this tree,she thought,was now her tree.

The tree certainly came forward well;but everything else belonging to the castle went very rapidly back,what with feasting and gambling——for these two are like wheels,upon which no man can stand securely.

Six years had not passed away before the noble lord passed out of the castle gate,a beggared man,and the mansion was bought by a rich dealer;and this purchaser was the very man who had once been made a jest of there,for whom ale had been poured into a stocking;but honesty and industry are good winds to speed a vessel;and now the dealer was possessor of the baronial estate.But 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 time,he wanted to put a bad book against it,and invented card-playing.”

The new proprietor took a wife,and who might that be but the goose-girl,who had always been faithful and good,and looked as beautiful and fine in her new clothes as if she had been born a great lady.And how did all this come about?That is too long a story for our busy time,but it really happened,and the most important part is to come.

It was a good thing now to be in the old mansion.The mother managed the domestic affairs,and the father super-intended the estate,and it seemed as if blessings were streaming down.Where prosperity is,prosperity is sure to follow.The old house was cleaned and painted,the ditches were cleared and fruit trees planted.Everything wore a bright cheerful look,and the floors were as polished as a draught-board.In the long winter evenings the lady sat at the spinning-wheel with her maids,and every Sunday evening there was a reading from the Bible by the Councillor of Justice Himself——this title the dealer had gained,though it was only in his old age.The children grew up——for children had come——and they received the best education,though all had not equal abilities,as we find indeed in all families.

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

And a hundred years rolled by.

It was in our own time.The lake had been converted to moorland,and the old mansion had almost disappeared.A pool of water and the ruins of some walls,this was all that was left of the old baronial castle,with its deep moat;and here stood also a magnificent old willow,with pendent boughs,which seemed to show how beautiful a tree may be if left to itself.The main stem was certainly split from the root to the crown,and the storm had bowed the noble tree a little;but it stood firm for all that,and from every cleft into which wind and weather had carried a portion of earth,grasses and flowers sprang forth:especially near the top,where the great branches parted,a sort of hanging garden had been formed of wild raspberry bush,and even a small quantity of rowan-tree had taken root,and stood,slender and graceful,in the midst of the old willow which was mirrored in the dark water when the wind had driven the duck-meat away into a corner of the pool.A field-path led close by the old tree.

High by the forest hill,with a splendid prospect in every direction,stood the new hall,large and magnificent,with panes of glass so clearly transparent,that it looked as if there were no panes there at all.The grand flight of steps that led to the entrance looked like a bower of roses and broad-leaved plants.The lawn was as freshly green as if each separate blade of glass were cleaned morning and evening.In the hall hung costly pictures;silken chairs and sofas stood there,so easy that they looked almost as if they could run by themselves;there were tables of great marble slabs,and books bound in morocco and gold.Yes,truly,people of rank lived here:the baron with his family.

All things here corresponded with each other.The motto was still“Everything in its right place”;and there-fore all the pictures which had been put up in the old house for honour and glory,hung now in the passage that led to the servants’ hall:they were considered as old lumber,and especially two old portraits,one representing a man in a pink coat and powdered wig,the other a lady with powdered hair and holding a rose in her hand,and each surrounded with a wreath of willow leaves.These two pictures were pierced with many holes,because the little barons were in the habit of setting up the old people as a mark for their crossbows.The pictures represented the Councillor of Justice and his lady,the founders of the pre-sent family.

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

The pictures were pronounced to be worthless;and as the motto was“Everything 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 house.One day he was out walking with his pupils,the little barons and their eldest sister,who had just been confirmed;they came along the field-path past the old willow,and as they walked on,the young lady bound a wreath of field flowers.“Everything in its right place,”and the flowers formed a pretty whole.At the same time she heard every word that was spoken,and she liked to hear the clergyman's son talk of the powers of nature and of the great men and women in history.She had a goodhearted disposition,with true nobility of thought and soul,and a heart full of love for all that God hath created.

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

“Oh,don't do that!”cried the young baroness;but it was done already.“That is our famous old tree,” she continued,“and I love it dearly.They laugh at me at home for this,but I don't mind.There is a story attached to this tree.”

And she told what we all know about the tree,about the old mansion,the pedlar and the goose-girl,who had met for the first time in this spot,and had afterwards become the founders of the noble family to which the young barons belonged.

“They would not be ennobled,the 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 money.My grandfather,the first baron,was their son.He is said to have been a very learned,very popular with princes and princesses,and a frequent guest at the court festivals.The others at home love him best;but,I don't know how,there seems to me something about that first pair that draws my heart towards them.How comfortable,how patriarchal it must have been in the old house,where the mistress sat at the spinning-wheel among her maids,and the old master read aloud from the Bible!”

“They were charming,sensible people,”said the clergy-man's son.

And with this the conversation naturally fell upon no-bles and citizens.The young man scarcely seemed to be-long to the citizen class,so well did he speak of things be-longing to nobility.He said,

“It is a great thing to belong to a family that has distinguished itself,and thus to have,as it were,in one's blood;a spur that urges one on to make progress in all that is good.It is delightful to have a name that serves as a card of admission into the highest circles.Nobility means that which is noble:it is a coin that has received a stamp to indicate what it is worth.It is the fallacy of the time,and many poets have frequently maintained this fallacy,that nobility of birth is accompanied by foolishness,and that the lower you go among the poor,the more does every-thing around you shine.But that is not my view,for I consider it entirely false.In the higher classes many beautiful and kindly traits are found.My mother told me one of this kind,and I could tell you many others.

“My mother was on a visit to a great family in town.My grandmother,I think,had been nurse to the lady there.The great nobleman and my mother were alone in the room,when the former noticed that an old woman came limping on crutches into the courtyard.Indeed,she was accustomed to come every Sunday,and carry away a gift with her.‘Ah,there is the poor old lady,'said the noble-man:‘walking is a great toil to her;’ and before my mother understood what he meant,he had gone out of the room and run down the stairs,to save the old woman the toilsome walk,by carrying to her the gift she had come to receive.

“Now,that was only a small circumstance,but,like the widow's two mites in the Scriptures,it has a sound that finds an echo in the depths of the heart in human nature;and these are the things the poet should show and point out;especially in these times should he sing of it,for that does good,and pacifies and unites men.But where a bit of mortality,because it has a genealogical tree and a coat of arms,rears up like an Arab horse,and prances in the street,and 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 mask,a mask of the kind that Thespis created;and people are glad when such a one is made a subject of satire.”

This was the speech of the clergyman's son.It was certainly rather long,but then the flute was finished while he made it.

At the castle there was a great company.Many guests came from the neighbourhoood and from the capital.Many ladies,some tastefully dressed and others dressed without taste,were there,and the great hall was quite full of people.The clergymen from the neighbourhood stood respect-fully congregated in a corner,which made it look almost as if it was a burial.But it was not so,for this was a party of pleasure,only that the pleasure had not yet begun.

A great concert was to be performed,and consequent-ly the little baron had brought in his willow flute;but he could not get a note out of it,nor could his papa,and therefore the flute was worth nothing.There was instrumental music and song,both 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 commands,and should have the place of honour!Oh yes!I advance with the times,as every one is obliged to do.Oh,you will enchant us with the little instrument,will you not?”

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

Now,they only wanted to make fun of him,that was easily seen;and therefore the tutor would not play,though indeed he could do so very well;but they crowded round him and importuned him so strongly,that at last he took the flute and put it to his lips.

That was a wonderful flute!A sound,as sustained as that which is emitted by the whistle of a steam engine,and much stronger,echoed far over courtyard,garden,and wood,miles away into the country;and 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's;and the shepherd flew,not into the hall,for there he could not come——no,but into the room of the servants,among the smart who strutted about there in silk stockings;and 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 table,where she was worthy to sit;and the young clergyman's son had a seat next to her;and there the two sat as if they were a newly-married pair.An old count of one of the most ancient families in the country remained untouched in his place of honour;for the flute was just,as men ought to be.The witty young gentleman,the son of his father and nothing else,who had been the cause of the flute-playing,flew head-over-heels into the poultry house——but not alone.

For a whole mile round about the sounds of the flute were heard,and singular events took place.A rich merchant's family,driving along in a coach and four,was blown quite out of the carriage,and could not even find a place on the footboard at the back.Two rich peasants who in our times had grown too high for their cornfields,were tumbled into the ditch.It was a dangerous flute,that:luckily,it burst at the first note;and that was a good thing,for 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 event;and thence has come the expression,“pocketing the flute”.Everything was in its usual order,only that the two old portraits of the dealer and the goose-girl hung on the wall in the banqueting-hall.They had been blown up there,and as one of the real connoisseurs said they had been painted by a master's hand,they remain............

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