Everything In Its Right Place

: Hans Andersens Fairy Tales

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 that bent itself over the moat.

From a narrow lane one day sounded the clang of horns and the trampling

of horses. The little girl who kept the geese hastened to drive them

away from
he 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 took no note of; but as he galloped past, he reversed

the whip held in his hand, and in rough play gave the little

goose-watcher such a push with the butt end that she fell backward into

the ditch.

"Everything in its right place," cried he. "Into the puddle with you!"

and then he laughed aloud at what he called his own wit, and the rest

joined with him. The whole party shouted and screamed, and the dogs

barked loudly.

Fortunately for herself, the poor girl in falling caught hold of one of

the overhanging branches of the willow tree, by which she was able to

keep herself from falling into the muddy pool. As soon as the baron,

with his company and his dogs, had disappeared through the castle gate,

she tried to raise herself 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 that moment seized her from above. It was the

hand of a peddler, 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

bough to the place from which it had been broken off, but "everything in

its right place" is not always so easy to arrange, so he stuck the bough

in the soft earth. "Grow and prosper 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 indeed 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 peddler 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 a rare jest and occasioned fresh bursts of laughter. 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 peddler, when he at last

escaped from what he called the Sodom and Gomorrah up there. "The open

highroad is my right place; that house did not suit me at all." As he

stepped along, he saw the little maiden keeping watch over the geese,

and she nodded to 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 peddler, near to the castle

moat, had taken root, for it remained fresh and green and put forth new


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 flourished, but at the castle, what with feasting and

gambling, everything went 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 wandered out of the castle gate a

poor man, and the mansion was bought by a rich dealer. This dealer was

no other than the man of whom he had made fun and for whom he had poured

wine into a stocking to drink. But honesty and industry are like

favorable winds to a ship, and they had brought the peddler to be master

of the baron's estates. From that hour no more card playing was

permitted there.

The new proprietor took to himself a wife, and who should it be but the

little goose-watcher, who had always remained faithful and good, and who

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 these busy times 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. Their home overflowed with blessings, for 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 polished as smoothly as a draftboard, 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, in his old

age, had been made a magistrate. Every Sunday evening he read the Bible

with his family, for children had come to him 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 into a splendid tree and stood free and unrestrained.

"That is our genealogical tree," said the old people, "and the tree must

therefore be honored and esteemed, even by those who are not very wise."

A hundred years passed away, and the place presented a much-changed

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 overhanging branches--the same

genealogical tree of former times. Here it still stood, showing to what

beauty a willow can attain when left to itself. To be sure, the trunk

was 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 looked 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. Sometimes the wind from the sea scattered

the willow 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 and looked almost

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 harmonize with the other furnishings. The

family motto still was, "Everything in its right place." Therefore the

pictures which were once the honor and glory of the old house now hung

in the passage leading to the servants' hall. They were considered mere

lumber; especially two old portraits, one of a man in a wig and a

rose-colored coat, the other of a lady with frizzed and powdered hair,

holding a rose in her hand, each 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 peddler, and she

kept the geese. They were not like papa and mamma." So the pictures,

being old, were considered worthless; and the motto being "Each in its

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 walking 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. 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 of history. She had a healthy 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 made

them from other willows. 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."

Then she told him what we already know: about the old castle, and about

the peddler and the 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 its 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 that is like a card of admission to the highest circles.

True nobility is always great and honorable. 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 the oftener we find great and shining characters.

I feel that this is quite false. In all classes can be found men and

women possessing kindly and beautiful traits.

"My mother told me of one, and I could tell you of 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. One day, when my mother and

the nobleman happened to be alone, 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 run downstairs to the

old woman. Though seventy years old himself, the old nobleman carried to

the woman the gift she had come to receive, 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 wakes an echo in the


"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 contemptuously of

common people, then it is nobility in danger of decay--a mere pretense,

like the mask which Thespis invented. 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 in cutting the flute while he talked.

There was a large party at the Hall that evening. The grand salon was

crowded with guests--some from the neighborhood, some from the capital.

There was a bevy of ladies richly dressed with, and without, taste; a

group of the clergy from the adjoining parishes, in a corner together,

as grave as though met for a funeral. A funeral party it certainly was

not, however; it was meant for a party of pleasure, but the pleasure was

yet to come. Music and song filled the rooms, first one of the party

volunteering, then another. The little baron brought out his flute, but

neither he nor his father, who tried it after him, could make anything

of it. It was pronounced a failure.

"But you are a performer, too, surely," said a witty gentleman,

addressing the tutor. "You are of course a flute player as well as a

flute maker. You are a universal genius, I hear, and genius is quite the

rage nowadays--nothing like genius. Come now; I am sure you will be so

good as to enchant us by playing on this little instrument." He handed

it over, announcing in a loud voice that the tutor was going to favor

the company with a solo on the flute.

It was easy to see that these people wanted to make fun of him, and he

refused to play. But they pressed him so long and so urgently that at

last, in very weariness, he took the flute and raised it to his lips.

It was a strange flute! A sound issued from it, loud, shrill, and

vibrating, like that sent forth by a steam engine--nay, far louder. It

thrilled through the house, through garden and woodland, miles out into

the country; and with the sound came also a strong, rushing wind, its

stormy breath clearly uttering the words, "Everything in its right


Forthwith the baron, the master of the Hall, was caught up by the wind,

carried out at the window, and was shut up in the porter's lodge in a

trice. The porter himself was borne up, not into the drawing room--no,

for that he was not fit--but into the servants' hall, where the proud

lackeys in their silk stockings shook with horror to see so low a person

sit at table with them.

But in the grand salon the young baroness was wafted to the seat of

honor, where she was worthy to sit, and the tutor's place was by her

side. There they sat together, for all the world like bride and

bridegroom. An old count, descended from one of the noblest houses in

the land, retained his seat, not so much as a breath of air disturbing

him, for the flute was strictly just. The witty young gentleman, who had

been the occasion of all this tumult, was whirled out headforemost to

join geese and ganders in the poultry yard.

Half a mile out in the country the flute wrought wonders. The family of

a rich merchant, who drove with four horses, were all precipitated from

the carriage window. Two farmers, who had of late grown too wealthy to

know their nearest relations, were puffed into a ditch. It was a

dangerous flute. Luckily, at the first sound it uttered, it burst and

was then put safely away in the tutor's pocket. "Everything in its right


Next day no more was said about the adventure than as if it had never

happened. The affair was hushed up, and all things were the same as

before, except that the two old portraits of the peddler and the goose

girl continued to hang on the walls of the salon, whither the wind had

blown them. Here some connoisseur chanced to see them, and because he

pronounced them to be painted by a master hand, they were cleaned and

restored and ever after held in honor. Their value had not been known


"Everything in its right place!" So shall it be, all in good time, never

fear. Not in this world, perhaps. That would be expecting rather too