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
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
"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
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
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
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