Children's Prattle by Hans Christian Andersen
AT a rich merchant's house there was a children's partyand the children ofrich and great people were there. The merchant was a learned manfor his fatherhad sent him to collegeand he had passed his examination. His father had beenat first only a cattle dealerbut always honest and industriousso that he hadmade moneyand his sonthe merchanthad managed to increase his store. Cleveras he washe had also a heart; but there was less said of his heart than of hismoney. All descriptions of people visited at the merchant's housewell bornaswell as intellectualand some who possessed neither of these recommendations.
Now it was a children's partyand there was children's prattlewhich alwaysis spoken freely from the heart. Among them was a beautiful little girlwho wasterribly proud; but this had been taught her by the servantsand not by herparentswho were far too sensible people.
Her father was groom of the Chamberswhich is a high office at courtandshe knew it. "I am a child of the court" she said; now she might justas well have been a child of the cellarfor no one can help his birth; and thenshe told the other children that she was well-bornand said that no one who wasnot well-born could rise in the world. It was no use to read and be industriousfor if a person was not well-bornhe could never achieve anything. "Andthose whose names end with 'sen'" said she"can never be anything atall. We must put our arms akimboand make the elbow quite pointedso as tokeep these 'sen' people at a great distance." And then she stuck out herpretty little armsand made the elbows quite pointedto show how it was to bedone; and her little arms were very prettyfor she was a sweet-looking child.
But the little daughter of the merchant became very angry at this speechforher father's name was Petersenand she knew that the name ended in"sen" and therefore she said as proudly as she could"But mypapa can buy a hundred dollars' worth of bonbonsand give them away to children.Can your papa do that?"
"Yes; and my papa" said the little daughter of the editor of apaper"my papa can put your papa and everybody's papa into the newspaper.All sorts of people are afraid of himmy mamma saysfor he can do as he likeswith the paper." And the little maiden looked exceedingly proudas if shehad been a real princesswho may be expected to look proud.
But outside the doorwhich stood ajarwas a poor boypeeping through thecrack of the door. He was of such a lowly station that he had not been allowedeven to enter the room. He had been turning the spit for the cookand she hadgiven him permission to stand behind the door and peep in at the well-dressedchildrenwho were having such a merry time within; and for him that was a greatdeal. "Ohif I could be one of them" thought heand then he heardwhat was said about nameswhich was quite enough to make him more unhappy. Hisparents at home had not even a penny to spare to buy a newspapermuch lesscould they write in one; and worse than allhis father's nameand of coursehis ownended in "sen" and therefore he could never turn out wellwhich was a very sad thought. But after allhe had been born into the worldand the station of life had been chosen for himtherefore he must be content.
And this is what happened on that evening. -
Many years passedand most of the children became grown-up persons.
There stood a splendid house in the townfilled with all kinds of beautifuland valuable objects. Everybody wished to see itand people even came in fromthe country round to be permitted to view the treasures it contained.
Which of the children whose prattle we have describedcould call this househis own? One would suppose it very easy to guess. Nono; it is not so veryeasy. The house belonged to the poor little boy who had stood on that nightbehind the door. He had really become something greatalthough his name endedin "sen"- for it was Thorwaldsen.
And the three other children- the children of good birthof moneyand ofintellectual pride- wellthey were respected and honored in the worldforthey had been well provided for by birth and positionand they had no cause toreproach themselves with what they had thought and spoken on that evening longagoforafter allit was mere "children's prattle." -
THE END -