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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Porter's Son - Part 1

THE General lived in the grand first floor, and the porter
lived in the cellar. There was a great distance between the
two families- the whole of the ground floor, and the
difference in rank; but they lived in the same house, and both
had a view of the street, and of the courtyard. In the
courtyard was a grass-plot, on which grew a blooming acacia
tree (when it was in bloom), and under this tree sat
occasionally the finely-dressed nurse, with the still more
finely-dressed child of the General- little Emily. Before them
danced about barefoot the little son of the porter, with his
great brown eyes and dark hair; and the little girl smiled at
him, and stretched out her hands towards him; and when the
General saw that from the window, he would nod his head and
cry, 'Charming!' The General's lady (who was so young that she
might very well have been her husband's daughter from an early
marriage) never came to the window that looked upon the
courtyard. She had given orders, though, that the boy might
play his antics to amuse her child, but must never touch it.
The nurse punctually obeyed the gracious lady's orders.

The sun shone in upon the people in the grand first floor,
and upon the people in the cellar; the acacia tree was covered
with blossoms, and they fell off, and next year new ones came.
The tree bloomed, and the porter's little son bloomed too, and
looked like a fresh tulip.

The General's little daughter became delicate and pale,
like the leaf of the acacia blossom. She seldom came down to
the tree now, for she took the air in a carriage. She drove
out with her mamma, and then she would always nod at the
porter's George; yes, she used even to kiss her hand to him,
till her mamma said she was too old to do that now.

One morning George was sent up to carry the General the
letters and newspapers that had been delivered at the porter's
room in the morning. As he was running up stairs, just as he
passed the door of the sand-box, he heard a faint piping. He
thought it was some young chicken that had strayed there, and
was raising cries of distress; but it was the General's little
daughter, decked out in lace and finery.

'Don't tell papa and mamma,' she whimpered; 'they would be
angry.'

'What's the matter, little missie?' asked George.

'It's all on fire!' she answered. 'It's burning with a
bright flame!' George hurried up stairs to the General's
apartments; he opened the door of the nursery. The window
curtain was almost entirely burnt, and the wooden curtain-pole
was one mass of flame. George sprang upon a chair he brought
in haste, and pulled down the burning articles; he then
alarmed the people. But for him, the house would have been
burned down.

The General and his lady cross-questioned little Emily.

'I only took just one lucifer-match,' she said, 'and it
was burning directly, and the curtain was burning too. I spat
at it, to put it out; I spat at it as much as ever I could,
but I could not put it out; so I ran away and hid myself, for
papa and mamma would be angry.'

'I spat!' cried the General's lady; 'what an expression!
Did you ever hear your papa and mamma talk about spitting? You
must have got that from down stairs!'

And George had a penny given him. But this penny did not
go to the baker's shop, but into the savings-box; and soon
there were so many pennies in the savings-box that he could
buy a paint-box and color the drawings he made, and he had a
great number of drawings. They seemed to shoot out of his
pencil and out of his fingers' ends. His first colored
pictures he presented to Emily.

'Charming!' said the General, and even the General's lady
acknowledged that it was easy to see what the boy had meant to
draw. 'He has genius.' Those were the words that were carried
down into the cellar.

The General and his gracious lady were grand people. They
had two coats of arms on their carriage, a coat of arms for
each of them, and the gracious lady had had this coat of arms
embroidered on both sides of every bit of linen she had, and
even on her nightcap and her dressing-bag. One of the coats of
arms, the one that belonged to her, was a very dear one; it
had been bought for hard cash by her father, for he had not
been born with it, nor had she; she had come into the world
too early, seven years before the coat of arms, and most
people remembered this circumstance, but the family did not
remember it. A man might well have a bee in his bonnet, when
he had such a coat of arms to carry as that, let alone having
to carry two; and the General's wife had a bee in hers when
she drove to the court ball, as stiff and as proud as you
please.

The General was old and gray, but he had a good seat on
horseback, and he knew it, and he rode out every day, with a
groom behind him at a proper distance. When he came to a
party, he looked somehow as if he were riding into the room
upon his high horse; and he had orders, too, such a number
that no one would have believed it; but that was not his
fault. As a young man he had taken part in the great autumn
reviews which were held in those days. He had an anecdote that
he told about those days, the only one he knew. A subaltern
under his orders had cut off one of the princes, and taken him
prisoner, and the Prince had been obliged to ride through the
town with a little band of captured soldiers, himself a
prisoner behind the General. This was an ever-memorable event,
and was always told over and over again every year by the
General, who, moreover, always repeated the remarkable words
he had used when he returned his sword to the Prince; those
words were, 'Only my subaltern could have taken your Highness
prisoner; I could never have done it!' And the Prince had
replied, 'You are incomparable.' In a real war the General had
never taken part. When war came into the country, he had gone
on a diplomatic career to foreign courts. He spoke the French
language so fluently that he had almost forgotten his own; he
could dance well, he could ride well, and orders grew on his
coat in an astounding way. The sentries presented arms to him,
one of the most beautiful girls presented arms to him, and
became the General's lady, and in time they had a pretty,
charming child, that seemed as if it had dropped from heaven,
it was so pretty; and the porter's son danced before it in the
courtyard, as soon as it could understand it, and gave her all
his colored pictures, and little Emily looked at them, and was
pleased, and tore them to pieces. She was pretty and delicate
indeed.

'My little Roseleaf!' cried the General's lady, 'thou art
born to wed a prince.'

The prince was already at the door, but they knew nothing
of it; people don't see far beyond the threshold.

'The day before yesterday our boy divided his bread and
butter with her!' said the porter's wife. 'There was neither
cheese nor meat upon it, but she liked it as well as if it had
been roast beef. There would have been a fine noise if the
General and his wife had seen the feast, but they did not see
it.

George had divided his bread and butter with little Emily,
and he would have divided his heart with her, if it would have
pleased her. He was a good boy, brisk and clever, and he went
to the night school in the Academy now, to learn to draw
properly. Little Emily was getting on with her education too,
for she spoke French with her 'bonne,' and had a dancing
master.


'George will be confirmed at Easter,' said the porter's
wife; for George had got so far as this.

'It would be the best thing, now, to make an apprentice of
him,' said his father. 'It must be to some good calling- and
then he would be out of the house.'

'He would have to sleep out of the house,' said George's
mother. 'It is not easy to find a master who has room for him
at night, and we shall have to provide him with clothes too.
The little bit of eating that he wants can be managed for him,
for he's quite happy with a few boiled potatoes; and he gets
taught for nothing. Let the boy go his own way. You will say
that he will be our joy some day, and the Professor says so
too.'

The confirmation suit was ready. The mother had worked it
herself; but the tailor who did repairs had cut them out, and
a capital cutter-out he was.

'If he had had a better position, and been able to keep a
workshop and journeymen,' the porter's wife said, 'he might
have been a court tailor.'

The clothes were ready, and the candidate for confirmation
was ready. On his confirmation day, George received a great
pinchbeck watch from his godfather, the old iron monger's
shopman, the richest of his godfathers. The watch was an old
and tried servant. It always went too fast, but that is better
than to be lagging behind. That was a costly present. And from
the General's apartment there arrived a hymn-book bound in
morocco, sent by the little lady to whom George had given
pictures. At the beginning of the book his name was written,
and her name, as 'his gracious patroness.' These words had
been written at the dictation of the General's lady, and the
General had read the inscription, and pronounced it
'Charming!'

'That is really a great attention from a family of such
position,' said the porter's wife; and George was sent up
stairs to show himself in his confirmation clothes, with the
hymn-book in his hand.

The General's lady was sitting very much wrapped up, and
had the bad headache she always had when time hung heavy upon
her hands. She looked at George very pleasantly, and wished
him all prosperity, and that he might never have her headache.
The General was walking about in his dressing-gown. He had a
cap with a long tassel on his head, and Russian boots with red
tops on his feet. He walked three times up and down the room,
absorbed in his own thoughts and recollections, and then
stopped and said:

'So little George is a confirmed Christian now. Be a good
man, and honor those in authority over you. Some day, when you
are an old man, you can say that the General gave you this
precept.'

That was a longer speech than the General was accustomed
to make, and then he went back to his ruminations, and looked
very aristocratic. But of all that George heard and saw up
there, little Miss Emily remained most clear in his thoughts.
How graceful she was, how gentle, and fluttering, and pretty
she looked. If she were to be drawn, it ought to be on a
soap-bubble. About her dress, about her yellow curled hair,
there was a fragrance as of a fresh-blown rose; and to think
that he had once divided his bread and butter with her, and
that she had eaten it with enormous appetite, and nodded to
him at every second mouthful! Did she remember anything about
it? Yes, certainly, for she had given him the beautiful
hymn-book in remembrance of this; and when the first new moon
in the first new year after this event came round, he took a
piece of bread, a penny, and his hymn-book, and went out into
the open air, and opened the book to see what psalm he should
turn up. It was a psalm of praise and thanksgiving. Then he
opened the book again to see what would turn up for little
Emily. He took great pains not to open the book in the place
where the funeral hymns were, and yet he got one that referred
to the grave and death. But then he thought this was not a
thing in which one must believe; for all that he was startled
when soon afterwards the pretty little girl had to lie in bed,
and the doctor's carriage stopped at the gate every day.

'They will not keep her with them,' said the porter's
wife. 'The good God knows whom He will summon to Himself.'

But they kept her after all; and George drew pictures and
sent them to her. He drew the Czar's palace; the old Kremlin
at Moscow, just as it stood, with towers and cupolas; and
these cupolas looked like gigantic green and gold cucumbers,
at least in George's drawing. Little Emily was highly pleased,
and consequently, when a week had elapsed, George sent her a
few more pictures, all with buildings in them; for, you see,
she could imagine all sorts of things inside the windows and
doors.

He drew a Chinese house, with bells hanging from every one
of sixteen stories. He drew two Grecian temples with slender
marble pillars, and with steps all round them. He drew a
Norwegian church. It was easy to see that this church had been
built entirely of wood, hewn out and wonderfully put together;
every story looked as if it had rockers, like a cradle. But
the most beautiful of all was the castle, drawn on one of the
leaves, and which he called 'Emily's Castle.' This was the
kind of place in which she must live. That is what George had
thought, and consequently he had put into this building
whatever he thought most beautiful in all the others. It had
carved wood-work, like the Norwegian church; marble pillars,
like the Grecian temple; bells in every story; and was crowned
with cupolas, green and gilded, like those of the Kremlin of
the Czar. It was a real child's castle, and under every window
was written what the hall or the room inside was intended to
be; for instance: 'Here Emily sleeps;' 'Here Emily dances;'
'Here Emily plays at receiving visitors.' It was a real
pleasure to look at the castle, and right well was the castle
looked at accordingly.

'Charming!' said the General.

But the old Count- for there was an old Count there, who
was still grander than the General, and had a castle of his
own- said nothing at all; he heard that it had been designed
and drawn by the porter's little son. Not that he was so very
little, either, for he had already been confirmed. The old
Count looked at the pictures, and had his own thoughts as he
did so.

One day, when it was very gloomy, gray, wet weather, the
brightest of days dawned for George; for the Professor at the
Academy called him into his room.

'Listen to me, my friend,' said the Professor; 'I want to
speak to you. The Lord has been good to you in giving you
abilities, and He has also been good in placing you among kind
people. The old Count at the corner yonder has been speaking
to me about you. I have also seen your sketches; but we will
not say any more about those, for there is a good deal to
correct in them. But from this time forward you may come twice
a-week to my drawing-class, and then you will soon learn how
to do them better. I think there's more of the architect than
of the painter in you. You will have time to think that over;
but go across to the old Count this very day, and thank God
for having sent you such a friend.'

It was a great house- the house of the old Count at the
corner. Round the windows elephants and dromedaries were
carved, all from the old times; but the old Count loved the
new time best, and what it brought, whether it came from the
first floor, or from the cellar, or from the attic.

'I think,' said, the porter's wife, 'the grander people
are, the fewer airs do they give themselves. How kind and
straightforward the old count is! and he talks exactly like
you and me. Now, the General and his lady can't do that. And
George was fairly wild with delight yesterday at the good
reception he met with at the Count's, and so am I to-day,
after speaking to the great man. Wasn't it a good thing that
we didn't bind George apprentice to a handicraftsman? for he
has abilities of his own.'

'But they must be helped on by others,' said the father.

'That help he has got now,' rejoined the mother; 'for the
Count spoke out quite clearly and distinctly.'

'But I fancy it began with the General,' said the father,
'and we must thank them too.'

'Let us do so with all my heart,' cried the mother,
'though I fancy we have not much to thank them for. I will
thank the good God; and I will thank Him, too, for letting
little Emily get well.'

Emily was getting on bravely, and George got on bravely
too. In the course of the year he won the little silver prize
medal of the Academy, and afterwards he gained the great one
too.


'It would have been better, after all, if he had been
apprenticed to a handicraftsman,' said the porter's wife,
weeping; 'for then we could have kept him with us. What is he
to do in Rome? I shall never get a sight of him again, not
even if he comes back; but that he won't do, the dear boy.'

'It is fortune and fame for him,' said the father.

'Yes, thank you, my friend,' said the mother; 'you are
saying what you do not mean. You are just as sorrowful as I
am.'

And it was all true about the sorrow and the journey. But
everybody said it was a great piece of good fortune for the
young fellow. And he had to take leave, and of the General
too. The General's lady did not show herself, for she had her
bad headache. On this occasion the General told his only
anecdote, about what he had said to the Prince, and how the
Prince had said to him, 'You are incomparable.' And he held
out a languid hand to George.

Emily gave George her hand too, and looked almost sorry;
and George was the most sorry of all.


Time goes by when one has something to do; and it goes by,
too, when one has nothing to do. The time is equally long, but
not equally useful. It was useful to George, and did not seem
long at all, except when he happened to be thinking of his
home. How might the good folks be getting on, up stairs and
down stairs? Yes, there was writing about that, and many
things can be put into a letter- bright sunshine and dark,
heavy days. Both of these were in the letter which brought the
news that his father was dead, and that his mother was alone
now. She wrote that Emily had come down to see her, and had
been to her like an angel of comfort; and concerning herself,
she added that she had been allowed to keep her situation as
porteress.

The General's lady kept a diary, and in this diary was
recorded every ball she attended and every visit she received.
The diary was illustrated by the insertion of the visiting
cards of the diplomatic circle and of the most noble families;
and the General's lady was proud of it. The diary kept growing
through a long time, and amid many severe headaches, and
through a long course of half-nights, that is to say, of court
balls. Emily had now been to a court ball for the first time.
Her mother had worn a bright red dress, with black lace, in
the Spanish style; the daughter had been attired in white,
fair and delicate; green silk ribbons fluttered like
flag-leaves among her yellow locks, and on her head she wore a
wreath of water-lillies. Her eyes were so blue and clear, her
mouth was so delicate and red, she looked like a little water
spirit, as beautiful as such a spirit can be imagined. The
Princes danced with her, one after another of course; and the
General's lady had not a headache for a week afterwards.

But the first ball was not the last, and Emily could not
stand it; it was a good thing, therefore, that summer brought
with it rest, and exercise in the open air. The family had
been invited by the old Count to visit him at him castle. That
was a castle with a garden which was worth seeing. Part of
this garden was laid out quite in the style of the old days,
with stiff green hedges; you walked as if between green walls
with peep-holes in them. Box trees and yew trees stood there
trimmed into the form of stars and pyramids, and water sprang
from fountains in large grottoes lined with shells. All around
stood figures of the most beautiful stone- that could be seen
in their clothes as well as in their faces; every flower-bed
had a different shape, and represented a fish, or a coat of
arms, or a monogram. That was the French part of the garden;
and from this part the visitor came into what appeared like
the green, fresh forest, where the trees might grow as they
chose, and accordingly they were great and glorious. The grass
was green, and beautiful to walk on, and it was regularly cut,
and rolled, and swept, and tended. That was the English part
of the garden.

'Old time and new time,' said the Count, 'here they run
well into one another. In two years the building itself will
put on a proper appearance, there will be a complete
metamorphosis in beauty and improvement. I shall show you the
drawings, and I shall show you the architect, for he is to
dine here to-day.'

'Charming!' said the General.



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