The Porter´s Son – Illustration
By Hans Christian Andersen (1866)
The General’s family lived on the first floor ; the Porter’s 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 under the same roof, and had the same outlook to the street and the yard. In the yard there was a grass-plot with a flowering acacia tree when it did flower ; and under it sat sometimes the smartly-dressed nurse, with the still more smartly-dressed child, the General’s, ‘ Little Emily.’ Before them the Porter’s little boy, with the brown eyes and dark hair, used to dance on his bare feet, and the child laughed, and stretched out her little hands to him, and when the General saw it from his window, he nodded down to them, and said, ‘ Charming ! ‘ The General’s lady, who was so young that she could almost have been his daughter by an earlier marriage, never looked out to the yard, but had given orders that the cellar-folks’ little boy might play for the child, but must not touch it. The nurse kept strictly to the lady’s orders.
And the sun shone in upon the people in the first floor, and upon those in the cellar ; the acacia tree put forth its blossoms, they fell off, and new ones came again next year ; the tree bloomed, and the Porter’s little boy bloomed, he looked like a fresh tulip. The General’s daughter grew delicate and pale, like the pink leaf of the acacia flower. She seldom came down now under the tree ; she took her fresh air in the carriage. She drove out with Mamma, and she always nodded to the Porter’s little George, even kissed her fingers to him, until her mother told her that she was now too big for that.
One forenoon he went up to the General’s with the letters and papers which had been left in the Porter’s lodge in the morning. As he went upstairs, past the door of the sand-hole, he heard something whimpering inside ; he thought it was a chicken chirping there, but instead it was the General’s little daughter hi muslin and lace.
‘ Don’t tell Papa and Mamma, for they will be angry I ‘
‘ What is the matter, little miss ? ‘ asked George.
‘ It is all burning ! ‘ said she. ‘ It is burning and ‘blazing ! ‘
George opened the door to the little nursery : the window curtain was almost all burned, the curtain rod was glowing and in flames. George sprang up, pulled it down, and called to the people. But for him there would have been a house on fire. The General and his lady questioned little Emily. ‘ I only took one single match,’ said she, ‘ that burned at once, and the curtain burned at once. I spat to put it out, I spat as hard as I could, but I could not spit enough, and so I ran out and hid myself, for Papa and Mamma would be so angry.’ ‘ Spit ! ‘ said the General, ‘ what kind of a word is that ? When did you hear Papa or Mamma say ” spit ” ? You have got that from downstairs.’
But little George got a penny. This did not go to the baker, it went into the savings box ; and soon there were so many shillings, that he could buy himself a paint-box to paint his drawings ; and of these he had many. They seemed to come out of his pencil and his finger-ends. He presented his first paintings to little Emily.
V Charming !’ said the General; the lady herself admitted that one could distinctly see what the little one had meant. ‘ He has Genius ! ‘ These were the words that the Porter’s wife brought down into the cellar.
The General and his wife were people of rank : they had two coats of arms on their carriage ; one for each of them. The lady had hers on every piece of clothing, outside and inside, on her night-cap, and night-dress bag. Hers was an expensive one, bought by her father for shining dollars ; for he had not been born with it, nor she either ; she had come too early, seven years before the coat of arms. Most people could remember that, but not the family. The General’s coat of arms was old and big : it might well make one’s bones crack to carry it, to say nothing of two such coats, and her ladyship’s bones cracked when, stiff and stately, she drove to a court-ball.
The General was old and grey, but looked well on horseback. He knew that, and he rode out every day with a groom at a respectful distance behind him. When he came to a party, it was as if he came riding on his high horse, and he had so many orders that it was inconceivable ; but that was not his fault at all. When quite a young man he had served in the army, had been at the great autumn manoeuvres, which then were held by the troops in the days of peace. About that time he had an anecdote, the only one he had to tell. His under-officer cut off and took prisoner one of the princes ; and the Prince with his little troop of captured soldiers, himself a prisoner, had to ride into the town behind the General. It was an event not to be forgotten, which always, through all the years, was re-told by the General, with just the same memorable words which he had used when he returned the Prince’s sabre to him, ‘ Only my subaltern could have taken your Highness prisoner, I never ! ‘ and the Prince answered, ‘ You are incomparable ! ‘ The General had never been in a real war ; when that went through .the land, he went on the diplomatic path, through three foreign courts. He spoke the French language, so that he almost forgot his own ; he danced well, he rode well, orders grew on his coat in profusion ; sentinels presented arms to him, and one of the most beautiful young girls presented herself to him and became his wife, and they had a charming baby, which seemed to have fallen down from Heaven, it was so lovely, and the Porter’s son danced in the yard for her, as soon as she could take notice, and gave her all his coloured pictures, and she looked at them, and was delighted with them, and tore them to pieces. She was so fine and so charming !
‘ My rose-leaf,’ said the General’s lady, ‘ you are born for a Prince ! ‘
The Prince already stood outside the door ; but they did not know it. People cannot see very far beyond the door-step.
‘ The other day, our boy shared his bread and butter with her said the Porter’s wife ; ‘ there was neither cheese nor meat on it, but she enjoyed it as if it had been roastbeef.’ The General’s people would have brought the house down if they had seen that feast, but they didn’t see it.
George had shared his bread and butter with little Emily ; he would willingly have shared his heart with her, if it would have pleased her. He was a good boy, he was clever and sprightly, he now went to the evening class at the Academy, to learn to draw properly. Little Emily also made progress in learning ; she talked French with her nurse, and had a dancing-master.
‘ George will be confirmed at Easter,’ said the Porter’s wife. George was now so far advanced.
1 It would be sensible to put him to a trade,’ said the father ‘ a nice trade it should be, of course, and so we should have him out of the house.
‘ He will have to sleep at home at night,’ said the mother ; ‘ it is not easy to find a master who has room for him to sleep ; clothes, too, we must give him ; the little bit of food he eats is easily got, he is quite happy with one or two boiled potatoes ; he has free education too. Just let him go his own way, you will see that he will be a pleasure to us ; the Professor said so.’
The confirmation clothes were ready. The mother herself had sewed them, but they were cut out by the jobbing tailor, and he cut well. If he had only been in a better position, and had been able to have a workshop and workmen, said the Porter’s wife, he might very well have been court-tailor.
The confirmation clothes were ready, and the confirmant was ready. On the confirmation day George got a large pinchbeck watch from his godfather, the flax-dealer’s old workman, the richest of George’s godfathers. The watch was old and tried ; it always went fast, but that is better than going slow. It was a costly present ; and from the General’s came a Psalm-book, bound in morocco, sent from the little lady to whom George had presented his pictures. In the front of the book stood his name and her name and ‘ earnest well-wishes ‘. It was written from the dictation of the General’s lady, and the General had read it through and said, ‘ Charming ! ‘
‘ It was really a great attention from such grand gentlefolk,’ said the Porter’s wife ; and George had to go up in his confirmation clothes and with the Psalm-book, to show himself and return thanks.
The General’s lady was much wrapped up, and had one of her bad headaches, which she always had when she was tired of things. She looked kindly at George, and wished him everything good and never to have her headaches. The General was in his dressing-gown, and wore a tasselled cap and red-topped Russian boots. He went up and down the floor three times in thoughts and memories of his own, stood still, and said, ‘ So little George is now a Christian man ? Let him be also an honest man, and honour his superiors. Some day, as an old man, you can say that the General taught you that sentence ! ‘
This was a longer speech than he usually made, and he returned again to his meditation and looked dignified. But of all that George heard or saw up there, he kept most clearly in his thoughts the little Miss Emily ; how charming she was, how gentle, how light, and how fragile !
If she was to be painted, it must be .in a soap-bubble. There was a fragrance about her clothes, about her curly, golden hair, as if she was a fresh-blossomed rose-tree ; and with her he had once shared his bread and butter ! She had eaten it with a hearty appetite, and nodded to him at every other mouthful. Could she remember it still ? Yes, certainly; she had given him the beautiful Psalmbook ‘ in memory ‘ of it ; and then the first time the New Year’s new moon was seen, he went outside with bread and a farthing, and opened the book to see what Psalm he would light upon. It was a psalm of praise and thanksgiving ; and he opened it again to see what would be granted to little Emily. He took care not to dip into the book where the funeral hymns were, and yet he opened it between Death and the Grave. This was nothing to put faith in, and yet he was frightened when the dainty little girl was soon laid up in bed, and the doctor’s carriage stopped outside the gate every noon.
‘ They won’t keep her ! ‘ said the Porter’s wife ; ‘ our Lord knows well whom He will have ! ‘
But they did keep her ; and George drew pictures and sent them to her ; he drew the Castle of the Czar, the old Kremlin in Moscow, exactly as it stood, with towers and cupolas ; they looked like gigantic green and golden cucumbers, at least in George’s drawings. They pleased little Emily so much, and therefore, in the course of a week, George sent a few more pictures, all of them buildings, because with them she could imagine so much inside the doors and windows. He drew a Chinese house, with bells throughout all the sixteen stories ; he drew two Greek temples, with slender marble pillars, and steps round about ; he drew a Norwegian church ; one could see that it was made entirely of timber, carved and wonderfully set up, every story looked as if it were on cradle -rockers. Most beautiful of all, however, was one drawing, a castle, which he called ‘ Little Emily’s ‘. In such a one should she live ; George had completely thought it out, and had taken for that castle everything that he thought most beautiful in the other buildings. It had carved beams like the Norwegian church, marble pillars like the Greek temple, bells in every story, and at the top of all, cupolas, green and gilded, like those on the Czar’s Kremlin. It was a real child’s castle, and under each window was written what the room or hall was to be used for : ‘ Here Emily sleeps.’ ‘ Here Emily dances,’ and ‘ Here Emily plays at receiving visitors.’ It was amusing to see, and it was looked at too.
‘ Charming ! ‘ said the General.
But the old Count, for there was an old Count, who was still more dignified than the General, and himself had a castle and an estate, said nothing ; he heard that it was designed and drawn by the Porter’s little son. He was not so little, however, seeing that he was confirmed. The old Count looked at the pictures, and had his own quiet thoughts about them.
One day, when the weather was downright grey, wet, and horrid, was one of the brightest and best for little George. The Professor of the Academy of Art called him in.
‘ Listen, my friend,’ said he, ‘ let us have some talk together ! God has been very good to you with abilities ; He is also good to you with good people. The old Count at the corner has spoken to me about you ; I have also seen your pictures ; we will draw the pencil over them ; in them there is much to correct ! Now you can come twice a week to the drawing, school, and you will be able to do better afterwards. I believe there is more in you to make an architect than a painter ; you can have time to consider that yourself ; but to-day you must go up to the old Count at the corner, and thank our Lord for such a man ! ‘
It was a great house at the corner ; round the windows were carved elephants and dromedaries, all from olden times ; but the old Count thought most of the new times with what good they brought, whether it came from the first floor, the cellar, or the garret.
‘ I believe,’ said the Porter’s wife, ‘ that the more folks are really grand, the less stuck-up they are ! How charming and straightforward the old Count is ! And he speaks just like you and me 1 the General’s people can’t do that. Was George not quite wild with delight yesterday, over the delightful treatment he got from the Count ; and to-day I am the same after having spoken with the great man. Is it not a good thing now, that we did not apprentice George to a trade 1 He has abilities.’
‘ But they must have help from outside,’ said the father.
‘ He has got that now,’ said the mother, ‘ the Count said it clearly and distinctly.’
‘ It is from the General’s, though, that it was all set going ! ‘ said the father. ‘ We must also thank them.’
‘ That we can well do,’ said the mother, ‘ but I don’t believe there is much to thank them for ; I will thank our Lord, and I will also thank Him because the little Emily is coming to herself again ! ‘ Emily kept getting on, and George kept getting on ; in the course of the year he got the little silver medal, and afterwards the bigger one.
‘ It would have been better if he had been put to a trade,’ said the mother, and wept ; ‘ then we should have kept him ! What shall he do in Rome ? I shall never see him again, even if he comes home, but he won’t do that, the sweet child ! ‘
‘ But it is his good fortune and his glory ! ‘ said the father.
‘ Yes, thank you, my friend,’ said the mother, ‘ but you don’t mean what you say ! You are as much distressed as I am ‘
And it was true, both about the grief and the going away. Everybody said it was great good fortune for the young fellow !
And parting visits were paid, including one to the General’s ; but the lady did not show herself, she had one of her headaches. By way of farewell the General told his only anecdote, about what he had said to the Prince, and what the Prince said to him, You are incomparable ! ‘
Then he gave George his hand his flabby hand ; Emily also gave George her hand and looked almost distressed, but George was the most distressed of all.
Time goes when one is doing something ; it goes also when one is doing nothing. The time is equally long, but not equally profitable. For George it was profitable, and not at all long, except when he thought about those at home. How were they getting on upstairs and downstairs ?
Well, he got news of them ; and one can put so much in a letter, both the bright sunshine, and the dark, heavy days. They lay in the letter, which told that the father was dead, and only the mother was left behind. Emily had been like an angel of comfort ; she had come down to her, the mother wrote, and added that she herself had got leave to keep the employment at the gate.
The General’s lady kept a diary ; in it was recorded every party, every ball, she had gone to, and all the visitors she had received. The diary was illustrated with the visiting cards of diplomats and the highest nobility. She was proud of her diary ; it grew for many a day, during many big headaches, and also during many brilliant nights, that is to say, courtballs.
Emily had been at a court-ball for the first time. The mother was dressed in pink with black lace ; Spanish ! The daughter in white, so clear, so fine ! green ribbons fluttered like leaves of sedge amongst her curly, golden hair, which bore a crown of water-lilies. Her eyes were so blue and so clear, her mouth so small and red, she looked like a little mermaid, as lovely as can be imagined. Three princes danced with her, that is to say, first one and then another ; the General’s lady did not have a headache for a week.
But the first ball was not the last one ; it was all too much for Emily, and it was a good thing that the summer came with its rest and fresh air. The family was invited to the old Count’s castle. It was a castle with a garden worth seeing. One part of it was quite as in olden days, with stiff, green hedges, where one seemed to go between green screens, in which there were peep-holes. Box-trees and yew-trees were clipped into stars and pyramids ; water sprang from great grottoes, set with cockle-shells : round about stood stone figures of the very heaviest stone, one could see that by the clothes and the faces ; every flowerbed had its shape of a fish, shield, or monogram ; that was the French part of the garden. From there one came, as it were, into the fresh open wood, where the trees dared to grow as they would, and were therefore so big and so beautiful. The grass was green, and good for walking on; it was rolled, mowed, and well kept ; that was the English part of the garden.
‘ Olden times and modern times,’ said the Count, ‘here they glide well into each other ! In about two years the house itself will get its proper appearance. It will undergo a complete change to something better and more beautiful. I shall show you the plans, and I shall show you the architect. He is here to-day for dinner ! ‘
‘ Charming ! ‘ said the General.
‘ It is like Paradise here ! said her ladyship, ‘ and there you have a baronial castle ! ‘
‘ That is my hen-house,’ said the Count. ‘ The pigeons live in the tower, the turkeys on the first floor, but on the ground floor old Dame Elsie rules. She has guest-chambers on all sides : the sitting-hens by themselves, the hen with chickens by herself, and the ducks have their own outlet to the water ! ‘
‘ Charming ! ‘ repeated the General, and they all went to see this fine show.
Old Elsie stood in the middle of the room, and by the side of her was George, the architect ; he and little Emily met after many years, met in the hen-house. Yes, there he stood, and he was nice enough to look at ; his face open and decided, with black glossy hair, and on his lips a smile which said, ‘ There sits a rogue behind my ear who knows you outside and in/ Old Elsie had taken her wooden shoes off, and stood on her stocking soles, in honour of the distinguished guests. And the hens cackled, and the cock crew, and the ducks waddled away with ‘ quack, quack ! ‘ But the pale, slender girl, the friend of his childhood, the General’s daughter, stood there with a rosy tinge on the otherwise pale cheeks ; her eyes became so big, and her mouth spoke without saying a single word, and the greeting he got was the prettiest any young man could wish for from a young lady, if they were not related or had never danced much together ; she and the architect had never danced with each other.
The Count shook hands with him, and presented him : ‘ Our young friend, Mr. George, is not quite a stranger.’
Her ladyship curtsied, the daughter was about to give him her hand, but she did not give it. ‘ Our little Mr. George ! ‘ said the General, ‘ old house-friends ; charming ‘
You have become quite an Italian, said her ladyship, and you talk the language like a native, I suppose.’
Her ladyship sang Italian, but did not speak it, the General said.
At the dinner-table George sat at Emily’s right hand. The General had taken her in, the Count had taken in her ladyship.
Mr. George talked and told anecdotes, and he told them well ; he was the life and soul of the party, although the old Count could have been that too. Emily sat silent ; her ears heard, and her eyes shone, but she said nothing. Afterwards she and George stood in the verandah amongst the flowers ; a hedge of roses hid them. George was again the first to speak.
‘ Thank you for your kindness to my old mother ! ‘ said he ; ‘ I know that the night my father died, you came down to her, and stayed with her till his eyes were closed. Thanks ! ‘ He caught Emily’s hand and kissed it ; he might do that on this occasion. She blushed rosy-red, but pressed his hand again and looked at him with her tender blue eyes.
‘ Your mother was a loving soul ! how fond she was of you ! And she let me read all your letters ; I believe I almost know you ! how kind you were to me when I was little ; you gave me pictures ‘
‘ Which you tore in pieces ! ‘ said George.
‘ No ! I have still my castle, the drawing of it.’
‘ And now I must build it in reality ! ‘ said George, and grew quite hot with what he said.
The General and her ladyship talked in their own room about the Porter’s son ; he knew how to comport himself, and could express himself with knowledge and intelligence. He could be a tutor ‘ said the General.
‘ Genius ! ‘ said her ladyship, and she said no more.
Often in the lovely summer-time Mr. George came to the castle of the Count. He was missed when he did not come.
How much more God has given to you than to us other poor creatures ! ‘ said Emily to him. ‘ Do you realize that properly ? ‘
It flattered George that the lovely young girl looked up to him, and he thought her uncommonly gifted. And the General felt himself more and more convinced that Mr. George could not possibly be a child, of the cellar.
‘ The mother was, however, a very honest woman,’ said he ; ‘ I owe that to her memory.’
The summer went and the winter came, and there was more talk about Mr. George ; he had been received with favour in the highest places. The General had met him at a court-ball. And now there was to be a ball in the house for little Emily. Could Mr. George be invited ?
‘ Whom the King invites, the General can invite,’ said the General, and lifted himself a whole inch from the floor.
Mr. George was invited, and he came ; and princes and counts came, and the one danced better than the other ; but Emily could only dance the first dance. In it she sprained her foot, not badly, but enough to feel it ; so she had to be careful, stop dancing, and look at the others ; and she sat and looked, and the architect stood by her side : ‘ You are surely giving her the whole of St. Peter’s ! ‘ said the General, as he went past, and smiled like benevolence itself.
With the same benevolent smile he received Mr. George some days after. The young man certainly came to call after the ball, what else ? Yes, the most astounding, the most astonishing thing ; he came with insane words ; the General could not believe his own ears ; a perfectly incredible proposal, Mr. George asked for little Emily as his wife !
‘ Man ! ‘ said the General, and began to boil. ‘ I don’t understand you in the least ! What do you say ? What do you want ? I don’t know you ! Sir ! Fellow ! it comes into your head to come like this into my house ! am I to be here, or am I not to be here ? ‘ and he went backwards into his bedroom and locked the door, leaving George standing alone. He stood for some minutes, and then turned about to go. In the corridor stood Emily.
‘ My father answered ? ‘ she asked, and her voice trembled.
George pressed her hand. ‘ He ran from me ! there is a better time coming I ‘
There were tears in Emily’s eyes ; in those of the young man were courage and confidence ; and the sun shone in upon the two and gave them his blessing. In his room sat the General, perfectly boiling ; in fact he boiled over and sputtered out, ‘ Madness ! Porter’s madness ! ‘
Before an hour had passed, the General’s lady got it from the General’s own mouth, and she called for Emily and sat alone with her.
‘ You poor child ! to insult you so ! to insult us ! You have tears in your eyes, but it suits you ! You are charming in tears ! You resemble me on my wedding-day. Cry away, little Emily ! ‘
1 Yes, that I must,’ said Emily, ‘ if you and father don’t say ” Yes I ” ‘
‘ Child ! ‘ cried her ladyship, ‘ you are ill ! you talk in delirium, and I am getting my frightful headache ! to think of all the unhappiness which comes to our house ! Do not be your mother’s death, Emily. Then you will have no mother ! ‘
And her ladyship’s eyes grew wet ; she could not bear to think of her own death.
In the newspaper one read amongst the appointments : ‘ Mr. George, appointed Professor.’
‘ It is a pity his parents are in their grave and cannot read it ! ‘ said the new porter-folk, who now lived in the cellar, under the General’s ; they knew that the Professor had been born and brought up within their four walls.
‘ Now he will come in for paying the tax on titles,’ said the man.
‘ Yes, is it not a great deal for a poor child,’ said the wife.
‘ Forty shillings in the year ! ‘ said the man, ‘ yes, that is a lot of money ! ‘
‘ No, I mean the position ! ‘ said the wife. ‘ Do you suppose he will trouble himself about the money ; he can earn that many times over ; and he will, no doubt, get a rich wife besides. If we had children, they should also be architects and professors.’
George was well spoken of in the cellar, he was well spoken of on the first floor ; even the old Count condescended to do so.
It was the pictures from his childhood days which gave occasion for it. But why were they mentioned ? They were talking about Russia, and about Moscow, and so of course they came to the Kremlin, which little George had once drawn for little Emily ; he had drawn so many pictures ! but one in particular, the Count remembered : ‘ little Emily’s castle,’ where she slept, where she danced, and played at ‘ receiving visitors ‘ . The Professor had much ability; he would certainly die an old Privy-Councillor, it was not impossible, and before that he might have built a castle for the young lady ; why not ?
‘ That was a curious flight of fancy ! ‘ observed her ladyship, when the Count had departed. The General shook his head thoughtfully, rode out with his groom at a respectful distance, and sat more proudly than ever on his high horse.
It was little Emily’s birthday ; flowers and books, letters and cards, were brought ; her ladyship kissed her on the mouth, the General on the forehead ; they were affectionate parents, and both she and they had distinguished visitors two of the Princes. There was talk about balls and theatres, about diplomatic embassies, the government of kingdoms and countries. There was talk of talent, native talent, and with that, the young Professor was brought into the conversation Mr. George, the architect.
‘ He builds for immortality ! ‘ it was said, ‘ he will certainly build himself into one of the first families, too ! ‘
‘ One of the first families ? ‘ repeated the General to his lady afterwards ; ‘ which one of our first families ? ‘
‘ I know which was meant,’ said her ladyship, ‘ but I will say nothing about it ! I will not even think it 1 God ordains ! but I will be astonished ! ‘
‘ Let me also be astonished ! ‘ said the General, ‘ I have not an idea in my head,’ and he sank into a reverie.
There is a power, an unspeakable power, in the fountain of favour from above, the favour of the court, or the favour of God ; and all that gracious favour little George had. But we forget the birthday.
Emily’s room was fragrant with flowers from friends of both sexes, on the table lay lovely presents of greeting and remembrance, but not a single one from George ; that could not come, but it was not needed either, the whole house was a remembrance of him. Even from the sand -hole under the stair a memorial flower peeped ; there Emily had hidden when the curtain was burnt, and George came as first fire-engine. A glance out of the window, and the acacia tree reminded her of childhood’s days. Flowers and leaves had fallen off, but the tree stood in the hoar-frost, as if it were a monster branch of coral, and the moon shone big and clear amongst the branches, unchanged in all its changing, as when George shared his bread and butter with little Emily. From a drawer she took out the drawings of the Czar’s castle, with her own castle, keepsakes from George. They were looked at and mused upon, and many thoughts arose ; she remembered the day, when, unobserved by her father and mother, she went down to the Porter’s wife, who was lying at the point of death. She sat beside her and held her hand, and heard her last words, ‘ Blessing George ! ‘ The mother thought of her son. Now Emily put her own meaning into the words. Yes, George was with her on her birthday, really with her !
The next day, it so happened, there was again a birthday in the house the General’s birthday ; he was born the day after his daughter, but of course at an earlier date, many years earlier. Again there came presents, and amongst them a saddle, of distinguished appearance, comfortable and costly ; there was only one of the princes who had its equal. Who could it be from ? The General was delighted. A little card came with it. If it had said, ‘ Thanks for yesterday,’ we could have guessed from whom it came ; but on it was written, ‘From one whom the General does not know!’
‘ Who in the world do I not know ? ‘ said the General. ‘ I know everybody ! ‘ and his thoughts went into society ; he knew every one there. ‘ It is from my wife,’ he said at last, ‘ she is making fun of me ! Charming ! ‘
But she was not making fun of him ; that time had gone past.
And now there was a festival again, but not at the General’s ; a costume ball at the house of one of the princes. Masks were also allowed.
The General went as Rubens, in a Spanish costume with a little ruff, a sword and stately bearing ; her ladyship as Madame Rubens, in black velvet, high-necked, frightfully warm, with a mill-stone round her neckr that is to say, a huge ruff, quite in accordance with a Dutch painting which the General possessed, and in which the hands in particular were much admired they were quite like her ladyship’s. Emily was Psyche in muslin and lace. She was like a floating tuft of swan’s-down : she had no need of wings, she only wore them as a sign of Psyche. There was splendour, magnificence, lights, and flowers, richness, and taste ; there was so much to see, that no one noticed Madame Rubens’s beautiful hands.
A black domino, with acacia-blossoms in the hat, danced with Psyche.
‘ Who is he ? ‘ asked her ladyship.
‘ His Royal Highness ! ‘ said the General ; ‘ I am quite sure of it, I knew him at once by his hand-shake.’
Her ladyship doubted.
General Rubens had no doubts ; he approached the black domino, and wrote royal initials on his hand ; they were denied, but a hint was given ; ‘ The motto of the saddle ! One whom the General does not know ! ‘
‘ But I do know you, then ! ‘ said the General. ‘ You have sent me the saddle.’
The domino lifted his hand, and disappeared amongst the others.
‘ Who is the black domino you were dancing with, Emily ? ‘ asked the General’s wife.
‘ I have not asked his name,’ she answered.
‘ Because you knew it ! It is the Professor ! Your Professor is here, Count,’ she continued, turning to the Count, who stood close by. ‘ Black domino, with acaciablossom ! ‘
‘ Very possibly, my dear madam,’ answered he ; ‘ but one of the princes is also wearing the same costume.’
‘ I know the hand-shake ! ‘ said the General. ‘ The Prince sent me the saddle. I am so certain of it, that I shall invite him to dinner.’
‘ Do so ! if it is the Prince, he will be sure to come,’ said the Count.
‘ And if it is the other, he will not come ! ‘ said the General, and approached the black domino, who was just then talking with the King. The General delivered a very respectful invitation, ‘ so that they might get to know each other.’ The General smiled in full confidence and certainty of whom he was inviting ; he spoke loudly and distinctly.
The Domino raised his mask : it was George.
‘ Does the General repeat the invitation ? ‘ asked he. The General drew himself an inch higher, assumed a stiffer bearing, took two steps backwards, and one step forwards, as if in a minuet ; and there was gravity and expression, as much of the General as could be expressed in his aristocratic face.
‘ I never take back my word ; the Professor is invited,’ and he bo wed with a glance at the King, who could certainly have heard the whole.
And so there was a dinner at the General’s, only the Count and his protege were invited.
‘ The foot under the table,’ thought George, ‘ then the foundation-stone is laid ! ‘ and the foundation-stone was really laid with great solemnity, by the General and her ladyship.
The person had come, and as the General knew and recognized, had talked quite like a man of good society, had been most interesting ; the General had been obliged many times to say his ‘ Charming I ‘ Her ladyship talked of her dinner-party, talked of it even to one of the court ladies ; and she, who was one of the most gifted, begged for an invitation the next time the Professor came. So he had to be invited again, and he was invited and came, and was again charming ; he could even play chess.
‘ He is not from the cellar ! ‘ said the General, ‘ he is quite certainly of a good family ! there are many of good family, and the young man is not to blame for that.’
The Professor, who was admitted to the house of the King, might well be allowed to enter the General’s ; but to take root in it, there was no talk of that, except in the whole town.
He grew. The dew of grace fell from above !
It was therefore no surprise, that when the Professor became a Privy Councillor, Emily became a Privy Councillor’s wife.
‘ Life is either a tragedy or a comedy/ said the General. ‘ In tragedy they die, in comedy they marry each other.’
Here they had each other. And they also had three strong boys, but not all at once.
The sweet children rode hobby-horses through the rooms and halls, when they were at Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s, and the General also rode on a hobby-horse behind them ‘ as groom for the little Privy-Councillors ! ‘
Her ladyship sat on the sofa and smiled, even if she had her bad headache.
So far had George got on, and much farther too, else it would not have been worth while telling about the Porter’s son.