ON one of the Danish islands, where old Thingstones, the
seats of justice of our forefathers, still stand in the
cornfields, and huge trees rise in the forests of beech, there
lies a little town whose low houses are covered with red
tiles. In one of these houses strange things were brewing over
the glowing coals on the open hearth; there was a boiling
going on in glasses, and a mixing and distilling, while herbs
were being cut up and pounded in mortars. An elderly man
looked after it all.
'One must only do the right thing,' he said; 'yes, the
right- the correct thing. One must find out the truth
concerning every created particle, and keep to that.'
In the room with the good housewife sat her two sons; they
were still small, but had great thoughts. Their mother, too,
had always spoken to them of right and justice, and exhorted
them to keep to the truth, which she said was the countenance
of the Lord in this world.
The elder of the boys looked roguish and enterprising. He
took a delight in reading of the forces of nature, of the sun
and the moon; no fairy tale pleased him so much. Oh, how
beautiful it must be, he thought, to go on voyages of
discovery, or to find out how to imitate the wings of birds
and then to be able to fly! Yes, to find that out was the
right thing. Father was right, and mother was right- truth
holds the world together.
The younger brother was quieter, and buried himself
entirely in his books. When he read about Jacob dressing
himself in sheep-skins to personify Esau, and so to usurp his
brother's birthright, he would clench his little fist in anger
against the deceiver; when he read of tyrants and of the
injustice and wickedness of the world, tears would come into
his eyes, and he was quite filled with the thought of the
justice and truth which must and would triumph.
One evening he was lying in bed, but the curtains were not
yet drawn close, and the light streamed in upon him; he had
taken his book into bed with him, for he wanted to finish
reading the story of Solon. His thoughts lifted and carried
him away a wonderful distance; it seemed to him as if the bed
had become a ship flying along under full sail. Was he
dreaming, or what was happening? It glided over the rolling
waves and across the ocean of time, and to him came the voice
of Solon; spoken in a strange tongue, yet intelligible to him,
he heard the Danish motto: 'By law the land is ruled.'
The genius of the human race stood in the humble room,
bent down over the bed and imprinted a kiss on the boy's
forehead: 'Be thou strong in fame and strong in the battle of
life! With truth in thy heart fly toward the land of truth!'
The elder brother was not yet in bed; he was standing at
the window looking out at the mist which rose from the
meadows. They were not elves dancing out there, as their old
nurse had told him; he knew better- they were vapours which
were warmer than the air, and that is why they rose. A
shooting star lit up the sky, and the boy's thoughts passed in
a second from the vapours of the earth up to the shining
meteor. The stars gleamed in the heavens, and it seemed as if
long golden threads hung down from them to the earth.
'Fly with me,' sang a voice, which the boy heard in his
heart. And the mighty genius of mankind, swifter than a bird
and than an arrow- swifter than anything of earthly origin-
carried him out into space, where the heavenly bodies are
bound together by the rays that pass from star to star. Our
earth revolved in the thin air, and the cities upon it seemed
to lie close to each other. Through the spheres echoed the
'What is near, what is far, when thou art lifted by the
mighty genius of mind?'
And again the boy stood by the window, gazing out, whilst
his younger brother lay in bed. Their mother called them by
their names: 'Anders Sandoe' and 'Hans Christian.'
Denmark and the whole world knows them- the two brothers