AT a rich merchant's house there was a children's party,
and the children of rich and great people were there. The
merchant was a learned man, for his father had sent him to
college, and he had passed his examination. His father had
been at first only a cattle dealer, but always honest and
industrious, so that he had made money, and his son, the
merchant, had managed to increase his store. Clever as he was,
he had also a heart; but there was less said of his heart than
of his money. All descriptions of people visited at the
merchant's house, well born, as well as intellectual, and some
who possessed neither of these recommendations.
Now it was a children's party, and there was children's
prattle, which always is spoken freely from the heart. Among
them was a beautiful little girl, who was terribly proud; but
this had been taught her by the servants, and not by her
parents, who were far too sensible people.
Her father was groom of the Chambers, which is a high
office at court, and she knew it. "I am a child of the court,"
she said; now she might just as well have been a child of the
cellar, for no one can help his birth; and then she told the
other children that she was well-born, and said that no one
who was not well-born could rise in the world. It was no use
to read and be industrious, for if a person was not well-born,
he could never achieve anything. "And those whose names end
with 'sen,'" said she, "can never be anything at all. We must
put our arms akimbo, and make the elbow quite pointed, so as
to keep these 'sen' people at a great distance." And then she
stuck out her pretty little arms, and made the elbows quite
pointed, to show how it was to be done; and her little arms
were very pretty, for she was a sweet-looking child.
But the little daughter of the merchant became very angry
at this speech, for her father's name was Petersen, and she
knew that the name ended in "sen," and therefore she said as
proudly as she could, "But my papa can buy a hundred dollars'
worth of bonbons, and give them away to children. Can your
papa do that?"
"Yes; and my papa," said the little daughter of the editor
of a paper, "my papa can put your papa and everybody's papa
into the newspaper. All sorts of people are afraid of him, my
mamma says, for he can do as he likes with the paper." And the
little maiden looked exceedingly proud, as if she had been a
real princess, who may be expected to look proud.
But outside the door, which stood ajar, was a poor boy,
peeping through the crack of the door. He was of such a lowly
station that he had not been allowed even to enter the room.
He had been turning the spit for the cook, and she had given
him permission to stand behind the door and peep in at the
well-dressed children, who were having such a merry time
within; and for him that was a great deal. "Oh, if I could be
one of them," thought he, and then he heard what was said
about names, which was quite enough to make him more unhappy.
His parents at home had not even a penny to spare to buy a
newspaper, much less could they write in one; and worse than
all, his father's name, and of course his own, ended in "sen,"
and therefore he could never turn out well, which was a very
sad thought. But after all, he had been born into the world,
and the station of life had been chosen for him, therefore he
must be content.
And this is what happened on that evening.
Many years passed, and most of the children became
There stood a splendid house in the town, filled with all
kinds of beautiful and valuable objects. Everybody wished to
see it, and people even came in from the country round to be
permitted to view the treasures it contained.
Which of the children whose prattle we have described,
could call this house his own? One would suppose it very easy
to guess. No, no; it is not so very easy. The house belonged
to the poor little boy who had stood on that night behind the
door. He had really become something great, although his name
ended in "sen,"- for it was Thorwaldsen.
And the three other children- the children of good birth,
of money, and of intellectual pride,- well, they were
respected and honored in the world, for they had been well
provided for by birth and position, and they had no cause to
reproach themselves with what they had thought and spoken on
that evening long ago, for, after all, it was mere "children's