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Nursery Rhymes . . . for children.

Once upon a time . . . . .  from our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . .  they lived happily ever after . . .


'I MEAN to be somebody, and do something useful in the
world,' said the eldest of five brothers. 'I don't care how
humble my position is, so that I can only do some good, which
will be something. I intend to be a brickmaker; bricks are
always wanted, and I shall be really doing something.'

'Your 'something' is not enough for me,' said the second
brother; 'what you talk of doing is nothing at all, it is
journeyman's work, or might even be done by a machine. No! I
should prefer to be a builder at once, there is something real
in that. A man gains a position, he becomes a citizen, has his
own sign, his own house of call for his workmen: so I shall be
a builder. If all goes well, in time I shall become a master,
and have my own journeymen, and my wife will be treated as a
master's wife. This is what I call something.'

'I call it all nothing,' said the third; 'not in reality
any position. There are many in a town far above a master
builder in position. You may be an upright man, but even as a
master you will only be ranked among common men. I know better
what to do than that. I will be an architect, which will place
me among those who possess riches and intellect, and who
speculate in art. I shall certainly have to rise by my own
endeavors from a bricklayer's laborer, or as a carpenter's
apprentice- a lad wearing a paper cap, although I now wear a
silk hat. I shall have to fetch beer and spirits for the
journeymen, and they will call me 'thou,' which will be an
insult. I shall endure it, however, for I shall look upon it
all as a mere representation, a masquerade, a mummery, which
to-morrow, that is, when I myself as a journeyman, shall have
served my time, will vanish, and I shall go my way, and all
that has passed will be nothing to me. Then I shall enter the
academy, and get instructed in drawing, and be called an
architect. I may even attain to rank, and have something
placed before or after my name, and I shall build as others
have done before me. By this there will be always 'something'
to make me remembered, and is not that worth living for?'

'Not in my opinion,' said the fourth; 'I will never follow
the lead of others, and only imitate what they have done. I
will be a genius, and become greater than all of you together.
I will create a new style of building, and introduce a plan
for erecting houses suitable to the climate, with material
easily obtained in the country, and thus suit national feeling
and the developments of the age, besides building a storey for
my own genius.'

'But supposing the climate and the material are not good
for much,' said the fifth brother, 'that would be very
unfortunate for you, and have an influence over your
experiments. Nationality may assert itself until it becomes
affectation, and the developments of a century may run wild,
as youth often does. I see clearly that none of you will ever
really be anything worth notice, however you may now fancy it.
But do as you like, I shall not imitate you. I mean to keep
clear of all these things, and criticize what you do. In every
action something imperfect may be discovered, something not
right, which I shall make it my business to find out and
expose; that will be something, I fancy.' And he kept his
word, and became a critic.

People said of this fifth brother, 'There is something
very precise about him; he has a good head-piece, but he does
nothing.' And on that very account they thought he must be

Now, you see, this is a little history which will never
end; as long as the world exists, there will always be men
like these five brothers. And what became of them? Were they
each nothing or something? You shall hear; it is quite a

The eldest brother, he who fabricated bricks, soon
discovered that each brick, when finished, brought him in a
small coin, if only a copper one; and many copper pieces, if
placed one upon another, can be changed into a shining
shilling; and at whatever door a person knocks, who has a
number of these in his hands, whether it be the baker's, the
butcher's, or the tailor's, the door flies open, and he can
get all he wants. So you see the value of bricks. Some of the
bricks, however, crumbled to pieces, or were broken, but the
elder brother found a use for even these.

On the high bank of earth, which formed a dyke on the
sea-coast, a poor woman named Margaret wished to build herself
a house, so all the imperfect bricks were given to her, and a
few whole ones with them; for the eldest brother was a
kind-hearted man, although he never achieved anything higher
than making bricks. The poor woman built herself a little
house- it was small and narrow, and the window was quite
crooked, the door too low, and the straw roof might have been
better thatched. But still it was a shelter, and from within
you could look far over the sea, which dashed wildly against
the sea-wall on which the little house was built. The salt
waves sprinkled their white foam over it, but it stood firm,
and remained long after he who had given the bricks to build
it was dead and buried.

The second brother of course knew better how to build than
poor Margaret, for he served an apprenticeship to learn it.
When his time was up, he packed up his knapsack, and went on
his travels, singing the journeyman's song,-

'While young, I can wander without a care,
And build new houses everywhere;
Fair and bright are my dreams of home,
Always thought of wherever I roam.

Hurrah for a workman's life of glee!
There's a loved one at home who thinks of me;
Home and friends I can ne'er forget,
And I mean to be a master yet.'

And that is what he did. On his return home, he became a
master builder,- built one house after another in the town,
till they formed quite a street, which, when finished, became
really an ornament to the town. These houses built a house for
him in return, which was to be his own. But how can houses
build a house? If the houses were asked, they could not
answer; but the people would understand, and say, 'Certainly
the street built his house for him.' It was not very large,
and the floor was of lime; but when he danced with his bride
on the lime-covered floor, it was to him white and shining,
and from every stone in the wall flowers seemed to spring
forth and decorate the room as with the richest tapestry. It
was really a pretty house, and in it were a happy pair. The
flag of the corporation fluttered before it, and the
journeymen and apprentices shouted 'Hurrah.' He had gained his
position, he had made himself something, and at last he died,
which was 'something' too.

Now we come to the architect, the third brother, who had
been first a carpenter's apprentice, had worn a cap, and
served as an errand boy, but afterwards went to the academy,
and risen to be an architect, a high and noble gentleman. Ah
yes, the houses of the new street, which the brother who was a
master builder erected, may have built his house for him, but
the street received its name from the architect, and the
handsomest house in the street became his property. That was
something, and he was 'something,' for he had a list of titles
before and after his name. His children were called
'wellborn,' and when he died, his widow was treated as a lady
of position, and that was 'something.' His name remained
always written at the corner of the street, and lived in every
one's mouth as its name. Yes, this also was something.'

And what about the genius of the family- the fourth
brother- who wanted to invent something new and original? He
tried to build a lofty storey himself, but it fell to pieces,
and he fell with it and broke his neck. However, he had a
splendid funeral, with the city flags and music in the
procession; flowers were strewn on the pavement, and three
orations were spoken over his grave, each one longer than the
other. He would have liked this very much during his life, as
well as the poems about him in the papers, for he liked
nothing so well as to be talked of. A monument was also
erected over his grave. It was only another storey over him,
but that was 'something,' Now he was dead, like the three
other brothers.

The youngest- the critic- outlived them all, which was
quite right for him. It gave him the opportunity of having the
last word, which to him was of great importance. People always
said he had a good head-piece. At last his hour came, and he
died, and arrived at the gates of heaven. Souls always enter
these gates in pairs; so he found himself standing and waiting
for admission with another; and who should it be but old dame
Margaret, from the house on the dyke! 'It is evidently for the
sake of contrast that I and this wretched soul should arrive
here exactly at the same time,' said the critic. 'Pray who are
you, my good woman?' said he; 'do you want to get in here

And the old woman curtsied as well as she could; she
thought it must be St. Peter himself who spoke to her. 'I am a
poor old woman,' she said, 'without my family. I am old
Margaret, that lived in the house on the dyke.'

'Well, and what have you done- what great deed have you
performed down below?'

'I have done nothing at all in the world that could give
me a claim to have these doors open for me,' she said. 'It
would be only through mercy that I can be allowed to slip in
through the gate.'

'In what manner did you leave the world?' he asked, just
for the sake of saying something; for it made him feel very
weary to stand there and wait.

'How I left the world?' she replied; 'why, I can scarcely
tell you. During the last years of my life I was sick and
miserable, and I was unable to bear creeping out of bed
suddenly into the frost and cold. Last winter was a hard
winter, but I have got over it all now. There were a few mild
days, as your honor, no doubt, knows. The ice lay thickly on
the lake, as far one could see. The people came from the town,
and walked upon it, and they say there were dancing and
skating upon it, I believe, and a great feasting. The sound of
beautiful music came into my poor little room where I lay.
Towards evening, when the moon rose beautifully, though not
yet in her full splendor, I glanced from my bed over the wide
sea; and there, just where the sea and sky met, rose a curious
white cloud. I lay looking at the cloud till I observed a
little black spot in the middle of it, which gradually grew
larger and larger, and then I knew what it meant- I am old and
experienced; and although this token is not often seen, I knew
it, and a shuddering seized me. Twice in my life had I seen
this same thing, and I knew that there would be an awful
storm, with a spring tide, which would overwhelm the poor
people who were now out on the ice, drinking, dancing, and
making merry. Young and old, the whole city, were there; who
was to warn them, if no one noticed the sign, or knew what it
meant as I did? I was so alarmed, that I felt more strength
and life than I had done for some time. I got out of bed, and
reached the window; I could not crawl any farther from
weakness and exhaustion; but I managed to open the window. I
saw the people outside running and jumping about on the ice; I
saw the beautiful flags waving in the wind; I heard the boys
shouting, 'Hurrah!' and the lads and lasses singing, and
everything full of merriment and joy. But there was the white
cloud with the black spot hanging over them. I cried out as
loudly as I could, but no one heard me; I was too far off from
the people. Soon would the storm burst, the ice break, and all
who were on it be irretrievably lost. They could not hear me,
and to go to them was quite out of my power. Oh, if I could
only get them safe on land! Then came the thought, as if from
heaven, that I would rather set fire to my bed, and let the
house be burnt down, than that so many people should perish
miserably. I got a light, and in a few moments the red flames
leaped up as a beacon to them. I escaped fortunately as far as
the threshold of the door; but there I fell down and remained:
I could go no farther. The flames rushed out towards me,
flickered on the window, and rose high above the roof. The
people on the ice became aware of the fire, and ran as fast as
possible to help a poor sick woman, who, as they thought, was
being burnt to death. There was not one who did not run. I
heard them coming, and I also at the same time was conscious
of a rush of air and a sound like the roar of heavy artillery.
The spring flood was lifting the ice covering, which brake
into a thousand pieces. But the people had reached the
sea-wall, where the sparks were flying round. I had saved them
all; but I suppose I could not survive the cold and fright; so
I came up here to the gates of paradise. I am told they are
open to poor creatures such as I am, and I have now no house
left on earth; but I do not think that will give me a claim to
be admitted here.'

Then the gates were opened, and an angel led the old woman
in. She had dropped one little straw out of her straw bed,
when she set it on fire to save the lives of so many. It had
been changed into the purest gold- into gold that constantly
grew and expanded into flowers and fruit of immortal beauty.

'See,' said the angel, pointing to the wonderful straw,
'this is what the poor woman has brought. What dost thou
bring? I know thou hast accomplished nothing, not even made a
single brick. Even if thou couldst return, and at least
produce so much, very likely, when made, the brick would be
useless, unless done with a good will, which is always
something. But thou canst not return to earth, and I can do
nothing for thee.'

Then the poor soul, the old mother who had lived in the
house on the dyke, pleaded for him. She said, 'His brother
made all the stone and bricks, and sent them to me to build my
poor little dwelling, which was a great deal to do for a poor
woman like me. Could not all these bricks and pieces be as a
wall of stone to prevail for him? It is an act of mercy; he is
wanting it now; and here is the very fountain of mercy.'

'Then,' said the angel, 'thy brother, he who has been
looked upon as the meanest of you all, he whose honest deeds
to thee appeared so humble,- it is he who has sent you this
heavenly gift. Thou shalt not be turned away. Thou shalt have
permission to stand without the gate and reflect, and repent
of thy life on earth; but thou shalt not be admitted here
until thou hast performed one good deed of repentance, which
will indeed for thee be something.'

'I could have expressed that better,' thought the critic;
but he did not say it aloud, which for him was SOMETHING,
after all.

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