By Hans Christian Andersen
Great-Grandfather was so very nice and wise
and good that we all looked up to him. He
was really called, as far back as I can
remember, ' Grandfather,' but when my
brother's little son, Frederick, came into
the family, he was advanced to '
Great-grandfather ' ; higher up he could not
get ! He thought so much of all of us, but
he seemed not to think so much of our times.
' Old times were the best times,' he said, '
they were steady and solid : now there is
such a rush and such a turning up and down
of everything. Youth leads the talk, and
speaks of royalty itself as if
they were its equal. Every person from the
street can dip his rag in dirty water and
wring it out on the head of a gentleman.'
With such talk Great-grandfather got very
red in the face, but a little time after,
his friendly smile reappeared, and then the
words, ' Well, well, perhaps I am a little
mistaken ! I stand in old times and cannot
get a proper foothold in the new. May our
Father lead and guide them ! '
When Great-grandfather talked about old
times it was just as if I had them before me.
In thought I drove in a golden chariot with
attendants in livery, saw the guilds
carrying their signs in procession with
music and flags, and took part in the
delightful Christmas parties, with forfeits
There was certainly, also, in those times
much that was horrible and nasty ; the stake,
the wheel, and the shedding of blood, but
all the horrible had something alluring and
exciting about it. I learned about the
Danish noblemen who gave the peasants their
freedom, and Denmark's
Crown Prince who abolished the slave-trade.
It was delightful to hear Great-grandfather
tell about all this, and to hear about the
days of his youth. Still the time before
that was the very best, so strong and so
' Rough it was,' said brother Frederick,
'God be praised that we are out of it,' and.
he said this straight out to
Great-grandfather. It was not nice to say
that, but yet I had great respect for
Frederick ; he was my eldest brother, and he
could have been my father, he said. He said
so many funny things. He was a very
successful student, and so diligent in my
father's office that he would soon be able
to go into the business. He was the one that
Great-grandfather was most familiar with,
but they always ended in disputing about
something. These two did not understand each
other, and never would, the family said ;
but little as I was, I soon noticed that
these two could not do without each other.
Great-grandfather listened with shining eyes
when Frederick spoke or read about progress
in science, about the discoveries of the
powers of nature, and about all the
remarkable things of our time.
' People become wiser, but not better,' he
said ; ' they invent the most terrible
weapons of destruction against each other.'
' The quicker will war be past,' said
Frederick ; ' one will not have to wait
seven years for the blessings of peace ! The
world is full-blooded and must occasionally
be bled ; it is necessary.'
One day Frederick told him something which
had really happened in our time in a little
The Mayor's clock, the big one on the
town-hall, set the time for the town and the
people. The clock did not go quite correctly,
but all the same the town ordered itself by
it. By and by the railways came, and they
are connected with all other countries, and
so one must know the
time exactly, or there will be collisions.
The railway got a clock which was set by the
sun and so kept good time ; and now the
whole of the townspeople settled everything
by the railway clock.
I laughed and thought it was a funny story,
but Great- grandfather didn't laugh ; he
became quite serious.
' There is a great deal in that story of
yours,' he said, ' and I also understand
your idea in telling it to me. There is
instruction in your clockwork. It makes me
think of another instance, my parents'
simple old grandfather's clock, with its
leaden weights ; it was their and my
childhood's chronometer : it did not go
quite correctly, but it went, and we looked
at the hands ; we believed in them and did
not think of the wheels inside. So also was
it with the machinery of the state at that
time ; one looked at it with confidence and
believed in the hands. Now the state machine
has become like a glass clock, where one can
look right into the machinery and see the
wheels turn and whirl. One gets quite afraid
for this pivot and that wheel ! I wonder how
it will go with the striking, and I have no
longer my childhood's faith. That is the
weakness of the present time ! '
And so Great-grandfather talked himself
quite angry. He and Frederick could not
agree, but they could not separate either,
just like the old and the new time ! They
learned that, both of them and all the
family, when Frederick had to start on a
long journey, far away to America. It was on
the business of the house that the journey
had to be made. It was a terrible separation
for Great-grand- father, and the journey was
so long, right across the ocean to another
part of the globe.
' Every fortnight you will have a letter
from me,' said Frederick, ' and quicker than
all the letters, you will be able to hear
from me by telegraph ; the days become hours,
and the hours minutes ! '
Over the telegraph wires came a message from
England, when Frederick went on board.
Quicker than a letter, even if the flying
clouds had been the postman, came a message
from America when Frederick landed. It was
only a few hours since he had done so.
' It is a divine thought which is granted to
our time,' said Great-grandfather ; ' a
blessing for mankind.'
' Yes, and Frederick has told me that it was
in our country that these powers of Natuie
were first understood and made known.'
' Yes, said Great-grandfather, and kissed me.
' Yes, and I have looked into the two mild
eyes which first saw and understood this
power of Nature ; they were childish eyes,
like yours ! and I have shaken hands with
him ! ' And he kissed me again.
More than a month had gone, when we had a
letter from Frederick with the news that he
was engaged to a charming young girl, whom
the whole family would assuredly be
delighted with. Her photograph was sent, and
was examined with the naked eye and with a
for that is the charm of these pictures,
that they can stand examination with the
sharpest glass, and that the likeness
becomes even clearer in that way. No painter
has ever been capable of that, not even the
greatest of the old times.
; If one had only known the discovery in
those times,' said Great-grandfather, ' we
should have been able to see the world's
great men and benefactors face to face. How
good and sweet this young girl looks,' he
said, and gazed through the glass ; ' I
shall know her now when she comes
in at the door.'
But it was very near not happening :
fortunately we at home scarcely knew of the
danger until it was past.
The young newly-married couple arrived in
England in joy and good health ; from there
they proceeded with the steamer to
Copenhagen. They saw the Danish coast, the
white sand-hills of Jutland : then a great
storm arose, and the ship grounded on one of
the sand-banks and stuck
fast. The sea rose high and seemed as if it
would wreck the ship ; no lifeboat could
work. The night came, but in the middle of
the darkness a rocket was thrown from the
shore over the stranded ship. The rocket
carried a rope over it, a connexion was made
between those out there
and those on the shore, and soon a beautiful
young lady was drawn through the heavy
rolling waves in a cradle, and glad and
happy was she when her young husband stood
by her side on dry land. All on board were
saved, and it was not daylight yet.
We lay sleeping soundly in Copenhagen,
thinking neither of sorrow nor clanger. As
we assembled for breakfast, there came a
rumour, brought by a telegram, that an
English steamer had gone down on the west
coast. We were in great anxiety, but just
then came a telegram from
Frederick and his young wife, who had been
saved and would soon be with us.
They all wept together ; I wept too, and
Great-grand- father wept, folded his hands,
and I am certain of it blessed the new
That day Great-grandfather gave twenty
pounds for the monument to Hans Christian
Oersted, the electrician.
When Frederick came home with his young wife
and heard it, he said, ' That was right,
Great-grandfather ! now I shall read to you
what Oersted many years ago said about the
old and new times ! '
' He was of your opinion, no doubt ? ' said
' Yes, you may be sure of that,' said
Frederick ; ' and you are too, since you
have subscribed for the monument to him ! '