452 EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE
it was only in his old age. The children grew up—for children had come—and they received the best education, though all had not equal abilities, as we find indeed in all families.
In the meantime the willow branch at the castle gate had grown to be a splendid tree, which stood there free and unpolled. ' That is our family tree,' the old people said, and the tree was to be honoured and respected—so they told all the children, even those who had not very good heads.
And a hundred years rolled by.
It was in our own time. The lake had been converted to moorland, and the old mansion had almost disappeared. A pool of water and the ruins of some walls, this was all that was left of the old baronial castle, with its deep moat; and here stood also a magnificent old willow, with pendent boughs, which seemed to show how beautiful a tree may be if left to itself. The main stem was certainly split from the root to the crown, and the storm had bowed the noble tree a little ; but it stood firm for all that, and from every cleft into which wind and weather had carried a portion of earth, grasses and flowers sprang forth: especially near the top, where the great branches parted, a sort of hanging garden had been formed of wild raspberry bush, and even a small quantity of rowan-tree had taken root, and stood, slender and graceful, in the midst of the old willow which was mirrored in the dark water when the wind had driven the duck-meat away into a corner of the pool. A field-path led close by the old tree.
High by the forest hill, with a splendid prospect in every direction, stood the new hall, large and magnificent, with panes of glass so clearly transparent, that it looked as if there were no panes there at all. The grand flight of steps that led to the entrance looked like a bower of roses and broad-leaved plants. The lawn was as freshly green as if each separate blade of glass were cleaned morning and evening. In the hall hung costly pictures; silken chairs and sofas stood there, so easy that they looked almost as if they could run by themselves ; there were tables of great marble slabs, and books bound in morocco and gold. Yes, truly, people of rank lived here : the baron with his familv.