The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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748                  THE OLD CHURCH BELL
a pair of eyes, clear and deep as the deepest water. And what fortune had he ? Why, good fortune, enviable fortune. We find him graciously received into the military school, and even in the department where sons of people in society were taught, and that was honour and fortune. He went about with boots, a stiff collar, and a powdered wig, and they educated him to the words of command, ' Halt! march ! front!' and on such a system much might be expected.
The old church bell would no doubt find its way into the melting furnace, and what would become of it then ? It was impossible to say, and equally impossible to tell what would come from the bell within that young heart; but that bell was of bronze, and kept sounding so loud that it must at last be heard out in the wide world ; and the more cramped the space within the school walls, and the more deafening the shout of ' March ! halt! front!' the louder did the sound ring through the youth's breast; and he sang it in the circle of his companions, and the sound was heard beyond the boundaries of the land. But it was not for this he had got his schooling, board, and clothing. Had he not been already numbered and destined to be a certain wheel in the great watchwork to which we all belong as pieces of practical machinery ? How im­perfectly do we understand ourselves ! and how, then, shall others, even the best men, understand us ? But it is the pressure that forms the precious stone. There was pressure enough here; but would the world be able, some day, to recognize the jewel ?
In the capital of the prince of the country, a great festival was being celebrated. Thousands of lamps gleamed, and rockets glittered. The splendour of that day yet lives through him, who was trying in sorrow and tears to escape unperceived from the land : he was compelled to leave all—mother, native country, those he loved—or perish in the stream of commonplace things.
The old bell was well off ; it stood sheltered beside the church-wall of Marbach. The wind whistled over it, and might have told about him at whose birth the bell had sounded, and over whom the wind had but now blown cold in the forest of a neighbouring land, where he had