the provision basket, with ham and cheese and sausages ; the finest
butter and the best bread were put into the basket too the tanner's
daughter herself packed it. She was young and very pretty ; her brown
eyes laughed, and round her mouth played a smile as elegant as that in
her eyes. She had delicate hands, beautifully white, and her neck was
whiter still ; you saw at once that she was one of the most beautiful
girls in the town : and still she was not engaged.
The provision basket was in the lap of the young girl when the
family drove out into the forest. The bottle-neck looked out from the
folds of the white napkin. There was red wax upon the cork, and the
bottle looked straight into the girl's face. It also looked at the young
sailor who sat next to the girl. He was a friend of old days, the son of
the portrait painter. Quite lately he had passed with honour through
his examination as mate, and to-morrow he was to sail away in a ship,
far off to a distant land. There had been much talk of this while the
basket was being packed ; and certainly the eyes and mouth of the
tanner's pretty daughter did not wear a very joyous expression just then.
The young people sauntered through the green wood, and talked to
one another. What were they talking of? No, the bottle could not
hear that, for it was in the provision basket. A long time passed before
it was drawn forth ; but when that happened, there had been pleasant
things going on, for all were laughing, and the tanner's daughter
laughed too ; but she spoke less than before, and her cheeks glowed like
470 Stories for the Household.
The father took the full bottle and the corkscrew in his hand. Tea,
it 's a strange thing to be drawn thus, the first time ! The Bottle-neck
could never afterwards forget that impressive moment; and indeed there
was quite a convulsion within him when the cork flew out, and a great
throbbing as the wine poured forth into the glasses.
" Health to the betrothed pair ! " cried the papa. And every glass
was emptied to the dregs, and the young mate kissed his beautiful bride.
" Happiness and blessing ! " said the two old people, the father and
mother. And the young man filled the glasses again.
" Safe return, and a wedding this day next year ! " he cried ; and
when the glasses were emptied, he took the bottle, raised it on high, and
said, " Thou hast been present at the happiest day of my life, thou shalt
never serve another ! "
And so saying, he hurled it high into the air. The tanner's daughter
did not then think that she should see the bottle fly again ; and yet it
was to be so. It then fell into the thick reeds on the margin of a little
woodland lake ; and the Bottle-neck could remember quite plainly how
it lay there for some time.
" I gave them wine, and they gave me marsh water," he said ; " but
it was all meant for the best."
He could no longer see the betrothed couple and the cheerful old
people ; but for a long time he could hear them rejoicing and singing.
Then at last came two peasant boys, aud looked into the reeds ; they
spied out the bottle, and took it up ; and now it was provided for.
At their home, in the wooden cottage, the eldest of three brothers,
who was a sailor, and about to start on a long voyage, had been the
day before to take leave. The mother was just engaged in packing up
various things he was to take with him upon his journey, and which the
father was going to carry into the town that evening to see his son once
more, to give him a farewell greeting from the lad's mother and himself,
and a little bottle of medicated brandy had already been wrapped up
in a parcel, when the boys came in with the larger and stronger bottle
which they had found. This bottle would hold more than the little one,
and they pronounced that the brandy would be capital for a bad diges-
tion, inasmuch as it was mixed with medical herbs. The draught that
was now poured into the bottle was not so good as the red wine with
which it had once been filled ; these were bitter drops, but even these
are sometimes good. The new big bottle was to go, and not the little
one ; and so the bottle went travelling again. It was taken on board
for Peter Jensen, in the very same ship in which the young mate sailed.
But he did not see the bottle ; and, indeed, he would not have known
it, or thought it was the same one out of which they had drunk a health
to the betrothed pair and to his own happy return.
Certainly it had no longer wine to give, but still it contained some-
thing that was just as good. Accordingly, whenever Peter Jensen
brought it out, it was dubbed by his messmates The Apothecary. It
contained the best medicine, medicine that strengthened the weak, and
x t gave liberally so long as it had a drop left. That was a pleasant time,
THE BOTTLE IS PBESENT 01T A JOYOUS OCCASION.
and the bottle sang when it was rubbed with the cork ; and it was called
the Great Lark, " Peter Jensen's Lark."
Long days and months rolled on, and the bottle already stood empty
in a corner, when it happened whether on the passage out or home the
bottle could not tell, for it had never been ashore that a storm arose ;
great waves came careering along, darkly and heavily, and lifted and
tossed the ship to and fro. The mainmast was shivered, and a wave
started one of the planks, and the pumps oecame useless. It was black
night. The ship sank ; but at the last moment the young mate wrote
on a leaf of paper, " God's will be done ! We are sinking ! " He wrote
the name of his betrothed, and his own name, and that of the ship, and
put the leaf in an empty bottle that happened to be at hand : he corked
it firmly down, and threw it out into the foaming sea. He knew not
that it was the very bottle from which the goblet of joy and hope had
once been filled for him ; and now it was tossing on the waves with his
last greeting and the message of death.
The ship sank, and the crew sank with her. The bottle sped on like
a bird, for it bore a heart, a loving letter, within itself. And the sun
rose and set ; and the bottle felt as at the time when it first came into
being in the red gleaming oven it felt a strong desire to leap back into
It experienced calms and fresh storms ; but it was hurled against no
rock, and was devoured by no shark ; and thus it drifted on for a year
and a day, sometimes towards the north, sometimes towards the south,
472 Stories for the Household.
just as the current carried it. Beyond this it was its own master, but
one may grow tired even of that.
The written page, the last farewell of the bridegroom to his betrothed,
would only bring sorrow if it came into her hands ; but where were the
hands, so white and delicate, which had once spread the cloth on the
fresh grass in the green wood, on the betrothal day ? W r here was the
tanner's daughter ? Yes, where was the land, and which laud might be
nearest to her dwelling ? The bottle knew not ; it drove onward and
onward, and was at last tired of wandering, because that was not in its
way ; but yet it had to travel until at last it came to land to a strange
land. It understood not a word of what was spoken here, for this was
not the language it had heard spoken before ; and one loses a good deal
if one does not understand the language.
The bottle was fished out and examined on all sides. The leaf of
paper within it was discovered, and taken out, and turned over and over,
but the people did not understand what was written thereon. They saw
that the bottle must have been thrown overboard, and that something
about this was written on the paper, but what were the words ? That
question remained unanswered, and the paper was put back into the
bottle, and the latter was deposited in a great cupboard in a great room
in a great house.
Whenever strangers came, the paper was brought out and turned
over and over, so that the inscription, which was only written in pencil,
became more and more illegible, so that at last no one could see that
there were letters on it. And for a whole year more the bottle remained
standing in the cupboard ; and then it was put into the loft, where it
became covered with dust and cobwebs. Ah, how often it thought of
the better days, the times when it had poured forth red wine in the
green wood, when it had been rocked on the waves of the sea, and when
it had carried a secret, a letter, a parting sigh, safely enclosed in its
For full twenty years it stood up in the loft ; and it might have re-
mained there longer, but that the house was to be rebuilt. The roof
was taken off, and then the bottle was noticed, and they spoke about
it, but it did not understand their language ; for one cannot learn a
language by being shut up in a loft, even if one stays there twenty years.
" If I had been down in the room," thought the Bottle, " I might
have learned it."
It was now washed and rinsed, and indeed this was requisite. It felt
quite transparent and fresh, and as if its youth had been renewed in
this its old age ; but the paper it had carried so faithfully had been
destroyed in the washing.
The bottle was filled with seeds, though it scarcely knew what they
were. It was corked and well wrapped up. Xo light nor lantern wa's
it vouchsafed to behold, much less the sun or the moon ; and yet, it
thought, when one goes on a journey one ought to see something ; but
though it saw nothing, it did what was most important it travelled to
the place of its destination, and was there \mpacked.
The Bottle-Neck. 473
" "What trouble they have taken over yonder with that bottle ! " it
heard people say ; "and yet it is most likely broken." But it was not
The bottle understood every word that was now said ; this was the
language it had heard at the furnace, and at the wine merchant's, and
in the forest, and in the ship, the only good old language it understood :
it had come back home, and the language was as a salutation of welcome
to it. For very joy it felt ready to jump out of people's hands ; hardly
did it notice that its cork had been drawn, and that it had been emptied
and carried into the cellar, to be placed there and forgotten. There 's
no place like home, even if it 's in a cellar ! It never occurred to the
bottle to think how long it would lie there, for it felt comfortable, and
accordingly lay there for years. At last people came down into the
cellar to carry off all the bottles, and ours among the rest.
Out in the garden there was a great festival. Flaming lamps hung
like garlands, and paper lanterns shone transparent, like great tulips.
The evening w r as lovely, the weather still and clear, the stars twinkled ;
it was the time of the new moon, but in reality the whole moon could
be seen as a bluish grey disc with a golden rim round half its surface,
which was a very beautiful sight for those who had good eyes.
The illumination extended even to the most retired of the garden
walks ; at least so much of it, that one could find one's way there.
Among the leaves of the hedges stood bottles, with a light in each ; and
among them was also the bottle we know, and which was destined one
day to finish its career as a bottle-neck, a bird's drinking-glass. Every-
thing here appeared lovely to our bottle, for it was once more in the
green wood, amid joy and feasting, and heard song and music, and the
noise and murmur of a crowd, especially in that part of the garden
where the lamps blazed and the paper lanterns displayed their many
colours. Thus it stood, in a distant walk certainly, but that made it
the more important ; for it bore its light, and was at once ornamental
and useful, and that is as it should be: in such an hour one forgets
twenty years spent in a loft, and it is right one should do so.
There passed close to it a pair, like the pair who had walked together
long ago in the wood, the sailor and the tanner's daughter ; the bottle
seemed to experience all that over again. In the garden were walking
not only the guests, but other people who were allowed to view all the
splendour ; and among these latter came an old maid who seemed to
stand alone in the world. She was just thinking, like the bottle, of the
green wood, and of a young betrothed pair of a pair which concerned
her very nearly, a pair in which she had an interest, and of which she
had been a part in that happiest hour of her life the hour one never
forgets, if one should become ever so old a maid. But she did not know
our bottle, nor did the bottle recognize the old maid : it is thus we pass
each other in the world, meeting again and again, as these two met, now
that they were together again in the same town.
From the garden the bottle was dispatched once more to the wine
merchant's, where it was filled with wine, and sold to the aeronaut, who
474 Stories for the Household.
was to make an ascent in his balloon on the following Sunday. A great
crowd had assembled to witness the sight; military music had been
provided, and many other preparations had been made. The bottle saw
everything from a basket in which it lay next to a live rabbit, which
latter was quite bewildered because he knew he was to be taken up into
the air, and let down again in a parachute ; but the bottle knew nothing
of the " up " or the " down ; " it only saw the balloon swelling up bigger
and bigger, and at last, when it could swell no more, beginning to rise,
and to grow more and more restless. The ropes that held it were cut,
and the huge machine floated aloft with the aeronaut and the basket
containing the bottle and the rabbit, and the music sounded, and all the
people cried, " Hurrah ! "
" This is a wonderful passage, up into the air ! " thought the Bottle ;
" this is a new way of sailing : at any rate, up here we cannot strike
Thousands of people gazed up at the balloon, and the old maid looked
up at it also ; she stood at the open window of the garret, in which
hung the cage with the little chaffinch, who had no water-glass as yet,
but was obliged to be content with an old cup. In the window stood
a myrtle in a pot ; and it had been put a little aside tiiat it might not
fall out, for the old maid was leaning out of the window to look, and
she distinctly saw the aeronaut in the balloon, and how he let down the
rabbit in the parachute, and then drank to the health of all the spectators,
and at length hurled the bottle high in the air ; she never thought that
this was the identical bottle which she had already once seen thrown
aloft in honour of her and of her friend on the day of rejoicing in the
green wood, in the time of her youth.
The bottle had no respite for thought, for it was quite startled at
thus suddenly reaching the highest point in its career. Steeples and
roofs lay far, far beneath, and the people looked like mites.
But now it began to descend with a much more rapid fall than that
of the rabbit; the bottle threw somersaults in the air, and felt quite
young, and quite free and unfettered ; and yet it was half full of wine,
though it did not remain so long. What a journey ! The sun shone on
the bottle, all the people were looking at it ; the balloon was already far
away, and soon the bottle was far away too, for it fell upon a roof and
broke ; but the pieces had got such an impetus that they could not stop
themselves, but went jumping and rolling on till they came down into
the courtyard and lay there in smaller pieces yet ; the Bottle-neck only
managed to keep whole, and that was cut off as clean as if it had been
done with a diamond.
" That would do capitally for a bird-glass," said the cellarmen ; but
they had neither a bird nor a cage ; and to expect them to provide both
because they had found a bottle-neck that might be made available for
a glass, would have been expecting too much ; but the old maid in the
garret, perhaps it might be useful to her ; and now the Bottle-neck was
taken up to her, and was provided with a cork. The part that had been
uppermost was now turned downwards, as often happens when changes
take place ; fresh water was poured into it, and it was fastened to the
cage of the little bird, which sang and twittered right merrily.
" Tes, it 's very well for you to sing," said the Bottle-neck.
And it was considered remarkahle for having been in the balloon for
that was all they knew of its history. Now it hung there as a bird-glass,
and heard the murmuring and noise of the people in the street below,
and also the words of the old maid in the room within. An old friend
had just come to visit her, and they talked not of the Bottle-neck, but
about the myrtle in the window.
" No, you certainly must not spend a dollar for your daughter's bridal
wreath," said the old maid. " You shall have a beautiful little nosegay
THE MYETLE TEEE.
from me, full of blossoms. Do you see how splendidly that tree has
come on ? yes, that has been raised from a spray of the myrtle you gave
me on the day after my betrothal, and from which I was to have made
my own wreath when the year was past ; but that day never came ! The
eyes closed that were to have been my joy and delight through life. In
the depths of the sea he sleeps sweetly, my dear one ! The myrtle has
become an old tree, and I become a yet older woman ; and when it faded
at last, I took the last green shoot, and planted it in the ground, and it
has become a great tree ; and now at length the myrtle will serve at the
wedding as a wreath for your daughter."
There were tears in the eyes of the old maid. She spoke of the
beloved of her youth, of their betrothal in the wood; many thoughts
came to her, but the thought never came, that quite close to her, before
the very window, was a remembrance of those times the neck of the
bottle which had shouted for joy when the cork flew out with a bang on
the betrothal day. But the Bottle-neck did not recognize her, for he was
not listening to what this old maid said and still that was because he
was thinking of her.
IB AND CHRISTINE.
far from the clear stream Gudenau, in North Jutland, in the
forest which extends by its banks and far into the country, a great
ridge of land rises and stretches along like a wall through the wood.
By this ridge, westward, stands a farm-house, surrounded by poor land ;
the sandy soil is seen through the spare rye and wheat-ears that grow
upon it. Some years have elapsed since the time of which we speak.
The people who lived here cultivated the fields, and moreover kept three
sheep, a pig, and two oxen ; in fact, they supported themselves quite
comfortably, for they had enough to live on if they took things as they
came. Indeed, they could have managed to save enough to keep two
horses ; but, like the other peasants of the neighbourhood, they said,
" The horse eats itself up " that is to say, it eats as much as it earns.
Jeppe-Jiins cultivated his field in summer. In the winter he made
wooden shoes, and then he had an assistant, a journeyman, who under-
stood as well as he himself did how to make the wooden shoes strong,
and light, and graceful. They carved shoes and spoons, and that brought
in money. It would have been wronging the Jeppe-Jiinses to call them
Little Ib, a boy seven years old, the only child of the family, would
sit by, looking at the workmen, cutting at a stick, and occasionally
cutting his finger. But one day Ib succeeded so well with two pieces
of wood, that they really looked like little wooden shoes ; and these he
wanted to give to little Christine. And who was little Christine ? She
was the boatman's daughter, and was graceful and delicate as a gentle-
man's child ; had she been differently dressed, no one would have imagined
that she came out of the hut on the neighbouring heath. There lived
her father, who was a widower, and supported himself by carrying fire-
wood in his great boat out of the forest to the estate of Silkeborg, with
its great eel-pond and eel-weir, and sometimes even to the distant little
town of Randers. He had no one who could take care of little Chris-
tine, and therefore the child was almost always with him in his boat, or
in the forest among the heath plants and barberry bushes. Sometimes,
when he had to go as far as the town, he would bring little Christine,
who was a year younger than Ib, to stay at the Jeppe-Jiinses.
Ib and Christine agreed very well in every particular : they divided
their bread and berries when they were hungry, they dug in the ground
together for treasures, and they ran, and crept, and played about every-
where. And one day they ventured together up the high ridge, and a
long way into the forest ; once they found a few snipe's eggs there, and
that was a great event for them.
Ib had never been on the heath where Christine's father lived, nor
had he ever been on the river. But even this was to happen ; for
Christine's father once invited him to go with them, and on the evening
before the excursion, he followed the boatman over the heath to the
house of the latter.
Ib and Christine. 477
Next morning early, the two children were sitting high up on the
pile of firewood m the boat, eating bread and whistleberries. Chris-
tine's father and his assistant propelled the boat with staves. They had
the current with them, and swiftly they glided down the stream, through
the lakes it forms in its course, and which sometimes seemed shut in by
reeds and water plants, though there was always room for them to pass,
and though the old trees bent quite forward over the water, and the old
oaks bent down their bare branches, as if they had turned up their
sleeves, and wanted to show their knotty naked arms. Old elder trees,
which the stream had washed away from the bank, clung with their
fibrous roots to the bottom of the stream, and looked like little wooded
islands. The water-lilies rocked themselves on the river. It was a
splendid excursion ; and at last they came to the great eel-weir, where
the water rushed through the flood-gates ; and Ib and Christine thought
this was beautiful to behold.
In those days there was no manufactory there, nor was there any
town : only the old great farm-yard, with its scanty fields, with few
servants and a few head of cattle, could be seen there ; and the rushing
of the water through the weir and the cry of the wild ducks were the
only signs of life in Silkeborg. After the firewood had been unloaded,
the father of Christine bought a whole bundle of eels and a slaughtered
sucking-pig, and all was put into a basket and placed in the stern of the
boat. Then they went back again up the stream ; but the wind was
favourable, and when the sails were hoisted it was as good as if two
horses had been harnessed to the boat.
When they bad arrived at a point in the stream where the assistant-
boatman dwelt, a little way from the bank, the boat was moored, and
the two men landed, after exhorting the children to sit still. But the
children did not do that, or at least they obeyed only for a very short
time. They must be peeping into the basket in which the eels and the
sucking-pig had been placed, and they must needs pull the sucking-pig
out, and take it in their hands, and feel and touch it all over ; and as
both wanted to hold it at the same time, it came to pass that they let it
fall into the water, and the sucking-pig drifted away with the stream
and here was a terrible event !
Ib jumped ashore, and ran a little distance along the bank, and Chris-
tine sprang after him.
" Take me with you ! " she cried.
And in a few minutes they were deep in the thicket, and could no
longer see either the boat or the bank. They ran on a little farther,
and then Christine fell down on the ground and began to cry ; but Ib
picked her up.
" Follow me ! " he cried. " Yonder lies the house."
But the house was not yonder. They wandered on and on, over the
ary, rustling, last year's leaves, and over fallen branches that crackled
beneath their feet. Soon they heard a loud piercing scream. They
stood still and listened, and presently the scream of an eagle sounded
through the wood It was an ugly scream, and they were frightened at
478 Stories for the Household.
it ; but before them, in the thick -wood, the most beautiful blueberries
grew in wonderful profusion. They were so inviting that the children
could not do otherwise than stop ; and they lingered for some time,
eating the blueberries till they had quite blue mouths and blue cheeks.
Now again they heard the cry they had heard before.
" "We shall get into trouble about the pig," said Christine.
" Come, let us go to our house," said Ib ; " it is here in the wood."