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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Lovers
By Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875)
 
From ‘Riverside Literature Series’

THE TOP and the Ball lay in a drawer among some other toys; and so the Top said to the Ball:—“Shall we not be lovers, since we live together in the same drawer?”  1
  But the Ball, which had a coat of morocco leather, and thought herself as good as any fine lady, had nothing to say to such a thing. The next day came the little boy who owned the toys: he painted the Top red and yellow, and drove a brass nail into it; and the Top looked splendidly when he turned round.  2
  “Look at me!” he cried to the Ball. “What do you say now? Shall we not be lovers? We go so nicely together? You jump and I dance! No one could be happier than we two should be.”  3
  “Indeed! Do you think so?” said the Ball. “Perhaps you do not know that my papa and my mamma were morocco slippers, and that I have a cork inside me?”  4
  “Yes, but I am made of mahogany,” said the Top; “and the mayor himself turned me. He has a turning-lathe of his own, and it amuses him greatly.”  5
  “Can I depend on that?” asked the Ball.  6
  “May I never be whipped again if it is not true!” replied the Top.  7
  “You talk well for yourself,” said the Ball, “but I cannot do what you ask. I am as good as half engaged to a swallow: every time I leap up into the air he sticks his head out of the nest and says, ‘Will you? will you?’ And now I have silently said ‘Yes,’ and that is as good as being half engaged; but I promise I will never forget you.”  8
  “Much good that will do!” said the Top.  9
  And they spoke no more to each other.  10
  Next day the Ball was taken out. The Top saw how she flew high into the air, like a bird; at last one could no longer see her. Each time she came back again, but always gave a high leap when she touched the earth; and that came about either from her longing, or because she had a cork in her body. The ninth time the Ball stayed away and did not come back again; and the boy looked and looked, but she was gone.  11
  “I know very well where she is!” sighed the Top. “She is in the Swallow’s nest, and has married the Swallow!”  12
  The more the Top thought of this, the more he longed for the Ball. Just because he could not get her, he fell more in love with her. That she had taken some one else, that was another thing. So the Top danced around and hummed, but always thought of the Ball, which grew more and more lovely in his fancy. Thus many years went by,—and now it was an old love.  13
  And the Top was no longer young. But one day he was gilt all over; never had he looked so handsome; he was now a golden Top, and sprang till he hummed again. Yes, that was something! But all at once he sprang too high, and—he was gone!  14
  They looked and looked, even in the cellar, but he was not to be found.  15
  Where was he?  16
  He had jumped into the dust-box, where all kinds of things were lying: cabbage stalks, sweepings, and gravel that had fallen down from the roof.  17
  “Here’s a nice place to lie in! The gilding will soon leave me here. And what a rabble I’ve come amongst!”  18
  And then he looked askance at a long cabbage stalk that was much too near him, and at a curious round thing like an old apple; but it was not an apple—it was an old Ball, which had lain for years in the roof-gutter and was soaked through with water.  19
  “Thank goodness, here comes one of us, with whom one can talk!” said the little Ball, and looked at the gilt Top. “I am really morocco, sewn by a girl’s hands, and have a cork inside me; but no one would think it to look at me. I was very near marrying a swallow, but I fell into the gutter on the roof, and have laid there full five years, and am quite soaked through. That’s a long time, you may believe me, for a young girl.”  20
  But the Top said nothing. He thought of his old love; and the more he heard, the clearer it became to him that this was she. Then came the servant-girl, and wanted to empty the dust-box. “Aha, there’s a gilt top!” she cried. And so the Top was brought again to notice and honor, but nothing was heard of the Ball. And the Top spoke no more of his old love: for that dies away when the beloved has lain for five years in a gutter and got soaked through; yes, one does not know her again when one meets her in the dust-box.  21
 
 
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