瓶颈的童话故事

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所属分类:民间故事

瓶颈的故事简介

一个瓶子从出现到变成一个瓶颈的过程中的种种经历,其中着重记述了它与一对年轻情侣之间鬼使神差般的相遇与分离。瓶子见证了世事变迁,也经历了种种美好与苦难,它既是一个经历者,也是一个见证者,这使得故事所表达的意义更加深刻。

瓶颈的故事

在一条狭窄、弯曲的街上,在许多穷苦的住屋中间,有一座非常狭小、但是很高的木房子。它四边都要塌了。这屋子里住着的全是穷人,而住在顶楼里的人最穷。在这房间唯一的一个小窗子前面,挂着一个歪歪斜斜的破鸟笼。它连一个适当的水盅也没有;只有一个倒转来的瓶颈,嘴上塞着一个塞子,盛满了水。一位老小姐站在这开着的窗子旁边,她刚刚用繁缕草把这鸟笼打扮了一番。一只小苍头燕雀从这根梁上跳到那根梁上,唱得非常起劲。

“是的,你倒可以唱歌!”瓶颈说——它当然不是像我们一样讲话,因为瓶颈是不会讲话的。不过它是在心里这样想,正如我们人静静地在内心里讲话一样。“是的,你倒可以唱歌!因为你的肢体是完整的呀。你应该体会一下这种情况:没有身体,只剩下一个颈项和一个嘴,而且像我一样嘴上还堵了一个塞子。这样你就不会唱歌了。但是能作作乐也是一桩好事!我没有任何理由来唱歌,而且我也不会唱。是的,当我是一个完整的瓶子的时候,如果有人用塞子在我身上擦几下的话,我也能唱一下的。人们把我叫做十全十美的百灵鸟,伟大的百灵鸟!啊,当我和毛皮商人一家人在郊游野餐的时候!当他的女儿在订婚的时候!是的,我记得那情景,仿佛就是昨天的事情似的。只要我回忆一下,我经历过的事情可真不少。我经历过火和水,在黑泥土里面呆过,也曾经比大多数的东西爬得高。现在我却悬在这鸟笼的外面,悬在空气中,在太阳光里!我的故事值得听一听;但是我不把它大声讲出来,因为我不能大声讲。”

于是瓶颈就讲起自己的故事,这是一个很奇怪的故事。它在心里讲这故事,也可以说是在心里想自己的故事。那只小鸟愉快地唱着歌。街上的人有的乘车子,有的匆匆步行;各人想着各人的事,也许什么事也没有想。可是瓶颈在想。

它在想着工厂里那个火焰高蹿的熔炉。它就是在那儿被吹成瓶形的。它还记得那时它很热,它曾经向那个发出咝咝声的炉子——它的老家——望过一眼。它真想再跳回到里面去;不过它后来慢慢地变冷了,它觉得它当时的样子也蛮好。它是立在一大群兄弟姊妹的行列中间——都是从一个熔炉里生出来的。不过有的被吹成了香槟酒瓶,有的被吹成了啤酒瓶,而这是有区别的!在它们走进世界里去以后,一个啤酒瓶很可能会装最贵重的“拉克里麦·克利斯蒂”①,而一个香槟酒瓶可能只装黑鞋油。不过一个人天生是什么东西,他的样子总不会变的——贵族究竟是贵族,哪怕他满肚子装的是黑鞋油也罢。

所有的瓶子不久就被包装起来了,我们的这个瓶子也在其中。在那个时候,它没有想到自己会成为一个瓶颈,当作鸟儿的水盅——这究竟是一件光荣的事情,因为这说明它还有点用处!它再也没有办法见到天日,直到最后才跟别的朋友们一块儿从一个酒商的地窖里被取出箱子来,第一次在水里洗了一通——这是一种很滑稽的感觉。

它躺在那儿,空空地,没有瓶塞。它感到非常不愉快,它缺少一件什么东西——究竟是什么东西,它也讲不出来。最后它装满了贵重的美酒,安上一个塞子,并且封了口。它上面贴着一张纸条:“上等”。它觉得好像在考试时得了优等一样。不过酒的确不坏,瓶也不坏。一个人的年轻时代是诗的时代!其中有它所不知道的优美的歌:绿色的、阳光照着的山岳,那上面长着葡萄,还有许多快乐的女子和高兴的男子,在歌唱,跳舞。的确,生活是多么美好啊!这瓶子的身体里,现在就有这种优美的歌声,像在许多年轻诗人的心里一样——他们常常也不知道他们心里唱的是什么东西。

有一天早晨,瓶子被人买去了。毛皮商人的学徒被派去买一瓶最上等的酒。瓶子就跟火腿、干酪和香肠一起放进一个篮子里。那里面还有最好的黄油和最好的面包——这是毛皮商人的女儿亲手装进去的。她是那么年轻,那么美丽。她有一双笑眯眯的棕色眼睛,嘴唇上也老是飘着微笑——跟她的眼睛同样富有表情的微笑。她那双柔嫩的手白得可爱,而她的脖子更白。人们一眼就可以看出,她是全城中最美的女子;而且她还没有订过婚。

当这一家人到森林里去野餐的时候,篮子就放在这位小姐的膝上。瓶颈从白餐巾的尖角里伸出来。塞子上封着红蜡,瓶子一直向这姑娘的脸上望,也朝着坐在这姑娘旁边的一个年轻的水手望。他是她儿时的朋友,一位肖像画家的儿子。最近他考试得到优等,成了大副;明天就要开一条船到一个遥远的国度去。当瓶子装进篮子里去的时候,他们正谈论着这次旅行的事情。那时,这位毛皮商人的漂亮女儿的一对眼睛和嘴唇的确没有露出什么愉快的表情。

这对年轻人在绿树之间漫步着,交谈着。他们在谈什么呢?是的,瓶子听不见,因为它是装在菜篮子里。过了很长的一段时间以后,它才被取出来。不过当它被取出来的时候,大家已经很快乐了,因为所有的人都在笑,而毛皮商人的女儿也在笑。不过她的话讲得很少,而她的两个脸蛋红得像两朵玫瑰花。

父亲一手拿着酒瓶,一手紧握着拔瓶塞的开塞钻。是的,被人拔一下的确是一种奇怪的感觉,尤其是第一次。瓶颈永远也忘不了这给它印象最深的一刹那。的确,当那瓶塞飞出去的时候,它心里说了一声“扑!”当酒倒进杯子里的时候,它咯咯地唱了一两下。

“祝这订婚的一对健康!”爸爸说。每次总是干杯。那个年轻的水手吻着他美丽的未婚妻。

“祝你们幸福和快乐!”老年夫妇说。

年轻人又倒满了一杯。

“明年这时就回家结婚!”他说。当他把酒喝干了的时候,他把瓶子高高地举起,说:“在我这一生最愉快的一天中,你恰巧在场;我不愿意你再为别人服务!”

于是他就把瓶子扔向空中。毛皮商人的女儿肯定地相信她决不会再有机会看到这瓶子了,然而她却看到了。它落到树林里一个小池旁浓密的芦苇中去了。瓶子还能清楚地记得它在那儿躺着时的情景。它想:

“我给他们酒,而他们却给我池水,但是他们本来的用意是很好的!”

它再也没有看到这对订了婚的年轻人和那对快乐的老夫妇了。不过它有好一会儿还能听到他们的欢乐和歌声。最后有两个农家孩子走来了;他们朝芦苇里望,发现了这个瓶子,于是就把它捡起来。现在它算是有一个归宿了。

他们住在一个木房子里,共有兄弟三个。他们的大哥是一个水手。他昨天回家来告别,因为他要去作一次长途旅行。母亲在忙着替他收拾旅途中要用的一些零碎东西。这天晚上他父亲就要把行李送到城里去,想要在别离前再看儿子一次,同时代表母亲和他自己说几句告别的话。行李里还放有一瓶药酒,这时孩子们恰巧拿着他们找到的那个更结实的大瓶子走进来。比起那个小瓶子来,这瓶子能够装更多的酒,而且还是能治消化不良的好烧酒,里面浸有药草。瓶子里装的不是以前那样好的红酒,而是苦味的药酒,但这有时也是很好的——对于胃痛很好。现在要装进行李中去的就是这个新的大瓶子,而不是原来的那个小瓶子。因此这瓶子又开始旅行起来。它和彼得·演生一起上了船。这就是那个年轻的大副所乘的一条船。但是他没有看到这瓶子。的确,他不会知道,或者想到,这就是曾经倒出酒来、祝福他订婚和安全回家的那个瓶子。

当然它里面没有好酒,但是它仍然装着同样好的东西。每当彼得·演生把它取出来时,他的朋友们总把它叫做“药店”。它里面装着好药——治腹痛的药。只要它还有一滴留下,它总是有用的。这要算是它幸福的时候了。当塞子擦着它的时候,它就唱出歌来。因此它被人叫做“大百灵鸟——彼得·演生的百灵鸟”。

漫长的岁月过去了。瓶子呆在一个角落里,已经空了。这时出了一件事情——究竟是在出航时出的呢,还是在回家的途中出的,它说不大清楚,因为它从来没有上过岸。暴风雨起来了,巨浪在沉重地、阴森地颠簸着,船在起落不定。主桅在断裂;巨浪把船板撞开了;抽水机现在也无能为力了。这是漆黑的夜。船在下沉。但是在最后一瞬间,那个年轻的大副在一页纸上写下这样的字:“愿耶稣保佑!我们现在要沉了!”他写下他的未婚妻的名字,也写下自己的名字和船的名字,便把纸条塞在手边这只空瓶子里,然后把塞子塞好,把它扔进这波涛汹涌的大海里去。他不知道,它曾经为他和她倒出过幸福和希望的酒。现在它带着他的祝福和死神的祝福在浪花中漂流。

船沉了,船员也一起沉了。瓶子像鸟儿似地飞着,因为它身体里带着一颗心和一封亲爱的信;太阳升起了,又落下了。对瓶子说来,这好像它在出生时所看见的那个红彤彤的熔炉——它那时多么希望能再跳进去啊!

它经历过晴和的天气和新的暴风雨。但是它没有撞到石礁,也没有被什么鲨鱼吞掉。它这样漂流了不知多少年,有时漂向北,有时漂向南,完全由浪涛的流动来左右。除此以外,它可以算是独立自主了;但是一个人有时也不兔对于这种自由感到厌倦起来。

那张字条——那张代表恋人同未婚妻最后告别的字条,如果能到达她手中的话,只会带给她悲哀;但是那双白嫩的、曾在订婚那天在树林中新生的草地上铺过桌布的手现在在什么地方呢?那毛皮商的女儿在哪儿呢?是啊,那块土地,那块离她的住所最近的陆地在哪儿呢?瓶子一点也不知道;它往前漂流着,漂流着;最后漂流得厌倦了,因为漂流究竟不是生活的目的。但是它不得不漂流,一直到最后它到达了陆地——到达一块陌生的陆地。这儿人们所讲的话,它一句也听不懂,因为这不是它从前听到过的语言。一个人不懂当地的语言,真是一件很大的损失。

瓶子被捞起来了,而且也被检查过了。它里面的纸条也被发现了,被取了出来,同时被人翻来覆去地看,但是上面所写的字却没有人看得懂。他们知道瓶子一定是从船上抛下来的——纸条上一定写着这类事情。但是纸上写的是什么字呢?这个问题却是一个谜。于是纸条又被塞进瓶子里面去,而瓶子被放进一个大柜子里。它们现在都在一座大房子里的一个大房间里。

每次有生人来访的时候,纸条就被取出来,翻来覆去地看,弄得上面铅笔写的字迹变得更模糊了,最后连上面的字母也没有人看得出来了。

瓶子在柜子里呆了一年,后来被放到顶楼的储藏室里去了,全身都布满了灰尘和蜘蛛网。于是它就想起了自己的幸福的时光,想起它在树林里倒出红酒,想起它带着一个秘密、一个音信、一个别离的叹息在海上漂流。

它在顶楼里待了整整20年。要不是这座房子要重建的话,它可能待得更长。屋顶被拆掉了,瓶子也被人发现了。大家都谈论着它,但是它却听不懂他们的话,因为一个人被锁在顶楼里决不能学会一种语言的,哪怕他待上20年也不成。

“如果我住在下面的房间里,”瓶子想,“我可能已经学会这种语言了!”

它现在被洗刷了一番。这的确是很必要的。它感到透亮和清爽,真是返老还童了。但是它那么忠实地带来的那张纸条,已经在洗刷中被毁掉了。

瓶子装满了种子:它不知道这是些什么种子。它被塞上了塞子,包起来。它既看不到灯笼,也看不到蜡烛,更谈不上月亮和太阳。但是它想:当一个人旅行的时候,应该看一些东西才是。但是它什么也没有看到,不过它总算做了一件最重要的事情——它旅行到了目的地,并且被人从包中取出来了。

“那些外国人该是费了多少麻烦才把这瓶子包装好啊!”它听到人们讲;“它早就该损坏了。”但是它并没有损坏。

瓶子现在懂得人们所讲的每一个字:这就是它在熔炉里、在酒商的店里、在树林里、在船上听到的、它能懂得的那种唯一的、亲爱的语言。它现在回到家乡来了,对它来说,这语言就是一种欢迎的表示。出于一时的高兴,它很想从人们手中跳出来。在它还没有觉得以前,塞子就被取出来了,里面的东西倒出来了,它自己被送到地下室去,扔在那儿,被人忘掉。什么地方也没有家乡好,哪怕是待在地下室里!瓶子从来没有想过自己在这儿待了多久:因为它在这儿感到很舒服,所以就在这儿躺了许多年。最后人们到地下室来,把瓶子都清除出去——包括这个瓶子在内。

花园里正在开一个盛大的庆祝会。闪耀的灯儿悬着,像花环一样;纸灯笼射出光辉,像大朵透明的郁金香。这是一个美丽的晚上,天气是晴和的,星星在眨着眼睛。这正是上弦月的时候;但是事实上整个月亮都现出来了,像一个深灰色的圆盘,上面镶着半圈金色的框子——这对于眼睛好的人看起来,是一个美丽的景象。

灯火甚至把花园里最隐蔽的小径都照到了:最低限度,照得可以使人找到路。篱笆上的树叶中间立着许多瓶子,每个瓶里有一个亮光。我们熟识的那个瓶子,也在这些瓶子中间。它命中注定有一天要变成一个瓶颈,一个供鸟儿吃水的小盅。

不过在一时间,它觉得一切都美丽无比:它又回到绿树林中,又在欣赏欢乐和庆祝的景象。它听到歌声和音乐,听到许多人的话声和低语声——特别是花园里点着玻璃灯和种种不同颜色的纸灯笼的那块地方。它远远地立在一条小径上,一点也不错,但这正是使人感到了不起的地方。瓶子里点着一个火,既实用,又美观。这当然是对的。这样的一个钟头可以使它忘记自己在顶楼上度过的20年光阴——把它忘掉也很好。

有两个人在它旁边走过去了。他们手挽着手,像多少年以前在那个树林里的一对订了婚的恋人——水手和毛皮商人的女儿。瓶子似乎重新回到那个情景中去了。花园里不仅有客人在散步,而且还有许多别的人到这儿来参观这良辰美景。在这些人中间有一位没有亲戚的老小姐,不过她并非役有朋友。像这瓶子一样,她也正在回忆那个绿树林,那对订了婚的年轻人。这对年轻人牵涉到她,跟她的关系很密切,因为她就是两人中的一个。那是她一生中最幸福的时刻——这种时刻,一个人是永远忘记不了的,即使变成了这么一个老小姐也忘记不了。但是她不认识这瓶子,而瓶子也不认识她;在这世界上我们就这样擦肩而过,又一次次地碰到一起。他们俩就是如此,他们现在又在同一个城市里面。

瓶子又从这花园到一个酒商的店里去了。它又装满了酒,被卖给一个飞行家。这人要在下星期天坐着气球飞到空中去。有一大群人赶来观看这个场面;还有一个军乐队和许多其他的布置。和一只活兔子一起待在一个篮子里的瓶子,看到了这全部景象。兔子感到非常恐慌,因为它知道自己要升到空中去,然后又要跟着一个降落伞落下来。不过瓶子对于“上升”和“下落”的事儿一点也不知道;它只看到这气球越鼓越大,当它鼓得不能再鼓的时候,就开始升上去了,越升趋高,而且动荡起来。系着它的那根绳子这时被剪断了。这样它就带着那个飞行家、篮子、瓶子和兔子航行起来。音乐奏起来了,大家都高呼:“好啊!”

“像这样在空中航行真是美妙得很!”瓶子想。“这是一种新式的航行;在这上面无论如何是触不到什么暗礁的。”

成千成万的人在看这气球。那个老小姐也抬头向它凝望。她立在一个顶楼的窗口。这儿挂着一个鸟笼,里面有一只小苍头燕雀。它还没有一个水盅,目前只好满足于使用一个旧杯子。窗子上有一盆桃金娘。老小姐把它移向旁边一点,免得它落下去,因为她正要把头伸到窗子外面去望。她清楚地看到气球里的那个飞行家,看到他让兔子和降落伞一起落下来,看到他对观众干杯,最后把酒瓶向空中扔去。她没有想到,在她年轻的时候,在那个绿树林里的欢乐的一天,她早已看到过这瓶子为了庆祝她和她的男朋友,也曾经一度被扔向空中。

瓶子来不及想什么了,因为忽然一下子升到这样一个生命的最高峰,它简直惊呆了。教堂塔楼和屋顶躺在遥远的下面,人群看起来简直渺小得很。

这时它开始下降,而下降的速度比兔子快得多。瓶子在空中翻了好几个跟头,觉得非常年轻,非常自由自在。它还装着半瓶酒,虽然它再也装不了多久。这真是了不起的旅行!太阳照在瓶子上;许多人在看着它。气球已经飞得很远了,瓶子也落得很远了。它落到一个屋顶上,因此跌碎了。但是碎片产生出一种动力,弄得它们简直静止不下来。它们跳,滚,一直落到院子里,跌成更小的碎片。只有瓶颈算是保持完整,像是用金刚钻锯下来的一样。

“把它用做鸟儿的水盅倒是非常合适!”住在地下室的一个人说。但是他既没有鸟儿,也没有鸟笼。只是因为有一个可以当作水盅用的瓶颈就去买一只鸟和一个鸟笼来,那未免太不实际了。但是住在顶楼上的那位老小姐可能用得着它。于是瓶颈就被拿到楼上来了,并且还有了一个塞子。原来朝上的那一部分,现在朝下了——当客观情势一变的时候,这类事儿是常有的。它里面盛满了新鲜的水,并且被系在笼子上,面对着小鸟。鸟儿现在正在唱歌,唱得很美。

“是的,你倒可以唱歌!”瓶颈说。

它的确是了不起。因为它在气球里待过——关于它的历史,大家知道的只有这一点。现在它却是鸟儿的水盅,吊在那儿,听着下边街道上的喧闹声和低语声以及房间里那个老小姐的讲话声:一个老朋友刚才来拜访她,她们聊了一阵天——不是关于瓶颈,而是关于窗子上的那棵桃金娘。

“不,花两块大洋为你的女儿买一个结婚的花环,的确没有这个必要!”老小姐说。“我送给你一个开满了花的、美丽的花束吧。你看,这棵树长得多么可爱!是的,它就是一根桃金娘枝子栽大的。这枝子是你在我订婚后的第一天送给我的。那年过去以后,我应当用它为我自己编成一个结婚的花环。但是那个日子永远也没有到来!那双应该是我一生快乐和幸福的眼睛②闭上了。他,我亲爱的人,现在睡在海的深处。这棵桃金娘已经成了一棵老树,而我却成了一个更老的人。当它凋零了以后,我摘下它最后的一根绿枝,把它插在土里,现在它长成了一株树。现在你可以用它为你的女儿编成一个结婚的花环,它总算碰上一次婚礼③,有些用处!”

这位老小姐的眼里含有泪珠。她谈起她年轻时代的恋人,和他们在树林里的订婚。她不禁想起了那多次的干杯,想起了那个初吻——她现在不愿意讲这事情了,因为她已经是一个老小姐。她想起了的事情真多,但是她却从没有想到在她的近旁,在这窗子前面,就有那些时光的一个纪念物:一个瓶颈——这瓶子当它的塞子为了大家的于杯而被拔出来的时候,曾经发出过一声快乐的欢呼。不过瓶颈也没有认出她,因为它没有听她讲话——主要是因为它老在想着自己。

①这是一种酒名,原文是Lacrymae christi。

②指她的未婚夫。

③按照丹麦的风俗,一个女子结婚时,要戴一个用桃金娘编成的花环。

英文版:The Bottle Neck

CLOSE to the corner of a street, among other abodes of poverty, stood an exceedingly tall, narrow house, which had been so knocked about by time that it seemed out of joint in every direction. This house was inhabited by poor people, but the deepest poverty was apparent in the garret lodging in the gable. In front of the little window, an old bent bird-cage hung in the sunshine, which had not even a proper water-glass, but instead of it the broken neck of a bottle, turned upside down, and a cork stuck in to make it hold the water with which it was filled. An old maid stood at the window; she had hung chickweed over the cage, and the little linnet which it contained hopped from perch to perch and sang and twittered merrily.

“Yes, it’s all very well for you to sing,” said the bottle neck: that is, he did not really speak the words as we do, for the neck of a bottle cannot speak; but he thought them to himself in his own mind, just as people sometimes talk quietly to themselves.

“Yes, you may sing very well, you have all your limbs uninjured; you should feel what it is like to lose your body, and only have a neck and a mouth left, with a cork stuck in it, as I have: you wouldn’t sing then, I know. After all, it is just as well that there are some who can be happy. I have no reason to sing, nor could I sing now if I were ever so happy; but when I was a whole bottle, and they rubbed me with a cork, didn’t I sing then? I used to be called a complete lark. I remember when I went out to a picnic with the furrier’s family, on the day his daughter was betrothed,—it seems as if it only happened yesterday. I have gone through a great deal in my time, when I come to recollect: I have been in the fire and in the water, I have been deep in the earth, and have mounted higher in the air than most other people, and now I am swinging here, outside a bird-cage, in the air and the sunshine. Oh, indeed, it would be worth while to hear my history; but I do not speak it aloud, for a good reason—because I cannot.”

Then the bottle neck related his history, which was really rather remarkable; he, in fact, related it to himself, or, at least, thought it in his own mind. The little bird sang his own song merrily; in the street below there was driving and running to and fro, every one thought of his own affairs, or perhaps of nothing at all; but the bottle neck thought deeply. He thought of the blazing furnace in the factory, where he had been blown into life; he remembered how hot it felt when he was placed in the heated oven, the home from which he sprang, and that he had a strong inclination to leap out again directly; but after a while it became cooler, and he found himself very comfortable. He had been placed in a row, with a whole regiment of his brothers and sisters all brought out of the same furnace; some of them had certainly been blown into champagne bottles, and others into beer bottles, which made a little difference between them. In the world it often happens that a beer bottle may contain the most precious wine, and a champagne bottle be filled with blacking, but even in decay it may always be seen whether a man has been well born. Nobility remains noble, as a champagne bottle remains the same, even with blacking in its interior. When the bottles were packed our bottle was packed amongst them; it little expected then to finish its career as a bottle neck, or to be used as a water-glass to a bird’s-cage, which is, after all, a place of honor, for it is to be of some use in the world. The bottle did not behold the light of day again, until it was unpacked with the rest in the wine merchant’s cellar, and, for the first time, rinsed with water, which caused some very curious sensations. There it lay empty, and without a cork, and it had a peculiar feeling, as if it wanted something it knew not what. At last it was filled with rich and costly wine, a cork was placed in it, and sealed down. Then it was labelled “first quality,” as if it had carried off the first prize at an examination; besides, the wine and the bottle were both good, and while we are young is the time for poetry. There were sounds of song within the bottle, of things it could not understand, of green sunny mountains, where the vines grow and where the merry vine-dressers laugh, sing, and are merry. “Ah, how beautiful is life.” All these tones of joy and song in the bottle were like the working of a young poet’s brain, who often knows not the meaning of the tones which are sounding within him. One morning the bottle found a purchaser in the furrier’s apprentice, who was told to bring one of the best bottles of wine. It was placed in the provision basket with ham and cheese and sausages. The sweetest fresh butter and the finest bread were put into the basket by the furrier’s daughter herself, for she packed it. She was young and pretty; her brown eyes laughed, and a smile lingered round her mouth as sweet as that in her eyes. She had delicate hands, beautifully white, and her neck was whiter still. It could easily be seen that she was a very lovely girl, and as yet she was not engaged. The provision basket lay in the lap of the young girl as the family drove out to the forest, and the neck of the bottle peeped out from between the folds of the white napkin. There was the red wax on the cork, and the bottle looked straight at the young girl’s face, and also at the face of the young sailor who sat near her. He was a young friend, the son of a portrait painter. He had lately passed his examination with honor, as mate, and the next morning he was to sail in his ship to a distant coast. There had been a great deal of talk on this subject while the basket was being packed, and during this conversation the eyes and the mouth of the furrier’s daughter did not wear a very joyful expression. The young people wandered away into the green wood, and talked together. What did they talk about? The bottle could not say, for he was in the provision basket. It remained there a long time; but when at last it was brought forth it appeared as if something pleasant had happened, for every one was laughing; the furrier’s daughter laughed too, but she said very little, and her cheeks were like two roses. Then her father took the bottle and the cork-screw into his hands. What a strange sensation it was to have the cork drawn for the first time! The bottle could never after that forget the performance of that moment; indeed there was quite a convulsion within him as the cork flew out, and a gurgling sound as the wine was poured forth into the glasses.

“Long life to the betrothed,” cried the papa, and every glass was emptied to the dregs, while the young sailor kissed his beautiful bride.

“Happiness and blessing to you both,” said the old people-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 empty he took the bottle, raised it on high, and said, “Thou hast been present here on the happiest day of my life; thou shalt never be used by others!” So saying, he hurled it high in the air.

The furrier’s daughter thought she should never see it again, but she was mistaken. It fell among the rushes on the borders of a little woodland lake. The bottle neck remembered well how long it lay there unseen. “I gave them wine, and they gave me muddy water,” he had said to himself, “but I suppose it was all well meant.” He could no longer see the betrothed couple, nor the cheerful old people; but for a long time he could hear them rejoicing and singing. At length there came by two peasant boys, who peeped in among the reeds and spied out the bottle. Then they took it up and carried it home with them, so that once more it was provided for. At home in their wooden cottage these boys had an elder brother, a sailor, who was about to start on a long voyage. He had been there the day before to say farewell, and his mother was now very busy packing up various things for him to take with him on his voyage. In the evening his father was going to carry the parcel to the town to see his son once more, and take him a farewell greeting from his mother. A small bottle had already been filled with herb tea, mixed with brandy, and wrapped in a parcel; but when the boys came in they brought with them a larger and stronger bottle, which they had found. This bottle would hold so much more than the little one, and they all said the brandy would be so good for complaints of the stomach, especially as it was mixed with medical herbs. The liquid which they now poured into the bottle was not like the red wine with which it had once been filled; these were bitter drops, but they are of great use sometimes-for the stomach. The new large bottle was to go, not the little one: so the bottle once more started on its travels. It was taken on board (for Peter Jensen was one of the crew) the very same ship in which the young mate was to sail. But the mate did not see the bottle: indeed, if he had he would not have known it, or supposed it was the one out of which they had drunk to the felicity of the betrothed and to the prospect of a marriage on his own happy return. Certainly the bottle no longer poured forth wine, but it contained something quite as good; and so it happened that whenever Peter Jensen brought it out, his messmates gave it the name of “the apothecary,” for it contained the best medicine to cure the stomach, and he gave it out quite willingly as long as a drop remained. Those were happy days, and the bottle would sing when rubbed with a cork, and it was called a “great lark,” “Peter Jensen’s lark.”

Long days and months rolled by, during which the bottle stood empty in a corner, when a storm arose—whether on the passage out or home it could not tell, for it had never been ashore. It was a terrible storm, great waves arose, darkly heaving and tossing the vessel to and fro. The main mast was split asunder, the ship sprang a leak, and the pumps became useless, while all around was black as night. At the last moment, when the ship was sinking, the young mate wrote on a piece of paper, “We are going down: God’s will be done.” Then he wrote the name of his betrothed, his own name, and that of the ship. Then he put the leaf in an empty bottle that happened to be at hand, corked it down tightly, and threw it into the foaming sea. He knew not that it was the very same 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 a message from the dead. The ship sank, and the crew sank with her; but the bottle flew on like a bird, for it bore within it a loving letter from a loving heart. And as the sun rose and set, the bottle felt as at the time of its first existence, when in the heated glowing stove it had a longing to fly away. It outlived the storms and the calm, it struck against no rocks, was not devoured by sharks, but drifted on for more than a year, sometimes towards the north, sometimes towards the south, just as the current carried it. It was in all other ways its own master, but even of that one may get tired. The written leaf, the last farewell of the bridegroom to his bride, would only bring sorrow when once it reached her hands; but where were those hands, so soft and delicate, which had once spread the table-cloth on the fresh grass in the green wood, on the day of her betrothal? Ah, yes! where was the furrier’s daughter? and where was the land which might lie nearest to her home?

The bottle knew not, it travelled onward and onward, and at last all this wandering about became wearisome; at all events it was not its usual occupation. But it had to travel, till at length it reached land—a foreign country. Not a word spoken in this country could the bottle understand; it was a language it had never before heard, and it is a great loss not to be able to understand a language. The bottle was fished out of the water, and examined on all sides. The little letter contained within it was discovered, taken out, and turned and twisted in every direction; but the people could not understand what was written upon it. They could be quite sure that the bottle had been thrown overboard from a vessel, and that something about it was written on this paper: but what was written? that was the question,—so the paper was put back into the bottle, and then both were put away in a large cupboard of one of the great houses of the town. Whenever any strangers arrived, the paper was taken out and turned over and over, so that the address, which was only written in pencil, became almost illegible, and at last no one could distinguish any letters on it at all. For a whole year the bottle remained standing in the cupboard, and then it was taken up to the loft, where it soon became covered with dust and cobwebs. Ah! how often then it thought of those better days—of the times when in the fresh, green wood, it had poured forth rich wine; or, while rocked by the swelling waves, it had carried in its bosom a secret, a letter, a last parting sigh. For full twenty years it stood in the loft, and it might have stayed there longer but that the house was going to be rebuilt. The bottle was discovered when the roof was taken off; they talked about it, but the bottle did not understand what they said—a language is not to be learnt by living in a loft, even for twenty years. “If I had been down stairs in the room,” thought the bottle, “I might have learnt it.” It was now washed and rinsed, which process was really quite necessary, and afterwards it looked clean and transparent, and felt young again in its old age; but the paper which it had carried so faithfully was destroyed in the washing. They filled the bottle with seeds, though it scarcely knew what had been placed in it. Then they corked it down tightly, and carefully wrapped it up. There not even the light of a torch or lantern could reach it, much less the brightness of the sun or moon. “And yet,” thought the bottle, “men go on a journey that they may see as much as possible, and I can see nothing.” However, it did something quite as important; it travelled to the place of its destination, and was unpacked.

“What trouble they have taken with that bottle over yonder!” said one, “and very likely it is broken after all.” But the bottle was not broken, and, better still, it understood every word that was said: this language it had heard at the furnaces and at the wine merchant’s; in the forest and on the ship,—it was the only good old language it could understand. It had returned home, and the language was as a welcome greeting. For very joy, it felt ready to jump out of people’s hands, and scarcely noticed that its cork had been drawn, and its contents emptied out, till it found itself carried to a cellar, to be left there and forgotten. “There’s no place like home, even if it’s a cellar.” It never occurred to him to think that he might lie there for years, he felt so comfortable. For many long years he remained in the cellar, till at last some people came to carry away the bottles, and ours amongst the number.

Out in the garden there was a great festival. Brilliant lamps hung in festoons from tree to tree; and paper lanterns, through which the light shone till they looked like transparent tulips. It was a beautiful evening, and the weather mild and clear. The stars twinkled; and the new moon, in the form of a crescent, was surrounded by the shadowy disc of the whole moon, and looked like a gray globe with a golden rim: it was a beautiful sight for those who had good eyes. The illumination extended even to the most retired of the garden walks, at least not so retired that any one need lose himself there. In the borders were placed bottles, each containing a light, and among them the bottle with which we are acquainted, and whose fate it was, one day, to be only a bottle neck, and to serve as a water-glass to a bird’s-cage. Everything here appeared lovely to our bottle, for it was again in the green wood, amid joy and feasting; again it heard music and song, 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 brilliant colors. It stood in a distant walk certainly, but a place pleasant for contemplation; and it carried a light; and was at once useful and ornamental. In such an hour it is easy to forget that one has spent twenty years in a loft, and a good thing it is to be able to do so. Close before the bottle passed a single pair, like the bridal pair—the mate and the furrier’s daughter—who had so long ago wandered in the wood. It seemed to the bottle as if he were living that time over again. Not only the guests but other people were walking in the garden, who were allowed to witness the splendor and the festivities. Among the latter came an old maid, who seemed to be quite alone in the world. She was thinking, like the bottle, of the green wood, and of a young betrothed pair, who were closely connected with herself; she was thinking of that hour, the happiest of her life, in which she had taken part, when she had herself been one of that betrothed pair; such hours are never to be forgotten, let a maiden be as old as she may. But she did not recognize the bottle, neither did the bottle notice the old maid. And so we often pass each other in the world when we meet, as did these two, even while together in the same town.

The bottle was taken from the garden, and again sent to a wine merchant, where it was once more filled with wine, and sold to an aeronaut, who was to make an ascent in his balloon on the following Sunday. A great crowd assembled to witness the sight; military music had been engaged, and many other preparations made. The bottle saw it all from the basket in which he lay close to a live rabbit. The rabbit was quite excited because he knew that he was to be taken up, and let down again in a parachute. The bottle, however, knew nothing of the “up,” or the “down;” he saw only that the balloon was swelling larger and larger till it could swell no more, and began to rise and be restless. Then the ropes which held it were cut through, and the aerial ship rose in the air with the aeronaut and the basket containing the bottle and the rabbit, while the music sounded and all the people shouted “Hurrah.”

“This is a wonderful journey up into the air,” thought the bottle; “it is a new way of sailing, and here, at least, there is no fear of striking against anything.”

Thousands of people gazed at the balloon, and the old maid who was in the garden saw it also; for she stood at the open window of the garret, by which hung the cage containing the linnet, who then had no water-glass, but was obliged to be contented with an old cup. In the window-sill stood a myrtle in a pot, and this had been pushed a little on one side, that it might not fall out; for the old maid was leaning out of the window, that she might see. And she did see distinctly 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 in the wine from the bottle. After doing this, he hurled it high into the air. How little she thought that this was the very same bottle which her friend had thrown aloft in her honor, on that happy day of rejoicing, in the green wood, in her youthful days. The bottle had no time to think, when raised so suddenly; and before it was aware, it reached the highest point it had ever attained in its life. Steeples and roofs lay far, far beneath it, and the people looked as tiny as possible. Then it began to descend much more rapidly than the rabbit had done, made somersaults in the air, and felt itself quite young and unfettered, although it was half full of wine. But this did not last long. What a journey it was! All the people could see the bottle; for the sun shone upon it. The balloon was already far away, and very soon the bottle was far away also; for it fell upon a roof, and broke in pieces. But the pieces had got such an impetus in them, that they could not stop themselves. They went jumping and rolling about, till at last they fell into the court-yard, and were broken into still smaller pieces; only the neck of the bottle managed to keep whole, and it was broken off as clean as if it had been cut with a diamond.

“That would make a capital bird’s glass,” said one of the cellar-men; but none of them had either a bird or a cage, and it was not to be expected they would provide one just because they had found a bottle neck that could be used as a glass. But the old maid who lived in the garret had a bird, and it really might be useful to her; so the bottle neck was provided with a cork, and taken up to her; and, as it often happens in life, the part that had been uppermost was now turned downwards, and it was filled with fresh water. Then they hung it in the cage of the little bird, who sang and twittered more merrily than ever.

“Ah, you have good reason to sing,” said the bottle neck, which was looked upon as something very remarkable, because it had been in a balloon; nothing further was known of its history. As it hung there in the bird’s-cage, it could hear the noise and murmur of the people in the street below, as well as the conversation of the old maid in the room within. An old friend had just come to visit her, and they talked, not about the bottle neck, but of the myrtle in the window.

“No, you must not spend a dollar for your daughter’s bridal bouquet,” said the old maid; “you shall have a beautiful little bunch for a nosegay, full of blossoms. Do you see how splendidly the tree has grown? It has been raised from only a little sprig of myrtle that you gave me on the day after my betrothal, and from which I was to make my own bridal bouquet when a year had passed: but that day never came; the eyes were closed which were to have been my light and joy through life. In the depths of the sea my beloved sleeps sweetly; the myrtle has become an old tree, and I am a still older woman. Before the sprig you gave me faded, I took a spray, and planted it in the earth; and now, as you see, it has become a large tree, and a bunch of the blossoms shall at last appear at a wedding festival, in the bouquet of your daughter.”

There were tears in the eyes of the old maid, as she spoke of the beloved of her youth, and of their betrothal in the wood. Many thoughts came into her mind; but the thought never came, that quite close to her, in that very window, was a remembrance of those olden times,—the neck of the bottle which had, as it were shouted for joy when the cork flew out with a bang on the betrothal day. But the bottle neck did not recognize the old maid; he had not been listening to what she had related, perhaps because he was thinking so much about her.

文章来源:安徒生童话

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