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TOP and a little Ball were together in a drawer among
some other toys; and the Top said to the Ball,—
"Shall we not be lovers, as we live together in the
But the Ball, which had a coat of morocco leather, and
was just as conceited as any fine lady, would make no
answer to such a proposal. The next day came the
little boy to whom the toys belonged; he painted the
Top red and yellow, and hammered a brass nail into it'
and it looked splendid when the Top turned round.
"Look at me!" he cried to the little Ball. "What do
you say now? Shall we not be engaged to each other?
We suit one another so well! You jump and I dance! No
one could be happier than we two should be."
"Indeed! Do you think so?" replied the little Ball.
"perhaps you do not know that my papa and my mamma
were morocco slippers, and that I have a Spanish cork
"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."
 "Can I depend on that?" asked the little Ball.
"May I never be whipped again if it is not true!"
replied the Top.
"You can speak well for yourself," observed the Ball,
"but I cannot grant your request. I am as good as
engaged to a swallow'; every time I leap up into the
air he puts her head out of the nest and says, 'Will
you?' And now I have silently said 'Yes' and that is
as good as half engaged; but I promise I will never
"Yes, that will be much good!" said the Top.
And they spoke no more to each other.
Next day the Ball was taken out by the boy. 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 gave a high leap when she touched the
earth, and that was done either from her longing to
mount up again, or because she had a Spanish cork in
her body. But the ninth time the little Ball remained
absent, and did not come back again; and the boy sought
and sought, but she was gone.
"I know very well where she is!" sighed the Top. "She
is in the Swallow's next and has married the Swallow!"
The more the Top thought of this, the more it longed
for the Ball. Just because it could not get the Ball,
its love increased; and the fact that the Ball had
chosen another formed a peculiar feature in the case.
So the Top danced round and hummed, but always thought
of the little Ball, which became more and more
beautiful in his fancy. Thus several years went by,
and now it was an old love.
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 worth seeing! But all
at once he sprang too high, and—he was gone!
The looked and looked, even in the cellar, but he was
not to be found. Where could he be?
He had jumped into the dust-box, where all kinds
of things were lying: cabbage stalks, sweepings, and
dust that had fallen down from the roof.
"Here's a nice place to lie in! The gilding will soon
leave me here. Among what rabble have I alighted!
 And then he looked sideways at a long leafless cabbage
stump, 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 quite saturated with water.
"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, worked by maidens'
hands, and have a Spanish cork within 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 lain there full five years, and become
quite wet through. You may believe me, that's a long
time for a young girl."
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 turn out 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 little Ball. And the Top spoke no more of
his old love; for that dies away when the beloved
object has lain for five years in a roof-gutter
and got wet through; yes, one does not know her again
when one meets her in the dust-box.