THERE was once a darning needle, who thought herself so fine, she imagined she was an embroidery needle.
"Take care, and mind you hold me tight!" she said to the Fingers that took her out. "Don't let me fall! If I fall on the ground I shall certainly never be found again, for I am so fine!"
"That's as it may be," said the Fingers; and they grasped her round the body.
"See, I'm coming with a train!" said the Darning Needle, and she drew a long thread after her, but there was no knot in the thread.
The Fingers pointed the needle just at the cook's slipper, in which the upper leather had burst, and was to be sewn together.
"That's vulgar work," said the Darning Needle. "I shall never get through. I'm breaking! I'm breaking!" And she really broke. "Did I not say so?" said the Darning Needle; "I'm too fine!"
"Now it's quite useless," said the Fingers; but they were obliged to hold her fast, all the same; for the cook dropped some sealing wax upon the needle, and pinned her handkerchief together with it in front.
"So, now I'm a breastpin!" said the Darning Needle. "I knew very well that I should come to honor: when one is something, one comes to something!"
And she laughed quietly to herself-and one can never see when a darning needle laughs. There she sat, as proud as if she was in a state coach, and looked all about her.
"May I be permitted to ask if you are of gold?" she inquired of the pin, her neighbor. "You have a very pretty appearance, and a peculiar head, but it is only little. You must take pains to grow, for it's not everyone that has sealing wax dropped upon him."
And the Darning Needle drew herself up so proudly that she fell out of the handkerchief right into the sink, which the cook was rinsing out.
"Now we're going on a journey," said the Darning Needle. "If I only don't get lost!"
But she really was lost.
"I'm too fine for this world," she observed, as she lay in the gutter.
"But I know who I am, and there's always something in that!"
So the Darning Needle kept her proud behavior, and did not lose her good humor. And things of many kinds swam over her, chips and straws and pieces of old newspapers.
"Only look how they sail!" said the Darning Needle. "They don't know what is under them! I'm here, I remain firmly here. See, there goes a chip thinking of nothing in the world but of himself-of a chip!
There's a straw going by now. How he turns! how he twirls about!
Don't think only of yourself, you might easily run up against a stone.
There swims a bit of newspaper. What's written upon it has long been forgotten, and yet it gives itself airs. I sit quietly and patiently here. I know who I am, and I shall remain what I am."
One day something lay close beside her that glittered splendidly; then the Darning Needle believed that it was a diamond; but it was a bit of broken bottle; and because it shone, the Darning Needle spoke to it, introducing herself as a breastpin.
"I suppose you are a diamond?" she observed.
"Why, yes, something of that kind."
And then each believed the other to be a very valuable thing; and they began speaking about the world, and how very conceited it was.
"I have been in a lady's box," said the Darning Needle, "and this lady was a cook. She had five fingers on each hand, and I never saw anything so conceited as those five fingers. And yet they were only there that they might take me out of the box and put me back into it."
"Were they of good birth?" asked the Bit of Bottle.
"No, indeed," cried the Darning Needle, "but very haughty. There were five brothers, all of the finger family. They kept very proudly together, though they were of different lengths: the outermost, the thumbling, was short and fat; he walked out in front of the ranks, and only had one joint in his back, and could only make a single bow; but he said that if he were hacked off a man, that man was useless for service in war. Daintymouth, the second finger, thrust himself into sweet and sour, pointed to sun and moon, and gave the impression when they wrote. Longrnan, the third, looked at all the others over his shoulder. Goldborder, the fourth, went about with a golden belt round his waist; and little Playman did nothing at all, and was proud of it.
There was nothing but bragging among them, and therefore I went away."
"And now we sit here and glitter!" said the Bit of Bottle.
At that moment more water came into the gutter, so that it overflowed, and the Bit of Bottle was carried away.
"So he is disposed of," observed the Darning Needle. "I remain here, I am too fine. But that's my pride, and my pride is honorable." And proudly she sat there, and had many great thoughts. "I could almost believe I had been born of a sunbeam, I'm so fine! It really appears as if the sunbeams were always seeking for me under the water. Ah!
I'm so fine that my mother cannot find me. If I had my old eye, which broke off, I think I should cry; but, no, I should not do that: it's not genteel to cry."
One day a couple of street boys lay grubbing in the gutter where they sometimes find old nails, farthings, and similar treasures. It was dirty work, but they took great delight in it.
"Oh!" cried one, who had pricked himself with the Darning Needle, there's a fellow for you!"
"I'm not a fellow; I'm a young lady!" said the Darning Needle.
But nobody listened to her. The sealing wax had come off, and she had turned black; but black makes one look slender, and she thought herself finer even than before.
"Here comes an eggshell sailing along!" said the boys; and they stuck the Darning Needle fast in the eggshell.
"White walls, and black myself! that looks well," remarked the Darning Needle. "Now one can see me. I only hope I shall not be seasick!"
But she was not seasick at all. "It is good against seasickness, if one has a steel stomach, and does not forget that one is a little more than an ordinary person! Now my seasickness is over. The finer one is, the more one can bear."
"Crack!" went the eggshell, for a wagon went over her.
"Good heavens, how it crushes one!" said the Darning Needle. "I'm getting seasick now-I'm quite sick."
But she was not really sick, though the wagon went over her; she lay there at full length, and there she may lie.
PEN AND INKSTAND
By Hans Christian Andersen
THE following remark was made in a poet's room, as the speaker looked at the inkstand that stood upon his table:
"It is marvelous all that can come out of that ink-stand! What will it produce next? Yes, it is marvelous!"
"So it is!" exclaimed the Inkstand. "It is incomprehensible! That is what I always say." It was thus the Inkstand addressed itself to the Pen, and to everything else that could hear it on the table. "It is really astonishing all that can come from me! It is almost incredible!
I positively do not know myself what the next thing may be, when a person begins to dip into me. One drop of me serves for half a side of paper; and what may not then appear upon it? I am certainly something extraordinary. From me proceed all the works of the poets. These animated beings, whom people think they recognize-these deep feelings, that gay humor, these charming descriptions of nature -I do not understand them myself, for I know nothing about nature; but still it is all in me. From me have gone forth, and still go forth, these warrior hosts, these lovely maidens, these bold knights on snorting steeds, those droll characters in humbler life. The fact is, however, that I do not know anything about them myself. I assure you they are not my ideas."
"You are right there," replied the Pen. "You have few ideas, and do not trouble yourself much with thinking, if you did exert yourself to think, you would perceive that you ought to give something that was not dry. You supply me with the means of committing to paper what I have in me; I write with that. It is the pen that writes. Mankind do not doubt that; and most men have about as much genius for poetry as an old inkstand."
"You have but little experience," said the ink-stand. "You have scarcely been a week in use, and you are already half worn out. Do you fancy that you are a poet? You are only a servant: and I have had many of your kind before you came- many of the goose family, and of English manufacture. I know both quill pens and steel pens. I have had a great many in my service, and I shall have many more still, when he, the man who stirs me up, comes and puts down what he takes from me. I should like very much to know what will be the next thing he will take from me."
"Ink tub!" said the Pen.
Late in the evening the Poet returned home. He had been at a concert, had heard a celebrated violin player, and was quite enchanted with his wonderful performance. It had been a complete gush of melody that he had drawn from the instrument. Sometimes it seemed like the gentle murmur of a rippling stream, sometimes like the singing of birds, sometimes like the tempest sweeping through the mighty pine forests, he fancied he heard his own heart weep, but in the sweet tones that can be heard in a woman's charming voice. It seemed as if not only the strings of the violin made music, but its bridge, its pegs, and its sounding board. It was astonishing! The piece had been a most difficult one; but it seemed like play-as if the bow were but wandering capriciously over the strings. Such was the appearance of facility, that everyone might have supposed he could do it. The violin seemed to sound of itself, the bow to play of itself. These two seemed to do it all. One forgot the master who guided them, who gave them life and soul. Yes, they forgot the master; but the Poet thought of him. He named him, and wrote down his thoughts as follows:
"How foolish it would be of the violin and the bow, were they to be vain in their performance! And yet this is what so often we of the human species are. Poets, artists, those who make discoveries in science, military and naval commanders -we are all proud of ourselves; and yet we are all only the instruments in our Lord's hands. To Him alone be the glory! We have nothing to arrogate to ourselves."
This was what the Poet wrote; and he headed it with: "The Master and the Instruments."