By Hans Christian Andersen
A Whit-Top and a Ball were together in a
drawer among some other toys ; and the Top
said to the Ball, ' Shall we not be
bridegroom and bride, as we live together in
the same box ? '
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
Next day the little boy came to whom the
toys belonged : he painted the top red and
yellow, and hammered a brass nail nto it ;
and it looked splendid when the top turned
Look at me ! ' he cried to the 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
Ball. ' Perhaps you do not know that my papa
and my mamma were morocco slippers, and that
I have a cork inside me ? '
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 upon that ? ' asked the 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 it puts its head
out of its 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 forget you.'
' Yes, that will be much good ! ' said the
And they spoke no more to each other.
Next day the Ball was taken out by the boy.
The Top saw how it flew high into the air,
like a bird ; at last one could no longer
see it. Each time it came back again, but
gave a high leap when it touched the earth,
and that was done either from its longing to
mount up again, or because it had a cork in
its body. But the ninth time the Ball
remained absent, and did not come back again
; and the boy sought and sought, but it was
' I know very well where it is ! ' sighed
the Top. ' It is in the swallow's nest, 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 Ball, which became
more and more beautiful in his fancy. Thus
several years went by, and now it was an old
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 !
They looked and looked, even in the cellar,
but he was not to be found. Where could he
He had jumped into the dust-bin, 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
a rabble have I alighted ! '
And then he looked sideways at a long
leafless cabbage stump, and at a curious
round thing that looked like an old apple ;
but it was not an apple it was an old Ball,
which had lain for years in the gutter on
the roof, and was quite saturated with water.
' Thank goodness, here comes one of us, with
whom one can talk ! ' said the Ball, and
looked at the gilt Top. ' I am real morocco,
worked by maidens' hands, and have a cork
within me ; but no one would think it, to
look at me. I was very nearly 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
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-bin.
' Aha ! there 's the gilt top ! ' she cried.
And so the Top was brought again to notice
and honour, but nothing was heard of the
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-bin.