Page:Fairy tales and other stories (Andersen, Craigie).djvu/379

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367
JACK THE DULLARD

he turned out his pockets, and flung the wet clay full in the head clerk's face.

'That was very cleverly done,' observed the Princess. 'I could not have done that; but I shall learn in time.'

And accordingly Jack the Dullard was made a king, and received a crown and a wife, and sat upon a throne. And this report we have straight from the newspaper of the head clerk—but it is not to be depended upon!

THE BOTTLE-NECK

In a narrow crooked street, among other abodes of poverty, stood an especially narrow and tall house built of timber, which had given way in every direction. The house was inhabited by poor people, and the deepest poverty was in the garret-lodging in the gable, where, in front of the only window, hung an old bent birdcage, which had not even a proper water-glass, but only a Bottle-neck reversed, with a cork stuck in the mouth, and filled with water. An old maid stood by the window: she had hung the cage with green chickweed; and a little chaffinch hopped from perch to perch, and sang and twittered merrily enough.

'Yes, it's all very well for you to sing,' said the Bottleneck; that is to say, it did not pronounce the words as we can speak them, for a bottle-neck can't speak; but that's what he thought to himself in his own mind, as when we people talk quietly to ourselves. 'Yes, it's all very well for you to sing, you that have all your limbs uninjured. You ought to feel what it's like to lose one's body, and to have only mouth and neck left, and that with a cork into the bargain, as in my case; and then I'm sure you would not sing. But after all it is well that there should be somebody at least who is merry. I've no reason to sing, and, moreover, I can't sing. Yes, when I was a whole bottle, I sang out well if they rubbed me with a cork. They used to call me a perfect lark, a magnificent lark! Ah, when I was out at a picnic with the tanner's family, and his daughter was betrothed! Yes, I remember it as