238 THE LOVERS
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.'
1 Can I depend upon that ? ' asked the Ball.
L May I never be whipped again if it is not true ! ' replied the Top.
' You can speak well for yourself,' observed the Ball,
0 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
1 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 Top.
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 gone.
' 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 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 !
They looked and looked, even in the cellar, but he was not to be found. Where could he be ?
He had jumped into the dust-bin, where all kinds of