THE BOTTLE-NECK 537
without kindred, but not without friends. She was just thinking, like the bottle, of the greenwood, and of a young betrothed pair—of a pair which concerned her very nearly, a pair in which she had an interest, and of which she had been a part in that happiest hour of her life—the hour one never forgets, if one should become ever so old a maid. But she did not know the bottle, and it did not know her : it is thus we pass each other in the world, meeting again and again, as these two met, now that they were together again in the same town.
From the garden the bottle was dispatched once more to the wine merchant's, where it was filled with wine and sold to the aeronaut, who was to make an ascent in his balloon on the following Sunday. A great crowd had assembled to witness the sight ; military music had been provided, and many other preparations had been made. The bottle saw everything from a basket in which it lay next to a live rabbit, which latter was quite bewildered because he knew he was to be taken up into the air, and let down again in a parachute ; but the bottle knew nothing of the ' up ' or the ' down ' ; it only saw the balloon swelling up bigger and bigger, and at last, when it could swell no more, beginning to rise, and to grow more and more restless. The ropes that held it were cut, and the huge machine floated aloft with the aeronaut and the basket containing the bottle and the rabbit, and the music sounded, and all the people cried, ' Hurrah ! '
' This is a wonderful passage, up into the air ! ' thought the Bottle ; ' this is a new way of sailing : at any rate, up here we cannot strike upon anything.'
Thousands of people gazed up at the balloon, and the old maid looked up at it also ; she stood at the open window of the garret, in which, hung the cage, with the little chaffinch, who had no water-glass as yet, but was obliged to be content with an old cup. In the window stood a myrtle in a pot ; and it had been put a little aside that it might not fall out, for the old maid was leaning out of the window to look, and she distinctly saw the aeronaut in the balloon, and how he let down the rabbit in the parachute, and then drank to the health of all the spectators, and at length hurled the bottle high in the air ; she never thought