There was once upon a time a darning needle, that imagined itself so fine, that at last it fancied it was a sewing-needle.
“Now, pay attention, and hold me firmly!” said the darning-needle to the fingers that were taking it out. “Do not let me fall! If I fall on the ground, I shall certainly never be found again, so fine am I.”
“Pretty well as to that,” answered the fingers; and so saying, they took hold of it by the body.
“Look, I come with a train!” said the darning-needle, drawing a long thread after it, but there was no knot to the thread.
The fingers directed the needle against an old pair of shoes belonging to the cook. The upper-leather was torn, and it was now to be sewed together.
“That is vulgar work,” said the needle; “I can never get through it. I shall break! I shall break!” And it really did break. “Did I not say so?” said the needle; “I am too delicate.”
“Now it’s good for nothing,” said the fingers, but they were obliged to hold it still; the cook dropped sealing-wax upon it, and pinned her neckerchief together with it.
“Well, now I am a breast-pin,” said the darning-needle. “I was sure I should be raised to honor: if one is something, one is sure to get on!” and at the same time it laughed inwardly; for one can never see when a darning-needle laughs. So there it sat now as proudly as in a state-carriage, and looked around on every side.
“May I take the liberty to inquire if you are of gold?” asked the needle of a pin that was its neighbor. “You have a splendid exterior, and a head of your own, but it is small, however. You must do what you can to grow, for it is not every one that is bedropped with sealing-wax!” And then the darning-needle drew itself up so high that it fell out of the kerchief, and tumbled right into the sink, which the cook was at that moment rinsing out.
“Now we are going on our travels,” said the needle. “If only I do not get lost!” But it really did get lost.
“I am too delicate for this world!” said the needle, as it lay in the sink, “but I know who I am, and that is always a consolation;” and the darning-needle maintained its proud demeanor, and lost none of its good-humor.
And all sorts of things swam over it—shavings, straws, and scraps of old newspapers.
“Only look how they sail by,” said the needle. “They do not know what is hidden below them! I stick fast here: here I sit. Look! there goes a shaving: it thinks of nothing in the world but of itself—but of a shaving! There drifts a straw; and how it tacks about, how it turns round! Think of something else besides yourself, or else perhaps you’ll run against a stone! There swims a bit of a newspaper. What’s written there is long ago forgotten, and yet out it spreads itself, as if it were mighty important! I sit here patient and still: I know who I am, and that I shall remain after all!”
One day there lay something close beside the needle. It glittered so splendidly, that the needle thought it must be a diamond: but it was only a bit of a broken bottle, and because it glittered the darning-needle addressed it, and introduced itself to the other as a breast-pin.
“You are, no doubt, a diamond?”
“Yes, something of that sort.” And so each thought the other something very precious, and they talked together of the world, and of how haughty it is.
“I was with a certain miss, in a little box,” said the darning-needle, “and this miss was cook; and on each hand she had five fingers. In my whole life I have never seen anything so conceited as these fingers! And yet they were only there to take me out of the box and to put me back into it again!”
“Were they, then, of noble birth?” asked the broken bottle.
“Noble!” said the darning-needle; “no, but high-minded! There were five brothers, all descendants of the ‘Finger’ family. They always kept together, although they were of different lengths. The outermost one, little Thumb, was short and stout; he went at the side, a little in front of the ranks: he had, too, but one joint in his back, so that he could only make one bow; but he said, if a man were to cut him off, such a one were no longer fit for military service. Sweet-tooth, the second finger, pryed into what was sweet, as well as into what was sour, pointed to the sun and moon, and he it was that gave stress when they wrote. Longman, the third brother, looked at the others contemptuously over his shoulder. Goldrim, the fourth, wore a golden girdle round his body! and the little Peter Playallday did nothing at all, of which he was very proud. ‘Twas boasting, and boasting, and nothing but boasting, and so away I went.”
“And now we sit here and glitter,” said the broken glass bottle.
At the same moment more water came along the gutter; it streamed over the sides and carried the bit of bottle away with it.
“Well, that’s an advancement,” said the darning-needle. “I remain where I am: I am too fine; but that is just my pride, and as such is to be respected.” And there it sat so proudly, and had many grand thoughts.
“I should almost think that I was born of a sunbeam, so fine am I! It seems to me, too, as if the sunbeams were always seeking me beneath the surface of the water. Ah! I am so fine, that my mother is unable to find me! Had I my old eye that broke, I verily think I could weep; but I would not—weep! no, it’s not genteel to weep!”
One day two boys came rummaging about in the sink, where they found old nails, farthings, and such sort of things. It was dirty work; however, they took pleasure in it.
“Oh!” cried one who had pricked himself with the needle, “there’s a fellow for you.”
“I am no fellow, I am a lady!” said the darning-needle; but no one heard it. The sealing-wax had worn off, and it had become quite black; but black makes one look more slender, and the needle fancied it looked more delicate than ever.
“Here comes an egg-shell sailing along!” said the boys; and then they stuck the needle upright in the egg-shell.
“The walls white and myself black,” said the needle. “That is becoming! People can see me now! If only I do not get seasick, for then I shall snap.”
But it was not sea-sick, and did not snap.
“It is good for sea-sickness to have a stomach of steel, and not to forget that one is something more than a human being! Now my sea-sickness is over. The finer one is, the more one can endure!”
“Crack!” said the egg-shell: a wheel went over it.
“Good heavens! how heavy that presses!” said the needle. “Now I shall be sea-sick! I snap!” But it did not snap, although a wheel went over it. It lay there at full length, and there it may lie still.