Once upon a time, there was a bunch of brimstone matches, which were exceedingly proud, because they were of high descent; their ancestral tree, that is to say, the great fir tree, of which they were little bits of chips, had been a great, old tree in the forest. The brimstone matches now lay beside the kitchen fender, together with the tinder and an old iron pot, and were speaking of their youth.
“Yes, we were then on the green branch,” said they; “then we were really and truly on a green branch; every morning and evening we drank diamond tea, that was the dew; every day we had sunshine, if the sun shone, and all the little birds told us tales. We could very well observe also, that we were rich; for the common trees were only dressed in summer, but our family had a good stock of green clothing both winter and summer. But then came the wood-cutters—that was a great revolution, and our family was cut up root and branch; the main head of the family, he took a place as mainmast in a magnificent ship, which sailed round the world wherever it would; the other branches, some took one place, and some took another; and we have now the post of giving light to the common herd; and, therefore, high-born as we are, are we now in the kitchen.”
“Yes, it was different with me,” said the iron pot, when the matches were silent; “as soon as ever I came into the world I was cleaned and boiled many a time! I care for the solid, and am properly spoken of as first in the house. My only pleasure is, as soon as dinner is over, to lie clean and bright upon the shelf, and head a long row of comrades. If I except the water-bucket, which now and then goes down in the yard, we always live in-doors. Our only newsmonger is the coal-box; but it talks so violently about government and the people!—yes, lately there was an old pot, which, out of horror of it, fell down and broke to pieces!”
“Thou chatterest too much!” interrupted the tinder, and the steel struck the flint until sparks came out. “Should we not have a merry evening?”
“Yes; let us talk about who is the most well-bred among us,” said the brimstone matches.
“No, I don’t think it right to talk about ourselves,” said an earthen jug; “let us have an evening’s entertainment. I will begin; I will tell something which everybody has experienced; people can do that so seldom, and it is so pleasant. By the Baltic sea—”
“That is a beautiful beginning!” said all the talkers; “it will certainly be a history which we shall like.”
“Yes, then I passed my youth in a quiet family; the furniture was of wood; the floors were scoured; they had clean curtains every fortnight.”
“How interestingly you tell it!” said the dusting-brush; “one can immediately tell that the narrator is a lady, such a thread of purity always runs through their relations.”
“Yes, that one can feel!” said the water-bucket, and made a little skip of pleasure on the floor.
And the earthen jug continued her story, and the end of it was like the beginning.
All the talkers shook for pleasure; and the dusting-brush took green parsley leaves from the dust-heap, and crowned the jug; for he knew that it would vex the others; and thinks he to himself, “If I crown her to-day, she will crown me to-morrow!”
“Now we will dance,” said the fire-tongs; and began dancing. Yes, indeed! and it is wonderful how he set one leg before the other; the old shoehorn, which hung on a hook, jumped up to see it. “Perhaps I, too, may get crowned,” said the fire-tongs; and it was crowned.
“They are only the rabble!” thought the brimstone matches.
The tea-urn was then asked to sing; but it said it had got a cold, and it could not sing unless it was boiling; but it was nothing but an excuse, because it did not like to sing, unless it stood upon the table, in grand company.
In the window there sat an old pen, which the servant-girl was accustomed to write with: there was nothing remarkable about it; it was dipped deep into the ink-stand. “If the tea-urn will not sing,” said the pen, “then she can let it alone! Outside there hangs a nightingale in a cage, which can sing, and which has not regularly learned any thing; but we will not talk scandal this evening!”
“I think it highly unbecoming,” said the tea-kettle, which was the kitchen singer, and half-sister to the tea-urn, “that such a foreign bird should be listened to! Is it patriotic? I will let the coal-box judge.”
“It only vexes me,” said the coal-box; “it vexes me so much, that no one can think! Is this a proper way to spend an evening? Would it not be much better to put the house to rights? Every one go to his place, and I will rule; that will produce a change!”
“Yes, let us do something out of the common way!” said all the things together.
At that very moment the door opened. It was the servant-girl, and so they all stood stock still; not a sound was heard; but there was not a pot among them that did not know what they might have done, and how genteel they were.
“If I might have had my way,” thought they, “then it would have been a regularly merry evening!”
The servant-girl took the brimstone matches, and put fire to them. Bless us! how they sputtered and burst into a flame!
“Now every one can see,” thought they, “that we take the first rank! What splendor we have! what brilliancy!”—and with that they were burnt out.