The Bottle Neck
For more than a year and a day it drifted, now north, now south, as it was carried by the currents. To be sure it was its own master, but one gets tired of that.
The note, that last farewell from the young officer to his betrothed, would bring only sorrow if it ever should fall into the proper hands. But where were those hands, the hands that had gleamed so white while spreading the tablecloth over the fresh grass on the betrothal day?
Where was the furrier's daughter? Yes, and where was land? What land lay nearest? The Bottle had no idea. It drifted on and on and finally became very weary of drifting - for which it had never been intended, anyway - but still it drifted on, until at last it was cast ashore on a foreign land. It couldn't understand a word that was spoken here; this was not the language it had always heard before, and one misses a great deal when in a country where one cannot understand the language.
The Bottle was picked up and examined; the note inside it was noticed, taken out, turned around, and turned over, but the people could not understand what was written on it. They realized, of course, that the bottle had been thrown overboard and that there was something about that written on the paper, but what it said was a mystery. And so the note was put back into the Bottle, and the Bottle itself placed in a large cabinet in a large room in a large house. Whenever strangers came to the house the note was brought forth, turned around and over, and viewed from every angle, until the writing - which was only pencil, to begin with - became more and more illegible, and at last the letters could hardly be made out at all. For a year the Bottle remained in the cabinet; then it was sent up to the attic, where it was smothered with dust and spider webs. Up there it thought of its better days, when it had provided the red wine in the fresh woods, and when it had been rocked by the billows, and had had a secret, a letter, a sigh of farewell, entrusted to its care.