The Shirt-collar





Translated from the German of Hans Andersen.





There was once a fine gentleman whose entire worldly possessions

consisted of a boot-jack and a hair-brush; but he had the most beautiful

shirt-collar in the world, and it is about this that we are going to

hear a story.



The shirt-collar was so old that he began to think about marrying;

and it happened one day that he and a garter came into the wash-tub

together.



'Hulloa!' said the shirt-collar, 'never before have I seen anything so

slim and delicate, so elegant and pretty! May I be permitted to ask your

name?'



'I shan't tell you,' said the garter.



'Where is the place of your abode?' asked the shirt-collar.



But the garter was of a bashful disposition, and did not think it proper

to answer.



'Perhaps you are a girdle?' said the shirt-collar, 'an under girdle? for

I see that you are for use as well as for ornament, my pretty miss!'



'You ought not to speak to me!' said the garter' 'I'm sure I haven't

given you any encouragement!'



'When anyone is as beautiful as you,' said the shirt-collar, 'is not

that encouragement enough?'



'Go away, don't come so close!' said the garter. 'You seem to be a

gentleman!'



'So I am, and a very fine one too!' said the shirt-collar; 'I possess a

boot-jack and a hair-brush!'



That was not true; it was his master who owned these things; but he was

a terrible boaster.



'Don't come so close,' said the garter. 'I'm not accustomed to such

treatment!'



'What affectation!' said the shirt-collar. And then they were taken out

of the wash-tub, starched, and hung on a chair in the sun to dry, and

then laid on the ironing-board. Then came the glowing iron.



'Mistress widow!' said the shirt-collar, 'dear mistress widow! I am

becoming another man, all my creases are coming out; you are burning a

hole in me! Ugh! Stop, I implore you!'



'You rag!' said the iron, travelling proudly over the shirt-collar, for

it thought it was a steam engine and ought to be at the station drawing

trucks.



'Rag!' it said.



The shirt-collar was rather frayed out at the edge, so the scissors came

to cut off the threads.



'Oh!' said the shirt-collar, 'you must be a dancer! How high you can

kick! That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! No man can

imitate you!'



'I know that!' said the scissors.



'You ought to be a duchess!' said the shirt-collar. 'My worldly

possessions consist of a fine gentleman, a boot-jack, and a hair-brush.

If only I had a duchy!'



'What! He wants to marry me?' said the scissors, and she was so angry

that she gave the collar a sharp snip, so that it had to be cast aside

as good for nothing.



'Well, I shall have to propose to the hair-brush!' thought the

shirt-collar. 'It is really wonderful what fine hair you have, madam!

Have you never thought of marrying?'



'Yes, that I have!' answered the hair-brush; 'I'm engaged to the

boot-jack!'



'Engaged!' exclaimed the shirt-collar. And now there was no one he could

marry, so he took to despising matrimony.



Time passed, and the shirt-collar came in a rag-bag to the paper-mill.

There was a large assortment of rags, the fine ones in one heap, and the

coarse ones in another, as they should be. They had all much to tell,

but no one more than the shirt-collar, for he was a hopeless braggart.



'I have had a terrible number of love affairs!' he said. 'They give me

no peace. I was such a fine gentleman, so stiff with starch! I had a

boot-jack and a hair-brush, which I never used! You should just have

seen me then! Never shall I forget my first love! She was a girdle, so

delicate and soft and pretty! She threw herself into a wash-tub for my

sake! Then there was a widow, who glowed with love for me. But I

left her alone, till she became black. Then there was the dancer, who

inflicted the wound which has caused me to be here now; she was very

violent! My own hair-brush was in love with me, and lost all her hair

in consequence. Yes, I have experienced much in that line; but I grieve

most of all for the garter,-I mean, the girdle, who threw herself into a

wash-tub. I have much on my conscience; it is high time for me to become

white paper!'



And so he did! he became white paper, the very paper on which this story

is printed. And that was because he had boasted so terribly about things

which were not true. We should take this to heart, so that it may not

happen to us, for we cannot indeed tell if we may not some day come to

the rag-bag, and be made into white paper, on which will be printed our

whole history, even the most secret parts, so that we too go about the

world relating it, like the shirt-collar.





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