At the start of the story, the neck from a broken bottle is being used to hold drinking water for an old woman's pet canary. The bottle neck thinks back on its remarkable life, much of which is connected to a portrait painter's son and a farmer's daughter who became engaged but who were destined never to be married.
A wine bottle is made. It is taken to a wine merchant's, is filled with wine and is bought by a farmer's son. The wine bottle is taken on a picnic. One of the guests at the picnic is a portrait painter's son who is about to leave to join the navy. The farmer's daughter is very sad to see him go. During the picnic, the farmer's daughter and the portrait painter's son get engaged. They agree to marry when the portrait painter's son returns form sea after a year and a day. The wine from the bottle is used to toast the couple. When the bottle is empty, the portrait painter's son says to it, "You have been a part of the happiest day of my life. You shall never serve anyone else", and throws it high into the air.
The bottle lands next to a lake. It is found by two boys who take it home to their mother. She fills it with spiced brandy and gives it to her other son, a sailor who is about to leave on the same ship as the portrait painter's son. Along with other sailors, the portrait painter's son often drinks from the bottle. He does not know that it is the same bottle which he drank from on the day he got engaged.
The ship gets caught in a terrible storm. Knowing that the ship is about to sink, the portrait painter's son writes a note in pencil on a piece of paper. He writes his fiancée's name, his name and the name of his ship and calls on God to have mercy on its crew. He puts the note inside an empty bottle. Once again, he is unaware that it is the same bottle that he drank from on the day of his engagement. The portrait painter's son drowns along with the rest of the ship's crew.
After being carried along by the ocean for a long time, the bottle eventually comes ashore in a foreign country. Although the people of that country know that the note inside the bottle must refer to a ship that sank, nobody can read the language in which the message is written. For a while, the bottle is treated as a curiosity. It is kept in the living room of a house. Visitors to the house often take out the piece of paper and look at it. After a year, the writing on the paper fades away. The bottle is put in an attic and stays there for twenty years.
The bottle is rediscovered when the house is demolished. It is cleaned. During its cleaning, the paper inside it is completely destroyed. The bottle is filled with grain and taken back to the country where it was made. After it is emptied of the grain, the bottle is placed in a cellar and remains there for a long time. It is taken out to be used as a candle holder at an outdoor party. The farmer's daughter is a guest at the party. She does not recognize the bottle which she drank from on the day that she got engaged. The bottle does not recognize her either because she has become an old woman.
After the party, the bottle is taken back to the wine merchant's and is filled with wine again. The bottle of wine is purchased by a balloonist. The balloonist uses the wine to toast the crowd who watch him rise up into the air. He throws the bottle to the ground. It breaks into tiny pieces but the neck remains intact. The bottle neck is found by a man. He realizes that it could be stopped with a cork, turned upside down and used to hold drinking water for a bird. He gives it to an old woman who lives in the attic of his building and who has a pet canary.
The old woman is the farmer's daughter. She knows that the bottle neck came from the balloonist's bottle but does not know that it was the same bottle that she drank from on the day of her engagement. The bottle neck remains unaware that the old woman is the farmer's daughter. Although she talks with an old friend about her marriage that was not to be and her fiancé who drowned, the bottle neck does not listen because it is only interested in thinking about its past.