The old bachelor's nightcap

Pebersvendens nathue

There is a street in Copenhagen with a very strange name. It is called "Hysken" street. Where the name came from, and what it means is very uncertain. It is said to be German, but that is unjust to the Germans, for it would then be called "Hauschen," not "Hysken." - "Hauschen," means a little house; and for many years it consisted only of a few small houses, which were scarcely larger than the wooden booths we see in the market-places at fair time. They were perhaps a little higher, and had windows; but the panes consisted of horn or bladder-skins, for glass was then too dear to have glazed windows in every house. This was a long time ago, so long indeed that our grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers, would speak of those days as "olden times;" indeed, many centuries have passed since then.
The rich merchants in Bremen and Lubeck, who carried on trade in Copenhagen, did not reside in the town themselves, but sent their clerks, who dwelt in the wooden booths in the Hauschen street, and sold beer and spices. The German beer was very good, and there were many sorts– from Bremen, Prussia, and Brunswick– and quantities of all sorts of spices, saffron, aniseed, ginger, and especially pepper; indeed, pepper was almost the chief article sold here; so it happened at last that the German clerks in Denmark got their nickname of "pepper gentry." It had been made a condition with these clerks that they should not marry; so that those who lived to be old had to take care of themselves, to attend to their own comforts, and even to light their own fires, when they had any to light. Many of them were very aged; lonely old boys, with strange thoughts and eccentric habits. From this, all unmarried men, who have attained a certain age, are called, in Denmark, "pepper gentry;" and this must be remembered by all those who wish to understand the story. These "pepper gentlemen," or, as they are called in England, "old bachelors," are often made a butt of ridicule; they are told to put on their nightcaps, draw them over their eyes, and go to sleep. The boys in Denmark make a song of it, thus:–
"Poor old bachelor, cut your wood,
Such a nightcap was never seen;
Who would think it was ever clean?
Go to sleep, it will do you good."
So they sing about the "pepper gentleman;" so do they make sport of the poor old bachelor and his nightcap, and all because they really know nothing of either. It is a cap that no one need wish for, or laugh at. And why not? Well, we shall hear in the story.
In olden times, Hauschen Street was not paved, and passengers would stumble out of one hole into another, as they generally do in unfrequented highways; and the street was so narrow, and the booths leaning against each other were so close together, that in the summer time a sail would be stretched across the street from one booth to another opposite. At these times the odor of the pepper, saffron, and ginger became more powerful than ever. Behind the counter, as a rule, there were no young men. The clerks were almost all old boys; but they did not dress as we are accustomed to see old men represented, wearing wigs, nightcaps, and knee-breeches, and with coat and waistcoat buttoned up to the chin. We have seen the portraits of our great-grandfathers dressed in this way; but the "pepper gentlemen" had no money to spare to have their portraits taken, though one of them would have made a very interesting picture for us now, if taken as he appeared standing behind his counter, or going to church, or on holidays. On these occasions, they wore high-crowned, broad-brimmed hats, and sometimes a younger clerk would stick a feather in his. The woollen shirt was concealed by a broad, linen collar; the close jacket was buttoned up to the chin, and the cloak hung loosely over it; the trousers were tucked into the broad, tipped shoes, for the clerks wore no stockings. They generally stuck a table-knife and spoon in their girdles, as well as a larger knife, as a protection to themselves; and such a weapon was often very necessary.
After this fashion was Anthony dressed on holidays and festivals, excepting that, instead of a high-crowned hat, he wore a kind of bonnet, and under it a knitted cap, a regular nightcap, to which he was so accustomed that it was always on his head; he had two, nightcaps I mean, not heads. Anthony was one of the oldest of the clerks, and just the subject for a painter. He was as thin as a lath, wrinkled round the mouth and eyes, had long, bony fingers, bushy, gray eyebrows, and over his left eye hung a thick tuft of hair, which did not look handsome, but made his appearance very remarkable. People knew that he came from Bremen; it was not exactly his home, although his master resided there. His ancestors were from Thuringia, and had lived in the town of Eisenach, close by Wartburg. Old Anthony seldom spoke of this place, but he thought of it all the more.
The old clerks of Hauschen Street very seldom met together; each one remained in his own booth, which was closed early enough in the evening, and then it looked dark and dismal out in the street. Only a faint glimmer of light struggled through the horn panes in the little window on the roof, while within sat the old clerk, generally on his bed, singing his evening hymn in a low voice; or he would be moving about in his booth till late in the night, busily employed in many things. It certainly was not a very lively existence. To be a stranger in a strange land is a bitter lot; no one notices you unless you happen to stand in their way. Often, when it was dark night outside, with rain or snow falling, the place looked quite deserted and gloomy. There were no lamps in the street, excepting a very small one, which hung at one end of the street, before a picture of the Virgin, which had been painted on the wall. The dashing of the water against the bulwarks of a neighboring castle could plainly be heard. Such evenings are long and dreary, unless people can find something to do; and so Anthony found it. There were not always things to be packed or unpacked, nor paper bags to be made, nor the scales to be polished. So Anthony invented employment; he mended his clothes and patched his boots, and when he at last went to bed,– his nightcap, which he had worn from habit, still remained on his head; he had only to pull it down a little farther over his forehead. Very soon, however, it would be pushed up again to see if the light was properly put out; he would touch it, press the wick together, and at last pull his nightcap over his eyes and lie down again on the other side. But often there would arise in his mind a doubt as to whether every coal had been quite put out in the little fire-pan in the shop below. If even a tiny spark had remained it might set fire to something, and cause great damage. Then he would rise from his bed, creep down the ladder– for it could scarcely be called a flight of stairs– and when he reached the fire-pan not a spark could be seen; so he had just to go back again to bed. But often, when he had got half way back, he would fancy the iron shutters of the door were not properly fastened, and his thin legs would carry him down again. And when at last he crept into bed, he would be so cold that his teeth chattered in his head. He would draw the coverlet closer round him, pull his nightcap over his eyes, and try to turn his thoughts from trade, and from the labors of the day, to olden times. But this was scarcely an agreeable entertainment; for thoughts of olden memories raise the curtains from the past, and sometimes pierce the heart with painful recollections till the agony brings tears to the waking eyes. And so it was with Anthony; often the scalding tears, like pearly drops, would fall from his eyes to the coverlet and roll on the floor with a sound as if one of his heartstrings had broken. Sometimes, with a lurid flame, memory would light up a picture of life which had never faded from his heart. If he dried his eyes with his nightcap, then the tear and the picture would be crushed; but the source of the tears remained and welled up again in his heart. The pictures did not follow one another in order, as the circumstances they represented had occurred; very often the most painful would come together, and when those came which were most full of joy, they had always the deepest shadow thrown upon them.
The beech woods of Denmark are acknowledged by every one to be very beautiful, but more beautiful still in the eyes of old Anthony were the beech woods in the neighborhood of Wartburg. More grand and venerable to him seemed the old oaks around the proud baronial castle, where the creeping plants hung over the stony summits of the rocks; sweeter was the perfume there of the apple-blossom than in all the land of Denmark. How vividly were represented to him, in a glittering tear that rolled down his cheek, two children at play– a boy and a girl. The boy had rosy cheeks, golden ringlets, and clear, blue eyes; he was the son of Anthony, a rich merchant; it was himself. The little girl had brown eyes and black hair, and was clever and courageous; she was the mayor's daughter, Molly. The children were playing with an apple; they shook the apple, and heard the pips rattling in it. Then they cut it in two, and each of them took half. They also divided the pips and ate all but one, which the little girl proposed should be placed in the ground.
"You will see what will come out," she said; "something you don't expect. A whole apple-tree will come out, but not directly." Then they got a flower-pot, filled it with earth, and were soon both very busy and eager about it. The boy made a hole in the earth with his finger, and the little girl placed the pip in the hole, and then they both covered it over with earth.
"Now you must not take it out to-morrow to see if it has taken root," said Molly; "no one ever should do that. I did so with my flowers, but only twice; I wanted to see if they were growing. I didn't know any better then, and the flowers all died."
Little Anthony kept the flower-pot, and every morning during the whole winter he looked at it, but there was nothing to be seen but black earth. At last, however, the spring came, and the sun shone warm again, and then two little green leaves sprouted forth in the pot.
"They are Molly and me," said the boy. "How wonderful they are, and so beautiful!"
Very soon a third leaf made its appearance.
"Who does that stand for?" thought he, and then came another and another. Day after day, and week after week, till the plant became quite a tree. And all this about the two children was mirrored to old Anthony in a single tear, which could soon be wiped away and disappear, but might come again from its source in the heart of the old man.
In the neighborhood of Eisenach stretches a ridge of stony mountains, one of which has a rounded outline, and shows itself above the rest without tree, bush, or grass on its barren summits. It is called the "Venus Mountain," and the story goes that the "Lady Venus," one of the heathen goddesses, keeps house there. She is also called "Lady Halle," as every child round Eisenach well knows. She it was who enticed the noble knight, Tannhauser, the minstrel, from the circle of singers at Wartburg into her mountain.
Little Molly and Anthony often stood by this mountain, and one day Molly said, "Do you dare to knock and say, 'Lady Halle, Lady Halle, open the door: Tannhauser is here!'" But Anthony did not dare. Molly, however, did, though she only said the words, "Lady Halle, Lady Halle," loudly and distinctly; the rest she muttered so much under her breath that Anthony felt certain she had really said nothing; and yet she looked quite bold and saucy, just as she did sometimes when she was in the garden with a number of other little girls; they would all stand round him together, and want to kiss him, because he did not like to be kissed, and pushed them away. Then Molly was the only one who dared to resist him. "I may kiss him," she would say proudly, as she threw her arms round his neck; she was vain of her power over Anthony, for he would submit quietly and think nothing of it. Molly was very charming, but rather bold; and how she did tease!
They said Lady Halle was beautiful, but her beauty was that of a tempting fiend. Saint Elizabeth, the tutelar saint of the land, the pious princess of Thuringia, whose good deeds have been immortalized in so many places through stories and legends, had greater beauty and more real grace. Her picture hung in the chapel, surrounded by silver lamps; but it did not in the least resemble Molly.
The apple-tree, which the two children had planted, grew year after year, till it became so large that it had to be transplanted into the garden, where the dew fell and the sun shone warmly. And there it increased in strength so much as to be able to withstand the cold of winter; and after passing through the severe weather, it seemed to put forth its blossoms in spring for very joy that the cold season had gone. In autumn it produced two apples, one for Molly and one for Anthony; it could not well do less. The tree after this grew very rapidly, and Molly grew with the tree. She was as fresh as an apple-blossom, but Anthony was not to behold this flower for long. All things change; Molly's father left his old home, and Molly went with him far away. In our time, it would be only a journey of a few hours, but then it took more than a day and a night to travel so far eastward from Eisenbach to a town still called Weimar, on the borders of Thuringia. And Molly and Anthony both wept, but these tears all flowed together into one tear which had the rosy shimmer of joy. Molly had told him that she loved him– loved him more than all the splendors of Weimar.
One, two, three years went by, and during the whole time he received only two letters. One came by the carrier, and the other a traveller brought. The way was very long and difficult, with many turnings and windings through towns and villages. How often had Anthony and Molly heard the story of Tristan and Isolda, and Anthony had thought the story applied to him, although Tristan means born in sorrow, which Anthony certainly was not; nor was it likely he would ever say of Molly as Tristan said of Isolda, "She has forgotten me." But in truth, Isolda had not forgotten him, her faithful friend; and when both were laid in their graves, one, on each side of the church, the linden-trees that grew by each grave spread over the roof, and, bending towards each other, mingled their blossoms together. Anthony thought it a very beautiful but mournful story; yet he never feared anything so sad would happen to him and Molly, as he passed the spot, whistling the air of a song, composed by the minstrel Walter, called the "Willow bird," beginning–
"Under the linden-trees,
Out on the heath."
One stanza pleased him exceedingly–
"Through the forest, and in the vale,
Sweetly warbles the nightingale."
This song was often in his mouth, and he sung or whistled it on a moonlight night, when he rode on horseback along the deep, hollow way, on his road to Weimar, to visit Molly. He wished to arrive unexpectedly, and so indeed he did. He was received with a hearty welcome, and introduced to plenty of grand and pleasant company, where overflowing winecups were passed about. A pretty room and a good bed were provided for him, and yet his reception was not what he had expected and dreamed it would be. He could not comprehend his own feelings nor the feelings of others; but it is easily understood how a person can be admitted into a house or a family without becoming one of them. We converse in company with those we meet, as we converse with our fellow-travellers in a stage-coach, on a journey; we know nothing of them, and perhaps all the while we are incommoding one another, and each is wishing himself or his neighbor away. Something of this kind Anthony felt when Molly talked to him of old times.
"I am a straightforward girl," she said, "and I will tell you myself how it is. There have been great changes since we were children together; everything is different, both inwardly and outwardly. We cannot control our wills, nor the feelings of our hearts, by the force of custom. Anthony, I would not, for the world, make an enemy of you when I am far away. Believe me, I entertain for you the kindest wishes in my heart; but to feel for you what I now know can be felt for another man, can never be. You must try and reconcile yourself to this. Farewell, Anthony."
Anthony also said, "Farewell." Not a tear came into his eye; he felt he was no longer Molly's friend. Hot iron and cold iron alike take the skin from our lips, and we feel the same sensation if we kiss either; and Anthony's kiss was now the kiss of hatred, as it had once been the kiss of love. Within four-and-twenty hours Anthony was back again to Eisenach, though the horse that he rode was entirely ruined.
"What matters it?" said he; "I am ruined also. I will destroy everything that can remind me of her, or of Lady Halle, or Lady Venus, the heathen woman. I will break down the apple-tree, and tear it up by the roots; never more shall it blossom or bear fruit."
The apple-tree was not broken down; for Anthony himself was struck with a fever, which caused him to break down, and confined him to his bed. But something occurred to raise him up again. What was it? A medicine was offered to him, which he was obliged to take: a bitter remedy, at which the sick body and the oppressed spirit alike shuddered. Anthony's father lost all his property, and, from being known as one of the richest merchants, he became very poor. Dark days, heavy trials, with poverty at the door, came rolling into the house upon them like the waves of the sea. Sorrow and suffering deprived Anthony's father of his strength, so that he had something else to think of besides nursing his love-sorrows and his anger against Molly. He had to take his father's place, to give orders, to act with energy, to help, and, at last, to go out into the world and earn his bread. Anthony went to Bremen, and there he learnt what poverty and hard living really were. These things often harden the character, but sometimes soften the heart, even too much.
How different the world, and the people in it, appeared to Anthony now, to what he had thought in his childhood! What to him were the minstrel's songs? An echo of the past, sounds long vanished. At times he would think in this way; yet again and again the songs would sound in his soul, and his heart become gentle and pious.
"God's will is the best," he would then say. "It was well that I was not allowed to keep my power over Molly's heart, and that she did not remain true to me. How I should have felt it now, when fortune has deserted me! She left me before she knew of the change in my circumstances, or had a thought of what was before me. That is a merciful providence for me. All has happened for the best. She could not help it, and yet I have been so bitter, and in such enmity against her."
Years passed by: Anthony's father died, and strangers lived in the old house. He had seen it once again since then. His rich master sent him journeys on business, and on one occasion his way led him to his native town of Eisenach. The old Wartburg castle stood unchanged on the rock where the monk and the nun were hewn out of the stone. The great oaks formed an outline to the scene which he so well remembered in his childhood. The Venus mountain stood out gray and bare, overshadowing the valley beneath. He would have been glad to call out "Lady Halle, Lady Halle, unlock the mountain. I would fain remain here always in my native soil." That was a sinful thought, and he offered a prayer to drive it away. Then a little bird in the thicket sang out clearly, and old Anthony thought of the minstrel's song. How much came back to his remembrance as he looked through the tears once more on his native town! The old house was still standing as in olden times, but the garden had been greatly altered; a pathway led through a portion of the ground, and outside the garden, and beyond the path, stood the old apple-tree, which he had not broken down, although he talked of doing so in his trouble. The sun still threw its rays upon the tree, and the refreshing dew fell upon it as of old; and it was so overloaded with fruit that the branches bent towards the earth with the weight. "That flourishes still," said he, as he gazed. One of the branches of the tree had, however, been broken: mischievous hands must have done this in passing, for the tree now stood in a public thoroughfare. "The blossoms are often plucked," said Anthony; "the fruit is stolen and the branches broken without a thankful thought of their profusion and beauty. It might be said of a tree, as it has been said of some men– it was not predicted at his cradle that he should come to this. How brightly began the history of this tree, and what is it now? Forsaken and forgotten, in a garden by a hedge in a field, and close to a public road. There it stands, unsheltered, plundered, and broken. It certainly has not yet withered; but in the course of years the number of blossoms from time to time will grow less, and at last it was cease altogether to bear fruit; and then its history will be over."
Such were Anthony's thoughts as he stood under the tree, and during many a long night as he lay in his lonely chamber in the wooden house in Hauschen Street, Copenhagen, in the foreign land to which the rich merchant of Bremen, his employer, had sent him on condition that he should never marry. "Marry! ha, ha!" and he laughed bitterly to himself at the thought.
Winter one year set in early, and it was freezing hard. Without, a snowstorm made every one remain at home who could do so. Thus it happened that Anthony's neighbors, who lived opposite to him, did not notice that his house remained unopened for two days, and that he had not showed himself during that time, for who would go out in such weather unless he were obliged to do so. They were gray, gloomy days, and in the house whose windows were not glass, twilight and dark nights reigned in turns. During these two days old Anthony had not left his bed, he had not the strength to do so. The bitter weather had for some time affected his limbs. There lay the old bachelor, forsaken by all, and unable to help himself. He could scarcely reach the water jug that he had placed by his bed, and the last drop was gone. It was not fever, nor sickness, but old age, that had laid him low. In the little corner, where his bed lay, he was over-shadowed as it were by perpetual night. A little spider, which he could however not see, busily and cheerfully spun its web above him, so that there should be a kind of little banner waving over the old man, when his eyes closed. The time passed slowly and painfully. He had no tears to shed, and he felt no pain; no thought of Molly came into his mind. He felt as if the world was now nothing to him, as if he were lying beyond it, with no one to think of him. Now and then he felt slight sensations of hunger and thirst; but no one came to him, no one tended him. He thought of all those who had once suffered from starvation, of Saint Elizabeth, who once wandered on the earth, the saint of his home and his childhood, the noble Duchess of Thuringia, that highly esteemed lady who visited the poorest villages, bringing hope and relief to the sick inmates. The recollection of her pious deeds was as light to the soul of poor Anthony. He thought of her as she went about speaking words of comfort, binding up the wounds of the afflicted and feeding the hungry, although often blamed for it by her stern husband. He remembered a story told of her, that on one occasion, when she was carrying a basket full of wine and provisions, her husband, who had watched her footsteps, stepped forward and asked her angrily what she carried in her basket, whereupon, with fear and trembling, she answered, "Roses, which I have plucked from the garden." Then he tore away the cloth which covered the basket, and what could equal the surprise of the pious woman, to find that by a miracle, everything in her basket– the wine, the bread– had all been changed into roses.
In this way the memory of the kind lady dwelt in the calm mind of Anthony. She was as a living reality in his little dwelling in the Danish land. He uncovered his face that he might look into her gentle eyes, while everything around him changed from its look of poverty and want, to a bright rose tint. The fragrance of roses spread through the room, mingled with the sweet smell of apples. He saw the branches of an apple-tree spreading above him. It was the tree which he and Molly had planted together. The fragrant leaves of the tree fell upon him and cooled his burning brow; upon his parched lips they seemed like refreshing bread and wine; and as they rested on his breast, a peaceful calm stole over him, and he felt inclined to sleep. "I shall sleep now," he whispered to himself. "Sleep will do me good. In the morning I shall be upon my feet again, strong and well. Glorious! wonderful! That apple-tree, planted in love, now appears before me in heavenly beauty." And he slept.
The following day, the third day during which his house had been closed, the snow-storm ceased. Then his opposite neighbor stepped over to the house in which old Anthony lived, for he had not yet showed himself. There he lay stretched on his bed, dead, with his old nightcap tightly clasped in his two hands. The nightcap, however, was not placed on his head in his coffin; he had a clean white one on then. Where now were the tears he had shed? What had become of those wonderful pearls? They were in the nightcap still. Such tears as these cannot be washed out, even when the nightcap is forgotten. The old thoughts and dreams of a bachelor's nightcap still remain. Never wish for such a nightcap. It would make your forehead hot, cause your pulse to beat with agitation, and conjure up dreams which would appear realities.
The first who wore old Anthony's cap felt the truth of this, though it was half a century afterwards. That man was the mayor himself, who had already made a comfortable home for his wife and eleven children, by his industry. The moment he put the cap on he dreamed of unfortunate love, of bankruptcy, and of dark days. "Hallo! how the nightcap burns!" he exclaimed, as he tore it from his bead. Then a pearl rolled out, and then another, and another, and they glittered and sounded as they fell. "What can this be? Is it paralysis, or something dazzling my eyes?" They were the tears which old Anthony had shed half a century before.
To every one who afterwards put this cap on his head, came visions and dreams which agitated him not a little. His own history was changed into that of Anthony till it became quite a story, and many stories might be made by others, so we will leave them to relate their own. We have told the first; and our last word is, don't wish for a "bachelor's nightcap."
Der er i Kjøbenhavn en Gade, som har det underlige Navn "Hyskenstræde", og hvorfor hedder den det og hvad har det at betyde? Det skal være Tydsk, men der har man gjort Tydsken Uret: "Häuschen", skulde man sige, og det betyder: smaa Huse; disse der, den Gang, og det i mange Aaringer, vare ikke stort andet end Træ-Boder, næsten som vi nu see dem stillede op paa Markederne; ja lidt større vel og med Vinduer, men Ruderne vare af Horn eller Blæreskind, thi den Tid var det for dyrt at have Glas-Ruder i alle Huse, men det er ogsaa saa langt tilbage i Tiden, at Oldefaders Oldefader, da han fortalte derom, ogsaa kaldte det: i gamle Dage; det er flere hundrede Aar siden.
De rige Kjøbmænd i Bremen og Lübeck dreve Handelen i Kjøbenhavn; selv kom de ikke herop, de sendte deres Svende, og de boede i Træboderne i "Smaahusenes Gade" og holdt Udsalget af Øl og Kryderi. Det var nu saa deiligt det tydske Øl, og der var saa mange Slags, Bremer-, Prysing-, Emser-Øl - ja Braunschweiger-Mumme, og saa alle de Kryderier, saadanne som Safran, Anis, Ingefær og især Peber; ja det var nu det Betydeligste her og derfor fik de tydske Svende i Danmark Navnet: Pebersvende, og det var en Forpligtelse de maatte indgaae hjemme, at de her oppe ikke turde gifte sig; mange af dem bleve saa gamle; selv maatte de sørge for sig, pusle om sig, selv slukke deres Ild, om de havde nogen; nogle bleve saadanne eenlige, gamle Karle, med egne Tanker og egne Vaner; efter dem kalder man nu hver ugift Mandsperson, der er kommet i nogenlunde sat Alder, en "Pebersvend"; alt det maa man vide for at forstaae Historien.
Man gjør Løier med Pebersvenden, siger, han skal have Nathue paa, trække den ned over Øinene og gaae at lægge sig:
"Skære, skære Brænde,
O Vee de Pebersvende, -
Tilsengs med dem en Nathue gaaer,
De selv der' Lys maae tænde!" -
Ja, det synger man om dem! man spotter Pebersvenden og hans Nathue, - just fordi man kjender saa lidt til ham og til den, - ak, den Nathue skal man da aldrig ønske sig! og hvorfor ikke? Ja, hør!
Omme i Smaahusenes Gade, i de ældste Tider, var der ingen Brolægning, Folk traadte i Hul ved Hul, som i en opkjørt Huulvei, og snevert var der: Boderne stode op til hinanden og saa nær gjenboes, at i Sommertiden spændtes tidt et * Seil over Gaden fra een Bod til en anden, og saa lugtede der imellem saa krydret af Peber, Safran og Ingefær. Bag Disken stod ikke mangen Ungersvend, nei, det var meest gamle Fyre, og de vare nu slet ikke, som vi tænke os, klædte med Paryk eller Nathue, med Skægsbuxer, Vest og Kjole knappede heelt op, nei saadan gik Oldefaders Oldefader klædt og saadan er han afmalet, Pebersvendene havde ikke Raad til at lade sig afmale, og det havde dog nok været værd nu at eie et Billede af een af dem, saaledes som han stod der bag Disken eller i Højtidsdagene vandrede til Kirken. Hatten var bredskygget og høipullet, og tidt stak een af de yngste Svende en Fjer i sin; den uldne Skjorte blev skjult ved en nedslagen linned Krave, Trøien sad snevert knappet til, Kappen løs ovenover og Buxerne gik lige ned i de bredsnudede Skoe, for Strømper bare de ikke. I Bæltet sad Madkniven og Skeen, ja der sad endnu en stor Kniv til at forsvare sig med, og den gjordes tidt behov i de Tider. Saadan netop gik klædt paa Festdagene gamle Anthon, een af Smaahusenes ældste Pebersvende, kun havde han ikke den høipullede Hat, men en Kabuds og under den en strikket Hue, en rigtig Nathue, den havde han saa ganske vænt sig til, den blev altid paa, og han eiede hele to af den Slags; han var just til at male, han var saa pindmager, saa rynket om Mund og Øine, havde lange knoklede Fingre og graabuskede Øienbryn; over det venstre Øie hang der en heel Tot, kjønt var det vel ikke, men det gjorde ham saa kjendelig; man vidste om ham, at han var fra Bremen, men der var han egentlig ikke fra, der boede hans Herre; selv var han fra Thüringen, fra den Stad Eisenach, tæt under Wartburg; derom talte gamle Anthon ikke meget, men han tænkte derpaa desmere!
De gamle Svende i Gaden kom ikke meget sammen, hver blev i sin Bod, der tidlig paa Aftenen lukkedes og da saae der sort ud, der kom kun et mat Lysskjær ud gjennem den lille Horn-Rude paa Taget, hvor, indenfor, som oftest paa sin Seng, den gamle Karl sad med sin tydske Sangbog og qvædede sin Aftenpsalme, eller han gik endnu langt ud paa Natten og puslede med hvad der kunde være; morsomt var det bestemt ikke, Fremmed i et fremmedt Land er en bitterlig Stand; man kommer slet Ingen ved, uden man skulde staae dem iveien.
Tidt naar det var rigtig sort Nat udenfor med Regn og Rusk, kunde her være saa skummelt og øde; Lygter saae man ikke, uden den eneste og meget lille, der hang netop ud for den ene Ende af Gaden, foran den hellige Jomfrues Billede, der var malet paa Muren. Man hørte Vandet ordentligt skvulpe og pladske mod Bjælkeværket nær ved, ud for Slotsholm, som den anden Ende af Gaden vendte imod. Saadanne Aftener bleve lange og eensomme, tog man sig ikke noget for: pakke ud og pakke ind, gjøre Kræmmerhuse og polere Vægtskaale er ikke nødvendigt hver Dag, men saa tager man sig Andet for, og det gjorde gamle Anthon, han syede selv paa sit Tøi, lappede paa sine Skoe; naar saa endelig han kom tilsengs, ja saa beholdt han, efter Sædvane, Nathuen paa, trak den endnu lidt længere ned, men snart igjen trak han den op for at see om ikke Lyset var vel slukket, han følte paa det, klemte Vægen og saa lagde han sig igjen og om paa den anden Side, og fik igjen Nathuen ned; men tidt kom saa i det samme den Tanke: mon vel i den lille Ildpotte nede hvert Kul var heelt udbrændt, tilbørlig dæmpet, en lille Gnist kunde der endnu være blevet, den kunde tænde og gjøre Fortræd; og saa stod han op af sin Seng, krøb ned ad Stigen, Trappe kunde den ikke kaldes, og naar han saa kom til Ildpotten var der ikke Gnist at see, og han kunde vende om igjen; men tidt kom han kun Halvveien, saa var han uvis om Jernstangen var sat for Døren, om Krampen var for Skodderne; ja, saa maatte han ned paa de tynde Been; han frøs, Tænderne klapprede da han krøb i Seng, for Kulde kommer først rigtig skrap, naar den veed den skal væk. Dynen trak han høiere op over sig, Nathuen mere ned over Øinene og vendte nu Tankerne bort fra Dagens Handel og Besvær, men det blev ikke til Behagelighed, for da kom gamle Minder og hang sine Gardiner op, og de har sommetider Knappenaale, som man stikker sig paa; av! siger man; og stikke de ind i det blodige Kjød og brænde, saa kan man faae Taarer i Øinene derved, og det fik ogsaa gamle Anthon tidt, der kom hede Taarer, de klareste Perler; de faldt paa Sengedynen eller paa Gulvet, og da klang de som om en Smertens Streng sprang, saa hjertefuldt; de fordunstede nok, de blussede op i Flamme; men de belyste da et Livsbillede for ham, det, der aldrig forsvandt af hans Hjerte; tørrede han saa Øinene med Nathuen, ja saa knustes Taaren og Billedet, men Kilden til det var og blev, den laae i hans Hjerte. Billederne kom ikke som de fulgte i Virkeligheden, oftest kom de smerteligste, ogsaa de glad veemodige lyste frem, men just de kastede nu de stærkeste Skygger.
"Deilig er Bøgeskoven i Danmark!" sagde man, men deiligere løftede sig dog for Anthon Bøgeskoven i Egnen ved Wartburg; mægtigere og meer ærværdige syntes ham de gamle Ege oppe om den stolte Eidderborg, hvor Slyngplanterne hang hen over Klippens Steenblokke; sødere duftede Æbletræernes Blomster der, end i det danske Land; levende følte og fornam han det endnu; en Taare trillede, klang og lyste: han saae tydeligt i den to Smaabørn, en Dreng og en Pige, lege; Drengen havde røde Kinder, gule krøllede Haar, ærlige blaae Øine, det var den rige Kræmmers Søn, lille Anthon, ham selv; den lille Pige havde brune Øine og sort Haar, kjæk og klog saae hun ud, det var Borgemesterens Datter, Molly. De To legede med et Æble, de rystede det og hørte hvorledes Kjærnerne raslede indeni; Æblet skar de over og fik hver et Stykke; de deelte Kjærnerne mellem sig og spiste dem, paa een nær, den skulde lægges i Jorden, meente den lille Pige.
"Saa skal Du see hvad der kommer ud af det, der kommer Noget, som Du slet ikke tænker Dig, der kommer et heelt Æbletræ, men ikke ligestrax!"
Og Kjærnen plantede de i en Urtepotte, begge To vare ivrige dermed; Drengen gravede Hul i Jorden med sin Finger, den lille Pige lagde Kjærnen ned og begge To dækkede Jorden til.
"Nu maa Du ikke imorgen tage den op, for at see om den har faaet Rod," sagde hun, "det maa man ikke! det gjorde jeg med mine Blomster, kun to Gange, jeg vilde see om de groede, da havde jeg ikke bedre Forstand, og Blomsterne døde!"
Urtepotten blev hos Anthon og hver Morgen, hele Vinteren saae han til den, men der var kun den sorte Jord at see; nu kom Foraaret, Solen skinnede saa varmt, da pippede der frem i Urtepotten to smaa grønne Blade.
"Det er mig og Molly!" sagde Anthon, "det er yndigt, det er mageløst!"
Snart kom der et tredie Blad; hvem betyder det? Ja, der kom eet og eet endnu! hver Dag og Uge blev det større og større, Planten blev et heelt Træ. Og dette, Altsammen, afspeilede sig nu i en eneste Taare, der knustes og forsvandt; men den kunde komme igjen fra Vældet, - fra gamle Anthons Hjerte.
Nær ved Eisenach strækker sig en Række stenede Bjerge, eet runder sig frem og har hverken Træer, Buske eller Græs; det kaldes Venusbjerget; derinde boer Fru Venus, en Afguds-Qvinde fra hedensk Tid, Fru Holle kaldtes hun, det vidste og veed endnu hvert Barn i Eisenach; ind til sig havde hun lokket den ædle Ridder Tannhäuser, Minnesangeren fra Wartburg Sangerkreds.
Lille Molly og Anthon stode tidt ved Bjerget, og eengang sagde hun: "Tør Du banke paa og sige: Fru Holle! Fru Holle! luk op, her er Tannhäuser!" men det turde Anthon ikke; Molly turde det; dog kun de Ord: "Fru Holle! Fru Holle!" sagde hun høit og tydeligt, Resten talte hun saaledes hen i Vinden, saa utydeligt, at Anthon var vis paa, hun ikke havde sagt noget egentligt; saa kjæk saae hun ud, saa kjæk, som naar hun sommetider med andre Smaapiger traf sammen i Haven med ham, og de da alle vilde kysse ham, just fordi han ikke vilde kysses, og slog fra sig, hun alene vovede det.
"Jeg tør kysse ham!" sagde hun stolt og tog ham om Halsen; det var hendes Forfængelighed og Anthon fandt sig deri, tænkte slet ikke derover. Hvor var hun yndig, hvor var hun kjæk. Fru Holle i Bjerget skulde ogsaa være deilig, men den Deilighed havde man sagt, var det Ondes forførende Skjønhed; den høieste Deilighed derimod var en saadan som fandtes hos den hellige Elisabeth, Landets beskyttende Helgeninde, den fromme thüringske Fyrstinde, hvis gode Gjerninger gjennem Sagn og Legende forherligede her saa mangt et Sted; i Capellet hang hendes Billede med Sølvlamper om; - dog hun lignede slet ikke Molly.
Æbletræet, de to Børn havde plantet, voxede Aar for Aar, det blev saa stort, at det maatte plantes ud i Haven i den friske Luft, hvor Duggen faldt, hvor Solen skinnede varmt, og det fik Kræfter til at staae Vinteren imod med, og efter Vinterens haarde Tryk, var det ligesom om det af Glæde i Foraaret satte Blomster; i Høsten havde det to Æbler, eet for Molly, eet for Anthon; mindre kunde det ikke godt være.
Træet havde skyndt sig frem, Molly voxte som Træet, hun var frisk, som en Æbleblomst; men længe skulde han ikke see paa den Blomst. Alting skifter, Alting vexler! Mollys Fader forlod det gamle Hjem og Molly fulgte med, langt bort; - ja i vor Tid er det ved Dampen kun nogle Timers Reise, men den Gang brugte man meer end Nat og Dag til at komme saa langt Øster paa fra Eisenach, det var heelt i den yderste Kant af Thüringen, til den Stad, der endnu kaldes Weimar.
Og Molly græd og Anthon græd; - alle de Taarer, ja de randt nu i een eneste Taare og den havde Glædens røde, deilige Lys. Molly havde sagt ham, hun holdt af ham meer end af al Herlighed i Weimar.
Der gik et Aar, der gik to, tre, og i al den Tid kom to Breve, det ene bragte Fragtmanden, det andet havde en Reisende med; det var en Vei, lang, tung og i Bugter, forbi Stæder og Byer.
Hvortidt havde ikke Anthon og Molly sammen hørt Historien om Tristland og Isolde og saa ofte havde han tænkt derved sig og Molly, skjøndt Navnet Tristand skulde betyde at "han var født dem i Sorg", og det passede ikke paa Anthon, han vilde heller aldrig som Tristand kunde faae i Tanke, "hun har glemt mig!" men Isolde glemte jo ogsaa heller ikke sin Hjertens Ven, og da de begge vare døde og jordede paa hver sin Side af Kirken, voxte Lindetræerne fra Gravene hen over Kirketaget og mødtes blomstrende der; det var saa smukt, syntes Anthon, og dog saa sørgeligt -, men sørgeligt kunde det ikke blive med ham og Molly og saa fløitede han en Vise af Minnesangeren, Walther von der Vogelweide:
"Under Linden ved Heden -!"
Og især klang saa deiligt i den:
"Ud for Skoven, i den stille Dal,
Sang dertil en Nattergal!"
Den Vise kom ham altid paa Tunge, den sang og fløitede han i den maaneklare Nat, da han til Hest i den dybe Huulvei reed afsted for at naae til Weimar og gjeste Molly; han vilde komme uventet, og han kom uventet.
Velkommen fik han, Viin fuldt op i Bægeret, muntert Selskab, fornemt Selskab, en hyggelig Stue og en god Seng, og dog var der slet ikke som han havde tænkt og drømt sig! han forstod ikke sig, han forstod ikke de Andre; men vi kunne forstaae det! Man kan være i Huset, i Familie, og groer dog ikke fast, man samtaler, som man samtaler i en Postvogn, kjender hinanden, som man kjender hinanden i en Postvogn, generer hinanden, ønsker at man var afsted, eller at vor gode Nabo var afsted. Ja saadant Noget fornam Anthon.
"Jeg er en ærlig Pige," sagde Molly til ham, "jeg vil selv sige Dig det! Meget har forandret sig siden vi vare sammen som Børn, det er anderledes udenom og indeni! Vane og Villie har ikke Magt over vort Hjerte! Anthon! jeg vil ikke have en Uven i Dig, nu jeg snart er langt borte herfra! - tro mig, jeg har en god Tanke for Dig, men holde af Dig, som jeg nu veed, at man kan holde af et andet Menneske, det har jeg aldrig gjort! - Det maa Du finde Dig i! - Farvel, Anthon!"
Og Anthon sagde ogsaa Farvel; der kom ikke Taare skabt i hans Øine, men han fornam, at han ikke længer var Mollys Ven. Den gloende Jernstang og den frosne Jernstang bider Huden af vor Læbe med lige Fornemmelse for os, naar vi kysse den, og han kyssede lige stærkt ind i Kjærlighed, som i Had.
Ikke et Døgn var Anthon om at naae hjem igjen til Eisenach, men Hesten han reed paa blev ogsaa spoleret.
"Hvad siger det!" sagde han, "jeg er spoleret og jeg vil spolere Alt, hvad der kan minde mig om hende: Fru Holle, Fru Venus, du hedenske Qvinde! - Æbletræet skal jeg knække og brække, rykke op med Rod; aldrig skal det blomstre meer og sætte Frugt!"
Men Træet blev ikke lagt øde, selv var han lagt øde og laae i Feber paa sin Seng. Hvad kunde hjelpe ham op igjen? Der kom en Medicin, der kunde det, den bittreste, der findes, den, der ryster op i den syge Krop og den krympende Sjæl: Anthons Fader var ikke længer den rige Kjøbmand. De tunge Dage, Prøvelsens Dage, stode for Døren; Ulykken væltede ind; som store Søer kom den i det engang rige Huus. Faderen blev en fattig Mand, Sorg og Ulykke lamslog ham; da fik Anthon Andet at tænke paa, end Kjærestesorg og at være vred paa Molly; han maatte nu være Fader og Moder i Huset, han maatte ordne, hjelpe, tage ordentligt fat, selv ud i den vide Verden og tjene for sit Brød.
Til Bremen kom han, prøvede Nød og tunge Dage, og de gjøre Sindet haardt eller blødt, tidt altfor blødt. Hvor langt anderledes var dog Verden og Menneskene der, end han havde tænkt sig i Barndoms Tid. Hvad var ham nu Minnesangernes Viser, Kling og Klang, Mundsveir! ja det var hans Mening sommetider, men andre Tider klang de Sange ham inde i Sjælen og han blev from i Sind.
"Guds Villie er den bedste!" sagde han da, "godt var det, at Vor Herre ikke lod Mollys Hjerte hænge ved mig, hvad skulde det have ført til, nu da Lykken saaledes har vendt sig. Hun slap mig, før hun vidste eller tænkte paa dette Omslag fra Velstands Dage, der forestod. Det var en Herrens Naade mod mig, Alt er skeet paa det Bedste! Alt skeet viseligt! hun kunde ikke derfor; og jeg har været hende saa bitter fjendsk!"
Og Aaringer gik; Anthons Fader var død, Fremmede boede i Fædrehuset; Anthon skulde dog see det igjen, hans rige Herre sendte ham i Reise-Ærinde og da kom han gjennem sin Fødeby Eisenach. Det gamle Wartburg stod uforandret deroppe paa Fjeldet, med "Munken og Nonnen" i Steenblokken; de mægtige Egetræer gave samme Omrids til det Hele som i Barndomstid. Venusbjerget skinnede nøgent graaligt frem i Dalen. Gjerne havde han sagt: "Fru Holle, Fru Holle! luk Bjerget op! saa bliver jeg dog der paa Hjemmets Grund!"
Det var en syndig Tanke og han slog Kors for sig; da sang en lille Fugl fra Busken, og den gamle Minnevise kom ham i Tanke:
"Ud for Skoven, i den stille Dal,
Sang dertil en Nattergal!"
Han huskede paa saa Meget, her ved sin Barndoms By, den han gjensaae gjennem Taarer. Pædrehuset stod som før, men Haven var omlagt, en Markvei førte hen over et Hjørne af den gamle Have-Grund, og Æbletræet, det han ikke havde faaet ødelagt, stod der, men uden for Haven, paa den anden Side af Veien, dog Solen skinnede paa det som før og Duggen faldt paa det som før, det bar rigelig Frugt, der bøiede Grenene ned mod Jorden.
"Det trives!" sagde han, "det kan det!"
Een af de store Grene paa det var dog knækket, kaade Hænder havde gjort det, Træet stod jo ved Alfarvei.
"Man bryder af dets Blomster, uden at sige Tak, man stjæler af Frugten og knækker Grenene; her kunde siges, dersom man kan tale om et Træ, som om et Menneske: det var ikke sjunget for Træets Vugge, at det skulde saadan staae. Det begyndte sin Historie saa smukt, og hvad kom der ud af den? forladt og glemt, et Havetræ paa Grøften, ved Mark og Landevei! der staaer det uden Læ, rusket og knækket! det visner vel ikke deraf, men med Aarene blive Blomsterne færre, Frugterne ingen og tilsidst - ja, saa er Historien ude!"
Det tænkte Anthon der under Træet, det tænkte han mangen Nat i det lille eensomme Kammer i Træhuset i fremmed Land i Smaahusenes Gade i Kjøbenhavn, hvorhen hans rige Herre, Kjøbmanden i Bremen, havde sendt ham og betinget at han ikke maatte gifte sig.
"Gifte sig! ho, ho!" loe han saa dybt og underligt.
Vinteren var kommet tidlig, det frøs skrapt; udenfor var en Sneestorm, saa at Enhver der kunde det holdt sig indendøre; derfor var det ogsaa, at Anthons Gjenboer ikke lagde Mærke til, at hans Bod hele to Dage ikke blev aabnet, han selv slet ikke viste sig, hvem gik ud i det Veir, naar man kunde lade være?
Det var graae, mørke Dage, og i Boden, hvor Ruderne jo ikke vare af Glas, blev kun Tusmørke og bælgmørk Nat. Gamle Anthon havde i to Dage slet ikke forladt sin Seng, han eiede ikke Kræfter dertil; det haarde Veir ude havde han længe fornummet i sine Lemmer. Forladt laae den gamle Pebersvend, og kunde ikke hjelpe sig, knap kunde han række til Vandkrukken, den han havde stillet udenfor Sengen, og den sidste Draabe var ogsaa drukket. Det var ikke Feber, ikke Sygdom, det var Alderdommen, der lammede ham. Det var næsten som stadig Nat om ham, deroppe hvor han laae. En lille Edderkop, den han ikke kunde see, spandt tilfreds og travlt sin Spindelvæv hen over ham, som skulde der dog vaie lidt nyt, friskt Sørgeflor, dersom den Gamle lukkede sine Øine.
Saa lang og døsende tom var Tiden; Taarer havde han ikke, Smerte ikke heller; Molly var slet ikke i hans Tanke; han havde en Fornemmelse af, at Verden og dens Tummel ikke meer var hans, at han laae udenfor den, Ingen tænkte paa ham. Et Øieblik syntes han at fornemme Hunger, ogsaa Tørst, - ja han fornam den! men Ingen kom at vederqvæge ham, Ingen vilde komme. Han tænkte paa dem, der vansmægtede, huskede, hvorledes den hellige Elisabeth, da hun levede her paa Jorden, hun, hans Hjemstavns og Barndoms Helgeninde, den ædle Hertuginde af Thüringen, den høifornemme Frue steeg selv ind i den fattigste Vraa og bragte den Syge Haab og Vederqvægelse. Hendes fromme Gjerninger lyste ind i hans Tanker, han huskede, hvorledes hun kom og talede Trøstens Ord til dem der leed, badede den Lidendes Saar og bragte den Hungrige Føde, skjøndt hendes strenge Husbond vrededes derover. Han huskede Sagnet om hende, hvorledes, da hun kom med den fuldpakkede Kurv, hvori var Viin og Føde, hendes Husbond, der bevogtede hendes Skridt, traadte frem og i Vrede spurgte, hvad det var hun der bar, hun da i Skræk svarede, det er Roser, jeg har plukket i Haven, han rev Dugen af, og Miraklet var skeet for den fromme Qvinde, Vinen og Brødet, Alt i Kurven laae forvandlet til Roser.
Saaledes levede Helgeninden i Tankerne hos gamle Anthon, saaledes stod hun lyslevende for hans matte Syn, foran hans Seng i den ringe Træbod i det danske Land. Han blottede sit Hoved, saae hende ind i de milde Øine og Alt rundtom var Glands og Roser, ja disse selv bredte sig ud saa duftende, en egen deilig Æbleduft fornam han, et blomstrende Æbletræ saae han det var, det strakte sig henover ham, det var Træet, han med Molly havde plantet som lille Kjærne.
Og Træet dryssede sine duftende Blade ned paa hans hede Pande og kjølede den; de faldt paa hans forsmægtende Læber og det var som styrkende Viin og Brød, de faldt paa hans Bryst og han følte sig saa let, saa tryg til at blunde.
"Nu sover jeg!" hviskede han stille; "Søvnen gjør godt! imorgen er jeg karsk og rigtig oppe igjen! deiligt! deiligt! Æbletræet plantet i Kjærlighed, seer jeg i Herlighed!"
Og han sov.
Dagen derpaa, det var den tredie Dag Boden var lukket, Sneen fygede ikke meer, søgte Gjenboen over til gamle Anthon, der slet ikke viste sig. Han laae udstrakt død med sin gamle Nathue trykket mellem Hænderne. Den fik han ikke paa i Kisten, han havde jo endnu een, reen og hvid.
Hvor vare nu de Taarer han havde grædt? Hvor vare de Perler? I Nathuen bleve de, - de ægte gaae ikke af i Vasken - med Huen bleve de gjemt og glemt, - de gamle Tanker, de gamle Drømme, ja de bleve endnu i Pebersvendens Nathue. Ønsk Dig ikke den! din Pande vil den gjøre altfor heed, faae Pulsen til at slaae stærkere, bringe Drømme, som vare de Virkelighed; det prøvede den Første, som fik den paa og det var dog et halvhundred Aar efter, og det Borgemesteren selv, der sad med Kone og elleve Børn, godt inden Vægge; han drømte strax om ulykkelig Kjærlighed, Fallit og knap Tæring.
"Hu! hvor den Nathue varmer!" sagde han og rev den af og der trillede en Perle og atter en Perle, der klang og lyste. "Det er Gigten!" sagde Borgemesteren, "det gnistrer mig for Øinene!"
Det var Taarer, grædt for et halvhundred Aar siden, grædt af gamle Anthon fra Eisenach.
Hver som siden fik den Nathue paa, fik rigtignok Syner og Drømme, hans egen Historie blev til Anthons, det blev et heelt Eventyr, det blev mange, dem kunne de Andre fortælle, nu have vi fortalt det første og med det er vort sidste Ord: - ønsk Dig aldrig Pebersvendens Nahue.