THE OLD BACHELOR'S NIGHTCAP 573
naked and without tree, bush, or grass. It is called the Venus Mount. In this mountain dwells Lady Venus, one of the deities of the heathen times. She is also called Lady Holle ; and every child in and around Eisenach has heard about her. She it was who lured Tannhauser, the noble knight and minstrel, from the circle of the singers of the Wartburg into her mountain.
Little Molly and Anthony often stood by this mountain ; and once Molly said,
' Dare you knock and say, " Lady Holle, open the door —Tannhauser is here " ? '
But Anthony did not dare. Molly, however, did it, though she only said the words ' Lady Holle, Lady Holle ! ' aloud and distinctly ; the rest she muttered so indistinctly that Anthony felt convinced she had not really said anything ; and yet she looked as bold and saucy as possible —as saucy as when she sometimes oame round him with other little girls in the garden, and all wanted to kiss him because he did not like to be kissed and tried to keep them off ; and she was the only one who dared to kiss him.
1 / may kiss him ! ' she would say proudly.
That was her vanity ; and Anthony submitted, and thought no more about it.
How charming and how teasing Molly was ! It was said that Lady Holle in the mountain was beautiful also, but that her beauty was like that of a tempting fiend. The greatest beauty and grace was possessed by Saint Elizabeth, the patron saint of the country, the pious Princess of Thuringia, whose good actions have been immortalized in many places in legends and stories. In the chapel her picture was hanging, surrounded by silver lamps ; but it was not in the least like Molly.
The apple-tree which the two children had planted grew year by year, and became so tall, that it had to be transplanted into the garden, into the fresh air, where the dew fell and the sun shone warm. And the tree developed itself strongly, so that it could resist the winter. And it seemed as if, after the rigour of the cold season was past, it put forth blossoms in spring for very joy. In the autumn it brought two apples—one for Molly and one for Anthony. It could not well have produced less.