THE OLD BACHELOR'S NIGHTCAP 575
He was made welcome with full goblets of wine, with jovial company, fine company, and a pretty room and a good bed were provided for him ; and yet his reception was not what he had dreamed and fancied it would be. He could not understand himself—he could not understand the others ; but we can understand it. One may be admitted into a house and associate with a family without becoming one of them. One may converse together as one would converse in a post-carriage, and know one another as people know each other on a journey, each incommoding the other and wishing that either oneself or the good neighbour were away. Yes, that was the kind of thing-Anthony felt.
11 am an honest girl,' said Molly, ' and I myself will tell you what it is. Much has changed since we were children together—changed inwardly and outwardly. Habit and will have no power over our hearts. Anthony, I should not like to have an enemy in you, now that I shall soon be far away from here. Believe me, I entertain the best wishes for you ; but to feel for you what I know now one may feel for a man, has never been the case with me. You must reconcile yourself to this. Farewell, Anthony ! '
And Anthony bade her farewell. No tear came into his eye, but he felt that he was no longer Molly's friend. Hot iron and cold iron alike take the skin from our lips, and we have the same feeling when we kiss it: and he kissed himself into hatred as into love.
Within twenty-four hours Anthony was back in Eisenach, though certainly the horse on which he rode was ruined.
1 What matter ! ' he said : ' I am ruined too ; and I will destroy everything that can remind me of her, or of Lady Holle, or Venus the heathen woman ! I will break down the apple-tree and tear it up by the roots, so that it shall never bear flower or fruit more ! '
But the apple-tree was not broken down, though he himself was broken down, and bound on a couch by fever. What could raise him up again ? A medicine was presented to him which had strength to do this—the bitterest of medicines, that shakes up body and spirit together. Anthony's father ceased to be the richest of merchants. Heavy days—days of trial—were at the door; misfortune came rolling into