576 THE OLD BACHELOR'S NIGHTCAP
the house like great waves of the sea. The father became a poor man. Sorrow and suffering took away his strength. Then Anthony had to think of something else besides nursing his love-sorrows and his anger against Molly. He had to take his father's place—to give orders, to help, to act energetically, and at last to go out into the world and earn his bread.
Anthony went to Bremen. There he learned what poverty and hard living meant; and these sometimes make the heart hard, and sometimes soften it, even too much.
How different the world was, and how different the people were from what he had supposed them to be in his childhood ! What were the minnesinger's songs to him now ? —an echo, a vanishing sound ! Yes, that is what he thought sometimes ; but again the songs would sound in his soul, and his heart became gentle.
' God's will is best!' he would say then. ' It was well that I was not permitted to keep Molly's heart—that she did not remain true to me. What would it have led to now, when fortune has turned away from me ? She quitted me before she knew of this loss of prosperity, or had any notion of what awaited me. That was a mercy of Providence towards me. Everything has happened for the best. It was not her fault—and I have been so bitter, and have shown so much rancour towards her !'
And years went by. Anthony's father was dead, and strangers lived in the old house. But Anthony was destined to see it again. His rich employer sent him on commercial journeys, and his duty led him into his native town of Eisenach. The old Wartburg stood unchanged on the mountain, with ' the monk and the nun ' hewn out in stone. The great oaks gave to the scene the outlines it had possessed in his childish days. The Venus Mount glimmered grey and naked over the valley. He would have been glad to cry, ' Lady Holle, Lady Holle, unlock the door, and I shall enter and remain in my native earth !'
That was a sinful thought, and he blessed himself to drive it away. Then a little bird out of the thicket sang clearly, and the old minnesong came into his mind—
From the forest, down in the vale, Sang her sweet song the nightingale.