上一级

讨论区

本书首页    Previous    Next    Chinese


THE OLD BACHELOR'S NIGHTCAP

 

THERE is street in Copenhagen that has this strange name—“Hysken Str$de.”Whence comes this name and what is its meaningIt is said to be Germanbut injustice has been done to the Germans in this matterfor it would have to beH uschen”,and that means little housesFor here stoodonce upon a timeand indeed for a great many yearsa few little houseswhich were little more than wooden boothsjust as we see now in the marketplaces at fair-timeThey wereperhapsa little largerand had windowsbut the panes were of horn or bladderfor glass was then too expensive to be used in every houseBut then we are speaking of a long time agoso long sincethat grandfather's grandfatherwhen he talked about itused to speak of it asthe old times”—in factit is several centuries ago

The rich merchants in Bremen and Lübeck carried on trade with CopenhagenThey did not come here themselvesbut sent their clerkswho lived in the wooden booths in the street of the small housesand sold beer and spices

The German beer was goodand there were many kinds of itBremenand PryssingEmserand even Brunswick mummand quantities of spices were soldsaffronand aniseedand gingerand especially pepperYespepper was the chief article hereand so it happened that the German clerks got the nickname,“pepper gentry”;and there was a condition which they had to enter into at homethat they would not marry at Copenhagenand many of them became very oldThey had to care for themselvesand to look after their own comfortsand to put out their own fireswhen they had anyand some of them became very solitary old boyswith eccentric ideas and eccentric habitsFrom themall unmarried men who have attained a certain age are called in Denmarkpepper gentry”;and this must be derstood by all who wish to comprehend this history

Thepepper gentlemanbecomes a butt for ridiculeand is told that he ought to put on his nightcapdraw it down over his eyesand go to bedThe boys sing

Cutcut wood

Poor bachelor's a sorry elf

A nightcap goes with him to bed

And he must light his fire himself.”

Yesthat's what they sing about thepepperer”—thus they make game of the poor bachelor and his nightcapjust because they know very little about eitherAhthat kind of nightcap no one should wish to earnAnd why notWe shall hear

In the old times the street of the small houses was not pavedand the people stumbled out of one hole into anotheras in a neglected by-wayand it was narrow tooThe booths leaned side by sideand stood so close together that in the summer-time a sail was often stretched from one booth to its opposite neighbouron which occasion the fragrance of peppersaffronand ginger became doubly powerfulBehind the counters young men were seldom seenThe clerks were generally old boysbut they did not look like what we should fancy themmanelywith wigand nightcapand plush smallclothesand with waistcoat and coat buttoned up to the chinNograndfather's great-grandfather may look like thatand has been thus portrayedbut thepepper gentrydid not have the means to have their portraits takenthoughin-deedit would be interesting now to have a picture of one of themas he stood behind the counter or went to church on holy daysHis hat was highcrowned and broad-brimmedand sometimes one of the youngest clerks would mount a featherThe woollen shirt was hidden behind a broad clean collarthe close jacket was buttoned up to the chinand the cloak hung loose over itand the trousers were tucked into the broadtoed shoesfor the clerks did not wear stockingsIn their girdles they carried a dinner-knife and spoonand a larger knife was placed there also for the defense of the ownerand this weapon was often very necessaryJust so was Anthonyone of the oldest clerksclad on high days and holy daysexcept thatinstead of a highcrowned hathe wore a low bonnetand under it a knitted capa regular nightcap),to which he had grown so accustomed that it was always on his headand he had two of themThe old fellow was a subject for a painterHe was as thin as a lathhad wrinkles about his eyes and mouthand long bony fingersand bushy grey eyebrowsover the left eye hung quite a tuft of hairand that did not look very handsomethough it made him very noticeablePeople knew that he came from Bremenbut that was not his native placethough his master lived thereHis own native place was in Thuringiathe town of Eisenachclose by the WartburgOld Anthony did not speak much of thisbut he thought of it all the more

The old clerks in the street did not often come togetherEach one remained in his boothwhich was closed early in the eveningand then it looked dark enough in the streetonly a faint glimmer of light forced its way through the little hornpane in the roofand in the booth satgenerally on his bedthe old bachelorhis German hymnbook in his handsinging an evening psalmor he went about in the booth till late into the nightand busied himself about all sorts of thingsIt was certainly not an amusing lifeTo be a stranger in a strange land is a bitter lotnobody cares for youunless you happen to get in anybody's way

Often when it was dark night outsidewith snow and rainthe place looked very gloomy and lonelyNo lamps were to be seenwith the exception of one solitary light hanging before the picture of the Virgin that was fastened against the wallThe plash of the water against the neighbouring rampart at the castle wharf could be plainly heardSuch evenings are long and drearyunless people devise some employment for themselvesThere is not always packin or unpacking to donor can the scales be polished or paper bags be made continuallyandfailing thesepeople should devise other employment for themselvesAnd that is just what old Anthony didfor he used to mend his clothes and put pieces on his bootsWhen he at last sought his couch he used from habit to keep his nightcap onHe drew it down a little closerbut soon he would push it up againto see if the light had been properly extinguishedHe would touch itpress the wick togetherand then lie down on the other sideand draw his night-cap down againbut then a doubt would come upon himif every coal in the little fire-pan below had been properly deadened and put outa tiny spark might have been left burningand might set fire to something and cause damageAnd therefore he rose from his bedand crept down the ladderfor it could scarcely be called a stairAnd when he came to the firepan not a spark was to be discoveredand he might just go back againBut oftenwhen he had gone half of the way backit would occur to him that the shutters might not be securely fastenedyesthen his thin legs must carry him downstairs once moreHe was coldand his teeth chattered in his mouth when he crept back again to bedfor the cold seems to become doubly severe when it knows it cannot stay much longerHe drew up the coverlet closer around himand pulled down the nightcap lower over his browsand turned his thoughts away from trade and from the labours of the dayBut that did not procure him agreeable entertainmentfor now old thoughts came and put up their curtainsand these curtains have sometimes pins in themwith which one pricks oneselfand one cries outOh!”and they prick into one's flesh and burn sothat the tears sometimes come into one's eyesand that often happened to old Anthonyhot tearsThe largest pearls streamed forthand fell on the coverlet or on the floorand then they sounded as if one of his heart-strings had brokenSometimes again they seemed to rise up in flameilluminating a picture of life that never faded out of his heartIf he then dried his eyes with his nightcapthe tear and the picture were indeed crushedbut the source of the tears remainedit lay in his heartThe pictures did not come up in the order in which the scenes had occurred in realityfor very often the most painful would come togetherthen again the most joyful would comebut these had the deepest shadows of all

The beech woods of Denmark are beautifulbut the woods of Thuringia arose far more beautiful in the eyes of AnthonyMore mighty and more venerable seemed to him the old oaks around the proud knightly castlewhere the creeping plants hung down over the stony blocks of the rocksweeter there bloomed the flowers of the appletree than in the Danish landThis he remembered very vividlyA glittering tear rolled down over his cheekand in this tear he could plainly see two children playinga boy and a girlThe boy had red cheeksand yellow curling hairand honest blue eyesHe was the son of the rich merchantlittle AnthonyhimselfThe little girl had brown eyes and black hairand had a bright clever lookShe was the burgomaster's daughter MollyThe two were playing with an appleThey shook the appleand heard the pips rattling in itThen they cut the apple in twoand each of them took a halfthey divided even the pipsand ate them all but onewhich the little girl proposed that they should lay in the earth

Then you shall see,”she said,“what will come outIt will be something you don't at all expectA whole apple-tree will come outbut not directly.”

And she put the pip in a flowerpotand both were very busy and eager about itThe boy made a hole in the earth with his fingerand the little girl dropped the pip in itand they both covered it with earth

Nowyou must not take it out tomorrow to see if it has struck root,”said Molly.“That won't do at allI did it with my flowersbut only twiceI wanted to see if they were growingI didn't know any better thenand the plants withered.”

Anthony took away the flowerpotand every morninthe whole winter throughhe looked at itbut nothing was to be seen but the black earthAt lengthhoweverthe spring cameand the sun shone warm againand two little green leaves came up out of the pot

Those are for me and Molly,”said the boy.“That's beautifulthat's marvellously beautiful!”

Soon a third leaf made its appearanceWhom did that representYesand there came anotherand yet anotherDay by day and week by week they grew largerand the plant began to take the form of a real treeAnd all this was now mirrored in a single tearwhich was wiped away and disappearedbut it might come again from its source in the heart of old Anthony

In the neighbourhood of Eisenach a row of stony mountains rises upOne of these mountains is round in outlinenaked and without treebushor grassIt is called the Venus MountIn this mountain dwells Lady Venusone of the deities of the heathen timesShe is al-so called Lady Holleand every child in and around Eisenach has heard about herShe it was who lured Tannh userthe noble knight and minstrelfrom the circle of the singers of the Wartburg into her mountain

Little Molly and Anthony often stood by this mountainand once Molly said

Dare you knock and say,‘Lady Holleopen the doorTannh user is here’?”

But Anthony did not dareMollyhoweverdid itthough she only said the wordsLady HolleLady Holle!”aloud and distinctlythe rest she muttered so in-distinctly that Anthony felt convinced she had not really said anythingand yet she looked as bold and saucy as possibleas saucy as when she sometimes came round him with other little girls in the gardenand all wanted to kiss him because he did not like to be kissed and tried to keep them offand she was the only one who dared to kiss him

I may kiss him!”she would say proudly

That was her vanityand Anthony submittedand thought no more about it

How charming and how teasing Molly wasIt was said that Lady Holle in the mountain was beautiful alsobut that her beauty was like that of a tempting fiendThe greatest beauty and grace was possessed by Saint Elizabeththe patron saint of the countrythe pious Princess of Thuringiawhose good actions have been immortalized in many places in legends and storiesIn the chapel her picture was hangingsurrounded by silver lampsbut it was not in the least like Molly

The appletree which the two children had planted grew year by yearand became so tallthat it had to be transplanted into the gardeninto the fresh airwhere the dew fell and the sun shone warmAnd the tree developed itself stronglyso that it could resist the winterAnd it seemed as ifafter the rigour of the cold season was pastit put forth blossoms in spring for very joyIn the autumn it brought two applesone for Molly and one for AnthonyIt could not well have produced less

The tree had grown apaceand Molly grew like the treeShe was as fresh as an appleblossombut Anthony was not long to behold this flowerAll things changeMolly's father left his old homeand Molly went with himfar awayYesin our time steam has made the journey they took a matter of a few hoursbut then more than a day and a night were necessary to go so far eastward from Eisenach to the farthest border of Thuringiato the city which is still called Weimar

And Molly weptand Anthony weptbut all their tears now melted into oneand this tear had the rosycharming hue of joyFor Molly told him she loved himloved him more than all the splendours of Weimar

Onetwothree years went byand during this period two letters were receivedOne came by a carrierand a traveller brought the otherThe way was long and difficultand passed through many windings by towns and villages

Often had Molly and Anthony heard of Tristram and Iseultand often had the boy applied the story to himself and Mollythough the name Tristam was said to mean born in tribulation”,and that did not apply to Anthonynor would he ever be able to thinklike Tristram,“She has forgotten me.”ButindeedIseult did not forget her faithful knightand when both were laid to rest in the earthone on each side of the churchthe linden trees grew from their graves over the church roofand there met each other in bloomAnthony thought that was beautifulbut mournfulbut it could not become mournful between him and Mollyand he whistled a song of the old minnesingerWalter of the Vogelweide

Under the lindens

Upon the heath

And especially that passage appeared charming to him

From the forestdown in the vale

Sang her sweet song the nightingale

This song was often in his mouthand he sang and whistled it in the moonlight nightwhen he rode along the deep hollow way on horseback to get to Weimar and visit MollyHe wished to come unexpectedlyand he came unexpectedlyHe was made welcome with full goblets of winewith jovial companyfine companyand a pretty room and a good bed were provided for himand yet his reception was not what he had dreamed and fancied it would beHe could not understand himselfhe could not understand the othersbut we can understand itOne may be admitted into a house and associate with a family without becoming one of themOne may converse together as one would converse in a postcarriageand know one another as people know each other on a journeyeach incommoding the other and wishing that either oneself or the good neighbour were awayYesthat was the kind of thing Anthony felt

I am an honest girl,”said Molly,“and I myself will tell you what it isMuch has changed since we were children togetherchanged inwardly and outwardlyHabit and will have no power over our heartsAnthonyI should not like to have an enemy in younow that I shall soon be far away from hereBelieve meI entertain the best wishes for youbut to feel for you what I know now one may feel for a manhas never been the case with meYou must reconcile yourself to thisFarewellAnthony!”

And Anthony bade her farewellNo tear came into his eyebut he felt that he was no longer Molly's friendHot iron and cold iron alike take the skin from our lipsand we have the same feeling when we kiss itand he kissed himself into hatred as into love

Within twenty-four hours Anthony was back in Eisenachthough certainly the horse on which he rode was ruined

What matter!”he said:“I am ruined tooand I will destroy everything that can remind me of heror of Lady Holleor Venus the heathen womanI will break down the appletree and tear it up by the rootsso that it shall never bear flower or fruit more!”

But the appletree was not broken downthough he himself was brokendownand bound on a couch by feverWhat could raise him up againA medicine was presented to him which had strength to do thisthe bitterest of medicinesthat shakes up body and spirit togetherAnthony's father ceased to be the richest of merchantsHeavy daysdays of trialwere at the doormisfortune came rolling into the house like great waves of the seaThe father became a poor manSorrow and suffering took away his strengthThen Anthony had to think of something else besides nursing his lovesorrows and his anger against MollyHe had to take his father's placeto give ordersto helpto act energeticallyand at last to go out into the world and earn his bread

Anthony went to BremenThere he learned what poverty and hard living meantand these sometimes make the heart hardand sometimes soften iteven too much

How different the world wasand how different the people were from what he had supposed them to be in his childhoodWhat were the minnesinger's songs to him now?—an echoa vanishing soundYesthat is what he thought sometimesbut again the songs would sound in his souland 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 heartthat she did not remain true to meWhat would it have led to nowwhen fortune has turned away from meShe quitted me before she knew of this loss of prosperityor had any notion of what awaited meThat was a mercy of Providence towards meEverything has happened for the bestIt was not her faultand I have been so bitterand have shown so much rancour towards her!”

And years went byAnthony's father was deadand strangers lived in the old houseBut Anthony was destined to see it againHis rich employer sent him on commercial journeysand his duty led him into his native town of EisenachThe old Wartburg stood unchanged on the mountainwiththe monk and the nunhewn out in stoneThe great oaks gave to the scene the outlines it had possessed in his childish daysThe Venus Mount glimmered grey and naked over the valleyHe would have been glad to cry,“Lady HolleLady Holleunlock the doorand I shall enter and remain in my native earth!”

That was a sinful thoughtand he blessed himself to drive it awayThen a little bird out of the thicket sang clearlyand the old minnesong came into his mind

From the forestdown in the vale

Sang her sweet song the nightingale

And here in the town of his childhoodwhich he thus saw again through tearsmuch came back into his remembranceHis father's house stood as in the old timesbut the garden was alteredand a fieldpath led over a portion of the old groundand the appletree that he had not broken down stood therebut outside the gar-denon the farther side of the pathBut the sun threw its rays on the appletree as in the old daysthe dew descended gently upon it as thenand it bore such a burden of fruit hat the branches were bent down towards the earth

That flourishes!”he said.“The tree can grow!”

Neverthelessone of the branches of the tree was brokenMischievous hands had torn it down towards the groundfor now the tree stood by the public way

They break its blossoms off without a feeling of thankfulnessthey steal its fruit and break the branchesOne might say of the tree as has been said of some men—‘It was not sung at his cradle that it should come thus’How brightly its history beganand what has it come toForsaken and forgottena garden tree by the hedgein the fieldand on the public wayThere it stands unprotectedplunderedand brokenIt has certainly not diedbut in the course of years the number of blossoms will diminishat last the fruit will cease altogetherand at lastat last all will be over!”

Such were Anthony's thoughts under the treesuch were his thoughts during many a night in the lonely chamber of the wooden house in the distant landin the street of the small houses in Copenhagenwhither his rich employerthe Bremn merchanthad sent himfirst makin it a condition that he should not marry

MarryHaha!”he 1aughed bitterly to himself

Winter had set in earlyit was freezing hardWithouta snowstorm was ragingso that every one who could do so remained at homethustooit happened that those who lived opposite to Anthony did not notice that for two days his house had not been unlockedand that he did not show himselffor who would go out unnecessarily in such weather

They were greygloomy daysand in the housewhose windows were not of glasstwilight only alternated with dark nightOld Anthony had not left his bed during the two daysfor he had not the strength to risehe had for a long time felt in his limbs the hardness of the weatherForsaken by all lay the old bachelorunable to help himselfHe could scarcely reach the water-jug that he had placed by his bedsideand the last drop it contained had been consumedIt was not fevernor sicknessbut old age that had struck him downUp therewhere his couch was placedhe was overshadowedas it wereby continual nightA litile spiderwhichhowererhe could not seebusily and cheerfully span its web around himas if it were weaving a little crape banner that should wave when the old man close his eyes

The time was very slowand longand drearyTears he had none to shednor did he feel painThe thought of Molly never came into his mindHe felt as if the world and its noise concerned him no longeras if he were lying out-side the worldand no one were thinking of himFor a moment he felt a sensation of hungerof thirstYeshe felt them bothBut nobody came to tend himnobodyHe thought of those who had once suffered wantof Saint Elizabethas she had once wandered on earthof herthe saint of his home and of his childhoodthe noble Duchess of Thuringiathe benevolent lady who had been accustomed to visit the lowliest cottagesbringing to the inmates re-freshment and comfortHer pious deeds shone bright upon his soulHe thought of her as she had come to distribute words of comfortbinding up the wounds of the afflicted and giving meat to the hungrythough her stern husband had chidden her for itHe thought of the legend told of herhow she had been carrying the full basket containing food and winewhen her husbandwho watched her foot-stepscame forth and asked angrily what she was carry-inwhereupon she answeredin fear and tremblingthat the basket contained roses which she had plucked in the gardenhow he had torn away the white cloth from the basketand a miracle had been performed for the pious ladyfor bread and wineand everything in the baskethad been transformed into roses

Thus the saint's memory dwelt in Anthony's quiet mindthus she stood bodily before his downcast facebefore his warehouse in the simple booth in the Danish landHe uncovered his headand looked into her gentle eyesand everything around him was beautiful and roseateYesthe roses seemed to unfold themselves in fragranceThere came to him a sweetpeculiar odour of applesand he saw a blossoming appletreewhich spread its branches above himit was the tree which Molly and he had planted together

And the tree strewed down its fragrant leaves upon himcooling his burning browThe leaves fell upon his parched lipsand were like strengthening bread and wineand they fell upon his breastand he felt calmand inclined to sleep peacefully

Now I shall sleep,”he whispered to himself.“Sleep is refreshingTomorrow I shall be upon my feet againand strong and wellgloriouswonderfulThat appletreeplanted in true affectionnow stands before me in heavenly radiance—”

And he slept

The day afterwardsit was the third day that his shop had remained closedthe snowstorm had ceasedand a neighbour from the opposite house came over towards the booth where dwelt old Anthonywho had not yet shown himselfAnthony lay stretched upon his beddeadwith his old cap clutched tightly in his two handsThey did not put that cap on his head in his coffinfor he had a new white one

Where were now the tears that he had weptWhat had become of the pearlsThey remained in the nightcapand the true ones do not come out in the washthey were preserved in the nightcapand in time forgottenbut the old thoughts and the old dreams still remained in the bachelor's nightcap.”Don't wish for such a cap for yourselfIt would make your forehead very hotwould make your pulse beat feverishlyand conjure up dreams which appear like realityThe first who wore that cap afterwards felt all thatthough it was half a century afterwardsand that man was the burgomaster himselfwho had a wife and eleven childrenand was very well offHe was immediately seized with dreams of unfortunate loveof bankruptcyand of heavy times

Hallohow the nightcap warms!”he criedand tore it from his head

And a pearl rolled outand anotherand anotherand they sounded and glittered

This must be gout,”said the burgomaster.“Something dazzles my eyes!”

They were tearsshed half a century before by old Anthony from Eisenach

Every one who aftewards put that nightcap upon his head had visions and dreamsHis own history was changed into that of Anthonyand became a storyin factmany storiesBut some one else may tell themWe have told the firstAnd our last word isdon't wish forthe Old Bachelor's Nightcap”.

 


 

Previous    Next    Chinese

 
 
上一级

讨论区