Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK I. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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BOOK I. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
IN the shadow of a mighty rock sat Wilhelm, at a gloomy and striking spot, where the steep mountain-path turned sharply round a corner, and rapidly wound down into the chasm below. The sun was still high, and illuminated the tops of the firs in the rocky valleys at his feet. He was just entering something in his memorandum-book, when Felix, who had been clambering about, came up to him with a stone in his hand. “What do they call this stone?” said the boy.
“I do not know,” replied Wilhelm.
“Is it gold that sparkles so in it?” said the former.
“Nothing of the kind!” replied the other; “and now I remember that people call it ‘cats’-gold.’ ”*
“Cats’-gold!” said the boy, laughing; “why?”
“Probably because it is false, and because cats are thought to be false.”
“I will remember that,” said his son, and put the stone into his leathern wallet; but at the same time pulled out something else, and asked, “What is this?”
“A fruit,” replied his father; “and to judge by its scales it ought to be akin to the fir-cones.”
“It does not look like a cone; why it is round.”
“Let us ask the huntsmen: they know the whole forest and all sorts of fruits; they know how to sow, to plant, and to wait; then they let the stems grow and become as big as they can.”
“The hunters know everything; yesterday the postman showed me where a stag had crossed the road; he called me back and made me observe the track, as he called it. I had jumped across it, but now I saw plainly a pair of claws printed; it must have been a big stag.”
“I heard how you were questioning the postman.”
“He knew a great deal, and yet he is not a huntsman. But I want to be a huntsman. It is glorious to be the whole day in the forest, and to listen to the birds, to know their names and where their nests are; how to take the eggs or the young ones; how to feed them, and when to catch the old ones: all this is so splendid!”
Scarcely had this been said, when there appeared coming down the rugged path an unusual phenomenon. Two boys, beautiful as the day, in colored tunics, which one might rather have taken for small shirts girt up, sprang down one after the other; and Wilhelm found an opportunity of inspecting them more closely, as they faltered before him, and for a moment stood still. Around the head of the elder one waved an abundance of fair locks, which one must needs see first on looking at him; and next his light-blue eyes attracted the glance which lost itself with pleasure in his beautiful figure. The second, who looked more like a friend than a brother, was adorned with smooth brown hair, which hung down over his shoulders, and the reflection of which seemed to mirror itself in his eyes.
Wilhelm had not time to contemplate more closely these two extraordinary, and in such a wilderness quite unexpected beings, when he heard a manly voice shouting down in a emptory yet kindly manner from behind the corner of the rock: “Why are you standing still? Do not stop the way for us!”
Wilhelm looked up; and if the children had caused him to wonder, what now met his eyes filled him with astonishment. A strong and vigorous, but not too tall, young man, lightly clad, with brown complexion and black hair, stepped firmly yet carefully down the rocky path, leading after him a donkey, which first displayed its own sleek and well-trimmed head, and then the beautiful burden which it carried. A gentle, lovable woman was sitting in a large finely-mounted saddle; within a blue mantle, which was wrapped round her, she held a lately-born infant, which she pressed to her bosom and regarded with indescribable love. The same thing occurred to the guide as to the children: he hesitated for a moment when he saw Wilhelm. The animal slackened its pace, but the descent was too steep—the passers-by could not stop, and Wilhelm with wonder saw them disappear behind the projecting wall of rock.
Nothing was more natural, than that this unwonted sight should snatch him from his meditations. He stood up in curiosity and looked down from his place into the depth to see whether they would not somewhere or other come into sight again. And he was just on the point of descending himself to greet these strange wanderers, when Felix came up and said:
“Father, may I not go with these children to their house? They want to take me with them. You must come too, the man said to me. Come! They are waiting down yonder.”
“I will speak to them,” answered Wilhelm.
He found them at a place where the road was less precipitous, and he devoured with his eyes the wonderful forms which had so much attracted his attention. But there were one or two other special circumstances, which before now it had not been possible for him to observe.
The young and active man had in fact an adze on his shoulder, and a long, thin, iron measuring-square.
The children carried tall bunches of bulrushes, as if they were palms; and if from this point of view they resembled angels, on the other hand they dragged along small baskets with eatables, and in this resembled the daily messengers, such as are accustomed to go to and fro across the mountain. The mother, too, when he looked at her more closely, had beneath her blue mantle a reddish delicately-tinted under-garment, so that our friend, with astonishment, was fain to find the Flight into Egypt, which he had so often seen painted, actually here before his eyes.
They greeted one another; and whilst Wilhelm, what with astonishment and absorption, could not utter a single word, the young man said:
“Our children have already made friends just now. Will you come with us, that we may see whether the grown-up people may not come to an understanding too.”
Wilhelm bethought himself a little, and then replied:
“The sight of your little family procession inspires confidence and kindliness, and—I may as well confess it at once—no less curiosity, and a lively desire to know more of you. For at the first moment one might almost ask one’s self whether you are real travellers, or only spirits who take a pleasure in animating this inhospitable mountain with pleasant visions.”
“Then come with us to our dwelling,” said the other.
“Come along!” shouted the children, already dragging Felix along with them.
“Come with us!” said the lady, turning her amiable kindly look from her babe towards the stranger.
Without hesitation, Wilhelm said:
“I am sorry that I cannot follow you immediately. This night at least I must pass at the frontier-house above. My wallet, papers and everything are still lying up there unpacked and unattended to. But, that I may show myself ready and willing to do justice to your kind invitation, I will hand you over my Felix as a pledge. To-morrow I shall be with you. How far is it from here?”
“Before sunset we shall reach our dwelling,” said the carpenter, “and from the frontier-house it will be only an hour and a half more for you. Your boy will augment our family for this night; to-morrow we shall expect you.”
The man and the beast set themselves in motion. Wilhelm with visible pleasure saw his Felix in such good company; he could compare him with the dear little angels, from whom he differed so markedly. For his years he was not tall, but robust, with a broad chest and strong shoulders. In his nature there was a peculiar mixture of authority and obedience; he had already laid hold of a palm-branch and a little basket, whereby he seemed to express both. The procession was already on the point of disappearing a second time round a rocky wall, when Wilhelm collected himself, and shouted after them:
“But how shall I inquire for you?”
“Only ask for St. Joseph’s!” rang from the depth, and the whole vision had disappeared behind the blue walls of shadow. A solemn religious hymn, sung in parts, arose and died away in the distance, and Wilhelm thought that he distinguished the voice of his Felix.
He mounted upwards, and in so doing retarded for himself the sunset. The star of heaven which he had lost more than once, shone on him again as he ascended higher, and it was still day when he arrived at his lodging. Once more he gladdened himself with the grand mountain view, and then withdrew to his chamber, where he at once seized a pen, and spent a part of the night in writing.
Wilhelm to Natalia.
“Now at last is the summit reached—the heights of the mountain chain which will set a more effectual separation between us than the whole stretch of country so far. It is my feeling that one is still ever in the neighborhood of one’s beloved ones as long as the streams flow from us to them. To-day I can still fancy to myself that the twig which I cast into the forest brook might leisurely float downwards to her—might in a few days be stranded in front of her garden; and thus our spirit sends its images, our heart its feelings, more easily downwards. But over there I fear that a partition wall is placed against imagination and feeling. Yet that is perhaps only a premature anxiety; for there, too, it will very likely not be otherwise than it is here.
“What could separate me from thee—from thee, to whom I am destined for ever, although a wondrous fate keeps me from thee, and unexpectedly shuts to me the heaven to which I was standing so near! I had time to collect myself, and yet no time would have sufficed to give me this self-possession, if I had not won it from thy mouth, from thy lips, in that decisive moment. How should I have been able to tear myself away, if the indestructible thread had not been spun, which is to unite us for time and eternity.
“Still, I ought not indeed to speak of all this. I will not transgress thy tender commands. Upon this summit let it be for the last time that I utter before thee the word, separation. My life shall become a journey. I have to discharge the traveller’s special duties, and to undergo tests of a peculiar kind. How often I smile when I read through the rules which my craft has prescribed for me, and those which I myself have made! Much has been observed and much transgressed; but even at the transgression, this sheet, this witness to my last confession, my last absolution, serves me instead of an admonishing conscience, and I make a fresh start. I am on my guard, and my errors no longer rush, like mountain torrents, one upon the top of the other.
“Still, I will willingly confess to you, that I often admire those teachers and leaders of men who only impose on their disciples outward mechanical duties. They make the thing easy to themselves and to the world. For just this part of my obligations, which formerly seemed to me the most arduous and the most wonderful—this I observe most conveniently and most pleasantly.
“I must stay not more than three days under the same roof. I must leave no inn without at least removing one mile from the same. These regulations are really designed to make my years years of journeying, and to prevent the least temptation of settling down occurring to me. I have hitherto scrupulously subjected myself to this condition—nay, not once availed myself of the indulgence allowed. It is in fact here for the first time that I make a halt—that I sleep for a third night in the same bed. From here I send you many things that I have, so far, learned, observed, saved up; and then to-morrow early we descend on the other side, in the first place to a wonderful family—a holy family, I might perhaps say—about which you will find more in my diary.
“Now, farewell, and lay down this sheet with the feeling that it has only one thing to say; only one thing that it might say and repeat forever, but will not say, will not repeat, until I have the happiness to lie again at thy feet, and over thy hands to sob out all that I have had to forego.
“I have packed up. The postman is fastening the wallet upon his frame. The sun has not yet risen, the mists are steaming out of all the valleys, but the sky overhead is bright. We are going down into the gloomy depth, which also will soon brighten up above us. Let me send across to you my last sigh! Let my last glance towards you be still filled with an involuntary tear! I am decided and determined. You shall hear no more complaints from me; you shall only hear what happens to the wanderer. And still, whilst I wish to conclude, a thousand more thoughts, wishes, hopes, and intentions, cross one another. Fortunately they urge me away. The postman is calling, and the host is already clearing up again in my presence, as if I had gone; even as cold-hearted improvident heirs do not conceal from the departing the arrangements for putting themselves in possession.”
ST. JOSEPH THE SECOND.
Already had the traveller, following on foot his porter’s steps, left steep rocks behind and above him; already were they traversing a less rugged intermediate range, ever hurrying forwards, through many a well-wooded forest, through many a pleasant meadow-ground, until at last they found themselves upon a declivity, and looked down into a carefully cultivated valley shut in all round by hills. A large monastic building, half in ruins, half in good repair, at once attracted their attention.
“This is St. Joseph’s,” said the carrier; “a great pity for the beautiful church! Only look how fresh its pillars and columns still look through the underwood and the trees, although it has been lying so many hundreds of years in ruins.”
“The convent buildings, on the other hand,” replied Wilhelm, “are still, I see, in good preservation.”
“Yes,” said the other, “a steward lives on the spot, who manages the household, and collects the rents and tithes which have to be paid here from far around.”
With these words they had entered, through the open gate, a spacious courtyard, which, surrounded by solemn well-preserved buildings, announced itself as the abode of a peaceful community. He at once perceived his Felix, with the angels of yesterday, busy round a big market-basket, which a strongly-built woman had placed in front of her. They were just about to buy some cherries; but in point of fact, Felix, who always carried some money about him, was beating down the price. He now played the part of host as well as guest, and was lavishing an abundance of fruit on his playmates; even to his father the refreshment was welcome amidst these barren mossy wilds, where the colored shining fruits always seemed so beautiful. “She brought them up some distance from a large garden,” the fruit-woman remarked, in order to make the price satisfactory to the buyers, to whom it had seemed somewhat too high.
“Father will soon return,” said the children; “in the meanwhile you must go into the hall and rest there.”
Yet how astonished was Wilhelm when the children took him to the room which they called the hall. It was entered directly from the courtyard by a large door, and our traveller found himself in a very clean well-preserved chapel, which, however, as in fact he saw, had been arranged for the domestic use of daily life. On one side stood a table, a settle, several chairs and benches; on the other side a carved dresser with various-colored pottery, jugs and glasses. There were not wanting a number of chests and boxes, and, neatly ordered as everything was, there was no want of what is attractive in domestic everyday life. The light fell through high windows at the side. But what most aroused the traveller’s attention were colored pictures painted on the wall at a moderate height below the windows, extended like tapestries round three sides of the chapel, and coming down to a panelled skirting which covered the rest of the wall to the ground. The pictures represented the history of St. Joseph. Here you saw him busy with his carpenter’s work; there he was meeting Mary, and a lily sprouted out of the ground between them, whilst several angels hovered watchfully about them. Here he is being betrothed; then follows the angelic salutation. There he is sitting despondent amidst unfinished work, letting his axe lie, and is thinking of leaving his wife. But presently there appears to him the angel in a dream, and his position is changed. With devotion he regards the new-born Child in the manger at Bethlehem, and adores it. Soon after follows a wonderfully beautiful picture. All kinds of carpentered wood are seen; it is on the point of being put together, and accidentally a couple of pieces form a cross. The Child has fallen asleep upon the cross; its mother is sitting close by regarding it with tender love, and the foster-father stops his work in order not to disturb its sleep. Immediately after follows the Flight into Egypt. It provoked a smile from the traveller as he looked at it, when he saw on the wall the repetition of the living picture of yesterday.
He had not been left long to his meditations when the host entered, whom he recognized immediately as the leader of the holy caravan. They saluted each other most cordially; a conversation on sundry matters followed; still Wilhelm’s attention remained directed towards the picture. The host saw the interest of his guest, and commenced laughingly:
“No doubt you are wondering at the harmony of this structure with its inhabitants, whom you learned to know yesterday. But it is perhaps still more strange than might be supposed; the building has, in fact, made the inhabitants. For, if the lifeless comes to life, then it may well be able also to create a living thing.”
“Oh, yes,” rejoined Wilhelm, “it would surprise me if the spirit who centuries ago worked so powerfully amid this mountain desert, and attracted towards itself such a huge mass of buildings, possessions and rights, and thereby diffused manifold culture in the neighborhood,—it would surprise me if it did not still display its vital energy even out of these ruins upon a living human being. Still, let us not abide by the general; make me acquainted with your history, in order that I may learn how it was possible that, without trifling or pretension, the past is again represented in you, and that which is past and gone comes a second time upon the scene.”
Just as Wilhelm was expecting an instructive answer from the lips of his host, a friendly voice in the courtyard shouted the name of Joseph. The host heard it, and went to the door.
So he is called Joseph, too! said Wilhelm to himself. That is wonderful enough, and yet not quite so wonderful as that he represents his patron saint in the life. At the same time he glanced towards the door, and saw the Madonna of yesterday speaking with her husband. At last they separated; the woman went to the opposite dwelling.
“Mary!” he shouted after her, “just a word more.”
So she is called Mary, too! But a little more, and I shall feel myself transported backwards eighteen hundred years. He mused on the solemn pent-up valley in which he found himself, on the ruins and the stillness, and a strange olden-time sort of mood fell upon him. It was time that the host and children came in. The latter begged Wilhelm to come for a walk, whilst the host still discharged a few duties. They went now through the ruins of the church, with its wealth of columns: the lofty roof and walls seemed to strengthen themselves in wind and storm; whilst strong trees had, ages ago, struck root in the broad tops of the walls, and in company with a good deal of grass, flowers, and moss, represented gardens hanging boldly in the air. Grassy meadow-paths led to a rapid brook, and the traveller could now, from a certain height, look over the building and its situation with an interest which grew greater as its inhabitants became more and more remarkable to him, and, through their harmony with their surroundings, aroused his liveliest curiosity.
They returned, and found a table laid in the consecrated hall. At the upper end there stood an arm-chair, in which the housewife sat down. She had standing by her side a high basket, in which the little child was lying; next, the father on her left hand, and Wilhelm on her right. The three children occupied the lower part of the table. An old female servant brought in a well-prepared repast. The eating and drinking-vessels likewise indicated a bygone time. The children gave occasion for amusement, whilst Wilhelm could not look enough at the figure and bearing of his holy hostess.
After dinner the company separated; the host took his guest to a shady spot in the ruins, where from an elevated position one had in full view the pleasant prospect down the valley, and saw the hills of the lower land, with their fertile declivities and woody summits ranged one behind the other.
“It is fair,” said the host, “that I should satisfy your curiosity, and the rather as I feel, in your case, that you are capable of taking the marvellous seriously, if it rests upon a serious foundation. This religious institution, of which you still see the remains, was dedicated to the holy family, and in olden times, on account of many miracles, was renowned as a place of pilgrimage. The church was dedicated to the mother and the son. It was destroyed several centuries ago. The chapel, dedicated to the holy foster-father, has been preserved, as also the habitable part of the convent. The income for a great many years back has belonged to a secular prince, who keeps an agent up here, and that am I, the son of the former agent, who likewise succeeded his father in this office.
“St. Joseph, although all ecclesiastical honors had long ago ceased up here, had been so beneficent towards our family, that it is not to be wondered at, if they felt particularly well disposed towards him; and thence it came to pass, that at baptism I was called Joseph, whereby to a certain extent my manner of life was determined. I grew up, and if I became an associate of my father whilst he looked after the rents, still I clung quite as much, nay, even more affectionately, to my mother, who according to her means was fond of distributing relief, and through her kindly disposition and her good deeds was known and beloved on the whole mountain-side. She would send me, now here, and now there; at one time to fetch, at another to order, at another to look after; and I felt quite at home in this kind of charitable business.
“In general a mountain life has something more humanizing than life on the lowlands; inhabitants are closer together, or further apart, if you wish it; wants are smaller, but more pressing. Man is more thrown upon his own resources,—must learn to rely on his hands, on his feet. The laborer, postman, carrier, are all united in one and the same person; everybody also stands nearer to his neighbor, meets him oftener, and lives with him in a common sphere of activity.
“When I was still young, and my shoulders unable to carry much, it occurred to me to furnish a small donkey with baskets, and drive it before me up and down the steep footpaths. In the mountains, the ass is no such contemptible animal as in the lowlands, where the laborer who ploughs with horses thinks himself better than another who tears up the sod with oxen. And I trudged along behind my beast with all the less misgiving, that I had before noticed, in the chapel, that it had attained to the honor of carrying God and his mother. Still, this chapel was not then in the condition in which it is now. It was treated like an outbuilding, almost like a stable. Firewood, hurdles, tools, tubs and ladders, and all sorts of things, were heaped pell-mell together. It was fortunate that the paintings were situated so high, and that wainscot lasts a little while. But as a child I was especially fond of clambering here and there all about the wood, and looking at the pictures, which nobody could properly explain to me. Enough, I knew that the saint whose life was painted above was my namesake, and I congratulated myself on him, as much as if he had been my uncle. I grew up, and as it was a special condition that he who would lay claim to the profitable office of steward must exercise a trade, therefore, in accordance with the wish of my parents, who were anxious that I should one day inherit this excellent post, I was to learn a trade—and, moreover, such a one as would prove useful to the household up here.
“My father was a cooper by trade, and made everything of this sort of work that was necessary himself, whence accrued great advantage to himself and the whole family. But I could not make up my mind to follow him in this line. My inclination drew me irresistibly towards the carpenter’s trade, the implements of which I had from my youth seen so circumstantially and correctly painted by the side of my saint. I declared my wish; they did not oppose it, and the less so as the carpenter was often required by us for so many different constructions, and even because, if he has some ability and love for his work, the cabinet-maker’s and wood-carver’s arts, especially in forest districts, are closely allied to it. And what still more strengthened me in my higher designs was that picture, which, alas! now is almost entirely obliterated. As soon as you know what it is meant to represent, you will be able to make it out, when I take you to it presently. St. Joseph had been entrusted with nothing less than the making of a throne for King Herod. The gorgeous seat was to be placed between two specified pillars. Joseph carefully takes the measure of the breadth and height, and constructs a costly royal throne. But how astonished is he, how distracted, when he brings the chair of state: it is found to be too high and not wide enough. Now, as is well known, King Herod was not to be trifled with: the pious master-joiner is in the greatest embarrassment. The Christ-child, accustomed to accompany him everywhere, to carry his tools in childishly humble sport, sees his distress, and is immediately ready with advice and help. The wondrous Child desires his foster-father to take hold of the throne by one side. He seizes the other side of the carved work, and both begin to pull. With the greatest ease and as conveniently as if it had been of leather, the throne expands in breadth, loses proportionately in height, and fits most excellently to the place and position, to the greatest consolation of the reassured carpenter and to the perfect satisfaction of the king.*
“In my youth that throne was still quite easy to see, and from the remains of one side you will be able to observe that there was no lack of carved work, which indeed must have proved easier to the painter than it would have been to the carpenter, if it had been demanded of him.
“However, I had no misgivings in consequence, but looked upon the craft to which I had devoted myself in such a favorable light, that I could scarcely wait until they had put me into apprenticeship; which was all the more easy to effect, inasmuch as there lived in the neighborhood a master-carpenter who worked for the whole district, and who could employ several assistants and apprentices. Thus I remained near my parents, and continued to a certain extent my former life, whilst employing hours of leisure and holy-days for the charitable commissions with which my mother continued to charge me.
“In this way a few years passed,” continued the narrator. “I very soon understood the advantages of the craft; and my body, developed through work, was capable of undertaking anything required for the purpose. In addition, I discharged the former duties which I rendered to my good mother, or rather to the sick and needy. I went with my beast through the mountain, distributed the load punctually, and from grocers and merchants I took back with me what we lacked up here. My master was satisfied with me, and so were my parents. Already I had on my wanderings the pleasure of seeing many a house which I had helped to erect, which I had decorated. For it was especially this last—the notching of the beams, the carving of certain simple forms, the branding of ornamental figures, the red-coloring of certain cavities, by which a wooden mountain-house offers such a cheerful aspect,—all such performances were entrusted to me especially, because I showed myself best in the matter, always bearing in mind as I did the throne of Herod and its adornments.
“Among the help-worthy persons of whom my mother took particular care, the first place was especially awarded to young wives in expectation of childbed, as I by degrees could well observe, although in such cases it was usual to keep the messages a secret so far as I was concerned. In such cases I never had any direct commission, but everything went through the medium of a good woman who lived at no great distance down the valley, and who was called Frau Elizabeth. My mother, herself experienced in the art which rescues for life so many at the very entrance into life, was on unalterably good terms with Frau Elizabeth, and I often had to hear on all sides that many of our robust mountaineers had to thank both these women for their existence. The mystery with which Elizabeth every time received me, her reserved answers to my puzzling questions, which I myself did not understand, awoke in me a particular reverence for her and her house, which was in the highest degree clean, and seemed to me to represent a kind of little sanctuary.
“In the meanwhile, in consequence of my knowledge and skill in my trade, I had acquired a certain amount of influence in the family. As my father, in his quality of cooper, had provided for the cellar, so did I now care for house and home, and mended many injured portions of the ancient building. I particularly succeeded in restoring to domestic use certain dilapidated out-houses and coach-houses; and scarcely was this done, than I set about clearing and cleansing my beloved chapel. In a few days it had been put in order, almost as you see it; whereupon I set about restoring, in uniformity with the whole, the missing or injured parts of the panel-work. And you might perhaps take these folding-doors of the entrance to be rather old, but they are my own work. I have spent several years in carving them in hours of leisure, after I had in the first place neatly joined them into a whole by the aid of strong planks of oak. Whatever of the pictures had not up to that time been injured or obliterated, has also been preserved up to now; and I assisted the glazier at a new building on the condition that he restored the colored windows.
“If those pictures and thoughts on the life of the saint had occupied my imagination, so it all became only more deeply impressed upon me when I was able to consider the spot as once more a sanctuary, and while away the time in it, particularly in the summer, and meditate at leisure upon whatever I saw or imagined. I felt within me an irresistible inclination to imitate the saint; and, as similar circumstances cannot easily be called forth, I determined at least to begin to resemble him from below, as in fact I had already begun to do long ago by the use of the beast of burden. The little creature of which I had availed myself hitherto would not suffice me any longer. I found for myself a much finer animal, and was careful to get a well-constructed saddle, which was equally convenient for riding or for carrying goods. A pair of new baskets were procured, and a net with colored ribbons, tassels, and knots, mingled with chinking metal tags, adorned the neck of the long-eared creature, which was now soon able to vie with its prototype on the wall. It occurred to no one to mock me, when in this array I passed along the mountain; for people willingly allow benevolence a marvellous outward aspect.
“In the meantime the war, or rather its consequences, had approached our district, whilst on several occasions dangerous bands of runaway rascals collected together, and here and there perpetrated many a violent deed and much mischief. By a good system of country militia, patrols, and continuous vigilance, the evil was certainly very soon quelled; yet people too soon fell into carelessness again, and, before they had become aware of it, fresh mischiefs broke out.
“There had long been quiet in our district, and I with my sumpter beast went peacefully trudging along the accustomed paths, until, on a certain day, I came across the newly-sown clearing in the wood, and on the edge of the sunk fence I found sitting, or rather lying, a female figure. She seemed to be asleep or in a swoon. I attended to her, and when she opened her beautiful eyes, and sat up, she exclaimed passionately, ‘Where is he? Have you seen him?’
“ ‘Whom?’ I asked.
“She answered, ‘My husband!’
“Seeing how very youthful her aspect was, this answer was not expected by me; still, I continued to assist her only the more readily, and to assure her of my sympathy. I gathered that the two travellers had left their carriage at some distance, on account of the difficult carriage-road, in order to turn into a shorter foot-path. Close by the spot they had been assailed by armed men: her husband, whilst fighting, had got to some distance off. She had not been able to follow him far, and had been lying on this spot she did not know how long. She begged me imploringly to leave her and to hurry in search of her husband. She got upon her feet, and the most beautiful, the loveliest form stood before me; yet I could easily see that she was in a condition in which she might very soon need the assistance of my mother and Frau Elizabeth. We disputed for a while, for I wished first to take her to a place of safety; she wished first of all for news of her husband. She would not go far herself from the path he had taken, and all my representations would perhaps have proved fruitless, if a troop of our militia, which had turned out upon the news of fresh outrages, had not just then arrived through the forest. They were informed of what had happened; the necessary course was agreed upon, the place of meeting fixed, and thus the matter was so far set straight. I quickly hid my basket in a neighboring cave, which had already often served me as a storehouse, arranged my saddle into a comfortable seat, and lifted, not without a peculiar emotion, the lovely burden upon my willing beast, which was able by itself to find the familiar paths at once, and gave me an opportunity of walking along by her side.
“You may imagine, without my describing at length, in what a strange state of mind I was. What I so long had sought for I had really found. I felt as if I were dreaming, and then again, suddenly, as if I had awoke from a dream. This heavenly form, as I saw it hovering as it were in the air, and moving in front of the green trees, came before me now like some dream, which was called forth in my soul through those pictures in the chapel. Then, again, those pictures seemed to me to have been only dreams, which now resolved themselves into a beautiful reality. I questioned her on many things; she answered me gently and politely, as beseems a person of good standing, in trouble. She often begged me, when we reached some open height, to stand still, look round, and listen. She begged me with such grace, with such a deeply-imploring glance from beneath her long black eyelashes, that I had to do whatever was but possible: I actually climbed an isolated, tall, and branchless fir-tree. Never had this evidence of my dexterity been more welcome to me; never had I on holidays and at fair-times with greater satisfaction fetched down ribbons and silk handkerchiefs from similar altitudes. Yet this time I went, alas! without any prize; neither did I see or hear anything from above. At last she herself called to me to come down, and beckoned to me quite urgently with her hand; nay, when at length in sliding down I let go my hold at a considerable height and jumped down, she gave a cry, and a sweet friendliness overspread her face, when she saw me uninjured before her.
“Why should I detain you long with the hundred attentions with which I tried to make the whole way pleasant to her, in order to distract her thoughts. And how too could I?—for this is just the peculiar quality of true attentiveness, that for the moment it makes everything of nothing. To my own feeling, the flowers which I plucked for her, the distant landscapes which I showed her, the mountains, forests, which I named to her, were so many precious treasures, which I seemed to present to her in order to bring myself into relation with her, as one will try to do by the aid of gifts.
“She had already gained me for my whole life, when we arrived at our destination in front of that good woman’s door, and I at once saw a painful separation before me. Once more I cast a glance over her whole form, and when my eyes had reached her feet, I stooped down, as if I had to do something to the saddlegirth, and I kissed the prettiest shoe that I had ever seen in my life, but without her perceiving it. I helped her down, sprang up the steps and shouted into the house-door: ‘Frau Elizabeth, here is a visitor for you!’ The good woman came out, and I looked over her shoulders towards the house, when the lovely being, with charming sorrow and inward consciousness of pain, mounted the steps and then affectionately embraced my worthy old woman, and let her conduct her into the better room. They shut themselves within it, and I remained standing by my ass before the door, like one who has unladen costly goods, and has again become but a poor driver as before.
“I was still hesitating to leave the spot, for I was irresolute as to what I should do, when Frau Elizabeth came to the door and asked me to summon my mother to her, and then to go about the neighborhood and obtain if possible some news of the husband. ‘Mary begs you particularly to do this,’ said she.
“ ‘Can I not speak to her once more?’ answered I.
“ ‘That will not do,’ said Frau Elizabeth, and we parted.
“In a short time I reached our dwelling; my mother was ready to go down the very same evening and assist the young stranger. I hurried down to the lower district and hoped to obtain the most trustworthy news at the bailiff’s. But he was himself still in uncertainty, and as he knew me he invited me to spend the night with him. It seemed to me interminably long, and I constantly had the beautiful form before my eyes, as she sat rocking to and fro on the animal, and looked down at me with such a look of sorrowful friendliness. Every moment I hoped for news. I did not grudge, but wished for the preservation of the good husband, and yet could so gladly think of her as a widow. The flying detachment by degrees came together again, and after a number of varying reports the truth at last was made clear, that the carriage had been saved, but that the unfortunate husband had died of his wounds in the neighboring village. I also heard, that according to the previous arrangement some had gone to announce the sorrowful news to Frau Elizabeth. I had accordingly nothing more to do, or aid in, there, and yet a ceaseless impatience, a boundless longing, drove me back through mountain and forest to her door. It was night; the house was shut up. I saw light in the rooms, I saw shadows moving on the curtains, and so I sat down upon a bench opposite, continually on the point of knocking, and continually held back by various considerations.
“Yet why do I go on relating circumstantially what in point of fact has no interest. Enough! Even the next morning they did not let me into the house. They knew the sad occurrence, they did not want me any more; they sent me to my father, to my work; they did not answer my questions; they wanted to get rid of me.
“They had been treating me this way for a week, when at last Frau Elizabeth called me in. ‘Tread gently, my friend,’ she said; ‘but come in with good comfort!’ She led me into a cleanly apartment, where, in the corner, through the half-opened bed-curtains, I saw my fair one sitting. Frau Elizabeth went to her as if to announce me, lifted something from the bed and brought it towards me: a most beautiful boy wrapped in the whitest of linen. Frau Elizabeth held him just between me and his mother, and upon the spot there occurred to me the lily-stalk in the picture, growing out of the earth between Mary and Joseph,* in witness of a pure relationship. From that instant my heart was relieved of all oppression; I was sure of my aim and of my happiness. I could freely walk towards her, speak to her; I could bear her heavenly look, take the boy in my arms, and press a hearty kiss upon his brow.
“ ‘How I thank you for your affection for this orphan child!’ said the mother.
“I exclaimed, thoughtlessly, and passionately: ‘It is an orphan no longer, if you are willing!’
“Frau Elizabeth, wiser than I, took the infant from me, and managed to send me away.
“The recollection of that time still serves me constantly for my happiest diversion when I am obliged to roam through our mountains and valleys. I am still able to call to mind the smallest circumstance—which, however, it is but fair that I should spare you.
“Weeks passed by: Mary had recovered and I could see her more frequently. My intercourse with her was a series of services and attentions. Her family circumstances allowed her to live where she liked. At first she stayed with Frau Elizabeth; then she visited us, to thank my mother and me for so much friendly help. She was happy with us, and I flattered myself that this came to pass partly on my account. Yet, what I should have liked so much to say, and dared not say, was finally mooted in a strange and charming fashion when I took her into the chapel, which I had already transformed into a habitable hall. I showed and explained to her the pictures one after the other, and in so doing I expatiated in such a vivid heartfelt manner upon the duties of a foster-father, that tears came into her eyes, and I could not get to the end of my description of the pictures. I thought myself sure of her affection, although I was not presumptuous enough to wish to blot out so soon the memory of her husband. The law compels widows to one year of mourning; and certainly such a period, which comprehends within it the change of all earthly things, is necessary to a sensitive heart, in order to soothe the painful impressions of a great loss. One sees the flowers fade and the leaves fall, but one also sees fruits ripen and fresh buds germinate. Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for a change.
“I now spoke to my mother about the matter which I had most at heart. She thereupon revealed to me how painful the death of her husband had been to Mary, and how she had recovered again only at the thought that she must live for the sake of the child. My attachment had not remained unknown to the women, and Mary had already familiarized herself with the notion of living with us. She stayed some time longer in the neighborhood, then she came up here to us, and we lived for a while longer in the godliest and happiest state of betrothal. At last we were united. That first feeling which had brought us together did not disappear. The duties and joys of foster-father and father were combined; and thus our little family, as it increased, surpassed indeed its pattern in the number of its individuals, but the virtues of that example, in truth and purity of mind, were kept holy and practised by us. And hence also we maintain with kindly habitude the outward appearance which we have accidentally acquired, and which suits so well our inward disposition; for although we are all good walkers and sturdy carriers, yet the beast of burden remains constantly in our company, in order to carry one thing or another, when business or a visit obliges us to go through these mountains and valleys. As you met us yesterday, so the whole neighborhood knows us; and we are proud of the fact that our conduct is of a kind not to shame those holy names and persons whom we profess to follow.”
WILHELM TO NATALIA.
“I have just ended a pleasant half wondrous story, which I have written down for thee from the lips of an excellent man. If it is not entirely in his own words—if here and there I have expressed my own feelings in the place of his, this is quite natural, in view of the relationship I have here felt with him. Is not that veneration for his wife like that which I feel for you? And has not even the meeting of these two lovers some likeness to our own? But, that he is happy enough in walking along by the side of the beast that carries its double burden of beauty; that in the evening he can, with his family following, enter through the old convent gates, and that he is inseparable from his beloved and from his children;—all this I may be allowed to envy him in secret. On the other hand, I must not complain of my own fate, since I have promised you to be silent and to suffer, as you also have undertaken to do.
“I have to pass over many beautiful features of the common life of these virtuous and happy people; for how could everything be written? A few days I have spent pleasantly, but the third already warns me to bethink me of my further travels.
“To-day I had a little dispute with Felix, for he wanted almost to compel me to transgress one of the good intentions which I have promised you to keep. Now it is just a defect, a misfortune, a fatality with me, that, before I am aware of it, the company increases around me, and I charge myself with a fresh burden, under which I afterwards have to toil and to drag myself along. Now, during my travels, we must have no third person as a constant companion. We wish and intend to be and to remain two only, and it has but just now seemed as if a new, and not exactly pleasing connection was likely to be formed.
“A poor, merry little youngster had joined the children of the house, with whom Felix had been enjoying these days in play, who allowed himself to be used or abused just as the game required, and who very soon won the favor of Felix. From various expressions I noticed already that the latter had chosen a playmate for the next journey. The boy is known here in the neighborhood; he is tolerated everywhere on account of his merriness, and occasionally receives gratuities. But he did not please me, and I begged the master of the house to send him away. This was accordingly done, but Felix was vexed about it, and there was a little scene.
“On this occasion I made a discovery which pleased me. In a corner of the chapel, or ball, there stood a box of stones, which Felix—who since our wandering through the mountain had become exceedingly fond of stones—eagerly pulled out and examined. Among them were some fine, striking specimens. Our host said that the child might pick out for himself any he liked: that these stones were what remained over from a large quantity which a stranger had sent from here a short time before. He called him Montan,* and you can fancy how glad I was to hear this name, under which one of our best friends, to whom we owe so much, is travelling. As I inquired as to time and circumstances, I may hope soon to meet with him in my travels.”
The news that Montan was in the neighborhood had made Wilhelm thoughtful. He considered that it ought not to be left merely to chance whether he should see such a worthy friend again, and therefore he inquired of his host whether it was not known in what direction this traveller had bent his way. No one had any more exact knowledge of this, and Wilhelm had already determined to pursue his route according to the first plan, when Felix exclaimed, “If father were not so obstinate, we should soon find Montan.”
“In what manner?” asked Wilhelm.
Felix answered: “Little Fitz said yesterday that he would most likely follow up the gentleman who had the pretty stones with him, and knew so much about them too.”
After some discussion Wilhelm at last resolved to make the attempt, and in so doing to give all the more attention to the suspicious boy. He was soon found, and when he understood what was intended, he brought a mallet and iron, and a very powerful hammer, together with a bag, and, in this miner-like equipment, ran merrily in front.
The road led sideways up the mountain again. The children ran leaping together from rock to rock, over stock and stone, and brook and stream, without following any direct path. Fitz, glancing now to his right and now to his left, pushed quickly upwards. As Wilhelm, and particularly the loaded carrier, could not follow so quickly, the boys retraced the road several times forwards and backwards, singing and whistling. The forms of certain strange trees aroused the attention of Felix, who, moreover, now made for the first time the acquaintance of the larches and stone-pines, and was attracted by the wonderful gentians. And thus the difficult travelling from place to place did not lack entertainment.
Little Fitz suddenly stood still and listened. He beckoned to the others to come.
“Do you hear the knocking?” said he. “It is the sound of a hammer striking the rock.”
“We hear it,” said the others.
“It is Montan,” said he, “or someone who can give us news of him.”
As they followed the sound, which was repeated at intervals, they struck a clearing in the forest, and beheld a steep, lofty, naked rock, towering above everything, leaving even the tall forests under it. On the summit they descried a person. He stood at too great a distance to be recognized. The children at once commenced to clamber up the rugged paths. Wilhelm followed with some difficulty, nay, danger: for in ascending a rock, the first one goes more safely, because he feels his way for himself; the one that follows only sees where the former has got to, but not how. The boys soon reached the top, and Wilhelm heard a loud shout of joy.
“It is Jarno!” Felix called out to his father, and Jarno at once stepped forward to a steep place, reached his hand to his friend, and pulled him up to the top. They embraced and welcomed each other with rapture under the open canopy of heaven.
But they had scarcely let each other go when Wilhelm was seized with giddiness, not so much on his own behalf, as because he saw the children hanging over the fearful precipice. Jarno noticed it, and told them all to sit down at once.
“Nothing is more natural,” said he, “than to feel giddy before any great sight, upon which we come unexpectedly, and so feel at the same time our littleness and our greatness. But then, generally speaking, there is no true enjoyment except where one must at first feel giddy.”
“Are those below these the big mountains which we have crossed?” asked Felix. “How little they look! And here,” he continued, loosening a little piece of stone from the top, “here is the cats’-gold again; it seems to be everywhere!”
“It is found far and wide,” replied Jarno; “and since you are curious about such things, take notice that at present you are sitting upon the oldest mountain range, on the earliest form of stone, in the world.”
“Was not the world made all at once, then?” asked Felix.
“Scarcely,” replied Montan; “good things require time.”
“Then down there there is another sort of stone,” said Felix, “and then again another, and others again, forever,” pointing from the nearest mountains towards the more distant ones, and so to the plains below.
It was a very fine day, and Jarno pointed out in detail the splendid view. Here and there stood several other summits like that upon which they were. A mountain in the middle distance seemed to vie with it, but still was far from reaching the same height. Farther off it was less and less mountainous; yet strangely prominent forms still showed themselves. Lastly, in the distance even the lakes and rivers became discernible, and a fertile region seemed to spread itself out like a sea. If the eye was brought back again it penetrated into fearful depths, traversed by roaring cataracts, depending one upon the other in labyrinthine confusion.
Felix was never weary of asking questions, and Jarno was accommodating enough in answering every question for him: in which, however, Wilhelm thought that he noticed that the teacher was not altogether truthful and sincere. Therefore, when the restless boys had clambered farther away, he said to his friend:
“You have not spoken to the child about these things as you speak with yourself about them.”
“That is rather a burdensome demand,” answered Jarno; “one does not always speak even to one’s self as one thinks, and it is our duty to tell others only what they can comprehend. Man understands nothing but what is proportionate to him. The best thing one can do, is to keep children in the present—to give them a name or a description. In any case they ask soon enough for the reasons.”
“They are not to be blamed for that,” answered Wilhelm. “The complicated nature of objects confuses everybody, and instead of dissecting them it is more convenient to ask quickly, Whence? and whither?”
“And yet,” continued Jarno, “as children only see objects superficially, one can only speak to them superficially about their origin and purpose.”
“Most people,” answered Wilhelm, “remain for their whole life in this condition, and do not reach that glorious epoch, in which the intelligible becomes commonplace and foolish to us.”
“One may indeed call it glorious,” replied Jarno; “for it is a middle state between desperation and deification.”
“Let us keep to the boy, who is now my chief anxiety,” said Wilhelm. “Now he has acquired an interest in minerals since we have been travelling. Can you not impart to me just enough to satisfy him at least for a time?”
“That will not do,” said Jarno; “in every new intellectual sphere one has first to commence like a child again, throw a passionate interest into the matter, and rejoice first in the outward husk before one has the happiness of reaching the kernel.”
“Then tell me,” answered Wilhelm, “how have you arrived at this knowledge and insight?—for it is still not so long since we parted from one another!”
“My friend,” replied Jarno, “we had to resign ourselves, if not for always, at least for a long time. The first thing that under such circumstances occurs to a brave man, is to commence a new life. New objects are not enough for him; these are only good as a distraction; he demands a new whole, and at once places himself in the centre of it.”
“But why,” interrupted Wilheim, “just this passing strange, this most solitary of all prepossessions?”
“Just for this reason,” exclaimed Jarno: “because it is hermit-like! I would avoid men. We cannot help them, and they hinder us from helping ourselves. If they are happy one must leave them alone in their vanity; if they are unhappy one must save them without injuring this vanity; and no one ever asks whether you are happy or unhappy.”
“But things are not yet quite so bad with them,” replied Wilhelm, laughing.
“I will not rob you of your happiness,” said Jarno. “Only journey onward, thou second Diogenes! Let not your little lamp be extinguished in broad daylight! Yonder, below, there lies a new world before you; but I will wager it goes on just like the old one behind us. If you cannot mate yourself and pay debts, you are of no use among them.”
“However,” replied Wilhelm, “they seem to me more amusing than those stubborn rocks of yours.”
“Not at all,” replied Jarno, “for the latter are at least incomprehensible.”
“You are trying to evade,” said Wilhelm, “for it is not in your way to deal with things which leave no hope of being comprehended. Be sincere, and tell me what you have found in this cold, stern hobby of yours?”
“That is difficult to tell of any hobby, particularly of this one.”
Then he reflected for a moment, and said:
“Letters may be fine things, and yet they are insufficient to express sounds: we cannot dispense with sounds, and yet they are a long way from sufficient to enable mind, properly so called, to be expressed aloud. In the end, we cleave to letters and to sound, and are no better off than if we had renounced them altogether: what we communicate, and what is imparted to us, is always only of the most commonplace, by no means worth the trouble.”
“You want to evade me,” said his friend; “for what has that to do with these rocks and pinnacles?”
“But suppose,” replied the other, “that I treated these very rents and fissures as if they were letters: sought to decipher them, fashion them into words, and learned to read them off-hand: would you have anything against that?”
“No, but it seems to me an extensive alphabet.”
“More limited than you think: one has only to learn it like any other one. Nature possesses only one writing, and I have no need to drag along with a number of scrawls. Here I have no occasion to fear—as may happen after I have been long and lovingly poring over a parchment—that an acute critic will come and assure me that everything is only interpolated.”
“And yet even here,” replied his friend, laughing, “your methods of reading are contested.”
“Even for that very reason,” said the other, “I do not talk with anybody about it; and with you too, just because I love you, I will no longer exchange and barter the wretched trash of empty words.”
The two friends, not without care and difficulty, had descended to join the children, who had settled themselves in a shady spot below. The mineral specimens collected by Montan and Felix were unpacked almost more eagerly than the provisions. The latter had many questions to ask, and the former many names to pronounce. Felix was delighted that he could tell him the names of them all, and committed them quickly to memory. At last he produced one more stone, and said, “What is this one called?”
Montan examined it with astonishment, and said, “Where did you get it?”
Fitz answered quickly, “I found it; it comes from this country.”
“It is not from this district,” replied Montan.
Felix enjoyed seeing the great man somewhat preplexed.
“You shall have a ducat,” said Montan, “if you take me to the place where it is found.”
“It will be easy to earn,” replied Fitz, “but not at once.”
“Then describe to me the place exactly, so that I shall be able to find it without fail. But that is impossible, for it is a cross-stone, which comes from St. James of Compostella, and which some foreigner has lost, if indeed you have not stolen it from him, because it looks so wonderful.”
“Give your ducat to your friend to take care of,” said Fitz, “and I will honestly confess where I got the stone. In the ruined church at St. Joseph’s there is a ruined altar as well. Among the scattered and broken stones at the top I discovered a layer of this stone, which served as a bed for the others, and I knocked down as much of it as I could get hold of. If you only lifted away upper stones, no doubt you would find a good deal more of it.”
“Take your gold-piece,” replied Montan; “you deserve it for this discovery. It is a pretty one. One justly rejoices when inanimate nature brings to light a semblance of what we love and venerate. She appears to us in the form of a sibyl, who sets down beforehand evidence of what has been predestined from eternity, but can only in the course of time become a reality. Upon this, as upon a miraculous, holy foundation, the priests had set their altar.”
Wilhelm, who had been listening for a time, and who had noticed that many names and many descriptions came over and over again, repeated his already expressed wish that Montan would tell him so much as he had need of for the elementary instruction of the boy.
“Give that up,” replied Montan. “There is nothing more terrible than a teacher who does not know more than the scholars, at all events, ought to know. He who wants to teach others may often indeed be silent about the best that he knows, but he must not be half-instructed himself.”
“But where, then, are such perfect teachers to be found?”
“You can find them very easily,” replied Montan.
“Where, then?” said Wilhelm, with some incredulity.
“Wherever the matter which you want to master is at home,” replied Montan. “The best instruction is derived from the most complete environment. Do you not learn foreign languages best in the countries where they are at home—where only those given ones and no other strike your ear?”
“And have you then,” asked Wilhelm, “attained the knowledge of mountains in the midst of mountains?”
“Without conversing with people?” asked Wilhelm.
“At least only with people,” replied the other, “who were familiar with mountains. Wheresoever the Pygmies, attracted by the metalliferous veins, bore their way through the rock to make the interior of the earth accessible, and by every means try to solve problems of the greatest difficulty, there is the place where the thinker eager for knowledge ought to take up his station. He sees business, action; let things follow their own course, and is glad at success and failure. What is useful is only a part of what is significant. To possess a subject completely, to master it, one has to study the thing for its own sake. But whilst I am speaking of the highest and the last, to which we raise ourselves only late in the day by dint of frequent and fruitful observation, I see the boys before me: to them matters sound quite differently. The child might easily grasp every species of activity, because everything looks easy that is excellently performed. Every beginning is difficult! That may be true in a certain sense, but more generally one can say that the beginning of everything is easy, and the last stages are ascended with most difficulty and most rarely.”
Wilhelm, who in the meantime had been thinking, said to Montan, “Have you really adopted the persuasion that the collective forms of activity have to be separated in precept as well as in practice?”
“I know no other or better plan,” replied the former. “Whatever man would achieve, must loose itself from him like a second self; and how could that be possible if his first self were not entirely penetrated therewith?”
“But yet a many-sided culture has been held to be advantageous and necessary.”
“It may be so, too, in its proper time,” answered the other. “Many-sidedness prepares, in point of fact, only the element in which the one-sided man can work, who just at this time has room enough given him. Yes, now is the time for the one-sided; well for him who comprehends it, and who works for himself and others in this mind. In certain things it is understood thoroughly and at once. Practise till you are an able violinist, and be assured that the director will have pleasure in assigning you a place in the orchestra. Make an instrument of yourself, and wait and see what sort of place humanity will kindly grant you in universal life. Let us break off. Whoso will not believe, let him follow his own path: he too will succeed sometimes; but I say it is needful everywhere to serve from the ranks upwards. To limit one’s self to a handicraft is the best. For the narrowest heads it is always a craft; for the better ones an art; and the best, when he does one thing, does everything—or, to be less paradoxical, in the one thing, which he does rightly, he beholds the semblance of everything that is rightly done.”
This conversation, which we only reproduce sketchily, lasted until sunset, which glorious as it was, yet led the company to consider where they would spend the night.
“I should not know how to bring you under cover,” said Fitz; “but if you care to sit or lie down for the night in a warm place at a good old charcoal-burner’s, you will be welcome.”
And so they all followed him through strange paths to a quiet spot, where anyone would soon have felt at home.
In the midst of a narrow clearing in the forest there lay smoking and full of heat the round-roofed charcoal kilns, on one side the hut of pine-boughs, and a bright fire close by. They sat down and made themselves comfortable; the children at once busy helping the charcoal-burner’s wife, who, with hospitable anxiety, was getting ready some slices of bread, toasted with butter so as to let them be filled and soaked with it, which afforded deliciously oily morsels to their hungry appetites.
Presently, whilst the boys were playing at hide-and-seek among the dimly-lighted pine stems, howling like wolves and barking like dogs, in such a way that even a courageous wayfarer might well have been frightened by it, the friends talked confidentially about their circumstances.
But now, to the peculiar duties of the Renunciants appertained also this, that on meeting they must speak neither of the past nor the future, but only occupy themselves with the present.
Jarno, who had his mind full of mining undertakings, and of all the knowledge and capabilities that they required, enthusiastically explained to Wilhelm, with the utmost exactitude and thoroughness, all that he promised himself in both hemispheres from such knowledge and capacities; of which, however, his friend, who always sought for the true treasure in the human heart alone, could hardly form any idea, but rather answered at last with a laugh:
“Thus you stand in contradiction with yourself, when beginning only in advanced years to meddle with what one ought to be instructed in from youth up.”
“Not at all,” replied the other; “for it is precisely this, that I was educated in my childhood at a kind uncle’s, a mining officer of consequence, that I grew up with the miner’s children, and with them used to swim little bark boats down the draining channel of the mine, that has led me back into this circle wherein I now feel myself again happy and contented. This charcoal smoke can hardly agree with you as with me, who from childhood up have been accustomed to swallow it as incense. I have essayed a great deal in the world, and always found the same: in habit lies the only satisfaction of man; even the unpleasant, to which we have accustomed ourselves, we miss with regret. I was once troubled a very long time with a wound that would not heal, and when at last I recovered, it was most unpleasant to me when the surgeon remained away and no longer dressed it, and no longer took breakfast with me.”
“But I should like, however,” replied Wilhelm, “to impart to my son a freer survey of the world than any limited handicraft can give. Circumscribe man as you will, for all that he will at last look about himself in his time, and how can he understand it all, if he does not in some degree know what has preceded him. And would he not enter every grocer’s shop with astonishment if he had no idea of the countries whence these indispensable rarities have come to him?”
“What does it matter?” replied Jarno; “let him read the newspapers like every Philistine, and drink coffee like every old woman. But still, if you cannot leave it alone, and are so bent upon perfect culture, I do not understand how you can be so blind, how you need search any longer, how you fail to see that you are in the immediate neighborhood of an excellent educational institution.”
“In the neighborhood?” said Wilhelm, shaking his head.
“Certainly,” replied the other; “what do you see here?”
“Here, just before your nose!” Jarno stretched out his forefinger, and exclaimed impatiently: “What is that?”
“Well then,” said Wilhelm, “a charcoal-kiln; but what has that to do with it?”
“Good, at last! a charcoal-kiln. How do they proceed to erect it?”
“They place logs one on top of the other.”
“When that is done, what happens next?”
“As it seems to me,” said Wilhelm, “you want to pay me a compliment in Socratic fashion—to make me understand, to make me acknowledge, that I am extremely absurd and thick-headed.”
“Not at all,” replied Jarno; “continue, my friend, to answer to the point. So, what happens then, when the orderly pile of wood has been arranged solidly yet lightly?”
“Why, they set fire to it.”
“And when it is thoroughly alight, when the flame bursts forth from every crevice, what happens?—do they let it burn on?”
“Not at all. They cover up the flames, which keep breaking out again and again, with turf and earth, with coal-dust, and anything else at hand.”
“To quench them?”
“Not at all: to damp them down.”
“And thus they leave it just as much air as is necessary, that all may be penetrated with the glow, so that all ferments aright. Then every crevice is shut, every outlet prevented; so that the whole by degrees is extinguished in itself, carbonized, cooled down, finally taken out separately, as marketable ware, forwarded to farrier and locksmith, to baker and cook; and when it has served sufficiently for the profit and edification of dear Christendom, is employed in the form of ashes by washerwomen and soapboilers.”
“Well,” replied Wilhelm, laughing, “what have you in view in reference to this comparison?”
“That is not difficult to say,” replied Jarno. “I look upon myself as an old basket of excellent beech charcoal; but in addition I allow myself the privilege of burning only for my own sake; whence also I appear very strange to people.”
“And me,” said Wilhelm; “how will you treat me?”
“At the present moment,” said Jarno, “I look on you as a pilgrim’s staff, which has the wonderful property of sprouting in every corner in which it is put, but never taking root. Now draw out the comparison further for yourself, and learn to understand why neither forester nor gardener, neither charcoal-burner nor joiner, nor any other craftsman, knows how to make anything of you.”
Whilst they were talking thus, Wilhelm, I do not know for what purpose, drew something out of his bosom which looked half like a pocketbook and half like a case, and which was claimed by Montan as an old acquaintance. Our friend did not deny that he carried it about like a kind of fetish, from the superstition that his fate, in a certain measure, depended thereon.
But what it was we would wish at this point not to confide as yet to the reader; but we may say thus much: that it led to a conversation, the final result of which was that Wilhelm confessed how he had long ago been inclined to devote himself to a certain special profession, an art of quite peculiar usefulness, provided that Montan would use his influence with the guild-brethren, in order that the most burdensome of all conditions of their life, that of not tarrying more than three days in one spot, might be dispensed with as soon as possible, and that for the attainment of his purpose, it might be allowed him to dwell here or there as might please himself. This Montan promised to do, after the other had solemnly promised himself unceasingly to pursue the aim which he had confidentially avowed, and to hold most faithfully to the purpose which he had once taken up.
Talking seriously of all this, and continually replying to one another, they had left their night’s lodgings, where a wonderfully suspicious company had by degrees gathered together, and by daybreak had got outside the wood on to an open space upon which they found some game, at which Felix particularly, who looked on delightedly, was very glad. They now prepared to separate; for here the paths led towards different points of the compass. Fitz was now questioned about the different directions, but he seemed absent, and, contrary to his usual habit, he gave confused answers.
“You are nothing but a rogue,” said Jarno; “you knew all of those men, last night, who came and sat down about us. There were woodcutters and miners, they might pass; but the later ones I take to be smugglers and poachers, and the tall one, the very last, who kept writing figures in the sand, and whom the others treated with a certain respect, was surely a treasure-digger, with whom you are secretly in concert.”
“They are all good people,” Fitz thereupon remarked, “who live poorly, and if they sometimes do what others forbid, they are just poor devils, who must give themselves some liberty, only to live.”
In point of fact, however, the little rogue, when he noticed the preparations of the friends to separate, became thoughtful. He mused quietly for a time, for he was in doubt as to which of the parties he should follow. He reckoned up his prospects: father and son were liberal with their silver, but Jarno rather with gold; he thought it the best plan not to leave him. Accordingly, he at once seized an opportunity that offered, when at parting Jarno said to him: “Now, when I come to St. Joseph’s I shall see whether you are honest: I shall look for the cross-stone and the ruined altar.”
“You will not find anything,” said Fitz, “and all the same I shall be honest; the stone is from there, but I have taken away all the pieces, and stored them up here. It is a valuable stone; without it no treasure can be dug up. For a little piece they pay me a great deal. You were quite right; this is how I came to be acquainted with the tall man.”
Now there were fresh deliberations. Fitz bound himself to Jarno, for an additional ducat, to get at a moderate distance a large piece of this rare mineral, on which account he advised them not to walk to the Giants’ Castle; but, however, since Felix insisted on it, he admonished the guide not to take the travellers too deep into the region, for no one would ever be able to find his way out again from those caverns and abysses.
They separated, and Fitz promised to meet them again, in good time, in the halls of the Giants’ Castle.
The guide walked ahead, the two others followed; the former, however, had scarcely ascended a certain distance up the mountain, when Felix observed that they were not walking on the path which Fitz had indicated.
The messenger replied, however: “I ought to know it better; for just these last few days a violent tempest has knocked down the next stretch of wood; the trees thrown one across the other obstruct this path. Follow me; I will bring you safely to the spot.”
Felix shortened the difficulty of the road by lively strides and jumps from rock to rock, and rejoiced at the knowledge he had gained, that he was actually jumping from granite to granite.
And so they went upwards, until he at last stopped short upon some black ruined columns, and all at once beheld before his eye the Giants’ Castle. Pillared walls stood out upon a solitary peak. Rows of connected columns formed doors within doors, aisles beyond aisles. The guide earnestly warned them not to lose themselves in the interior; and noticing at a sunny spot, commanding a wide view, traces of ashes left by his predecessors, he busied himself in keeping up a crackling fire. He was accustomed to prepare a frugal meal at spots of this kind, and whilst Wilhelm was seeking more correct information concerning the boundless prospect, Felix had disappeared; he must have lost himself within the cavern; he did not answer their shouting and whistling, and he did not appear again.
But Wilhelm, who, as beseems a pilgrim, was prepared against various accidents, took out of his hunting-wallet a ball of string, carefully tied it fast, and confided himself to this guiding clue, by which he had already formed the intention of taking his son into the interior. Thus he advanced, and from time to time blew his whistle, but for a time in vain. But at last there resounded from the depths a shrill whistle, and soon after Felix looked out on the ground from a cleft in the black rock.
“Are you alone?” whispered the boy, cautiously.
“Quite alone,” replied the father.
“Give me some logs of wood! give me some sticks!” said the boy; and, on receiving them, disappeared, first exclaiming anxiously, “Let nobody into the cave!”
But after a time he emerged again, and asked for a still longer and stronger piece of wood. His father waited anxiously for the solution of this riddle. At last the bold fellow arose quickly from out of the cleft, and brought out a little casket not bigger than a small octavo volume, of handsome antique appearance; it seemed to be of gold, adorned with enamel.
“Hide it, father, and let no one see it!”
Thereupon he hastily told how, from a mysterious inner impulse, he had crept into the cleft, and found underneath a dimlylighted space. In it there stood, he said, a large iron chest, not indeed locked, but the lid of which he could not raise, and indeed could hardly move. It was for the sake of mastering this that he had asked for the wood, partly to place them as supports under the lid, and partly to push them as wedges between; finally, he had found the box empty, save in one corner of it the ornamented little book. About this they mutually promised profound secrecy.
Noon was past; they had partaken of some food; Fitz had not yet come as he had promised; but Felix was particularly restless, longing to get away from the spot in which the treasure seemed exposed to earthly or unearthly claim. The columns seemed to him blacker, and the caverns still deeper. A secret had been laid upon him: a possession—lawful or unlawful? safe or unsafe? Impatience drove him from the spot; he thought that he should get rid of his anxiety by changing his locality.
They entered upon the road leading to those extensive possessions of the great landowner, of whose riches and eccentricities they had been told so much. Felix no longer leaped about as in the morning, and all three for hours walked silently on. Sometimes he wished to see the little casket, but his father, pointing to the porter, bade him be quiet. Now he was full of anxiety that Fitz should come. Then again he was afraid of the rogue; now he would whistle to give a signal, then again he would repent having done it; and so his wavering continued until Fitz at last made his whistle heard in the distance. He excused his own absence from the Giants’ Castle: he had been belated with Jarno; want of breath had hindered him. Then he inquired minutely how they had got on among the columns and the caves—how deep they had penetrated. Felix, half in bravado, half in embarrassment, told him one tale after another; he looked smilingly at his father, pinched him by stealth, and did all that was possible to make it clear that he had a secret, and was feigning.
They had at last reached a carriage-road, which ought to have taken them comfortably to those domains; but Fitz declared that he knew a nearer and better road: upon which the porter would not accompany them, but continued on the straight broad beaten road before him. The two wanderers trusted the independent youth, and thought that they had done well, for now they went straight down the mountain-side, through a forest of very tall thin-stemmed larches, which became every moment more penetrable to the sight, and at last allowed them to see, in the most brilliant sunlight, the loveliest demesne that can be imagined.
A large garden, devoted entirely as it seemed to the cultivation of produce, lay open, although plentifully planted with fruit-trees, before their eyes; and, regularly arranged in a number of divisions, covered an area of ground which, while it accorded with a general plan, was varied by many diversities of hill and hollow.
Several dwelling-houses lay scattered within it, so that the space seemed to belong to several owners, but yet, as Fitz declared, was owned and tilled by one single master. Beyond the garden they beheld a boundless landscape, richly cultivated and planted. They could plainly discern various lakes and rivers.
As they walked down the mountain they had got continually nearer, and thought that they would be in the garden directly, when Wilhelm started, and Fitz did not hide his malignant glee; for a precipitous cleft at the foot of the mountain disclosed itself before them, steep enough from the outside, although from inside fully on a level with the ground. Thus a deep ditch separated them from the garden, into which they directly looked.
“We shall have to make rather a long circuit,” said Fitz, “if we want to reach the road which leads into it. Still, I also know an entrance from this side, which will be a good deal nearer for us. The tunnels through which the rain-water is regulated as it rushes into the garden when it rains are on this side; they are high and wide enough for one to get through them pretty easily.”
As soon as Felix heard about tunnels he could not dismiss his curiosity to enter in this way. Wilhelm followed the children, and they descended together the steep steps, now lying dry, of these conduit-tunnels. They found themselves alternately in light and darkness, according as the light fell through side-openings, or was intercepted by columns and walls. At last they reached a tolerably level part, and were walking slowly forwards, when suddenly close to them a report was heard, and two hidden iron gratings closed and shut them in on either side. Not indeed the whole company, but only Felix and Wilhelm were imprisoned; for Fitz, as soon as the noise was heard, sprang back at once, and the closing grating caught only his large sleeves; but he, throwing off his jacket very quickly, escaped without waiting a moment.
The two captives had scarcely time to recover from their astonishment, when they heard human voices, which seemed to approach slowly. Then presently came some people with arms and torches to the grating, looking curiously to see what sort of capture they had made. They at once asked whether they would quietly surrender.
“There can be no question of surrender here,” replied Wilhelm; “we are in your power. We rather have reason to ask whether you will spare us. I deliver unto you the only weapon that we carry with us,” and with these words he handed his hunting-knife through the grating. This was at once opened, and quite leisurely the new-comers were taken onwards, and after being led up a winding stair, they soon found themselves in a curious place. It was a neat, spacious room, lit by small windows beneath the cornices, which in spite of strong iron bars shed sufficient light. For seats, sleeping-places, and whatever else could be required in a decent lodging, provision had been made, and it seemed as if nothing was wanting to one who found himself there but his liberty.
Wilhelm on entering, at once sat down and thought over the situation. Felix, on the contrary, when he had recovered from his astonishment, broke out into an incredible rage. These high walls, those lofty windows, these barred doors, this isolation, this confinement—was altogether new to him. He looked about, he ran hither and thither, stamped his feet, wept, rattled at the doors, beat with his fists against them; nay, he was on the point of running with his forehead against them, if Wilhelm had not caught him, and forcibly held him back.
“Only keep yourself quite quiet, my son,” began his father, “for impatience and violence will not help us out of this situation. The mystery will clear itself up; but I should be very much mistaken, if we have not fallen into good hands. Look at these inscriptions: ‘Deliverance and compensation for the innocent,’ ‘Pity for the tempted,’ and ‘Retributive justice for the culprit.’ All this shows us that these arrangements are works of necessity, and not of cruelty. Man has only too much cause to protect himself against man. Of malevolent people there are indeed many, and of evildoers not a few; and to live as it behoves, it is not enough always to do well.”
Felix had collected himself, but threw himself at once upon one of the beds, without any further demonstration or reply. His father did not desist, but said further:
“Let this experience, which you are gaining so early and so innocently, remain with you as living evidence of which and of what a perfect century you have been born in. What a long road has not humanity been forced to make, before it reached the point of being gentle to the guilty, merciful to the culprit, humane to the inhuman! They certainly were men of a divine nature who first taught this, and spent their lives in making possible and hastening its practice. Men are seldom susceptible of the beautiful; more often of the good; and how highly must we then hold those who seek to promote this at the cost of great sacrifices.”
These comforting, instructive words, which quite clearly expressed the purpose of the confining surroundings, Felix had not heard. He lay fast asleep, prettier and fresher than ever; for a passion, such as in general he was not easily subject to, had driven his whole inner being into his full cheeks. His father stood looking complacently at him, when a well-dressed young man entered, who, after he had looked for a while at the stranger in a friendly manner, began to ask him about the circumstances that had led him on the unusual path into this trap. Wilhelm told him about the occurrence straightforwardly, handed him certain papers which served to declare his identity, and referred him to the porter, who must soon arrive by the ordinary road from the other side. When all this was clear so far, the official begged his guest to follow him. It was impossible to arouse Felix; the servants therefore carried him upon the strong mattress, like the unconscious Ulysses of old, into the open air.
Wilhelm followed the official into a pretty garden, where refreshments were set out, which he was bidden to enjoy, whilst the other went to deliver his report at headquarters. When Felix, on awaking, beheld a little table laid out with fruit, wine and biscuits, as also the cheerful prospect through the open door, he felt quite bewildered. He runs out, he returns, he thinks he has been dreaming, and over such good fare and such pleasant surroundings has soon forgotten his previous terror and all his sorrow, like an unpleasant dream in broad daylight.
The porter had arrived, the official returned with him, and with another older and still more kindly man; and the matter was cleared up in the following manner. The master of this estate, benevolent in the higher sense, in that he aroused all about him to activity and industry, had for many years disposed of young plants from his extensive nursery-garden—to industrious and careful cultivators for nothing—to the negligent at a certain price—and likewise at a price, though a low one, to those who wished to trade with them. These two latter classes, however, demanded gratuitously what only the worthy received gratuitously, and as they were not yielded to they sought to purloin the plants. They had succeeded in doing so in various manners. This vexed the owner all the more, because not only were the nurseries plundered, but by excessive haste had also been injured. There were traces of their having entered through the water-channel, and on that account the grating with a spring-gun had been arranged, though it was only meant to serve as a symbol. The little boy had under many pretexts allowed himself to be seen in the garden, and nothing was more natural than that, from audacity and roguery, he should wish to take the strangers by a road which he had found out earlier, with a different object in view. They had wished to make him prisoner; meanwhile, his jacket would be preserved amongst other penal objects.
On the road to the castle, our friend, to his astonishment, found nothing that would have resembled an older pleasure-garden or a modern park. Upon a gently sloping space he beheld, in one glance, fruit-trees planted in straight lines, vegetable beds, large plots sown with medicinal herbs, and only what could be esteemed useful in some way or other. A space, shaded round by tall lime-trees, expanded like an entrance-hall worthy of the fine building; a long alley leading out of it with trees of similar growth and beauty afforded an opportunity, at every hour of the day, of taking exercise or strolling in the open air. On entering the castle, he found the walls of the ground floor covered in a peculiar fashion: large geographical drawings of all the four quarters of the world met his eye. The walls of the stately staircase were similarly adorned with maps of particular countries; and on being admitted into the principal hall, he found himself surrounded by views of the most remarkable cities, enclosed above and below by landscape pictures of the neighborhoods in which they were situated; all depicted with such art, that the peculiarities of each distinctly met the eye, and at the same time an uninterrupted connection was perceptible throughout. The master of the house, a cheerful little man, somewhat advanced in years, welcomed his guest, and asked, without further introduction, pointing to the walls, whether by chance one of these towns were known to him; whether he had ever lived in any of them? Of many of them our friend was now able to give an account at length, and prove that he had not only seen several of the places, but also that he had not neglected to observe carefully their condition and peculiarities.
The master rang, and ordered that a room should be assigned to the two guests; and that presently they should be shown in to supper, which was accordingly done. In a large hall on the ground floor two ladies advanced towards him, one of whom said to him with great liveliness: “Here you will find little company, but good. I, the younger niece, am called Hersilia; this my elder sister is named Julietta; the two gentlemen are father and son, officials, as you know—friends of the family, who enjoy all the confidence that they deserve. Let us sit down!” The two ladies placed Wilhelm between them, the officials sat at the ends, Felix at the other side, where he at once moved himself opposite to Hersilia, and never took his eyes off her.
After some general preliminary talk, Hersilia seized an opportunity of saying: “In order that the stranger may the sooner become familiar with us, and initiated into our conversation, I must acknowledge that we read a great deal here, and that by accident, inclination, and perhaps also from a spirit of contradiction, we have divided ourselves amongst the different literatures. Our uncle has taken to the Italian; this lady, here, does not take it ill to be thought a perfect Englishwoman; but I hold to the French, in so far as they are cheerful and elegant. Papa-steward here rejoices in German antiquities, and the son is thus able, as is fitting, to devote his sympathy to the more modern and younger. You will judge of us accordingly, take part accordingly, agree or dispute; in every sense you will be welcome.” And in this sense, too, the conversation grew animated.
In the meantime the direction of the handsome Felix’s ardent glances had by no means escaped Hersilia; she felt surprised and flattered, and sent him the most delicate morsels, which he gladly and thankfully received. But at dessert, as he was looking towards her across a dish of apples, she fancied that in the splendid fruit she beheld so many rivals. Quick as thought she seized an apple, and reached it across the table to the enterprising youth. He, seizing it hastily, at once began to peel it; but as he looked unremittingly at his lovely opposite neighbor, he cut himself deeply in the thumb. The blood flowed quickly: Hersilia jumped up and attended to him, and when the blood had been stopped, she closed the wound with English plaster from her case. In the meantime the boy had caught hold of her and would not let her go; the interruption became general, the company rose from the table, and preparations were made to separate.
“I suppose you read before going to sleep,” said Hersilia to Wilhelm; “I will send you a manuscript, a translation from the French by myself, and you shall say whether you have ever met with anything prettier. A distracted girl enters upon the scene—that perhaps might not be any particular recommendation; but if I ever should become demented, as I sometimes have a wish to be, it would be in this manner.”
“THE WITLESS WANDERER”.
HERR VON REVANNE, a rich private gentleman, possesses the finest estates in his province. Together with his son and sister, he inhabits a chateau that would be worthy of a prince; and, in fact, as his park, his waterworks, his farms, his manufactures, and his household, support one-half the inhabitants for six miles round, he is, by his high repute and by the good that he causes, a prince in reality.
“A few years ago he was walking along the walls of his park out towards the public road, and it pleased him to rest himself in a little plantation in which travellers are fond of stopping awhile. Tall trees rear their tops above the young dense undergrowth; provision is made against sun and wind, and a modestly-fitted fountain gives forth its water over the roots, stones, and turf.
“The pedestrian, according to his wont, carried with him a book and gun. Now and then he attempted to read, but often the song of the birds, and sometimes the steps of a traveller, pleasantly interrupted and disturbed him.
“A beautiful morning was fast advancing, when a youthful and amiable-looking young lady appeared walking towards him. She left the road, seeming to promise herself rest and refreshment at the cool spot where he was. This wanderer, who had the loveliest eyes in the world, and a face pleasingly animated by expression, was also distinguished to such a degree by figure and demeanor, that he involuntarily got up from his seat and looked towards the road to see if the attendants, whom he supposed to be behind her, were coming. As she bowed towards him with dignity, her figure again attracted his attention, and he respectfully answered her greeting. The beautiful wayfarer sat down on the margin of the fountain with a sigh, without uttering a word.
“ ‘Strange effect of sympathy!’ exclaimed Herr von Revanne, as he told me the event: ‘in the stillness this sigh was echoed by me. I remained standing, without knowing what I ought to say or do. My eyes did not avail me to take in all her perfections. Lying thus reclined and resting on her elbow, she was the most beauteous female form one could imagine! Her shoes gave occasion for special observation on my part: all covered with dust, they bore witness to her having walked a long distance; and still her silken stockings were as shining as if they just then had been taken from beneath the smoothing-stone. Her fastened-up dress was not rumpled; her hair seemed to have been curled that very morning; fine linen, fine lace: she was dressed as if she were going to a ball. Nothing betrayed in her the vagabond; and yet she was one, but one to be pitied and revered.
“ ‘At last I took advantage of certain glances which she cast towards me, to ask if she were travelling alone.
“ ‘ “Yes, sir,” said she, “I am alone in the world.”
“ ‘ “How, madam? Can you be without parents, without acquaintances?”
“ ‘ “I should not exactly say that, sir; parents I have, and acquaintances enough, but no friends.”
“ ‘ “That,” I continued, “cannot possibly be your own fault. You possess an outward form, and surely too a heart, to which much would be forgiven.”
“ ‘She felt the kind of reproof which was hidden beneath my compliment, and I formed a favorable idea of her good-breeding. She opened towards me two heavenly eyes of the most perfect and purest azure, transparent and sparkling; then she said in a dignified tone, that she could not blame a gentleman, as I seemed to be, for looking with some degree of suspicion on a young girl whom he met alone on the high road; that had often happened to her already; still, although entirely a stranger, although nobody had any right to cross-question her, she nevertheless begged him to believe that the object of her journey was consistent with the strictest decorum. Certain causes, of which she owed nobody an account, compelled her to carry her grief about in the world. She had found that the dangers that people used to fear for her sex were purely imaginary, and that the honor of a woman even among highwaymen only ran a risk through weakness of heart or of principles. Moreover, she only walked at hours and on roads where she thought herself safe; that she did not speak to everybody, and often stayed at respectable places, where she could earn her maintenance by services of any sort consistent with her education. Here she lowered her voice; she dropped her eyelids, and I saw a few tears steal down her cheek.
“ ‘To this I replied that I by no means doubted her gentle extraction, and still less her honorable conduct. I only regretted that any necessity should compel her to serve other people, since she seemed so worthy of having servants herself; and that notwithstanding a lively curiosity, I would not further press her; that I wished rather by knowing her better to convince myself that she was in all respects as anxious about her reputation as her virtue. These words seemed again to offend her, for she answered that she concealed her name and her country precisely on account of her reputation, which after all generally comprises less of reality than of supposition. When she offered her services she showed testimonials from the last houses in which she had served, and did not conceal that she wished not to be asked about her country or her family. To this people accommodated themselves, and left to Heaven or to her own word the innocence of her whole life, and her honesty. Expressions of this kind did not cause a suspicion of any mental derangement on the part of the beautiful adventuress.’
“Herr von Revanne, who could not well understand this determination to wander about in the world, suspected now that there had been an intention of marrying her against her inclination. Thereupon the thought occurred to him, might it not be despair from love? and wonderfully enough, though such a thing has happened before, in giving her credit for loving another, he fell in love with her himself, and feared lest she might travel further away. He could not turn his eyes away from her fair face, the beauty of which was enhanced by the green half-light. Never, if ever there were nymphs, was a fairer one seen reclining on the green sward; and the somewhat romantic nature of this meeting endued it with a charm which he was unable to resist.
“So, without considering the thing very carefully, Herr von Revanne induced the fair stranger to let him conduct her to the chateau. She makes no difficulty; she goes with him, and shows herself to be a person acquainted with the great world. Refreshments are brought, which she accepts without affected politeness and with the most graceful acknowledgments. Whilst waiting for dinner she is shown over the house. She only remarks on what deserves special notice, whether in furniture or pictures, or in something pertaining to the convenient arrangement of the rooms. She finds a library: she knows the good books, she speaks about them with taste and modesty. No chattering, no embarrassment. At table, just the same high-bred and natural demeanor, and the most amiable style of conversation. So far, everything is rational in her speech, and her character seems as amiable as her person.
“After dinner a little trait of self-will made her seem still prettier. Turning to Fräulein Revanne with a smile, she said that it was a custom of hers to pay for her mid-day meal with some work, and whenever money failed her, to ask her hostesses for needles. ‘Allow me,’ she added, ‘to leave a flower behind on your embroidery frame, so that in future the sight of it may remind you of the poor stranger.’
“To this Fräulein Revanne replied, that she was very sorry that she had no pattern drawn, and should therefore be obliged to forego the pleasure of admiring her ability.
“The wanderer immediately turned her glance towards the piano.
“ ‘Then I shall discharge my debt in “wind-money,” ’ she said, ‘as has been the fashion of other strolling minstrels before now.’ She tried the instrument with two or three preludes that showed a well-practised hand. There was no longer any doubt but that she was a young lady of condition, endowed with all attractive accomplishments. At first her performance was lively and brilliant; then she passed into serious tones, to tones of deep melancholy, which was also visible in her eyes. They became wet with tears, her face was changed, her fingers stayed; but of a sudden she surprised every one by delivering merrily and laughingly a bantering song with the loveliest voice in the world. As there may be reason in the sequel for thinking that this burlesque ballad concerned herself more closely, I shall probably be pardoned for inserting it here:*
“It was indeed ominous that she could forget herself in such a fashion; and this outbreak might have served for an indication of a head that was not at all times equal to itself.
“ ‘But,’ said Herr von Revanne to me, ‘we also forgot all remarks that we might have made: I do not know how it came to pass. The unspeakable grace with which she performed these freaks must have prejudiced us. She played fantastically, but with understanding. She controlled her fingers completely, and her voice was really bewitching. When she had finished, she seemed as composed as before, and we thought that she had only wished to enliven the after-dinner interval.
“ ‘Soon after she asked for permission to resume her journey; but at a sign from me my sister said that, if she was not in a hurry, it would be a treat to us to have her with us for several days. I thought of offering her some occupation, since for once she agreed to remain. Yet this first day and the following one we only took her about the place. She never belied herself for one single moment; she was Reason endued with every grace. Her mind was subtle and striking, her memory so well stored, and her disposition so beautiful, that she repeatedly aroused our admiration, and fettered all our attention. Moreover, she knew the rules of good behavior, and practised them towards every one of us, and no less towards certain friends who visited us, so perfectly, that we found it impossible to reconcile her singularities with such a degree of education.
“ ‘I really no longer ventured to suggest any plans for household occupation with us. My sister, who was much pleased with her, likewise thought it her duty to spare the delicate feelings of this unknown. They managed the household affairs together, and with respect to these the good child would often condescend to perform manual work, and understood how to take her part in everything which required higher arrangement and calculation.
“ ‘In a short time she established a degree of order, such as we had hitherto certainly not felt the want of in the château. She was a very sensible housekeeper; and, as she had commenced with sitting at table with us, she did not, from false modesty, withdraw herself now, but continued to dine with us without any hesitation; but she did not touch any cards or instrument before she had brought to an end the duties which she had undertaken.
“ ‘Now, I must freely confess that the fate of this girl began to move me most profoundly. I pitied the parents, who probably would sorely miss such a daughter; I sighed that such gentle virtues and so many endowments should be lost. She had already lived several months with us, and I hoped that the confidence with which we sought to inspire her would at last bring the secret to her lips. If it were a misfortune, we might help; if a fault, it was to be hoped that our mediation, our testimony, might be able to gain forgiveness for her for any transient error; but all our assurances of friendship, our prayers even, were in vain. If she perceived an intention of winning an explanation from her, she would shelter herself behind general moralizations, in order to justify herself, without informing us. For instance, if we spoke to her about her ill-fortune: “Misfortune,” she would say, “falls upon both good and evil. It is a potent medicine, which attacks the good juices along with the bad.”
“ ‘If we tried to discover the reason of her flight from her paternal home: “If the deer flies,” she said, laughing, “it is not therefore guilty.” If we asked whether she had suffered persecutions: “It is the fate of many girls of good birth to experience and endure persecutions. He who cries at an offence will meet with more.” But how could she have made up her mind to expose her life to the roughness of the multitude, or at least to owe it often to its compassion? At this she would laugh again, and say, “The poor man who greets the rich at table does not lack sense.” Once, as the conversation turned to jest, we spoke to her of lovers, and asked whether she did not know the chilly hero of her ballad. I still remember well how this word seemed to cut through her. She opened towards me a pair of eyes, so serious, so severe, that mine could not endure such a glance; and afterwards, too, whenever love was spoken of, one was sure to see the grace of her person and the vivacity of her spirit overclouded. She immediately fell into thoughtfulness, which we took for brooding, but which probably was only grief. Still, upon the whole, she remained cheerful, but without great liveliness; highbred, without giving herself importance; frank without communicativeness, reserved without sensitiveness; rather patient than meek, and more grateful than affectionate in return for all caresses and courtesies. She was certainly a lady, educated to preside over a large household; and yet she did not seem older than one-and-twenty. So did this comprehensible young person, who had quite captivated me, show herself during the two years which it pleased her to stay with us; until she wound up with a piece of folly, which is all the more strange as her qualities were sterling and brilliant. My son, who is younger than I, will be able to console himself, but as concerns myself, I fear that I shall be weak enough to miss her always.
“ ‘Now I will relate this act of folly in a sensible woman, to show that folly often is nothing but reason under another exterior. It is true that one will find a strange contradiction between the noble character of the pilgrim and the comical cunning of which she availed herself; but we already know two of her inconsistencies—the pilgrimage itself and the ballad.”
“It is probably clear that Herr von Revanne had fallen in love with the stranger. Now, he could not altogether rely upon his face, which was fifty years old, although he looked as fresh and robust as a man of thirty; but perhaps he hoped to please by his pure, childlike health, by the goodness, cheerfulness, gentleness, generosity of his character; perhaps also by his fortune, although he had delicacy enough to feel, that one does not buy what is priceless.
“But the son, on the other hand, amiable, tender, high-spirited, without taking more thought than his father, rushed headlong into the venture. First he tried prudently to win the unknown one who had first become really appreciated by him through the praise and the friendship of his father and aunt. He made sincere efforts to gain an amiable woman, whom his passion seemed to have raised far above her present condition. Her severity more than her merits and her beauty, inflamed his love; he ventured to speak, to undertake, to promise.
“The father, without wishing it himself, always gave to his wooing a somewhat paternal aspect. He knew himself, and when he had become aware of his rival, he could not hope to conquer him, unless he were willing to adopt means which do not beseem a man of principle. Nevertheless he pursued his course, although it was not unknown to him that kindness, nay, even fortune, are only attractions to which a young woman yields herself with caution; but which remain ineffectual as soon as love reveals itself with the charms of, and accompanied by, youth. Herr von Revanne also made other mistakes, which he repented later. In the midst of a friendship full of esteem, he spoke of ‘a lasting, secret, legal union.’ He even complained, and uttered the word ‘ingratitude.’ Surely he did not know her whom he loved, when one day he said to her, that many benefactors received back evil for good. The Unknown answered him with frankness: Many benefactors would like to acquire all the rights of their protégés at the price of a lentil. The beautiful stranger, involved in the courtship of two rivals, induced by unknown motives, seems to have had no other intention but to spare herself and others any foolish pranks, and in these doubtful circumstances adopted a wonderful expedient. The son pressed her with the boldness of his age, and threatened, as usual, to sacrifice his life to the inexorable one. The father, somewhat less unreasonable, was still equally pressing; both were in earnest. This amiable creature might now probably have assured herself of a well-deserved position of life; for both the Herren von Revanne aver that it had been their intention to marry her.
“But from the example of this girl let woman learn that an honest soul, even if the mind should have given way to vanity or to real derangement, does not cherish the wounds of the heart which it is not willing to heal. The pilgrim felt that she was standing at a critical point, where it would not be so easy for her to defend herself long. She was in the power of two lovers, who could excuse every pressure with the purity of their motives, inasmuch as they intended to justify their boldness by a sanctified tie. So it was, and so she understood it.
“She could shelter herself behind Fräulein von Revanne; but she omitted to do so, no doubt from consideration, from esteem for her benefactors. She is not put out of countenance; she thinks out a method for preserving to each his virtue, whilst she allows her own to be suspected. She is mad with a fidelity which her lover certainly does not deserve, if he feels not all her sacrifices, even if they should remain unknown to him.
“One day, as Herr von Revanne returned somewhat too impetuously the friendship, the gratitude, which she showed towards him, she assumed on a sudden a simple manner, which struck him. ‘Your goodness, sir, alarms me; and allow me frankly to confess why. I feel indeed that only to you I owe my whole gratitude; but in fact—’
“ ‘Cruel girl!’ said Herr von Revanne. ‘I understand you; my son has touched your heart—’
“ ‘Alas! sir, it has not stopped there. I can only express by my confusion—’
“ ‘How? Mademoiselle, you would—’
“ ‘Indeed, I think so,’ said she, as she bent low down and dropped a tear—for women are never at a loss for a tear in their artifices, nor for an excuse for their evil-doing.
“Smitten with love as Herr von Revanne was, still he was forced to wonder at this new kind of innocent sincerity in such circumstances, and he found the lowly posture very much in place.
“ ‘But, mademoiselle, it is quite incomprehensible to me.’
“ ‘To me too,’ said she, and the tears flowed more abundantly. They flowed so long that at last Herr von Revanne, after a very unpleasant reverie, again broke silence with a quiet air, and said:
“ ‘This enlightens me! I see how ridiculous are my pretensions. I bestow on you no reproaches; and, as the only penalty for the grief which you cause me, I promise you so much of his inheritance as is necessary to show whether he loves you as much as I.’
“ ‘Alas, sir, have pity on my innocence, and tell him nothing about it.’
“To ask for secrecy is not the means to obtain it. After these steps, the fair Unknown now expected to see her lover before her full of anger and highly incensed. He soon appeared with a look which augured annihilating words. However, he was choked, and could bring out no more than, ‘How, mademoiselle, is it possible?’
“ ‘Well, what is it, sir?’ she said, with a laugh, which on such an occasion can provoke despair.
“ ‘How? What is it? Away! mademoiselle; you are a nice creature! But at least legitimate children are not to be disinherited; it is quite enough to accuse them. Yes, mademoiselle, I see through your conspiracy with my father. You two give me a son, and he is my brother. Of that I am certain.’
“With the same quiet cheerful countenance the lovely unwise one answered him, ‘You are certain of nothing: it is neither your son nor your brother. Boys are naughty; I have never wanted one. It is a poor little girl that I will take away, far away, quite far from men—wicked, foolish, faithless men.’
“Then, giving free vent to her heart: ‘Farewell,’ she continued, ‘farewell, dear Revanne! From nature you have an honest heart; keep to the principles of uprightness. These are not dangerous with well-established wealth. Be kind towards the poor. He who despises the prayer of troubled innocence, will one day himself beg, and not be listened to. He who has no scruple in setting at naught the scruples of an unprotected girl, will himself become the victim of unscrupulous women. He who does not feel what a chaste girl must feel when she is being wooed, deserves not to gain her. He who, against all reason, against the intentions, against the design of his family, constructs schemes in behalf of his own passions, deserves to be deprived of the fruits of his passions, and to lose the esteem of his family. I believe indeed that you have loved me sincerely; but, my dear Revanne, the cat knows well whose beard it licks; and if you ever become the beloved of a worthy wife, then remember the mill of the unfaithful one. Learn from my example to rely on the constancy and discretion of your beloved. You know whether I am unfaithful; your father knows it also. I intended to roam through the world and to expose myself to all dangers; surely the greatest are those which threatened me in this house. But because you are young I tell it to you only and in confidence: men and women are only unfaithful of set purpose; and that I wanted to prove to the friend of the mill, who perhaps will see me again, when his heart will have become sufficiently pure to miss what he has lost.’
“Young Revanne still listened, though she had finished speaking. He stood as if struck by lightning; tears at last unclosed his eyes, and in this state of emotion he ran to his aunt, his father, to tell them that mademoiselle was going away, that mademoiselle was an angel, or rather a demon, roaming about in the world in order to torture the hearts of everybody. But the wanderer had taken her measures so well that she was not found again; and when father and son had come to a mutual explanation, her innocence, her talents, and her insanity, were no longer doubted; and, great as were the pains that Herr von Revanne took from that time, he did not succeed in obtaining the least enlightenment in reference to this beautiful person, who had made her appearance as transiently and in as lovely a form as an angel.”
After a long and thorough rest, of which the travellers might well stand in need, Felix jumped actively out of his bed, and made haste to dress himself; and, as his father thought he noticed, with more care than hitherto. Nothing fitted him neatly or smartly enough: he would have liked everything to be newer and less worn. He sprang into the garden, and only tasted on the way a little of the first meal, which the servant had brought for the guests, since the ladies would not appear in the garden for another hour.
The servant was accustomed to entertain strangers, and to show many of the things in the house; so he conducted our friends also into a gallery, in which only portraits were hung up and exhibited—all of persons who had worked in the eighteenth century—a large and glorious company; pictures and busts as well, when possible, by excellent masters.
“You will not find,” said the keeper, “in the whole castle, a single picture that points even distantly to religion, tradition, mythology, legend or fable: our master wishes that the imaginative power shall only be required to make present to itself the True. We deal enough in fiction, he is wont to say, without needing to exalt still higher this dangerous quality of our intellect by external stimulants.”
Wilhelm’s question, when they might expect him down, he answered with the information that his master, according to his habit, had ridden out quite early. He was accustomed to say: “Observation is life!” “You will see this and other maxims, in which he reflects himself, written in the fields above the gates—as for instance we forthwith light upon: ‘From the Useful, through the True, to the Beautiful.’ ”
The women had already prepared the breakfast under the lime-trees; Felix frolicked about them, trying by all sorts of follies and extravagances to bring himself forward so as to get a warning or a reproof from Hersilia. The sisters now tried by frankness and communicativeness to gain the confidence of their taciturn guest, who pleased them; they told him about a favorite cousin, who had been three years absent, and was presently expected home; about a worthy aunt, who lived in her castle at no great distance, and was to be regarded as the tutelary genius of the family. In a state of bodily decay, she was described as being in blooming health of spirit, just as if the voice of a primeval sibyl no longer visible were to utter, quite simply, pure divine words on human things.
The new guest now turned his conversation and questions to the present. He wished to know the noble uncle more closely in a purely distinctive activity: he thought of the road which he had pointed out, “From the Useful, through the True, to the Beautiful,” and sought to interpret the words after his own fashion—in which, moreover, he succeeded quite well, and had the good fortune to gain Julietta’s approval.
Hersilia, who up to this time had remained silently smiling, replied on the other hand: “We women are in a peculiar position. We hear the maxims of men continually repeated, nay, we have to behold them in gilt letters above our heads, and yet we girls might be able in private to say the very reverse, which would also pass current, as is precisely the case in the present instance. The Beautiful maiden finds admirers, also suitors, and probably at last a husband; then she arrives at the True, which may not prove to be the pleasantest possible, and if she is wise she will devote herself to the Useful, attend to house and children, and in this abide. At least I have often found it so. We girls have time to observe, and then we generally find what we did not look for.”
A messenger from the uncle arrived with the news that the whole party was invited to dinner at a neighboring hunting-box; they could either ride or drive thither.
Hersilia chose to ride. Felix also begged urgently that they would give him a horse. It was agreed that Julietta should drive with Wilhelm, and that Felix as a page should be indebted for his first ride to the lady of his young heart.
In the meantime Julietta drove with her new friend through a series of plantations that all pointed to utility and enjoyment; nay, the innumerable fruit-trees made it doubtful whether the fruit could ever all be consumed.
“You have passed through such a wonderful ante-chamber into our society, and have found so much that is really uncommon and strange, that I may suppose that you wish to know the connection of all this. All depends on the spirit and sense of my excellent uncle. The vigorous years of this noble person’s manhood fell in the time of Beccaria* and Filangieri;† the maxims of a universal humanitarianism prevailed at that time on all sides. But his striving spirit and severe character transformed this general ideal into ideas which occupied themselves with the practical. He did not conceal from us, how according to his own fashion he had transformed that liberal motto: ‘The Best for the largest number,’ and destined ‘For the Many, the Desirable.’ The most cannot find or know what is the best, still less procure it. But many are always around us: what they wish, we learn to know; what they ought to wish, we reflect on; and thus something of importance can always be effected and created. With this view,” she continued, “everything that you see here has been planted, constructed and arranged; and simply for a quite close, easily-attainable purpose; all this has come to pass from love to the great neighboring mountain range.
“The excellent man, endowed with both strength and the means, said to himself: No child up yonder shall want a cherry or an apple, for which with good reason they are so greedy; the housewife shall not lack cabbage or turnips or any other vegetable for her saucepan, so that to some degree the unwholesome consumption of potatoes may be counterbalanced. To this end and in this manner he tries to achieve what his possessions give him an opportunity of doing; and thus for many years carriers, men and women, have been organized, who take the fruit for sale into the deepest clefts of the mountain rocks.”
“I have enjoyed it myself like any child,” replied Wilhelm; “there, where I never hoped to meet with anything of the sort, among pines and rocks, I was less surprised at finding pure simplicity of mind than new refreshing fruit! The gifts of the spirit are at home everywhere, but the gifts of nature are only sparely distributed over the earth’s surface.”
“Moreover, our worthy man has brought many things from distant places nearer to the mountain; in the buildings below here you will find salt laid up, and stores of spices. For tobacco and brandy he lets others provide; these are not necessaries, he says, but lusts, and consequently they have providers enough already.”
Arrived at the appointed place, a roomy huntsman’s house in the forest, the party found themselves assembled, and a small table ready laid out.
“Let us sit down,” said Hersilia. “Here, to be sure, stands our uncle’s chair, but as usual he is sure not to come. In a certain manner it gives me satisfaction, that our new guest, as I hear, is not going to stay long with us; for he might be wearied when he became acquainted with our company. The composition of it is what is everlastingly repeated in novels and plays: a wonderful uncle, one gentle and one lively niece, a sensible aunt, domestics of the well-known sort; and if our cousin were now to return, he would learn to recognize a fantastic traveller, who perhaps would bring with him a still more eccentric companion, and then the trite theatrical piece would be composed, and transformed into reality.”
“The peculiarities of our uncle we must needs revere,” replied Julietta; “they are not a burden to any one, but rather a convenience to everybody. He detests, as he always will, a fixed dinner-hour, but he rarely interferes with it, for indeed he maintains that one of the finest inventions of modern times is dinner à la carte.”
Amidst much other conversation they also discussed the worthy man’s taste to affect inscriptions everywhere.
“My sister,” said Hersilia, “knows how to interpret them all, and she vies with the keeper in making them out; but I find they can all be reversed, and that then they are just as true, and perhaps more so.”
“I do not deny,” replied Wilhelm, “that there are mottoes among them which seem to neutralize themselves. Thus, for instance, I saw written up very strikingly, ‘Ownership and Common-property.’ Do not these two ideas exclude one another?”
Hersilia interrupted him: “Such inscriptions, it seems, our uncle has borrowed from the Orientals, who on all their walls do honor to, rather than understand, the maxims of the Koran.”
Julietta, not to be put off, replied to the preceding question: “If you paraphrase the few words, their sense will at once become clear.”
After some discussion, Julietta continued to explain how it was meant: “Every one should try to dignify, to keep, and to increase the possession which has been granted to him by fate or by nature; with all his faculties he should grasp as far around him as he can reach, but should at the same time always think how he shall let others have a share in it; for people of means are only valued in so far as others enjoy through them.”
When they now began to seek for instances, our friend found himself in his proper element: they vied with each other, they strained their wits, in the endeavor to prove the truth of those laconic words.
“Why,” they maintained, “do people honor the prince—but because he can put in activity, can advance and bestow favors on every one, and make them, as it were, shareholders of his absolute power? Why does everybody look up to the rich? Because he himself, the most needy, on all sides wants participators in his abundance. Why do all men envy the poet? Because his nature makes communication necessary—nay, is communication itself. The musician is happier than the painter; he expends welcome gifts in person, immediately, whilst the latter only gives when the gift has been sundered from himself.”
Then they further asserted generally: Man ought to retain firmly every sort of possession; he ought to make himself a central point, from which the common good can issue; he must be an egoist, in order not to become an egoist; must keep together, in order to be able to expend. What does it mean—to give possession and goods to the poor? It is more praiseworthy to behave as a steward for them. This is the sense of the words “Ownership and Common-property:” the capital no one ought to attack; the interest will none the less belong in due course to every one.
In this manner the ladies conversed about many things with their new friend, and, as their mutual confidence increased more and more, they also spoke about a cousin who was shortly expected. “We believe that his strange behavior has been arranged with our uncle. For some years he has let us hear nothing from him. He will send charming presents, figuratively intimating his place of residence, then all of a sudden he writes from somewhere quite close by, but will not come before we have given him some information about our own condition. This behavior is not natural; what lurks behind it we must discover before his return. To-night we will give you a packet of letters, from which the rest may be seen.”
Hersilia added: “Yesterday I made you acquainted with a foolish wandering woman; to-day you shall hear about a crazy traveller.”
“But confess,” added Julietta, “that this communication is not without purpose.”
Hersilia was just asking, somewhat impatiently, what had become of the dessert, when the announcement was made that the uncle expected the company to enjoy dessert with him in the large summer-house. On the way back they observed a camp-kitchen staff very busily engaged in packing up, with much clatter, their brightly-burnished saucepans, plates, and dishes. They found the old gentleman in a spacious arbor, before a large, round, freshly-spread table, upon which, as they took their seats, the finest fruits, delicious pastry, and all the best sweets, were abundantly served. On the uncle’s asking what had they met with to amuse them, Hersilia replied quickly, “Our good guest would probably have run astray over your laconic inscriptions if Julietta had not come to his assistance with a running commentary.”
“You always bring in Julietta,” replied the uncle; “she is a good girl, who can learn and understand something too.”
“I should like to forget much of what I know; and what I do understand is not worth much either,” replied Hersilia in joke.
Hereupon Wilhelm joined in, and said thoughtfully, “Pithy mottoes of every kind I know how to honor, especially if they incite me to reflect on and bring into accord what contravenes them.”
“Precisely so,” replied the uncle; “indeed, rational man throughout his whole life has never yet had any other occupation.”
They had, as appeared in the course of the conversation, made the objection to the uncle, that his property did not bring him in what it ought. He replied thereto, “The deficiency of income I look on as an outlay, which gives me pleasure, inasmuch as I thereby render life more easy to others. I have not even the trouble of making this disbursement myself, and thus everything is made fair again.”
In the meantime the table had gradually filled all round, so that at last there was scarcely a place left.
The two stewards had arrived, huntsmen, horse-breakers, gardeners, foresters, and others whose occupation one could not tell at once. Each had something of the most recent occurrence to say and to report, which the old gentleman heard good-naturedly, or perhaps even elicited by sympathizing inquiries; but at last he rose, and saluting the company, whom he would not have move, went away with the two bailiffs. All had indeed enjoyed the fruit—and the young people the pastry—although they may have looked a little unconventional. One after another rose, saluted those that stayed, and went away.
The ladies, who noticed that the guest observed what passed with some wonder, expressed themselves as follows: “You see here again the effect of the peculiarities of our excellent uncle; he affirms, that no invention of the age deserves more admiration, than that you should be able to dine at inns at small separate tables ‘à la carte;’ as soon as he became aware of this, he also tried to introduce it into his family for himself and others. When he is in his best humor, he likes to paint vividly the horrors of a family table, where every member sits down occupied with extraneous thoughts, listens unwillingly, speaks absently, remains sullenly silent, and if ill-luck introduces little children, calls forth, with a sudden recourse to pedagogism, the most unreasonable bad humor.
“ ‘One has to bear with so many ills,’ he says, ‘but from this I have found out how to emancipate myself.’ He seldom appears at our table, and occupies the chair that stands empty for him only for a few moments. He carries his camp-kitchen about with him, and generally dines alone; others must take care of themselves. But if once in a way he offers breakfast, dessert, or other refreshment, then all his scattered dependants have to assemble together, and partake of what is offered, as you have seen. That gives him pleasure; but no one dares come who does not bring an appetite with him. Every one who has satisfied himself has to rise, and only thus he is certain of always being surrounded by people who enjoy themselves. ‘If you want to give people a treat,’ I heard him say, ‘you must try to procure for them what they are seldom or never in a condition to obtain.’ ”
On the return journey an unexpected mishap caused some excitement among the party. Hersilia said to Felix, who was riding by her side, “Look there, what flowers are those? they cover the whole sunny side of the hill; I have never seen them before.” Felix at once urged on his horse, galloped towards the place, and in returning with a whole bunch of blooming flowers, which he waved in the air at a distance, all of a sudden disappeared with the horse. He had fallen into a ditch. Immediately two horsemen detached themselves from the party and galloped towards the spot.
Wilhelm wanted to get out of the carriage, but Julietta forbade it. “He has already got help, and our law in such cases is, that only one who is giving help may stir from the spot.”
Hersilia stopped her horse. “Yes, indeed,” she said, “doctors one wants but seldom, but surgeons every moment.”
Felix was already cantering up again, with a bandaged head, clutching the blooming booty, and holding it aloft. With complacency he reached the nosegay to his mistress. Hersilia in return gave him a light, bright-colored neckerchief.
“The white bandage does not suit you,” she said; “this will look much prettier.” And thus they reached home, reassured indeed, but in a sympathetic mood.
It had grown late: they separated in the friendly hope of meeting again on the morrow, but the following correspondence kept our friend awake and thoughtful for some hours.
LENARDO TO HIS AUNT.
“At last, dear aunt, you receive, after three years, my first letter, according to our arrangement, which indeed was strange enough. I wanted to see the world, and abandon myself to it, and for this period. I wished to forget my home, from which I came and to which I hoped to return again. I wanted to retain the whole impression, and that single details should not lead me, when at a distance, into misconception. In the meantime the necessary tokens of existence have been interchanged between us from time to time. I have received money, and little gifts for my nearest friends have meanwhile been handed over to you for distribution. From the sort of things sent, you could see where and how I was. In the wines my uncle has surely tasted out my place of residence every time; then the lace, the quodlibets, the steel-ware, have marked my way for the ladies through Brabant to Paris and on to London; thus, on your writing, sewing, and tea-tables, your morning robes and evening dresses, I shall find many a mark on which I can hang my tales of travel. You have accompanied me, without hearing from me, and perhaps are by no means curious to know anything further. To me, on the contrary, it is in the highest degree necessary to learn, through your goodness, how the circle which I am on the point of re-entering goes on. I should like to enter actually from foreign parts like a stranger who, to be agreeable, first informs himself about what they wish or like in the house, and does not imagine to himself that they must receive him exactly according to his own liking, just for the sake of his fine hair or eyes. Write to me, therefore, about the good uncle, the dear nieces, about yourself, about our relations near and remote, and also about old and new servants.
“Enough; let your practised pen, which you have not for so long inked for your nephew, hold sway on the paper for his benefit. Your instructive letter shall be my credentials, with which I shall present myself as soon as I have received it. Thus it depends upon you to see me in your arms. One changes far less than one thinks, and circumstances remain for the most part much the same. Not what has changed, but what has remained, what has gradually increased and decreased, I wish to recognize all at once, and to look again upon myself as in a familiar mirror. Greet all our friends heartily, and believe in the strange fashion of my absence and return more warmth is contained than is often found in uninterrupted sympathy and cordial correspondence. A thousand greetings to each and all.
“Do not neglect, dearest aunt, to say a word about our men of business, how our agents and tenants are getting on. What has become of Valerina, the daughter of the tenant whom uncle shortly before my departure had ejected—rightly indeed, but still, as it seems to me, rather severely? You see that I still remember much; I still know pretty well all. You must examine me about the past, after you have communicated the present to me.”
THE AUNT TO JULIETTA.
“At last, dear children, there is a letter from the Three-years-mute. How these wonderful people are wonderful indeed! He thinks that all his articles and tokens are as good as one single good word that one friend can say or write to another. He really imagines that the balance is in his favor, and wants us on our part to do what on his own he so harshly and unkindly denied us. What ought we to do? I, for my part, would at once meet his wishes with a long letter, if my headache did not announce itself, and scarcely allow me to finish the present letter. We all wish to see him. Take the matter, my dear ones, in hand. If I have recovered before you have finished, then I shall contribute my own quota. Choose the persons and circumstances as you like best; describe them. Divide them between you. You will do it all better than I. I suppose the messenger will bring me back a line from you?”
JULIETTA TO HER AUNT.
“We have already read, reflected, and tell you through the messenger our opinion, each for herself, though we have first satisfied ourselves together, that we are not so good-naturedly disposed as our dear aunt towards her always spoiled nephew. He having for three years kept his cards hidden from us, and still keeping them hidden, we are to throw up ours, and play an open game against his concealed one. That is by no means fair, but still it may pass; for even the most subtle often deceives himself just because he makes too sure. Only as to the style and manner we are not agreed; as to what shall be sent to him, and how. To write about what you think of your own people, that is, to us at least, a strange task. As a rule one only thinks about them in this or that case, when they cause one exceptional pleasure or vexation. Otherwise every one leaves others alone. You only could do it, dear aunt, for you have penetration and impartiality at the same time. Hersilia, who, as you know, is easily excited, has hurriedly given me a funny review of the whole family upon the spur of the moment; I wish it stood on paper, so as to win a smile from you amidst your suffering; but not that it should be sent to him. My proposal, however, is to send him our correspondence of these last three years; this he may peruse himself, if he has the courage, or may come to see what he does not care to read. Your letters to me, dear aunt, are in the best order, and are at your disposal at once.
“Hersilia is not of the same opinion; she excuses herself with the confusion of her papers, etc., as she will tell you herself.”
HERSILIA TO HER AUNT.
“I must and will be very short, dear aunt, for the messenger shows himself disagreeably impatient. I consider it superfluous kindness and quite out of place to communicate our letters to Lenardo. What business has he to know what good we have said of him, what business has he to know what evil we have said of him, in order to find out from the latter still more than from the former, that we are well-disposed to him. Keep a tight hand on him, I beg you. There is something so cool and presumptuous in this demand, in this behavior, such as these gentlemen generally show when they come from foreign lands. They always consider those who stay at home as not complete. Excuse yourself with your headache. He will come fast enough; and if he does not come we will wait a little longer. Perhaps in that case it will occur to him to introduce himself amongst us in some queer secret fashion, and learn to know us unrecognized, and I don’t know what all might not enter into the plans of such a clever man. That would be pretty and wonderful indeed! It might produce all kinds of complications, which could not possibly develop themselves under the diplomatic entry into the family which he now has in mind.
“The messenger! the messenger! Instruct your old people better, or send young ones. This one is not to be bribed either by flattery or wine. A thousand times farewell!
“POSTSCRIPT FOR POSTSCRIPT.
“Tell me, what does our cousin mean in his postscript about Valerina? This question has doubly occurred to me. She is the only person whom he mentions by name. We others are to him nieces, aunts, agents; no personalities, but only denominations. Valerina, the daughter of our lawyer! A fair, pretty child enough, who may have dazzled the eyes of our Herr Cousin before his departure. She is married, well and happily; that I need not tell you. But he knows as little about it as he knows in other respects about us. By no means forget to tell him, also in a postscript, that Valerina has become prettier every day, and on this very account too has made a very good match: that she is the wife of a rich landowner. The beautiful blonde is married: make that quite clear to him. But now, dear aunt, this is not yet all. How he can remember the fair beauty so well, and yet confound her with the daughter of the dissolute tenant, a wild romp of a brunette, called Nachodina, who is gone no one knows where—this is altogether incomprehensible to me, and puzzles me wonderfully, for it seems that Sir Cousin, who boasts of his good memory, mixes up names and persons in an extraordinary way. Perhaps he feels this defect, and wants to refresh again what has been forgotten by your description. Keep a tight hand on him, I beg you; but try to find out how Valerina and Nachodina are, and what Inas and Trinas and all are still preserved in his imagination, whilst the Ettas and Ilias have disappeared from it. The messenger! the confounded messenger!”
THE AUNT TO HER NIECES. (Dictated.)
“What is the good of much dissembling towards those with whom one has to spend one’s life! Lenardo with all his peculiarities deserves confidence. I am sending him both your letters; from them he will learn to know you, and I trust the rest of us will unconsciously seize an opportunity as soon as possible of presenting ourselves before him in the same way. Farewell! I am in great pain.”
HERSILIA TO HER AUNT.
“What is the good of dissembling towards those with whom we spend our lives! Lenardo is a spoiled nephew. It is abominable, that you should send him our letters. He will not learn to know us from them, and I only wish for an opportunity of presenting myself as soon as possible in another way. You make others suffer a great deal, whilst you suffer and are blind. A speedy recovery from your pain. There is no remedy for your love.”
THE AUNT TO HERSILIA.
“I should also have enclosed your last little note for Lenardo, if I had actually kept to the purpose which my incorrigible partiality, my illness, and considerations of convenience had suggested. Your letters are not gone.”
WILHELM TO NATALIA.
“Man is a sociable, communicative creature; his enjoyment is great when he exercises the faculties that have been given to him, even if nothing further were the outcome of it. How often is the complaint made in society, that one does not allow the other to have his say; and one can just as well say that one did not allow another to write, if writing were not usually a sort of business that one must discharge in solitude and alone. Of how much people write we have no idea at all. I do not wish to speak about so much of it as is printed, although it is quite enough. But of the amount in letters, news, stories, anecdotes, descriptions of the present condition of individual people, quietly circulating in letters and longer compositions—of this one may gain an idea by living for a time, as I do now, in a family of culture. In the sphere in which I find myself at present, one almost spends as much time in imparting information to relations and friends about what one is occupied with as one has for occupation itself. This observation, which has forced itself on my notice during the last few days, I make all the more gladly, since my new friends’ facility in writing gives me the opportunity of learning to know their mutual relations quickly and from all sides. They confide in me, give me a packet of letters, a few travelling journals, the confessions of a mind not yet at one with itself, and thus in a short time I am everywhere in the house. I know the neighboring society; I know the persons whose acquaintance I am going to make, and know almost more about them than they do themselves, since they are entangled in their own circumstances, whilst I flit past them, always at your hand, discussing everything with you. It is my first condition, too, before I accept a confidence, that I shall be allowed to impart everything to you. Here accordingly are a few letters, which will introduce you to the circle within which I am at present moving, without breaking or evading my vows.”
Very early in the morning our friend found himself alone in the gallery, and was enjoying himself over many a well-known form; to those unknown, a catalogue, which he found at hand, gave him the desired clue. Portraiture, like biography, has quite a peculiar interest; the distinguished man, whom one cannot think of without a surrounding, steps forward isolated, and places himself before us as before a mirror; we accordingly turn on him our special attention, we occupy ourselves with him exclusively, as he is complacently occupied with himself in the mirror. It is a general, who now represents the whole army, behind whom emperors as well as kings for whom he fights, step back into the shade. The clever courtier stands before us, even as if he were paying court to us; we do not think of the great world, for the sake of which he in fact has made himself so fascinating. Surprising, too, to our observer was the likeness of many a one long gone, to living people known to him, whom he had seen in the flesh—nay, even the likeness to himself. And why should Menæchmi-twins result only from one mother? Ought not the great mother of the gods and men also be able to bring forth the like form, at the same time or at intervals, from her fruitful lap? Finally, too, the sympathetic observer could not deny that many an attractive and many a repulsive form flitted across his vision.
In the midst of this contemplation he was surprised by the master of the house, with whom he conversed freely on these subjects, and whose favor he seemed to gain still more. For he was kindly taken into the inner room before the most precious portraits of remarkable men of the sixteenth century in complete presence just as they loved and lived, without any displaying of themselves in the mirror or to the spectator, self-reliant and self-contented, working by their own character, and not through any sort of willing or purposing.
The master of the house, satisfied that his guest should know how to value completely a past so richly brought before him, showed him the autographs of many persons, about whom they had been speaking before in the gallery; and at last some relics, which there was no doubt that the former possessors had used and touched.
“This is my kind of poetry,” said the master of the house, laughing; “my imagination must take hold of something! I can scarcely believe that anything has ever been, that is not still here. About such sacred relics of the past I try to procure the most rigid proofs, otherwise they are not admitted. Written traditions are most closely examined; for I believe, indeed, that the monk has written the chronicle, but what he bears witness to, that I seldom believe.”
At last he put a clean sheet of paper before Wilhelm with a request for a few lines but without signature; after which our guest found himself ushered through a side-door into the hall, and by his side the custodian.
“I am glad,” said the latter, “that you are valued by our master; the very fact that you have come out at this door is a proof of it. But do you know what he takes you for? He thinks that in you he sees a professional pedagogue; he supposes that the boy belongs to a family of rank, and has been intrusted to your guidance, in order to be initiated in the world and all its manifold conditions and principles, with right ideas in good time.”
“He does me too much honor,” said our friend; “still I shall not have heard this in vain.”
At breakfast, at which he found his Felix already busy amongst the ladies, they expressed to him the wish that, since he could on no account be detained, he would go to their noble Aunt Makaria, and perhaps thence to the cousin, to clear up the strange delay. He would thus become as it were a member of their family; he would confer upon them a distinct service, and without any great preparation would enter into confidential relations with Lenardo.
To this he replied, however: “Whithersoever you send me, I willingly betake myself. I set out for the purpose of seeing and thinking; with you I have experienced and learned more than I dared to hope, and I am convinced that on the next path to which I am introduced I shall find out and learn more than I can expect.”
“And you, pretty good-for-nothing? what are you going to learn?” asked Hersilia.
To which the boy answered very boldly: “I am learning to write, in order to be able to send you a letter; and to ride better than anyone, so that I may always be with you again immediately.”
Hereupon Hersilia said thoughtfully: “I have never been able to get on perfectly well with admirers of my own years; it seems as if the following generation is going to indemnify me very quickly.”
But now we feel with our friends how close at hand is the painful hour of leave-taking, and we should like to give a clear idea of the peculiarities of his excellent host, of the singularities of that extraordinary man. But, in order not to judge him falsely, we must first direct our attention to the descent and early development of this worthy person, already far advanced in years. What we were able to find out is as follows:
His grandfather lived as an active member of an embassy in England, just in the last years of William Penn.* The great benevolence, the pure aims, the unflagging activity of such a distinguished man, the conflict into which for this reason he fell with the world, the dangers and afflictions to which this noble man seemed to be subjected, aroused in the susceptible soul of the young man a decisive interest; he associated himself with the enterprise, and finally went himself to America. The father of our squire was born in Philadelphia, and they both had the fame of having contributed to the result that a general increase of religious freedom prevailed in the colonies.
Here was deduced the maxim, that any nation isolated in itself and in harmony as regards morals and religion, ought carefully to guard itself against all foreign influence and all innovation; but that where on a new soil we wish to gather together many members from all sides, there should be granted the most unfettered activity in all pursuits, and a free scope to the universal moral and religious ideas.
The brisk, lively impetus towards America in the beginning of the eighteenth century was considerable, inasmuch as everyone on this side who felt himself in any degree uncomfortable hoped over there to emancipate himself. This impetus was encouraged by the desirable possessions which could be obtained, before population had as yet spread further westward. Whole so-called counties were still for sale on the border of the inhabited territory; and the father of our proprietor had acquired considerable possessions there.
Yet here also was shown how often in sons a contradiction to the paternal disposition manifests itself. Our squire arriving as a youth in Europe, felt himself another man. This inestimable culture, that had been called into being several thousands of years ago; which had grown, expanded, been curbed, oppressed, never entirely suppressed; breathing afresh, reviving, and afterwards as before displaying itself in infinite forms of activity—gave him quite different notions respecting the goal which humanity is able to reach. He preferred to take his share of the great, immeasurable advantages; and to lose himself as a fellow-worker amidst the great mass moving in orderly activity, rather than there beyond the seas, belated by many centuries, playing the part of an Orpheus or Lycurgus. He used to say: “Everywhere man has need of patience, must everywhere be on his guard, and I would rather settle matters with my king, that he should grant me such rights, rather accommodate myself with my neighbors, that they may allow me certain restrictions, provided that I yield to them on some other point, than be fighting with the Iroquois, in order to expel them, or deceiving them by contracts, in order to drive them out of their marshes, where one will be tortured to death by mosquitoes.”
He took possession of the family estates; he knew how to deal with them in a liberal spirit, to manage them economically, to annex prudently large and apparently useless neighboring tracts of land, and thus within the civilized world,—which, in a certain sense only, may too often be called a wilderness,—to acquire and cultivate a moderate domain, which with the limitations of circumstances is still always sufficiently utopian.
Religious liberty is therefore indigenous within this district; public worship is regarded as a free confession that we have a common ownership in life and in death; but very great care is at the same time taken that no one should separate himself.
In the several plantations are seen moderately large edifices; each of these is the room which the owner of the soil devotes to each community; here the eldest gather, in order to consult together; here the many assemble to listen to instruction and pious exhortation. But this room is also destined for merrymaking; here the wedding dances are celebrated, and the holiday concluded amidst music.
Nature herself can lead us towards this. In ordinarily fine weather under the same lime-tree we see the elders in consultation, the community at its instruction, and the youth whirling round in dance. Upon a serious background of life, the holy thus appears beautiful; seriousness and holiness moderate enjoyment, and only by moderation do we preserve ourselves.
If the community is otherwise disposed, and sufficiently well-to-do, it is at liberty to devote different buildings to the different purposes.
But if all this has been calculated for the public and common morality, still religion itself remains as before, something inward, nay, something individual. For it has only to do with the conscience. This must be aroused or tranquillized: aroused, when blunt, inactive, and in a state of torpor; but soothed down when it threatens to embitter life by a remorseful restlessness. For it is closely allied to the pain which threatens to become sorrow, when through our own fault we have drawn down any ill upon ourselves or others.
But as we are not always disposed to considerations such as are required for this, nor even always care to be stirred, therefore the Sunday has been set apart, in which all that oppresses man must, in a religious, moral, social or economical aspect, come under discussion.
“If you would stay a little longer with us,” said Julietta, “our Sunday would not displease you either. The day after to-morrow, early, you would notice a great stillness; every one remains alone and devotes himself to a prescribed meditation. Man is a limited being: in order that we may meditate on our narrowness the Sunday is set apart. If there happen to be bodily suffering, which during the whirl of the week we set at naught; then at the beginning of the new week we must at once look out for the doctor; if our difficulty is economical or otherwise connected with business, then our bailiffs are obliged to hold their sittings; if it is something spiritual, moral, that overclouds us, then we have recourse to a friend, to a right-minded person, and ask for his advice, his influence; enough, it is the law, that no one dare to transfer to the next week any concern that may disturb or afflict him. From oppressive duties, only the most conscientious practice is able to deliver us, and what cannot be relieved at all we leave finally to God, as the all-controlling, all redeeming Being. Even our uncle himself does not omit this probation; there are even cases in which he will speak confidently to us about a difficulty, that he has not been able to overcome at the moment; but generally he consults with our noble aunt, to whom he from time to time pays a visit. On Sunday evening he is also in the habit of asking whether a clean confession and settlement of all has been made. From this you may see that we take every care not to be admitted into your order, the community of the Renunciants.”
“It is a tolerable life,” cried Hersilia; “if I resign myself once every seven days, at least I have it to my credit for three hundred and sixty-five!”
Before his departure our friend received from the younger bailiff a packet with writing enclosed—from which we extract the following passage:
“It seems to me, that in every nation there prevails a different frame of mind, which only can make it happy, and one observes this in different individuals. He who desires to have his ear filled with grand and harmoniously regulated tones, and thereby elevate spirit and soul,—will he thank me if I place before his eyes the most beautiful picture? A lover of pictures will look; but he will decline to have his imagination aroused by a poem or a novel. Who then is so endowed, that he can enjoy in many different ways?
“But you, our passing friend, have appeared to me like such an one, and if you have known how to appreciate the prettiness of a fashionable rich French aberration, then I trust you will not scorn the simple, true honesty of German ways; and pardon me if, according to my custom and manner of thinking, according to my birth and position, I find no more charming image than is shown us by the German middle class in its pure domestic life.
“Take this kindly: and remember me.”
WHO IS THE TRAITOR?
NO, no!” he exclaimed, as he burst violently and hurriedly into the bedroom assigned to him, and put down the light; “no, it is not possible! But whither shall I turn myself! For the first time I think differently—for the first time I feel and wish otherwise. Oh, my father! if you could be present invisibly, and look me through and through, you would convince yourself that I am still the same, ever the faithful, obedient and loving son. To say no—to oppose the dearest and long-cherished wish of my father! How shall I reveal it?—how shall I express it? No, I cannot marry Julia. Whilst uttering it, I am frightened. And how shall I present myself to him—reveal it to him, my kind, dear father? He looks at me astounded and silent; he shakes his head; the clearheaded, wise and learned man cannot find a single word. Woe is me! Oh, I know well to whom I should confide this pain, this embarrassment, whom I should choose as my intercessor: of all people, you, Lucinda! And to you I should like to tell first, how I love you, how I abandon myself to you, and implore you piteously, Be my representative; and if you can love me, if you will be mine, then represent both of us.”
To explain this short, heartfelt, passionate soliloquy, a great many words will be required.
Professor N—, of N—, had an only son of wonderful beauty, whom, until his eighth year, he left under the care of his wife, a very worthy lady. She guided the hours and days of the child to life, to learning, and all good conduct. She died, and at the moment the father felt that he would be unable, personally, to further continue this tutorship. Hitherto all had been harmony between the parents; they worked with one object, together determined what was to be done in the time immediately at hand, and the mother knew how to carry out everything wisely. Double and threefold was now the anxiety of the widower, who saw daily before his eyes that for sons of professors at the universities themselves, only by a mere chance could a successful education be hoped for. In this perplexity he turned to his friend the high-bailiff* at R—, with whom he had already discussed earlier plans of a closer family connection. He was able to advise and to help, so that the son was received in one of the good educational institutes which then flourished in Germany, and in which all possible care was taken of the whole man—body, soul, and spirit.
The son had now been provided for, yet his father felt himself far too much alone: deprived of his wife, and strange to the lovely presence of the boy, whom, without any trouble on his own part, he had seen brought up so satisfactorily. At this point also the friendship of the high-bailiff stood him in good stead; the distance between their residences disappeared before the inclination to bestir themselves and to seek distraction. Here the widowed scholar found in a family circle, also deprived of a mother, two beautiful, and in different ways lovable, daughters, just grown up. And so the two fathers more and more strengthened themselves in the belief, in the prospect, of seeing at some future day their houses connected in the pleasantest manner.
They lived in the prosperous dominions of a sovereign prince; the able man was certain of his position for the length of his life, and so probably was a successor of his own nomination.
In accordance with a prudent family and official arrangement, Lucidor was now to prepare himself for the important place of his future father-in-law. In this he succeeded step by step. Nothing was neglected to impart to him every kind of knowledge, to develop in him all those capabilities of which the State at all times stood in need: the study of the strict judicial law; of the more discretionary one, where wisdom and ability lend their assistance to the functionary; calculation for daily wants—without excluding higher views, but everything pertaining immediately to life as it would surely and unfailingly be required for use.
To this intent Lucidor had completed his school years, and was now prepared by his father and well-wisher for the university. He displayed the finest talent for everything, and owed to nature also the rare good fortune of being willing, from love to his father, and respect for his friend, to guide his faculties just in that direction which was indicated to him, first from obedience and then from conviction. He was sent to a foreign university, and there, according both to his own epistolary accounts and to the testimonials of his teachers and tutors, he pursued the path which ought to lead him to his goal. They could only disapprove of his having in a few instances been too impetuously courageous. At this the father shook his head, and the highbailiff nodded. Who would not have wished for himself such a son!
Meantime the daughters, Julia and Lucinda, grew up—the former, who was the younger, capricious, amiable, restless, and very amusing; the latter, difficult to describe, because in rectitude and purity she represented just that which we consider as most desirable in all women. They interchanged visits, and Julia found the most inexhaustible entertainment in the professor’s house.
His specialty was geography, which he knew how to enliven by topographical descriptions; and as soon as Julia had noticed but a single volume, a whole series of similar ones from the Homann publications were ready at hand. Then the towns in a body were passed in review, judged, preferred or rejected: all seaports particularly gained her favor; other towns, that would obtain her approval only in a moderate degree, had carefully to make themselves conspicuous by a multitude of towers, cupolas, and minarets.
The father left her for weeks with his trusted friend: she really improved in knowledge and understanding, and knew tolerably well the inhabited world in its general features, points, and places. She was also very observant of the costumes of foreign nations, and when her adoptive father sometimes jestingly asked her whether some one or other of the many handsome young people who were walking up and down before the window did not really please her, she would say: “Yes, certainly, if he looks quite out of the common!” Now as our young students are never wanting in this respect, she often had occasion to take an interest in this or that one; she would recall to mind in reference to him some foreign national costume, but yet would declare at last, that a Greek at least must come by completely rigged out in his national dress, if she was to devote to him any special attention; on this account she would long to be at the Leipzig fair, where such fellows were to be seen in the streets.
After his dry and often disagreeable work our teacher knew no happier moments than those in which he playfully instructed her, and at the same time secretly congratulated himself on his task of educating such a charming and always easily amused daughter-in-law. The two fathers, moreover, had agreed that the girls should not suspect anything about their intentions; and they were concealed even from Lucidor.
Thus years passed by, as indeed years will easily pass. Lucidor presented himself, accomplished, and approved in every test to the satisfaction even of the higher powers, who wished for nothing better than to be able to fulfil, with a clear conscience, the hopes of old, worthy, favored and meritorious servants.
And thus the affair had, by regular steps, at last reached the point, that Lucidor, after behaving exemplarily in subordinate capacities, was about to obtain, according to his merit and desire, a profitable post, situated exactly midway between the university and the high-bailiff’s. The father, therefore, now spoke to his son about Julia, to whom he had hitherto only alluded, as his future bride and wife, without further doubt or stipulation, extolling his fortune in having won such a living jewel. In spirit he already saw his daughter-in-law from time to time again with him, busying herself with maps, plans and views of cities. The son, on the other hand, recalled to mind the lovable and merry creature, who in childhood’s time had always delighted him with her freaks as well as her friendliness. Lucidor was now to ride over to the high-bailiff’s to see more nearly the developed beauty, to devote himself for a few weeks to intercourse and acquaintanceship with the whole family. If the young people, as was to be hoped, were soon at one, then it should be announced; the father would at once appear, in order that a solemn betrothal might assure for ever the hoped-for happiness.
Lucidor arrives, he is received in the most friendly fashion, he is shown to a room, arranges his dress, and appears. He finds there, besides the family circle already known to us, a half-grown up son, spoiled without doubt, but clever and good-natured, so that if one had liked to take him for the family-jester, he would not have accorded with the whole at all badly. Then there belonged to the household a very old, but hale and cheerful man, quiet, refined, wise, near the end of life, but now and then of use. Immediately after Lucidor there came another stranger, no longer young, of distinguished aspect, estimable and experienced in life, and through his familiar knowledge of the world highly entertaining. They called him Antony.
Julia received her bridegroom-designate with modesty, but complacently. Lucinda, on the contrary, did the honors of the house, as her sister those of her own person. Thus the day passed with especial pleasure for all, except only Lucidor; otherwise taciturn, he was forced from time to time, in order not to remain entirely dumb, to assume a questioning attitude, in which circumstances no one appears to advantage.
He was thoroughly distracted, for from the first moment he had felt towards Julia neither disinclination nor aversion, but estrangement; Lucinda, on the contrary, attracted him, so that he trembled when she looked at him with her full, pure, quiet eyes. In this state of affliction, on the first evening he reached his bedchamber and unburdened himself in the soliloquy with which we began. But to clear this up too, and to reconcile the passion of such a tirade with what we already know about him, a short statement will be necessary.
Lucidor was a man of deep mind, and generally had in his thoughts something besides what the present demanded, on which account he was never quite happy in entertainment and conversation; he felt this, and was taciturn, except when the conversation turned upon special subjects which he had mastered, and in which what he wanted was at all times ready at his service. In addition to this, it happened that in earlier days at school, and later at the university, he had been disappointed in certain friends, and had unhappily expended in vain the outpourings of his heart. All sociability had become a suspicious matter to him; but any suspicion does away with all sociability. To his father he was accustomed to speak only in one tone, and therefore, as soon as he was alone, his heart would vent itself in monologues.
The next morning he had somewhat collected himself, and yet he was on the point of losing his presence of mind when Julia came towards him, more friendly, more cheerful, and more unconstrained than ever. She had plenty to ask him about his journeys by land and water, how as a student with his baggage at his back he had tramped and climbed through Switzerland, nay, had even crossed the Alps. Thereupon she wanted to know a great deal about the beautiful island in the large southern lake; then, on the return, the Rhine had to be traced from its remotest source, at first through the most joyless regions, and so downwards through many varying scenes, until at last between Mainz and Coblenz it is still quite worth while to dismiss the river honorably from its last limitations into the wide world—into the ocean. Lucidor felt very much relieved by this, and continued to tell his tales with pleasure, and so well that Julia exclaimed with rapture: “One ought to see such things in company with some one else,” at which Lucidor was again frightened, for in this remark he thought that he espied an allusion to their companionship through life.
However, he was soon relieved from his duty as a teller of tales, for the foreigner whom they called Antony speedily eclipsed all his mountain rills, rocky banks, rivers confined and flowing free. For now they went direct to Genoa; Leghorn lay at no great distance; and a raid was made upon all that was most interesting in the country; Naples must be seen before one died; but Constantinople was still left—this too was not to be neglected. The description that Antony gave of the wide world carried along with it the imagination of all, although he had less ardor to infuse into it. Julia, quite beside herself, was still by no means satisfied; she felt a longing for Alexandria, Cairo, but particularly for the Pyramids, about which she had gained a tolerably complete knowledge through the instruction of her presumptive father-in-law.
Lucidor, the following evening (he had scarcely shut the door, and not yet put down the light) exclaimed: “Now, look to yourself! it is a serious matter. You have learned and thought out many serious matters; what is the good of jurisprudence if now you do not forthwith act like a jurist? Regard yourself as a plenipotentiary; forget yourself, and do what you would be bound to do for others. Matters are coming to a crisis in the most appalling manner. The foreigner is evidently there for Lucinda’s sake; she shows him all the attentions of the home circle in the prettiest, most well-bred manner. The silly little one would like to roam with any one through the world, for nothing, nothing at all. Besides, she is a rogue too; her delight in towns and countries is a trick, by which she silences us. But why do I look at this matter in such a confused and limited manner. Is not the high-bailiff himself the most prudent, sensible and amiable of mediators? You will tell him what you feel and think, and he will appreciate, if not even sympathize. He can do anything with your father. And is not one his daughter as well as the other? And what, then, has this ‘Antony Roamer’* to do with Lucinda, who is born for home, to be happy and to create happiness? Yoke the restless Quicksilver to the Wandering Jew: that would be a charming match!”
In the morning Lucidor went down with the firm resolve of speaking to the father, and for this purpose to approach him without delay at a time when he knew that he would be at leisure. How great was his grief, his embarrassment, when he heard that the high-bailiff had set out on business, and was only expected back the day after to-morrow. Julia seemed to-day to be having a regular travelling time: she stuck to the globe-walker, and with a few joking speeches, that related to domestic matters, left Lucidor with Lucinda. If our friend had before seen the noble girl from a certain distance, and after a general impression, and already most heartily appropriated her to himself, now, in the nearest proximity, he discovered doubly and trebly what had first attracted him in a general way.
The good old friend of the family now came forward in place of the absent father; he too had lived and loved, and after many buffets of life he was at last cheered and well cared-for at the side of the friend of his youth. He animated the conversation, and expatiated especially about mistakes in the choice of a husband, and related remarkable instances of rectifications made sooner or later. Lucinda appeared in her full glory: she admitted that in life, and in marriages as well as other things, chance of all kinds might bring about the very best result; yet that it was more beautiful, more elevating to the heart, when a man could say to himself, that his fortune was due to himself—to the quiet, unwavering conviction of his heart, to noble resolve and prompt decision. Tears stood in the eyes of Lucidor, as he gave his approval, after which the ladies soon withdrew. The old gentleman, who presided, was quite ready to indulge further in an exchange of stories, and thus the conversation was extended to amusing examples, which, however, touched our hero so closely, that only a youth so purely educated as he, could refrain from an outbreak; this, however, happened when he was alone.
“I have controlled myself,” he exclaimed; “with such embarrassment I will not annoy my good father. I have restrained myself, for in this worthy family friend I recognize the representative of both fathers: to him I will speak, to him disclose everything; he will be sure to mediate in the matter, and has already almost expressed what I wish. Could he in the particular case blame what he in general approves? Early to-morrow I will seek him out; I must gain breath for this struggle.”
At breakfast the old man was not present; it was stated that yesterday evening he had talked too much, sat too long, and drunk a few drops of wine beyond his custom. They said a great deal in his praise, and indeed spoke of his words and actions in a way that drove Lucidor to despair, at not having at once applied to him. This disagreeable sensation was only made still keener by hearing that after such attacks the good old man often did not make his appearance again for a week.
Residence in a country-house has indeed great advantages for social intercourse, particularly when the entertainers, being people of thought and feeling, have found an opportunity, after several years’ experience, of aiding the natural conditions of their environment. It was fortunately so in this case. The high-bailiff, at first unmarried, then during a long and happy union, with means of his own, in a lucrative post, had—in accordance with his own taste and insight, the fancies of his wife, nay, even in compliance with the wishes and humors of his children—attended to and beautified several separate larger and smaller plots, which being by degrees connected tastefully with plantations and roads, afforded to the passer-by a most lovely, diverse and characteristic succession of scenes. The young members of the family accordingly made their guest undertake a pilgrimage of this kind; even as people like to show their surroundings to a stranger, in order that he may regard as a novelty what has become stale to themselves, and may retain the pleasant impression of it forever.
The nearer as well as the more distant portion of the estate was strictly appropriated to modest plantations, or peculiarly rural specialties. Fertile hills alternated with well-watered meadow-land, so that the whole could be seen from time to time without being level; and although land and soil were by preference devoted to utility, still the graceful and alluring had not been excluded.
To the mansion and offices were annexed pleasure-gardens, orchards, and grass lawns, out of which one lost one’s self unwittingly in a little copse, through which wound up and down, in and out, a broad carriage-road. In the middle of this, on the top of the most prominent eminence, a pavilion had been constructed, with a suite of apartments. On entering at the principal door, one saw in a large mirror the most lovely prospect that the neighborhood could offer, and quickly turned round to recover one’s self in the reality from the unexpected reflection, for the approach had been arranged artfully enough, and all that was designed to effect a surprise had been carefully hidden. No one entered without again and again turning with pleasure from the mirror to nature, and from nature to the mirror.
When once upon the road, on one of the finest, most genial, and longest days, they kept upon a good grass-road round and through the whole. Here was pointed out the evening resting-place of the good mother, where a splendid beech-tree had reserved round about itself an open space. Julia soon afterwards pointed out, half teasingly, the place of Lucinda’s morning devotion, in the vicinity of a tiny lake, among poplars and alders, near meadows sloping downwards, and corn-fields extending upwards. It was pretty beyond all description. One fancied that one had seen it often before, but nowhere so remarkable and so welcome in its simplicity. On the other hand, the young brother, half against Julia’s wish, showed the diminutive arbors and childish garden erections which, close by a cosily-situated mill, were scarcely noticeable. They dated from the time when Julia, in about her tenth year, had taken it into her head to become a miller’s wife, and after the departure of the two old people, was going to set up for herself, and look out for an honest miller youth.
“That was at a time,” exclaimed Julia, “when I still knew nothing about the towns that lie on rivers, or indeed on the sea, nothing about Genoa, and so forth. Your good father, Lucidor, has transformed me, and since that time I have not been so ready to come here.”
She sat down playfully on a little bench that scarcely sufficed to bear her weight, beneath an elder-tree that bent too deeply down. “Oh, how cramped!” she cried, jumped to her feet; and ran in front with her merry brother.
The couple that remained behind conversed together sensibly, and in such cases reason probably comes near to feeling. To roam successively through simple natural objects, and quietly to observe how the sensible, prudent man is able to turn them to account; how the comprehension of what is at hand, associating itself with the sense of his requirements, will do wonders, in first of all making the world inhabitable, then in peopling it, and at last in overpeopling it—all this could here be discussed in detail. Lucinda gave an account of everything, and howsoever modest she was, could not conceal that this convenient and pleasant connection of distant portions of the estate was her own work, under the suggestions, direction, and assistance of a revered mother.
But yet since even the longest day will at last verge towards evening, it was now needful to think of returning, and as they were thinking about some pleasant circuitous road, the merry young brother expressed a wish that they should enter upon the shorter road, although not the pleasanter, but rather the more difficult one. “For,” he exclaimed, “you have been boasting with your sites and contrivances how you have beautified and improved the country for artistic eyes and sensitive hearts, but now let me too gain credit.”
Now they had to pass across ploughed lands and rugged paths, nay, they had even to walk over stones roughly thrown across small bogs, and at some distance they soon beheld all kinds of machinery in confused piles. Seen nearer, it was a large pleasure or playground, erected not without judgment, in a certain popular style. Thus there were standing here, arranged at the proper distances, the great swing-wheel, on which those mounting and descending always remain as if sitting quietly in a horizontal position, and other swings, slack-ropes, balance-boards, bowling-greens and skittle-alleys, and all that can be imagined to occupy and amuse a number of people in different ways and to an equal extent, in an extensive pleasure-ground. “This,” he exclaimed, “is my contrivance, my laying out; and although father gave the money for it, and a clever fellow the head to make it, still, without me, whom you so often call silly, neither judgment nor money would have combined together.”
In this merry mood they all four reached home at sunset. Antony put in an appearance; the younger lady, however, who during all this day had not had enough exercise, had the horses put-to, and drove across the country to see a female friend, being desperate at not having seen her for two days. The four left behind felt embarrassed before they were aware of it, and it was then declared that the absence of the father began to alarm his family. The conversation began to flag, when all at once the merry lad jumped up, and soon returned with a book, offering to read aloud. Lucinda could not refrain from asking “how he had hit upon an idea which he had not had the whole year,” to which he merrily replied, “Everything occurs to me at the right time—a thing you cannot boast of.” He read a series of genuine fairy tales, which carry people out of themselves, flatter their wishes, and make them forget every condition by which we nevertheless remain limited even in our happiest moments.
“What shall I do now?” exclaimed Lucidor, when at last he found himself alone; “time presses; I have no confidence in Antony; he is an utter stranger—I do not know who he is, how he comes to be in the house, or what he wants: he seems to interest himself in Lucinda, and what in that case could I hope for from him? Nothing remains for me but to approach Lucinda myself; she must know it—she first. This indeed was my first feeling; why do we allow ourselves to be misled into paths of prudence? The first must now be last, and I trust to attain my end.”
On Saturday morning Lucidor having dressed early, was pacing to and fro in his room, and thinking over what he must say to Lucinda, when he heard a sort of good-humored wrangling outside his door, which at the same instant was opened. Thereupon the merry youth pushed in before him a boy with coffee and biscuits for the guest; he himself carried some cold meat and wine. “You shall go first,” he said, “for the guest must be served first; I am accustomed to wait upon myself. My friend, to-day I come somewhat early and noisily; let us enjoy our breakfast in peace, and then we will see what we shall set about, for we have little to hope from the company. The younger one has not yet returned from her friend; these two are obliged to pour out their hearts mutually at least once every fortnight, in case they explode. On Saturdays Lucinda is altogether useless, for she then delivers punctually her housekeeping accounts to father. I too ought to dabble in those things, but, Heaven preserve me! if I know what a thing costs, I cannot relish a mouthful. They expect guests to-morrow; the old gentleman has not yet recovered his equilibrium. Antony is shooting; we will do the same.”
Guns, game-bags, and dogs were ready, when they descended into the courtyard, and so they set out across the fields, where eventually a leveret and a poor indifferent bird were shot. In the meantime they talked about domestic affairs and those of the present party. Antony was mentioned, and Lucidor did not fail to inquire about him. The merry youth declared, with some complacency, that however mysteriously that wonderful man behaved, he had already seen through and through him.
“He is,” he continued, “no doubt the son of a rich man of business, who failed just at the moment when he, in the flower of his youth, was thinking of taking a share vigorously and cheerfully in great business transactions, but at the same time of sharing in the great enjoyments which they abundantly offer. Hurled down from the pinnacle of his expectations, he pulled himself together, and accomplished in the service of others what he could no longer do for himself and his relations. So he wandered through the world, learned to know it thoroughly in all its multifarious intercourse, yet in so doing did not forget his own interests. Untiring activity and approved honesty brought and retained for him an unlimited confidence from many. So he everywhere gained friends and acquaintance—nay, it is easy to see that his resources are distributed in the world as widely as his acquaintance extends, and that therefore his presence also is necessary from time to time in all four parts of the world.”
The merry youth had told this quite circumstantially and simply, inserting as many comical observations as if he had the intention of spinning out his little story to the end of the world.
“How long has he not already been connected with my father! They think that I see nothing, because I trouble myself about nothing; but for this very reason I see better, because it does not concern me! He has deposited a good deal of money with my father, who has again invested it safely and profitably. Only yesterday he handed the old gentleman a jewel casket; anything simpler, more beautiful, or precious I have never seen—although only at a glance, for the matter was a secret transaction. It is probably to be devoted to the pleasure and joy, and to the future safe keeping of the bride. Antony has placed his confidence in Lucinda. But when I see them thus together, I can scarcely regard them as a well-assorted couple. The brisk one would do better for him; I think too that she likes him better than the elder one; she really looks sometimes as cheerfully and sympathetically towards the old grumbler, as if she would like to mount into the carriage with him, and be up and off.” Lucidor collected himself; he did not know what could be said in answer—all that he had heard had his private approval.
The youth continued: “Generally speaking, the girl has a perverse love for old people; I believe she would as soon have married your father as his son.”
Lucidor followed his companion, as he led him over stock and stone; both forgot the sport, which any way could not have been very abundant. They put up at a farmhouse, where, being well entertained, one of the friends amused himself with eating, drinking, and chatting, but the other was absorbed in thoughts and meditations concerning the manner in which he might be able to avail himself to his own advantage of the discovery he had made. Lucidor after all these tales and confidences had acquired so much confidence in Antony, that, on entering the courtyard, he at once asked for him, and hurried into the garden, where he was told that he would find him. He traversed all the alleys of the park in the cheerful evening sun in vain. Not a soul was to be seen. At last he entered a door leading to the great saloon, and wonderfully enough, the setting sun, reflected from the mirror, dazzled him to such a degree, that he could not recognize the two persons who were sitting on the ottoman, though he could distinguish that a male person sitting by the side of a lady was passionately impressing a kiss on her hand. How great then was his horror, when on the recovery of his power of vision he beheld Lucinda and Antony before him. He would have liked to sink into the ground, but remained as if fixed to the spot, until Lucinda in an unembarrassed and most friendly way bade him welcome, made room for him, and invited him to come and sit on her right-hand side. He took the seat unconsciously, and when, addressing him, she asked how he had spent the day, and excused herself on the score of domestic affairs, he could hardly endure her voice. Antony arose, and took leave; and Lucinda, also rising, invited him, who remained, to go out for a walk. Walking along by her side he remained silent and embarrassed; she too seemed to be disturbed; and if he had only been in some degree himself, her deep breathing must have betrayed that she had to conceal some heartfelt sighs. At last she took leave of him, as they approached near to the house; but he turned, first slowly and then hurriedly, towards the open fields. The park had become too narrow for him; he hurried through the open land listening only to the voice of his heart, without any sense of the beauties of the most perfect evening. When he saw himself alone, and had vented his feelings in a soothing flood of tears, he exclaimed:
“Several times already in my life, but never so cruelly, have I experienced the grief which is now making me wretched, when the most longed for happiness comes up to us hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, and immediately takes leave of us forever. I sat by her, walked next her, her dress touched me as it moved, and even then I had lost her! Tell it not to yourself, do not fret yourself about it; be silent, and take your resolution.”
He had imposed silence on himself; he held his peace and reflected, strolling through fields, meadows and heath, not always on the smoothest paths. Only when he entered his room, at a late hour, did he cease to restrain himself, and exclaimed: “Early to-morrow I set off; a day like this I will not live again,” and so he threw himself on the bed in his clothes.
Happy, healthy youth! He was already asleep; the fatiguing exercise during the day had earned for him the sweetest night’s rest. From his comforting morning dreams, however, the earliest beam awoke him; it happened to be the longest day, which threatened him to be too long. If he had certainly not felt the charm of the soothing evening star, he felt the stimulating beauty of the morning one only to despair. He beheld the world as beautiful as ever;—it was still so to his eyesight, but his inner man denied it. In all this he had no more part or lot; he had lost Lucinda.
The portmanteau, which he intended to leave behind him, was quickly packed; he did not write any letter with it; his absence from dinner, perhaps also during the evening, was to be excused by only a few words through the groom, whom he must wake up at once. But he found him already below in front of the stable, pacing to and fro with long strides. “You surely do not want to take a ride?” cried the otherwise good-natured man, with a touch of vexation. “I suppose I may venture to tell you: the young gentleman gets every day more unendurable. He was knocking about the country all yesterday, so that one might have thought that he would thank God to rest on a Sunday morning. But, if he does not come here before daybreak, making a disturbance in the stables! As I am jumping up, he saddles and bridles your horse, and is not to be kept back by any argument; he vaults up and cries: ‘Only think of the good work I am doing! This creature alway goes only at a lawyer’s trot; I will see whether I can spur him into a swift gallop for life!’ That is about what he said; and added other strange speeches.”
Lucidor was doubly, trebly surprised: he loved his horse, as answering to his own character and mode of life; it vexed him to find the good and sagacious creature in the hands of a madcap. His plan was disturbed—his intention of seeking refuge in the present crisis with a university friend, with whom he had lived in frank and affectionate association. The old confidence had been reawakened; the miles lying between them had not been taken into account, and he already imagined himself finding advice and relief from his benevolent and sensible friend. This prospect was now cut off: and yet this was not the case, if he should venture to reach his goal on fresh walking feet, which remained at his disposal.
The first thing then was to try to find the road out of the park into the open country, that should take him to his friend. He was not quite sure of his direction, when, on the left hand, the hermitage of which they had previously made a mystery caught his eye, as it reared its head above the copse, raised upon a strange sort of wood-work, and there to his utmost surprise he beheld upon a gallery beneath the Chinese roof the old gentleman,—who for the last few days had been thought to be ill,—looking around in a cheerful manner. Lucidor declined his very friendly greeting, and pressing invitation to ascend, with excuses and hurried gestures. Only consideration for the good old man, who as he hurried down the steep staircase with infirm tread threatened to fall to the bottom, induced him to walk towards him, and to allow himself to be led up. With wonder he entered the charming little saloon; it had only three windows, looking over the country, a most beautiful prospect; the rest of the walls was adorned, or rather covered, with hundreds and hundreds of portraits, engraved in copper, and in some cases drawn, pasted on to the wall in a certain order, and separated by colored bands and spaces.
“I favor you, my friend, in a way that is not for every one; this is the sanctuary in which I contentedly spend my last days. Here I recover from all the mistakes which society makes me commit, and here I restore my dietetic errors into equilibrium.”
Lucidor gave a glance at the whole, and being well read in history, he saw at once that an historical taste lay at the bottom.
“Here above in the frieze,” said the old man, “you will find the names of excellent men of the remote past; then, of the later ones still only the names, for how they looked it would be difficult to find out. But here in the chief space my own life is actually concerned, for here are men whom I heard mentioned as a boy. For about fifty years the names of distinguished men will remain in the memory of the people, but beyond that lapse of time they either disappear or become legendary. Although of German parents, I was born in Holland, and to me William of Orange, as Stadtholder and King of England, is the prototype of all ordinary men and heroes. But now you see Louis XIV. close to him, than whom—”
How willingly Lucidor would have liked to interrupt the good old man, if it had been seemly to do so—as indeed it probably beseems us, the storyteller, to do; for he was threatened with modern and the most recent history, as was easily to be gathered from the portraits of Fredrick the Great and of his generals, towards whom he was pointing.
If the kind youth honored the lively sympathy of the old man for the time immediately preceding his own as well as for the present, and if certain individual traits could not escape him as being interesting, still he had already heard modern and recent history in universities, and what one has once heard, one thinks one will always know. His mind was far away; he did not hear, he scarcely could see, and was just on the point of blundering towards the door and down the mortally long staircase, in the most awkward manner, when a violent clapping of hands was heard from below.
Whilst Lucidor drew back, the old man put his head out of the window, and from below there resounded a well-known voice: “Come down; for Heaven’s sake, come out of your historical picture gallery, old gentleman! Finish your fasting, and help me to appease our young friend, when he comes to know the matter. I have been treating Lucidor’s horse somewhat recklessly; it has cast a shoe, and I have had to leave it behind. What will he say? Oh, it is too absurd, when people are absurd!”
“Come up,” said the old man, and turning himself towards Lucidor: “Now, what do you say?”
Lucidor was silent, and the wild youth entered. The questions and replies occasioned a long scene; enough, they resolved to send the groom at once to take care of the horse.
Leaving the old man behind, the two young people hurried back to the house, whither Lucidor allowed himself to be taken, not quite unwillingly; because, come of it what might, within those walls at least was enclosed the only wish of his heart. In such a desperate case we hopelessly lose the help of our free-will, and feel ourselves relieved for a moment, if from anywhere determination or coercion lay hold of us. Still, when he entered his room, he found himself in a very strange frame of mind, very like a man who is compelled against his wish to return to the inn that he has just left, because he has broken an axletree.
The merry youth presently pounced on the portmanteau, to unpack everything in order; particularly he placed together whatever there was at hand of holiday attire, although it might be meant for travelling. He compelled Lucidor to put on shoes and stockings, arranged his closely curled brown locks of hair, and rigged him out at his best. Then stepping a few paces back, he contemplated our friend, and his handiwork, from head to feet, and cried: “Now at least, my little friend, you look like a man who has some claims on pretty maidens, and sufficiently in earnest to be looking out for a bride. Only just a moment, and you shall see how I manage to come to the front, when the hour strikes! I have learned that from officers, after whom the girls are always looking, and moreover I have enlisted myself in a kind of military corps, and now they look at me too again and again, for none of them knows what to make of me! Now, out of all this looking here and there, this admiration and attention, there often ensues something very pretty indeed, which, if it is not lasting, is still worth our while to devote a moment to. But now, my friend, come and show me the same service! When you see me slip bit by bit into my covering, you will not deny wit and a knack of invention to the careless boy!”
So he dragged his friend along with him, through the long rambling corridors of the old château. “I have made my lair,” he exclaimed, “quite in the background. Without wishing to conceal myself, I like to be alone; for one cannot make it quite pleasing to the others.”
They passed by the justice-room, just as a servant came out carrying an antique writing-desk, black, big, and completely filled; paper too was not forgotten.
“I know well enough what is going to be scribbled again within there,” exclaimed the youth. “Go away, and leave me the key. Just give a peep into it, Lucidor. It will amuse you until I am dressed. To a man of law such a place is not as unattractive as to a stable-fellow.” And so he pushed Lucidor into the magisterial hall.
The young man at once felt himself in a familiar and congenial element; the recollection of the days when, on business bent, he was sitting at such a table, listening and writing, repeated itself. Nor did he remain unaware of the fact that here a fine old domestic chapel had, at the change of religious opinions, been commuted to the service of Themis. On the shelves he found titles and deeds already known to him; he had worked at these very matters himself, in the capital. On his opening a bundle, a rescript fell into his hand which he himself had engrossed, and another which he had drafted! Handwriting and paper, the seal of the Chancellery, and the signature of the president, all recalled to his mind that season of the legitimate striving of youthful hope. And then when he looked round, and caught sight of the official chair of the high-bailiff, designed and destined for himself, so fine a position, and such a worthy sphere of activity, which he ran the risk of rejecting and renouncing: all this assailed him with a double and three-fold strength, whilst the form of Lucinda seemed at the same time to retreat away from him.
He wanted to go out into the open air, but found himself imprisoned. His wonderful friend had either heedlessly or wantonly locked the door behind him: still our friend did not remain long in this most awkward confinement, for the other came back, excused himself, and really awoke good humor by his strange presence. A certain loudness in the colors and cut of his dress was tempered by natural taste, just as we do not deny a sort of approval even to tattooed Indians.
“To-day,” he said, “shall make compensation for the tediousness of past days; good friends, merry friends have arrived, pretty girls, lively enamored creatures; and then too my father, and, wonder upon wonder, your father too! It will be a feast. They are all already assembled in the saloon for breakfast.”
Lucidor felt at once in a mood as if he were peering into a thick fog; all who were mentioned to him, whether known or unknown, seemed to him as so many ghostly forms; still his character, in conjunction with a pure heart, kept him erect; in a few seconds he felt himself equal to anything. He now followed his hurrying friend with a firm step, firmly resolved to stay it out, happen what might, and to explain himself, be it as it would.
And yet he felt surprised at the threshold of the saloon. In a large semicircle around the windows he at once discerned his father, together with the high-bailiff, both in full dress. He looked at the sisters, at Antony, and other known and unknown people, with a glance that threatened almost to become dim. He approached his father with failing steps, who received him in a most friendly manner yet with a certain formality, which scarcely favored any confidential approach. Standing before so many people, he looked out for a convenient place for the moment; he could have placed himself near Lucinda, but Julia, in contrast with the constrained state of things, made a turn, so that he was compelled to step towards her. Antony remained near Lucinda.
At this critical moment Lucidor felt himself again as one who has been charged with a trust, and, steeled with all his juristic science, he recalled to mind in his own favor that beautiful maxim: that we ought to treat the affairs of strangers committed to our trust as our own; and why should we not treat our own in just the same spirit. As he was well exercised in business statements, he quickly ran through all he had to say. Meantime the company, placed in a formal semicircle, seemed to be too much for him. The substance of his statement he knew well enough, but he could not find the beginning. Then on a table he observed the great inkstand, with some legal officials standing by; the high-bailiff made a movement, as if to begin his address; Lucidor wanted to precede him, and at the same moment Julia pressed his hand. This took away all his presence of mind; he was convinced that it was all decided, that all was lost for him.
Now it was no longer the time when the present collective lifelong associations or these family ties, conventionalities of society and position, should be respected; he looked before him, withdrew his hand from Julia, and was so quickly outside the door that the company lost him before they were aware of it, and he himself outside scarcely knew where he was.
Fearing the light of the sun, which shone on his head in fullest splendor, avoiding the glances of people that he met, groping along timidly, he went onwards until he reached the large summer-house. At this point his knees were about to fail him; he rushed in, and disconsolately threw himself on the ottoman beneath the looking-glass: into such confusion had he been thrown in the midst of the precise business-like company, which seemed to be surging backwards and forwards around and within him. His past existence struggled with the present: it was a terrible moment.
And thus he lay for a time, with his face buried in the cushion, upon which Lucinda’s arm had yesterday been resting. Completely absorbed in his grief, feeling himself touched, without having perceived any one approach, he quickly raised himself; then he saw Lucinda, who was standing near him.
Fancying that she had been sent to fetch him, and charged to induce him with suitable sisterly words to accompany her back to the assembly, to his repugnant destiny, he exclaimed: “They ought not to have sent you, Lucinda, for it is you who drove me away from there; I shall not return! Give me, if you are capable of any pity, the opportunity and means for flight. For in order that you may bear witness how impossible it is to bring me back, then receive the key to my behavior, which to you and all must seem madness. Listen to the oath which I had sworn to myself, and which, as irretrievable, I now repeat aloud. With you only I wished to live, to use and enjoy my youth, and old age as well, in its true and honest completion. And let this be as firm and sure as anything that has ever been sworn before the altar, which I now swear, in leaving you, the most pitiable of all mankind.” He made a movement to slip away from her, as she stood so close in front of him, but she caught him gently in her arms.
“What are you going to do?” he exclaimed.
“Lucidor,” she said, “not pity you, as you imagine, perhaps; you are mine, I am yours. I hold you in my arms; do not be afraid of throwing yours round me. Your father is satisfied with everything; Antony is to marry my sister.”
He drew back from her, astounded.
“Can it be true?”
Lucinda laughed, and nodded; he freed himself from her arms.
“Let me once more behold at a distance her who is to belong so nearly, so closely to me.” He seized her hands.
“Face to face, Lucinda, are you mine?”
She replied, “Yes, indeed,” with the sweetest tears in the truest of eyes. He embraced her, and threw his head behind hers; he clung there like a shipwrecked man to a rock on the shore; the floor still trembled beneath him. But now his enraptured glance, opening again, fell upon the looking-glass. Then he beheld her in his arms, himself folded in hers; he looked towards it again and again. Such feelings accompany a man all through his life; at the same time, too, he saw on the mirror’s face the landscape, that but yesterday had seemed to him so gray and forbidding, now more splendid and glorious than ever: and himself in such a position on such a background!—a sufficient reward for all sufferings.
“We are not alone,” said Lucinda, and scarcely had he recovered from his rapture, when there appeared girls and boys, decked out and garlanded, carrying wreaths, filling up the entrance.
“That ought all to have been different,” exclaimed Lucinda. “How nicely it was arranged, and now it is all clumsily mixed up.” A stirring march sounded from afar, and they saw the company merrily coming in procession up the wide road. He hesitated to go to meet them, and only on her arm seemed sure of his steps. She remained at his side, awaiting from moment to moment the solemn scene of re-meeting, and of a pardon already granted.
But it had been fated differently by the mischievous gods; the merry, ringing tones of a post-horn from the opposite side seemed to throw the whole ceremony into confusion. “Who can be coming?” exclaimed Lucinda.
Lucidor shuddered at a strange presence, and the carriage too seemed quite strange. A new double-seated travelling-chaise of the latest make. She ran into the saloon. A remarkably well-dressed boy jumped down from behind, opened the door, but no one got out. The carriage was empty; the boy got in, with a few dexterous pulls he threw back the covering, and in an instant the pretty contrivance was prepared for a most pleasant drive before the eyes of all the company, who, in the meantime, had come up. Antony, hurrying in advance of the rest, handed Julia to the carriage.
“Try whether this sort of vehicle will suit you,” he said, “to drive in with me along the best roads through the world. I shall take you along no other ones; and if ever it should come to a pinch we will know how to help ourselves. Pack-horses ought to be able to carry us across the mountain and the carriage too.”
“You are a darling!” exclaimed Julia.
The boy stepped forward, and, with the dexterity of a conjuror, he showed all the conveniences, small advantages and contrivances of the whole light structure.
“On the earth I am unable to thank you,” exclaimed Julia; “only from this little movable heaven, from this cloud to which you raise me, I desire to thank you most cordially.”
She had already jumped into it, throwing a kind glance and a hand-kiss towards him.
“For the present you must not come in it with me; but there is another whom I think of taking with me on this trial drive. He has a trial still to undergo, too.”
She called to Lucidor, who, just then engaged in a diffident conversation with his father and father-in-law, gladly allowed himself to be pressed into the light vehicle, since he felt an unconquerable need of only a moment’s distraction in some way or other. He sat down by her; she called to the postilion how he should go. In the twinkling of an eye they disappeared, enveloped in dust, from the sight of the astonished spectators left behind. Julia settled herself closely and comfortably in the corner.
“Now you, too, lean back here, Herr Brother-in-law, that we may conveniently look at each other.”
“You see my confusion, my embarrassment. I am still as in a dream; help me out of it.”
“Look at the nice-looking village people, how civilly they greet us. During your stay here you have actually never been to the upper village: all well-to-do people, who are all partial to me. There is no one so rich that one cannot oblige him in some way or other by some important service. This road, along which we are driving so comfortably, my father laid out, and so set this good state of things on foot.”
“I willingly believe it, and grant it; but what have these external things to do with the confusion of my mind?”
“Only patience, I want to show you the kingdoms of the world and the glory thereof, now we are up above! How clearly the level plain lies against the mountains! All these villages owe a great deal to my father, and to mother and daughters too, I dare say. The outskirts of that little town yonder are the first boundaries.”
“I see you are in a strange mood. You do not seem to say outright what you wished to say.”
“Now look down here on the left, how beautifully everything discloses itself! The church with its high lime-trees, the town-house with its poplars, behind the village mound. The gardens, too, are lying before us, and the park.”
The postilion drove faster.
“You recognize that pavilion up there; it looks just as pretty from here as the landscape does from there. At this tree we stop. Now, just at this spot, we are reflected up there in the large glass surface. They can see us there very well, but we cannot distinguish ourselves. Drive on! Probably it is not long since two people have reflected themselves there more closely, and, if I’m not much mistaken, with great mutual satisfaction.”
Lucidor in his vexation made no reply. They drove along for a while in silence; the pace was very swift.
“Here,” said Julia, “the bad road begins; some day you may make it a credit to you. Before we drive downwards look once more across the country: my mother’s beech-tree, with its magnificent summit, towers above everything.
“You drive on,” she continued to the coachman, “along the bad road; we will take the footpath through the valley, and will arrive over there before you.”
In descending, she exclaimed: “You must confess, however, that the Wandering Jew, the restless Antony Roamer,* knows how to make his pilgrimages tolerably comfortable for himself and his companions. It is a very handsome and comfortable carriage.”
And by this time she was at the bottom of the hill. Lucidor followed thoughtfully, and found her sitting on a nicely-placed bench. It was Lucinda’s favorite place. She beckoned him to her.
“So we are sitting here, and are nothing to one another!—and yet it was to have been so. The little Quicksilver would not have at all suited you. You could not love such a creature; she was repugnant to you.”
Lucidor’s astonishment increased.
“But Lucinda, now—she is the compendium of all perfections, and the pretty sister was once for all cut out. I see it; the question is trembling on your lips—who could have informed us so correctly?”
“A traitor lurks behind.”
“Yes, indeed, there is a traitor in the game.”
“He is soon unmasked. It is yourself! You have the praiseworthy, or blameworthy, habit of talking to yourself, and so I will confess, in the name of all of us, that we have in turns overheard you.”
(jumping up). “A nice sort of hospitality, to set a trap for the guest in this way!”
“Not at all. We did not think of listening to you more than to any other individual. You know that your bed stands in a recess in the wall, and on the opposite side there is another, which generally serves only as a domestic repository. There we had, a few days before, forced our old gentleman to sleep, because we were a good deal concerned about him in his distant hermitage. Now on the very first evening you entered on the affair with that passionate soliloquy, the purport of which he most opportunely disclosed to us the next morning.”
Lucidor had no heart to interrupt her. He moved away.
(rising and following him). “And of what service this declaration was to us! For, I confess, although you were not precisely antipathic to me, still the position that awaited me was by no means so desirable. To become a ‘Madam High-bailiff,’—what a horrible position! To get a good, honest man, whose duty it is to declare the law to the people, and who by sheer weight of law can never attain to justice; who does justice neither by laws above nor below, and, what is worst, not even to himself. I know what my mother has suffered from the incorruptibility, the inflexibility, of my father. At last, unfortunately after her death, he began to display a certain tenderness. He seemed to accommodate himself to the world; to reconcile himself to it, having hitherto vainly fought against it.”
(highly displeased at the affair, and vexed at her frivolous treatment of it—stands still). “For the diversion of one evening this might pass; but to practise such a mortifying mystification for days and nights on an unsuspecting guest, is unpaidonable.”
“We have all shared in the guilt, we have all overheard you; but I alone expiate the guilt of listening.”
“All! So much the more unpardonable. And how could you, during the day, look, without feeling abashed, at one whom you so disgracefully and illegitimately cheated by night? Still, I now see quite clearly in a glance that all your arrangements for the day were only calculated to make a fool of me. A worthy family indeed! And what becomes of your father’s love of fairness? And Lucinda—”
“ ‘And Lucinda,’—what a tone! You would say how deeply it grieves you to think evil of Lucinda, to throw Lucinda into the same class with all the rest of us.”
“I do not understand Lucinda.”
“You mean to say, This pure soul, this quiet, composed being; goodness, benevolence personified; this woman as she ought to be, associating herself with a frivolous company—with an inconsiderate sister, a spoiled youngster, and certain other mysterious persons—that remains incomprehensible.”
“Yes, it is indeed incomprehensible.”
“Well, then, comprehend it. Lucinda’s hands, like those of all of us, were tied. If you had been able to observe her embarrassment, and how she could hardly restrain herself from revealing everything to you, you would love her doubly and trebly, if every true love were not on its own account ten and hundred-fold. Besides, I assure you the joke in the end became tedious to all of us.”
“Why did you not put an end to it?”
“That too must now be explained. When your first monologue had become known to our father, and he could soon observe that none of his children had any objection to such an exchange, then he determined to go over at once to your father. The importance of the business gave him some misgivings. Only a father can feel the respect that is due to a father. “He must be informed about it at the very first,” said mine, “if afterwards, when we are agreed, he is not to give a forced, reluctant consent. I know him exactly; I know how firmly he keeps to any thought, inclination or plan, and I am anxious enough about it. He has mixed up Julia, his maps and views, so closely in his thoughts, that he has already formed the plan of finally establishing everything here, when the day should come for the young couple to settle down here, and could not so easily change position and place: then he would devote to us every holiday, and whatever of kindness and goodness he had in mind. He must first know what a trick nature had played upon us, for as yet nothing has been declared, nothing decided.” Thereupon he took from us all the most solemn hand-pledge that we would watch you and, happen what might, would keep you here. How his return has been delayed, how it has cost art, labor and perseverance to obtain your father’s consent, that you may hear from him yourself. Enough, the thing is settled, and Lucinda is granted to you.”
And thus the two, quickly leaving their first seat, but stopping on the road, talking continuously, and slowly walking onwards, had reached an elevation on the other side of the meadows and another well-constructed highroad.
The carriage came driving quickly towards them; in a moment she directed her companion’s attention to a strange spectacle. All the machinery in which her brother took such pride was now animated and in motion; the wheels were conveying a number of people up and down, swings were oscillating, poles were being climbed, and you might see essayed all kinds of bold leaps and springs above the heads of a countless multitude.
All this the young squire had put into motion, in order to entertain the guests merrily after dinner.
“You will still drive through the lower village,” exclaimed Julia; “the people like me, and they shall see how happy I am.”
The village was deserted; the young men had already hastened, one and all, towards the pleasure-ground; old men and women, aroused by the post-horn, showed themselves at doors and windows; they were all greetings and blessings, and exclamations: “What a handsome couple!”
“There now, you hear! we should probably have suited one another in the end; you may still repent it.”
“But now, dear sister-in-law —”
“Just so!—‘dear,’ now that you have got rid of me.”
“Only a word more. There rests a heavy responsibility upon you; what was the meaning of that pressing of my hand, when you knew and must have felt my awful position? Anything so thoroughly wicked I have never yet known in this world.”
“Thank God, if that were expiated, all would be forgiven! I did not want you it is true; but, that you would have nothing to do with me, is a thing that no girl forgives, and that pressure of the hand, you see, was for the wretch. I confess that it was more villanous than was right, and I only forgive myself in forgiving you, and so let all be forgiven and forgotten! Here is my hand.”
He accepted it, and exclaimed: “Here we are back again already—already back in our park; and so you will probably soon have made the round of the wide world and perhaps back: we shall meet again.”
They had already arrived before the garden saloon. It seemed empty; the company, discontented at seeing dinner-time so long delayed, had set out for a walk, but Antony and Lucinda came forward. Julia threw herself out of the carriage towards her friend, she thanked him with a cordial embrace, and did not refrain from tears of deepest joy. The cheeks of the noble man reddened, his features expanded themselves, his eye looked bedimmed, and from beneath this outward form shone forth a handsome striking youth.
And thus the two couples proceeded towards the company, with feelings that the loveliest dream could not bestow.
Father and son, accompanied by a groom, had reached a pleasant neighborhood, when the latter, stopping in front of a lofty wall that seemed to surround an extensive enclosure, intimated to them that they had now to approach the great gate on foot, for no horse was admitted within this enclosure. They rang the bell; the gate was opened without a human figure being visible, and they advanced towards an old building that peeped out towards them between the venerable trunks of beeches and oaks. It was wonderful to look at; for old it seemed in form, yet the bricklayers and stonemasons might but just have left it, so new and perfect and well-finished seemed the joints and elaborated decorations.
A heavy metal ring on a finely-carved door invited them to knock, which Felix from wantonness did somewhat ungently; this door too opened itself, and they found at once in the hall a maiden lady of middle age, sitting before an embroidery-frame, and occupied with a well-designed piece of work.
She at once greeted the visitors as being already expected, and began to sing a cheerful song, whereupon there forthwith stepped out of an adjacent door a woman, whom, from the appendages to her girdle, without anything else, it was easy to recognize as the custodian and acting housekeeper. She also with a friendly greeting took the strangers up a flight of stairs, and opened for them a room which impressed them in a solemn way, being spacious, lofty, and panelled all round, with a series of historical designs above. Two persons came towards them—a somewhat youthful lady, and an elderly man.
The former at once frankly bade the guests welcome. “You have,” she said, “been announced as one of our circle. But how shall I without ceremony introduce you to this gentleman? He is a family friend in the best and widest sense: by day the instructive companion, by night astronomer, and physician on every occasion.”
“And I,” added he, in friendly manner, “recommend to you this lady, as untiringly active, by day, by night when need be, ready at hand, and always the most cheerful companion to live with. Angela (for so this beauty, attractive both in figure and bearing, was called) announced forthwith Makaria’s approach: a green curtain was drawn aside, and a remarkable elderly lady was pushed into the room in an easy chair by two pretty young girls, and by two other girls a round table, with an inviting breakfast. In one corner of the massive oak benches round the room cushions had been laid, upon which the three above mentioned sat down, opposite to Makaria in her easy chair. Felix ate his breakfast standing, walking about the saloon, and inspecting with curiosity the knightly pictures above.
Makaria spoke to Wilhelm as to a confidential friend. She seemed to enjoy a vivid description of her relatives; it seemed as if she looked through the outward individual mask into the inner nature of each of them. The persons whom Wilhelm knew stood as if transfigured before his soul: the intelligent benevolence of the worthy woman threw off the outward husk, and ennobled and animated the sound kernel.
After these agreeable subjects had been exhausted with most kindly treatment, she said to her worthy companion: “You must not again find an excuse in the presence of this new friend, and once more put off the promised entertainment; he seems like one who would take a part in it himself.”
But to this he replied: “You know how difficult it is to explain one’s self on these subjects; for the question is of nothing less than the abuse of excellent and far-reaching expedients.”
“I grant that,” replied Makaria, “for one falls into a double embarrassment. If one speaks of abuse, one seems to impugn the worth of the method itself, for that is always latent in the abuse; if one speaks about the method, then one can scarcely allow that its thoroughness and value admit of any abuse. Still, as we are in private, and do not want to establish anything, or to produce any outward effect, but only to enlighten ourselves, the discussion can accordingly proceed.”
“Still,” replied the cautious man, “we must first of all ask whether our new friend has also a wish to take part in a to some degree abstruse matter, or whether he would not prefer to take needful repose in his apartment. Can our subject be willingly and favorably received by him apart from its connection, without any knowledge as to how we arrived at it?”
“If I were to explain by something analogous what you have said, the case seems to me to be almost as if in attacking hypocrisy one could be accused of an attack against religion.”
“We may let the analogy pass,” said the friend; “for the question now is of a complication of several remarkable men, of high science, of an important art, and, in short, of mathematics.”
“I have always,” replied Wilhelm, “even when I have heard the most unfamiliar subjects discussed, been able to appropriate something to myself; for whatever interests one man, will also find a sympathetic echo in another.”
“Assuming,” said the other, “that he has acquired a certain freedom of mind; and as we give you credit for this, I will not on my part at least make any objection to your presence here.”
“But what shall we do with Felix?” asked Makaria, “who I see has already finished his inspection of the pictures, and shows some signs of impatience.”
“May I whisper something to this young lady,” said Felix, running somewhat quietly up to Angela, who went aside with him, but soon returned laughing, when the friend began to speak as follows:
“In cases in which one has to express disapproval, or blame, or even only misgiving, I do not like to take the initiative; I look out for an authority, so that I can reassure myself, in finding that some else stands by me. I praise without misgiving, for why should I be silent, if anything falls in with me. Even if it should evince my narrowness, still I have no need to be ashamed of it; but if I blame, it may happen to me that I reject something of excellence, and thereby draw on myself the disapproval of others who understand it better; I am obliged to retract, when I become enlightened. Therefore I here bring some written matter, and some translations as well; for in such things I trust my own nation as little as myself: an agreement from a distance and from foreign parts seems to afford me more security.”
After obtaining permission he began to read as follows:—but our courteous readers will probably be inclined to approve, if we do not think fit to let this worthy man read. For what has been said above about the presence of Wilhelm at this discussion, applies even more to the case in which we find ourselves. Our friends have taken into their hands a novel, and if this has here and there turned out more than reasonably didactic, we find it advisable not to try too far the patience of our well-wishers. The documents that lie before us, we are thinking of having printed in some other place, and on this occasion shall continue the narrative without delay, since we ourselves are impatient to see the existing riddle solved. But still we cannot refrain from making some further mention of what came under discussion before the separation of this noble company in the evening.
Wilhelm, after listening with great attention to this reading, remarked quite unaffectedly: “I have heard here about great natural gifts, capacities and abilities, and at the same time about considerable diffidence in the use of them; if I were to express myself briefly about it, I should exclaim: ‘Great thoughts, and a pure heart, that is what we have to pray God for!’ ”
Granting its full approval to these sensible words, the company separated: but the astronomer promised to let Wilhelm, on this clear and splendid night, have his full share in all the wonders of the starry firmament.
A few hours later the astronomer bid his guest ascend the winding staircase of the observatory, and at last step out upon the completely open platform of a lofty round tower. A most brilliant night, sparkling and glowing with all the stars of heaven, surrounded the observer, who seemed for the first time to behold the lofty firmament in all its glory. For in daily life,—irrespective of unfavorable weather, that conceals from us the splendid extent of ether,—at home we are hindered by roofs and gables, abroad by forests and by rocks, but most of all and everywhere by the inward commotions of the mind, which flit to and fro and obscure the prospect more than all fogs or storms.
Rapt and astonished, he shut his eyes. The immense ceases to be sublime; it surpasses our faculty of comprehension, it threatens to annihilate us.
“What am I then, in comparison with the All?” he said to his own spirit. “How can I stand opposite to Him?—how can I stand in His midst?”
Yet, after a short reverie, he continued:
“The result of our evening’s conference solves also the riddle of the present moment. How can man set himself against the Infinite, otherwise than by collecting in his deepest innermost soul all the spiritual energies that are scattered in every direction; but by asking himself, How durst thou even think of thyself in the midst of this eternal and living order, if there do not also reveal itself within thee a glorious moving principle circling round a pure centre? And even if it should prove difficult for thee to discover this central point within thy bosom, yet wouldst thou recognize it in this, that a benevolent and beneficent action proceeds from it, and bears witness to it. Yet, who ought, who is able to look back upon his past life, without feeling in some degree bewildered; as he will mostly find that his will has been right, but his conduct wrong; that his desires have been blameworthy, yet their attainment longed-for. How often hast thou seen these stars twinkling, and have they not always found thee different? but they are ever the same, and say ever the same thing: By our regulated march, they repeat, we indicate the day and the hour. Ask thyself also, How standest thou in reference to day and hour? And this time I can answer, Of present circumstances I need not be ashamed: my intention is to reinstate a noble family in longed-for union in all its members; the road is indicated. I shall inquire into what keeps noble souls aloof; I shall remove hindrances, of whatsoever kind they be. This thou mayest openly avow in face of these heavenly hosts: if they took any heed of thee, they would indeed laugh at thy narrowness, but they would certainly honor thine intention, and favor its fulfilment.”
With these words and thoughts he turned round to look about him; then Jupiter, the star of fortune, met his eye, as gloriously luminous as ever; he took this as a good omen, and for a time lingered gladly over the spectacle.
Presently the astronomer bade him come down, and let him look through a perfect telescope at this very star, considerably magnified and accompanied by its moons, as a celestial wonder.
After our friend had remained some time absorbed in it, he turned round and said to the star-lover: “I do not know whether I have to thank you for having brought this star so immeasurably nearer to me. As I saw it before, it stood in some relation to the innumerable others of heaven and to myself; but now it stands out in my imagination as incommensurable, and I do not know whether I ought to wish to bring out all the remaining host in like proportion. They would shut me in, oppress me.”
And so our friend went on according to his custom, and a good deal that was unpremeditated was discussed on the occasion. To some reply of the man of science, Wilhelm rejoined: “I can very well understand, that it must give you sky-searchers the greatest pleasure gradually to draw down to you all the immense universe, as I here saw, and see, this planet: but allow me to say that, in life in general and on the whole, I have found that these means, by which we come to the aid of our senses, do not exercise any morally favorable influence on man. He who looks through spectacles thinks himself wiser than he is, for his outward sense is thereby put out of balance with his inner faculty of judgment. It belongs to a higher culture, of which only excellent men are capable, to reconcile in some degree what is inwardly true, with this outward false effect. Whenever I look through a glass I become another man, and do not please myself; I see more than I ought to see; the world, seen more distinctly, does not harmonize with my inner self; and I quickly put aside my glasses, as soon as my curiosity as to how this or that distant object may be made is satisfied.”
In reply to certain jocose remarks of the astronomer, Wilhelm continued: “We shall not banish these glasses from the world, any more than any piece of machinery; but to the observer of morals, it is important to inquire and to know whence many things about which complaints are made have crept into humanity. Thus, for instance, I am convinced that to the habit of wearing spectacles is chiefly due the self-conceit of our young people.”
With these discussions the night had far advanced, whereupon the astronomer, accustomed to watching, proposed to his young friend to lie down on the camp-bed, and sleep for a short time, and then with a fresher glance to contemplate and greet Venus as she anticipated the sunrise—who on this particular day promised to appear in her completed splendor.
Wilhelm, who up to this moment had felt quite brisk and cheerful, at this proposal of the kind and considerate man, felt himself really exhausted; he laid himself down, and in a moment was sunk in the deepest slumber.
When aroused by the astronomer, Wilhelm jumped up, and hurried to the window; there he remained for a moment transfixed with astonishment, and then exclaimed enthusiastically: “What splendor! what a wondrous sight!” Other words of rapture followed, but the sight still remained a wonder, a great wonder to him.
“That this lovely star, that to-day appears in a fulness and splendor quite unusual, would surprise you, I could foresee; but this I may maintain, without being reproached for being cold: I see nothing wonderful—nothing wonderful at all!”
“How could you?” replied Wilhelm, “since I bring it with me, since I carry it within me, since I do not know how it happens to me. Let me still look, dumb and astounded at it; then do you feel it.”
After a pause, he continued: “I was lying in soft but deep sleep, when I felt transported into the saloon as yesterday, but alone. The green curtain went up, Makaria’s chair moved forward of its own accord, like an animated being; it shone with gold, her dress seemed sacerdotal, her glance sparkled mildly; I was on the point of throwing myself down. Clouds spread forth around her feet, and ascending they bore like wings the holy form upwards: instead of her glorious countenance I beheld through the parting clouds a shining star, that was ever carried upwards, and through the opening roof united itself with the whole firmament, which seemed to be ever expanding and to embrace everything. In this moment you arouse me; heavy with sleep I rush to the window, still with the vivid image of the star in my eye, and as I look, the morning star, of equal beauty, although perhaps not of such refulgent magnificence, is really before me! This real star, hovering yonder above, replaces that of my dream, it consumes all that was glorious in that which appeared to me; but still I look and look, and you are looking also with me at what in point of fact ought to have disappeared with the haze of my sleep.”
The astronomer exclaimed: “Wonderful, wonderful indeed! You do not know, yourself, what wonderful things you are saying. May this not prognosticate the decease of the glorious woman, to whom sooner or later some such apotheosis is predestined.”
The next morning Wilhelm, in search of his Felix, who at an early hour had quietly stolen away, hurried into the garden, which to his astonishment he saw being tilled by a number of girls. If not all beautiful, not one was ugly, and none seemed to have reached her twentieth year. They were variously dressed, as if belonging to different localities; and were active, cheerful in greeting him, and industrious.
He was met by Angela, who was walking to and fro in order to direct and criticise the work; and to her the guest expressed his admiration at so pretty and industrious a colony.
“This,” she replied, “does not die out; it alters, but remains always the same. For with their twentieth year these girls, as indeed do all the female inhabitants of our establishment, enter upon active life, generally into the state of marriage. All the young men of the neighborhood, who are anxious to obtain for themselves a robust wife, pay attention to what is going on here with us. Neither are our pupils in any way shut up in this place; they have already looked round about them—at many an annual fair have been seen, desired, and betrothed; and thus several families are already attentively waiting for another vacancy with us in order to introduce their own daughters.”
After they had discussed this matter, the guest could not conceal from his new friend his desire once more to look through what had been read to them on the previous evening. “I have grasped the main drift of the conversation,” he said, “but now I should like to know more correctly the details which came into question.” “Fortunately I find myself in a position,” she replied, “to satisfy this wish of yours at once; the familiar relations towards us, that have been granted to you so soon, justify me in telling you, that those papers are already in my hands, to be carefully kept, along with certain other documents.
“My mistress,” she continued, “is profoundly convinced of the importance of impromptu conversation; things occur therein, she says, that no book contains, and yet again the best that books have ever contained. Therefore she has charged me with the duty of preserving a few good thoughts that spring from an intellectual conversation as so many grains of seed from a well-laden plant. Only if we are faithful in preserving the present, she says, can we have pleasure in tradition, in finding the best thought already spoken, the most worthy sentiment already expressed. By this process we attain to the contemplation of that agreement for which man has been born, in which he must often find himself against his own will, whilst he is only too fond of fancying that the world begins with him from the very beginning.”
Angela went on to confide to the guest, that in this manner a considerable manuscript collection had grown up, from which on sleepless nights she would sometimes read aloud a sheet to Makaria; on which occasions a thousand details would in turn present themselves in a wonderful way, just as when a mass of mercury falls, and scatters itself on all sides in an innumerable multitude of globules.
To his question, how far this collection of papers was kept secret, she revealed to him that at all events only their most intimate circle had knowledge of it, that she was quite willing to be responsible for it, and, since he desired it, to lay a few sheets before him.
During this garden conversation they had arrived at the château, and entering the room in one of the wings, she said, smiling: “I will take this opportunity of intrusting you with another secret, for which you will be by no means prepared.” Thereupon she made him peep through a curtain into a closet, where, to his great astonishment, he saw his own Felix sitting writing at a table, and was unable at once to explain to himself this unexpected diligence. But he was soon enlightened, when Angela disclosed to him that the boy had seized for this purpose the moment of his disappearance, and had declared that writing and riding were the only things in which he had pleasure.
Our friend was then introduced into a room, where in cupboards round about he saw a number of well-arranged papers. Labels of many kinds indicated the most various contents; discrimination and orderly arrangement were everywhere conspicuous.
When Wilhelm proceeded to praise these advantages, Angela gave the credit of it to the family friend—who was capable of settling under his own supervision not only the arrangement, but also in cases of difficulty the necessary interpolation. Thereupon she found out the manuscript that had been read aloud yesterday, and allowed the eager guest to avail himself of it and all the rest, and not only take notes, but even to copy them.
Here our friend had to go to work carefully, for there was only too much that was attractive and desirable: especially did he regard certain sheets of short and scarcely connected propositions as particularly valuable. They were products which, if we did not know their origins, would seem paradoxical, but which compel us by the aid of a reversed process of seeking and finding to return backwards in order if possible to bring home to us the filiation of such thoughts from afar and from below. Neither for these, for the reasons stated above, can we grant a place. Still, at the first opportunity that presents itself, we shall not neglect, and shall be able in a proper place to put forward a selection of what was here acquired.
On the morning of the third day our friend went to Angela and stood before her not without some embarrassment. “To-day I must take leave,” he said, “and receive my last commissions from that excellent lady, whom I regret that I was not allowed to see during the whole of yesterday. Now, something is weighing on my heart, on my own innermost soul, about which I have wished to be enlightened. If it be possible, then grant me this favor.”
“I think I understand you,” said the kind woman; “yet speak on.”
“A wonderful dream,” he continued, “a few words also from the earnest astronomer, a separate locked compartment among the accessible cases, with the inscription, The qualities of Makaria—all these suggestions are associated with an inner voice, that tells me that this study of the heavenly bodies is not merely a scientific amusement, a striving after knowledge of the world of stars, but that we ought rather to suppose that there is hidden in it some peculiar relation of Makaria to the stars, to know which must be a matter of the highest interest to me. I am neither inquisitive nor importunate, but this forms such an important case to the student of mind and character, that I cannot refrain from asking whether, in addition to so much confidence, this extra indulgence might also be kindly granted?”
“And I have the right to grant this,” replied the amiable woman. “Your remarkable dream has remained indeed a secret to Makaria, but with our friends I have observed and considered your singular intellectual sympathy, your unexpected comprehension of the deepest secrets; and we may take courage to lead you further. Allow me in the first instance to speak figuratively! In things difficult of comprehension one does well to help one’s self in this fashion.
“As is said of the poet, the elements of the moral world are hidden in the depths of his nature, and have had to develop themselves from him little by little, so that nothing existing in the world would come to view but of what he had previously had a presentiment: even thus, it will seem, the relations of our solar system from the beginning, at first in a state of rest, then little by little developing, and afterwards becoming ever more distinctly animated, are fundamentally innate in Makaria. At first she suffered from these apparitions, then she took pleasure in them, and with her years her enjoyment increased. Yet she did not attain to the present harmony and repose until she had gained the aid of the friend whose merits you too have already learned to know sufficiently well.
“As a mathematician and philosopher, incredulous from the beginning, she was long doubtful whether this visionary power of hers was not acquired; for Makaria had to allow that, at an early age, she had enjoyed instruction in astronomy, and had studied it passionately. But at the same time, she also informed him, for many years of her life she had put together and compared the inward apparitions and the outward phenomena, but never had been able to find out any harmony between them.
“Thereupon the man of science bade her explain to him most minutely what she saw, which only from time to time was quite clear to her; he then made his calculations, and concluded hence, that she did not so much carry within herself the whole solar system, but rather that as an integral part she was spiritually moving within it. He proceeded on this supposition, and his calculations were corroborated in an incredible way by her statements.
“Thus much only do I for this time venture to confide to you, and this too I reveal only with the urgent request not to mention a word of it to anybody. For would not every man of sense and understanding, with the purest good will, still regard and declare such opinions to be mere fancies and misunderstood reminiscences of a previously acquired science? Even her family know nothing more precise about it; it is these secret revelations, these rapturous visions, that amongst her relations pass for a malady, by which she is for a time prevented from taking a part in the world and in her own interests. This, my friend, keep quietly to yourself, and also say nothing about it to Lenardo.”
Towards evening our wanderer was once more led into Makaria’s presence: much that was pleasantly instructive came under discussion, from which we select the following:
“From nature we possess no defect that could not become a virtue, and no virtue that could not become a fault. These latter are just the most problematical. Our wonderful nephew has chiefly given me occasion to make this remark—the young man about whom you have heard in our family so many singular things, and whom I, according to my relatives, are said to treat more indulgently and lovingly than is due.
“From youth up there was developed in him a certain lively, technical cleverness, to which he entirely devoted himself, and in which he happily advanced to manifold knowledge and acquirements. Later, everything that he sent home from his travels was always of the most artistic, skilful, refined, and delicate handiwork, indicative of the country in which he might happen to be, and which we were expected to guess. From this it might be concluded that he was and would remain a dry, unsympathetic man, wrapped up in external things; in conversation, too, he was not disposed to agree in general ethical matters, but privately and in secret he was endowed with a wonderfully fine practical sense of good and evil, the praiseworthy and the unpraiseworthy; such that I have never seen him at fault either towards his elders or juniors, his superiors or inferiors. But this innate consciousness, unbridled as it was, in single instances transformed itself into a whimsical weakness; he would even invent for himself duties where they were not required, and sometimes quite needlessly avow himself a delinquent.
“From his whole plan of travel, but particularly from his preparations for returning, I believe that he fancies himself to have offended a certain female belonging to our circle, whose fate now causes him anxiety, from which he would feel relieved and absolved as soon as he could hear that she was well; and Angela will tell you the rest. Take this letter, and prepare a happy reunion for our family. I sincerely confess I would wish to see him once more in this world, and in taking leave of it to bless him with all my heart.”
When Wilhelm had circumstantially and correctly discharged his commission, Lenardo replied, with a smile: “Much obliged as I am to you for what I hear from you, still I must add a question. Has not my aunt, in conclusion, further commissioned you to inform me of a seemingly trifling matter?”
The other reflected a moment. “Yes,” he then said, “I now recollect. She mentioned a young lady whom she called Valerina. Of her I had to tell you that she is happily married, and finds herself in a very desirable position.”
“You roll a stone from my heart,” replied Lenardo. “Now I willingly return home, because I need not fear that the recollection of this girl will make the place and spot a reproach to me.”
“It beseems me not to ask what relation you have had with her;” said Wilhelm; “enough, you may be at ease, if you should in any way sympathize with the fate of this girl.”
“It is the strangest relation in the world,” said Lenardo; “by no means a love affair, as one might easily fancy. I may well confide in and tell you what, in point of fact, is no story; but what will you think when I tell you that my hesitation to return, the fear of coming back to our home, those strange arrangements and questions as to how matters looked, really had the object only of finding out precisely how matters stood with this child.
“For, believe me,” he continued, “I otherwise know well enough that we can leave people whom we know, for a length of time, without finding them again materially altered, and so too I expect soon to feel myself again quite at home with my relatives. It was only the question of this single person, whose situation must have been altered, and has, thank Heaven! altered itself for the better.”
“You make me curious,” said Wilhelm. “You make me anticipate something quite strange.”
“I at least think it so,” replied Lenardo, and began his story as follows:
“I had from youth up cherished the firm resolve of making the usual tour through civilized Europe in my young days, but, as will happen, I deferred its execution from time to time. The present attracted me, held me, and the distant more and more lost its charm to me, the more I read or heard told about it. Yet at last, urged by my uncle, enticed by friends, who had gone into the world before me, the resolve was made, and in fact sooner than we were all well aware of.
“My uncle, who in point of fact had to contribute the most in order to make the journey possible, had at once no other object. You know him and his peculiarity, how he always drives only at one thing, and first sets that going whilst in the meantime everything else has to abide and be quiet, whereby he has really effected a great deal that might seem to be beyond the power of a single individual. This journey came upon him in some degree unexpectedly; but still he was able to collect himself at once. Certain buildings, that he had undertaken, nay, actually begun, were discontinued, and as he never likes to infringe on his savings, like a clever financier he looked about for some other expedients. The most convenient was to collect outstanding debts, especially rents in arrear, for this too was part of his method, that he was indulgent towards debtors, as long as he, to a certain point, was in no necessity himself. His steward received the list, and on him devolved the execution. About the details we heard nothing; only accidentally I heard that the tenant of one of our farms, with whom my uncle had long been patient, had at last been actually evicted, his caution money retained in scanty satisfaction for the deficiency, and that the land was to be leased to some one else. This man was one of the sect of the Quiet-in-the-land,”* but not, like his fellows, also prudent and active; beloved indeed for his piety and benevolence, but reproached for his weakness as a manager. On the death of his wife, a daughter, who was called simply the Nutbrown Maid, though she already promised to grow up active and determined, was far too young to take any decided measures. Enough, the man went down-hill, without my uncle’s indulgence having been able to prevent his fate.
“I had my journey in mind, and must needs approve of the means for that end. All was ready; the packing and untying went on, the moments sped on. One evening I once more strolled through the park, to take leave of the familiar trees and bushes, when all of a sudden Valerina crossed my path;—for so the girl was called; the other was but a nickname occasioned by her brown complexion. She stepped towards me.”
Lenardo stopped an instant, and mused. “Yet, what is the matter with me?” he said; “was she called Valerina? Yes, indeed,” he continued; “still, the nickname was the more usual one. Enough, the brown girl stepped towards me, and begged me warmly to interpose a kind word with my uncle for her father and for herself. As I knew how the matter stood, and saw well enough that it would be difficult, nay, impossible, at that moment to do anything for them, I spoke frankly to her, and put her father’s own delinquency in an unfavorable light.
“She answered me with so much clearness, and at the same time with so much daughterly indulgence and love, that she quite won my heart, and if the money had been my own, I should at once have made her happy by granting her request. But it was now a question of my uncle’s income; the arrangements were his, the orders his; according to his way of thinking, there was nothing to hope for from what had already happened. Hitherto I had always kept a promise sacred. Any one who asked anything of me put me in a difficulty. I had so accustomed myself to refuse, that I did not even promise what I intended to perform. This time, too, this habit stood me in good stead. Her motives rested on an individual case and on affection; mine on those of duty and reason, and I do not deny that in the end they seemed too severe even to myself. We had already repeated the same thing several times, without convincing one another, when distress made her more eloquent, and the inevitable ruin, that she saw before herself, forced tears from her eyes. Her composed demeanor did not entirely forsake her, but she spoke with animation, with emotion, and, whilst I still continued to feign coldness and indifference, her whole soul was revealed. I wished to end the scene, but all of a sudden she lay at my feet, had seized my hand, kissed it, and looked up at me so innocently and amiably imploring, that for the moment I forgot myself. Raising her from the ground I hurriedly said to her: ‘I will do what I possibly can: be quiet, my child!’ And then I turned into a side path.
“ ‘Do what is impossible!’ she called after me. I do not remember what I wanted to say, but I said, ‘I will,’ and stopped.
“ ‘Do!’ she cried suddenly, cheered with an expression of heavenly hope. I nodded to her and hurried away.
“I would not in the first instance apply to my uncle, for I knew him only too well: one must not venture to remind him of details when he was occupied with the whole. I sought the steward; he had ridden out. In the evening came guests—friends who wished to take leave. Playing and eating went on until deep into the night. They remained the following day, and the distraction blotted out the picture of the urgent petitioner. The steward returned; he was more busy and overworked than ever. Everyone was asking for him. He had no time to listen to me; still, I made an attempt to get hold of him; but scarcely had I mentioned the pious tenant to him, than he waved me off with some impatience. ‘Do not, for Heaven’s sake, say anything to your uncle about it, unless you want in the end to get into trouble yourself.’
“The day of my departure had been fixed; I had to write letters, to receive guests, to pay visits in the neighborhood. My people had up to this time sufficed for my service, but were by no means sufficiently dexterous in lightening the business of departure. Everything devolved upon myself; and yet, when the steward at last gave me an hour at night to settle our financial affairs, I once more ventured to intercede for Valerina’s father.
“ ‘Dear baron,’ said this active personage, ‘how can such a thing recur to you? I have to-day had a difficult business with your uncle; for what you require to get away from here amounts to much more than we thought. This is indeed quite natural, but yet awkward. In particular, the old gentleman has no pleasure, if a thing seems to be done, while a good deal still lags behind; yet it often happens, and the rest of us have to pay penalty for it. As regards the rigor with which outstanding debts have to be exacted, he has made a law for himself: he makes up his mind about it, and it would be difficult to induce him to give in. Don’t do it, I beg you! It would be altogether in vain.’
“I allowed myself to be deterred from my request, but not entirely. I besought him, since the execution depended upon him, to go kindly and indulgently to work. He promised everything, after the fashion of such persons, in order to have peace for the moment. He got rid of me; the hurry, the distraction increased. I sat in the carriage, and turned my back on every sympathy that I might have at home.
“A lively impression is like any other wound; one does not feel it as one receives it. Only later it begins to pain and to fester. So it was in my case in regard to the scene in the grounds. Every time that I was alone or unoccupied the image of the imploring girl arose like a vivid picture before my soul, with all its surroundings, with every tree and bush, the place where she knelt, and the path down which I turned to get away from her. It was an indelible impression, that indeed could be overshaded and veiled by other images and sympathies, but never be eradicated. It always arose new at every quiet hour, and the longer it lasted the more painfully I felt the guilt with which I had loaded myself against my principles, against my habit—although not expressly, but only blunderingly, for the first time involved in such a case.
“I did not fail, in my first letters, to ask our agent how the affair had turned out. He was some time in answering. Then he evaded replying on this point, then his words were equivocal; at last he was altogether silent. The distance between us increased; more objects intervened between me and my home; my attention was claimed for many observations and many sympathies; the image disappeared, and the girl, almost to her very name. The remembrance of her occurred more seldom, and my fancy not to communicate with my people through letters, but only by means of tokens, contributed much to make my former state of mind, with all its accompanying conditions, almost disappear. Now, only as I approach nearer home, when I am thinking of reimbursing my family, with interest, what they have hitherto been content to dispense with, now I am again assailed by this wonderful remorse (I must even call it wonderful), in all its force. The image of the girl is renewed with the images of my friends, and I dread nothing more than to hear that she has succumbed in the misfortune into which I plunged her; for my neglect appeared to me a help towards her ruin, a hastening of her sad fate. I have already said to myself a thousand times, that this feeling was in reality only a weakness, that, long ago, I had been impelled to make the rule never to give a promise solely from fear of repentance, and not from any more noble feeling. And now even the repentance, which I shunned, seems to take its revenge on me, laying hold of this instance instead of a thousand others to torture me. At the same time the image, the picture, that tortures me, is so pleasant, so sweet, that I willingly linger over it. And when I think about it, then the kiss, which she impressed upon my hand, seems still to burn me.”
Lenardo was silent, and Wilhelm replied quickly and cheerfully: “Then I could not have shown you any greater service than by the supplement to my message, just as the most interesting part of a letter may often be contained in the postscript. Indeed, I know but little about Valerina, for I heard her only casually mentioned; but she is certainly the wife of a well-to-do landowner, and lives happy, as your aunt assured me at parting.”
“Capital!” said Lenardo; “now, nothing holds me back: you have absolved me, and we will at once set off to my family, who, moreover, have been waiting for me longer than is right.”
Wilhelm replied to this: “Unfortunately I am not able to accompany you; for a special obligation devolves on me, never to rest longer than three days, and not to revisit the places that I leave within one year. Pardon me, if I dare not explain to you the reason of this singularity.”
“I am very sorry,” said Lenardo, “that we should lose you so soon, and that I am unable to assist you in anything. Still, since you have once set yourself in the way to do me good, you would make me very happy if you would go and see Valerina, inform yourself precisely about her affairs, and then, either by letter or word of mouth—for a third place of meeting can easily be found—would give me, for the sake of my peace of mind, a circumstantial report.”
This scheme was further discussed; Wilhelm had been told Valerina’s place of abode. He undertook to go and see her; another place was appointed, whither the baron was to come, and also bring with him Felix, who in the meantime had remained behind with the ladies.
Lenardo and Wilhelm, riding side by side, had pursued their way for some time, with varied conversation, through pleasant meadows, when they once more approached the carriage road, and overtook the baron’s carriage, which was to wend its way homewards in company with its master. Here the friends decided to part, and Wilhelm in a few friendly words took leave, and once more promised the baron to write him speedy news from Valerina.
“When I consider,” replied Lenardo, “that it would only be a little way round, if I accompanied you, why should I not go and see Valerina myself. Why not personally convince myself of her happy condition? You were so kind as to offer your services as a messenger; why should you not be my companion? For a companion I must have, a moral support, just as one obtains legal assistance when one does not consider one’s self quite equal to the matter of law.”
Wilhelm’s objections, that as the long-absent one was being waited for at home it might make a singular impression if the carriage returned empty, and aught else of the same kind, could not prevail with Lenardo, and Wilhelm had at last to accept the part of a companion, with no pleasant thoughts as to the consequences that were to be feared. The servants, therefore, were instructed as to what they would have to say on arrival, and the friends presently struck the road that led to Valerina’s dwelling. The neighborhood seemed rich and fruitful, and the true home of agriculture. Thus, in the ground belonging to Valerina’s husband, the soil was thoroughly good, and tilled with great care.
Wilhelm had time to inspect the landscape closely, while Lenardo rode in silence by his side.
At last the latter began: “Another in my place would perhaps try to approach Valerina unknown; for it is always a painful sensation to present one’s self to those whom one has offended; but I will rather endure that, and bear the reproach that I fear from her first glances, than screen myself from it by disguise and falsehood. Falsehood may put us in as great an embarrassment as truth; and when we strike a balance of how often one or the other avails us, it will always prove worth our while once for all to resign ourselves to truth. Let us therefore go forward confidently; I shall give my name, and introduce you as my friend and companion.”
They had now reached the farmhouse, and dismounted in the yard. A fine-looking man, simply clad, whom they could have known for a farmer, came towards them and announced himself as the master of the house. Lenardo gave his name, and the farmer seemed highly delighted to see him and to make his acquaintance. “What will my wife say,” he exclaimed, “when she sees again the nephew of her benefactor! She cannot imagine or describe all that she and her father owe your uncle!”
What strange ideas forthwith crossed each other in Lenardo’s mind! “Does this man, who seems so honest, conceal his bitterness behind a friendly face and smooth words? Is he able to utter his reproaches with such a pleasant outward aspect? For has not my uncle made this family unhappy? And can it have remained unknown to him? Or—as it occurred to him with quick hopefulness—did the affair turn out less badly than you think? For, after all, you have never received any precise information.” Such suppositions alternated to and fro, whilst the master of the house caused the horses to be harnessed, in order to fetch his wife, who was paying a visit in the neighborhood.
“If, in the meantime, until my wife returns, I may entertain you after my fashion, and at the same time continue my work, take a few steps into the field with me, and see how I manage my business; for surely to you, as a great landowner, nothing can be more attractive than the noble science, the noble art, of tilling the soil.”
Lenardo did not object; Wilhelm was glad to instruct himself; and the farmer kept his land and soil, which he occupied and owned without let or hindrance, in perfectly good order. Whatever he undertook was calculated for the end in view; what he sowed and planted was thoroughly in the right place; he knew how to explain so clearly all the treatment and the reasons, that anybody could understand it, and would have thought it possible to do and achieve the same—an illusion into which we easily fall when we look at a master who does everything with ease.
The strangers showed themselves highly satisfied, and could bestow nothing but praise and approval. This he took thankfully and kindly, but still added, “But now I must also show you my weak side, which indeed is always observable in anyone who devotes himself exclusively to one object.”
He took them into his yard, showed them his implements, his stock of these, as well as the stock of all imaginable appliances, and what appertained to them. “I am often blamed,” he said, “for going too far in these things; but indeed I cannot reproach myself on that account. Happy is he to whom his business also becomes his toy, who at last actually plays and enjoys himself in what his situation has made a duty.”
The two friends were not wanting in questions and inquiries. Wilhelm particularly enjoyed the general remarks, to which this man seemed addicted, and did not fail to reply to them; whilst Lenardo, more absorbed in himself, was quietly sympathizing with Valerina’s happiness—which in this state of things he took for granted—yet with a feeling of uneasiness, of which he could give no account to himself.
They had already returned to the house, when the hostess’s carriage drove up. They hurried towards it; but how astonished, how shocked was Lenardo, when he beheld her dismount. It was not she; it was not the Nutbrown Maid: nay, just the reverse—a fine slim figure enough, it is true, but fair, with all the advantages peculiar to fair women.
This beauty, this grace, shocked Lenardo. His eyes had sought the brown maiden; now there beamed on him quite a different one. He remembered these features, too; her address, her manner relieved him soon of every uncertainty—it was the daughter of the lawyer, who was held by the uncle in great esteem, on which account he had also done a good deal towards setting up and helping the young couple.
All this, and more too, was joyfully recounted by the young woman as an introductory greeting, and with a delight such as the surprise of recognition calls forth without restraint. They inquired whether they remembered each other; they discussed the alterations in appearance, that are perceptible enough in persons of this age. Valerina had always been charming, but was in the highest degree amiable when joy drew her out of her ordinary indifferent mood. The party became talkative, and the conversation so lively, that Lenardo could recover himself and hide his astonishment. Wilhelm, to whom his friend had soon given a hint about this strange occurrence, did his best to help him; and Valerina’s little vanity, that the baron had remembered her, even before he had seen his own people, did not allow her to entertain the least suspicion, that any other intention or a misunderstanding was involved.
They remained together until late at night, although the two friends were longing for a confidential conversation, which began then and there, as soon as they were alone together in the guest-chamber.
“It seems,” said Lenardo, “that I am not to be relieved of my anxiety. An unfortunate confusion of names, as I perceive, increases it. This fair beauty I have often seen playing with the brown one, who could not be called a beauty; aye, even I myself, although much older, used to run about with them in the fields and gardens. Neither of them made the slightest impression upon me; I have only remembered the name of one of them, and bestowed it on the other. Now I find the one who does not interest me, after her own fashion happy beyond measure, whilst the other has been cast upon the wide world, who knows whither!”
On the following morning the friends were up almost earlier than the active farm-people. The pleasure of seeing her guests had also awakened Valerina betimes. She did not apprehend in what frame of mind they came to breakfast.
Wilhelm, who saw well that Lenardo remained in a most painful state, without any information about the Nutbrown Maid, turned the conversation to pastimes, to games, to the locality, which he himself knew, to other recollections—so that Valerina at last quite naturally came to mention the Nutbrown Maid, and pronounced her name.
Scarcely had Lenardo heard the name of Nachodina, than he remembered it perfectly; but also, with the name, the image of the supplicant returned to him with such an overwhelming power, that everything else became quite unendurable as Valerina with warm sympathy related the eviction of the pious tenant, his resignation, and his departure, and how he had leaned upon his daughter, who carried a little bundle. Lenardo thought that he should faint. Unfortunately, and at the same time fortunately, Valerina expatiated upon certain circumstances, which although they wounded Lenardo’s heart, still made it possible for him, with the assistance of his companion, to show some presence of mind.
They took leave amidst many and sincere requests on the part of husband and wife that they would return soon, and half-feigned assent on the part of the two guests. And as with a man who has a good opinion of himself everything turns to his advantage, so Valerina finally interpreted Lenardo’s silence, his visible distraction at parting, his hurried departure, in her own favor; and although the faithful and loving wife of an excellent farmer, she still could not help feeling a certain complacency in the reawakened or newly-born inclination, as she took it to be—of her former landlord.
After this strange occurrence, Lenardo said: “With such fine hopes, to have been shipwrecked so close to the harbor! The only thing that can now in any degree cheer me up, tranquillize me for the moment, and let me present myself to my people, is the consideration that Heaven has sent you to me—you, to whom from the nature of your own peculiar mission, it is indifferent whither or to what purpose it directs your path. Do you then undertake to find Nachodina, and give me news of her. If she is happy, then I am content; if she is unhappy, then help her at my expense. Act without misgiving; spare, omit nothing.”
“But towards what quarter of the earth,” said Wilhelm, laughing, “must I direct my steps? If you yourself have no idea, how shall I be endowed therewith?”
“Look here!” answered Lenardo, “last night, when you saw me pacing restlessly to and fro, passionately upsetting both my heart and head about the matter, there came to my mind an old friend, a worthy man, who without exactly tutoring me, has had a great influence upon my youth. I should like to have had him, at least for some time, as a travelling companion, if he had not been extraordinarily bound to his home by the most beautiful rarities of art and antiquity, which he only leaves for a few moments at a time. He, I know, enjoys an extensive acquaintance with everything that in this world is bound by any worthy clue; you hasten to him, tell him all that I have said, and it remains to be hoped, that his kindly feeling will suggest to him some place, some region, where she may be found. In my trouble it occurred to me, that the father of the child belonged to the denomination of Pietists; and, at the moment, I became sufficiently pious to apply myself to the moral ordering of this world, and to pray that in the present case, it may, with miraculous grace, reveal itself for once in my own favor.”
“But there is still a difficulty,” replied Wilhelm, “that remains to be solved. What must I do with my Felix? For I should not like to take him about with me upon a so utterly uncertain mission, and yet I should not like to part with him, for it seems to me that the son nowhere develops himself better than in the presence of the father.”
“By no means!” replied Lenardo; “this is a kindly paternal error. The father always retains a kind of despotic relation towards the son, whose virtues he does not recognize, and in whose faults he takes pleasure; on which account even the ancients used to say, that the sons of heroes turned out good-for-nothings, and I have seen enough of the world to make up my mind as to that matter. Happily our old friend, to whom I will at once give you a hurried letter, will also be able to suggest the best solution of this matter. When years ago I saw him last, he told me a great deal about a certain pedagogic association which I could only consider a kind of Utopia; it seemed to me as if, under the image of reality, a series of ideas, thoughts, proposals and intentions, were meant, which were really connected, but which in the ordinary course of things would be rather difficult to meet with. But because I know him, and because he likes to realize by means of images what is possible and impossible, I approved of it, and now it will serve our purpose; he is certainly able to indicate to you the place and surroundings to which you can confidently intrust your boy, and hope the best from a wise training.”
Conversing together in this manner as they rode, they came in view of a noble villa; its construction in a pleasantly sombre style, with an open space in front, and somewhat farther, a dignified surrounding of well-grown trees. Doors and shutters, however, were everywhere closed; all was deserted, yet at the same time looked in good condition. From an elderly man, who seemed to be employed at the entrance, they learned that this was the inheritance of a young man, to whom it had been left by his father, who had died quite recently at a very advanced age.
On further inquiry, they were informed that to the heir it unfortunately seemed all too complete: nothing was left for him to do, and that to enjoy things ready at hand was by no means his fashion; that therefore he had sought out for himself a locality nearer to the mountains, where he had built log huts for himself and his companions, and intended to found a kind of hunters’ hermitage. As far as concerned their informant they gathered that he was the hereditary steward, and took the most punctilious care for the preservation and cleanliness of the premises, in order that a grandson, succeeding to the tastes and the possession of the grandfather, might find everything just as the latter had left it.
Having for some time pursued their road in silence, Lenardo commenced with the observation, that it was a peculiarity inherent in man to want to begin at the beginning; upon which his friend replied, that this was an easy thing to explain, and allow for, because in a strict sense everyone really did begin from the beginning.
“And yet,” he exclaimed, “if to none are the sufferings remitted with which his ancestors were tortured, can you blame him for not wanting to have anything to do with their pleasures?”
Lenardo thereupon replied, “You encourage me to confess that in reality I do not like to work at anything but what I have myself created. I never liked a servant whom I had not educated from a child, or a horse that I had not myself broken in. In consequence of this mode of thinking, I will also willingly confess that I am irresistibly drawn towards primitive conditions; that my travels through all highly civilized lands and people have not availed to blunt these feelings; that my imagination seeks a pleasure beyond the sea, and that a hitherto neglected family possession in those young countries allows me to hope that a plan of mine, conceived in solitude and gradually maturing in accordance with my wishes, will at last be executed.”
“I have nothing to object to this,” Wilhelm replied; “an idea of this kind, turned towards what is new and unsettled, has something peculiar and great about it. I only beg you to reflect, that such an enterprise can only succeed for a community. You cross the sea, and there find family possessions ready, I know; my friends entertain similar plans, and have already settled there. Associate yourself with these prudent, wise, and strong people; for both sides the matter will thereby be lightened and enlarged.”
With conversation of this kind the friends reached the spot where they must now really separate. They both sat down to write; Lenardo recommended his friend to the singular man above-mentioned, and Wilhelm described to his colleagues the position of his new associate, out of which naturally enough arose a letter of recommendation, in which, in conclusion, he also urged the matter that he had discussed with Jarno, and further set forth the reasons for which he wished to be freed as soon as possible from the inconvenient condition that stamped him as a wandering Jew. In reading these letters to each other, Wilhelm could not refrain from again bringing home to his friend certain other doubts.
“I consider it,” he said, “in my position the most enviable duty to free you, noble-hearted man, from a state of mental anxiety, and at the same time to rescue a human creature from misery, if she happen to be therein. Such an aim one might regard as a star, by which we sail, even whilst ignorant of what may happen to us, or what we may meet on the road. Still, I cannot hide from myself the danger to which in any case you are always exposed. If you were not a man who absolutely declines to pledge his word, I would require of you the promise never again to see this female, who will cost you so dear; to content yourself, if I inform you that she is well, in case I should be fortunate enough to ascertain that she is really happy, or am able to contribute to her happiness. But, since I neither can nor will induce you to make any promise, I implore you, by all that is dear to you and holy, for the sake of yourself and your people, and of myself, your newly-acquired friend, never to allow yourself any approach to that lost maiden on any pretext whatever; nor to ask me to indicate circumstantially, or even name the place, where I may find her, or the neighborhood where I leave her. You must only believe my word that she is well, and therewith be relieved and set at rest.”
Lenardo laughed and replied: “Only do me this service, and I shall be grateful. You shall have the credit for what you can and will do, and leave me to time, to common sense, and if possible to reason.”
“Pardon me,” Wilhelm replied; “he who knows under what strange forms inclination insinuates itself into us, must feel concerned when he foresees that a friend may wish for that which, in his condition and in his circumstances, must necessarily bring about misfortune and confusion.”
“I hope,” said Lenardo, “that if I know that the girl is happy, I shall be done with her.” The friends then separated, each in his own direction.
By a short and pleasant road, Wilhelm had reached the town to which his letter was addressed. He found it cheerful and well built; but an appearance of newness betrayed only too clearly that it must have recently suffered from fire. The address of his letter took him to the last, small portion of the town that had escaped, to a house of an ancient, solemn style of architecture. Colored window-panes, strangely combined together, gave indication of a cheerful wealth of color within. And the interior really corresponded with the outside. In the sombre rooms were seen on all sides pieces of furniture that might have served several generations already, interspersed with but few modern ones. The master of the house received him kindly, in an apartment similarly furnished. Many an hour of birth and death had these clocks already struck, and all that stood around called to mind that the past could flow on into the present. The visitor delivered his letter, but his host laid it aside without opening it, and in a cheerful conversation essayed in a direct way to become acquainted with his guest. They soon grew confidential, and when Wilhelm, contrary to his usual habit, allowed his glances to run observantly about the room, the kind old man said: “My surroundings awaken your interest. You see here how long a thing can last. And one must, too, look on such things as the counterpoise of what changes and alters so rapidly in the world. This tea-kettle before now served my parents, and was a witness of our evening family gatherings. This copper fire-screen still continues to protect me from the fire, which this strong old poker stirs up, and so it is with everything. I have consequently been able to devote sympathy and activity to many other subjects because I have not troubled myself further about the changing of these external requirements that expend the time and strength of so many people. A loving attention to what man possesses makes him rich while he thereby amasses for himself a wealth of memories in unimportant things. I have known a young man, who, in taking leave of his sweetheart, stole from her a pin, with which he used daily to pin on his cravat, and actually brought home from a distant journey of many years’ length this cherished and carefully preserved object. To us other petty human beings this may well be reckoned as a virtue.”
“Many also,” added Wilhelm, “perhaps bring back from a like long journey a thorn in the heart, that probably they would rather be free of.”
The old man seemed to know nothing about Lenardo’s circumstances, although he had in the meantime opened and read the letter, for he again returned to his former reflections.
“Attachment to what we possess,” he continued, “in many instances gives us the greatest energy. To this kind of selfishness I owe the saving of my house. When the town was on fire, those too, who were with me, wanted to run away and escape. I forbade it, ordered windows and doors to be shut, and with several of my neighbors turned to deal with the flames. Our efforts were successful in saving unscathed this corner of the town. The next morning everything in my house stood as you see it, and as it has stood almost a hundred years.”
“With all that,” said Wilhelm, “you will confess that man cannot resist changes that time brings about.”
“Granted,” said the old man; “but still he who has kept himself longest has also achieved something. Nay, we are even able to preserve and make sure beyond the term of our existence: we hand down knowledge, we transfer tastes just as well as property; and as it is for me chiefly a question of the latter, I have on this account for a long time been wonderfully cautious, and hit on quite peculiar expedients; but only of late have I succeeded in seeing my desire fulfilled. Usually the son scatters abroad what the father has collected, collects something different, or in different manner. But if we are able to wait for the grandson, for the new generation, then the same inclinations, the same objects come to light. And thus at last through the interest of our pedagogue-friends, I have got hold of a fine young man, who if possible is more tenacious of heirlooms than myself, and feels a strong bent for curious things. He has entirely gained my confidence through the strenuous efforts by which he succeeded in averting the fire from our house; he has doubly and trebly earned the treasure, the possession of which I think of bequeathing to him; nay, it is already handed over to him, and since that time our store has been increased in a wonderful way. Yet not all that you see here is ours; rather, just as at a pawnbroker’s you behold many an alien jewel, so I can also point out to you some valuables, which under the most diverse circumstances have been deposited here for better keeping.”
Wilhelm thought of the splendid casket, which in any case he did not like to carry about with him on journeys, and he did not refrain from showing it to his friend. The old man looked at it attentively, named the time when it must have been made, and showed him something similar. Wilhelm then mooted the point whether it might be opened.
The old man thought not.
“I believe indeed,” he said, “that it could be done, without any particular damage; but, since you have obtained it by such a strange accident, you ought to try your fortune with it. For if you are born to good luck, and if this casket betokens anything, then in time the key must be found for it, and just where you expect it least.”
“There are probably such cases,” replied Wilhelm.
“I have myself experienced several,” answered the old man, “and here you see the most remarkable one before you. For thirty years I possessed the body of this ivory crucifix with head and feet all of one piece; for its subject, as well as its most exquisite art, it was carefully locked up in my most precious drawer. About ten years ago, I received the cross belonging to it, with the inscription, and I let myself be persuaded to have the arms put on, by the cleverest carver of our time; yet how far was the good man behind his predecessor! Still, it might pass, more for edifying contemplation than for admiration of the workmanship. Now, only think of my delight! A short time ago I received the original, genuine arms, as you here see them, fitted on in the loveliest accord! And in my rapture at so happy a coincidence, I cannot refrain from recognizing in this the destinies of the Christian religion, which, often enough divided and scattered, must yet at last meet again at the cross.”
Wilhelm admired the image and its strange recombination. “I shall follow your advice,” he added; “let the casket remain shut, until the key has been found, even if it should lie by to the end of my life.”
“He who lives long,” said the old man, “sees many things gathered together, and many dispersed.”
The young joint-owner just then entered, and Wilhelm declared his intention of intrusting the casket to their keeping. A large book was now brought, and the property intrusted was entered; a receipt was made out with the observance of many ceremonies and stipulations. It was, in point of fact, expressed in favor of anyone who presented it, but would be honored only on a special sign agreed upon with the receiver.
When this was all completed, the contents of the letter were considered, the reception of the good Felix being first discussed, in which matter the elderly friend, without more ado, propounded certain maxims, which ought to form the basis of education.
“All life, all activity, all art must be preceded by handiwork, that can only be acquired in a limited sphere. A correct knowledge and practice give a higher culture than half-knowledge in hundredfold. In the place that I have indicated to you all activities have been isolated; the pupils are tested at every step; thereby a man finds out whither his nature really tends, or if he is turning with confused wishes, now this way, now that. Wise men allow the boy to find at hand what suits him; they cut off the by-roads along which men will only too easily stray away from their vocation.
“In the next place,” he continued, “I venture to hope that, from that grandly based centre, they will guide you upon the road to where that good girl will be found, who has made such a wonderful impression upon your friend, who by dint of moral feeling and reflection has so highly enhanced the value of an innocent, unfortunate creature that he has been compelled to make her existence the end and aim of his life. I hope that you will be able to set him at rest; for Providence possesses a thousand means of raising the fallen, and setting up those bowed down. Our destiny often looks like a fruit-tree in winter. Who would think from its pitiable aspect that those rigid boughs, those rough twigs could next spring again be green, bloom, and even bear fruit? Yet we hope it, we know it.”
[* ] A common name for the mineral mica.
[* ] This story is substantially the same as one given in the first Gospel of the Infancy of Christ, which was received as authentic by the Gnostics of the second century. The same apocryphal book gives various details of the Flight into Egypt, which St. Matthew so briefly records.—Ed.
[* ] The lily-stalk, of course, referred to the well-known legend of the budding of St. Joseph’s rod, when he presented himself as a suitor for Mary—the subject of many early paintings. The legend is probably derived from the uncanonical Gospel of the Birth of Mary given by St. Jerome.—Ed.
[* ] A name supposed to be assumed by Jarno. See “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.”
[* ] Goethe inserted a version of this ballad in Schiller’s Muscnalmanach for 1799, before he translated the story. The French original is ‘La Folle en Pélérinage.’
[* ] Cesare Beccaria of Bonesana, whose work ‘Dei Delitti e Delle Pene,’ first published anonymously in 1764, gave an impulse to the study of penal laws.—D.
[† ] Gaetana Filangieri, the renowned author of ‘La Scienza della Legislazione’ (8 vols. 1781-88), whose acquaintance Goethe had made in Naples.—D.
[* ] William Penn, to whom, in 1681, Charles II. granted estates in North America, which he settled as a colony of Quakers, and from which arose the State of Pennsylvania, died in England in 1718.—Ed.
[* ]Oberamtmann: a superior government official charged with the administration of justice.—Ed.
[* ] Under this title (Anton Reiser) C. Ph. Moritz published an autobiography of his early years.—D.
[* ] See note, p. 48.
[* ] A religious sect so called. See Goethe’s Autobiography (trans. vol. i. p. 30).