Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER IX. - 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 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.
[* ] See note, p. 48.