Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK III. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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BOOK III. - 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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After all this, and whatever followed upon it, Wilhelm’s first anxiety was to come into contact again with the guild-brethren, and to meet with some portion or other of them, wherever it might be. He therefore consulted his little diagram, and took the road which promised to bring him sooner than the others to his goal. But since, in order to reach the most favorable point, it was necessary for him to go across country, he found himself obliged to make the journey on foot, and to have his baggage carried after him. However, at every step he was richly rewarded for his walk, for he encountered unexpectedly the most lovely scenery. It was such as the last mountainous tracts form as they merge into the plains—wooded hills, gentle declivities used for husbandry, all the surfaces green, and nowhere aught that was rugged, unfruitful, or untilled to be seen. He now arrived at the main valley, into which the tributary streams poured themselves; this, too, was carefully tilled, and pleasant to behold: slender trees marked the bends of the river that flowed through it, and of the streams that poured into it; and when he took up the map that was his guide, he saw, to his astonishment, that the line drawn upon it cut right through this valley, and that thus he was at any rate upon the right path.
An old castle, in a good state of preservation, having been renovated at various periods, was conspicuous upon a woody hill; spreading outward from its foot lay a cheerful-looking village, in which an inn that stood out prominently caught the eye. He walked up to the latter, and was received in a very friendly manner by the host, but with the excuse that he could not take him in without the permission of a party who had hired the whole house for a time, on which account he was obliged to refer all guests to the older hostelry, that lay farther up.
After a short parley, the man seemed to think better of it, and said, “As a matter of fact, there is no one as yet in the house; but it happens to be Saturday, and it cannot be long before the bailiff, who settles the accounts every week and gives his orders for the next, arrives. In truth there is a nice regularity amongst these people, and it is a pleasure to deal with them, although they are rather close. For if there certainly is no great profit, it is a sure one.” Therewith he bade the new guest remain patiently in the large upper hall, and await what further might occur.
Here he found, on entering, a spacious and neat apartment, quite empty but for benches and tables; so much the more did he wonder on seeing a large tablet placed above a door, upon which, in letters of gold, were to be read the words Ubi homines sunt, modi sunt, which we interpret to the effect that wherever men meet together in social life, there the way and fashion in which they can exist and remain together are evolved. This motto gave our wanderer food for thought; he took it as a good omen, that here he found confirmed what he had often in the course of his life recognized as reasonable and helpful. It was not long before the bailiff made his appearance, who, having been instructed beforehand, admitted him, after a short conversation and no particular investigation, on the following conditions: that he should stay three days, should quietly take part in all that went on, and, whatever might happen, should not inquire the reason, and still less should not, on his departure, ask for the reckoning. All this the traveller was forced to agree to, since the deputy, as such, could not give in in any point.
The bailiff was just about to depart, when a song resounded up the stairs: two beautiful young men approached singing, whom the bailiff by a simple sign gave to understand that the guest was accepted. Without interrupting their song, they greeted him kindly, gracefully singing a duet, and it was easy to see that they were in perfect practice, and masters of their craft. As Wilhelm showed the most attentive appreciation, they stopped and asked him whether in his travels on foot he too had not often hit upon some song that he thus sang aloud to himself.
“A good voice,” answered Wilhelm, “has in fact been denied me by nature, but a hidden genius within me often seems to inspire me with something rhythmic, so that in walking I move constantly in time, and at the same time seem to perceive soft tones by which some song is accompanied, that in one way or another pleasantly presents itself to me.”
“If you remember any one of the sort, write it down for us,” said he; “we should like to see whether we are able to accompany your singing daimon.”
Hereupon he took a leaf from his notebook and handed them the following stanza:
After a short time for thought there forthwith sounded a lively duet, timed to marching pace, which, with all repetition and abridgment, went constantly forward and carried away the hearers with it; he was in doubt whether this was his own melody, his former theme, or whether it was only now so adapted to it that no other movement was conceivable. In this way the singers had proceeded pleasantly for some time, when two sturdy fellows entered, whom one recognized at once by their attributes as masons; but two who followed them, one must needs regard as carpenters. These four, gently laying down their tools, listened to the song, and presently joined in with sureness and decision, so that one had the sensation of a whole company of travellers marching onward over mountain and valley, and Wilhelm thought that he had never heard anything so graceful and so elevating to heart and mind. This enjoyment, however, was to be further increased and heightened to the last degree, when a gigantic figure mounted the steps, and with the best intentions was scarcely able to moderate his powerful, heavy tread. He proceeded to stand a heavily-packed porter’s frame in the corner, but sat himself down upon a bench, which began to crack—at which the others laughed, yet without falling out of the song. But very much astonished was Wilhelm when this son of Anak immediately began to join in with a tremendous bass voice. The hall trembled, and it was noticeable that he, in his part, at once altered the refrain, and sang it, in fact, in this shape:
Moreover, one could very soon see that he brought down the time to a slower pace, and obliged the others to adapt themselves to him. When at length they had come to an end, and had fully satisfied themselves, the others upbraided him as if he had tried to mislead them.
“Not at all,” he exclaimed; “it is you who tried to mislead me: you were for throwing me out of my step, which must be measured and sure when I trudge with my burden up hill and down dale, and yet must at last come at the appointed hour and satisfy you.”
One after the other now went in to the bailiff, and Wilhelm could easily see that the business was about settling accounts, as to which he did not venture to make further inquiry. In the meantime there came a couple of lively, handsome boys, who laid a table in haste, providing it moderately with eatables and wine, to which the bailiff, who came out of his room, now invited all to sit down with him. The boys waited upon them, but they did not forget to look after themselves too, and ate their share standing. Wilhelm called to mind similar scenes when he still dwelt amongst the actors; but the present party seemed to him much more earnest, intent not on amusement in representation, but on important aims in life.
The conversation between the craftsmen and the bailiff gave the guest the clearest knowledge on this point. The four sturdy young fellows were employed in the neighborhood, where a destructive fire had laid a most beautiful country-town in ashes; nor did he fail to hear that the honest bailiff was engaged in procuring timber and other building materials. This seemed the more inexplicable to the guest, inasmuch as the men, one and all, were not natives of the place, but in every other respect were evidently passing travellers. At the end of the meal St. Christopher, for so they named the giant, fetched from one side a good glass of wine, by way of a sleeping-draught, and a lively song held the party together for a time, for the ear, when for the eye they had already dispersed. Wilhelm, thereupon, was conducted to a chamber of most pleasant aspect. The full-moon, illuminating a luxuriant plain, was already up, and awakened in the breast of our wanderer recollections of similar and equally beautiful scenes. The spirits of all his dear friends passed in procession before him; but Lenardo’s figure especially was so life-like to him, that he fancied he saw him standing actually before him. All this was giving him an inward disposition for his nightly rest, when he was almost frightened by a most extraordinary noise. It sounded from the distance, and yet seemed to be in the house itself, for the house frequently shook, and the timbers groaned when the sound mounted to its highest strength. Wilhelm, who in general had a delicate ear to distinguish all sounds, could make nothing of it; he compared it with the droning of a large organ-pipe, that from sheer size is unable to give out any definite tone. Whether this night-terror ceased towards morning, or whether Wilhelm, by degrees accustomed to it, was no longer sensible of it, is difficult to ascertain;* in fine, he fell asleep, and was pleasantly aroused by the rising sun.
Scarcely had one of the waiting-boys brought him breakfast, when a figure entered whom he had noticed at supper, without being clear as to his peculiar qualities. He was a well-built, broad-shouldered, and active man withal, who by his implements exhibited to view announced himself as a barber, and made himself ready to render to Wilhelm this so requisite service. At the same time he remained silent, and the business was accomplished with a very light hand, without his having emitted a single sound.
Wilhelm therefore began, and said, “You are a master-hand at your business, and I do not know that I have ever felt a gentler blade upon my cheeks; but at the same time you seem to pay strict observance to the laws of the society.”
With a sly smile, and laying his finger on his lips, he slipped mutely out of the door.
“In very truth,” called Wilhelm after him, “you must be ‘Redcloak,’† or, if not himself, at least a descendant of his. It is fortunate for you that you do not require a return of your service from me. You would have come off badly.”
Scarcely had this extraordinary man departed when our friend the bailiff entered, proffering an invitation to dinner that midday, which also ran somewhat strangely. The Bond—so the inviter expressly stated—bade the friend welcome, invited him to the mid-day meal, and flattered itself with the hope of coming into nearer relations with him. It further inquired after the guest’s well-being, and how he was satisfied with the accommodation, to which he could only reply with praise of everything that he had encountered. It is true that he would have liked to inquire of this man, as of the mute barber before, about the horrible noise which had disturbed, if not distressed him in the night; yet, mindful of his promise, he refrained from every question, and hoped, without being importunate, to be enlightened in accordance with his wishes, either through the complaisance of the society or by some chance.
When our friend found himself alone, he at last began to think about the strange person who had sent him the invitation, and he did not know what to make of it. To designate one or more leaders by means of a neuter substantive, seemed to him rather dubious. For the rest, all was so quiet about him here that he thought he had never spent a quieter Sunday. He went out of doors; but hearing the sound of bells, he walked towards the little town. Mass was just over, and amongst the townsfolk and the peasants who were thronging out he saw the three acquaintances of yesterday, a journeyman carpenter, a mason, and a boy. Later he noticed amongst the Protestant worshippers the three others. What form of worship the others professed remained unknown to him: thus much, however, he was confident in concluding, that in this society a very decided freedom in religion prevailed.
At noon the bailiff came to meet him at the castle-door, to conduct him through various halls into a large vestibule, where he bade him sit down. A good many people kept walking past into an adjoining saloon. Those he knew already were to be seen amongst them; even St. Christopher went by. They all greeted the bailiff and the visitor. What struck our friend here most, was that he seemed to see none but artisans; all clad in their ordinary dress, but with extreme neatness; there were few whom, at best, he would have taken to be of the scrivener class.
As soon as no new guests continued to press in, the bailiff led our friend through the stately portal into a spacious hall. There an interminably long table was spread, from the lower end of which he was conducted to the top, across which he saw three persons standing. But with what astonishment was he seized, when he came near, and Lenardo, hardly yet recognized, fell upon his neck. He had scarcely recovered from this surprise, when another person embraced Wilhelm no less ardently and vigorously, and proclaimed himself to be Natalia’s brother, the wonderful Friedrich. The delight of the friends infected the whole assembly: words of congratulation and blessing re-echoed along the whole table. But of a sudden, when they were seated, all was still, and the repast was served up, and eaten with a certain solemnity.
Towards the end of the meal Lenardo gave a signal. Two singers stood up, and Wilhelm was much surprised to hear repeated his song of yesterday, which we find it necessary, on account of what immediately follows, to insert once more:
Hardly had this duet, accompanied by a chorus of agreeable strength, approached its end, when two other singers impetuously rose opposite to each other, and with serious emphasis paraphrased rather than continued the song; and to the astonishment of the guest expressed themselves thus:
The chorus striking into this strophe became more and more numerous, more and more powerful, and yet the voice of St. Christopher could soon be distinguished from the lower end of the table. The dirge swelled till at last it was almost terrible; a weird mood, by dint of skill on the part of the singers, introduced something fugue-like into the whole, so that our friend felt as if he should shudder. They all really seemed as if they were completely of one mind, and were lamenting their own destiny just before their separation. The strangest repetitions, the frequent revival of an almost expiring song, seemed at last dangerous to the band itself. Lenardo stood up, and all, breaking off the hymn, immediately sat down.
He began, with kindly words: “In truth I cannot blame you for making ever present to yourselves the fate that confronts us all, so that you may be prepared for it at any hour. Yet if men weary of life, and full of years, have cried to their brethren, ‘Think of dying!’* so ought we, we younger men full of life, to be ever encouraging each other, and admonish ourselves with the cheering words ‘Think of wandering!’ But it were well, withal, to mention with caution and cheerfulness, whatever we either undertake voluntarily, or think that we are constrained to do. You know best what amongst us is fixed, and what is movable; allow us to enjoy this too in glad encouraging strains, to which for this time let this parting glass be drunk!”
Thereupon he emptied his goblet and sat down: the four singers thereupon stood up, and began in flowing self-connecting tones—
On the repetition of the chorus Lenardo stood up, and all the rest with him; a signal from him set the whole table in motion in time with the singing: those at the lower end, headed by St. Christopher, marched out of the hall in pairs, and the harmonious wanderers’ song grew more and more joyous and free: but it sounded especially well when the party, assembled in the terraced castle-garden, looked over the spacious valley in the luxuriance and beauty of which one might well have wished to lose one’s self. Whilst they were dispersing themselves on this side or that at their pleasure, Wilhelm was made acquainted with the third superior. He was the bailiff, who, in addition to many other advantages, had been able to procure for this society, as long as they found it convenient to stay here, the use of the count’s castle, which lay amidst several noblemen’s manors: but on the other hand, being a clever man, had managed to turn the presence of such unwonted guests to good account. For whilst for a moderate payment he opened his nurseries, and was able to provide aught else that was helpful for support of life or in time of need, he took the same opportunity of having long-neglected roofs changed, rafters replaced, walls propped, planks set straight, and other defects repaired, to such a degree, that a property belonging to an expiring family, long neglected and falling into decay, preserved the cheerful aspect of a dwelling used for living in, and bore witness that life creates life, and that he who is useful to others, also puts them under the necessity of being of use to him.
Hersilia to Wilhelm.
“My situation appears to me like a tragedy by Alfieri; when the confidants altogether fail it must all, at last, be carried on in monologue. And in truth a correspondence with you is exactly like a monologue: for as a matter of fact your answers merely superficially take up our syllables for the purpose of causing them to die gradually away. Have you in only a single instance made any reply to which one could say anything in return? Your letters are all parrying and evasion; when I stand up to go and meet you, you motion me back again to my seat.
“The above was written some days ago: a fresh necessity and occasion now occurs for conveying these present to Lenardo: there they find you, or it is known where you are to be found. But wherever they may reach you my remarks come to this, that if, on reading this letter, you do not immediately jump up from your seat, and like a pious Wanderer do not speedily present yourself before me, I declare you to be the most manlike of all men: that is to say, one in whom the most lovable of all the characteristics of our sex is totally wanting: whereby I signify curiosity, which at this very moment most unmistakably torments me.
“In short, the little key of your ornamental casket has been found; but this no one but you and I must know. How it has come into my hands learn now.
“A few days ago our agent receives a despatch from a foreign authority, in which the inquiry is made whether at such and such a time in this neighborhood a boy has not been stopping, who was expert in all sorts of tricks, and who at last forfeited his jacket in some audacious enterprise. According to the description of this rascal, no doubt remains that it is that Fitz of whom Felix had so much to tell, and whom he so often wished to have for a playfellow again.
“Now this note made a request for the aforesaid garment, if it were still in existence, because the boy on being subjected to examination had appealed to it. Our agent accordingly takes an opportunity of mentioning this presumption, and submits the little jacket to us before he sends it away.
“A good or evil spirit impels me to feel in the breast-pocket; a tiny little angular something comes into my hand: I, who am in general so apprehensive, nervous and timid, shut my hand, keep it, say nothing, and the coat is sent away. The strangest of all sensations immediately seizes me. At the first stolen peep I see, I guess that it is the key to your casket. Now came strange conscientious doubts; all sorts of scruples arose within me. To make the discovery public, to surrender it, was impossible for me. Of what interest was it to those magistrates, when it might be so useful to our friend? Then many considerations of right and duty again arose, which, however, could not convince me.
“So you see now in what a situation friendship involves me. A famous faculty suddenly develops itself for your sake: what a wonderful occurrence. May it be nothing more than friendship that holds the balance for my conscience to such purpose. What between guilt and curiosity I am marvellously discomposed. I fancy a hundred whims and stories which may follow on it. Law and justice are not to be trifled with. Hersilia the careless and occasionally domineering creature involved in a criminal prosecution! for that is what it may come to. And what else can I do but think of the friend, for whose sake I endure all this? I have thought of you on other accounts, too, but at intervals; but now it is without ceasing. Now when my heart throbs, and I think of the eighth commandment, I must turn to you as to the saint who has occasioned the trespass, and can presumably also absolve me again. And so only the opening of the casket will pacify me. My curiosity is doubly strong. Come as soon as you can, and bring the casket with you! To what judgment-seat the secret properly belongs, we will make out between us. Till then it remains between us. Let no one know of it, be it who it will!
“There! But, my friend, now to conclude, what do you say to this picture of the puzzle? Does it not remind one of an arrow with barbs? God be gracious to us! But the casket must first stand unopened between me and you; and then when opened, enjoin the rest itself. I should be glad if nothing at all were found inside: and what else and all do I not wish; and what else could I not tell you?—yet let this be withheld from you, so that you may the more quickly get on your way.
“And now, girl-like enough, one more postscript! What, in point of fact, have I and you to do with the casket? It belongs to Felix; he found it, and intrusted it to me: we must fetch him here: out of his presence, we ought not to open it.
“And what conditions are these again! The matter shifts and shifts itself again.
“Why are you roaming about so in the world? Come here; bring with you the dear boy. I should like to see him once more.
“And so there they go again,—father and son. Do what you can, but come both of you!”
The preceding extraordinary letter had been written, in truth, long before, and carried to and fro, until now at last it could be delivered in accordance with its address. Wilhelm decided to answer in a friendly manner—but declining—by the first messenger, who was about to depart. Hersilia seemed not to take the distance into account, and he was at present too seriously occupied for even the slightest curiosity as to what might be found in the casket to be able to attract him.
Certain mishaps too which had befallen the boldest members of this brave company, gave him an opportunity of showing himself a master in the art that he had adopted. And as one word suggests another, so still more happily does one deed follow on another, and if finally occasion is again given thereby for words, they are so much the more fruitful and elevating to the mind. Their conversations were therefore as instructive as they were enjoyable, for the friends reciprocally rendered account of the progress of their learning and doing hitherto; whence had ensued such an amount of culture, to their mutual astonishment, that between themselves they must needs learn to know each other anew.
One evening then Wilhelm began his story:—“I forthwith essayed to pursue my surgical studies at a large institution in the largest town, in which alone they are possible: to anatomy, as the fundamental study, I at once applied myself with zeal.
“By a peculiar method which no one would guess, I had already made good progress in knowledge of the human frame: and this was during my theatrical career. When all is properly looked to, the physical man after all plays the principal part there—a fine man, a fine woman! If the manager is lucky enough to have got hold of these, comedy and tragedy writers are assured. The freer footing upon which such society lives makes their associates more familiar with the peculiar beauty of the uncovered limbs than any other relationship: different costumes even oblige them to make visible what otherwise is generally concealed. On this point I might have much to say, as also of physical defects which the sensible actor must recognize in himself or others, in order if not to correct, at least to hide them. In this way I was sufficiently prepared to give consistency to the anatomical course which taught me to know the outer parts more accurately, whilst the inner parts too were not strange to me, inasmuch as a certain preconception of them had always been present to me. A disagreeable hindrance to this study was the continually repeated complaint of the want of subjects, of the inadequate number of dead bodies which we desired, for such high ends, to subject to the knife. To provide these, if not adequately, at any rate in as large a number as possible, strict laws had been promulgated: not only criminals, who in every sense had forfeited their individual existence, but others too, neglected in body or mind, were laid claim to.
“In proportion to the need, the severity increased, and therewith the repugnance of the people who in a moral and religious sense cannot give up their personality, nor that of persons beloved by them. But the evil increased more and more, whilst a distracting anxiety arose that there was occasion to fear for the peaceful graves of beloved ones departed. No age, no rank,—neither high nor low,—was any longer secure in its resting-place; the mound which had been decked with flowers, the inscriptions with which they had sought to preserve a memory,—nothing could give protection from the profitable depredation; the painfullest separation seemed disturbed in the most horrible way, and even whilst one turned away from the grave a fear was felt lest the decently clad and composed limbs of the beloved ones should be known to have been severed, misplaced and dishonored.
“But all this was repeatedly talked of, and discussed over and over again without anyone having thought about a remedy, or having been able to think of one; and the complaints became continually more universal when young men who had listened to the course of lectures with attention were desirous of convincing themselves also with hand and eye of what they had hitherto seen and heard, and of transferring such necessary knowledge more deeply and vividly to the imagination. At such times there arises a sort of unnatural scientific famine, which awakens a craving after the most repulsive sort of satisfaction, as if it were the most pleasant and necessary.
“Such deferring and delaying had for some time occupied and interested those who were keen for knowledge and action, when at last one morning an occurrence, over which the whole town was set astir, for some hours passionately evoked all the pros and cons. An exceedingly beautiful girl, distracted by an unhappy love, had sought and found her death in the water. The anatomical school got possession of her: all in vain were the efforts of the parents, the relatives, nay, of the lover himself, who had been the object of only a false suspicion: the higher authorities, who had just made the law more stringent, could assent to no exception, and they even hastened to avail themselves of the prize as quickly as possible, and to distribute it for use.”
Wilhelm,* who as the first candidate was summoned forthwith, found in front of the seat indicated to him, up on a plain board neatly covered, a critical task; for when he took off the covering, there lay exposed to view the most beautiful female arm that probably had ever wound itself round a youth’s neck. He held his instrument-case in his hand and did not trust himself to open it; he stood up, not venturing to sit down. Repugnance to still further deforming this glorious product of nature contended with the demand which the eager man of science had to make upon himself, and which all who sat around him took care to satisfy.
At this moment there came up to him a man of good appearance, whom he had noticed—though but seldom—yet always as a very attentive listener and observer, and about whom he had already inquired. No one however had been able to give more exact information: that he was a sculptor, all were agreed, but he was also held to be an alchemist, who lived in a large old house, the first floor of which was alone accessible to visitors or to those who were employed by him, whilst all the other rooms were shut up. This man had at various times approached Wilhelm, and had gone away from lecture with him, but yet he seemed to shun any further connection or explanation.
On this occasion, however, he spoke with a certain frankness: “I see that you hesitate, you are amazed at the beautiful form, and are unable to destroy it: put yourself above professional feeling, and follow me.” Thereupon he covered up the arm again, made a sign to the servitor, and the two left the place. They walked side by side in silence, until the half-known one stopped before a large gateway, the wicket of which he opened, and obliged our friend to enter. There he found himself upon a stage, large and spacious, such as we see in old business-houses where the cases and bales arriving are at once shipped away. Here were standing plaster-casts of statues and busts, as well as boarded receptacles, packed and empty.
“It looks business-like here,” said the man; “the means of carriage by water possible from here are invaluable to me.”
Now, all this agreed quite well with the trade of a sculptor; nor could Wilhelm think otherwise when the friendly host took him up a few steps into a large room adorned round about with plaques in high and low relief, with large and small figures, with busts and separate members of the most lovely figures. Our friend regarded all this with pleasure, and gladly listened to his host’s instructive words, although he must needs be conscious of a wide gulf between these artistic labors and the scientific aspirations from which they had come away.
At last the owner of the house said with some seriousness: “My reason for bringing you here, you will soon see. This door,” he continued, as he turned towards one side, “is nearer to the door of the hall from which we have come than you may think.” Wilhelm entered, and in truth had occasion for surprise, when, instead of seeing as before the imitation of living forms, he here found the walls covered throughout with anatomical dissections, made it might be of wax or of some other material; enough, they had throughout the fresh-colored appearance of preparations that had just been made.
“Here, my friend,” said the artist, “here you see the inestimable substitutes for those subjects which we, with the disapprobation of the world, at unseasonable moments, with disgust and with great anxiety prepare for destruction or for a repulsive preservation. I am obliged to carry on this business in the greatest secrecy; for you must before now have heard men of the faculty speak of it with depreciation. I do not let myself be put out, and I am preparing something which in the long run will assuredly have great effect. The surgeon especially, if he elevates himself to the plastic idea, will certainly be able in every case of injury to come to the aid of nature, ever reconstructing with the best effect; even the physician would be elevated in his functions by such a conception. Yet let us not waste many words! You shall learn, in brief, that building-up teaches more than pulling in pieces, joining together more than separating, animating what is dead more than killing over again what is killed: in short, then, will you be my pupil?” And on his assenting, the expert laid the skeleton of a woman’s arm in front of his guest in the same position in which they had seen one before them a short time before.
“I have had occasion to notice,” continued the master, “how you have given thorough attention to the subject of the ligaments, and very properly, for with them the lifeless heap of bones first begins to live again for us. Ezekiel had first to see his field of bones join and unite themselves in this fashion before the limbs could move, the arms feel about and the feet stand up. Here is pliable material, small rods, and aught else that may be required; now try your luck!”
The new pupil collected his thoughts, and when he began to examine the portions of bone more closely, he saw that they were carved artificially from wood.
“I have,” remarked the teacher, “an expert man, whose art was going in quest of bread, when the saints and martyrs whom he had been accustomed to carve no longer found a sale. I therefore induced him to master the art of skeleton-making, and to practise in life-size and on a smaller scale after nature.”
Our friend now did his best, and earned the approbation of his adviser. It was a pleasure to him to test how strong or weak his recollection was, and he found to his satisfaction and astonishment that it was called up again by action. He conceived a passion for this work, and begged of the master to be admitted into his house. Here he worked incessantly; and the bones, large and small, of the arm, were very quickly united. But from here were to proceed the sinews and muscles, and it seemed a complete impossibility to readjust in this way the whole body similarly in all its parts. But on this point the teacher consoled him by showing him the process of multiplication by casting, since otherwise the imitation, and the perfection of the models, required a fresh effort again and fresh attention.
Everything to which man applies himself in earnest is a constant toil; it is only by emulous industry that he contrives to make head against it. Wilhelm too soon got over the condition of feeling his inability, which is always a kind of despair, and felt himself at home in the work.
“I am glad,” said the master, “that you are able to adapt yourself to this mode of proceeding, and that you give me evidence of how fruitful such a method is, even if it is not recognized by the masters of the faculty. A school there must be, and this will chiefly occupy itself with tradition: what has taken place heretofore must continue to take place in the future: this is good, and must and shall be. But the point where the school stops short must be marked and understood; what is living must be grasped and made use of, but quietly, or otherwise one is hindered, and hinders others. You have felt in a living way, and show it practically. Joining is more than separating, imitation more than inspection.”
Wilhelm now learned that such models were, privately, already widely distributed, but to his greatest astonishment he heard that the stock in hand was to be packed up to go abroad. This sterling artist had already established relations with Lothario and those friends of his: the establishment of such a school in those self-developing provinces was considered to be especially fitting, nay, necessary in the highest degree, especially amongst naturally moral and right-thinking people, for whom actual dissection has always something cannibal-like.
“If you grant that the greater number of physicians and surgeons retain in their minds, and believe that they will get on with, only a general impression of the dissected human body, then such models will assuredly avail to revive in their minds the gradually vanishing forms, and to keep alive in them just what is necessary. Nay, if it comes to inclination for and love of the subject, the most delicate results of the science of dissection may be imitated. Pencil, brush and graver already accomplish this.”
Here he opened a side cupboard, and displayed to view the facial nerves, imitated in the most wonderful manner. “This, alas,” he said, “is the last achievement of a young assistant who died, who inspired me with the best hopes of carrying out my ideas, and usefully promoting my aims.”
A great deal was said between the two on the influence of this mode of treatment in many directions: its relations, too, towards plastic art were the subject of noteworthy discussion. A strikingly beautiful example of how to work forwards and backwards in this way was supplied by this conversation. The master had cast, in a shapely mass, a beautiful torso of an antique youth, and was now skilfully trying to divest the ideal form of the epidermis, to change the beautiful shapes of life into a veritable preparation of muscular tissue.
“Here, too, means and end are too close together, and I am free to confess that for the sake of the means I have neglected the end, yet not altogether through my own fault. Properly speaking, man is man without covering: the sculptor stands directly at the side of the Elohim, when they changed the shapeless repulsive clay into the most glorious of forms: such divine thoughts must he cherish. To the pure all things are pure; why not the direct design of God in nature? But one cannot ask this from this age; fig-leaves and skins of beasts cannot be dispensed with, and this is still much too little. I had scarcely learned anything when worthy men in dressing-gowns and wide sleeves and innumerable folds were required of me. So I withdrew, and since I dared not apply what I knew to the expression of the beautiful, I chose to be useful; and this too is a matter of importance. If my wish is fulfilled, if it is recognized as practicable that, as in so many other things, imitating and the imitation assist imagination and memory in those cases where the human mind loses a certain freshness: then assuredly many a plastic artist will turn round as I have done, and rather join you in working than carry on a repulsive trade against conviction and feeling.”
And on this followed the observation that it was beautiful to observe how art and handicraft were always, as it were, in equilibrium, and so closely connected and always related to each other, that art cannot sink without passing into praiseworthy handiwork, nor handiwork elevate itself without becoming artistic.
These two persons adapted and accustomed themselves to each other so completely, that they parted with regret only when it was necessary to pursue their own several important aims.
“But that it may not be thought,” said the master, “that we shut ourselves out from nature, and propose to deny her, we are developing fresh views. Across the sea there, where certain humane theories are ever on the increase, it is at length found necessary, on the abolition of capital punishment, to build extensive castles, walled enclosures, to protect the peaceful citizen against crime, and to prevent crime from prevailing and doing its work with impunity. There, my friend, in these melancholy precincts, let us reserve a chapel for Æsculapius. There, isolated as the punishment itself, our knowledge of such subjects will be continually refreshed; for the dissection of them does not injure our human feeling, nor does the sight of them—as happened to you with that beautiful and innocent arm—stay the knife in the hand whilst all eagerness for knowledge is extinguished in the feeling of humanity.”
“This,” said Wilhelm, “was our last conversation. I saw the well-filled cases sail down the river, wishing them a prosperous journey, and ourselves a happy meeting at their unpacking.”
Our friend had ended this narrative as he had related it, with spirit and enthusiasm, and particularly with a certain vivacity of voice and speech that he had not been prone to of late. But when at the end of his tale he thought he noticed that Lenardo, preoccupied and absent, did not seem to follow his remarks, while on the other hand Friedrich had smiled, and sometimes almost shaken his head, such scanty sympathy with a matter that seemed to him so important so struck this sensitive scrutinizer of gestures that he could not refrain from taxing his friends with it.
Friedrich explained himself quite simply and straightforwardly: he could allow that the scheme was praiseworthy and good, but could by no means consider it so important; and least of all as practicable. This opinion he tried to support with reasons of a sort that always strike a person who is taken up with a subject, and counts, perhaps more than one may think, on carrying it through, as offensive; consequently then our plastic anatomist, after seeming to listen patiently for a time, answered with vivacity:
“You have advantages, my good Friedrich, which no one will deny—I least of any; but now you talk like ordinary people in an ordinary way. In what is new we see only the strangeness, but to discern at once in the strangeness what is important, needs something more. For you, everything must first come to pass in deed; it must happen in order to be possible; must come before the eyes to be real: and then you let it pass like anything else. What you bring forward I already hear beforehand as repeated by the initiated and by laymen; by the former from prejudice and indolence, by the latter from indifference. A scheme like the above-mentioned can, perhaps, only be carried out in a new world, where the mind must gather courage to seek out new remedies for an inevitable need, for of available ones there is a total absence. To that end is invention awakened, to that end intrepidity and steadfastness combine with necessity.
“Every medical man, whether he goes to work with medicines or with his hand, is nothing without the most precise knowledge of the outward and the inner members of man; and it by no means suffices to have acquired a transitory knowledge of this in schools, and to have got a superficial idea of the shape, position and connection of the innumerable portions of his inscrutable organism. Day by day, the physician who is in earnest ought to practise himself in the repetition of this knowledge, of this contemplation; to seek all opportunities constantly to renew to his mind and eye the interdependence of this living miracle. If he knew his own interest, he would, if he lacked time for such labors, take an anatomist into his pay, who under his instructions, quietly working for him in the presence as it were of all the intricacies of the most complicated life, would at once be able to answer the most difficult questions.
“The more one gets to see this, the more vividly, energetically and passionately will the study of dissection be pursued. But the means will diminish in just the same proportion; the subjects, the bodies on which such studies must be based, will fail, and become scarcer and dearer, and there will arise a veritable conflict between living and dead.
“In the old world it is all routine, where they will always want to treat the new after the old fashion, and what is growing in a method that is rigid. This conflict which I proclaim between the dead and living will be for life and death; there will be panic, there will be investigation, making of laws and nothing effected. Foresight and prohibition in such cases are of no avail—one must begin from the beginning. And this it is that my master and I in the new circumstances hope to achieve: nothing new indeed, for there it is already: but what is now art must become handicraft; what happens in special cases must become possible in general, and nothing can be diffused abroad that is not recognized. Our doing and achieving must be recognized as the only remedy in a definite crisis which especially threatens large towns. I will quote the words of my master, but pay attention! He said one day in the greatest confidence:
“ ‘The newspaper-reader finds the article interesting and almost amusing when he reads about ‘Resurrection-men.’* At first they stole the bodies in profound secrecy; watchers were placed to provide against this: they came in an armed band in order to gain possession of their prey by force. And the worst will ensue from what is bad: I dare not speak it aloud; or I should be implicated, not, it is true, as an accomplice, but still as one accidentally cognizant in an investigation of the greatest danger, in which in any case I must be punished for not having reported the crime to the authorities as soon as I had discovered it. I confess to you, my friend, that murder has been committed in this town in order to supply the importunate highly-paying anatomist with a subject. The soulless corpse lay before us—I dare not depict the scene: he detected the crime, but so did I: we looked at one another, and both were silent; we looked straight before us, said nothing, and went to work. And it is this, my friend, that has confined me between wax and plaster; this it is that assuredly will keep you, too, steadfast to the art that sooner or later will be prized above all others.’ ”
Friedrich sprang up, clapped his hands, and would not leave off shouting his applause, so that Wilhelm at last was angry in earnest.
“Bravo!” he cried; “now I recognize you again; it is the first time for a long while that you have spoken like one who really has something at heart, the first time that the flow of speech has again carried you away; you have shown yourself as one who is in a position to do something, and to estimate it properly.”
Lenardo hereupon struck in, and adjusted this little misunderstanding completely.
“I seemed to be absent,” he said, “but only because I was more than present; that is to say, I was thinking of the large museum of this sort that I had seen on my travels, and which interested me to such a degree that the custodian, who, in order to get done according to custom, began to offer his mechanically learned jabber, very soon—for he himself was the artificer—forgot his part, and proved himself to be a highly-informed demonstrator.
“The extraordinary contrast, to see before one in the height of summer, in cool rooms with sultry heat outside, the same objects which one scarcely trusts one’s self to approach in the severest winter! Here everything conveniently served the craving for knowledge. With the greatest composure, and in the fairest order, he showed me the marvels of the human frame, and was glad to be able to convince me that for the first commencement, and for after assistance to memory, an institution of this sort was fully sufficient; while it remained free to everyone to have recourse to nature during the middle period, and at convenient opportunities to educate himself in this or that special department. He begged me to recommend him, for he had made a similar collection for only one large foreign museum, but the universities were thoroughly opposed to the scheme, because the masters of the science were able to educate proficients in dissection well enough, but not teachers of the constructive method.
“After this I regarded this able man as the only one in the world, and now we hear that there is another occupied in the same way: who can tell whereabouts even a third and a fourth may come to light? We wish on our part to give an impulse to this subject. The recommendation must come from without, and in our new relations this useful enterprise must certainly be furthered.”
The next morning Friedrich came betimes into Wilhelm’s room, with a pamphlet in his hand, and handing it to him he said, “Yesterday evening, what with all your virtues—which you were circumstantial enough in recounting—I had no opportunity of speaking of myself and my good qualities, of which I have good enough cause to boast, and which stamp me as a worthy member of this neat caravan. Look here at this book, and you will recognize a masterpiece.”
Wilhelm ran over the sheets with hasty glances, and saw written, in an agreeably legible though hurried style, the yesterday’s narrative of his anatomical studies, almost word for word as he had given it, so that he could not conceal his astonishment.
“You know,” replied Friedrich, “the fundamental law of our association: each must be perfect in some one department or other, if he wish to claim membership. Well, I cudgelled my brains as to how I could manage this, and could not hit upon anything, though I knew well enough that no one surpassed me in memory, nor in a swift, easy and legible handwriting. You will recollect these agreeable accomplishments from the days of our theatrical career, when we shot away our powder upon sparrows, without reflecting that a shot prudently utilized would perhaps procure a hare for the kitchen. How often have I prompted without a book, how often have I, after a few hours, written out my part from memory! It was a matter of course to you at that time: you thought it must needs be so: so did I, and it never occurred to me how much it might avail me. The abbé made the discovery first: he found that it brought grist to his mill: he tried exercising me, and I was glad to do what was so easy for me, and gave pleasure to an earnest man. And now I, when there is need, am a whole office in myself; besides we thus carry with us a two-legged calculating machine, and no prince, however numerous his officials, is better provided than our superiors.”
A lively discussion about occupations of this sort led their minds to other members of the society.
“Would you have thought,” said Friedrich, “that the most useless creature in the world, as it seemed, my Philina, would become the most useful member of the long chain? Give her a bit of cloth; set men, set women before her: without taking a measurement she cuts out for the whole lot, and contrives to use up all the patches and gores in such a way, that a great saving is the result—and all without any paper-pattern. A happy inspired glance informs her of everything; she looks at the man, and cuts; he may go where he likes; she cuts away, and makes him a coat that seems to be moulded upon his body. Yet this would not be possible if she had not got a seamstress to aid her, Montan’s Lydia, who has at last become quiet, and remains quiet, but sews too like no one else, stitch after stitch just like pearls, like embroidery. That is what people may come to! In point of fact a great deal that is useless hangs about us from habit, liking, carelessness, or wilfulness—a bundled-up cloak of rags. What nature has intended us for, the best of what she has stored within us, we consequently can neither discover nor make use of.”
General reflections on the advantages of the social club which had so fortunately found itself assembled together, gave an opening for the fairest expectations.
When Lenardo, presently, joined them, he was requested by Wilhelm to speak of himself too: of the life he had hitherto led, and kindly to give them information on the way in which he had helped on himself and others.
“You no doubt remember, my good friend,” replied Lenardo, “in what an extraordinarily excited condition you found me at the first moment of our new acquaintanceship. I was sunk, absorbed in the most wonderful desire, in an irresistible longing: the question then could only be of the ensuing hour, of the deep suffering that was awaiting me, which I showed myself so active in making keener. I could not make known to you the earlier circumstances of my youth, as I now must do in order to take you along the way which has brought me hither.
“Amongst the earliest of my capacities which were gradually developed by surrounding circumstances, a certain impulse towards technical knowledge became prominent, which was every day fed by the impatience that one feels in the country, when in large buildings, but particularly in small alterations, plans and whims, one is obliged to forego one sort of work for another, and chooses rather to fall-to at once in a clumsy bungling manner than be delayed for the sake of skilful work. By good luck, there was roving up and down in our neighborhood a ‘jack-of-all-trades,’ who, as he found that I suited his purpose, preferred to help me rather than any of the neighbors: he set me up a turning-lathe, which at every visit he managed to use more for his own benefit than for my instruction. In the same way, too, I procured carpenter’s tools, and my liking for such things was increased and enlivened by the conviction, at that time loudly expressed, that no one should venture out into life unless, in case of need, he was qualified to earn his living by a trade. My zeal was approved of by my instructors in accordance with their own principles. I can scarcely recollect that I ever played, for all my leisure hours were employed in doing or making something. Yes, I may boast that even when still a boy I advanced a clever smith, through my representations, to be lock-maker, file-cutter, and watchmaker.
“To accomplish all this, tools, indeed, must first be procured, and we suffered to no small degree from the disease of those practitioners who transpose the means to the end, and rather spend time in preparations and plans than apply themselves right seriously to carrying them out. Where, however, we showed ourselves practically industrious was in forwarding the laying-out of parks, with which no landowner could now dispense. Numerous summer-houses of moss and bark, rustic bridges and benches, testified to the activity with which we indefatigably occupied ourselves in exemplifying a primitive architecture in all its rudeness, in the midst of the civilized world.
“This impulse led me, with increasing years, to take more serious interest in all that is so useful, and in its present condition so indispensable to the world, and gave a peculiar interest to my tour of several years’ length.
“But since man is commonly wont to wander on along the road which has brought him so far, I was less favorably disposed towards machinery than to direct handwork, in which we practise strength and feeling in combination; on this account I was glad to confine myself especially to those narrow circles in which, according to circumstances, this or that work had its natural sphere. A condition of this sort gives to every association a special individuality, and to every family, or to a small community consisting of several families, the most definite character: one lives in the purest feeling of a living whole.
“At the same time I had accustomed myself to note down everything, to set it forth in figures, and thus, not without a view to future use, to employ my time profitably and pleasantly.
“This natural taste, this talent, improved by cultivation, I used to the best advantage in the important task which the society had imposed upon me—of investigating the condition of the mountain-people, and enlisting in our ranks such as were available and adapted for travel. Would you like to employ this beautiful evening, in which manifold matters of business press upon me, in the perusal of a part of my diary? I will not affirm that it is exactly agreeable reading; to me it has always seemed amusing, and to a certain degree instructive. Still, we always reflect ourselves in everything that we produce.”
“Monday, 15th September.
“Late at night, after a difficult ascent halfway up the mountain, I had lighted upon a decent inn, and at daybreak was awakened, to my great annoyance, from a refreshing sleep by a ceaseless tinkling and ringing of bells. A long train of packhorses passed by, before I had been able to dress and to hurry on in front of them. I now found, too, as I followed my path, how disagreeable and annoying such society is—the monotonous ringing deafens one’s ears. The packs, which extend on both sides far beyond the beasts (on this occasion they were carrying big bales of cotton), are pretty sure to graze the rocks on one side; and if the beast, to prevent this, draws off towards the other side, the load hangs over the precipice, and awakens anxiety and giddiness in the spectator, whilst—which is worst of all—he is in either case hindered from slipping past them, and going on in advance.
“At last I got alongside of them, upon an unoccupied rock, where St. Christopher, who had stoutly carried my luggage so far, greeted a man who was standing quietly and seemed to be passing the procession in review as it filed by. He was in reality their conductor; not only did a considerable number of the beasts of burden belong to him (he had hired the others with their drivers), but he was also the owner of a smaller proportion of the goods. For the most part, however, his business consisted in faithfully superintending for larger merchants the transport of theirs. In conversation I found out from him, that this was cotton that came from Macedonia and Cyprus by way of Trieste, and was brought from the mountain-foot to these heights upon mules and packhorses, and even farther to the other side of the mountain, where spinners and weavers innumerable throughout the vales and ravines were busy with the preliminaries of an extensive traffic with foreign countries in goods that were in request. The bales, for the sake of convenience of carriage, were some of one and a half, and some of three hundredweight, which latter made a full load for a beast. The man praised the quality of the cotton that came by this route, and compared it with that from the East and West Indies, particularly with that from Cayenne, as being the best known: he seemed very well informed in his business; and as it was not altogether strange to myself also, it gave us an agreeable and profitable subject of conversation. In the meantime the whole procession had gone on in front of us, and I looked with nothing but repugnance at the endless train of these laden creatures, on the rocky path that twined snakelike up the heights, behind whom we should have to creep on, and be baked between rocks under the advancing sun. Whilst I was grumbling about this to my porter, there came up with us a thick-set lively man, who appeared to be carrying on a tolerably large frame a proportionately easy burden. A greeting passed, and it very soon appeared from the lusty shaking of hands that St. Christopher and this new-comer were well acquainted: whereupon I speedily learned about him what follows.
“For the more remote tracts of the mountain-range, where it would be too far for every single workman to go to market, there is a sort of subordinate merchant or collector, who is called a yarn-man. He trudges, in fact, through all the valleys and nooks, visits house after house, takes cotton for the spinners in small quantities, takes in exchange or buys spun yarn, of whatever quality it may be, and hands it over with a certain profit in the lump to the manufacturers settled in the lower district.
“As the inconvenience of creeping along behind the mules was again mentioned, the man at once invited me to descend with him a side-valley that branched just at this spot from the principal valley so as to draw off the waters into another district. The decision was soon made, and when with some effort we had surmounted a somewhat steep mountainridge we saw before us the declivities on the other side, at first sight a most uninviting view. The rock was of a different sort, and assumed a slaty form; no vegetation enlivened the crag and boulders, and an abrupt descent seemed to be threatened: springs gushed from several points at once, and we passed a small tarn surrounded by rugged rocks. At last there appeared singly, and afterwards more closely together, pine trees, larches and birches; then, in between them, scattered rustic habitations, but certainly of the meanest sort, every one put together by the inmates themselves, with crossed balks of timber, with the great black slabs on the roof weighted with stones to prevent the wind carrying them away. In spite of this melancholy exterior aspect, the narrow space inside was still not uncomfortable; warm and dry and neatly kept, it suited well with the cheerful appearance of the inmates with whom one at once felt one’s self at home in country fashion.
“The messenger was not unexpected; they had even been looking for him out of the little window, for it was his custom to come, if possible, on the same day of the week. He made his bargain for the yarn, and distributed fresh wool; then we quickly descended to where, a little way off, several more horses were standing near each other. We were no sooner seen than the inhabitants ran together to greet us. Children joined the throng, and were highly delighted with a sponge-cake or seed-biscuit. The pleasure everywhere was great, and was increased when it appeared that St. Christopher had a supply of these, and thus at once had the pleasure of earning the gratitude of all the children; all the more pleasant to him because, like his comrade, he knew very well how to get on with the little folk.
“The elders, on the other hand, were ready with all sorts of questions: everyone wanted to know something about the war, which happily was being waged at a considerable distance, and even if nearer would hardly have been dangerous for such districts. However, they rejoiced at the peace, although they were concerned about another danger that threatened, for it was not to be denied that machinery was continually on the increase in the country, and was little by little threatening the working hands with inactivity; still various grounds for consolation and hope suggested themselves.
“Our friend’s advice, in the meantime, was asked on many ordinary matters; nay, he must needs prove himself not only a family friend, but also a family doctor: magic-drops, salts, and ointments were things that he always carried with him.
“Entering the various houses, I found an opportunity of indulging my old hobby, and informing myself about the spinners’ art. I paid attention to the children, who busied themselves carefully and diligently in pulling the wool-flocks asunder, and taking out the seeds, the chips of the shells of the pods and other impurities; this they call picking it. I asked whether that was the task of the children only, but learned that in the winter evenings it was also done by the men and youths.
“Buxom spinsters then, as was but proper, attracted my attention. The preparing is done in this wise: the picked or cleansed cotton is equally distributed on the cards, which in Germany are called krämpel, and carded, so that the dust is got rid of, and the fibres of the cotton take one direction; then it is taken off, twisted into skeins, and so prepared for spinning on the wheel.
“I was then shown the difference between left-spun and right-spun yarn: the former is generally finer, which is effected by the thread which turns the spindle being confined round about the ring, as is shown in the accompanying drawing (which, like the rest, we have unfortunately not been able to give).
“The spinner sits facing the wheel, not too high. Several of them kept it steady with their feet one upon the other; others only with the right, putting the left behind. With the right hand she turns the wheel, and stretches out as far and as high as she can reach, whereby beautiful movements come into play, and a slim figure, by graceful turns of the body and the rounded fulness of the arms, shows itself to very great advantage: the position, especially in the last species of spinning, gives a very picturesque contrast, so that our finest ladies would have no need to fear a loss of real attractiveness and grace, if they would for once take to the spinning-wheel instead of the guitar.
“Amidst such surroundings new and peculiar sensations forced themselves upon me: the whirring wheels have a certain eloquence: the girls sing psalms, and also, though less often, other songs; siskins and goldfinches, suspended in cages, twitter amidst it all, and it would not be easy to find a picture of more active life than in a room where several spinners are at work.
“To the above described ‘wheel-yarn,’ however, the ‘paper-yarn’ is to be preferred. For this the best cotton, which has longer fibres than the rest, is used. When it has been picked clean, it is taken, instead of being carded, to combs, which consist of simple rows of long steel needles, and is combed. Then the longer and finer part of it is abstracted in the shape of bands (the technical word is a ‘cutting’) with a blunt knife, mixed up together, and done up in a paper cornet, which is then fastened to the distaff. From such a cornet it is spun with the spindle by hand; on which account it is called ‘spinning from the paper,’ and the resulting yarn is called ‘paper-yarn.’
“This occupation, which is only pursued by quiet thoughtful people, gives the spinner a gentler aspect than that at the wheel. If the latter shows off a tall slim figure to the greatest advantage, a quiet gentle form is very much favored by the latter. Of such diverse characters, occupied in divers tasks, I saw more than one in a room, and at last I could not rightly tell whether I must give my attention to the work or to the workers.
“But, at all events, I could not deny that the ladies of the mountain, excited by the unusual guests, showed themselves in a kindly and agreeable light. They were especially pleased that I made such particular inquiries about everything, noted what they told me, made drawings of their implements and simple mechanism, and hastily sketched their pretty limbs with gracefulness, as ought to be seen here annexed. Moreover, when evening came on, the finished work was displayed, the full spindles were laid aside in the little boxes made for the purpose, and the whole day’s work was carefully taken away. By this time we had got better acquainted, yet the work sped on its course: they busied themselves now with the reel, and already much more freely exhibited, some the machine, some the method of manipulating, whilst I carefully wrote it down.
“The reel has a wheel and ratchet, so that by every turn a spring is worked, which runs down as often as a hundred revolutions have been made by the reel. The tale of one thousand revolutions is called a ‘schneller,’* according to the weight of which the varying fineness of the yarn is estimated.
“Of right-spun yarn there are twenty-five to thirty to the pound; if left-spun, sixty to eighty, perhaps even ninety. The revolution of the reel comes to about seven quarter-ells, or something more, and the slender industrious spinner declared that she spun four and even five schnellers, which would be five thousand revolutions, and therefore eight to nine thousand ells of yarn every day at the wheel; she offered to make a bet about it if we would stay one day longer.
“The quiet and modest paper-spinner, however, could not let the matter rest here, and assured us that she spun one hundred and twenty schnellers from the pound in a proportionate time. For paper-spinning is slower than spinning at the wheel, and at the same time is better paid; perhaps double the amount is spun with the wheel. She had just completed the full number of revolutions at the reel, and showed me how the end of the thread is twisted round a couple of times and knotted. She took the schneller off, turned it round, so that it was wrapped within itself, drew one end of it through the other, and could thus display with innocent complacency the task of the practised spinner concluded.
“As there was now nothing further to be noted here, the mother stood up and said that, as the young gentleman wanted to see everything, she would now show him the dry-weaving. She explained to me, with the same good-nature, as she set herself down at the loom, how they only practised this sort, because in point of fact it was only good for coarse cottons, in which the weft was inserted dry, and was not woven very close: she then showed me dry goods of the kind; these are always smooth, without stripes or squares or any other rich pattern, and only from five to five and a half quarter-ells in breadth.
“The moon was shining in the heavens, and our yarn-man insisted on a further pilgrimage, since he must keep to his day and hour, and arrive punctually at every place. The paths were good and distinct, especially with such a nocturnal torch as this. We, on our side, cheered the parting with silk ribands and neckerchiefs, of which sort of articles St. Christopher carried with him a considerable package. The gift was handed to the mother, that she might distribute it amongst her family.
“Tuesday, 16th, early morning.
“Our walk through a splendidly clear night was full of beauty and enjoyment. We reached a somewhat large assemblage of chalets, which might perhaps have been called a village; at some distance from it, upon an open hill, stood a chapel, and the outlook began already to be more habitable and civilized. We passed by enclosures which gave indications not, it is true, of gardens, but still of scanty and carefully protected meadow growth.
“We had reached a place where, in addition to spinning, weaving was more seriously pursued. Our journey of yesterday, prolonged into the night, had exhausted our robust and youthful powers: the yarn-man climbed up into the hayloft, and I was on the point of following him, when St. Christopher commended his frame to me, and went up to the door. I understood his kindly intention, and let him have his way.
“The first thing, however, next morning, the family assembled together, and the children were strictly forbidden to go out of doors, since a terrible bear or some other monster must be haunting the neighborhood, for all through the night there had been such a growling and grumbling from the chapel, that rocks and houses over here might well have been shaken, and they advised us to be well on our guard in our further travels to-day. We tried to reassure the good people as much as possible, which, however, in this solitary waste seemed difficult to do.
“The yarn-man now declared that he would finish his business as quickly as possible, and then come and fetch us away; for we should have to-day a long and difficult road before us, as we should not only continue to clamber down the valley, but would have a troublesome climb across a spur of the mountain that barred our way. I therefore determined to employ the time as well as possible, and get myself introduced by our good entertainers of yesterday into the preliminaries of weaving.
“They were both elderly people, who had yet been blessed in their latter days with two or three children; one very soon became aware, in their surroundings, conduct, and speech, of religious feeling and superstitious ideas. I came just at the beginning of such a piece of work, the transition from spinning to weaving, and as I found no occasion for further discursiveness, I had the process, as it was just then in operation, dictated forthwith into my note-book.
“The first task, of sizing the yarn, had been done yesterday. It is boiled in a thin solution of size, consisting of starch and a little carpenter’s glue, whereby the thread acquires more toughness. The skeins of yarn were dry by early morning, and they made ready to ‘spool’—that is to say, to wind the yarn with the wheel upon reed-bobbins. The old grandfather, sitting at the stove, performed this easy task; a grandchild stood by him, and seemed eager to turn the bobbin-wheel himself. In the meanwhile the father stuck the spools for the warp upon a frame divided by cross staves, so that they moved freely about strong wires standing vertically, and let the thread run off. They are arranged in the proper order with coarser and finer yarn, as the pattern, or rather the stripes in the web require. An appliance—the ‘brittli,’ shaped almost like a sistrum,* has holes on both sides, through which the threads are drawn; this is held in the right hand of the warper; with the left he grasps the threads all together, and lays them, walking backwards and forwards, upon the warping-frame. From the top to the bottom, and from the bottom to the top, is called a course, and so many courses are made according to the thickness and breadth of the cloth. The length amounts to either sixty-four or thirty-two ells. At the beginning of each course one or two threads are always laid above, with the fingers of the left hand, and the same number below; and this is called the lease. Then the crossed threads are laid over the two nails that are put on the top of the warp-frame. This is done so that the weaver can receive the threads in properly even order. As soon as the warp is ready, the leases are tied below, and thereby every course is kept separate, so that there can be no confusion. Then, on the last course, marks are made with dissolved verdigris, so that the weaver may get the proper measure again; finally, it is taken off, and the whole rolled up in the form of a large coil, which is called the warp.
“We had set out early before daybreak, and had enjoyed the glorious light of a belated moon. The dawning day, the rising sun, allowed us to see a better populated and cultivated country. While higher up, when crossing streams, we had met with stepping-stones or sometimes a narrow plank, provided only on one side with a rail, here were already stone bridges thrown across the ever widening waters: the attractive would little by little ally itself with the savage, and an enjoyable impression was experienced by all the travellers.
“Hither over the mountain from another river-region came trudging a tall black-haired man, who cried when still at a distance, as one who has good eyes and a powerful voice, ‘God greet you, gossip yarn-man!’
“The latter allowed him to get nearer, then he too exclaimed with astonishment, ‘God bless me, gossip loom-fitter!* where in the world do you come from? What an unexpected meeting!’
“The other answered, as he came up, ‘For the last two months I have been tramping about the mountain mending their gear for all good folk, and setting their benches to rights so that they can work away again untroubled for a long time.’
“Thereupon the yarn-man, turning to me, said, ‘As you, young gentleman, show so much pleasure and liking for the craft, and interest yourself in it so anxiously, this man comes at the very time, whilst I have been silently wishing for your sake that he were here during the last few days: he would have explained everything better for you than the girls, with all their good-will: he is master of his trade, and all that belongs to spinning, weaving and the like; he understands perfectly how to contrive, apply, preserve and repair, as need demands and anybody may just happen to want.’
“I addressed myself to him, and found him a very sensible man, in a certain sense educated, and perfectly at home in his business; whilst I repeated him something of what I had learned in these few days, and asked him to clear up some doubts. I also told him what I had seen of the first processes of weaving yesterday.
“He joyously exclaimed in reply, ‘That is a good wish indeed! then I have come just in the nick of time to give such a worthy kind gentleman the needful information about the most ancient and glorious art that, in point of fact, distinguishes the man from the brute. We have this very day arrived amongst worthy and clever people, and call me no loom-fitter if you don’t presently understand the craft as well as I do myself.’
“I returned him friendly thanks, the conversation was continued on all sorts of topics, and after a short halt and breakfast, we reached a group of houses which, whilst certainly somewhat irregular, were at all events better built. He showed us up to the best of them; and the yarn-man, as we arranged, went in first with me and St. Christopher. Then, after the first greetings and some joking, the loom-fitter followed, and it was astonishing what a joyful surprise his entrance created in the family. Father, mother, daughters and children gathered round him: the shuttle stopped in the hand of a finely grown girl sitting at the loom, as it was on the point of travelling through the warp: at the same moment she stayed the treadle, stood up, and presently came, with slow embarrassment, to give him her hand.
“Both of them, the yarn-man as well as the loom-fitter, soon put themselves, with jokes and tales, on the old footing due to family friends; and after spending some time in refreshing themselves, the excellent fellow turned to me and said, ‘We must not neglect you, dear sir, amidst these rejoicings at meeting again; we could go on gossiping with one another for days: you must be off to-morrow. Let the gentleman see the mystery of our craft: sizing and warping he knows; we must show him the rest. The young ladies there will help, I dare say. At this stool, I see, you are winding on.’
“This was the work of the younger one, to whom we turned. The elder sat down again at her loom, and, with a quiet amiable demeanor, pursued her lively task.
“I now carefully watched the winding on. For this purpose the courses of the work are allowed to run in their order through a big comb, of just the same breadth as the yarn-beam on which the winding is to be done. This is provided with a groove in which lies a thin round rod, which is inserted through the end of the warp and made tight in the groove. A little boy or girl sits under the loom and holds the string of the warp tight, whilst the weaver turns the yarn-beam round powerfully with a lever, at the same time taking care that everything is lying in proper order. When it is all wound on, one round and two flat rods (Schiene) are pushed through the ‘lease’ so as to hold it; and now the drawing begins.
“Of the old web there is still about a quarter of an ell left on the second yarn-beam, and from this the threads run for a length of about three quarter-ells through the reed in the batten as well as through the leaves of the heddles. On to these the weaver now carefully twists the threads of the new warp, one on to another, and when he has done the whole of what is twisted on is drawn through in one, so that the new threads reach to the still empty front yarn-beam: the broken threads are knotted together, the weft is wound upon small reels so that they fit into the little shuttle, and the last preparation for the weaving, namely, the dressing, is made.
“Throughout the length of the loom the warp is damped through and through with a size made of glove leather, by aid of a brush dipped into it; then the before-mentioned rods which hold the leases are drawn back, all the threads are laid most exactly in order, and it is all fanned with a goosewing fastened to a stick until it is dry; and now the weaving can begin, to go on until it is again necessary to dress.
“The dressing and fanning are commonly left to young people who are familiarized with the weaving trade; but in the leisure of the winter evenings a brother, or a lover, performs this office for the comely weaver, or at the least they prepare the little reels of weft-yarn.
“Fine muslins are woven wet, that is to say, the thread of the weft-yarn is dipped in size, wound whilst still damp upon the little reels, and worked forthwith, by which means the web can be more evenly worked and looks cleaner.
“In general I found something busy, indescribably animated, homely and peaceful in the whole condition of a weaving-room like this: several looms were in activity; spinning and spooling wheels were going; and at the stove sat the old people, with friends and neighbors who had looked in, engaged in confidential talk. Between whiles singing would perhaps be heard, generally Ambrosius Lobwasser’s psalms in four parts; more seldom ordinary songs; then perhaps there breaks out a merry peal of laughter from the girls, when cousin Jacob has made a witty remark.
“A really smart and at the same time diligent weaver, if she has help, can, at most, in the course of a week finish a piece of not too fine muslin, thirty-two ells in length; but this is very unusual, and in some working households this is commonly the work of a fortnight.
“The beauty of the web depends upon the even action of the heddles, on the even motion of the batten, and also upon whether the weft is wet or dry. A perfectly equal and at the same time strong tension also contributes, to secure which the weaver of fine cotton cloths hangs a heavy stone on the pin of the front beam. If the web during the work is strongly strained (the technical word is dämmen) it is perceptibly lengthened—in thirty-two ells by three-quarters of an ell, and in sixty-four by about one and a half. This overplus belongs to the weaver; she is paid extra for it, or keeps it for neckerchiefs, aprons, etc.
“On the brightest, tenderest of moonlit nights, such as prevail only in the high mountain regions, sat the family with their guest, at the house door, in the most animated talk, Lenardo deep in thought. Amidst all the life and employment, and so much thought devoted to manufacturing processes, his friend Wilhelm’s letter written to reassure him again came to his recollection. The words that he had read so often, the lines he had several times conned, again presented themselves to his inner sense. And as a favorite tune suddenly becomes, before we are aware of it, gently present to our deeper sense of hearing, so did that tender missive repeat itself in the quiet and self-absorbed soul.
“ ‘A domestic condition grounded in piety, inspired and maintained by industry and order, not too narrow, not too wide, but in the happiest proportion to her capacities and powers. Around her is busy a circle of handworkers, in the purest, most primitive sense; here reign limitation, and far-reaching effect, caution and moderation, innocence and activity.’
“But on this occasion reminiscence was more exacting than soothing. ‘And yet,’ said he to himself, ‘this general laconic description accords completely with the circumstances that surround me here. Is there not here peace, piety, and unintermittent activity? It is only the far-reaching effect that fails to seem equally obvious to me. May it be that the good creature animates a like circle, but a wider and a better one. May she find herself as happily situate as these—perhaps still more happily—and look round about her with more joy and freedom.’
“But now, aroused by a lively and increasing flow of talk on the part of the others, and paying more heed to what was passing, an idea which he had been cherishing all this time became perfectly vivid to him. ‘Might not this selfsame man, this man who deals with tools and apparatus in so masterly a manner, be able to make the most useful of members for our society?’ He pondered on this and everything—how the advantages of this expert workman had already powerfully struck him. He therefore turned the conversation in that direction; and as if in jest, it is true, but for that reason all the more unconstrainedly, he made the proposal whether he would not join an association of some importance, and make a trial of emigrating over the sea.
“The other excused himself, declaring, with equal good-humor, that he was getting on very well here, and expected to do better too; that he was born in this part of the country, accustomed to it, known far and wide and received with confidence everywhere. In general there would be found no liking for emigration in these valleys; they had no want to trouble them, and a mountain country has a firm hold on its people.
“ ‘For that reason,’ said the yarn-man, ‘I am surprised to hear it said that Frau Susanna is going to marry the manager, sell her property, and go with a fair sum of money over the sea.’
“On inquiry, our friend found that this was a young widow who was in easy circumstances and carried on a lucrative trade in the products of the mountain-side; of which the travelling tourist could satisfy himself the first thing on the morrow, for they would come across her in good time on the road they were following.
“ ‘I have already heard her mentioned in various ways,’ replied Lenardo, ‘as exercising activity and benevolence in this valley, and have been intending to inquire about her.’
“ ‘But let us retire to rest,’ said the yarnman, ‘so as to avail ourselves of the approaching day, which promises to be a merry one, betimes.’ ”
Here the manuscript ended, and when Wilhelm asked for the continuation, he was told that it was not at present in the friends’ hands. It had been sent, they said, to Makaria, who by aid of wit and good-will was to smooth over certain difficulties which were referred to in it and solve various unpropitious complications. Our friend had to make the best of this interruption, and make up his mind to be satisfied with a social evening spent in lively conversation.
When evening came, and the friends were sitting in an arbor from which there was a wide prospect all round, there appeared on the threshold a notable figure, whom our friend recognized at once as the barber of the morning before.
To a deep and silent obeisance on the man’s part, Lenardo replied, “You come, as ever, very opportunely, and you will not delay to gratify us with your gift.
“I may perhaps tell you,” he went on, turning to Wilhelm, “something about the association of which I may boast myself to be the Bond. No one enters our circle but he who has given evidence of certain talents which would contribute to the profit or pleasure of every society. This man is a thorough surgeon, who, in precarious cases, in which decision and physical strength are requisite, is ready to assist his master cleverly. To what he achieves as a beard-artist you can yourself bear witness in his favor; on this account he is equally necessary and welcome to us. But as this occupation commonly brings with it a great and often burdensome loquacity, he has, for the sake of his own culture, let himself be placed under a condition: as indeed everyone who wishes to live amongst us must restrain himself on one particular side, though greater freedom is accorded to him on another. This man accordingly has renounced the use of speech in so far as anything commonplace or casual is expressed by it; but from this another kind of speaking-talent has developed itself in him, which produces its effect designedly, cleverly and pleasantly: namely, the gift of narration.
“His life is rich in strange experiences, which at one time he used to splinter up by chattering in undue season, but which now, constrained by silence, he repeats and arranges in the quiet of his mind. With this, too, is associated the power of imagination adding life and movement to the occurrence. He knows how to tell real legends and legendary histories with peculiar art and address, by the help of which he often delights us at suitable times when his tongue is loosened by me. This then I do at the present moment; and, at the same time, give him credit for having, during the considerable time that I have known him, not once repeated himself. I hope now that, for love and honor of our dear guest, he will specially distinguish himself on this occasion too.”
A merry look, full of intelligence, overspread Redcloak’s face, and without delay he began to speak as follows.
The New Melusina.
HONORED SIRS: As I am aware that you do not particularly care for preliminary speeches and introductions, I will assure you without more ado that this time I hope to acquit myself exceedingly well. Without doubt many true stories have already gone forth from me to the high satisfaction of all; but to-day, I dare maintain, that I have one to tell which far surpasses all that have gone before, and which, though it happened to me several years ago, still disquiets me whenever I recollect it, nay, even still makes me hope for an explanation in the end. You would have difficulty in finding the like of it.
First I must confess that I have not always ordered my plan of life so as to be quite sure of the time that was shortly coming on, even of the next day. In my youth I was not a good manager, and often found myself in divers perplexities. Once I undertook a journey which should have brought me in a good profit; but I cut my cloth a little too big, and after beginning it with extra-post, and then proceeding for a time by diligence, I at last found myself obliged to face the end of it on foot.
As a lively young fellow, I had always made a practice of looking about for the landlady, or even for the cook, as soon as I entered an inn, and, by expending a little flattery on them, my reckoning was generally diminished.
One evening, as I was entering the post-house of a small town, and was just going to set to work in this customary manner, a handsome two-seated carriage, with four horses, rattled up to the door close behind me. I turned round and saw a young lady all alone, without maid and without attendants. I at once hastened to open the door for her, and inquire whether I could do anything for her. As she got out a beautiful figure became evident, and her amiable face, when one looked at it more nearly, was adorned with a slight trace of sadness. I asked once more whether I could serve her in any way.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “if you will carefully lift out the little box that lies on the seat, and carry it up for me; but I beg you earnestly to carry it quite steadily, and not to swing or shake it in the least!”
I took up the box carefully, whilst she shut the carriage-door. We went up the stairs together, and she told the servants that she would stay here for the night.
We were now alone in the room. She bade me set the box upon the table that stood by the wall, and on noticing from some of her movements that she wished to be alone, I took my leave, and respectfully but warmly kissed her hand.
“Order supper for both of us,” she then said; and it may be imagined with what satisfaction I fulfilled this commission, whilst, in self-conceit, I scarcely threw a side-glance at the hostess and servants. I awaited with impatience the moment which was at last to take me again to her. It was served up, and we sat down opposite one another. For the first time for a long while I refreshed myself with a good meal, and at the same time with a sight so enviable; nay, it seemed to me as if she became more beautiful every minute.
Her conversation was agreeable, yet she made a point of repudiating everything that related to regard or affection. The table was cleared. I lingered; I tried all sorts of artifices to get near her, but in vain; she kept me back with a certain dignity that I could not withstand. Nay, I was obliged, against my will, to leave her in rather good time.
After a night for the best part of which I lay awake or dreamed restlessly, I got up early. I inquired whether she had ordered horses; I was told “No,” and walked into the garden. I saw her standing at the window dressed, and ran up to her. As she stepped towards me, as beautiful as, nay, more beautiful than yesterday, love, impudence and audacity were all at once set astir within me: I rushed towards her and clasped her in my arms. “Angelic, irresistible being,” I exclaimed, “forgive me, but it is impossible —”
With incredible address she freed herself from my arms, and I was not able to imprint a single kiss upon her cheeks.
“Keep back such outbreaks of sudden, passionate affection, if you do not wish to forfeit a piece of good fortune that lies close to you, but which can only be grasped after certain trials.”
“Demand what thou wilt, angelic spirit,” I exclaimed, “but do not drive me to despair!”
She answered with a smile, “If you are willing to devote yourself to my service, hear the conditions. I have come to this place to visit a female friend, with whom I expect to pass a few days: meanwhile I wish my carriage and this case to be taken farther on. Are you willing to take charge of it? You will have nothing to do but to lift the box carefully into and out of the carriage, to sit down by it, and to take every care of it. When you come to an inn it is placed on a table in a room by itself, in which you must neither sit nor sleep. You always lock the door with this key, which opens and closes any lock, and gives the lock the special property that no one is able to open it otherwise.”
I looked at her, and a strange feeling came over me. I promised to do everything, if I might hope to see her soon again, and if she would seal this hope to me with a kiss. This she did, and from that moment I had become completely her body-slave. I was now, she said, to order the horses. We settled the road that I was to take, the places where I should stop and should wait for her. Lastly she pressed a purse of gold into my hand, and I my lips to her hands. She seemed moved at parting, and already I knew not what I did or was about to do.
When I came back after giving my orders I found the room-door locked; I immediately tried my master-key, and it stood its test perfectly. The door sprang open: I found the room empty: there was only the box standing upon the table where I had set it down.
The carriage had driven up. I took the box carefully down and set it beside me.
The hostess asked, “Where is the lady, then?”
A child answered, “She is gone into the town.”
I nodded to the people and drove away in triumph from the door, at which yesterday evening I had arrived with dusty spatterdashes. That I now, at complete leisure, turned this occurrence over and over in my mind, that I counted the gold, made all sorts of schemes, and continued to look occasionally at the box, you can easily imagine. I drove straight forward, did not alight for several stations, and did not rest until I arrived at a considerable town where she had appointed to meet me. Her commands were carefully obeyed, the box was placed in a room by itself, and a few wax candles were lighted near it, as she had also ordered. I locked up the room, settled myself in mine, and made myself comfortable.
For awhile I was able to occupy myself with thinking of her: but soon the time began to seem long. I was not accustomed to be without company; this I soon found at the inn-tables and in public places in accordance with my taste. In this way my money began to melt away, and one evening, when I imprudently abandoned myself to a passionate fit of gaming, it vanished absolutely from my purse. When I reached my room I was beside myself. Bereft of money, with the appearance of a wealthy man, expecting a heavy reckoning, uncertain whether and when my fair one would again make her appearance, I was in the greatest embarrassment. Doubly did I long for her, and was certain that without her and her money I was now quite unable to live.
After supper, for which I had had no sort of relish, since this time I had been obliged to eat it alone, I walked rapidly up and down the room, talked aloud to myself, cursed myself, threw myself on the floor, tore my hair, and behaved like an utter madman. Suddenly in the locked-up room adjoining, I hear a gentle movement, and shortly afterwards a knocking at the well-secured door. I collect myself, and seize hold of the master-key; but the folding-doors fly open of themselves, and in the glow of the lighted wax-candles my fair one comes towards me. I throw myself at her feet, kiss her skirt, her hands: she raises me, I do not venture to embrace her, scarcely to look at her; yet frankly and penitently I confess to her my fault.
“It may be pardoned,” said she; “only unfortunately you delay your good fortune and mine. You must now once more make an expedition into the world before we meet again. Here is more gold,” said she, “and quite enough if you are willing to be at all careful; but if wine and play have got you into trouble this time, be on your guard now against wine and women, and let me hope for a more joyous meeting.”
She retired through her doorway; the folding-doors closed. I knocked, I implored, but nothing more was to be heard.
When I called for the reckoning the next morning, the waiter laughed and said, “So we know why you lock your doors in such a scientific and incomprehensible way that no master-key is able to open them. We assumed that you had a great deal of money and jewels; but now we have seen your treasure going down-stairs, and it seemed on all accounts worthy of being well guarded.”
I said nothing in reply, but paid my reckoning and got into the carriage with my box. I now drove again into the wide world, with the most fixed intention to pay heed for the future to my mysterious friend’s warning. Yet scarce had I again arrived at a large town, when I presently got acquainted with some amiable young ladies, from whom I absolutely could not tear myself away. They seemed disposed to make me pay dearly for their favor, for, whilst they continued to keep me at a certain distance, they led me on to one expense after another, and, as all that I cared for was to further their enjoyment, I never thought twice about my purse, but paid and spent away just as occasion occurred. How great then was my astonishment and delight, when, at the end of some weeks, I noticed that the fulness of my purse showed as yet no diminution, but that it was still as round and bulky as at first. I would fain assure myself more exactly of this pretty quality, and set to work to reckon up. I noticed the sum precisely, and now began to live merrily with my companions as before. There was no stint of country and river-excursions, of dancing, singing, and other enjoyments; but now it required no great attention to perceive that the purse really was diminishing, just as if I, by my confounded counting, had taken away from it the virtue of being uncountable. However the life of pleasure was once for all in full swing: I could not draw back, and yet I was soon at the end of my cash. I cursed my situation, blamed my fair friend who had thus led me into temptation, took it ill of her that she did not come on the scene again; repudiated in my anger all duties towards her, and proposed to myself to open the box, in case perchance some help might be found in it; for, though it was not heavy enough to contain gold, yet there might be jewels in it, and these would have been very welcome to me. I was on the point of carrying out my intention; however I put it off till night-time, in order to carry out the operation quite quietly, and I hastened to a banquet, which was just about to take place. Here again the fun was speeding fast, and we were highly excited with wine and trumpet-tones, when by ill-luck it befell me that, at supper-time, an earlier friend of my favorite fair one, returning from a journey, came in unexpectedly, sat down by her side, and without much ceremony sought to assert his old privileges. Hence arose ill-humor, anger and strife; we drew, and I was taken home half dead with sundry wounds.
The surgeon had bandaged me and gone away; it was already deep in the night, and my attendant had fallen asleep; the door of the side-room opened, my mysterious friend entered, and sat down by my bedside. She asked how I was; I did not answer, for I was faint and sullen. She went on speaking with much sympathy, rubbed my temples with a certain balsam, so that I felt rapidly and distinctly strengthened—so strengthened that I was able to grow angry and upbraid her. In hasty words I laid all the blame of my ill-fortune upon her, on the passion with which she had inspired me, on her appearance, her disappearance, on the tedium, on the yearning that I had felt. I became more and more violent, as if a fever were attacking me, and at last I swore to her that if she would not be mine—would not this time belong to and unite herself with me, I cared no longer to live; and thereto I demanded a decisive answer. When she hesitated and held back with an explanation, I got quite beside myself, and tore the double and threefold bandage from the wounds, with the indubitable intention of letting myself bleed to death. But how astounded was I when I found my wounds all healed, my body sleek and shining, and her in my arms!
Now were we the happiest couple in the world. We alternately asked pardon of each other, though we ourselves knew not rightly wherefore. She now promised to travel on with me, and we were soon sitting by one another in the carriage, with the box opposite to us, in the third person’s place. I had never made any mention of it to her: and even now it did not occur to me to speak of it, although it was standing before our eyes, and we both by a tacit agreement took it in charge as occasion might require: except that I always lifted it in and out of the carriage, and, as before, attended to the locking of the doors.
As long as there was anything left in my purse I had always paid: when my cash came to an end, I gave her notice of the fact. “That is easily remedied,” she said, pointing to a couple of little pockets, attached to the top of the carriage at the sides, which I certainly had noticed before, but had not used. She felt in one and took out a few gold pieces, and out of the other a few silver coins, and showed me thus the possibility of continuing any sort of expenditure we liked.
Thus we journeyed from town to town, from country to country, pleased with ourselves and other people; and I never thought that she could again leave me; all the less so, inasmuch as for some time she had decidedly had expectations through which our happiness and love would be only further increased. But one morning I found, alas, that she was no longer there, and as remaining without her was burdensome to me, I started again on my travels with my little box, tested the power of the two pockets, and found that it was still maintained.
The journey sped well; and if, so far, I had had no further thoughts about my adventure, inasmuch as I was expecting a perfectly natural explanation of these strange occurrences, yet there presently happened something which threw me into astonishment, into anxiety, nay, even into fear. In order to get far away from the place I was accustomed to travel night and day, and thus it happened that I often drove in the dark, and if the lamps by chance went out, it was pitch dark in my carriage. Once in a night thus dark I had fallen asleep, and when I awoke I noticed the reflection of a light on the roof of my carriage. I examined it, and found that it issued from the box, in which there seemed to be a chink, as if it had sprung by reason of the hot and dry weather of the advancing summer season. My fancies about the jewels were again set astir; I supposed that a carbuncle was lying in the box, and I was anxious to make certain of it. I put myself in position, as well as I could, so that my eye was in close contact with the chink. But how great was my astonishment, when I found myself looking in at a room brilliantly illuminated with candles, and furnished with much taste, nay, even magnificence, exactly as if I had been looking down into a royal saloon through an opening in the ceiling. It is true I could see only a part of the room, from which I could infer the rest. An open fire seemed to be burning, near which stood an arm-chair. I held my breath and continued to observe. In the meantime, from the other side of the saloon, came a young lady with a book in her hand, whom I at once recognized as my wife, although her figure was diminished in the minutest proportion. The beautiful creature sat down on the seat by the fireplace to read, and as she arranged the embers with the daintiest pair of tongs, I could plainly observe that this most lovable little being was on the point of becoming a mother. But now I found myself obliged in some measure to change my inconvenient position, and directly afterwards, when I was again going to look in, and convince myself that it had not been a dream, the light vanished, and I looked on empty darkness.
How amazed, how terrified I was, may be imagined. I formed a thousand ideas as to this discovery, and yet could really imagine nothing. Doing this I fell asleep, and when I awoke I fancied that I had just been only dreaming. Yet I felt somewhat estranged from my fair one, and whilst I handled the box only so much the more carefully, I knew not whether I must desire or dread her reappearance in perfect human size.
After some little time, my fair one really did come to me about eventide, clad in white, and as the room was just getting dark, she seemed taller to me than she was wont at other times to appear and I recollected to have heard that all the race of nixies and elves are noticeably increased in height as night approaches. She rushed as usual into my arms, but I could not with a right glad heart press her to my burdened breast.
“My darling,” she said, “I feel too well by your reception, what, alas! I know already. You have seen me in the interval: you are informed of the situation in which I find myself at certain periods. Your happiness and mine is thereby interrupted, nay, is on the point of being utterly annihilated. I must leave you, and know not whether I shall ever see you again.”
Her presence, the grace with which she spoke, immediately banished almost every remembrance of that vision that even before had only hovered over me like a dream. I caught her quickly in my arms, convinced her of my passion, assured her of my innocence, told her the accidental occasion of my discovery; enough, I did enough to make her seem pacified, and try to pacify me.
“Put yourself to a strict proof,” said she, “as to whether this discovery has not been injurious to your love, whether you can forget that I live with you in a twofold form, whether the diminution of my person will not also diminish your affection.”
I looked at her; she was fairer than ever; and I thought to myself, “Is it then so great a misfortune to own a wife who from time to time becomes a dwarf, so that she can be carried about in a case? Would it not be much worse if she became a giantess, and put her husband into the box?” My cheerfulness had come back; I would not have let her go away for everything in the world.
“Sweetheart,” I replied, “let us abide and be as we have been! Could we two be better off? Consult your own convenience, and I promise you to carry the case but so much the more carefully. How should the prettiest thing that I have seen in my whole life make a bad impression upon me? How happy would lovers be could they but possess such miniature pictures! And, after all, it was only such a picture, a little deception of conjuring. You are testing and teasing me; but you shall see how I will behave.”
“The matter is more serious than you think,” said the fair one; “meanwhile I am right well content that you make light of it; for it may still have the happiest consequences for both of us. I will rely upon you, and for my part do what is possible; only promise me never to think of this discovery reproachfully. To this I add most earnestly one more request, beware of wine and of anger more than ever!”
I promised what she begged. I would have gone on promising anything and everything; yet she herself changed the conversation, and all went on smoothly as before. We had no reason to alter our place of residence; the town was large, and the society of many sorts; the time of year gave occasion for many rural and garden entertainments.
In all such amusements my wife was very much in request; nay, eagerly sought after by men and by women. A kindly and engaging manner, combined with a certain dignity, gained her the love and respect of everyone. In addition to this she played splendidly on the lute, and sang to it as well, and all social evenings must needs be made complete by the aid of her talent.
I desire but to confess that I have never been able to make much of music; nay, it rather had an unpleasant effect upon me. My fair one, who had soon noticed this in me, consequently never sought, when we were alone, to divert me in this way. On that account she seemed to indemnify herself in society, where she generally found a crowd of admirers.
And now, why should I deny it? Our last conversation, in spite of my very good intentions, had yet not been sufficient to dismiss the matter entirely. Rather had it attuned most strangely my whole mode of feeling, without my having been perfectly conscious of it. So one evening, at a large party, my smothered ill-humor broke loose, and therefrom ensued for me the most disadvantageous consequences.
When I think over it properly, I loved my fair one much less after the discovery, and now—what had never occurred to me before—I was getting jealous about her. This evening, at the supper-table, where we were sitting diametrically opposite to each other at a considerable distance, I found myself very well off with my two neighbors, a couple of ladies, who had appeared very charming to me for some time. Amid jesting and sentimental talk the wine was not spared. In the meanwhile, on the other side, a pair of musical amateurs had prevailed on my wife, and contrived to encourage and lead on the company to singing both solo and in chorus. This put me in an ill-humor. The two amateurs seem importunate; the singing made me irritable, and when a verse in solo was demanded from me as well, I became really indignant, emptied my glass, and set it roughly down.
My neighbors’ tact soon made me feel soothed again, but it is a bad case for anger if it has once made a start. It simmered away in secret, although everything ought to have disposed me to pleasure and to complaisance. On the contrary, I only grew still more ill-tempered when a lute was brought, and my fair one accompanied her song, to the astonishment of everyone else. As ill-luck would have it, a general silence was requested. So I was not to be allowed to talk any more; and the sounds set my teeth on edge. Was it wonderful, then, that the smallest spark at last set light to the mine?
The songsters had just ended a song amidst the greatest approval, when she looked across towards me, and in truth with a right loving look. Unhappily the glance did not penetrate within me. She noticed that I gulped down a cup of wine, and filled up another. With her right-hand forefinger she made a sign of affectionate threatening.
“Remember that it is wine,” she said, only loud enough for me to hear it.
“Water is for nixies!” I exclaimed.
“Ladies,” said she to my neighbors, “crown the cup with every grace, that it be not so often empty.”
“You surely will not let yourself be domineered over?” said one of them to me.
“What ails the imp?” I exclaimed, gesticulating more wildly, and thereby upsetting the cup.
“It is not little that is overthrown,” cried the wondrous beauty, striking the strings as if to attract the attention of the company from this interruption to herself again. In this she actually succeeded; the more so, as she stood up, but only as if she wished to play with more convenience to herself, and continued her prelude.
As soon as I saw the red wine streaming over the tablecloth I came to my senses. I saw how great a fault I had committed, and was cut to the very heart. For the first time the music spoke to me. The first stanza that she sang was a kindly farewell to the company, whilst as yet they could still feel that they were together. With the next stanza the party seemed as it were to be scattered asunder; each individual felt himself solitary, separated; no one imagined himself to be any longer present. But what should I say of the last stanza? It was addressed to me alone: the voice of injured love bidding farewell to ill-temper and presumption.
Mutely I led her home, expecting naught pleasant to myself. Yet scarcely had we reached our room than she proved to be in the highest degree kind and amiable, nay, even roguish, making me the happiest of men.
The next morning, being completely consoled and full of affection, I said, “You have so often sung, when challenged to it by good company, for instance, that touching farewell-song yesterday evening: sing now, too, for love of me, only this once, a pretty, lively welcome at this morning hour, so that we may be as if we were learning to know each other for the first time!”
“That I may not do, my friend,” she replied, with seriousness; “the song of yesterday evening referred to our parting, which must now take place forthwith; for I can tell you only that the violence done to your word and oath has the evilest consequences for us both: you scoff away a great gift of fortune, and I, too, must forego my dearest wishes.”
When, hereupon, I was urgent with her, and begged that she would explain herself more clearly, she replied, “That, alas, I can easily do, for at all events there is an end of my remaining with you. Hear, then, what I would rather have concealed from you to the last moments! The form in which you beheld me in the box is in reality innate and natural to me, for I am of the race of King Eckwald, the mighty prince of the dwarfs, of whom authentic history tells so much. Our people are still, as of old, active and industrious, and for that reason also easy to govern. But you must not suppose that the dwarfs have remained behindhand in their labors. Else would swords, which followed the enemy when they were thrown after him, invisible and secretly binding fetters, impenetrable shields and the like, be their most famous productions; but now they busy themselves especially with articles of convenience and of adornment, and surpass therein all other people of the earth. You would be astonished if you were to walk through our workshops and warehouses. This would be—this would all be well now, were it not that, with the whole nation in general, but chiefly with the royal family, a special circumstance came into play.”
As she remained silent for a moment, I entreated her for further disclosure of these marvellous secrets, which she forthwith conceded to me.
“It is well known,” she said, “that God, as soon as He had created the world, and the whole earth was dry, and mountains stood there mighty and glorious—God, I say, forthwith created, before anything else, the dwarfs, in order that there might also be rational beings, who in their burrows and clefts might marvel at and adore his wonders in the inner parts of the earth. Furthermore, it is known that this little race later became lifted up, and aspired to gain for themselves the dominion of the earth, wherefore God then created dragons in order to drive the dwarfs back into their mountains. But since the dragons themselves were wont to make their nests in the great holes and caverns, and there to live, many of them, too, spitting fire, and working much other devastation, the dwarfs were thus reduced to great straits and distress, so much so, that no longer knowing where to come or go, they therefore very humbly and imploringly turned themselves to God the Lord, and called to Him in prayer that He would bring to naught again this unclean breed of dragons. But although in his wisdom He could not determine to destroy his own creatures, yet the dire need of the poor dwarfs so went to his heart, that He immediately created the giants, who were to fight the dragons, and, if not root them out, at least diminish their number.
“But no sooner had the giants pretty well done with the dragons, than pride and arrogance arose forthwith within them, and in consequence they perpetrated much evil, especially towards the poor dwarfs, who in their distress turned themselves again to the Lord: He thereupon in the power of his might created knights who were to fight the giants and dragons and live on good terms with the dwarfs. With this the work of creation was completed in this direction, and it has come to pass that henceforth giants and dragons as well as knights and dwarfs have always managed to co-exist. Whereby you may see, my friend, that we belong to the oldest race in the world, which is certainly to our honor, but which also carries with it great disadvantages.
“For since nothing can last forever in the world, but everything that has once been great must become small and decrease, we, too, are in this case, that since the creation of the world we have always been decreasing and getting smaller, and above all the others the royal family, which, on account of the purity of its blood, is the first to be subjected to this destiny. On this account our wise instructors have many years ago devised this expedient, that from time to time a princess of the royal house is sent out into the world to wed herself with some honorable knight, in order that the race of dwarfs may be again invigorated, and saved from total ruin.”
Whilst my fair one uttered these words with thorough simplicity, I looked at her with misgiving, for it seemed as if she had a wish to impose upon me. As far as her pretty pedigree was concerned I had no further doubt, but that she had got hold of me in place of a knight, this caused me some mistrust, inasmuch as I know myself too well to think of supposing that my forefathers were created directly by God.
I concealed my wonder and doubt, and asked her kindly, “But tell me, my dear child, how do you attain to this tall and shapely form? for I know few women that can be compared with you in fineness of figure.”
“That you shall hear,” replied my fair one. “It has been handed down for ages in the council of the dwarf-king that we should beware of taking this extraordinary step as long as possible—which indeed I find quite natural and proper. There would probably have still been much hesitation about sending out a princess into the world again, if my younger brother had not been brought into the world so small, that the nurses actually lost him out of his swaddling clothes and no one knows whither he has gone. At this occurrence, altogether unknown in the annals of the dwarf realm, the wise men were assembled, and without further parley the resolution was taken to send me out to look for a husband.”
“The resolution!” I exclaimed; “this is all very fine: you may take a resolution, you may come to a determination; but to give a dwarf this form divine, how did your wise men bring that about?”
“This was already provided for by our ancestors,” she said. “In the royal treasury lay an immense gold finger-ring. I speak of it now as it appeared to me when it was formerly shown to me as a child, in its place; for it is the same that I have here on my finger. And now the following process was gone through.
“I was informed of all that awaited me, and was instructed as to what I was to do and not to do. A magnificent palace, after the pattern of my parents’ favorite summer-residence, was made ready—a main building, side-wings, and everything that one can but wish for. It stood at the entrance of a great rocky ravine, which it adorned to the utmost. On the appointed day the court withdrew thither, with me and my parents. The army was reviewed, and four and twenty priests, not without difficulty, bore the wondrous ring upon a costly barrow. It was laid upon the threshold of the building just inside where one would step. Many ceremonies were gone through, and after a heartfelt farewell, I advanced to the work. I stepped up to it, laid my hand upon the ring, and forthwith began visibly to increase. In a few moments I had reached my present stature, whereupon I straightway put the ring upon my finger. Then, on the instant, windows, door and gates closed up, the side-wings drew back into the main building: in place of the palace, stood a small box beside me, which I at once lifted up, and carried with me, not without a pleasant feeling in being so large and so strong, though still, it is true, a dwarf compared with trees and mountains, with streams and tracts of land, but yet to all intents a giant compared with grass and herbs, but especially with the ants, with whom we dwarfs are not always on good terms, and by whom consequently we are often annoyed.
“How I fared on my pilgrimage, before I met you—of this I might have a good deal to tell. Enough, I tried many, but no one else but you seemed to me worthy to renovate and perpetuate the line of the princely Eckwald.”
During all these communications my head kept wagging, though I did not actually shake it. I put various questions, to which however I obtained no particular answer; but rather learned, to my very great sorrow, that after what had happened she must of necessity return to her parents. She hoped, indeed, to come back to me, but at present she must inevitably present herself, since otherwise all would be lost for her as well as for me. The purses would soon leave off paying, and all sorts of other consequences would ensue therefrom.
When I heard that our money might run out, I inquired no further what else might happen. I shrugged my shoulders and said nothing, and she seemed to understand me.
We packed up together and took our seats in the carriage, with the box opposite to us, in which however I could not yet see anything like a palace. And so we went on for several stages. Post-money and drink-money were readily and liberally paid from the pockets on the right hand and left, till we came at last to a hilly district, and we had scarcely alighted than my fair one walked on in front and I followed at her bidding with the box. She led me along a tolerably steep path to a narrow plot of meadow-land, through which a clear brook partly rushed down and partly meandered at a quiet pace. There she pointed out to me a raised level plot, bade me set down the box and said “Farewell, you will easily find the way back. Think of me; I hope to see you again.”
At this moment I felt as if I could not leave her. She was just then in one of her good days again, or if you will, her good hours. To be with so lovable a being on the verdant carpet amidst grass and flowers, concealed by rocks, lulled by the rill, what heart could have remained unmoved? I could have seized her hand, clasped her in my arms, but she pressed me back, and threatened me, though still lovingly enough, with great peril if I did not straightway withdraw.
“Is there then no possibility,” I exclaimed, “of my staying with you, of your being able to keep me with you?”
I accompanied these words with gestures and tones so full of sorrow that she seemed touched, and after a little thought admitted to me that a continuance of our union was not utterly impossible. Who was happier than I? My importunity, which grew more and more urgent, at last obliged her to say the word, and disclose to me, that if I would make up my mind to become, together with her, as small as I had already seen her, I could even now stay with her, and enter with her into her dwelling, her kingdom, and her family. This plan did not altogether please me. Yet I could not all at this moment tear myself away from her, and having now for a long time been accustomed to the marvellous, and being bound to a speedy resolution, I agreed, and said that she might do what she liked with me.
I had forthwith to hold out the little finger of my right hand; she set her own against it, with her left hand drew the gold ring quite gently off, and let it slide on to my finger. This was scarcely done than I felt a severe pain in the finger: the ring contracted and tortured me horribly. I gave a loud scream, and involuntarily gazed around me for my beautiful one, who, however, had disappeared. What my state of mind was in the meantime I could find no words to express, nor does aught remain for me to say but that I very soon found myself in diminutive form, close by my fair one in a forest of grass-blades. The delight of meeting again after a short and yet so strange a separation, or if you will, a reunion without separation, transcends all conception. I fell upon her neck: she returned my caresses, and the little couple felt as happy as the big one.
With some trouble we now proceeded to climb up a hill, for the sward had become for us an almost impenetrable forest. Yet at last we reached a clear space, and how astounded was I to see there a large barred and bolted pile, which, however, I was soon forced to recognize as the box in the condition in which I had set it down.
“Go, dear friend, and only knock with the ring. You will see wonders,” said my beloved.
I went up to it, and had hardly knocked when I really witnessed the greatest marvel. Two side-wings came forward, and at the same time, like scales and chips, down fell sundry portions, whereupon doors, windows, arcades and all that pertains to a complete palace, came all at once to view.
Anyone who has seen one of Röntgens’ ingenious writing-tables, in which, by one pull, a number of catches and strings come into play, and desk, writing materials, letter-drawers, and money-drawers are brought out all at once or soon after each other, will be able to form some idea of the unfolding of this palace into which my sweet conductress now introduced me. In the principal saloon I at once recognized the chimney that I had formerly seen from above, and the seat upon which she sat. And when I looked above my head I fancied that I actually still saw something of the rift in the dome through which I had looked in. I spare you a description of the rest: enough, all was spacious, costly and tasteful. I had scarcely recovered from my astonishment, when I heard in the distance a military band. My lovely half jumped for joy, and informed me with delight of the approach of her royal father. We stepped out to the entrance and looked as a brilliant procession defiled out of a beautiful rocky chasm. Soldiers, servants, household officials, and a brilliant array of courtiers followed one behind the other. Finally we beheld a gilded crowd and in it the king himself. When the whole procession was drawn up in front of the palace the king come forward with his most select retinue. His loving daughter ran to meet him, dragging me with her; we threw ourselves at his feet; he raised me very graciously, and only when I came to stand in front of him did I notice that in this miniature world I was actually the most considerable in stature. We walked together towards the palace, when the king, in the presence of his whole court, and in a studied speech, in which he expressed his astonishment at finding us here, was pleased to bid me welcome, acknowledged me as his son-in-law, and fixed the nuptial ceremony for the next day.
In what a terrible state of mind was I, when I heard marriage spoken of! for I had hitherto dreaded this, almost more than music itself, which otherwise seemed to me the most hateful thing upon earth. People that make music, I was accustomed to say, at least fancy that they are at one with each other, and working in unison, for when they have been tuning-up, and rending our ears with all sorts of discords long enough, they fancy, safely and surely, that the matter is now simplified, and that one instrument accords exactly with another. Even the director is under this happy delusion, and now they set off merrily, whilst for the rest of us our ears keep on tingling. In the wedded state, on the other hand, even this is not the case: for although it is only a duet, and one would think that two voices, nay, two instruments, must be able to be brought into some sort of tune, yet this seldom happens: for if the husband emits one note, the wife immediately takes a higher one, and the husband a higher again; then it passes from the chamber-pitch to the choral, and so on, higher and higher, so that at last even wind instruments cannot keep up with it, and thus, seeing that harmonic music continues hateful to me, it is still less to be supposed that I should endure the unharmonic.
Of all the festivities in which the day was spent I need not and cannot say anything, for I took little heed of them. The sumptuous food, the delicious wine, everything was distasteful to me: I was thinking and considering what I should do. And yet there was not much to be thought of. When night came, I made up my mind, without more ado, to get up and go away and hide myself somewhere or other. Accordingly I got safely to a crevice in the rock into which I squeezed and concealed myself as well as possible. My first anxiety after this was to get the unlucky ring from off my finger, but in this I was by no means successful; rather I was compelled to feel that it always got tighter as soon as I attempted to draw it off, causing me to endure acute pains, which, however, abated as soon as I desisted from my intention.
Early in the morning I woke up—for my little body had slept very well—and was just going to look a little further about me, when it began to rain, as it almost seemed, upon me. For something fell down in large quantities like sand or grit, through grass, leaves and flowers; but how horrified I was, when the whole place round about me seemed to be alive, and an innumerable host of ants rushed down upon me. No sooner did they perceive me than they attacked me on all sides, and although I defended myself vigorously and bravely enough, they at last so overwhelmed, pinched and pricked me, that I was glad when I heard a demand that I should surrender. I, in fact, did surrender on the spot, whereupon an ant of remarkable size approached me with politeness, nay, with reverence, and even recommended himself to my favor. I learned that the ants were allies of my father-in-law, and that he had summoned them to his aid in the present emergency, and enjoined them to fetch me back. Little as I was, I was now in the hands of creatures still less. I had now to look forward to the wedding, and must needs thank God if my father-in-law were not enraged, and my fair one become vexed.
Let me pass over in silence all the ceremonies: enough, we were married; yet, merrily and gayly as the time passed with us, there were nevertheless some lonely hours, when one is led to reflection; and something happened to me which had never happened before. What it was and how it happened you shall hear.
Everything about me was completely proportioned to my present shape and to my requirements; the bottles and glasses were well adapted to a small drinker, nay, if you will, in accordance with a better standard than ours. To my small gums the dainty mouthfuls had an excellent flavor; a kiss from the little mouth of my wife was the most enchanting thing in the world, and I do not deny that novelty made all these circumstances in the highest degree pleasing. Yet at the same time I had unhappily not forgotten my former state of existence. I felt within me a measure of former greatness, which made me restless and unhappy. Now for the first time I saw what the philosophers mean with their ideals, wherewith mankind are said to be so plagued. I had an ideal of myself, and often appeared to myself in dreams as a giant. Enough; the wife, the ring, the diminutive form, and so many other bonds, made me thoroughly and completely miserable, so that I began to think seriously of my deliverance.
As I was persuaded that the whole magic lay in the ring, I determined to file it off. Accordingly I borrowed some files from the court jeweller. Fortunately I was left-handed, and had never in my life done anything in a right-handed way. I kept bravely at the work, which was no trifle, for the golden circle, thin as it appeared, had grown thicker, in proportion, as it had contracted from its former size. All leisure hours I devoted, unobserved, to this task, and was wise enough, when the metal was nearly filed through, to step outside the door. This was well advised, for all at once the golden hoop sprang forcibly from my finger, and my figure shot upwards with such violence, that I fancied I really struck the sky, and in any case would have broken through the dome of our summer palace, nay, would have destroyed the entire pavilion with my rude clumsiness.
So there I stood again, certainly so much the bigger, but, as I considered, also much more foolish and helpless. And when I recovered from my stupefaction, I saw lying near me the case, which I found tolerably heavy when I lifted it up, and took the footpath downwards to the post-house, where I immediately ordered horses and set forth. On the way, I presently made trial of the pockets on both sides. Instead of money, which seemed to be exhausted, I found a little key: it belonged to the box, in which I found a moderate reserve fund. As long as this held out, I made use of the carriage, then this was sold to allow of my going on by the diligence; at length I cast away the box, for I kept thinking that it ought to fill itself once more; and so finally, though by a considerable circuit, I came back to the chimney-corner and the cook, where you first made my acquaintance.
Hersilia to Wilhelm.
Acquaintanceships, even if they commence as ordinary ones, have often the most important results: and this is certainly the case with yours, which from the very beginning was not an ordinary one. The wonderful key came into my hands as a strange pledge; now I possess the casket as well. Key and casket! What say you to that? What should be said to it? Listen how it happened.
A young man of refined manners calls upon my uncle, and informs him that the skilful dealer in antiquities who had been for some time connected with you had died a short time before, and bequeathed to him the whole of his extraordinary residue, but at the same time had imposed upon him the duty of immediately restoring all alien property, which was, in fact, only on deposit. “No one need be troubled about property of his own, for its loss he alone has to bear; but only in special cases had he allowed himself to take charge of other people’s property. He did not wish him to be burdened with this responsibility, nay, in all fatherly love and authority, he forbade him to meddle therewith.” And hereupon he drew forth the casket, which, though I was already familiar with it by description, still struck me most particularly.
My uncle, after looking at it from every side, gave it back and said that he, too, made a principle of acting in the same way, and burdened himself with no antique object, however beautiful and wonderful it might be, unless he knew to whom it had formerly belonged, and what historical interest might be associated with it. Now this casket exhibited neither letters nor ciphers, neither date nor any other indication, from which the former owner or artist could be guessed; thus to him it was utterly useless and uninteresting.
The youth stood in considerable embarrassment, and after some reflection asked if he would not allow him to leave it with his men of business. My uncle laughed, and turning to me said, “This would be nice matter for you, Hersilia. You have all sorts of other ornaments and pretty trinkets: put this amongst them! for I would lay a wager that our friend, who is still not indifferent to you, will come again, by-and-bye, and take it away.”
This I must write to you, if I am to tell my story truly, and then I must confess that I looked at the casket with envious eyes, and a certain covetousness took possession of me. It was repugnant to me to think of this lordly treasure-casket, assigned by fate to the sweet Felix, in the ancient and rusty iron strong box of the office. Like a magic wand, my hand drew towards it; my little grain of sense held it back. I had the key, verily; that I dared not disclose; how should I inflict on myself the martyrdom of leaving the lock unopened, or allow myself the unwarrantable boldness of unlocking it? But, I know not whether it was longing or presentiment, I imagined that you were coming soon, would be there already when I went to my room: in short, I felt so strange, so queer, so confused, as is always the case when I am forced out of my even-tempered cheerfulness. I say no more, neither by way of description nor apology. Enough; here the casket lies before me in my jewel-case, the key beside it, and if you have any sort of heart or kindliness, think what a state I am in, how many passions contend within me, how I wish for you, and Felix too, that there may be an end of it, at least that some hint may be given of what is the meaning of this marvellous finding, refinding, separating, and re-uniting. And even if I am not to be rescued from all perplexity, at least I wish most earnestly that this may be cleared up and ended, even though something worse, as I fear, should befall me.
Amongst the papers which lie before us for editing, we find a conceit, which we insert here without further preliminary, because our affairs are getting more and more urgent, and we may not be able to find a place for such irregularities further on.
On the whole this story may not be unpleasing to the reader, as it was told by St. Christopher in the merry evening hours to a circle of jovial comrades assembled:—
The Hazardous Wager.
It is a well-known fact that people, as soon as they are in any degree getting on well and after their desires, are straightway at a loss to know what, in their pride of heart, they shall lay their hand to. And thus also mettlesome students were accustomed during the vacations to roam in flocks through the country, playing the fool after their kind, which, in fact, was not always followed by the best results. They were of very different sorts, such as student-life brings together and unites: unequal in birth, wealth, intellect and education, but all of them good company, leading and egging-on one another in merry mood. But they would often select me for a companion; for if I carried heavier burdens than any one of them, yet they must needs give me the honorary title of a great jester; and chiefly for this reason, that I played my pranks more seldom but so much the more effectually—to which the following story may bear witness.
We had arrived in our wanderings at a pleasant mountain village, which with an isolated situation had the advantage of a posting station, and a few pretty girls in great solitude, as inhabitants. Our object was to rest, kill time, flirt, live more cheaply for a while, and by that means waste more money.
It was just after dinner, when some were in an elevated, others in a depressed condition; some were lying sleeping away their over-indulgence, others would rather give it vent in some unrestrained way or other. We had a couple of large rooms in a side-wing towards the courtyard. A fine carriage which rattled in with four horses attracted us to the window. The servants jumped down from the box and helped out a gentleman of dignified and distinguished appearance, who notwithstanding his years still walked up vigorously enough.
His large and finely formed nose first caught my eye, and I know not what evil spirit was prompting me that in a moment I hit on the maddest scheme, and without further thought immediately began to put it in practice.
“What is your opinion of this gentleman?” I asked of the company.
“He looks,” said one, “as if he would not stand a joke.”
“Aye, aye,” said another, “he has quite the look of a distinguished ‘Meddle-not-with-me.’ ”
“And nevertheless,” said I quite confidently, “what do you bet that I will not tweak him by the nose without getting any harm from it myself! Nay, I will even get him to be a good patron to myself by doing it.”
“If you accomplish that,” said Swagger, “we’ll each give you a louis-d’or.”
“Pay in the money for me,” I exclaimed; “I rely upon you.”
“I had rather pluck a hair from a lion’s muzzle,” said the little one.
“I have no time to lose,” replied I, and rushed down-stairs.
On my first glance at the stranger I had noticed that he had a very strong beard, so I guessed that none of his attendants could shave. I now met the waiter, and asked, “Has not the stranger gentleman asked for a barber?”
“Indeed he has,” replied the waiter, “and with very good reason. The gentleman’s valet stopped behind two days ago. The gentleman wants to be rid absolutely of his beard; and our only barber—who can tell whereabouts in the neighborhood he has gone!”
“Then mention me,” replied I. “Only introduce me as a barber to the gentleman, and you will gain honor together with me.”
I took the shaving-tools that I found in the house, and followed the waiter. The old gentleman received me with great solemnity, and looked at me from top to toe, as if wanting to search out my dexterity from my physiognomy.
“Do you understand your trade?” he said to me.
“I am looking for my equal,” replied I, “without boasting of myself.”
I was also sure of my qualification, for I had at an early age practised the noble art, and was especially noted on this account, that I shaved with the left hand.
The room in which the gentleman made his toilet extended to the courtyard, and was situated exactly in such a manner that our friends could conveniently look in, especially when the windows were open. To the usual preparations nothing more was wanting: my patron had sat down and had had the towel put on.
I stepped very respectfully in front of him, and said: “Your excellency, in the practice of my art I have particularly noticed that I have always shaved common people better and more satisfactorily than the gentry. I have thought over this for a long time, and have tried to find the reason, now in this way, now in that, and at last I have discovered that I work much better in the open air than in closed rooms. Will your excellency allow me, therefore, to open the window, when you will soon experience the effect to your own satisfaction.”
He gave his consent: I opened the window, gave my friends a nod, and fell to lathering the bristly beard with much grace. No less nimbly and lightly I mowed away the stubble from the field, and in doing so did not hesitate, when I came to the upper lip, to grasp my patron by the nose, and palpably bend it up and down, at the same time contriving to put myself in such positions that the wagerers, to their great delight, must needs see and confess that their side had lost.
With great dignity the old gentleman stepped up to the looking-glass: one could see that he looked at himself with some complacency, and in reality he was a very handsome man. Then he turned to me with a dark flashing but kindly look, and said: “You deserve, my friend, to be praised above many of your like, for I notice in you much less clumsiness than in others: you do not travel two or three times over the same place, but do it in one stroke, nor do you wipe the razor as so many do in the open hand, and flourish the wipings under the person’s nose. But your cleverness with your left hand is especially remarkable. Here is something for your trouble,” he resumed, handing me a florin; “only remember one thing—that people of quality are not taken hold of by the nose. If you will avoid this boorish custom for the future, you may yet make your fortune in the world.”
I bowed low, promised to do all I could, begged him, if he should chance to return, to honor me again, and ran as fast as I could to our youngsters, who at the last had caused me a good deal of anxiety. For they raised such roars of laughter and yells, leaped about like maniacs in the room, clapped their hands and shouted, woke the people who were asleep, and kept describing the affair with ever fresh laughter and madness, that I myself, as soon as I got into the room, shut the window at once, and begged them for God’s sake to be quiet; but at last I was forced to laugh with them at the look of an absurd affair that I had carried through with so much gravity.
When, after a time, the raging waves of laughter were somewhat subsided, I considered myself lucky: I had the gold pieces in my pocket, and the well-earned florin into the bargain, and looked upon myself as well provided, which was all the more satisfactory, as the party had decided to separate the next day. But we were not destined to part company with propriety and good order. The story was too taking for them to have been able to keep it to themselves, though I had begged and prayed them only to hold their tongues till the departure of the old gentleman. One of us, called Go-ahead, had a love affair with the daughter of the house. They met, and Heaven knows whether it was that he did not know how to amuse her better, at any rate he told her the joke, and they almost died with laughing together over it. That was not the end of it, for the girl laughingly repeated the story, and so at last, a little before bed-time, it reached the old gentleman.
We were sitting more quietly than usual, for there had been uproar enough all day, when all at once the little waiter, who was very much devoted to us, rushed in, crying, “Save yourselves!—you’ll be beaten to death!”
We jumped to our feet, and would have known more about it, but he was already out of the door again. I sprang up, and pushed-to the bolt, but already we heard a knocking and banging at the door, nay, we thought we heard it being split with an axe. We mechanically retreated into the second room, all struck dumb. “We are betrayed,” I exclaimed; “the devil has us by the nose!”
Swagger grasped at his sword; I however at this point showed my giant strength, and without assistance pushed a heavy chest of drawers before the door, which fortunately opened inwards; yet already we heard the hubbub in the other room, and the most violent blows at our door.
The baron seemed determined to defend himself; but I repeatedly called out to him and the others, “Save yourselves: you have not only blows to fear here, but disgrace, which is worse for noblemen.”
The girl rushed in, the same who had betrayed us, now desperate to find her lover in mortal peril.
“Away, away!” she cried, and seized hold of him; “away, away! I will take you through lofts, barns and passages. Come, all of you; the last must draw the ladder after him.”
They all rushed to the back-door and out of it. I just lifted a box upon the chest, in order to force back and keep firm the already broken lining of the besieged door, but my courage and daring had nearly been my ruin.
When I ran to join the others, I found that the ladder was already drawn up, and saw that all hope of saving myself was completely cut off. There stand I, the actual transgressor, having already resigned the hope of escaping with a whole skin and unbroken bones; and who knows—yet leave me standing there with my thoughts, since after all I am here to tell you the tale. Only hear still how this rash jest was lost in ill consequences.
The old gentleman, deeply hurt by this unavenged indignity, took it to heart, and it is said that this circumstance contributed to, if it did not immediately cause, his death. His son, trying to trace the perpetrators, unfortunately found out the baron’s participation, though only clearly after many years, called him out, and a wound by which the handsome man was disfigured troubled him for his whole life. For his adversary, too, this affair spoiled several fair years, through events accidentally connected with it.
Since every fable should, properly, teach something, what the present one is intended to teach is doubtless perfectly clear and evident to all.
The day of utmost importance had dawned; to-day were to be taken the first steps towards the general migration, to-day was it to be determined who would actually set forth into the world, or who would rather stay on this side and try his fortune on the undivided surface of the Old World.
A merry burden resounded in all the streets of the cheerful country town. Groups of people gathered together, the individual members of each craft combined, and, singing in unison, filed in an order determined by lot into the hall.
The authorities, as we will designate Lenardo, Friedrich and the Bailiff, were on the point of following them and taking the places due to their position, when a man of attractive appearance came up to them and asked their permission to be able to take part in the meeting. It would have been impossible to refuse him anything, so orderly, prepossessing and amiable was his demeanor, by the aid of which an imposing carriage, which pointed to the army as well as the court and good society, showed itself to the highest advantage. He went in with the others, and a place of honor was accorded to him. All the rest having sat down, Lenardo remained standing, and began to speak as follows:
“If we consider, my friends, the most populous provinces and kingdoms of the Continent, we find all over, wherever available soil occurs, that it is tilled, planted, kept in order and made beautiful, and in like measure sought after, taken possession of, fortified and defended. Thus, accordingly, do we convince ourselves of the high value of landed possession, and are forced to look upon it as the first, the best thing that can be man’s. When we find then on closer inspection the love of parents and children, the close clanship of fellow-countrymen and fellow-townsmen, as well as the general patriotic sentiment based immediately upon the soil, then does this acquisition and retention of area in large or small amount seem ever more important and worthy of respect. Yes, thus has Nature willed it! A man born upon the sod comes by custom to belong to it. The two grow with one another, and forthwith knit for themselves the most pleasing bonds. Who is there then that would lay hostile hands on the groundwork of all existence, or deny worth and dignity to so fair a gift of heaven.
“And yet one might say: If what man possesses is of great worth, to what he does and achieves a still greater must be ascribed. We may therefore, in a complete review, regard land-ownership as a smaller part of the goods that have been granted to us; but the most and the highest of them consist really in what is movable, and that which is gained in a life of movement.
“For such are we younger men especially bound to look round about us; for even if we had a desire to stay and plod on with our fathers’ inheritance, yet do we find ourselves summoned a thousand times by no means to shut our eyes to a wider prospect outwards and round about. Let us therefore hasten quickly to the sea-shore, and convince ourselves in one look what immeasurable spaces stand open for activity, and let us confess that at the mere thought we find ourselves quite differently aroused.
“Yet we will not lose ourselves in such boundless expanses, but turn our attention to the solid, wide, broad soil of so many countries and kingdoms. There we see large tracts of the country overrun by nomads whose towns are removable, whose living, supporting possession of herds should everywhere be introduced. We see them in the midst of the desert, in a large green meadow-plot, lying, as it were, at anchor in a longed-for haven. Such motion, such wandering, becomes a habit to them, a necessity; at last they look upon the surface of the earth as if it were not hemmed-in by mountains, nor penetrated by rivers. Still have we seen the north-east move towards the south-west; one people driving another before it—domination and ownership completely altered.
“From over-peopled countries will the same thing happen again in the great cycle of the earth. What we have to expect from other nations it would be difficult to say; but it is wonderful how, through our own over-population, we cramp each other from within: and without waiting to be driven out, we drive ourselves out; pronouncing of our own accord the sentence of banishment against one another.
“This then is the time and place for giving play, without vexation or downheartedness in our souls, to a certain restlessness, not suppressing the impatient longing which urges us to change our position and place. Yet let not whatsoever we intend and purpose come to pass from hasty feeling, nor from any other sort of compulsion, but from conviction corresponding to the best advice.
“It has been said and repeated, ‘Where I am well off, there is my fatherland;’ yet this comforting proverb would be better expressed if it ran, ‘Where I am useful, there is my fatherland.’ At home a man can be useless, without its being noticed at once: out in the world uselessness is soon evident. If then I say, ‘Let each one try to be useful to himself and others everywhere,’ this is no doctrine or piece of advice, but the declaration of life itself.
“Now let us look at the globe, and for the present leave the sea unregarded. See that you are not carried away by the swarms of ships, but fix your glance upon the mainland, and marvel how it is overspread by a teeming, intercrossing ant-race. This has the Lord God himself allowed, whilst He prevented the building of the tower of Babel, and scattered the human race over all the world. Let us therefor praise Him, for this blessing has gone out upon all generations.
“Observe with pleasure how all youth hastens to set itself in motion. Since instruction is offered to it neither in the house nor at the doors, it forthwith speeds to countries and cities, whither the renown of knowledge and wisdom entices it. After receiving a swift and moderate education it feels itself presently driven to take a further look round in the world to see whether it can thus or anywhere find out and snatch up any useful experience helpful to its ends. May it accordingly light on good luck! But we are thinking of those accomplished and distinguished men, those noble inquirers into nature, who willingly encounter every difficulty, every danger, in order to open out the world to the world, and through the most trackless wastes make a path and road.
“But mark you, too, up the level highways, cloud upon cloud of dust, indicating the track of commodious high-packed vehicles, in which the noble, the rich, and so many others roll along, whose varying way of thought and object Yorick has so gracefully contrasted for us.
“But the sturdy craftsman on foot may look after them reassured; for on him the fatherland has imposed the duty of making foreign ability his own, and of not returning to the native hearth until he has succeeded in this. But more generally we meet upon our road market-folk and pedlers; a small tradesman even dares not omit to leave his stall from time to time, to visit fairs and markets, to visit the wholesale dealer, and augment his scanty profit by the example and participation of the unlimited. But yet more unrestingly, in the shape of individuals on horseback, swarms in all the main and side streets the crowd of those whose occupation it is to make a claim on our purse, even against our will. Samples of all kinds, price-lists pursue us in town and country houses, and, wherever we may flee for refuge, industriously astonish us, offering opportunities which it would never occur to anyone in his senses to seek out for himself. But what shall I say now of the people which before all others appropriates for itself the blessing of eternal wandering, and by its restless activity contrives to outwit those who stand still and outstrip its fellow-wanderers? We need speak neither well nor ill of it. Nothing good, because our association keeps them aloof; nothing evil, because the traveller—mindful of reciprocal advantage—is bound to deal civilly with everyone he meets.
“But, now, before all things we have to think with sympathy of all artists; for they are throughout interconnected in the movement of the world. Does not the painter wander with easel and palette from face to face? and are not his brethren in art summoned, now here, now there—for there is building and modelling to be done everywhere? But more briskly does the musician step onward; for it is he especially who affords new surprise to a new ear—fresh astonishment for a fresh mind. Then the players, though they despise the cart of Thespis, yet still travel about in smaller companies, and their movable world is erected in every spot nimbly enough. Thus, individually, foregoing serious and profitable engagements, they like to change one place for another where their augmented talent with similarly augmented requirements affords opportunity and pretext. Thereby they generally so train themselves beforehand that they leave no important stage in their country untrodden.
“Next are we presently reminded to glance at the teaching class. This likewise you find in perpetual activity; one professional chair after the other is occupied and left in order to scatter richly—yes, in every direction—the seeds of quick culture. But more industrious, and of wider scope, are those pious souls who disperse themselves through all quarters of the world to bring salvation to the nations. Others, again, go as pilgrims to get salvation for themselves; whole hosts of them march to sanctified miraculous places, there to seek and to gain what their souls could not obtain at home.
“If all these, now, do not set us wondering, inasmuch as their doings and abstainings would for the most part be not conceivable without wandering, yet those who devote their industry to the soil we might at least regard as bound to it. By no means! Utilization can be imagined even without possession, and we see the keen cultivator forsaking a plot which has yielded him as a tenant-farmer profit and pleasure for a number of years; he seeks impatiently for the same, or greater profits, be it near or far. Nay, the owner himself leaves his newly-cleared tillage, as soon as he has made it, by his working, acceptable to a less expert settler. Anew he penetrates into the desert, a second time makes for himself a place in the forests; in compensation for his former toil, a double and a threefold larger space—upon which, perhaps, too, he thinks of not remaining.
“Let us leave him there, at war with bears and other beasts, and come back to the civilized world, where we find things in no sense more at rest. Look at any great well-ordered kingdom, where the most apt must suppose himself to be the most easy to move: at the nod of a prince, at the order of the state council, the useful man is conveyed from one place to the other. To him, too, our exhortation applies—‘Try to be of use everywhere, everywhere are you at home.” But let us look at important statesmen, leaving, though unwillingly, their high positions; so have we reason to pity them, since we must require them neither as emigrators nor as travellers; not as emigrators, because they renounce a desirable position without any prospect of a better situation being opened out for them even in appearance only; not as travellers, because to be useful to other places in any way is seldom conceded to them.
“The soldier, however, is called to a peculiarly wandering life: even in peace now one post, now another, is assigned to him. To fight for the fatherland near or far he must always keep himself ready to move, and not only for immediate safety, but also for the purposes of people and rulers, he wends his way to all parts of the world, and to settle in this place or that is granted only to a few. Now, whilst courage always stands out as the first quality in the soldier, yet it is always supposed to be combined with fidelity, on which account we see certain nations, renowned for their trustworthiness, called away from their native lands to serve as bodyguards for secular and spiritual princes.
“One more class, exceedingly migratory, and indispensable to the State, we see in those functionaries who, sent from court to court, encompass ministers and princes, and inweave the whole habitable globe with invisible threads. Not one of these, too, is sure of his position and locality for even one moment only. In time of peace the cleverest are sent from one part of the world to another; in war-time, following the victorious host, making ready the roads for it when fugitive, they are always prepared to exchange one place for another, on which account they always carry with them a large supply of farewell cards.
“If we have hitherto contrived to do ourselves honor at every step in claiming the most distinguished bodies of effective men as our comrades and colleagues in destiny, yet still, dear friends, there stands before you, as a conclusion, the highest honor, in finding yourselves affiliated with emperors, kings and princes. First let us remember, with benedictions, that noble imperial wanderer Hadrian, who marched on foot at the head of his host through the civilized world, made subject to him, thereby first completely taking possession of it. With horror let us remember the conquerors, those armed wanderers, against whom no resistance availed, nor wall and bulwark could protect inoffensive nations. Finally, let us accompany with honest pity those hapless exiled princes, who, falling from the summit of greatness, cannot even be received in the humble guild of effective wanderers.
“Since we have now made all this present and clear to one another, no petty despondency, no murkiness bred of passion, will prevail over us. The time is past when people rushed adventurously into the wide world. Thanks to scientific travellers writing with wisdom, copying artistically, we are everywhere sufficiently well-instructed to know tolerably what we have to expect.
“Yet the individual cannot attain to perfect knowledge. But our association is based on this, that each shall be instructed in his degree according to his aims. If anyone has a land in mind towards which his wishes are directed, we try to make known to him in detail what has floated before his imagination as a whole: to give ourselves, one to the other, a survey of the inhabited and habitable globe is the most agreeable, the most profitable of diversions.
“In such a sense, then, we can look upon ourselves as banded in a world-wide association. Simply grand the idea—easy its realization by reason and strength. Unity is all-powerful; no division, therefore, no strife amongst us. So far as we have principles, they are common to all of us. Let man, we say, learn to think of himself as being without any enduring external relation; let him seek for consistency not in his surroundings but in himself: there he will find it; cherish and foster it with love; he will form and educate himself so as to be everywhere at home. He who devotes himself to what is most necessary, goes everywhere most surely to his goal. Others, on the contrary, seeking what is higher, more subtle, have, even in the choice of their road, to be more circumspect.
“Yet, whatever man lays hold of and deals with, the individual is not enough. Society remains the highest need of any honest man. All useful people ought to stand in relation to each other, as the builder has to look after the architects, and they after masons and carpenters. And thus it is known to all, how and in what manner our association has been fixed and founded. We see no one amongst us who could not, according to his aims, use his effective faculty at any moment; who does not feel assured that everywhere, where chance, inclination, even passion might lead him, he would find himself well recommended, received, and aided on his way, nay, even as far as possible indemnified for accidents.
“Two obligations, moreover, we have most strictly taken upon us: to hold in honor every form of the worship of God; for they are all more or less comprised in the Creed: secondly, to allow all forms of government equally to hold good, since they all demand and promote a systematic activity—to employ ourselves in each, wherever and however long it may be, according to its will and pleasure. In conclusion, we hold it a duty to practise good morals, without pedantry and stringency; even as reverence for ourselves demands, which springs from the three reverences which we profess; all of us having the good fortune, some from youth up, to be initiated in this higher universal wisdom. All this have we, in the solemn hour of parting, once more brought to mind, explained, heard, and acknowledged, and will also seal with a trusting Farewell.
During the concluding song a large part of those present arose quickly, and amid the far-resounding din marched in order two by two out of the hall. Lenardo sitting down, asked the guest whether he intended publicly to bring forward his business here, or wished for a special sitting. The stranger stood up, bowed to the company, and began the following speech:—
“It is here especially, in such an assembly, that I wish first to explain myself without further delay. They who have quietly remained here, by their aspect all true men, have already given evidence by such lingering of a plain wish and intention of continuing, for the future, to belong to their native land and soil. I greet them all with friendship, for I venture to affirm that I am in a position to offer them, one and all, as they now present themselves, an adequate daily task for several years. I would desire, however, but only after a brief interval, one more meeting, since it is before all things necessary to reveal my business confidentially to the worthy principals who have hitherto kept these honest people together, and to convince them of the genuiness of my mission. Moreover, it will be fitting that I should speak individually with those who have remained, that I may know with what efforts they propose to respond to my handsome offers.”
Hereupon Lenardo demanded an adjournment, to provide for the most needful business of the moment, and when this was settled, the whole mass of those who were left stood up in an orderly manner, and left the hall, also two by two, with a moderate sort of social glee.
Odoard then imparted to the two leaders, who stayed behind, his designs and proposals, and got his authority made valid. But now, in further conversation with such distinguished men, he could not give an account of the affair without referring to the human foundation upon which the whole veritably rests. Mutual explanations and confessions of deep matters of the heart were disclosed therefrom in the prolonged conversation. They remained together till deep into the night, and involved themselves more and more inextricably in the labyrinth of human theories and destinies. Thus then Odoard found himself led to give a fragmentary account of the conditions of his mind and heart; whereby only an imperfect and unsatisfactory knowledge of this conversation has actually come to us. Yet we must thank, too, Friedrich’s happy talent of seizing and retaining the presentment of various scenes, as well as some explanation of the career of a remarkable man, which begins to interest us, even though it were only indications of what, perhaps, in the sequel must be told more explicitly and in a connected way.
Don’t go too far!
VERYTHING was accordingly ready at the appointed hour as the clock at night struck ten; in the flower-bedecked room an ample and neat table laid for four people, with its dessert and confectionery disposed amidst twinkling lights and flowers. How delighted the children were at this dessert!—for they were to come in for it. Meanwhile they were prowling about in their finery and masks; and as children cannot be disfigured, they looked like the prettiest of twin-genii. The father called them to him, and with little help they repeated the festal verses composed for their mother’s birthday very cleverly.
Time wore on: from quarter to quarter the good old lady forbore not to increase her friend’s impatience. Some of the lamps, she said, on the stairs were on the point of going out; favorite dishes of the fêted one would be over-done, it was to be feared. The children were just beginning to be naughty from weariness, and they would get unbearable with impatience. The father composed himself, and yet his wonted composure would not remain at call: he listened anxiously to the carriages; several rattled by without stopping; a certain ill-humor was about to arise. To pass the time he bade the children once more repeat their verses. They, in their ill-temper, inattentive, absent and careless, said it badly, their gesticulation was no longer correct, they over-did it, like actors, without feeling. The good man’s annoyance increased every moment; it was more than half-past ten. We leave it to himself to describe the rest.
“The clock struck eleven; my impatience was increased to desperation; I no longer hoped, I feared. I was now afraid that she might come in, make her passing excuses with her usual airy grace, declare that she was very tired, and behave as if she were reproaching me for diminishing her pleasure. Within me everything was in a whirl, and much, very much, that I had put up with for years returned and weighed upon my mind. I began to hate her; I could devise no demeanor wherewith to meet her. The good children, dressed out like little angels, were sleeping peacefully upon the sofa. The ground burned under my feet, I could not realize nor collect myself, and nothing remained for me but to retreat until the ensuing minutes were only got over. I ran, lightly and festally clad as I was, to the house-door. I know not what sort of excuse I stammered out to the good old woman. She made me put on an overcoat, and I found myself in the street in a state of mind which I had not experienced for years back. Like the veriest passionate youth, who knows not what to do with himself, I raced up and down the streets. I should have reached the open country, but a cold damp wind blew keenly and repellently enough to put some bounds to my rage.”
We have usurped, as is strikingly noticeable in this scene, the privileges of the epic poet, and have carried the well-disposed reader only too quickly into the midst of passionate representation. We see an important man in domestic confusion, without our having learned anything further from him. On this account, therefore, in order to clear up the situation only in some degree, we join company with the good old woman, listening to what, at all events, in her distress and confusion, she may quietly mutter, or complain of aloud to herself.
“I have expected this a long time, I said it would be so: I have not spared my good lady; I have often warned her, but it is too much for her. If the master tires himself out at the office in town with business, in the country in the evening he finds an empty house, or company which does not suit him. He cannot help it. If she does not continually see people, men, round about her, if she does not drive about hither and thither, and cannot dress and re-dress herself, it is like being without air to breathe. To-day, on her birthday, she sets out early for a drive into the country; good. Meanwhile we arrange everything here: she solemnly promises to be at home at nine o’clock. We are ready: the master hears the children a pretty poem they have learned by heart; they are dressed up; lamps and candles; boiled and roast, not a thing wanting—but she does not come. The master has a great control over himself, he hides his impatience; it bursts forth. He leaves the house, late as it is; why is plain, but where to? I have often threatened her honestly and sincerely with rivals. So far I have seen nothing on the master’s part. A fair one has long had her eye on him, and put herself to trouble about him. Who knows what struggles he has had hitherto? Now it breaks out; at last despair at seeing his good intentions unrecognized drives him out of the house at nighttime. So I give up all for lost. More than once have I said to her she ought not to carry it too far!”
Now let us find out our friend again and hear himself.
“In the most respectable inn I saw lights downstairs, and, knocking at the window, I asked the waiter who looked out, in my usual voice, whether some strangers had not arrived or sent word. He had already opened the door, and saying No to both questions he asked me to come in. I found that it suited my situation, and to continue the adventure I asked him for a room, which he at once gave me on the second story. The first he supposed should be kept for the expected guests. He hurried away to make some arrangements. I made no objection, and pledged myself for the reckoning. Thus much was done; but I relapsed into my low-spirits, recalled each and everything to my mind, waxed wrathful, and relented, blamed myself, and tried to compose and pacify myself. To-morrow morning at any rate I would let everything be reinstated; I already pictured to myself the day, again in its accustomed routine; but then anger again broke forth uncontrollably: I had never thought that I could be so unhappy.”
Our readers have certainly already begun to sympathize so far with the worthy man whom we see here so unexpectedly in passionate emotion about an occurrence apparently trifling, as to wish to receive more detailed information as to his circumstances. We will turn to account the interval which occurs in this nocturnal adventure whilst speechless and angry he continues to pace up and down the room.
We learn to recognize in Odoard the scion of an ancient house to which for a number of generations the noblest qualities had been bequeathed. Trained in the military academy, he had acquired an accomplished manner which, in conjunction with the most praiseworthy capacities, gave a special grace to his demeanor. A short service at court gave him a good insight into the relations of high personages; and when after this he was attached, through the favor that he had speedily gained for himself, to a diplomatic mission, and had an opportunity of seeing the world and making the acquaintance of foreign courts, he at once gave most decided evidence of his clearness of apprehension, and happy powers of memory for past occurrences, but more particularly of good disposition in undertakings of every sort. His facility of expression in many languages, with a frank but not dictatorial manner, brought him on from one step to another. He obtained success in every diplomatic commission, because he won people’s good-will and thereby put himself in an advantageous position for smoothing misunderstandings; and especially he contrived to satisfy opposing interests by a just balancing of the arguments brought forward.
It was the object of the first minister to secure the services of so distinguished a man; he married him to his daughter, a young lady of the most brilliant beauty and trained in all the higher social virtues. But as in the current of human happiness there is ever some barrier opposed which holds it back in one place or another, so was it also here the case. At the court of the sovereign-prince was being brought up, as a ward, the Princess Sophronia, the last scion of her stock. Her fortune and expectations, though lands and people went back to an uncle, were still considerable enough; on which account, to avoid protracted debates, it was proposed to marry her—though he was doubtless much younger—to the crown-prince.
Odoard was suspected of a sentiment for her; it was found that he had sung her praises in a poem, under the name of Aurora, with too much feeling: to this was added an imprudence on her side; for with singular independence she had met certain rallyings of her companions by saying defiantly that “she must have no eyes if she was to be blind to such advantages.” By her marriage now any such suspicion was hushed up; but yet it was quietly cherished by secret adversaries, and again stirred up when opportunity occurred.
Questions relating to the state and succession, though people endeavored to interfere with them as little as possible, came, however, often under discussion. The prince no less than his wise counsellors considered it altogether advantageous to let the matter rest for a time, whilst the secret adherents of the princess would have liked to see them settled, and the noble lady thereby placed in greater freedom, especially since the old king of the adjoining countries, who was related to and well disposed towards Sophronia, was still alive, and had shown himself ready on occasion to exert a fatherly influence.
Odoard came under the suspicion, on the occasion of a purely formal mission to that court, of having again brought into activity the affair that it was desired to put off; the opponents availed themselves of this incident, and the father-in-law, whom he had convinced of his innocence, had to bring all his influence to bear in order to obtain for him a sort of governorship in a distant province. He found himself happy there. He could bring all his forces into play. There were things needful, useful, good, beautiful and great to be done. He could achieve something lasting without sacrificing himself; whilst, in such circumstances as he was in before, a man occupies himself against his convictions with transient matters and occasionally ruins himself.
Not so did his wife find it: she had her being only in larger circles, and only followed him later when forced to do so. He behaved as considerately as possible towards her, and approved of all substitutes for her former enjoyment; in summer, country parties in the neighborhood, in winter an amateur theatre, balls, and whatever else she liked to set on foot: nay, he even put up with an admirer, a stranger who had insinuated himself some time before, though he was by no means pleased with him, believing, with his clear insight into men, that he detected a certain insincerity all through him.
From all that we have said, it may be that in the present anxious moment somewhat of gloom and obscurity, somewhat also that was clear and distinct, passed across his mind. Enough if, after this confidential explanation, for which Friedrich’s good memory has furnished the material, we again turn to him, we find him again pacing excitedly up and down the room, by gestures and frequent exclamations giving evidence of an inner struggle.
“With such thoughts I had been walking hastily up and down the room. The waiter had brought me a bowl of broth, of which I was much in need; for in my careful preparations for the benefit of the birthday treat. I had taken nothing myself, and a luxurious supper was standing untasted at home. At that moment we heard a posthorn sounding very pleasantly up the street. ‘There comes some one from the mountain,’ said the waiter. We went to the window, and by the light of two brilliant carriage-lamps, saw a four-horsed well-loaded gentleman’s carriage drive up. The servants jumped from the box. ‘There they are!’ cried the waiter, and ran to the door. I caught hold of him tightly to impress upon him that he should say nothing of my being there, nor betray the fact that any orders had been given; he promised, and sprang away.
“Meanwhile I had hesitated to see who had got out, and a new impatience took possession of me. I thought that the waiter was delaying too long in bringing me news. At last I was informed by him that the guests were ladies: an elderly lady of dignified aspect, a middleaged one of incredible beauty, and a ladies’-maid, such as anyone might wish for.
“ ‘She began,’ he said, ‘by giving orders, went on with flattery, and when I did what she liked, fell into a merry saucy mood, that was very likely the most natural to her. I very soon noticed,’ he went on, ‘all the general astonishment at finding me so alert, and the house well prepared for their arrival, the room lighted, the fire burning. They made themselves at home; in the saloon they found a cold supper. I offered some broth, and it seemed welcome to them.’
“The ladies now sat down to table; the elder one scarcely ate anything: the dear beauty nothing at all, the maid, whom they called Lucy, made a good meal, and meanwhile sang the praises of the inn; was delighted with the bright wax-candles, the fine table-linen, the porcelain, and all the appointments. She had previously warmed herself at the blazing hearth, and now she asked the waiter when he came in again, whether they were here always so well prepared to entertain guests arriving at every hour of the day and night. The clever young rogue was at this juncture in the same state as children, who certainly say nothing about the secret, but cannot hide the fact that something secret has been intrusted to them. First he answered ambiguously, then more approximately, and at last, driven into a corner by the quick-wittedness of the girl, and by continual talking on one side and the other, he confessed that there had been a servant, that a gentleman had come, had gone away, and come back again; and finally it escaped him that the gentleman was actually up-stairs, and was walking restlessly up and down. The young lady jumped up; the others did the same. It must be an old gentleman, they hurriedly assumed; the waiter assured them that, on the contrary, he was young. Now they were in doubt again; he maintained the truth of what he had said. The confusion, the excitement increased. It must be her uncle, said the beauty. It was not his way, said the elder lady. No one but he could have known that she would arrive at this hour, replied the other persistently. But the waiter declared again and again it was a young handsome vigorous man. Lucy swore, on the other hand, that it must be the uncle; the rogue of a waiter was not to be trusted: he had contradicted himself in the last half-hour.
“After all this, the waiter had to go upstairs and urgently beg the gentleman to be so good as to come downstairs, and at the same time threaten that the ladies would come up and thank him themselves.
“ ‘It is an endless muddle,’ said the waiter: ‘I do not understand why you hesitate to show yourself; they take you for an old uncle, whom they passionately long to embrace once more. Go down, I beg. Are not these the people that you expected? Don’t wantonly despise a most charming adventure! The young beauty is worth seeing and hearing; they are most respectable people. Run down, else they will really forcibly carry you out of the room.’ ”
Passion begets passion; excited as he was, he longed for something different, something strange. He went down in the hope of introducing himself and giving explanations to the new-comers in a cheerful conversation, of hearing foreign news and giving himself some distraction: and yet he felt as if he were going to some already known and precarious situation. He now stood before the door; the ladies, who thought that they heard the uncle’s step, ran out to meet him. He entered. What a meeting! what a recognition! The beauty gave a cry, and threw herself round the neck of the elder lady: our friend recognized them both, he shrank backwards, then he started forwards, he lay at her feet and touched her hand, which he immediately let go again with the most deferential kiss: the syllables Au-ro-ra died upon his lips.
If we now take a look at our friend’s house, we find it in a very strange condition. The good old lady knew not what to do, or not do: she kept the lamps in the hall and staircase burning, and had the food taken off the fire—some of it being irretrievably spoiled. The maid had remained with the sleeping children, and had kept up the numerous lights in the room as quietly and patiently as the other had been angrily pacing up and down.
At last the carriage rolled up to the door: the lady got out and was informed that her husband had been called away some hours before—ascending the stairs she appeared to take no notice of the festal illumination. The elder woman now learned from a servant that an accident had happened on the way, the carriage having been upset in a ditch, and all else that had taken place afterwards.
The lady entered the room. “What is this masquerade about?” she said, pointing to the children.
“It would have given you a good deal of pleasure if you had come some hours sooner,” said the maiden lady.
The children, aroused from sleep, jumped up, and as soon as they saw their mother they began their got-off address. With embarrassment on both sides it went on for a while, then in the absence of encouragement and help it began to limp; at last it broke down completely, and the good children were sent with some caresses to bed. The lady found herself alone, threw herself upon the sofa, and burst out into bitter tears.
At this point, however, it becomes necessary to give some more detailed account of the lady herself and of the country party which had ended, as it seems, so badly. Albertina was one of those ladies to whom one would have had nothing to say tête-à-tête, but whom one is very glad to meet in a large party. Then they appear as real adornments of the whole, and as stimulants at every torpid moment. Their charm is of such a kind, that to express itself, to be in its element, it requires a certain amount of space; its operations demand a larger public, they require an element that supports them, that compels them to be charming: towards individuals they scarcely know how to conduct themselves.
Her friend and admirer gained her favor, and maintained himself in it, merely because he was expert at setting on foot one enjoyment after another, at keeping, if not a large circle, at any rate a lively one, continually on the move. In distributing parts, he used to select for himself the tender fathers, and managed by a respectable and sagacious demeanor to give himself an advantage over the younger, first, second and third lovers.
Florina, the owner of an important manorial estate in the neighborhood, and in winter a resident in town, was indebted to Odoard, whose economical management had accidentally though fortunately been of great advantage to her property and gave a prospect ultimately of a largely increased revenue from it. In summer she visited her estate, and made it the theatre of numerous agreeable diversions. Birthdays especially were never neglected, and all sorts of festivities were arranged.
Florina was a lively coquettish creature; attached as it seemed to no one, and neither claiming nor desiring any attachment. A passionate dancer, she only esteemed men in so far as they moved in good time. An everactive woman of society, she considered the man unendurable who even but one moment looked down and seemed to reflect; but in general displaying herself very gracefully as a lively lover such as are necessary in every play or opera—whence it happened that between her and Albertina, who played the dignified parts, no question of precedence ever arose.
To keep the coming birthday in good company, the best society from the town and from the country round about was invited. A dance, begun after breakfast, was continued after dinner; the gathering was protracted to great length; they drove away late, and, overtaken sooner than they expected by night on a bad road, which was doubly bad because it was being mended, the coachman mistook the way and threw them into a ditch. Our beauty with Florina and the gentleman friend felt themselves in a dreadful plight. The latter managed to extricate himself quickly; then stooping down over the carriage, he called. “Florina, where art thou?” Albertina thought she must be dreaming: he grasped something inside, and drew forth Florina, who lay on the top, in a swoon. He attended to her and at last carried her on his strong arm along the recovered road. Albertina was still wedged in the carriage. Coachman and servant helped her out, and supported by the latter she tried to go on. The road was bad, unsuited for dancing shoes; although held up by the boy she stumbled every moment. But within, the prospect was still wilder and more forlorn: how it came to pass she neither knew nor understood.
“But when she entered the inn, and in the little room saw Florina on the bed, with the hostess and Lelio busy about her, she was certain of her unhappiness. A secret understanding between the faithless friend and the treacherous companion was all at once made clear with the speed of lightning. She was forced to see how the latter, opening her eyes, threw herself on her admirer’s neck with the joy of newly awaking most tender affection: how the dark eyes again shone, a fresh color suddenly decked with charms the pale cheeks again: she really looked rejuvenated, charming and most lovely.
Albertina stood there, looking down, lonely and hardly noticed. The other two recovered and composed themselves; but the mischief was done. However, they were obliged to seat themselves again in the carriage, and in hell itself antithetic souls—betrayed and betrayers—could not have been so closely crowded together.
Lenardo and Odoard also were for some days very busily occupied, the former in providing the emigrants with everything necessary, the latter in making the acquaintance of those who remained at home, and in judging of their capacities, in order to give them adequate information as to his own aims. In the meantime for Friedrich and our friend there was left opportunity and leisure for quiet discourse. Wilhelm got him to describe the plan in general, and when he had been made sufficiently familiar with the country and surroundings, and the hope had been expressed that they should see a large number of inhabitants dispersed in a widely extended domain, the conversation at last turned, as was natural, upon that which in point of fact holds men together—namely, religion and morality. Of this the lively Friedrich was able to give a sufficient account; and we should perhaps earn gratitude if we could give the progress of the conversation, which, by question and answer, objections and corrections, meandered on in a really commendable way, and with sundry deviations made its way pleasantly to the special end in view. In the meantime we must not linger so long, and we give its results at once rather than be obliged to let them come to view only little by little in our readers’ minds. The following was the essence of what was dealt with:—
That man should accommodate himself to the inevitable, all religions require: each one in its fashion attempts to solve this problem. The Christian religion contributes most pleasingly to this by means of faith, love and hope: therefrom ensues patience, a sweet feeling of what a priceless gift existence still is, even though, in place of the desired enjoyment, the most hateful sorrows are laid upon it. To this religion we firmly hold, but in a peculiar way: we teach our children, from youth upwards, the great advantages that it has brought us; on the other hand we ultimately impart knowledge as to its origin and progress; only then does its Founder become dear and precious to us, and all information that relates to Him becomes holy. In this sense, which perhaps may be called pedantic, but yet must be recognized as logical, we endure no Jew amongst us: for how are we to allow him participation in the highest culture, the fountain-head and origin of which he denies?
From this our moral theory is entirely apart: it is purely a matter of deeds, and is comprised in the few commandments—Moderation in what is arbitrary, diligence in what is necessary. Now, everyone in the course of his life may assist himself of these laconic precepts after his own fashion, and he has a fruitful text for unlimited application.
The greatest reverence is impressed on all for Time, as the highest gift of God and Nature, and the most assiduous handmaid of existence. Clocks have been multiplied amongst us, and one and all indicate the quarters with hand and stroke: and in order to multiply such signals to the utmost, telegraphs are created in our country which if they are not deranged give, and truly by a very ingenious contrivance, the course of the hours by day and night.
Our moral theory, which is also quite practical, aims mainly at thoughtfulness; and this is furthered in the highest degree by division of time and attention to every hour. Something must be done at every moment, and how could this be effected if attention were not paid to the work as well as to the time.
Considering that we are only beginning, we lay great stress upon the family circle. On fathers and mothers of families we intend to impose great responsibilities: with us education becomes all the easier, as everyone must provide men and maids, men-servants and women-servants for himself.
It is true that certain things must be taught with a certain uniform sameness. To read, write, and reckon with facility, the abbé undertakes to teach the masses: his method is suggestive of mutual instruction, yet it is more intelligent: but, in fact, it all depends on educating teachers and scholars at the same time.
But there is another form of mutual instruction that I will mention: the practice of attack and self-defence. Here Lothario is in his element. His manœuvres have some similarity to those of our skirmishers, yet he cannot be otherwise than original.
Here I remark that in our civil life we have no bells, in military no drums: in one as in the other the human voice combined with wind instruments suffices. All this has for some time existed and still exists; but its proper application is left to the mind that would probably in any case have originated it.
The first requirement of a State is that of a courageous magistracy, and in that ours is not to be deficient; we are all impatient to approach the business, cheerful and convinced that one must begin simply. So we do not think about justice, but about police. Its fundamental principle is vigorously expressed. No one shall annoy another. Whoever makes himself a nuisance is kept apart, until he understands how a man must conduct himself in order to be endured. If there is anything lifeless, unreasoning, in point, this in like manner is put away.
In every district* there are three directors of police, who change with each other every eight hours, shift-wise as in mining, which also must never stand still, and one of our men will especially at night-time be ready.
They have the right to admonish, to blame, to scold and to reconcile. If they find it necessary they call together a larger or smaller number of the confraternity. If the votes are equal the president does not decide, but lots are drawn, because we are convinced that when opinions are directly opposed to each other, it is always a matter of indifference which will be followed. As for the majority we have altogether peculiar opinions: we let it hold good, it is true, in the necessary course of affairs; but in the higher sense we have not much confidence in it. However I must not expatiate further on this point.
If you ask about the higher authority that guides everything, it is never found in one place. It is continually moving about in order to maintain uniformity in the main thing, and in things permissible to grant everyone his will. This is a thing that has already been done once in the course of history: the German emperors travelled about; and this institution is in the closest conformity with the idea of free States. We are afraid of a chief-town, although we already see the point in our possessions where the greatest number of people will collect together. But this we keep to ourselves: this will happen by degrees and will still be soon enough.
These are, in the most general way, the points about which we are for the most part agreed: yet whenever members come together in larger or smaller numbers they are always talked over again anew. But the main thing will be, when shall we find ourselves at the place and spot? The new state of things, which is however to last, is in fact expressed by the law. Our penalties are mild, admonition is allowed to everyone who has a certain age behind him: only the recognized elders may disapprove and blame, only a number convened can punish.*
It is noticed that severe laws are very soon blunted, and little by little become laxer, since Nature always asserts her rights. We have indulgent laws, so as to be able to get gradually more severe: our penalties consist first and foremost of a separation from civil society, milder or more vigorous, shorter or longer, as found necessary. If the property of the burgher citizen grows, little by little, something is nipped off here too, less or more as they deserve, so that they may suffer something from this point also.
Information on these points is given to all the members of the association, and in an examination that has been instituted it has been found that they all make the most appropriate application of the main points to themselves. The main thing always is only this, that we retain with ourselves the advantages of culture, and leave behind its disadvantages. Dram-drinking and circulating libraries are not allowed with us, but how we demean ourselves towards bottles and books, I would rather not disclose. Suchlike things will have to be done, if we are to criticise them.
And in just the same sense the collector and editor of these papers keeps back other regulations, which still circulate among the Society itself, as problems which perhaps it is not prudent to attempt at the present time and place; and so much the less approval could one anticipate if one ventured to mention such things circumstantially.
The hour appointed for Odoard’s address had come, and when all had been assembled, and were waiting quietly, he began to speak as follows:—
“The important work, in which I have invited this assembly of trusty men to take a part, is not quite new to you; for I have already talked with you in a general way about it. It is clear from my explanations that in the old world as well as in the new there are spaces which need better cultivation than has hitherto been bestowed upon them. In the latter, Nature has spread out vast and wide expanses, where she reposes untouched and uncivilized, so that one hardly ventures to attack her or challenge her to a contest. And yet to the resolute it is easy to win the waste places from her, bit by bit, and to make one’s self safe of a part-ownership. In the old world the reverse is the case. Here a part-possession has been established everywhere already; the title thereto, more or less, consecrated from time out of mind; and whilst in the new world the illimitable appears as an insuperable obstacle, here the simply limited opposes hindrance almost more difficult still to be overcome. Nature is to be constrained by the activity of mankind, by force, or by persuasion.
“If individual ownership is regarded as sacred by the whole of society, by the owner himself it is still more so. Custom, youthful impressions, respect for ancestors, liking for one’s neighbor, and a hundred other things, make the owner rigid and disinclined against every alteration. The older such a state of things is, the more complicated and subdivided, so much the more difficult is it to carry out a general plan which, while it took somewhat from individuals, would be of unlooked-for advantage to the whole, and even, by reaction and co-operation, to the individual again.
“For several years I have governed in the name of my sovereign a province that, being divided from his territories, has not been turned to as much account as would be possible. This very exclusion, or seclusion if you will, has hitherto prevented the establishment of any means which would have given the inhabitants opportunity of distributing abroad what they have and of receiving from abroad what they need.
“I governed this country with absolute authority; there was much good to be effected, but still always of a limited sort. Everywhere bars were imposed upon improvement, and what was most desirable seemed to be in another world.
“I had no other obligation but to be economical. What is easier than that! No less easy is it to put down abuses, to avail one’s self of human capabilities, to help, to assist those who aspire. All this could be achieved quite easily with common-sense and authority. All this, in a measure, effected itself. But the direction in which my attention, my anxiety, was especially bestowed, was on the neighbors who, with no similar disposition and with by no means the same conviction, ruled their lands or caused them to be ruled.
“I had almost resigned myself, and kept as well as possible within my own domain, using the traditional state of things as well as might be; but I all at once observed that the age was coming to my assistance. Younger officials were installed in the neighborhood; they cherished similar intentions, though animated, it is true, only with a desire for the general good; and little by little they adopted my schemes for a universal combination, all the more readily because it fell to my lot to make the greater sacrifices, without any of them particularly noticing that the greater advantage also inclined to my side.
“So there are now three of us allied in governing considerable tracts of land; our princes and ministers are convinced of the honesty and utility of our plans; for certainly more is required to view one’s advantage in the whole rather than in detail. In the latter, necessity always indicates to us what to do and what to leave undone, and thus it is quite enough if we apply this standard to existing circumstances; but in the other case we have to create a future; and even if a penetrating mind discover a plan for this, how can it hope to find others concurring in it?
“Nor would the individual succeed in this; time, which emancipates minds, at the same time gives them a wider outlook, and in the wider expanse the greater is more easily recognized, and one of the most powerful obstacles to human enterprises becomes more easily removed. This consists, to wit, in the fact that men may perhaps agree in their objects, but much more rarely in the means whereby they are to be attained. For the truly great raises us above ourselves, and shines before us like a star; but the choice of means calls us back within ourselves, and then the individual becomes just as he was, and feels himself just as isolated as if he had not previously been in accord as to the whole.
“Here then we must repeat—the age must help us; time must take the place of reason, and in a more expanded soul the higher interest must banish the more sordid one.
“Let this be enough; and should it be too much for the moment, I will afterwards recall it to the mind of every participator. Exact measurements have been taken; roads indicated, the positions determined in which inns, and ultimately perhaps villages, will be met with. For all sorts of structures opportunity, nay, necessity exists. First-rate architects and skilled workmen are making everything ready: drawings and plans are prepared. The intention is to settle large and small questions, and thus with strict control to lay out to the astonishment of the mother-country the sums of money lying ready: for we live in the best hope that a united activity will be developed from now onwards on all sides.
“But the point to which I have to draw the attention of all participators, since it may perhaps have an influence upon their decision, is the arrangement, the form in which we associate all the co-operators, and purpose to create for them a worthy position amongst themselves and in relation to the rest of the civic world.
“As soon as we enter the indicated territory the various handicrafts will forthwith be declared to be arts, and definitely divided and set apart, by the denomination strict arts, from those that are free. Here, at present, we can only speak of such occupations as make building their object; all the men here present, young and old, rank themselves in this class.
“Let us here recount in order, how they raise the edifice on high, and step by step make it habitable. First of all name the stone-masons who work into completeness the foundation and corner-stone, which with the help of the masons they settle in the proper place and with the most exact measurement. Then follow the masons, who on the rigidly tested foundation make good assurance of the present and the future. Sooner or later the carpenter brings his contributions, made ready beforehand, and so the intended building gradually mounts on high. We summon the roofer as soon as possible: inside we require the joiner, the glazier, the locksmith, and if I name the whitewasher last it is because he can interpose, with his task, at the most varying season, and give the whole, inside and outside throughout, a pleasing appearance. Many coadjutors I do not mention, following only the principal plan.
“The grades of apprentice, craftsman, and master, must be most strictly observed: also in these there could be many graduations, but tests could not be too carefully imposed. Whosoever comes forward knows that he is devoting himself to strict art, and that he can look for no remissible claims from her. A single link breaking in a long chain spoils the whole: in great undertakings, as in great dangers, triviality must be banished.
“It is in this very aspect that the strict art must serve as a pattern to the free, and try to put her to shame. If we look at these socalled free arts, which yet in point of fact are only to be so taken and named in a higher sense, we find that it is utterly indifferent whether they are pursued well or ill. The worst statue stands on its feet, like the best, a painted figure steps forward briskly enough on its falsely drawn feet, its misshapen arms hold powerfully enough: the figures do not stand in the proper plane, but the ground does not on that account fall in. With music it is still more striking: the shrieking fiddle of a village tavern sets the sturdy limbs astir most potently; and we have listened to the most inept church music by which the faithful man has been edified. But would you wish to reckon poetry also among the free arts, you would verily see that this one hardly knows where it ought to find a limit. And yet every art has its inner laws, the disregard of which, however, inflicts no harm upon humanity; on the other hand, the strict arts can allow themselves no license. The free artist one can praise, and can find pleasure in his merits, even if his work on closer inspection will not hold its own.
“But if we regard the two, the free as well as the strict arts, in their most perfect conditions, the latter must beware of pedantry and prejudice, the former of carelessness and bungling. He who has to guide them will call attention to this. Misapplications and deficiencies will thereby be avoided.
“I do not repeat (for our whole life will be a repetition of what has been said)—I make only the following remark: He who takes to a strict art must devote himself to it for his whole life. Hitherto they have been called handiwork, quite appropriately and correctly: the experts ought to work with the hand, and the hand, if it is to do it, must be animated by a life of its own; it must be a nature for itself, having its own thoughts, its own will, and this cannot be the case in several different ways.”
After the speaker had concluded with some additional good words, those present, one and all, arose; and the operatives, instead of withdrawing, formed an orderly circle in front of the table of the recognized leaders. Odoard handed round to all a printed sheet, from which, with modest liveliness, they sang a cheering song to a well-known melody:—
A perfect rest succeeded all the busy movement of the past day. The three friends remained alone standing facing one another, and it was soon obvious that two of them, Lenardo and Friedrich, were moved by a strange unrest. Neither of them concealed that they were impatient to see themselves hindered from taking their share in the departure from this place; they were expecting a messenger, it appeared, and in the meantime nothing sensible or determinate was discussed.
At last the messenger comes, bringing an important packet, upon which Friedrich at once seizes in order to open it. Lenardo prevents him, and says, “Leave it untouched; lay it down on the table in front of us; we will look at it, think, and guess what it may contain. For our destiny is nearer to its decision, and if we are not ourselves masters of it, if it depends upon the understanding, the feelings of others, whether a yes or no, a thus or thus, is to be awaited, then it behoves us to stand calmly, to contain ourselves, to ask ourselves whether we could endure it—as if it were a so-called judgment of God—in whatever way we are enjoined to make a captive of reason.”
“You are not so cool as you wish to appear,” replied Friedrich; “so remain alone with your secrets, and dispose of them as you like; in any case they do not affect me. But meanwhile let me reveal the contents to this old and tried friend, and explain the ambiguous circumstances which we have so long concealed from him.”
With these words he carried off our friend with him, and even on the way exclaimed, “She is found!—found long ago! and the question only is, what is to be done with her.”
“I have found out that already,” said Wilhelm, “for friends disclose to each other most clearly, exactly what they do not mention to each other; the last passage of the diary, where Lenardo, in the very midst of the mountains, remembers the letter that I wrote to him, summoned up in my imagination that good creature in complete communion of soul and feeling; I saw him the very next morning approach her, recognize her, and all else that would ensue. But then I will frankly confess that no curiosity, but honest sympathy, which I have devoted to her, disquieted me on account of your silence and reserve.”
“And chiefly from this point of view,” cried Friedrich, “you have a joint-interest in this very packet that has arrived. The continuation of the diary was sent to Makaria, and we did not wish to spoil for you, by an account of it, the seriously gratifying incident. Now you shall have it, and at once. Lenardo, in the meantime, has surely opened it, and he does not need it for his enlightenment.”
Friedrich hereupon rushed away, after his old fashion, rushed in again, bringing with him the promised book.
“But now I must also find out what is to become of us.”
Hereupon he was off again, and Wilhelm read—
As there must needs be no diary to-day, in order to reach Frau Susanna’s early, I breakfasted hurriedly with the whole family, returned thanks, with private good wishes, and left with the loomfitter, who remained behind, the presents intended for the young women, somewhat richer and more bridal-like than those of the day before yesterday, handing them over secretly to him, at which the good man seemed to be highly delighted.
This time the road was soon got over: after a few hours we saw, in a peaceful, not too broad and level valley, one rocky side of which was lightly washed by the waves of a most limpid lake in which it was reflected, some respectable well-built houses, round about which a better and carefully tended plot of soil, with a sunny aspect, was favorable to a certain amount of gardening. On being conducted by the yarn-man to the principal house, and introduced to Frau Susanna, I had a quite peculiar feeling, as she spoke to us in a friendly fashion, and assured us that she was very glad that we came on Friday, the quietest day in the week, for on Thursday evening the goods that were ready were taken to the lake, and to the town.
To the yarn-man, who interposed, saying, “I suppose Daniel always takes them down,” she replied, “To be sure; he looks after the business as well and faithfully as if it were his own.”
“However, there is no such great difference either.” answered the other; and having undertaken some commissions from the friendly hostess, he hastened off to finish his business in the side-valleys, promising to come back in a few days and fetch me away.
Meanwhile I felt in quite a strange state of mind. At my first entrance a strange presentiment had come over me that she was the much-desired one: on a longer inspection it was not she again, and could not be, and yet at a side view or when she turned round, it was she again: just as in a dream memory and fancy contend with one another.
Some spinning-girls who were behindhand with their work brought it in: the mistress, with the most kindly warning to be industrious, was bargaining with them, but in order to entertain her guest, she left the matter to two girls whom she called Gretchen and Lieschen, and whom I observed all the more attentively, as I wished to discover in any case how they answered to the description of the loomfitter. These two forms led me quite astray, and destroyed all likeness between the object of my search and the housewife.
But I observed the latter all the more attentively, and in every way she seemed to me the worthiest, most amiable being of all that I had seen in my mountain travels. By this time I was sufficiently well instructed in the trade to be able to talk to her about the business, which she understood well, with knowledge: my intuitive sympathy delighted her, and when I asked her whence she got her supply of cotton, the wholesale transport of which across the mountains I had seen a few days before, she replied that this very consignment had included a considerable supply for her. The situation of her dwelling was also on this account fortunate, because the high road leading down to the lake ran at a distance of only about a quarter of an hour lower down her valley, where she either in person, or through an agent, received the bales which were consigned and addressed to her from Trieste; as had actually been the case the day before yesterday.
She now allowed her new friend to look into a large airy cellar, where the supply is stored, in order that the cotton may not get too dry, lose weight and become less pliable. Here too I found, for the most part, collected together what I had already seen in detail. She pointed out this thing and that, one after another, whilst I showed an intelligent interest. Meanwhile she became less talkative: by her questions I could guess that I was supposed to be connected with the trade. For she said that as the cotton had just arrived she was shortly expecting a clerk or partner from the Trieste firm, who after a discreet inspection of her circumstances would take back with him the sum of money due: that this was lying ready for any one who could show his credentials.
Somewhat embarrassed, I tried to turn it off, and looked after her as she just then walked across the room to arrange something. She seemed to me like Penelope among the maids. She returns, and I fancy that something has struck her.
“Then you are not a business man?” she said; “I do not know whence the confidence comes, and how I venture to inquire about your affairs. I certainly do not wish to be inquisitive, but let me know what your purpose is.”
Therewith a strange face looked at me with such familiar, recognizing eyes that I felt completely penetrated, and hardly managed to control myself. My knees, my thoughts, were on the point of failing me, when fortunately some one called her away very hurriedly. I was able to recover myself, to confirm my intention, and keep it as long as possible to myself. For I had a foreboding as if an unfortunate connection were again threatening me.
Gretchen, a really amiable child, led me off in order to show me the artistic fabrics; she did it sensibly and quietly. In order to show her my attention, I wrote down what she said to me in my pocket-book, where it still stands in witness of a purely mechanical process; for I had something quite different in my mind. It runs as follows:—
“The weft of piled as well as of drawn fabric is made, accordingly as the pattern requires, with white loosely spun so-called muggenyarn, at the same time also colored with Turkey-red, of the same kind as the blue yarn which is also used for stripes and flowers. On being clipped the web is wound on cylinders which form a table-shaped frame, round which several persons sit and work.”
Lieschen, who has been sitting amongst the clippers, stands up, joins us, and is eager to put in her word, and in fact in such a way as only to put the other one out by contradiction; and, when in spite of her, I gave more attention to Gretchen, Lieschen fussed about to fetch or take something, and in doing so she twice very distinctly grazed my arm with her soft elbow, without being forced to do so by the smallness of the room,—which did not particularly please me.
The good fair one (she deserves to be so called in a general way, but particularly when compared with the others) took me out into the garden to enjoy the evening sun, before it hid itself behind the mountain. A smile was hovering round her lips, as is often seen when one is hesitating to say something amusing; and in this hesitation I, too, seemed to feel a pleasure. We were walking side by side. I did not venture to give her my hand, glad as I would have been to do so. We both of us seemed to dread words and gestures through which the happy discovery might too soon become mutually evident. She showed me some flower-clusters, in which I at once recognized budding cotton-plants:—
“This is how we rear and foster the seeds that in our occupation are useless, not to say objectionable, and which come to us from such a long distance with the cotton. It is an act of gratitude, and there is a singular pleasure in seeing the living form whose lifeless remains animate our being. Here you see the beginning—the middle you know,—and this evening, if fortune favors, you shall see a joyful conclusion.
“We, the actual manufacturers, or an agent, on Thursday evening take the goods which have come in during the week to the market-boat, and thus, in company with others who pursue the same trade, we arrive at the earliest hour on Friday morning at the town. Here every one takes his goods to the merchants who deal in wholesale and try to dispose of them as well as possible, and perhaps also take ultimately, instead of payment, as much raw wool as is needed.
“But not only do the market-people in the town take away as much raw material as they require for manufacture, together with the profit in cash—they also provide themselves with many other things for their needs or enjoyment. Wherever one out of the family has gone marketing to the town, there expectations, hopes, wishes, nay, often even anxiety and fear, are rife. Storm or thunder may come on, and there is anxiety lest the boat should come to harm! Those who are eager for profit loiter about, and long to hear how the sale of the goods has turned out, and already reckon in advance the amount of clear profit. The inquisitive wait for news from the town; those fond of dress look for articles of dress or fashions, which the traveller was commissioned to bring back with him; and lastly, the sweet-toothed, and especially the children, look for the eatables, even if they should be only seed-cakes.
“The departure from the town is generally delayed until towards evening; then the lake becomes all alive, and the boats, sailing or propelled by the strength of the rowers, glide across its surface. Everything is eager to outstrip the rest, and those who are successful jokingly banter those whom they see forced to lag behind.
“It is a joyous and pretty spectacle at the embarkation on the lake, when its surface, with the surrounding mountains illuminated by the evening glow, is warmly and more and more deeply shaded, when the stars become visible, the curfew bells are to be heard, candles are lighted in the villages on the bank, shining again in the water; then the moon rises, and scatters its light over the nigh motionless surface; the rich landscape flies by, village after village, homestead after homestead, are left behind. Arriving at last in the neighborhood of home a horn is blown, and lights are immediately seen shining here and there in the mountain, and moving down towards the shore. Every household that has a relative in the boat sends some one to help to carry the parcel. We are situated higher up; but every one of us has often enough taken part in this excursion, and so far as business is concerned we are all similarly interested.”
I had listened to her with astonishment to hear how well and beautifully she told it all, and could not refrain from remarking aloud: How could she, in this wild district with so mechanical an occupation, have attained to so much culture.
She answered, looking down with a most amiable, almost roguish smile, “I was born in a fairer and more kindly neighborhood, where clever men rule and dwell, and although as a child I was wild and unruly, yet the influence of highly gifted landowners in their surroundings was unmistakable; the greatest effect, however, upon a youthful being was due to a pious bringing up, which developed in me a certain sense of the just and proper, as derived from the omnipresence of divine love.
“We emigrated,” she continued—and the pretty smile forsook her lips; a suppressed tear filled her eye—“we wandered far, far, from one neighborhood to another, guided by religious indications and recommendations: at last we came hither to this most active region. The house in which you find me was occupied by people of like mind; they received us with confidence: my father spoke the same language in the same sense: we soon seemed to belong to the family.
“In all the business of the house and handicraft I took a vigorous part: and all of which you now see me the manager, I gradually learned, practised, and became proficient in. The son of the house, a few years my elder, well-made and handsome in face, fell in love with me, and made me his confidential friend. He was of a strong and at the same time refined nature; piety as it was practised in the house found no acceptance with him: it did not satisfy him. He secretly read books which he managed to buy for himself in the town, of the sort which impart a more general, a freer tenor to the mind, and when he observed in me a similar tendency and a similar disposition, he took pains gradually to impart to me that which so earnestly occupied him. At last, when I entered into it all, he no longer abstained from disclosing to me his whole secret. And we really were a thoroughly wonderful couple, conversing in our lonely walks only on such principles as make people independent, whilst our actual terms of attachment seemed to consist only in mutually confirming one another in ideas of the kind by which people generally become completely alienated from each other.”
Although I did not look closely at her, but only glanced up from time to time as if by accident, yet I observed with astonishment and sympathy that her features immediately and entirely expressed the sense of her words. After a momentary silence her face brightened.
“I must make a confession,” she said, “with regard to your principal question, in order that you may be better able to account for my readiness of speech, which may often seem not quite natural.
“Unfortunately we were obliged to dissemble before the others, and although were closely on our guard against lying, and being deceitful in the vulgar sense, yet we actually were so in a more refined sense, inasmuch as we could not find any excuse for not attending the well-frequented meetings of brethren and sisters. But while we were forced to hear there a good deal against our convictions, still he soon made me see and understand that it did not all come freely from the heart, but that a good deal of verbiage, images, comparisons, traditional forms of speech, and a repetition of similar lines, were forever revolving round as if on a general axis. I now paid better attention, and picked up the language so closely, that I could have delivered a sermon as well, at any rate, as any superintendent. At first the good man was delighted at this: at last he grew impatient from satiety, so that to pacify him I adopted the opposite course, listened to him all the more attentively, and was able a week afterwards to repeat to him his cordially true sermon, with at least approximating freedom, and no very dissimilar spiritual character.
“Thus our connection grew into the most intimate bond, and a passion for any recognizable form of truth and goodness, as well as any practicable exercise of the same, was what actually united us.
“In thinking what it was that occasioned you to ask me for such a narrative as this, I recollect it was my lively description of a happily spent market-day. Do not wonder at this; for indeed it was a joyous, heartfelt contemplation of charming and sublime natural scenery that gave me and my bridegroom in peaceful and unoccupied hours our most charming converse. Excellent national poets had awakened and fostered the feeling in us. Haller’s ‘Alps,’ Gesner’s ‘Idylls,’ Kleist’s ‘Spring,’ were often repeated by us, and we regarded the world that surrounded us, sometimes from its graceful, sometimes from its elevated side.
“I still like to remember how we two, keen and far-sighted, tried to vie, and often hastily, in making each other observe the phenomena in the earth and sky, endeavoring to surpass and overbid each other. This was the finest recreation, not only from the daily task, but also from those serious conversations which often plunged us only too deeply within ourselves, and threatened in that respect to disturb our peace.
“About this time a traveller, probably under a fictitious name, called at our house. We don’t intrude further on him, since his character at once inspires our confidence; he behaves in everything with the greatest propriety, and is becomingly attentive in our assemblies. On being conducted about the mountain-side by my friend, he proved himself serious, observant and full of knowledge. I, too, take part in their moral discussions, in which everything that can be important to a thoughtful man comes by degrees under debate. Here he very soon remarks something uncertain in our mode of thought in reference to things divine. Religious expressions had become trite to us: the kernel which they should have contained had escaped us. So he made us observe the danger of our position, how precarious must be our divergence from the tradition with which, from our youth up, so much had been associated: it was in the highest degree dangerous, particularly in the state of imperfection of our own minds. It was true that religion, practised every day and every hour, at last became only a pastime and acted as a sort of police upon the outward demeanor, but no longer on the depths of the understanding: the only remedy for that was to call forth from our own hearts thoughts equally valid, equally effective, and equally soothing in a moral sense.
“Our parents had silently anticipated our union, and I know not how it was, but the presence of our new friend hastened the betrothal. It seemed to be his wish to celebrate this confirmation of our happiness in our quiet circle, and then too he must needs hear how the superintendent took the opportunity of reminding us of the Bishop of Laodicea, and of the great danger of lukewarmness which they thought that they had observed in us. We spoke of these subjects yet a few times; and he left behind for us a paper relating thereto, which I afterwards often had reason to look at again.
“He then left us, and it seemed as if every good spirit had gone away with him. It is not a new remark how the appearance of a great man in any circle makes an epoch, and on his departure there appears a gap in which a casual misfortune will often penetrate. And now let me cast a veil over what followed: through an accident the precious life of my betrothed, his noble form, was suddenly destroyed. He steadfastly devoted his last hours to seeing himself joined to me, inconsolable as I was, and securing me in the right to his inheritance. But what made this blow still more painful to the parents was that shortly before they had lost a daughter, and thus saw themselves in a most special sense bereaved; whereby their tender souls were so stricken that their lives were not long spared. They soon followed their dear ones; and yet another misfortune overtook me; for my father, struck with apoplexy, has still preserved, it is true, his bodily consciousness of the world, but neither spiritual nor physical activity in it. And thus I really had need of that self-dependence in the greatest stress and isolation, in which I had formerly practised myself when looking forward to a happy union and pleasant companionship in life, and in which but shortly before I had singularly confirmed myself by help of the pure, encouraging precepts of the mysterious traveller.
“Yet I ought not to be ungrateful, since in these circumstances I have still a trusty helper left, who as my agent looks after everything that in such businesses seems to fall to the lot of manly activity. If he comes back from the town this evening and you have been able to make his acquaintance, you will see my wonderful dependence upon him.”
I had said a good deal in the meantime, and by approving and confidential sympathy tried to open out her heart more and more, and keep up the flow of her speech. I did not avoid touching quite closely what as yet had not been fully outspoken: she too was always drawing nearer to it, and we had got so far that on the slightest pretext the open secret would have come forth in words.
She stood up and said, “Let us go to my father.” She hastened on, and I followed slowly. I shook my head over the strange situation in which I found myself. She showed me into a very neat back room, where the good old man sat motionless in the arm-chair. He was little altered. I went up to him: he at first looked at me with a rigid stare, then with more animated eyes; his features grew bright, he tried to move his lips, and when I stretched out my hand to take his as it lay, he grasped mine of his own accord, pressed it, and jumped to his feet, stretching out his arms towards me. “O God!” he exclaimed, “Squire Lenardo! it is he, it is he himself!”
I could not refrain from pressing him to my heart; he sank back into the chair, his daughter ran forward to help him; she too exclaimed, “It is he! It is you, Lenardo!”
The younger niece had come in; they led the father, who all at once was able to walk again, to his bedroom, and turning towards me he said quite distinctly, “How happy! happy! we shall meet again soon!”
I stood still, looking straight before me and thinking; Mariechen came back, and handed me a paper with the information that it was the one referred to. I at once recognized Wilhelm’s hand, even as before his person had occurred to me from the description. Many strange faces crowded round about me; there was a peculiar excitement in the entrance. And what a repelling sensation it is, from the enthusiasm of a genuine recognition, from the assurance of a grateful recollection, the appreciation of a wonderful event in life, and whatever else ardent and beautiful that may arise in us therewith—to be brought back all at once to the uncouth reality of a distracted every-day dulness.
This time Friday evening was not so generally cheerful and merry as it otherwise might have been. The agent had not returned from the town in the market-boat. He would come by another opportunity, and bring with him all that had been ordered and promised. The neighbors, young and old, who as usual had gathered together in expectation, pulled long faces: Lieschen especially, who had gone to meet him, seemed in a very bad humor.
I had taken refuge in my room, keeping the papers in my hand without looking into them: for it had already given me some private vexation to find from her narrative that Wilhelm had accelerated the betrothal. “Thus are all friends, they are all diplomatists: instead of responding honestly to our confidence, they pursue their own plans, thwart our wishes, and lead our destiny astray!” Thus I exclaimed: however, I soon recovered from my injustice, allowed that my friend was right, especially in view of the present situation, and no longer forbore to read what follows.
“Every human being, from the earliest moment of his life, is first unconscious, then half-conscious, and at last wholly so: he finds himself forever controlled, limited in his position; but as no one knows the end and aim of his existence, or rather, as its secret is withheld by the hand of the Most High, he therefore only gropes about, grasps at, leaves hold, stands still, moves, lingers and worries, and so on in so manifold ways, as all the errors which confuse us arise.
“Even the wisest is compelled in daily life to be wise for the moment, and by that means attains no enlightenment in the universal. Seldom does he know for certain whither he has to turn in the future, and what he really has to do and to leave undone.
“Happily all these, and yet a hundred other wondrous questions are answered by your incessantly active course of life. Persevere in direct observance of the day’s duty, and thereby test the purity of your heart, and the safety of your soul. If thus in unoccupied hours you aspire, and find opportunity to elevate yourself, you will so gain a right attitude towards the sublime, to which we must in every way reverently surrender ourselves, regard every occurrence with veneration, and acknowledge therein a higher guidance.”
Absorbed in thoughts in whose wondrous mazes a feeling soul will gladly accompany me with sympathy, I had with daybreak walked to and from the lake. The housewife (I was glad to be unable to think of her as a widow) showed herself just when she was wanted, first at the window, then at the door: she told me that her father had slept well, had woke up in good spirits, and had declared in distinct words that he desired to remain in bed, and to see me, not to-day, but to-morrow after service, when he would certainly feel well strengthened. She then said to me that to-day she intended to leave me a good deal alone: for her it was a very busy day; she came down-stairs and gave me an account of it.
I listened to her, only for the sake of hearing her; at the same time I satisfied myself that she seemed to be thoroughly penetrated by the business, invested with it, as traditional duty, and was busy by her own consent.
She continued: “It is usual and understood that the web be ready towards the end of the week, and on Saturday afternoon be taken to the contractor, who looks through it, measures and weighs it, in order to ascertain that the work is properly done and free from blemish, and whether the proper amount in weight and measure has been delivered to him; and if all is found to be correct, he then pays the wages agreed upon. He is careful, on his own part, to free the woven piece from all manner of threads and knots that may be attached to it, to lay it down in the neatest way, keeping the side that is finest and most free from blemish upwards to the sight, and thus to make the goods acceptable in the highest degree.”
In the meantime a number of weaving girls were coming in from the mountain, bringing their wares to the house, amongst whom, too, I noticed her who employed our loomfitter. She thanked me very kindly for the present I had left behind me, and prettily told me that the loomfitter was with them, and was working to-day at their loom, and had assured her as she left that what he was doing to it would be seen directly by Frau Susanna in the work. Thereupon she went like the rest into the house, and I could not refrain from asking the dear good-wife, “For Heaven’s sake, how did you come by this extraordinary name?”
“It is the third,” she said, “that they have imposed upon me: I willingly assented, for my father- and mother-in-law wished it. It was the name of their lost daughter, whose place they wished me to take, and the name is ever the best and most living substitute for the person.”
To this I answered, “A fourth has been found already. I would name you Fair-good-one if it depended on me.”
She made a very pretty humble curtsey, and managed to combine and set-off her delight at the recovery of her father with her pleasure at seeing me again, in such a way that I thought I had never heard and felt anything more flattering and delightful in all my life.
The Fair-good-one, summoned twice or thrice into the house, handed me over to a sensible well-informed man, who was told to show me the curiosities of the mountain. We went together, under the finest sky, through richly varied tracts. But it may be taken for granted that neither rock nor wood nor waterfall, still less mills and smithies, or even families who worked cleverly enough in wood, could gain any attention from me. However, the excursion was arranged for the whole day; the porter carried a fine breakfast in his knapsack; at midday we found a good meal in the counting-house of a mine where no one could quite make me out; for to active people nothing is more objectionable than an empty indifference simulating interest.
But least of all did the guide understand me; the yarn-man had recommended me to him with great praise of my fine technical knowledge and special interest in such things. That good man had also told him of my copious writing down and noting, for which his fellow-mountaineer had likewise prepared himself. My guide waited a long time for me to pull out my note-book, which at last he somewhat impatiently inquired after.
Midday had almost come before I could see my dear friend again. The family service, at which she did not want me to be present, was held in the meantime; the father had taken part in it, and uttering words most edifying, distinctly and intelligently, he had moved her and all who were present to the most heartfelt tears.
“They were,” she said, “familiar proverbs, rhymes, expressions and turns that I had heard a hundred times and been vexed at as hollow sounds: but now they flowed forth so heartily molten together, quietly glowing, and free from slag, just as we see the molten metal flow out into the mould. I was afraid and anxious that he would exhaust himself in these outpourings: however, he let himself be taken quite cheerfully to bed: he wished quietly to collect himself, and to have the guest summoned to him as soon as he felt strong enough.”
After dinner our talk became more animated and confidential: but for this very reason I could the better feel and perceive that she was keeping something back, that she was struggling with disquieting thoughts, so that she did not quite succeed in brightening up her face. After I had tried one way and another to get her to speak out, I frankly said that I fancied I saw in her a certain dulness, an expression of anxiety: whether they were domestic or business troubles, she ought to confide in me. I was rich enough to pay her an old debt in any way.
She denied with a smile that this was the case. “I thought,” she continued, “when you first came, that you were one of the firm who give me credit in Trieste, and I was well pleased that I had my money ready at hand, whether they wanted the whole sum or a part of it. What troubles me is, nevertheless, a business anxiety, unfortunately not for the moment, no! for the whole future. The machinery that is getting the upper-hand frightens me and makes me anxious: it comes rolling on like a thunderstorm, slowly, slowly, but it has taken its direction; it will come, and strike. My husband was penetrated even by this melancholy conviction. People think about it, talk of it, and neither thinking nor talking can be of any use; and who would like to realize such horrors! Only think that there are many valleys winding through the mountain, like that through which you came down; that comely joyous life still flits before you, as you have seen it there during these past days, whereof the gayly dressed crowd thronging from all directions yesterday gave the happiest evidence, bethink you, how this will little by little collapse, die out, and the desert animated and peopled for centuries will again fall back into its primeval solitude.
“There remain only two roads to choose from; one as sad as the other—either to take to the new state of things one’s self and hasten on ruin, or to break up, take the best and worthiest along with us, and seek a better destiny beyond the sea. One as well as the other has its dangers, but who is there to help us to weigh the reasons which should decide us? I know very well that people are going about in the neighborhood with the idea of setting up machines, and taking the bread out of the mouths of the common people. I cannot blame any one for thinking of himself first. But I should think myself despicable if I were to plunder these poor people, and see them go away at last poor and helpless: and go away they must, sooner or later. They forbode it, they know it, they say it, and no one decides to take any saving step. And yet where is the resolution to come from? is it not as difficult to every one as to me?
“My betrothed had made up his mind to emigrate with me: he often communed with himself about the means and ways of getting himself free from here. He looked about for the better men, whom one could gather round one’s self, with whom one could make common cause; whom one could draw to one and take away with one; we longed, with perhaps too youthful hopefulness, for lands where that might count for duty and right that here would be a crime. Now the case is just the opposite. The honest helper, who remained to me after my husband’s death, excellent in every sense, attached to me by friendship and love, is of a quite contrary opinion.
“I must speak of him before you have seen him: I would rather have done it afterwards, because personal presence clears up many a riddle. About the same age as my husband, he attached himself as a poor little boy to his well-to-do, kindly-disposed playmate; to the family, the house, and the business. They grew up together, and held together, and the pair were of quite different natures: the one frank and communicative, the other oppressed in early youth, reserved, holding firmly to the least acquired possession, of pious disposition it is true, but thinking more of himself than of others.
“I know very well that from the first he had turned his eyes towards me (he might well do so, for I was poorer than he), yet he kept himself in the background as soon as he noticed his friend’s attachment to me. By steady industry, energy and trustworthiness, he soon made himself a partner in the business. My husband secretly entertained the thought of settling him here when we emigrated, and intrusting him with everything that was left. Soon after our excellent one’s death he approached me, and before long he did not conceal the fact that he was a suitor for my hand. But now came the doubly wonderful circumstance that he steadfastly declared himself against emigration, and, on the contrary, eagerly urged that we should even set up machines. His reasons are certainly cogent, for on our mountain there lives a man, who, if he liked to abandon our simpler appliances, and construct more complicated ones for himself, could easily bring us to ruin. This—in his own department a very skilful man (we call him the loomfitter)—is a dependent of a well-to-do family in the neighborhood, and one might well believe that he intended to make use of this rising discovery for the benefit of himself and his patrons. There is nothing to be said against my assistant’s arguments, for too much time has in a way been already wasted, and if they get the start, we must, even at a loss, take the same course. This is what frightens me and makes me anxious; it is this, my dearest friend, that makes you seem to me like a guardian angel.”
I had little that was consoling to say in reply; I must needs find the case complicated enough to demand time for me to think over it.
“However,” she continued, “I have still much to disclose, which will make my situation seem yet more wonderful to you. The young man, to whom personally I am not averse, but who would by no means supply the place of my husband, nor win my special affection” (she sighed as she said this), “has lately become decidedly more urgent; his representations are as amiable as they are sensible. The necessity of giving him my hand, the imprudence of thinking of emigration, and thus neglecting the only real means of self-preservation, are not to be denied; and my opposition, my whim of emigrating, seems to him to agree so little with the rest of my disposition to good management, that at our last somewhat hasty conversation I could detect the supposition that my affections must be placed elsewhere.”
She brought out this last sentence with hesitation, and looked down before her. What passed through my soul at these words let anyone imagine, and yet as reflection followed with the speed of lightning, I could not but feel that every word would increase the complication; and yet, at once, as I stood thus before her, I was most distinctly conscious that I had got to love her most profoundly, and I had to employ all that was left me of rational intelligent strength to refrain from offering her my hand forthwith. “Yet she could leave everything behind her,” I thought, “if she follows me.” However, the sorrows of past years held me back. “Shouldst thou cherish a false hope, to repent of it your life long?”
We had both stood for some time in silence, when Lieschen, whom I had not seen enter, surprised us by coming up and asking permission to spend this evening at the neighboring forge. It was granted with hesitation.
I had in the meantime collected myself, and began to tell, in a general way, how in my travels I had long seen all this coming on—how the impulse and necessity for emigration was growing stronger every day; and yet this always involved the greatest risk. To hurry away unprepared brought an unhappy return. No other undertaking demanded so much foresight and guidance as this.
This view was not new to her; she had thought a great deal about all contingencies; but at last she said, with a deep sigh, “During these days of your stay here I have been continually hoping to gain comfort by confidential communication, but I feel in a worse position than before; I feel most deeply how unhappy I am.”
She looked up to me, but to hide the tears welling out of her good and beautiful eyes, turned round and went a few paces apart.
I will not excuse myself; but the wish to distract at least, if not to comfort this noble soul, gave me the idea of speaking to her of the wonderful reunion of several wanderers and parted friends in which I had had a share some time ago. I had unwittingly so far expatiated that I should scarcely have been able to restrain myself, when I became aware of how imprudent my confidence might have been. She calmed herself, wondered, brightened up, disclosed her whole being, and questioned me with such fondness and cleverness, that I was no longer able to avoid confessing everything to her.
Gretchen came in, and said that we might go to her father. The girl seemed very thoughtful and vexed as she went out. Fair-good-one said to her, “Lieschen has leave to go out this evening; you will look after the business.”
“You should not have given it,” replied Gretchen; “she is after no good. You indulge the mischievous thing more than is right, and trust her more than you ought. I have just found out that she wrote a letter to him yesterday evening: she listened to your conversation: now she is going to meet him.”
A child who had in the meantime remained with the father begged me to make haste: the good man was restless. We went in: cheerful, nay, strangely beautiful he was, sitting up in bed.
“Children,” said he, “I have spent these hours in continual prayer; not one of all David’s Psalms of thankfulness and praise has been passed over by me; and to them I add from my own mind, with confirmed faith: Wherefore hopeth man only when near at hand? Then he must act, and help himself; from afar should he hope and trust in God.”
He grasped Lenardo’s hand, and then the hand of his daughter, and laying them one in the other he said, “This must not be an earthly, it must be a heavenly bond: as brother and sister love, trust, serve and help one another, as unselfishly as may God help you;” as he said this he sank back with a heavenly smile, and was gone home. The daughter threw herself down by the bed, Lenardo close by her: their cheeks touched, their tears flowed together upon his hand.
The assistant at this moment runs in, and is transfixed at the scene. With a wild look, shaking his black locks, the handsome young man cries, “He is dead, at the moment when I was about to appeal urgently to his restored speech to decide my fate and his daughter’s—the being whom next to God I love the most, for whom I desired a sound heart, a heart that could feel the worth of my affection! For me she is lost, she kneels near another! Has he given you his blessing? Say only that it is so!”
The noble creature had meanwhile risen to her feet: Lenardo had got up and recovered himself. She said, “I recognize you no longer, the gentle, pious, and all at once so distracted man: yet do you not know how grateful I am to you, what I think of you?”
“It is not a question of thanking and thinking,” replied the other, quieted, “it is a matter of happiness or unhappiness for all my life. This strange man troubles me: as I look at him, I do not trust myself to outweigh him: to push out former rights, to loosen former ties I cannot pretend.”
“As soon as you can come back to yourself,” said my kind one, more beautiful than ever, “when it is possible to talk to you as at other times and always, then I will tell you, will swear to you by the earthly remains of my glorified father, that I have no other relation to this gentleman and friend, than you can recognize, approve and share, and for which you must be glad.”
Lenardo quailed to the depths of his heart: they all three stood for awhile, quite silent and thoughtful. The young man was the first to break the silence: and said, “The moment is one of too great significance to be aught but decisive. It is not upon the spur of the moment that I speak. I have had time to think; do you then listen! Your reason for refusing me your hand was my refusal to follow you, if from necessity or caprice you were to emigrate. Here then I solemnly declare before this competent witness that I will place no obstacle in the way of your departure, rather will I further it, and follow you everywhere. But in return for this declaration, which has not been forced from me, but only accelerated by these strange circumstances, I this moment ask you for your hand.”
He stretched forth his own, and stood there calm and confident. The two others, overcome with surprise, shrank back involuntarily.
“It is decreed,” said the youth, with a certain pious exultation. “It is to happen; it is to the interest of us all: God has willed it! But that you may not think that it is hastiness and caprice, at least learn that for love of you I had renounced mountains and rocks, and have even now been arranging everything, in the town, in order to live according to your wishes. But now I go alone; you will not deny me the means to do so. You would still have enough left to lose here, as you dread, and as you have reason to dread. For I have at last convinced myself also that that skilful, industrious rascal has betaken himself to the upper valley, and is there setting up machinery. You will soon see him drawing to himself all means of support: perhaps you will call back—only too soon—a true friend whom you drove away.”
Three people have seldom stood in a more painful position towards one another: all at the same time in dread of losing one another: and at the moment ignorant of how they should reciprocally retain each other.
The youth with passionate determination rushed out of the door. The Fair-good-one had laid her hand upon her father’s chilled breast. “From near at hand one must not hope,” she exclaimed, “but from afar: that was his last blessing. Let us trust in God: each one in himself and in the other, and so it will be well!”
Our friend read what was put before him with great interest, but at the same time he must needs confess that at the end of the preceding portion he had already suspected, nay, supposed, that the good creature had been discovered. The description of the rugged mountain-country had first inspired him with this idea; but he had been especially set upon the track by Lenardo’s presentiment on that moonlight night, as well as by the repetition of the words of his own letter. Friedrich, to whom he told all this circumstantially, quite agreed with his view.
But here the duty of communicating, describing, setting forth and condensing becomes more and more difficult. Who does not feel that we are now approaching the end, where the fear of lingering over details, with the wish to leave nothing incompletely cleared up, places us in a dilemma. It is true that by the despatch just arrived we have been enlightened about a good deal; however, the letters, and the many enclosures, contain various things which are not of general interest. We have accordingly resolved to combine what we then knew and found out, and that too which came to our knowledge later, and with this intent conclude with confidence the serious task that we have taken in hand of a faithful referee.
Before all else then we have to announce that Lothario with Theresa his wife, and Natalia, who did not wish to be parted from her brother, in company with the abbé, were actually already gone to sea. They started under favorable auspices, and it is to be hoped that a favorable wind fills their sails. The only unpleasant sentiment, a real moral grief, that they take with them, is that they were not able first to pay their visit to Makaria. The circuit was too great, the undertaking too important. They already had some delay to blame themselves for, and must sacrifice even a pious duty to necessity.
We, however, on our part as relator and describer, ought not let these beloved persons, who in times past won so much of our affection, depart to so great a distance, without having imparted some more particular information as to their intentions and doings hitherto, especially as it is so long since we have heard anything explicit about them. Nevertheless, we shall omit to do so, because their task hitherto has only referred, as a preparation, to the great undertaking upon which we see them embarking. We live, however, in the hope of satisfactorily meeting them again at some future day in full methodical activity, making manifest the real worth of their several characters.
Julietta, the sensible good one, whom we may still recollect, had married a man after her uncle’s heart, working thoroughly with sympathy and energy in his own direction. Julietta was latterly a good deal with the aunt, where many of those upon whom she had exercised a beneficial influence met together, not only such as remain devoted to the mainland, but those also who intend to go across the sea. Lenardo, on the other hand, had already taken leave of Friedrich. The communication through messengers between them was so much the more active.
If then those worthy people above-mentioned were absent from the catalogue of the guests, still there were to be found amongst them many important persons already intimately known to us. Hilaria came with her husband, who now appeared as a captain and indubitably rich landowner. She, with her great grace and amiability, gained here as always an easy pardon for her too great readiness to change in passing from one source of interest to another, of which in the course of this narrative we have found her guilty. The men especially did not tax her severely for it: a fault of this kind, if it is one, they do not consider objectionable, since each one may wish and hope that he too may have a turn.
Flavio, her husband, vigorous, cheerful and amiable enough, seemed to rivet her affection completely: she might well have forgiven herself for the past; even Makaria found no occasion to refer to it. He, the always passionate poet, begged on parting to be allowed to recite a poem that he had composed in honor of her and her surrounding friends during the few days of his stay here. He had often been seen walking up and down in the open air, after a short pause again walking forwards with excited gestures, writing at the desk, then thinking and writing again. But now he seemed to regard it as finished when he made his wish known through Angela.
The good lady, though unwillingly, gave her consent, and at all events it might be listened to, although one learned nothing more from it than one knew already, felt nothing but what one had already felt. Meanwhile, however, the delivery was easy and pleasing, treatment and rhymes partly new, though on the whole one might have wished it somewhat shorter. At last, he handed it over, very beautifully written on wide-bordered paper, and they separated with perfect mutual satisfaction.
This couple had returned from a notable, well-employed tour to the south in order to release their father, the major, from the house: who with the Irresistible one, who had now become his wife, also wished to inhale a little of the air of Eden for some measure of refreshment.
Thus these two also come in their turn, and so with Makaria as everywhere the Wonderful one found special favor, which was especially shown in this that the lady was received in the inner room and alone, which favor was afterwards accorded to the major also. He proved himself thereupon to be a cultivated military man, a good manager of house and land, a friend of literature, even worthy of praise as a didactic poet; and he experienced a good reception from the astronomer and other intimates of the house.
He was especially distinguished also by our old friend the worthy uncle, who, living at some distance, at this time came over oftener than he was otherwise wont to do, though it were only for a few hours at a time; but he could not be persuaded to stay for a single night, though the best accommodation was offered to him.
Yet at such short meetings his presence was in the highest degree gratifying, for he was then willing as a man of the world and of the court to appear in an indulgent and intermediary character, in which accordingly a trace of aristocratic pedantry was not found unpleasant. Moreover, his good-humor now proceeded from his heart; he was happy, as we all feel when we have to deal with matters of importance with sensible rational people. The comprehensive business was in full course; it went on continuously with carefully fostered collaboration.
To this he gave only his principal moments. He is a landowner, by inheritance from his ancestors, beyond the seas. What that implies, he who understands the position of affairs there may explain more in detail to his friends, for it will of necessity take us too far now. These important possessions had hitherto been let on lease, and under various drawbacks brought in little. The association with which we are sufficiently acquainted is now authorized to take possession there, in the midst of the most perfect civil institutions, from which as an influential link of the State it can look for advantage to itself, and spread itself still further in the uncultivated waste. Here then will Friedrich with Lenardo come especially to the front to show how one can in point of fact begin from the beginning and strike out a natural path.
Hardly had those we have named departed, satisfied in the highest degree with their stay, when there were announced some guests of a very different sort, and yet welcome ones too. We should scarcely have expected to see Philina and Lydia make their appearance in a place of such sanctity, and yet they arrived. Montan, who was still lingering in the mountains, was presently to fetch them, and take them by the nearest road to the lake. Both were very well received by the housekeepers, stewardesses, and other women who had situations or dwelt in the house. Philina brought with her a pair of most lovable children, and while simply and very attractively dressed she distinguished herself by an extraordinary habit. From her flower-embroidered belt she carried, hanging from a long silver chain, a moderately large pair of English scissors, with which she would often snip and snap in the air, just as if she wanted to give emphasis to her conversation, and by doing this she aroused the merriment of all present, whereupon also the question soon followed whether it could be that, in so large a family, there was no cloth to cut. And then it was discovered very fortunately for such energy, that a couple of brides were to be fitted out. Hereupon she looks at the costume of the country, and bids the girls walk up and down before her, whilst she cuts away; in doing which she proceeded with spirit and taste, and, without in any way detracting from the character of such a costume, she managed to soften down its peculiar stiff barbarousness with so soft a grace that the two thus clothed pleased themselves and others better, and overcame their anxiety lest they might have deviated from what was traditional.
Now came Lydia, who was skilful in sewing readily, neatly and swiftly, to their complete assistance, and one might venture to hope to see the brides, with the aid of the rest of the womankind, dressed out more quietly than one would have thought, and in the meantime these girls dared not go far away. Philina busied herself with them down to the minutest details, and treated them as if they were dolls or stage-dummies. Heaps of ribands and other festive array usual in the neighborhood were fittingly distributed, and at last the result was attained that these buxom bodies and neat figures, generally decked out with barbarous formality, now became somewhat conspicuous, but in such a way that all vulgarity seemed in every point toned down into a sort of gracefulness.
But over-busy people, in circumstances restricted by uniform rules, become wearisome. Philina with her voracious scissors had got into the rooms where the stores for the clothing of the large household lay at hand in materials of various kinds. There she experienced, in the prospect of cutting it all up, the greatest delight: it was necessary actually to take her out, and lock the door fast; for she knew neither bounds nor measure. Angela, on this account, really would not be treated as a bride; for she dreaded such a slasher; in general the relations between the two were by no means happily brought out. This however, can only be enlarged on later.
Montan put off coming longer than had been anticipated, and Philina insisted on being presented to Makaria. This was done, for then they hoped that they would get rid of her all the sooner, and it was a sufficiently remarkable sight to see the two sinners at the feet of the Saint. They lay at her knees on either side, Philina between her two children, whom she urged down with demonstrative gracefulness. With her wonted geniality she said—“I love my husband, my children. I gladly work for them, for others too: forgive the rest.” Makaria saluted and blessed her; she withdrew with a becoming bow.
Lydia lay to the left side of the saintly woman with her face on her breast, weeping bitterly and unable to utter a word. Makaria, interpreting her tears, tapped her on the shoulder as if she would soothe her. Then with pious intent she fervently and repeatedly kissed her head between the parted tresses, as it lay in front of her. Lydia raised herself, first to her knees, then to her feet, and regarded her benefactress with pure joy.
“What has happened to me!” she said; “how do I feel! The heavy painful burden, which deprived me, if not of all consciousness, at least of all reflection, is suddenly lifted from off my head: I can now look upwards freely, direct my thoughts on high, and,” she added after drawing her breath deeply, “I believe my heart will follow.”
At this moment the door opened, and as frequently one too long awaited will suddenly and unexpectedly appear, Montan came in. Lydia stepped gleefully up to him, embraced him joyfully, and as she led him to Makaria, she exclaimed, “He shall know how he is indebted to this divine one, and gratefully kneel down with me.”
Montan, surprised, and contrary to his usual custom somewhat embarrassed, said with a graceful bow towards the worthy lady, “It seems to be a great deal; for I become your debtor. It is the first time that you have come frankly and lovingly to me, the first time that you have pressed me to your heart, although I have long deserved it.”
We must now confidentially disclose that Montan had loved Lydia from her early youth, that the more engaging Lothario had enticed her from him, but that he had remained faithful to her and to his friend, and at last, probably to the no small surprise of our earlier readers, had gained her for his wife.
All these three, who would not have been able to feel quite at ease in European society, scarcely placed limits to the expression of their joy when the expected settlement abroad was spoken of. Philina’s scissors were already snipping; for she was thinking of securing the monopoly of providing this new colony with articles of apparel. Philina described very prettily the large store of cloth and linen, and snipped in the air, “already beholding,” she said, “the harvest for scythe and sickle before her.”
Lydia, on the other hand, only now by that happy blessing awakened again to sympathetic love, saw already in spirit her scholars increasing a hundredfold, and a whole population of housewives led on and stirred up to exactitude and elegance. The earnest Montan too has all the mineral wealth of those regions in lead, copper, iron and coal before his eyes, to such an extent that he is often ready to declare all his knowledge and ability as mere painful groping experiment towards the rich remunerative harvest that he there should first boldly gather in.
That Montan would soon be on good terms with our astronomer was to be foreseen. The discussions which they carried on in Makaria’s presence were attractive in the highest degree. However, we find but little of them to write down, Angela having been for some time less attentive in listening and more careless in writing them out. Much of it too might seem to her too general, and not sufficiently comprehensible for a young lady. We therefore insert in passing only a few of the utterances of those days which have come to us—in no case in her handwriting.
In the study of the sciences, particularly those that deal with nature, it is as necessary as it is difficult to inquire whether that which has been handed down to us from the past, and regarded as valid by our ancestors, is really to be relied on to such a degree that we may continue to build upon it safely in the future; or whether traditionary knowledge has become only stationary, and hence occasions inertia rather than progress. There is one characteristic that furthers this inquiry—whether, namely, the received results are being, and have been, and remain influential in and promotive of active endeavor.
The testing of the new stands in the opposite case—when one has to ask whether what is received is real profit or only fashionable conformity. For an opinion emanating from energetic men spreads like contagion throughout the crowd, and then it is said to be prevalent—an assumption that to the true inquirer expresses no idea. Church and State may at any rate have reasons to declare themselves dominant; for they have to do with the recalcitrant multitude, and if only order is kept, it is all the same by what means; but in the sciences absolute freedom is necessary; for then one is working not for to-day and to-morrow, but for an endlessly progressive succession of years.
But, moreover, if in science the false gets the upper hand, yet there will always remain a minority for the true; and if it should contract into one single spirit it would not matter: he will work his way in silence, in secret, and a time will come when people will inquire about him and his convictions, or when with the general diffusion of enlightenment they will venture to present themselves again.
But a subject less general, though incomprehensible and extraordinary, that came under discussion, was Montan’s casual disclosure that in his mountain and mining investigations he was assisted by a being who displayed the most wonderful qualities, and a quite peculiar relation to everything that one might call stone, mineral—even in general, an element. This being felt not only a great effect from waters flowing underground, from metalliferous layers and veins, as well as coal measures, and aught else of the sort that lay together in masses, but, what was more wonderful, it felt different and again different as soon as it merely changed its soil. The different sorts of mountains exercised a special influence upon it, about which since he had managed to produce a language which was strange enough, but at the same time sufficient, he was able to arrive at a clear understanding with it and test it in details, when it stood the test in a remarkable way, being able as it was to distinguish chemical as well as physical elements by the feeling, nay, even distinguishing by look alone the heavier from the lighter substances. This being, about whose sex he would not disclose himself more plainly, he has sent forward with the departing friends, and he hoped a good deal from it in furtherance of his aims in the unexplored districts.
This confidence on the part of Montan opened the stern heart of the astronomer, who accordingly, with Makaria’s consent, revealed to him in return her relation to the planetary system. By the aid of later communications by the astronomer we are in a position to impart, if not adequately, at any rate the chief point of their conversations on such important subjects.
Let us, in the meanwhile, admire the similarity of the cases here occurring, together with the greatest diversity. One friend, in order not to become a Timon, had plunged himself into the deepest caverns of the earth; and even there he was aware that in human nature there is something analogous to what is most rigid and uncouth. To the other, on the contrary, Makaria’s spirit gave an instance of the fact that as in the former case, tarrying, so in this case distant removal, is the attribute of gifted natures; and that it is necessary neither to penetrate to the centre of the earth, nor to remove beyond the limits of our solar system, but that they are already sufficiently occupied, and in particular made attentive to action and summoned to it. Upon and in the soil is found matter for the highest earthly requirements, a world full of material, handed over to the manipulation of man’s highest faculties; but upon that spiritual road sympathy, love and orderly free activity are always found. To reconcile these two worlds with one another, to make manifest their double-sided peculiarities in the passing phenomenon of life, is the highest form to which man can develop himself.
Hereupon the two friends made a contract, and undertook in any case not to conceal their experiences; for he who could smile at them as tales well suited for a romance, might still continue to regard them as a symbol of all that was most worthy to be desired.
The departure of Montan and his ladies soon followed, and if he and Lydia had been very welcome, yet the too-restless Philina was tiresome to a number of young ladies accustomed to repose and order, but particularly to the noble-minded Angela; moreover, several other circumstances combined to increase the discomfort.
We have already had occasion to remark that Angela did not fulfil as before the duty of attending and taking notes, but seemed to be otherwise occupied. To explain this anomaly in a person so given to order, and moving in the most refined of circles, we are compelled, late as it is, to introduce a new actor in this comprehensive drama.
Our old and tried merchant-friend Werner was compelled, with the growth, nay, with the so-to-say unlimited increase of his business, to look around for other assistants, whom, not without special previous testing, he attached more nearly to himself. Such a one he now sends to Makaria, to treat about the payment of important sums of money which this lady out of her large means determined and promised to devote to the new undertaking, with especial reference to her favorite Lenardo. The above-mentioned young man, now Werner’s assistant and partner, a lively natural youth, and a perfect phenomenon, recommends himself by a singular talent, an unlimited readiness at calculation in every case, and especially with the undertakers as they are now working together, when they must needs occupy themselves closely with calculations in the manifold senses of a business reckoning and ascertain their balance.
Even in daily society where, in discussion about matters of the world, the conversation is of numbers, sums, and balances, such a man must be in the highest degree welcome as a colleague. Moreover, he played the piano very gracefully—in which calculation, united and combined with an amiable natural disposition, is extremely helpful. The tones flow lightly and harmoniously together, but he often hints that he would also be at home in deeper regions; and thus he becomes most highly attractive whilst he says little, and scarcely a symptom of feelings transpires through his conversation. In any case he is younger than his years; something childlike might almost be attributed to him. And whatever else may be said of him, he has gained Angela’s favor, and she his, to Makaria’s great content, for she had long wished to see the noble girl married.
The latter, however, always thoughtful, and feeling how difficult it would be to fill her place, had already declined an offer of love from some one or other, and perhaps even done violence to a secret affection; but since a successor had been contemplated, nay, to some extent already appointed, she seems to have been taken unawares by a favorable impression, and to have resigned herself even passionately to it.
But we now reach the point of disclosing the most important thing, since all that has so long been our theme has little by little been shaped, resolved, and put into form again. Accordingly, it has been determined for the future that the Fair-good-one, otherwise called the Nut-brown Maid, shall attach herself to Makaria. The plan, submitted in a general sense to Lenardo, and also approved by him, is quite near to its execution: all the parties to it are agreed: the Fair-good-one: hands over all her property to her factotum. He marries the second daughter in the industrious family, and becomes the loomfitter’s brother-in-law. By this means the complete establishment of a factory with the aid of local and co-operative effort becomes possible, and the inhabitants of the labor-loving valley are busied in another and more lively fashion. Thus the amiable woman is made free; she comes to Makaria in Angela’s place, who is already betrothed to the young man above mentioned. Thus, for the moment, all is set straight; what cannot be decided remains in suspense.
But now the Fair-good-one desires that Wilhelm shall fetch her away; certain circumstances have still to be adjusted; and she sets a great value simply on this, that that which he in point of fact began, he shall complete. He first found her out, and a wonderful destiny set Lenardo upon his track; and now he—so she wishes—must lighten her departure, and so experience the pleasure, the satisfaction of having himself gathered up and knotted the ravelled threads of fate.
But now, in order to bring the spiritual, the moral, to a sort of completion, we must also reveal something more secret—in fact what follows: Lenardo had never made the slightest utterance about a closer connection with the Fair-good-one; but in the course of the negotiations, during the many messages to and fro, some inquiry had in a delicate way been made of her, as to how she would regard such a connection, and what, at any rate, if it should come to words, she would be inclined to do. From her reply could be gathered thus much, that she did not feel herself worthy to respond to such affection as that of her noble-minded friend by the bestowal of her divided self; kindness of such sort deserved a woman’s whole soul, all her faculties; but that she could not offer. The recollection of her lover, her husband, and the reciprocal union of both, was still so vivid within her, still occupied her whole being so completely, that no space for love and passion was conceivable, and that only the purest good-will, and on this occasion the most perfect gratitude, remained for her. With this they remained content, and as Lenardo had had no hand in the incident, it was not even necessary to give any explanation or answer about it.
A few general considerations will, it may be hoped, be in place here. The relation of all the foregoing personages to Makaria was confidential and reverent. They all felt the presence of a higher being, and yet in this presence every one retained the freedom of appearing quite in his own nature. Every one shows himself as he is, more than ever before parents and friends, with a certain confidence; for he has been enticed and prompted to bring to light only the good, the best that is in him; hence arose an almost general satisfaction.
But we cannot refrain from saying that, throughout these in some measure distracting circumstances, Makaria remained occupied with Lenardo’s position. She expressed herself on the subject to her intimates, to Angela and the astronomer. She believed that she plainly saw Lenardo’s mind before her. For the moment he is satisfied: the object of his solicitude is in the highest degree fortunate; Makaria had provided for the future in any circumstances. He had now to enter boldly upon and begin the great business, and leave the rest to the future and to fate. And here it might be supposed that he was chiefly fortified in this undertaking by the thought of summoning her over, if not even fetching her himself, as soon as ever he had established his footing.
Some general remarks cannot be withheld here. The strange case which here arose—passion developed from conscientiousness—was more closely observed. At the same time other instances of the wonderful transformation of impressions once received, the mysterious development of innate inclination and longing, were recalled: that in such cases there was little to be done was regretted, but it would be found in the highest degree advisable to keep as clear as possible, and not yield unconditionally to this or that connection.
But, this point reached, we cannot resist the temptation to communicate from our archives a paper which concerns Makaria and the special property which was bestowed on her mind. Unfortunately this memorandum was written from memory only some time after it was communicated, and is not, as would be desirable in so remarkable a case, to be looked upon as authentic. Be that as it may, however, so much is imparted here as will arouse reflection and recommend attention as to whether something similar or approximate has not been, somewhere or other, noted and recorded.
Makaria is found to be in a relation to our solar system which one may hardly venture to express. In the spirit, the soul, the imagination, she cherishes it; she not only contemplates it, but forms as it were a part of it. She sees herself drawn onward in those heavenly orbits, but in a manner quite peculiar; she has revolved round the sun since her childhood, and in fact, as is now discerned, in a spiral continually receding from the central point and circling towards the outer regions.
If it may be assumed that beings in so far as they are corporeal tend towards the centre, in so far as they are spiritual towards the circumference, then our friend belongs to the most spiritual; she seems born only to disengage herself from the earthly, to penetrate to the nearest and most distant spaces of existence. This peculiar quality, glorious as it is, was laid on her, from her earliest years, as a weighty responsibility. From childhood she remembers her innermost self, as penetrated by luminous beings, irradiated by a light with which the brightest sunshine has nothing in common. She often saw two suns, an inward one, and one without in the heavens; two moons, of which the external one retained its size in all its phases, whilst the inner one diminished ever more and more.
This gift drew her sympathy away from common things; but her excellent parents availed themselves of all means of culture for her. All capabilities were active in her, all modes of activities effective; so that she was able to satisfy all external relations; and whilst her heart, her mind was entirely filled with super-mundane vision, her actions and conduct still remained ever conformable to the noblest morality. As she grew up, helpful everywhere, unremitting in great and small services, she moved like an angel of God upon earth, whilst her spiritual whole moved it is true around the natural sun, but with respect to the supernatural one in ever-widening circles.
The excessive plenitude of this condition was in some degree relieved by the fact that there also seemed to be an alternation of day and night in her; for when the inner light was diminished she strove to fulfil her outer duties most faithfully, and on a fresh refulgence within resigned herself to the most blissful repose. Nay, she has remarked that a sort of clouds have from time to time hovered round her, and shared for a period the aspect of her heavenly companions—an epoch which she has always contrived to employ for the benefit or pleasure of her friends.
As long as she kept her visions secret, it was no small matter to support them. What she revealed of them was not acknowledged or was misinterpreted: she therefore allowed it to pass to the outer world as a malady: and it is still always so spoken of in the family. But at last good fortune brought to her the man whom you see with us, equally estimable as physician, mathematician and astronomer, a thoroughly noble man who yet at first really found his way to her from curiosity. But as she gained confidence in him to gradually describe her condition to him, when she had joined the present with the past, and introduced a continuity into the circumstances, he was so possessed by the phenomenon that he could no longer separate from her, but every day tried to penetrate more deeply into the secret.
At first, as he not indistinctly hinted, he held it to be an illusion: for she did not deny that from earliest youth she had diligently occupied herself with the science of stars and sky, that she had become well-informed in that respect, and never lost an opportunity of making, by the aid of instruments and books, the structure of the universe clearer to her senses. He was therefore not to be dissuaded but that it was acquired; the effect of a highly disciplined imagination, the influence of memory, was to be suspected, with the co-operation of discriminating power, but especially of a hidden method of calculation.
He is a mathematician and therefore obstinate; a clear mind and therefore incredulous: he remained long on his guard, noticing accurately, however, what she alleged; tried to anticipate the result of several years, attended particularly to the most recent utterances coinciding with the opposition of the heavenly luminaries, and at last exclaimed, “Now, why should not God and Nature create and arrange a living armillary sphere, a spiritual clockwork, such that it should be able to follow, as our clocks do day by day and hour by hour, the course of the stars of its own accord and in its own way.”
But here we do not venture to go further; for the incredible loses its value if we seek to inspect it in closer detail. Yet thus much we do say: what served as the basis of the calculations to be applied was as follows—
To her, the seeress, our sun seemed in her vision much smaller than she saw it by day: moreover an unusual position of this higher luminary in the zodiac gave occasion to some deductions.
On the other hand doubt and bewilderment arose, because the observer indicated one star or another as likewise appearing in the zodiac, but of which nothing could be perceived in the sky. It might be the small planets at that time still undiscovered: for from other utterances it could be gathered that, having long ago crossed the orbit of Mars she was nearing that of Jupiter. She had manifestly for a long time been contemplating with astonishment, it would be hard to say at what distance, this planet in its tremendous glory, and had beheld the motion of its moons about it, but had afterwards seen him in the strangest guise as a waning moon, and in fact reversed, as the waxing moon appears to us. From this it was concluded that she saw him from the side, and was actually on the point of crossing his orbit, and striving towards Saturn in the illimitable space. Thither no imagination follows her: but we hope that such an entelecheia* will not altogether abandon our solar system, but on reaching its boundaries will long to return to influence again the life and well-being of the earth for the benefit of our descendants.
Whilst we herewith conclude, in the hope of pardon, this ethereal poem, let us turn back to that terrestrial fable of which we have given a passing indication above.
Montan had given out with the greatest appearance of truth that that extraordinary person who was able to indicate so well by feeling the differences of the material of the earth, had already gone abroad with the first of the emigrants; a statement, however, which to the thoughtful must have seemed altogether unlikely. For how could Montan and others of his sort have let so handy a divining-rod go from his side? Moreover, soon after his departure, by the aid of gossip and special tales of the under house-servants on the subject, a general suspicion arose. For Philina and Lydia had brought with them a third person under the pretence that she was a servant, for which however she did not seem to be in the least adapted: and besides she was never wanted when the ladies dressed or undressed. Her simple costume clothed the compact, well-knit body very neatly, but like the whole of her person gave an indication of rusticity. Her behavior without being rough showed none of the culture of society, of which ladies’-maids generally offer a caricature. Moreover she soon found her place amongst the servants; she associated herself with the garden and field-servants, laid hold of the spade and worked like two or three. If she got hold of the rake, it flew in the nimblest way over the upturned earth, and the widest space resembled a well-levelled flower-bed. In other respects she kept herself quiet and very soon won universal good-will. They would talk to each other about her, and say that she had often been seen to lay down her implement and run across the fields over stock and stone to a hidden spring where she could quench her thirst. This practice she had repeated daily, contriving, from any point at which she happened to be standing, always to find out some pure running water or other, whenever she had need of it.
And thus a witness to Montan’s statement had remained behind. He, probably in order to avoid troublesome trials and inadequate testings, determined to conceal the presence of so remarkable a person from his noble hosts, who would otherwise have well deserved such confidence. We, however, have wished to communicate, even incompletely as it lies before us, what has come to our knowledge, with the friendly intention of directing the observation of men of research to similar cases, which present themselves, by some sort of indication, perhaps more often than one would think.
The steward of the castle which but a short time since we saw enlivened by our travellers, active and dexterous by nature, always keeping before his eyes his employers’ interest and his own, was now sitting contentedly making up accounts and reports, in which he was at pains to bring out and to display separately with some complacency the great advantages that had accrued to his district during the presence of these guests. But this, according to his own persuasion, was only the least: he had remarked what great results emanate from active, able, liberal-minded, and bold men. Some had taken their leave, to settle beyond the seas; others to gain their livelihood upon the mainland: he was now aware of yet a third secret relation, which he at once resolved to turn to account.
At their departure it became evident (as could have been foreseen and known) that many of the stalwart young men had become more or less friendly with the pretty girls of the village and the neighborhood—only a few showed courage enough, when Odoard went away with his followers, to declare definitely that they would remain. Of Lenardo’s emigrants not one stayed, but of these latter several declared that in a short time they would return and settle down, if they could be provided in some measure with a sufficient subsistence, and security for the future.
The steward, who was perfectly well acquainted with every individual and the domestic circumstances of the little population that was subject to him, laughed quietly like a true egoist, at the circumstance that such great preparations and expenses should be incurred for the purpose of showing themselves free and active beyond seas and inland, and yet should thereby bring him, who had sat quite still on his acres, just the greatest advantages to house and home, and give him an opportunity of keeping back and collecting round himself some of the best. His thoughts, enlarged by present circumstances, found nothing more natural than that liberality well applied would have worthy and profitable consequences. He immediately formed the resolution of undertaking something like it in his own little district. Fortunately some well-to-do inhabitants were now as it were compelled to resign their daughters legally to the too premature husbands. The steward made such a social mishap comprehensible to them as a fortunate occurrence: and since it was really fortunate that this lot had fallen upon the artisans who would with this intent be most useful, it was not difficult to make a beginning with a furniture-factory, which needs no wide space or great surroundings, but only requires dexterity and sufficient material. The last the steward promised: wives, space and custom the inhabitants provided, and the immigrants brought dexterity with them.
All this the clever man of business had already well thought over in private during the stay and in the turmoil of the crowd: and therefore, as soon as there was quiet around him, he could immediately proceed to work.
Peace, in truth a sort of death-like peace, had fallen on the village streets, on the castle courtyard, after the rush of this flood, when a horseman galloping in upon our calculating and scheming man of business, called out to him and roused him from his peaceful frame of mind. It is true that the horses’ hoofs did not clatter, for it was not shod, but the rider, who sprang from the saddle-cloth (he rode without saddle and stirrups, and controlled the horse only by a halter) called loudly and impatiently for the inmates, the guests, and was passionately astonished at finding everything so still and dead.
The steward’s servant knew not what to make of this stranger. When a discussion arose the steward himself came forth, and he too was able to say nothing more than that they had all gone away.
“Whither?” was the question of the vivacious young stranger. With composure, the steward indicated the road of Lenardo and Odoard, and of a third problematical person whom they had partly called Wilhelm, partly Meister. He had embarked upon the river at a few miles distance: he was going down, first to visit his son, and then to follow out further some important business.
The youth already had vaulted again upon the horse, and received information as to the nearest road to the river, when he galloped out of the gateway again and sped away so quickly that the steward, who was looking out of his window overhead, scarcely detected by a flying cloud of dust that the mad rider had taken the right track.
The last cloud of dust had just disappeared in the distance, and our steward was about to sit down again to his business, when a messenger on foot came rushing in at the same gate and asked likewise for the party, to whom he had been sent off in haste to deliver something of importance. He had for them a rather large packet, but in addition to this also a single letter addressed to Wilhelm, called Meister, which had been specially commended to the care of the messenger by a young lady; and the speedy delivery of which had been most stringently urged. Unfortunately he too could receive no other answer than that he found the nest empty, and must therefore proceed on his way with all speed to such place where he might hope to light upon them all together or to obtain some further information.
But the letter itself, which also we have found amongst the many papers intrusted to us, being of the greatest importance, we must not withhold. It was from Hersilia, a young lady as wonderful as she was amiable, who appears only seldom in our communications, but who at every appearance must certainly have attracted irresistibly every one of intellect and refinement. The fate, too, that befalls her, is perhaps the most extraordinary that can befall a tender spirit.
Hersilia to Wilhelm.
I was sitting thinking, and could not say what I was thinking about. A thoughtful unthinking, however, often comes over me; it is a sort of conscious indifference. A horse gallops into the courtyard, and rouses me from my repose: the door flies open, and Felix enters in all the splendor of youth, like a little idol. He hastens up to me, and is about to embrace me. I sign him back. He seems indifferent, remains at some distance, and with undisturbed cheerfulness begins to praise the horse that brought him here, and to tell me circumstantially and confidentially about his habits and his pleasures. The recollection of former stories brings us upon the ornamental casket; he knows that I have it, and wishes to see it: I acquiesce, it was impossible to refuse. He looks at it, tells circumstantially how he discovered it. I get confused, and betray the fact that I have the key. Now his curiosity rises to the highest pitch; that too he wishes to see, only at a distance. One could never see anyone beg more urgently and lovingly: he begs and prays, kneels and begs with such fiery, winning eyes, such sweet insinuating words, that I was again over-persuaded. I held up the wondrous secret at a distance, but he quickly caught hold of my hand and snatched it away, springing playfully aside, round a table.
“I have nothing to do with the casket, or the key,” he exclaimed. “It was your heart I wished to open, that it should disclose itself to me, come to me, press itself to me, give me leave to press it to my breast.”
He was infinitely beautiful and lovable, and as I was about to run after him, he kept pushing the casket before him on the table: the key was already in the lock: he threatened to turn it, and turned it really; the key broke off, the outer end fell upon the table.
I was more distracted than can be imagined. He takes advantage of my inattention, leaves the casket lying, rushes at me and seizes me in his arms. I struggled in vain; his eyes approached mine; and it is something lovely to see one’s own form in a loving eye. I saw it for the first time, as he pressed his lips passionately on mine. I must confess it, I gave him his kisses back; it is so lovely to make a person happy. I tore myself away; the gulf that separates us appeared only too plainly to me. Instead of collecting myself, I overshot the mark; I pushed him angrily away; my confusion gave me courage and wit; I threatened, scolded, ordered him never to appear before me again; he believed in the genuineness of my expressions.
“Very well,” said he, “then I will ride out into the world until I perish.”
He threw himself on his horse and galloped away. Still half-dreaming I go to take charge of the casket: the half of the key lay broken off. I found myself in double, triple embarrassment.
O men, O mankind, will you never plant out reason? Had we not enough of the father, who was the cause of so much mischief; did we need the son also, to confuse us irretrievably?
These impressions were lying by me a long time; now a strange circumstance intervenes which I must mention: it clears up and obliterates the foregoing.
An old goldsmith and jeweller, esteemed by my uncle, comes in and exhibits some strange antique treasures. I am instigated to bring out the casket; he looks at the broken key and points out what had hitherto been overlooked, that the fracture was not rough, but smooth. By contact the two ends adhere to one another. He pulls out the key entire; they are magnetically united, hold firmly to each other, but lock only for one who is initiated. The man goes a short distance off; the casket flies open, but he shuts it down again at once: such secrets, he opines, it is not good to meddle with.
My inexplicable condition, thank Heaven, you certainly do not realize; for how should one appreciate the embarrassment, whilst outside the embarrassment. The important casket stands before me; the key which turns not I hold in my hand: the former I would willingly leave unopened, if only the latter would unlock for me the future at hand.
Do not trouble yourself about me for awhile: but I pressingly beg, implore, urgently enjoin, inquire after Felix! I have sent round about in vain, to find out the traces of his path. I know not whether I should bless or dread the day which will bring us together again.
At last, at last, the messenger demands his dismissal; he has been kept here long enough: he is to overtake the wanderers with important despatches. In their company he will doubtless find you too, or they will direct him aright. I, in the meantime, shall not be pacified.
Now was the bark gliding down the river, shone on by the hot noonday sun; gentle breezes cooled the heated ether; soft banks on both sides afforded a very simple yet pleasing prospect. The corn-land was not far from the stream, and a rich soil lay so close to it that the rushing water, at any part where it was precipitated against it, had dealt forcibly with the loose earth, and carrying it off, had formed rugged precipices of considerable height.
Right above, on the most broken edge of such a precipice, where in other circumstances the towing-path would have run, our friend saw a young man, well built, of powerful form, approaching at a trot. But scarcely was he about to take a sharper look at him than the overhanging turf broke loose and the unlucky one is precipitately hurled, horse above, rider beneath, into the water. It was no time to think how and wherefore: the sailors rowed, swift as an arrow, to the surging pool, and in a moment had grasped the beautiful prize. To all appearance lifeless, the beautiful youth lay in the boat, and after a short consultation the expert men rowed to a pebbly osier-ground that had formed itself in mid-stream. To land, to lift the body on to the bank, to strip and dry it, was the work of a moment, but as yet no sign of life was to be seen; the fair flower lay prostrate in their arms!
Wilhelm got hold of the lancet at once to open the vein of the arm: the blood gushed out copiously, and mingling with the winding, glancing waves, it followed the rippling stream. Life returned. The loving surgeon had scarcely time to fix the bandages, when the youth had already boldly raised himself upon his feet, and looking keenly at Wilhelm, cried, “If I am to live let it be with thee!”
With these words he fell on the neck of his recognizing and recognized preserver, and wept bitterly. So they stood in close embrace, like Castor and Pollux: brothers meeting at the turning-point between Orkus and Day.
They begged him to quiet himself. The sturdy men had already prepared a comfortable couch, half in the sun, half in shade, amongst light bushes and twigs: here he was now lying, stretched upon his father’s cloak, the comeliest among youths: brown locks, quickly dried, already curled again; he smiled quietly and fell asleep. Our friend as he covered him over looked down at him with pleasure.
“Art thou then ever reproduced, glorious image of God!” he exclaimed, “and art forthwith disfigured again, injured from within or from without.”
The cloak fell over him: a tempered sun-glow gently and deeply warmed his limbs throughout: his cheeks reddened healthily, he seemed already completely restored.
The active men, rejoicing in a good action well sped, and anticipating the liberal recompense that was to be expected, had already as good as dried the youth’s clothing on the hot shingle, so that as soon as he awoke they might reinstate him in the most becoming condition for society.
[* ] No further information is given. Düntzer supposes that some diversion of “St. Christopher’s” is suggested.—Ed.
[† ] The spectral barber in Musaeus’s tale ‘Stumme Liebe:’ he wears a scarlet cloak on his left shoulder; and after completing an operation he claims a like service in return.—D.
[* ]Memento mori was the salutation of the Trappist monks.—D.
[* ] The narrative here passes into the third person: the first person is resumed towards the end, p. 162.
[* ] The name applied in England to the body-snatchers, who were increasing in number to a horrible extent. In the year 1828 the profit arising from the sale of bodies tempted a certain William Burke in Edinburgh to the commission of several murders. Compare Goethe’s letter to Beuth of 4th February, 1832, which is printed in his works under the title Plastische Anatomie.—D.
[* ] This term corresponds to the English skein.
[* ] An antique metallic shuttle, the outline of which is somewhat like an ordinary hand-mirror.—Ed.
[* ]Geschirrfasser.—Geschirr is what is called the “mounting” of a loom, comprising chiefly the “heddles” which raise and depress the alternate yarns.—Ed.
[* ] Large provincial districts; Pennsylvania originally consisted of six such divisions.
[* ]i.e. A sworn court summoned from the elders.
[* ] An Aristotelian term meaning effective power.—Ed.