Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER VII. - 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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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.