Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER XVI. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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The 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.