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