Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XV. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER XV. - 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 long-wished-for morning dawned at last on Edward; and very soon a number of guests arrived. They had sent out a large number of invitations, and many who had missed the laying of the foundation-stone, which was reported to have been so charming, were the more careful not to be absent on the second festivity.
Before dinner the carpenter’s people appeared, with music, in the court of the castle. They bore an immense garland of flowers, composed of a number of single wreaths, winding in and out, one above the other; saluting the company, they made request, according to custom, for silk handkerchiefs and ribands, at the hands of the fair sex, with which to dress themselves out. When the castle party went into the dining-hall, they marched off singing and shouting, and after amusing themselves a while in the village, and coaxing many a riband out of the women there, old and young, they came at last, with crowds behind them and crowds expecting them, out upon the height where the park-house was now standing. After dinner, Charlotte rather held back her guests. She did not wish that there should be any solemn or formal procession, and they found their way in little parties, broken up, as they pleased, without rule or order, to the scene of action. Charlotte stayed behind with Ottilie, and did not improve matters by doing so. For Ottilie being really the last that appeared, it seemed as if the trumpets and the clarionets had only been waiting for her, and as if the gayeties had been ordered to commence directly on her arrival.
To take off the rough appearance of the house, it had been hung with green boughs and flowers. They had dressed it out in an architectural fashion, according to a design of the captain’s; only that, without his knowledge, Edward had desired the architect to work in the date upon the cornice in flowers, and this was necessarily permitted to remain. The captain had only arrived on the scene in time to prevent Ottilie’s name from figuring in splendor on the gable. The beginning, which had been made for this, he contrived to turn skilfully to some other use, and to get rid of such of the letters as had been already finished.
The garland was set up, and was to be seen far and wide about the country. The flags and the ribands fluttered gayly in the air; and a short oration was, the greater part of it, dispersed by the wind. The solemnity was at an end. There was now to be a dance on the smooth lawn in front of the building, which had been inclosed with boughs and branches. A gayly-dressed working mason took Edward up to a smart-looking girl of the village, and called himself upon Ottilie, who stood out with him. These two couples speedily found others to follow them, and Edward contrived pretty soon to change partners, catching Ottilie, and making the round with her. The younger part of the company joined merrily in the dance with the people, while the elder among them stood and looked on.
Then, before they broke up and walked about, an order was given that they should all collect again at sunset under the plane trees. Edward was the first upon the spot, ordering everything, and making his arrangements with his valet, who was to be on the other side, in company with the firework-maker, managing his exhibition of the spectacle.
The captain was far from satisfied at some of the preparations which he saw made; and he endeavored to get a word with Edward about the crush of spectators which was to be expected. But the latter, somewhat hastily, begged that he might be allowed to manage this part of the day’s amusements himself.
The upper end of the embankment having been recently raised, was still far from compact. It had been staked, but there was no grass upon it, and the earth was uneven and insecure. The crowd pressed on, however, in great numbers. The sun went down, and the castle party was served with refreshments under the plane trees, to pass the time till it should have become sufficiently dark. The place was approved of beyond measure, and they looked forward to frequently enjoying the view over so lovely a sheet of water, on future occasions.
A calm evening, a perfect absence of wind, promised everything in favor of the spectacle, when suddenly loud and violent shrieks were heard. Large masses of the earth had given way on the edge of the embankment, and a number of people were precipitated into the water. The pressure from the throng had gone on increasing till at last it had become more than the newly-laid soil would bear, and the bank had fallen in. Everybody wanted to obtain the best place, and now there was no getting either backwards or forwards.
People ran this and that way, more to see what was going on than to render assistance. What could be done when no one could reach the place?
The captain, with a few determined persons, hurried down and drove the crowd off the embankment back upon the shore; in order that those who were really of service might have free room to move. One way or another they contrived to seize hold of such as were sinking; and with or without assistance all who had been in the water were got out safe upon the bank, with the exception of one boy, whose struggles in his fright, instead of bringing him nearer to the embankment, had only carried him further from it. His strength seemed to be failing—now only a hand was seen above the surface, and now a foot. By an unlucky chance the boat was on the opposite shore filled with fireworks—it was a long business to unload it, and help was slow in coming. The captain’s resolution was taken; he flung off his coat; all eyes were directed towards him, and his sturdy vigorous figure gave everyone hope and confidence: but a cry of surprise rose out of the crowd as they saw him fling himself into the water—every eye watched him as the strong swimmer swiftly reached the boy, and bore him, although to appearance dead, to the embankment.
Now came up the boat. The captain stepped in and examined whether there were any still missing, or whether they were all safe. The surgeon was speedily on the spot, and took charge of the inanimate boy. Charlotte joined them, and entreated the captain to go now and take care of himself, to hurry back to the castle and change his clothes. He would not go, however, till persons on whose sense he could rely, who had been close to the spot at the time of the accident, and who had assisted in saving those who had fallen in, assured him that all were safe.
Charlotte saw him on his way to the house, and then she remembered that the wine and the tea, and everything else which he could want, had been locked up, for fear any of the servants should take advantage of the disorder of the holiday, as on such occasions they are too apt to do. She hurried through the scattered groups of her company, which were loitering about the plane trees. Edward was there, talking to every one—beseeching every one to stay. He would give the signal directly, and the fireworks should begin. Charlotte went up to him, and entreated him to put off an amusement which was no longer in place, and which at the present moment no one could enjoy. She reminded him of what ought to be done for the boy who had been saved, and for his preserver.
“The surgeon will do whatever is right, no doubt,” replied Edward. “He is provided with everything which he can want, and we should only be in the way if we crowded about him with our anxieties.”
Charlotte persisted in her opinion, and made a sign to Ottilie, who at once prepared to retire with her. Edward seized her hand, and cried, “We will not end this day in a lazaretto. She is too good for a sister of mercy. Without us, I should think, the half-dead may wake, and the living dry themselves.”
Charlotte did not answer, but went. Some followed her—others followed these: in the end, no one wished to be the last, and all followed. Edward and Ottilie found themselves alone under the plane trees. He insisted that stay he would, earnestly, passionately, as she entreated him to go back with her to the castle. “No, Ottilie!” he cried; “the extraordinary is not brought to pass in the smooth common way—the wonderful accident of this evening brings us more speedily together. You are mine—I have often said it to you, and sworn it to you. We will not say it and swear it any more—we will make it be.”
The boat came over from the other side. The valet was in it—he asked, with some embarrassment, what his master wished to have done with the fireworks?
“Let them off!” Edward cried to him: “let them off!—It was only for you that they were provided, Ottilie, and you shall be the only one to see them! Let me sit beside you, and enjoy them with you.” Tenderly, timidly, he sat down at her side, without touching her.
Rockets went hissing up—cannon thundered—Roman candles shot out their blazing balls—squibs flashed and darted—wheels spun round, first singly, then in pairs, then all at once, faster and faster, one after the other, and more and more together. Edward, whose bosom was on fire, watched the blazing spectacle with eyes gleaming with delight; but Ottilie, with her delicate and nervous feelings, in all this noise and fitful blazing and flashing, found more to distress her than to please. She leaned shrinking against Edward, and he, as she drew to him and clung to him, felt the delightful sense that she belonged entirely to him.
The night had scarcely reassumed its rights, when the moon rose and lighted their path as they walked back. A figure, with his hat in his hand, stepped across their way, and begged an alms of them—in the general holiday he said that he had been forgotten. The moon shone upon his face, and Edward recognized the features of the importunate beggar; but, happy as he then was, it was impossible for him to be angry with anyone. He could not recollect that, especially for that particular day, begging had been forbidden under the heaviest penalties—he thrust his hand into his pocket, took the first coin which he found, and gave the fellow a piece of gold. His own happiness was so unbounded that he would have liked to have shared it with everyone.
In the meantime all had gone well at the castle. The skill of the surgeon, everything which was required being ready at hand, Charlotte’s assistance—all had worked together, and the boy was brought to life again. The guests dispersed, wishing to catch a glimpse or two of what was to be seen of the fireworks from the distance; and, after a scene of such confusion, were glad to get back to their own quiet homes.
The captain also, after having rapidly changed his dress, had taken an active part in what required to be done. It was now all quiet again, and he found himself alone with Charlotte—gently and affectionately he now told her that his time for leaving them approached. She had gone through so much that evening, that this discovery made but a slight impression upon her—she had seen how her friend could sacrifice himself; how he had saved another, and had himself been saved. These strange incidents seemed to foretell an important future to her—but not an unhappy one.
Edward, who now entered with Ottilie, was informed at once of the impending departure of the captain. He suspected that Charlotte had known longer how near it was; but he was far too much occupied with himself, and with his own plans, to take it amiss, or care about it.
On the contrary, he listened attentively, and with signs of pleasure, to the account of the excellent and honorable position in which the captain was to be placed. The course of the future was hurried impetuously forward by his own secret wishes. Already he saw the captain married to Charlotte, and himself married to Ottilie. It would have been the richest present which anyone could have made him, on the occasion of the day’s festival!
But how surprised was Ottilie, when, on going to her room, she found upon the table the beautiful box! Instantly she opened it; inside, all the things were so nicely packed and arranged, that she did not venture to take them out, she scarcely even ventured to lift them. There were muslin, cambric, silk, shawls and lace, all rivalling each other in delicacy, beauty and costliness—nor were ornaments forgotten. The intention had been, as she saw well, to furnish her with more than one complete suit of clothes: but it was all so costly, so little like what she had been accustomed to, that she scarcely dared, even in thought, to believe it could be really for her.