J.W. von Goethe (17491832). Wilhelm Meisters Apprenticeship.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
NEXT morning Mariana woke only to new despondency; she felt herself very solitary, she wished not to see the light of day, but stayed in bed, and wept. Old Barbara sat down by her, and tried to persuade and console her; but it was not in her power so soon to heal the wounded heart. The moment was now at hand, to which the poor girl had been looking forward as to the last of her life. Who could be placed in a more painful situation! The man she loved was departing; a disagreeable lover was threatening to come; and the most fearful mischiefs were to be anticipated, if the two, as might easily happen, should meet together.
Calm yourself, my dear, said the old woman; do not spoil your pretty eyes with crying. Is it, then, so terrible a thing to have two lovers? And though you can bestow your love but on the one, yet be thankful to the other, who, caring for you as he does, certainly deserves to be named your friend.
My poor Wilhelm, said the other, all in tears, had warning that a separation was at hand. A dream discovered to him what we strove so much to hide. He was sleeping calmly at my side; on a sudden I heard him muttering some unintelligible sounds; I grew frightened, and awoke him. Ah! with what love and tenderness and warmth did he clasp me! O Mariana! cried he, what a horrid fate have you freed me from! How shall I thank you for deliverance from such torment! I dreamed that I was far from you in an unknown country, but your figure hovered before me; I saw you on a beautiful hill, the sunshine was glancing over it all; how charming did you look! But it had not lasted long, till I observed your image sinking down, sinking, sinking; I stretched out my arms towards you; they could not reach you through the distance. Your image still kept gliding down; it approached a great sea that lay far extended at the foot of the hill, a marsh rather than a sea. All at once a man gave you his hand, and seemed meaning to conduct you upwards, but he led you sidewards, and appeared to draw you after him. I cried out; as I could not reach you, I hoped to warn you. If I tried to walk, the ground seemed to hold me fast; if I could walk, the water hindered me; and even my cries were smothered in my breast. So said the poor youth, while recovering from his terror, and reckoning himself happy to dissipate a frightful dream by the most delicious reality.
Barbara made every effort to reduce, by her prose, the poetry of her friend to the domain of common life; employing, in the present case, the ingenious craft which so often succeeds with bird-catchers, when they imitate with a whistle the tones of those luckless creatures which they soon hope to see by dozens safely lodged in their nets. She praised Wilhelm; she expatiated on his figure, his eyes, his love. The poor girl heard her with a gratified heart; then arose, let herself be dressed, and appeared calmer. My child, my darling, continued the old woman in a cozening tone, I will not trouble you or injure you; I cannot think of tearing from you your dearest happiness. Could you mistake my intention? Have you forgotten, that on all occasions I have cared for you more than for myself? Tell me only what you wish; we shall soon see how it may be brought about.
What can I wish? said Mariana; I am miserable, miserable for life; I love him, and he loves me; yet I see that I must part with him, and know not how I shall survive it. Norberg comes, to whom we owe our whole subsistence, whom we cannot live without. Wilhelm is straitened in his fortune, he can do nothing for me.
I have no choice, continued Mariana; do you decide for me! Cast me away to this side or to that; mark only one thing: I think I carry in my bosom a pledge that ought to unite me with him still more closely. Consider and determine: whom shall I forsake? whom shall I follow?
After a short silence, Barbara exclaimed: Strange, that youth should always be for extremes! To my view, nothing would be easier than for us to combine both the profit and enjoyment. Do you love the one, let the other pay for it: all we have to mind is being sharp enough to keep the two from meeting.
We have this advantage, we can humour the Managers caprice, and pride about the morals of his troop. Both lovers are accustomed already to go secretly and cunningly to work. For hours and opportunity I will take thought; only henceforth you must play the part that I prescribe to you. Who knows what circumstances may arise to help us? If Norberg would arrive even now, when Wilhelm is away! Who can hinder you from thinking of the one in the arms of the other? I wish you a son, and good fortune with him; he will have a rich father.
These projects lightened Marianas despondency only for a very short time. She could not bring her situation into harmony with her feelings, with her convictions; she would fain have forgotten the painful relations in which she stood, and a thousand little circumstances forced them back every moment to her recollection.