J.W. von Goethe (17491832). The Sorrows of Werther.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book I: Paras. 5099
She was engaged for the second country dance, but promised me the third, and assured me, with the most agreeable freedom, that she was very fond of waltzing. It is the custom, here, she said, for the previous partners to waltz together; but my partner is an indifferent waltzer, and will feel delighted if I save him the trouble. Your partner is not allowed to waltz, and, indeed, is equally incapable: but I observed during the country dance that you waltz well; so, if you will waltz with me, I beg you would propose it to my partner, and I will propose it to yours. We agreed, and it was arranged that our partners should mutually entertain each other.
We set off, and at first delighted ourselves with the usual graceful motions of the arms. With what grace, with what ease, she moved! When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled round each other in the giddy maze, there was some confusion, owing to the incapacity of some of the dancers. We Judiciously remained still, allowing the others to weary themselves; and when the awkward dancers had withdrawn, we joined in, and kept it up famously together with one other couple,Andran and his partner. Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object; and oh, Wilhelm, I vowed at that moment, that a maiden whom I loved, or for whom I felt the slightest attachment, never, never should waltz with any one else but with me, if I went to perdition for it!you will understand this.
We took a few turns in the room to recover our breath. Charlotte sat down, and felt refreshed by partaking of some oranges which I had had secured,the only ones that had been left; but at every slice which from politeness she offered to her neighbours, I felt as though a dagger went through my heart.
We were the second couple in the third country dance. As we were going down (and Heaven knows with what ecstasy I gazed at her arms and eyes, beaming with the sweetest feeling of pure and genuine enjoyment), we passed a lady whom I had noticed for her charming expression of countenance, although she was no longer young. She looked at Charlotte with a smile, then holding up her finger in a threatening attitude, repeated twice in a very significant tone of voice the name of Albert.
Who is Albert, said I to Charlotte, if it is not impertinent to ask? She was about to answer, when we were obliged to separate, in order to execute a figure in the dance; and as we crossed over again in front of each other, I perceived she looked somewhat pensive. Why need I conceal it from you? she said, as she gave me her hand for the promenade. Albert is a worthy man, to whom I am engaged. Now, there was nothing new to me in this (for the girls had told me of it on the way); but it was so far new that I had not thought of it in connection with her whom in so short a time I had learned to prize so highly. Enough. I became confused, got out in the figure, and occasioned general confusion; so that it required all Charlottes presence of mind to set me right by pulling and pushing me into my proper place.
The dance was not yet finished when the lightning which had for some time been seen in the horizon, and which I had asserted to proceed entirely from heat, grew more violent; and the thunder was heard above the music. When any distress or terror surprises us in the midst of our amusements, it naturally makes a deeper impression than at other times, either because the contrast makes us more keenly susceptible, or rather perhaps because our senses are then more open to impressions, and the shock is consequently stronger. To this cause I must ascribe the fright and shrieks of the ladies. One sagaciously sat down in a corner with her back to the window, and held her fingers to her ears; a second knelt down before her, and hid her face in her lap; a third threw herself between them, and embraced her sister with a thousand tears; some insisted on going home; others, unconscious of their actions, wanted sufficient presence of mind to repress the impertinence of their young partners, who sought to direct to themselves those sighs which the lips of our agitated beauties intended for heaven. Some of the gentlemen had gone downstairs to smoke a quiet cigar, and the rest of the company gladly embraced a happy suggestion of the hostess to retire into another room which was provided with shutters and curtains. We had hardly got there, when Charlotte placed the chairs in a circle; and when the company had sat down in compliance with her request, she forthwith proposed a round game.
I noticed some of the company prepare their mouths and draw themselves up at the prospect of some agreeable forfeit. Let us play at counting, said Charlotte. Now, pay attention: I shall go round the circle from right to left; and each person is to count, one after the other, the number that comes to him, and must count fast; whoever stops or mistakes is to have a box on the ear, and so on, till we have counted a thousand. It was delightful to see the fun. She went round the circle with upraised arm. One, said the first; two, the second; three, the third; and so, till Charlotte went faster and faster. One made a mistake, instantly a box on the ear; and amid the laughter that ensued, came another box; and so on, faster and faster. I myself came in for two. I fancied they were harder than the rest, and felt quite delighted. A general laughter and confusion put an end to the game long before we had counted as far as a thousand. The party broke up into little separate knots; the storm had ceased, and I followed Charlotte into the ballroom. On the way she said, The game banished their fears of the storm. I could make no reply. I myself, she continued, was as much frightened as any of them; but by affecting courage, to keep up the spirits of the others, I forget my apprehensions. We went to the window. It was still thundering at a distance; a soft rain was pouring down over the country, and filled the air around us with delicious odours. Charlotte leaned forward on her arm; her eyes wandered over the scene; she raised them to the sky, and then turned them upon me: they were moistened with tears; she placed her hand on mine and said, Klopstock! At once I remembered the magnificent ode which was in her thoughts; I felt oppressed with the weight of my sensations, and sank under them. It was more than I could bear. I bent over her hand, kissed it in a stream of delicious tears, and again looked up to her eyes. Divine Klopstock! why didst thou not see thy apotheosis in those eyes? And thy name, so often profaned, would that I never heard it repeated!
I no longer remember where I stopped in my narrative; I only know it was two in the morning when I went to bed; and if you had been with me, that I might have talked instead of writing to you, I should, in all probability, have kept you up till daylight.
I think I have not yet related what happened as we rode home from the ball, nor have I time to tell you now. It was a most magnificent sunrise; the whole country was refreshed, and the rain fell drop by drop from the trees in the forest. Our companions were asleep. Charlotte asked me if I did not wish to sleep also, and begged of me not to make any ceremony on her account. Looking steadfastly at her, I answered, As long as I see those eyes open, there is no fear of my falling asleep. We both continued awake till we reached her door. The maid opened it softly, and assured her, in answer to her inquiries, that her father and the children were well, and still sleeping. I left her, asking permission to visit her in the course of the day. She consented, and I went; and since that time sun, moon, and stars may pursue their course: I know not whether it is day or night; the whole world is nothing to me.
My days are as happy as those reserved by God for his elect; and whatever be my fate hereafter, I can never say that I have not tasted joy,the purest joy of life. You know Walheim. I am now completely settled there. In that spot I am only half a league from Charlotte; and there I enjoy myself, and taste all the pleasure which can fall to the lot of man.
Little did I imagine, when I selected Walheim for my pedestrian excursions, that all heaven lay so near it. How often, in my wanderings from the hillside or from the meadows across the river, have I beheld this hunting-lodge, which now contains within it all the joy of my heart!
I have often, my dear Wilhelm, reflected on the eagerness men feel to wander and make new discoveries, and upon that secret impulse which afterwards inclines them to return to their narrow circle, conform to the laws of custom, and embarrass themselves no longer with what passes around them.
It is so strange how, when I came here first, and gazed upon that lovely valley from the hillside, I felt charmed with the entire scene surrounding me. The little wood opposite,how delightful to sit under its shade! How fine the view from that point of rock! Then that delightful chain of hills, and the exquisite valleys at their feet! Could I but wander and lose myself amongst them! I went, and returned without finding what I wished. Distance, my friends, is like futurity. A dim vastness is spread before our souls; the perceptions of our mind are as obscure as those of our vision; and we desire earnestly to surrender up our whole being, that it may be filled with the complete and perfect bliss of one glorious emotion. But alas! when we have attained our object, when the distant there becomes the present here, all is changed; we are as poor and circumscribed as ever, and our souls still languish for unattainable happiness.
So does the restless traveller pant for his native soil, and find in his own cottage, in the arms of his wife, in the affections of his children, and in the labour necessary for their support, that happiness which he had sought in vain through the wide world.
When in the morning at sunrise I go out to Walheim and with my own hands gather in the garden the pease which are to serve for my dinner; when I sit down to shell them, and read my Homer during the intervals, and then, selecting a saucepan from the kitchen, fetch my own butter, put my mess on the fire, cover it up, and sit down to stir it as occasion requires,I figure to myself the illustrious suitors of Penelope, killing, dressing, and preparing their own oxen and swine. Nothing fills me with a more pure and genuine sense of happiness than those traits of patriarchal life which, thank Heaven! I can imitate without affectation. Happy is it, indeed, for me that my heart is capable of feeling the same simple and innocent pleasure as the peasant whose table is covered with food of his own rearing, and who not only enjoys his meal, but remembers with delight the happy days and sunny mornings when he planted it, the soft evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure he experienced in watching its daily growth.
The day before yesterday the physician came from the town to pay a visit to the judge. He found me on the floor playing with Charlottes children. Some of them were scrambling over me, and others romped with me; and as I caught and tickled them, they made a great noise. The doctor is a formal sort of personage; he adjusts the plaits of his ruffles and continually settles his frill whilst he is talking to you; and he thought my conduct beneath the dignity of a sensible man. I could perceive this by his countenance; but I did not suffer myself to be disturbed. I allowed him to continue his wise conversation, whilst I rebuilt the childrens card-houses for them as fast as they threw them down. He went about the town afterwards, complaining that the judges children were spoiled enough before, but that now Werther was completely ruining them.
Yes, my dear Wilhelm, nothing on this earth affects my heart so much as children. When I look on at their doings; when I mark in the little creatures the seeds of all those virtues and qualities which they will one day find so indispensable; when I behold in the obstinate all the future firmness and constancy of a noble character, in the capricious that levity and gayety of temper which will carry them lightly over the dangers and troubles of life, their whole nature simple and unpolluted,then I call to mind the golden words of the Great Teacher of mankind, Unless ye become like one of these. And now, my friend, these children, who are our equals, whom we ought to consider as our models,we treat them as though they were our subjects. They are allowed no will of their own. And have we, then, none ourselves? Whence comes our exclusive right? Is it because we are older and more experienced? Great God! from the height of thy heaven thou beholdest great children and little children, and no others; and thy Son has long since declared which afford thee greatest pleasure. But they believe in him and hear him not,that, too, is an old story; and they train their children after their own image, etc.
The consolation Charlotte can bring to an invalid I experience from my own heart, which suffers more from her absence than many a poor creature lingering on a bed of sickness. She is gone to spend a few days in the town with a very worthy woman, who is given over by the physicians, and wishes to have Charlotte near her in her last moments. I accompanied her last week on a visit to the vicar of S, a small village in the mountains, about a league hence. We arrived about four oclock. Charlotte had taken her little sister with her. When we entered the vicarage court, we found the good old man sitting on a bench before the door, under the shade of two large walnut-trees. At the sight of Charlotte he seemed to gain new life, rose, forgot his stick, and ventured to walk towards her. She ran to him, and made him sit down again; then placing herself by his side, she gave him a number of messages from her father, and then caught up his youngest child,a dirty, ugly little thing, the joy of his old age,and kissed it. I wish you could have witnessed her attention to this old man,how she raised her voice on account of his deafness; how she told him of healthy young people who had been carried off when it was least expected; praised the virtues of Carlsbad, and commended his determination to spend the ensuing summer there; and assured him that he looked better and stronger than he did when she saw him last. I, in the mean time, paid attention to his good lady. The old man seemed quite in spirits; and as I could not help admiring the beauty of the walnut-trees, which formed such an agreeable shade over our heads, he began, though with some little difficulty, to tell us their history. As to the oldest, said he, we do not know who planted it,some say one clergyman, and some another; but the younger one, there behind us, is exactly the age of my wife,fifty years old next October. Her father planted it in the morning, and in the evening she came into the world. My wifes father was my predecessor here, and I cannot tell you how fond he was of that tree; and it is fully as dear to me. Under the shade of that very tree, upon a log of wood, my wife was seated knitting when I, a poor student, came into this court for the first time, just seven and twenty years ago. Charlotte inquired for his daughter. He said she was gone with Herr Schmidt to the meadows, and was with the haymakers. The old man then resumed his story, and told us how his predecessor had taken a fancy to him, as had his daughter likewise; and how he had become first his curate, and subsequently his successor. He had scarcely finished his story when his daughter returned through the garden, accompanied by the above-mentioned Herr Schmidt. She welcomed Charlotte affectionately, and I confess I was much taken with her appearance. She was a lively-looking, good-humoured brunette, quite competent to amuse one for a short time in the country. Her lover (for such Herr Schmidt evidently appeared to be) was a polite, reserved personage, and would not join our conversation, notwithstanding all Charlottes endeavours to draw him out. I was much annoyed at observing, by his countenance, that his silence did not arise from want of talent, but from caprice and ill-humour. This subsequently became very evident, when we set out to take a walk, and Frederica joining Charlotte, with whom I was talking, the worthy gentlemans face, which was naturally rather sombre, became so dark and angry that Charlotte was obliged to touch my arm and remind me that I was talking too much to Frederica. Nothing distresses me more than to see men torment each other; particularly when in the flower of their age, in the very season of pleasure, they waste their few short days of sunshine in quarrels and disputes, and only perceive their error when it is too late to repair it. This thought dwelt upon my mind; and in the evening, when we returned to the vicars, and were sitting round the table with our bread and milk, the conversation turned on the joys and sorrows of the world, I could not resist the temptation to inveigh bitterly against ill-humour. We are apt, said I, to complain, but with very little cause, that our happy days are few and our evil days many. If our hearts were always disposed to receive the benefits Heaven sends us, we should acquire strength to support evil when it comes, But, observed the vicars wife, we cannot always command our tempers, so much depends upon the constitution; when the body suffers, the mind is ill at ease. I acknowledge that. I continued; but we must consider such a disposition in the light of a disease, and inquire whether there is no remedy for it. I should be glad to hear one, said Charlotte. At least, I think very much depends upon ourselves; I know it is so with me. When anything annoys me, and disturbs my temper, I hasten into the garden, hum a couple of country dances, and it is all right with me directly. That is what I meant, I replied. Ill-humour resembles indolence; it is natural to us; but if once we have courage to exert ourselves, we find our work run fresh from our hands, and we experience in the activity from which we shrank a real enjoyment. Frederica listened very attentively; and the young man objected that we were not masters of ourselves, and still less so of our feelings. The question is about a disagreeable feeling, I added, from which every one would willingly escape, but none know their own power without trial. Invalids are glad to consult physicians, and submit to the most scrupulous regimen, the most nauseous medicines, in order to recover their health. I observed that the good old man inclined his head, and exerted himself to hear our discourse; so I raised my voice, and addressed myself directly to him. We preach against a great many crimes, I observed, but I never remember a sermon delivered against ill-humour. That may do very well for your town clergymen, said he; country people are never ill-humoured, though, indeed, it might be useful occasionally,to my wife, for instance, and the judge. We all laughed, as did he likewise very cordially, till he fell into a fit of coughing, which interrupted our conversation for a time. Herr Schmidt resumed the subject. You call ill-humour a crime, he remarked, but I think you use too strong a term. Not at all, I replied, if that deserves the name which is so pernicious to ourselves and our neighbours. Is it not enough that we want the power to make one another happy,must we deprive each other of the pleasure which we can all make for ourselves? Show me the man who has the courage to hide his ill-humour, who bears the whole burden himself without disturbing the peace of those around him. No; ill-humour arises from an inward consciousness of our own want of merit,from a discontent which ever accompanies that envy which foolish vanity engenders. We see people happy whom we have not made so, and cannot endure the sight. Charlotte looked at me with a smile; she observed the emotion with which I spoke; and a tear in the eyes of Frederica stimulated me to proceed. Woe unto those, I said, who use their power over a human heart to destroy the simple pleasures it would naturally enjoy! All the favours, all the attentions, in the world cannot compensate for the loss of that happiness which a cruel tyranny has destroyed. My heart was full as I spoke. A recollection of many things which had happened pressed upon my mind, and filled my eyes with tears. We should daily repeat to ourselves, I exclaimed, that we should not interfere with our friends, unless to leave them in possession of their own joys, and increase their happiness by sharing it with them! But when their souls are tormented by a violent passion, or their hearts rent with grief, is it in your power to afford them the slightest consolation?
And when the last fatal malady seizes the being whose untimely grave you have prepared, when she lies languid and exhausted before you, her dim eyes raised to heaven, and the damp of death upon her pallid brow,then you stand at her bedside like a condemned criminal, with the bitter feeling that your whole fortune could not save her; and the agonizing thought wrings you that all your efforts are powerless to impart even a moments strength to the departing soul, or quicken her with a transitory consolation.
At these words the remembrance of a similar scene at which I had been once present fell with full force upon my heart. I buried my face in my handkerchief, and hastened from the room, and was only recalled to my recollection by Charlottes voice, who reminded me that it was time to return home. With what tenderness she chid me on the way for the too eager interest I took in everything! She declared it would do me injury, and that I ought to spare myself. Yes, my angel! I will do so for your sake.
She is still with her dying friend, and is still the same bright, beautiful creature whose presence softens pain, and sheds happiness around whichever way she turns. She went out yesterday with her little sister: I knew it, and went to meet them; and we walked together. In about an hour and a half we returned to the town. We stopped at the spring I am so fond of, and which is now a thousand times dearer to me than ever. Charlotte seated herself upon the low wall, and we gathered about her. I looked round, and recalled the time when my heart was unoccupied and free. Dear fountain, I said, since that time I have no more come to enjoy cool repose by thy fresh stream; I have passed thee with careless steps, and scarcely bestowed a glance upon thee. I looked down, and observed Charlottes little sister, Jane, coming up the steps with a glass of water. I turned towards Charlotte, and I felt her influence over me. Jane at the moment approached with the glass. Her sister, Marianne, wished to take it from her. No! cried the child, with the sweetest expression of face, Charlotte must drink first.
The affection and simplicity with which this was uttered so charmed me that I sought to express my feelings by catching up the child and kissing her heartily. She was frightened, and began to cry. You should not do that, said Charlotte. I felt perplexed. Come, Jane, she continued, taking her hand and leading her down the steps again, it is no matter; wash yourself quickly in the fresh water.
I stood and watched them; and when I saw the little dear rubbing her cheeks with her wet hands, in full belief that all the impurities contracted from my ugly beard would be washed off by the miraculous water, and how, though Charlotte said it would do, she continued still to wash with all her might, as though she thought too much were better than too little, I assure you, Wilhelm, I never attended a baptism with greater reverence; and when Charlotte came up from the well, I could have prostrated myself as before the prophet of an Eastern nation.
In the evening I could not resist telling the story to a person who, I thought, possessed some natural feeling, because he was a man of understanding. But what a mistake I made! He maintained it was very wrong of Charlotte,that we should not deceive children,that such things occasioned countless mistakes and superstitions, from which we were bound to protect the young. It occurred to me, then, that this very man had been baptized only a week before; so I said nothing further, but maintained the justice of my own convictions. We should deal with children as God deals with us,we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions.
What a child is man that he should be so solicitous about a look! What a child is man! We had been to Walheim: the ladies went in a carriage; but during our walk I thought I saw in Charlottes dark eyesI am a foolbut forgive me! you should see them,those eyes. However, to be brief (for my own eyes are weighed down with sleep), you must know, when the ladies stepped into their carriage again, young W. Seldstadt, Andran, and I were standing about the door. They are a merry set of fellows, and they were all laughing and joking together. I watched Charlottes eyes. They wandered from one to the other; but they did not light on me,on me, who stood there motionless, and who saw nothing but her! My heart bade her a thousand times adieu, but she noticed me not. The carriage drove off, and my eyes filled with tears. I looked after her: suddenly I saw Charlottes bonnet leaning out of the window, and she turned to look back,was it at me? My dear friend, I know not; and in this uncertainty I find consolation. Perhaps she turned to look at me. Perhaps! Good-nightwhat a child I am!
You should see how foolish I look in company when her name is mentioned, particularly when I am asked plainly how I like her. How I like her!I detest the phrase. What sort of creature must he be who merely liked Charlotte, whose whole heart and senses were not entirely absorbed by her? Like her! Some one asked me lately how I liked Ossian.
Madame M is very ill. I pray for her recovery, because Charlotte shares my sufferings. I see her occasionally at my friends house, and to-day she has told me the strangest circumstance. Old M is a covetous, miserly fellow, who has long worried and annoyed the poor lady sadly; but she has borne her afflictions patiently. A few days ago, when the physician informed us that her recovery was hopeless, she sent for her husband (Charlotte was present), and addressed him thus: I have something to confess which after my decease may occasion trouble and confusion. I have hitherto conducted your household as frugally and economically as possible, but you must pardon me for having defrauded you for thirty years. At the commencement of our married life you allowed a small sum for the wants of the kitchen and the other household expenses. When our establishment increased and our property grew larger, I could not persuade you to increase the weekly allowance in proportion; in short, you know that when our wants were greatest, you required me to supply everything with seven florins a week. I took the money from you without an observation, but made up the weekly deficiency from the money-chest,as nobody would suspect your wife of robbing the household bank. But I wasted nothing, and should have been content to meet my eternal Judge without this confession, if she, upon whom the management of your establishment will devolve after my decease, would be free from embarrassment upon your insisting that the allowance made to me, your former wife, was sufficient.
I talked with Charlotte of the inconceivable manner in which men allow themselves to be blinded; how any one could avoid suspecting some deception, when seven florins only were allowed to defray expenses twice as great. But I have myself known people who believed, without any visible astonishment, that their house possessed the prophets never-failing cruse of oil.
No, I am not deceived. In her dark eyes I read a genuine interest in me and in my fortunes. Yes, I feel it; and I may believe my own heart which tells medare I say it?dare I pronounce the divine words?that she loves me!
Is this presumption, or is it a consciousness of the truth? I do not know a man able to supplant me in the heart of Charlotte; and yet when she speaks of her betrothed with so much warmth and affection, I feel like the soldier who has been stripped of his honours and titles, and deprived of his sword.
How my heart beats when by accident I touch her finger. or my feet meet hers under the table! I draw back as if from a furnace; but a secret force impels me forward again, and my senses become disordered. Her innocent, unconscious heart never knows what agony these little familiarities inflict upon me. Sometimes when we are talking she lays her hand upon mine, and in the eagerness of conversation comes closer to me, and her balmy breath reaches my lips,when I feel as if lightning had struck me, and that I could sink into the earth. And yet, Wilhelm, with all this heavenly confidence,if I know myself, and should ever dareyou understand me. No, no! my heart is not so corrupt,it is weak, weak enoughbut is not that a degree of corruption?
She is to me a sacred being. All passion is still in her presence; I cannot express my sensations when I am near her. I feel as if my soul beat in every nerve of my body. There is a melody which she plays on the piano with angelic skill,so simple is it, and yet so spiritual! It is her favourite air; and when she plays the first note, all pain, care, and sorrow disappear from me in a moment.
I believe every word that is said of the magic of ancient music. How her simple song enchants me! Sometimes, when I am ready to commit suicide, she sings that air: and instantly the gloom and madness which hung over me are dispersed, and I breathe freely again.
Wilhelm, what is the world to our hearts without love? What is a magic-lantern without light? You have but to kindle the flame within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall; and if love only show us fleeting shadows, we are yet happy, when, like mere children, we behold them, and are transported with the splendid phantoms. I have not been able to see Charlotte to-day. I was prevented by company from which I could not disengage myself. What was to done? I sent my servant to her house, that I might at least see somebody to-day who had been near her. Oh, the impatience with which I waited for his return, the joy with which I welcomed him! I should certainly have caught him in my arms, and kissed him, if I had not been ashamed.
It is said that the Bonona stone, when placed in the sun, attracts the rays, and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So was it with me and this servant. The idea that Charlottes eyes had dwelt on his countenance, his cheek, his very apparel, endeared them all inestimably to me, so that at the moment I would not have parted from him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy! Beware of laughing at me, Wilhelm. Can that be a delusion which makes us happy?
I shall see her to-day! I exclaim with delight, when I rise in the morning, and look out with gladness of heart at the bright, beautiful sun. I shall see her to-day! and then I have no further wish to form; all, all is included in that one thought.
I cannot assent to your proposal that I should accompany the ambassador to . I do not love subordination; and we all know that he is a rough, disagreeable person to be connected with. You say my mother wishes me to be employed. I could not help laughing at that. Am I not sufficiently employed? And is it not in reality the same, whether I shell pease or count lentils? The world runs on from one folly to another; and the man who, solely from regard to the opinion of others, and without any wish or necessity of his own, toils after gold, honour, or any other phantom, is no better than a fool.
I never felt happier, I never understood Nature better, even down to the veriest stem or smallest blade of grass; and yet I am unable to express myself: my powers of execution are so weak, everything seems to swim and float before me, so that I cannot make a clear, bold outline. But I fancy I should succeed better if I had some clay or wax to model. I shall try, if this state of mind continues much longer, and will take to modelling, if I only knead dough.
I have commenced Charlottes portrait three times, and have as often disgraced myself. This is the more annoying, as I was formerly very happy in taking likenesses. I have since sketched her profile, and must content myself with that.
Yes, dear Charlotte! I will order and arrange everything. Only give me more commissions, the more the better. One thing, however, I must request: use no more writing-sand with the dear notes you send me. To-day I raised your letter hastily to my lips, and it set my teeth on edge.
I have often determined not to see her so frequently. But who could keep such a resolution? Every day I am exposed to the temptation, and promise faithfully that to-morrow I will really stay away; but when to-morrow comes, I find some irresistible reason for seeing her; and before I can account for it, I am with her again. Either she has said on the previous evening, You will be sure to call to-morrow,and who could stay away then?or she gives me some commission, and I find it essential to take her the answer in person; or the day is fine, and I walk to Walheim; and when I am there, it is only half a league farther to her. I am within the charmed atmosphere, and soon find myself at her side. My grandmother used to tell us a story of a mountain of loadstone. When any vessels came near it, they were instantly deprived of their ironwork; the nails flew to the mountain, and the unhappy crew perished amidst the disjointed planks.
Albert is arrived, and I must take my departure. Were he the best and noblest of men, and I in every respect his inferior, I could not endure to see him in possession of such a perfect being. Possession!enough, Wilhelm; her betrothed is here,a fine, worthy fellow, whom one cannot help liking. Fortunately I was not present at their meeting. It would have broken my heart! And he is so considerate: he has not given Charlotte one kiss in my presence. Heaven reward him for it! I must love him for the respect with which he treats her. He shows a regard for me; but for this I suspect I am more indebted to Charlotte than to his own fancy for me. Women have a delicate tact in such matters, and it should be so. They cannot always succeed in keeping two rivals on terms with each other; but when they do, they are the only gainers.
I cannot help esteeming Albert. The coolness of his temper contrasts strongly with the impetuosity of mine, which I cannot conceal. He has a great deal of feeling, and is fully sensible of the treasure he possesses in Charlotte. He is free from ill-humour, which you know is the fault I detest most.
He regards me as a man of sense; and my attachment to Charlotte, and the interest I take in all that concerns her, augment his triumph and his love. I shall not inquire whether he may not at times tease her with some little jealousies; as I know that, were I in his place, I should not be entirely free from such sensations.
But, be that as it may, my pleasure with Charlotte is over. Call it folly or infatuation, what signifies a name? The thing speaks for itself. Before Albert came, I knew all that I know now. I knew I could make no pretensions to her, nor did I offer any,that is, as far as it was possible, in the presence of so much loveliness, not to pant for its enjoyment. And now behold me, like a silly fellow, staring with astonishment when another comes in, and deprives me of my love.
I bite my lips, and feel infinite scorn for those who tell me to be resigned, because there is no help for it. Let me escape from the yoke of such silly subterfuges! I ramble through the woods; and when I return to Charlotte, and find Albert sitting by her side in the summer-house in the garden, I am unable to bear it, behave like a fool, and commit a thousand extravagances. For Heavens sake, said Charlotte to-day, let us have no more scenes like those of last night! You terrify me when you are so violent. Between ourselves, I am always away now when he visits her; and I feel delighted when I find her alone.
Believe me, dear Wilhelm, I did not allude to you when I spoke so severely of those who advise resignation to inevitable fate. I did not think it possible for you to indulge such a sentiment. But in fact you are right. I only suggest one objection. In this world one is seldom reduced to make a selection between two alternatives. There are as many varieties of conduct and opinion as there are turns of feature between an aquiline nose and a flat one.