Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Stan Goodman, Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
THE GERMAN CLASSICS
MASTERPIECES OF GERMAN LITERATURE
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
IN TWENTY VOLUMES
CONTENTS OF VOLUME II
INTRODUCTION TO THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES.
By Calvin Thomas
THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES.
Translated by James Anthony Froude and R. Dillon Boylan
SHAKESPEARE AND AGAIN SHAKESPEARE.
Translated by Julia Franklin
ORATION ON WIELAND.
Translated by Louis H. Gray
THE PEDAGOGIC PROVINCE (from "Wilhelm Meister's Travels").
Translated by R. Dillon Boylan
WINCKELMANN AND HIS AGE.
Translated by George Krielin
MAXIMS AND REFLECTIONS.
Translated by Bailey Saunders
ECKERMANN'S CONVERSATION WITH GOETHE.
Translated by John Oxenford
GOETHE'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT AND HIS WIFE.
Translated by Louis H. Gray
GOETHE'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH K. F. ZELTER.
Translated by Frances H. King
Edward reading aloud to Charlotte and the Captain
Charlotte receives Ottilie. By P. Grotjohann
Edward and Ottilie. By P. Grotjohann
Edward, Charlotte, Ottilie and the Captain discuss
the new plan of the house. By Franz Simm
Ottilie examines Edward's Presents. By P Grotjohann
Luciana posing as Queen Artemisia. By P. Grotjohann
Ottilie. By Wilhelm von Kaulbach
The Old Theatre, Weimar. By Peter Woltze
Martin Wieland. By E. Hader
Weimar seen from the North
Goethe and his Secretary. By Johann Josef Schmeller
The Garden at Goethe's City House, Weimar. By Peter Woltze
Schiller's Garden House at Jena. Drawing by Goethe
The float at Jena. Drawing by Goethe
View into the Saale Valley near Jena. Drawing by Goethe
INTRODUCTION TO THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES
In the spring of the year 1807 Goethe began work on the second part of
_Wilhelm Meister_. He had no very definite plot in view, but proposed to
make room for a number of short stories, all relating to the subject of
renunciation, which was to be the central theme of the _Wanderjahre_. In
the course of the summer, while he was taking the waters at Karlsbad,
two or three of the stories were written. The following spring he set
about elaborating another tale of renunciation, the idea of which had
occurred to him some time before. But somehow it refused to be confined
within the limits of a novelette. As he proceeded the matter grew apace,
until it finally developed into the novel which was given to the world
in 1809 under the title of _The Elective Affinities_.
When that which should be a short story is expanded into a novel one can
usually detect the padding and the embroidery. So it is certainly in
this case. Those long descriptions of landscape-gardening; the copious
extracts from Ottilie's diary, containing many thoughts which would
hardly have entered the head of such a girl; the pages given to
subordinate characters, whose comings and goings have no very obvious
connection with the story,--all these retard the narrative and tend to
hide the essential idea. The strange title, too, has served to divert
attention from the real centre of gravity. Had the tale been called,
say, "Ottilie's Expiation," there would have been less room for
misunderstanding and irrelevant criticism; there would have been less
concern over the moral, and more over the artistic, aspect of the story.
What then was the essential idea? Simply to describe a peculiar tragedy
resulting from the invasion of the marriage relation by lawless passion.
As for the title, it should be remembered that there was just then a
tendency to look for curious analogies between physical law and the
operations of the human mind. Great interest was felt in suggestion,
occult influence, and all that sort of thing. Goethe himself had lately
been lecturing on magnetism. He had also observed, as no one can fail to
observe, that the sexual attraction sometimes seems to act like chemical
affinity: it breaks up old unions, forms new combinations, destroys
pre-existing bodies, as if it were a law that _must_ work itself out,
whatever the consequences. Such a process will now and then defy
prudence, self-respect, duty, even religion,--going its way like a blind
and ruthless law of physics. But if this is to happen the recombining
elements must, of course, have each its specific character; else there
is no affinity and no tragedy.
It is no part of the analogy that the pressure of sex is always and by
its very nature like the attraction of atoms. Aside from the fact that
character consists largely in the steady inhibition of instinct and
passion by the will, there is this momentous difference between atoms or
molecules, on the one hand, and souls on the other: the character of the
atom or molecule is constant, that of the soul is highly variable. There
is no room here for remarks on free will and determinism; suffice it to
say that Goethe does not preach any doctrine of mechanical determinism
in human relations. The scientific analogy must not be pressed too hard.
It is really not important, since after all nothing turns on it.
Whatever interest the novel has it would have if all reference to
chemistry had been omitted. Goethe's thesis, if he can be said to have
one, is simply that character is fate.
He imagines a middle-aged man and woman, Edward and Charlotte, who are,
to all seeming, happily united in marriage. Each has been married before
to an unloved mate who has conveniently died, leaving them both free to
yield to the gentle pull of long-past youthful attachment. Their feeling
for each other is only a mild friendship, but that does not appear to
augur ill, since they are well-to-do, and their fine estate offers them
both a plenty of interesting work. Edward has a highly esteemed friend
called the Captain, who is for the moment without suitable employment
for his ability and energy. Edward can give him just the needed work,
with great advantage to the property, and would like to do so. Charlotte
fears that the presence of the Captain may disturb their pleasant idyl,
but finally yields. She herself has a niece, Ottilie, a beautiful girl
whom no one understands and who is not doing well at her
boarding-school. Charlotte would like to have the girl under her own
care. After much debate the pair take both the Captain and Ottilie into
their spacious castle.
And now the elective affinity begins to do its disastrous work. Edward,
who has always indulged himself in every whim and has no other standard
of conduct, falls madly in love with the charming Ottilie, who has a
passion for making herself useful and serving everybody. She adapts
herself to Edward, fails to see what a shabby specimen of a man he
really is, humors his whims, and worships him--at first in an innocent
girlish way. Charlotte is not long in discovering that the Captain is a
much better man than her husband; she loves him, but within the limits
of wifely duty. In the vulgar world of prose such a tangle could be most
easily straightened out by divorce and remarriage. This is what Edward
proposes and tries to bring about. The others are almost won over to
this solution when the event happens that precipitates the tragedy: the
child of Edward and Charlotte is accidentally drowned by Ottilie's
It is a very dubious link in Goethe's fiction that this child, while the
genuine offspring of Edward and Charlotte, has the features of Ottilie
and the Captain. From the moment of the drowning Ottilie is a changed
being. Her character quickly matures; like a wakened sleep-walker she
sees what a dangerous path she has been treading. She feels that
marriage with Edward would be a crime. She resists his passionate
appeals, and her remorse takes on a morbid tinge. It becomes a fixed
idea. Happiness is not for her. She must renounce it all. She must
atone--atone--for her awful sin. For a moment they plan to send her back
to school, but she cannot tear herself away from Edward's sinister
presence. At last she refuses food and gradually starves herself to
death. The wretched Edward does likewise.
Any just appreciation of Goethe's art in _The Elective Affinities_ must
begin by recognizing that it is about Ottilie. For her sake the book was
written. It is a study of a delicately organized virgin soul caught in
the meshes of an ignoble fate and beating its wings in hopeless misery
until death ends the struggle. The other characters are ordinary people:
Charlotte and the Captain ordinary in their good sense and self-control,
Edward ordinary in his moral flabbiness and his foolish infatuation. His
death, to be sure, is unthinkable for such a man and does but testify to
the unearthly attraction with which the girl is invested by Goethe's
art. The figure of Ottilie, like that of her spiritual sister Mignon, is
irradiated by a light that never was on sea or land. She is a creature
of romance, and we learn without much surprise that her dead body
performs miracles. One is reminded of that medieval lady who is doomed
to eat the heart of her crusading lover and then refuses all other food
and dies. That Edward is quite unworthy of the girl's love, that the
death of the child is no sufficient reason for her morbid remorse, is
quite immaterial, since at the end of the tale we are no longer in the
realm of normal psychology. A season of dreamy happiness, as she moves
about in a world unrealized; then a terrible shock, and after that,
remorse, renunciation, hopelessness, the will to die. Such is the logic
of the tale.
THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES
TRANSLATED BY JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE AND R. DILLON BOYLAN
Edward--so we shall call a wealthy nobleman in the prime of life--had
been spending several hours of a fine April morning in his
nursery-garden, budding the stems of some young trees with cuttings
which had been recently sent to him.
He had finished what he was about, and having laid his tools together in
their box, was complacently surveying his work, when the gardener came
up and complimented his master on his industry.
"Have you seen my wife anywhere?" inquired Edward, as he moved to go
"My lady is alone yonder in the new grounds," said the man; "the
summer-house which she has been making on the rock over against the
castle is finished today, and really it is beautiful. It cannot fail to
please your grace. The view from it is perfect:--the village at your
feet; a little to your right the church, with its tower, which you can
just see over; and directly opposite you, the castle and the garden."
"Quite true," replied Edward; "I can see the people at work a few steps
from where I am standing."
"And then, to the right of the church again," continued the gardener,
"is the opening of the valley; and you look along over a range of wood
and meadow far into the distance. The steps up the rock, too, are
excellently arranged. My gracious lady understands these things; it is a
pleasure to work under her."
"Go to her," said Edward, "and desire her to be so good as to wait for
me there. Tell her I wish to see this new creation of hers, and enjoy it
The gardener went rapidly off, and Edward soon followed. Descending the
terrace, and stopping as he passed to look into the hot-houses and the
forcing-pits, he came presently to the stream, and thence, over a narrow
bridge, to a place where the walk leading to the summer-house branched
off in two directions. One path led across the churchyard, immediately
up the face of the rock. The other, into which he struck, wound away to
the left, with a more gradual ascent, through a pretty shrubbery. Where
the two paths joined again, a seat had been made, where he stopped a few
moments to rest; and then, following the now single road, he found
himself, after scrambling along among steps and slopes of all sorts and
kinds, conducted at last through a narrow more or less steep outlet to
Charlotte was standing at the door to receive her husband. She made him
sit down where, without moving, he could command a view of the different
landscapes through the door and window--these serving as frames, in
which they were set like pictures. Spring was coming on; a rich,
beautiful life would soon everywhere be bursting; and Edward spoke of it
"There is only one thing which I should observe," he added, "the
summer-house itself is rather small."
"It is large enough for you and me, at any rate," answered Charlotte.
"Certainly," said Edward; "there is room for a third, too, easily."
"Of course; and for a fourth also," replied Charlotte. "For larger
parties we can contrive other places."
"Now that we are here by ourselves, with no one to disturb us, and in
such a pleasant mood," said Edward, "it is a good opportunity for me to
tell you that I have for some time had something on my mind, about which
I have wished to speak to you, but have never been able to muster up my
"I have observed that there has been something of the sort," said
"And even now," Edward went on, "if it were not for a letter which the
post brought me this morning, and which obliges me to come to some
resolution today, I should very likely have still kept it to myself."
"What is it, then" asked Charlotte, turning affectionately toward him.
"It concerns our friend the Captain," answered Edward; "you know the
unfortunate position in which he, like many others, is placed. It is
through no fault of his own; but you may imagine how painful it must be
for a person with his knowledge and talents and accomplishments, to find
himself without employment. I--I will not hesitate any longer with what
I am wishing for him. I should like to have him here with us for a
"We must think about that," replied Charlotte; "it should be considered
on more sides than one."
"I am quite ready to tell you what I have in view," returned Edward.
"Through his last letters there is a prevailing tone of despondency; not
that he is really in any want. He knows thoroughly well how to limit his
expenses; and I have taken care for everything absolutely necessary. It
is no distress to him to accept obligations from me; all our lives we
have been in the habit of borrowing from and lending to each other; and
we could not tell, if we would, how our debtor and creditor account
stands. It is being without occupation which is really fretting him. The
many accomplishments which he has cultivated in himself, it is his only
pleasure--indeed, it is his passion--to be daily and hourly exercising
for the benefit of others. And now, to sit still, with his arms folded;
or to go on studying, acquiring, and acquiring, when he can make no use
of what he already possesses;--my dear creature, it is a painful
situation; and alone as he is, he feels it doubly and trebly."
"But I thought," said Charlotte, "that he had had offers from many
different quarters. I myself wrote to numbers of my own friends, male
and female, for him; and, as I have reason to believe, not without
"It is true," replied Edward; "but these very offers--these various
proposals--have only caused him fresh embarrassment. Not one of them is
at all suitable to such a person as he is. He would have nothing to do;
he would have to sacrifice himself, his time, his purposes, his whole
method of life; and to that he cannot bring himself. The more I think of
it all, the more I feel about it, and the more anxious I am to see him
here with us."
"It is very beautiful and amiable in you," answered Charlotte, "to enter
with so much sympathy into your friend's position; only you must allow
me to ask you to think of yourself and of me, as well."
"I have done that," replied Edward. "For ourselves, we can have nothing
to expect from his presence with us, except pleasure and advantage. I
will say nothing of the expense. In any case, if he came to us, it would
be but small; and you know he will be of no inconvenience to us at all.
He can have his own rooms in the right wing of the castle, and
everything else can be arranged as simply as possible. What shall we not
be thus doing for him! and how agreeable and how profitable may not his
society prove to us! I have long been wishing for a plan of the property
and the grounds. He will see to it, and get it made. You intend yourself
to take the management of the estate, as soon as our present steward's
term is expired; and that, you know, is a serious thing. His various
information will be of immense benefit to us; I feel only too acutely
how much I require a person of this kind. The country people have
knowledge enough, but their way of imparting it is confused, and not
always honest. The students from the towns and universities are
sufficiently clever and orderly, but they are deficient in personal
experience. From my friend, I can promise myself both knowledge and
method, and hundreds of other circumstances I can easily conceive
arising, affecting you as well as me, and from which I can foresee
innumerable advantages. Thank you for so patiently listening to me. Now,
do you say what you think, and say it out freely and fully; I will not
"Very well," replied Charlotte; "I will begin at once with a general
observation. Men think most of the immediate--the present; and rightly,
their calling being to do and to work; women, on the other hand, more of
how things hang together in life; and that rightly too, because their
destiny--the destiny of their families--is bound up in this
interdependence, and it is exactly this which it is their mission to
promote. So now let us cast a glance at our present and our past life;
and you will acknowledge that the invitation of the Captain does not
fall in so entirely with our purposes, our plans, and our arrangements.
I will go back to those happy days of our earliest intercourse. We loved
each other, young as we then were, with all our hearts. We were parted:
you from me--your father, from an insatiable desire of wealth, choosing
to marry you to an elderly and rich lady; I from you, having to give my
hand, without any especial motive, to an excellent man, whom I
respected, if I did not love. We became again free--you first, your poor
mother at the same time leaving you in possession of your large fortune;
I later, just at the time when you returned from abroad. So we met once
more. We spoke of the past; we could enjoy and love the recollection of
it; we might have been contented, in each other's society, to leave
things as they were. You were urgent for our marriage. I at first
hesitated. We were about the same age; but I as a woman had grown older
than you as a man. At last I could not refuse you what you seemed to
think the one thing you cared for. All the discomfort which you had ever
experienced, at court, in the army, or in traveling, you were to recover
from at my side; you would settle down and enjoy life; but only with me
for your companion. I settled my daughter at a school, where she could
be more completely educated than would be possible in the retirement of
the country; and I placed my niece Ottilie there with her as well, who,
perhaps, would have grown up better at home with me, under my own care.
This was done with your consent, merely that we might have our own
lives to ourselves--merely that we might enjoy undisturbed our
so-long-wished-for, so-long-delayed happiness. We came here and settled
ourselves. I undertook the domestic part of the menage, you the
out-of-doors and the general control. My own principle has been to meet
your wishes in everything, to live only for you. At least, let us give
ourselves a fair trial how far in this way we can be enough for each
"Since the interdependence of things, as you call it, is your especial
element," replied Edward, "one should either never listen to any of your
trains of reasoning, or make up one's mind to allow you to be in the
right; and, indeed, you have been in the right up to the present day.
The foundation which we have hitherto been laying for ourselves, is of
the true, sound sort; only, are we to build nothing upon it? is nothing
to be developed out of it? All the work we have done--I in the garden,
you in the park--is it all only for a pair of hermits?"
"Well, well," replied Charlotte, "very well. What we have to look to is,
that we introduce no alien element, nothing which shall cross or
obstruct us. Remember, our plans, even those which only concern our
amusements, depend mainly on our being together. You were to read to me,
in consecutive order, the journal which you made when you were abroad.
You were to take the opportunity of arranging it, putting all the loose
matter connected with it in its place; and with me to work with you and
help you, out of these invaluable but chaotic leaves and sheets to put
together a complete thing, which should give pleasure to ourselves and
to others. I promised to assist you in transcribing; and we thought it
would be so pleasant, so delightful, so charming, to travel over in
recollection the world which we were unable to see together. The
beginning is already made. Then, in the evenings, you have taken up your
flute again, accompanying me on the piano, while of visits backwards and
forwards among the neighborhood, there is abundance. For my part, I
have been promising myself out of all this the first really happy summer
I have ever thought to spend in my life."
"Only I cannot see," replied Edward, rubbing his forehead, "how, through
every bit of this which you have been so sweetly and so sensibly laying
before me, the Captain's presence can be any interruption; I should
rather have thought it would give it all fresh zest and life. He was my
companion during a part of my travels. He made many observations from a
different point of view from mine. We can put it all together, and so
make a charmingly complete work of it."
"Well, then, I will acknowledge openly," answered Charlotte, with some
impatience, "my feeling is against this plan. I have an instinct which
tells me no good will come of it."
"You women are invincible in this way," replied Edward. "You are so
sensible, that there is no answering you, then so affectionate, that one
is glad to give way to you; full of feelings, which one cannot wound,
and full of forebodings, which terrify one."
"I am not superstitious," said Charlotte; "and I care nothing for these
dim sensations, merely as such; but in general they are the result of
unconscious recollections of happy or unhappy consequences, which we
have experienced as following on our own or others' actions. Nothing is
of greater moment, in any state of things, than the intervention of a
third person. I have seen friends, brothers and sisters, lovers,
husbands and wives, whose relation to each other, through the accidental
or intentional introduction of a third person, has been altogether
changed--whose whole moral condition has been inverted by it."
"That may very well be," replied Edward, "with people who live on
without looking where they are going; but not, surely, with persons whom
experience has taught to understand themselves."
"That understanding ourselves, my dearest husband," insisted Charlotte,
"is no such certain weapon. It is very often a most dangerous one for
the person who bears it. And out of all this, at least so much seems to
arise, that we should not be in too great a hurry. Let me have a few
days to think; don't decide."
"As the matter stands," returned Edward, "wait as many days as we will,
we shall still be in too great a hurry. The arguments for and against
are all before us; all we want is the conclusion, and as things are, I
think the best thing we can do is to draw lots."
"I know," said Charlotte, "that in doubtful cases it is your way to
leave them to chance. To me, in such a serious matter, this seems almost
"Then what am I to write to the Captain?" cried Edward; "for write I
must at once."
"Write him a kind, sensible, sympathizing letter," answered Charlotte.
"That is as good as none at all," replied Edward.
"And there are many cases," answered she, "in which we are obliged, and
in which it is the real kindness, rather to write nothing than not to
Edward was alone in his room. The repetition of the incidents of his
life from Charlotte's lips; the representation of their mutual
situation, their mutual purposes, had worked him, sensitive as he was,
into a very pleasant state of mind. While close to her--while in her
presence--he had felt so happy, that he had thought out a warm, kind,
but quiet and indefinite epistle which he would send to the Captain.
When, however, he had settled himself at his writing-table, and taken up
his friend's letter to read it over once more, the sad condition of this
excellent man rose again vividly before him. The feelings which had been
all day distressing him again awoke, and it appeared impossible to him
to leave one whom he called his friend in such painful embarrassment.
Edward was unaccustomed to deny himself anything. The only child, and
consequently the spoilt child, of wealthy parents, who had persuaded him
into a singular, but highly advantageous marriage with a lady far older
than himself; and again by her petted and indulged in every possible
way, she seeking to reward his kindness to her by the utmost liberality;
after her early death his own master, traveling independently of every
one, equal to all contingencies and all changes, with desires never
excessive, but multiple and various--free-hearted, generous, brave, at
times even noble--what was there in the world to cross or thwart him?
Hitherto, everything had gone as he desired! Charlotte had become his;
he had won her at last, with an obstinate, a romantic fidelity; and now
he felt himself, for the first time, contradicted, crossed in his
wishes, when those wishes were to invite to his home the friend of his
youth--just as he was longing, as it were, to throw open his whole heart
to him. He felt annoyed, impatient; he took up his pen again and again,
and as often threw it down again, because he could not make up his mind
what to write. Against his wife's wishes he would not go; against her
expressed desire he could not. Ill at ease as he was, it would have been
impossible for him, even if he had wished, to write a quiet, easy
letter. The most natural thing to do, was to put it off. In a few words,
he begged his friend to forgive him for having left his letter
unanswered; that day he was unable to write circumstantially; but
shortly, he hoped to be able to tell him what he felt at greater length.
The next day, as they were walking to the same spot, Charlotte took the
opportunity of bringing back the conversation to the subject, perhaps
because she knew that there is no surer way of rooting out any plan or
purpose than by often talking it over.
It was what Edward was wishing. He expressed him self in his own way,
kindly and sweetly. For although, sensitive as, he was, he flamed up
readily--although the vehemence with which he desired anything made him
pressing, and his obstinacy made him impatient--his words were so
softened by his wish to spare the feelings of those to whom he was
speaking, that it was impossible not to be charmed, even when one most
disagreed, with him.
This morning, he first contrived to bring Charlotte into the happiest
humor, and then so disarmed her with the graceful turn which he gave to
the conversation, that she cried out at last:
"You are determined that what I refused to the husband you will make me
grant to the lover. At least, my dearest," she continued, "I will
acknowledge that your wishes,--and the warmth and sweetness with which
you express them, have not left me untouched, have not left me unmoved.
You drive me to make a confession;--till now, I too have had a
concealment from you; I am in exactly the same position with you, and I
have hitherto been putting the same restraint on my inclination which I
have been exhorting you to put on yours."
"Glad am I to hear that," said Edward. "In the married state, a
difference of opinion now and then, I see, is no bad thing; we learn
something of each other by it."
"You are to learn at present, then," said Charlotte, "that it is with me
about Ottilie as it is with you about the Captain. The dear child is
most uncomfortable at the school, and I am thoroughly uneasy about her.
Luciana, my daughter, born as she is for the world, is there training
hourly for the world; languages, history, everything that is taught
there, she acquires with so much ease that, as it were, she learns them
off at sight. She has quick natural gifts, and an excellent memory; one
may almost say she forgets everything, and in a moment calls it all back
again. She distinguishes herself above every one at the school with the
freedom of her carriage, the grace of her movement, and the elegance of
her address, and with the inborn royalty of nature makes herself the
queen of the little circle there. The superior of the establishment
regards her as a little divinity, who, under her hands, is shaping into
excellence, and who will do her honor, gain her reputation, and bring
her a large increase of pupils; the first pages of this good lady's
letters, and her monthly notices of progress, are forever hymns about
the excellence of such a child, which I have to translate into my own
prose; while her concluding sentences about Ottilie are nothing but
excuse after excuse--attempts at explaining how it can be that a girl in
other respects growing up so lovely seems coming to nothing, and shows
neither capacity nor accomplishment. This, and the little she has to say
besides, is no riddle to me, because I can see in this dear child the
same character as that of her mother, who was my own dearest friend; who
grew up with myself, and whose daughter, I am certain, if I had the care
of her education, would form into an exquisite creature.
"This, however, has not fallen in with our plan, and as one ought not to
be picking and pulling, or for ever introducing new elements among the
conditions of our lives, I think it better to bear, and to conquer as I
can, even the unpleasant impression that my daughter, who knows very
well that poor Ottilie is entirely dependent upon us, does not refrain
from flourishing her own successes in her face, and so, to a certain
extent, destroys the little good which we have done for her. Who are
well trained enough never to wound others by a parade of their own
advantages? and who stands so high as not at times to suffer under such
a slight? In trials like these, Ottilie's character is growing in
strength, but since I have clearly known the painfulness of her
situation, I have been thinking over all possible ways to make some
other arrangement. Every hour I am expecting an answer to my own last
letter, and then I do not mean to hesitate any more. So, my dear Edward,
it is with me. We have both, you see, the same sorrows to bear, touching
both our hearts in the same point. Let us bear them together, since we
neither of us can press our own against the other."
"We are strange creatures," said Edward, smiling. "If we can only put
out of sight anything which troubles us, we fancy at once we have got
rid of it. We can give up much in the large and general; but to make
sacrifices in little things is a demand to which we are rarely equal. So
it was with my mother,--as long as I lived with her, while a boy and a
young man, she could not bear to let me be a moment out of her sight. If
I was out later than usual in my ride, some misfortune must have
happened to me. If I got wet through in a shower, a fever was
inevitable. I traveled; I was absent from her altogether; and, at once,
I scarcely seemed to belong to her. If we look at it closer," he
continued, "we are both acting very foolishly, very culpably. Two very
noble natures, both of which have the closest claims on our affection,
we are leaving exposed to pain and distress, merely to avoid exposing
ourselves to a chance of danger. If this is not to be called selfish,
what is? You take Ottilie. Let me have the Captain; and, for a short
period, at least, let the trial be made."
"We might venture it," said Charlotte, thoughtfully, "if the danger were
only to ourselves. But do you think it prudent to bring Ottilie and the
Captain into a situation where they must necessarily be so closely
intimate; the Captain, a man no older than yourself, of an age (I am not
saying this to flatter you) when a man becomes first capable of love and
first deserving of it, and a girl of Ottilie's attractiveness?"
"I cannot conceive how you can rate Ottilie so high," replied Edward. "I
can only explain it to myself by supposing her to have inherited your
affection for her mother. Pretty she is, no doubt. I remember the
Captain observing it to me, when we came back last year, and met her at
your aunt's. Attractive she is,--she has particularly pretty eyes; but I
do not know that she made the slightest impression upon me."
"That was quite proper in you," said Charlotte, "seeing that I was
there; and, although she is much younger than I, the presence of your
old friend had so many charms for you, that you overlooked the promise
of the opening beauty. It is one of your ways; and that is one reason
why it is so pleasant to live with you."
Charlotte, openly as she appeared to be speaking, was keeping back
something, nevertheless; which was that at the time when Edward came
first back from abroad, she had purposely thrown Ottilie in his way, to
secure, if possible, so desirable a match for her protegee. For of
herself, at that time, in connection with Edward, she never thought at
all. The Captain, also, had a hint given to him to draw Edward's
attention to her; but the latter, who was clinging determinately to his
early affection for Charlotte, looked neither right nor left, and was
only happy in the feeling that it was at last within his power to obtain
for himself the one happiness which he so earnestly desired; and which a
series of incidents had appeared to have placed forever beyond his
They were on the point of descending the new grounds, in order to return
to the castle, when a servant came hastily to meet them, and, with a
laugh on his face, called up from below, "Will your grace be pleased to
come quickly to the castle? The Herr Mittler has just galloped into the
court. He shouted to us, to go all of us in search of you, and we were
to ask whether there was need; 'whether there is need,' he cried after
us, 'do you hear? But be quick, be quick.'"
"The odd fellow," exclaimed Edward. "But has he not come at the right
time, Charlotte? Tell him, there is need,--grievous need. He must
alight. See his horse taken care of. Take him into the saloon, and let
him have some luncheon. We shall be with him immediately."
"Let us take the nearest way," he said to his wife, and struck into the
path across the churchyard, which he usually avoided. He was not a
little surprised to find here, too, traces of Charlotte's delicate hand.
Sparing, as far as possible, the old monuments, she had contrived to
level it, and lay it carefully out, so as to make it appear a pleasant
spot on which the eye and the imagination could equally repose with
pleasure. The oldest stones had each their special honor assigned them.
They were ranged according to their dates along the wall, either leaning
against it, or let into it, or however it could be contrived; and the
string-course of the church was thus variously ornamented.
Edward was singularly affected as he came in upon it through the little
wicket; he pressed Charlotte's hand, and tears started into his eyes.
But these were very soon put to flight, by the appearance of their
singular visitor. This gentleman had declined sitting down in the
castle; he had ridden straight through the village to the churchyard
gate; and then, halting, he called out to his friends, "Are you not
making a fool of me? Is there need, really? If there is, I can stay till
mid-day. But don't keep me. I have a great deal to do before night."
"Since you have taken the trouble to come so far," cried Edward to him,
in answer, "you had better come through the gate. We meet at a solemn
spot. Come and see the variety which Charlotte has thrown over its
"Inside there," called out the rider, "come I neither on horseback, nor
in carriage, nor on foot. These here rest in peace: with them I have
nothing to do. One day I shall be carried in feet foremost. I must bear
that as I can. Is it serious, I want to know?"
"Indeed it is," cried Charlotte, "right serious. For the first time in
our married lives, we are in a strait and difficulty, from which we do
not know how to extricate ourselves."
"You do not look as if it were so," answered he. "But I will believe
you. If you are deceiving me, for the future you shall help yourselves.
Follow me quickly, my horse will be none the worse for a rest."
The three speedily found themselves in the saloon together. Luncheon was
brought in, and Mittler told them what that day he had done, and was
going to do. This eccentric person had in early life been a clergyman,
and had distinguished himself in his office by the never-resting
activity with which he contrived to make up and put an end to quarrels:
quarrels in families, and quarrels between neighbors; first among the
individuals immediately about him, and afterward among whole
congregations, and among the country gentlemen round. While he was in
the ministry, no married couple was allowed to separate; and the
district courts were untroubled with either cause or process. A
knowledge of the law, he was well aware, was necessary to him. He gave
himself with all his might to the study of it, and very soon felt
himself a match for the best trained advocate. His circle of activity
extended wonderfully, and people were on the point of inducing him to
move to the Residence, where he would find opportunities of exercising
in the higher circles what he had begun in the lowest, when he won a
considerable sum of money in a lottery. With this, he bought himself a
small property. He let the ground to a tenant, and made it the centre of
his operations, with the fixed determination, or rather in accordance
with his old customs and inclinations, never to enter a house when there
was no dispute to make up, and no help to be given. People who were
superstitious about names, and about what they imported, maintained that
it was his being called Mittler which drove him to take upon himself
this strange employment.
Luncheon was laid on the table, and the stranger then solemnly pressed
his host not to wait any longer with the disclosure which he had to
make. Immediately after refreshing himself he would be obliged to leave
Husband and wife made a circumstantial confession; but scarcely had he
caught the substance of the matter, when he started angrily up from the
table, rushed out of the saloon, and ordered his horse to be saddled
"Either you do not know me, you do not understand me," he cried, "or you
are sorely mischievous. Do you call this a quarrel? Is there any want
of help here? Do you suppose that I am in the world to give _advice_? Of
all occupations which man can pursue, that is the most foolish. Every
man must be his own counsellor, and do what he cannot let alone. If all
go well, let him be happy, let him enjoy his wisdom and his fortune; if
it go ill, I am at hand to do what I can for him. The man who desires to
be rid of an evil knows what he wants; but the man who desires something
better than he has got is stone blind. Yes, yes, laugh as you will, he
is playing blindman's-buff; perhaps he gets hold of something, but the
question is what he has got hold of. Do as you will, it is all one.
Invite your friends to you, or let them be, it is all the same. The most
prudent plans I have seen miscarry, and the most foolish succeed. Don't
split your brains about it; and if, one way or the other, evil comes of
what you settle, don't fret; send for me, and you shall be helped. Till
which time, I am your humble servant."
So saying, he sprang on his horse, without waiting the arrival of the
"Here you see," said Charlotte, "the small service a third person can
be, when things are off their balance between two persons closely
connected; we are left, if possible, more confused and more uncertain
than we were."
They would both, probably, have continued hesitating some time longer,
had not a letter arrived from the Captain, in reply to Edward's last. He
had made up his mind to accept one of the situations which had been
offered him, although it was not in the least up to his mark. He was to
share the ennui of certain wealthy persons of rank, who depended on his
ability to dissipate it.
Edward's keen glance saw into the whole thing, and he pictured it out in
just, sharp lines.
"Can we endure to think of our friend in such a position?" he cried;
"you cannot be so cruel, Charlotte."
"That strange Mittler is right after all," replied Charlotte; "all such
undertakings are ventures; what will come of them it is impossible to
foresee. New elements introduced among us may be fruitful in fortune or
in misfortune, without our having to take credit to ourselves for one or
the other. I do not feel myself firm enough to oppose you further. Let
us make the experiment; only one thing I will entreat of you--that it be
only for a short time. You must allow me to exert myself more than ever,
to use all my influence among all my connections, to find him some
position which will satisfy him in his own way."
Edward poured out the warmest expressions of gratitude. He hastened,
with a light, happy heart, to write off his proposals to his friend.
Charlotte, in a postscript, was to signify her approbation with her own
hand, and unite her own kind entreaties with his. She wrote, with a
rapid pen, pleasantly and affectionately, but yet with a sort of haste
which was not usual with her; and, most unlike herself, she disfigured
the paper at last with a blot of ink, which put her out of temper, and
which she only made worse with her attempts to wipe it away.
Edward laughed at her about it, and, as there was still room, added a
second postscript, that his friend was to see from this symptom the
impatience with which he was expected, and measure the speed at which he
came to them by the haste in which the letter was written.
The messenger was gone; and Edward thought he could not give a more
convincing evidence of his gratitude, than in insisting again and again
that Charlotte should at once send for Ottilie from the school. She said
she would think about it; and, for that evening, induced Edward to join
with her in the enjoyment of a little music. Charlotte played
exceedingly well on the piano, Edward not quite so well on the flute. He
had taken a great deal of pains with it at times; but he was without the
patience, without the perseverance, which are requisite for the
completely successful cultivation of such a talent; consequently, his
part was done unequally, some pieces well, only perhaps too
quickly--while with others he hesitated, not being quite familiar with
them; so that, for any one else, it would have been difficult to have
gone through a duet with him. But Charlotte knew how to manage it. She
held in, or let herself be run away with, and fulfilled in this way the
double part of a skilful conductor and a prudent housewife, who are able
always to keep right on the whole, although particular passages will now
and then fall out of order.
The Captain came, having previously written a most sensible letter,
which had entirely quieted Charlotte's apprehensions. So much clearness
about himself, so just an understanding of his own position and the
position of his friends, promised everything which was best and
The conversation of the first few hours, as is generally the case with
friends who have not met for a long time, was eager, lively, almost
exhausting. Toward evening, Charlotte proposed a walk to the new
grounds. The Captain was delighted with the spot, and observed every
beauty which had been first brought into sight and made enjoyable by the
new walks. He had a practised eye, and at the same time one easily
satisfied; and although he knew very well what was really valuable, he
never, as so many persons do, made people who were showing him things of
their own uncomfortable, by requiring more than the circumstances
admitted of, or by mentioning anything more perfect, which he remembered
having seen elsewhere.
When they arrived at the summer-house, they found it dressed out for a
holiday, only, indeed, with artificial flowers and evergreens, but with
some pretty bunches of natural corn-ears among them, and other field and
garden fruit, so as to do credit to the taste which had arranged them.
"Although my husband does not like in general to have his birthday or
christening-day kept," Charlotte said, "he will not object today to
these few ornaments being expended on a treble festival."
"Treble?" cried Edward.
"Yes, indeed," she replied. "Our friend's arrival here we are bound to
keep as a festival; and have you never thought, either of you, that this
is the day on which you were both christened? Are you not both named
The two friends shook hands across the little table.
"You bring back to my mind," Edward said, "this little link of our
boyish affection. As children, we were both called so; but when we came
to be at school together, it was the cause of much confusion, and I
readily made over to him all my right to the pretty laconic name."
"Wherein you were not altogether so very high-minded," said the Captain;
"for I well remember that the name of Edward had then begun to please
you better, from its attractive sound when spoken by certain pretty
They were now sitting all three round the same table where Charlotte had
spoken so vehemently against their guest's coming to them. Edward, happy
as he was, did not wish to remind his wife of that time; but he could
not help saying, "There is good room here for one more person."
At this moment the notes of a bugle were heard across from the castle.
Full of happy thoughts and feelings as the friends all were together,
the sound fell in among them with a strong force of answering harmony.
They listened silently, each for the moment withdrawing into himself,
and feeling doubly happy in the fair circle of which he formed a part.
The pause was first broken by Edward, who started up and walked out in
front of the summer-house.
"Our friend must not think," he said to Charlotte, "that this narrow
little valley forms the whole of our domain and possessions. Let us take
him up to the top of the hill, where he can see farther and breathe more
"For this once, then," answered Charlotte, "we must climb up the old
footpath, which is not too easy. By the next time, I hope my walks and
steps will have been carried right up."
And so, among rocks, and shrubs, and bushes, they made their way to the
summit, where they found themselves, not on a level flat, but on a
sloping grassy terrace, running along the ridge of the hill. The
village, with the castle behind it, was out of sight. At the bottom of
the valley, sheets of water were seen spreading out right and left, with
wooded hills rising immediately from their opposite margin, and, at the
end of the upper water, a wall of sharp, precipitous rocks directly
overhanging it, their huge forms reflected in its level surface. In the
hollow of the ravine, where a considerable brook ran into the lake, lay
a mill, half hidden among the trees, a sweetly retired spot, most
beautifully surrounded; and through the entire semicircle, over which
the view extended, ran an endless variety of hills and valleys, copse
and forest, the early green of which promised the near approach of a
luxuriant clothing of foliage. In many places particular groups of trees
caught the eye; and especially a cluster of planes and poplars directly
at the spectator's feet, close to the edge of the centre lake. They were
at their full growth, and they stood there, spreading out their boughs
all around them, in fresh and luxuriant strength.
To these Edward called his friend's attention.
"I myself planted them," he cried, "when I was a boy. They were small
trees which I rescued when my father was laying out the new part of the
great castle garden, and in the middle of one summer had rooted them
out. This year you will no doubt see them show their gratitude in a
fresh set of shoots."
They returned to the castle in high spirits, and mutually pleased with
each other. To the guest was allotted an agreeable and roomy set of
apartments in the right wing of the castle; and here he rapidly got his
books and papers and instruments in order, to go on with his usual
occupation. But Edward, for the first few days, gave him no rest. He
took him about everywhere, now on foot, now on horseback, making him
acquainted with the country and with the estate; and he embraced the
opportunity of imparting to him the wishes which he had been long
entertaining, of getting at some better acquaintance with it, and
learning to manage it more profitably.
"The first thing we have to do," said the Captain, "is to make a
magnetic survey of the property. That is a pleasant and easy matter; and
if it does not admit of entire exactness, it will be always useful, and
will do, at any rate, for an agreeable beginning. It can be made, too,
without any great staff of assistants, and one can be sure of getting it
completed. If by-and-by you come to require anything more exact, it will
be easy then to find some plan to have it made."
The Captain was exceedingly skilful at work of thus kind. He had brought
with him whatever instruments he required, and commenced immediately.
Edward provided him with a number of foresters and peasants, who, with
his instruction, were able to render him all necessary assistance. The
weather was favorable. The evenings and the early mornings were devoted
to the designing and drawing, and in a short time it was all filled in
and colored. Edward saw his possessions grow out like a new creation
upon the paper; and it seemed as if now for the first time he knew what
they were, as if they now first were properly his own.
Thus there came occasion to speak of the park, and of the ways of laying
it out; a far better disposition of things being made possible after a
survey of this kind, than could be arrived at by experimenting on
nature, on partial and accidental impressions.
"We must make my wife understand this," said Edward.
"We must do nothing of the kind," replied the Captain, who did not like
bringing his own notions in collision with those of others. He had
learnt by experience that the motives and purposes by which men are
influenced are far too various to be made to coalesce upon a single
point, even on the most solid representations. "We must not do it," he
cried; "she will be only confused. With her, as with all people who
employ themselves on such matters merely as amateurs, the important
thing is, rather that she shall do something, than that something shall
be done. Such persons feel their way with nature. They have fancies for
this plan or that; they do not venture on removing obstacles. They are
not bold enough to make a sacrifice. They do not know beforehand in what
their work is to result. They try an experiment--it succeeds--it fails;
they alter it; they alter, perhaps, what they ought to leave alone, and
leave what they ought to alter; and so, at last, there always remains
but a patchwork, which pleases and amuses, but never satisfies."
"Acknowledge candidly," said Edward, "that you do not like this new work
"The idea is excellent," he replied; "if the execution were equal to it,
there would be no fault to find. But she has tormented herself to find
her way up that rock; and she now torments every one, if you must have
it, that she takes up after her. You cannot walk together, you cannot
walk behind one another, with any freedom. Every moment your step is
interrupted one way or another. There is no end to the mistakes which
she has made."
"Would it have been easy to have done it otherwise?" asked Edward.
"Perfectly," replied the Captain. "She had only to break away a corner
of the rock, which is now but an unsightly object, made up as it is of
little pieces, and she would at once have a sweep for her walk and stone
in abundance for the rough masonry work, to widen it in the bad places,
and make it smooth. But this I tell you in strictest confidence. Her it
would only confuse and annoy. What is done must remain as it is. If any
more money and labor is to be spent there, there is abundance to do
above the summer-house on the hill, which we can settle our own way."
If the two friends found in their occupation abundance of present
employment, there was no lack either of entertaining reminiscences of
early times, in which Charlotte took her part as well. They determined,
moreover, that as soon as their immediate labors were finished, they
would go to work upon the journal, and in this way, too, reproduce the
For the rest, when Edward and Charlotte were alone, there were fewer
matters of private interest between them than formerly. This was
especially the case since the fault-finding about the grounds, which
Edward thought so just, and which he felt to the quick. He held his
tongue about what the Captain had said for a long time; but at last,
when he saw his wife again preparing to go to work above the
summer-house, with her paths and steps, he could not contain himself any
longer, but, after a few circumlocutions, came out with his new views.
Charlotte was thoroughly disturbed. She was sensible enough to perceive
at once that they were right, but there was the difficulty with what was
already done--and what was made was made. She had liked it; even what
was wrong had become dear to her in its details. She fought against her
convictions; she defended her little creations; she railed at men who
were forever going to the broad and the great. They could not let a
pastime, they could not let an amusement alone, she said, but they must
go and make a work out of it, never thinking of the expense which their
larger plans involved. She was provoked, annoyed, and angry. Her old
plans she could not give up, the new she would not quite throw from her;
but, divided as she was, for the present she put a stop to the work, and
gave herself time to think the thing over, and let it ripen by itself.
At the same time that she lost this source of active amusement, the
others were more and more together over their own business. They took
to occupying themselves, moreover, with the flower-garden and the
hot-houses; and as they filled up the intervals with the ordinary
gentlemen's amusements, hunting, riding, buying, selling, breaking
horses, and such matters, she was every day left more and more to
herself. She devoted herself more assiduously than ever to her
correspondence on account of the Captain; and yet she had many lonely
hours; so that the information which she now received from the school
became of more agreeable interest.
To a long-drawn letter of the superior of the establishment, filled with
the usual expressions of delight at her daughter's progress, a brief
postscript was attached, with a second from the hand of a gentleman in
employment there as an Assistant, both of which we here communicate.
POSTSCRIPT OF THE SUPERIOR
"Of Ottilie, I can only repeat to your ladyship what I have already
stated in my former letters. I do not know how to find fault with her,
yet I cannot say that I am satisfied. She is always unassuming, always
ready to oblige others; but it is not pleasing to see her so timid, so
"Your ladyship lately sent her some money, with several little matters
for her wardrobe. The money she has never touched, the dresses lie
unworn in their place. She keeps her things very nice and very clean;
but this is all she seems to care about. Again, I cannot praise her
excessive abstemiousness in eating and drinking. There is no
extravagance at our table, but there is nothing that I like better than
to see the children eat enough of good, wholesome food. What is
carefully provided and set before them ought to be taken; and to this I
never can succeed in bringing Ottilie. She is always making herself some
occupation or other, always finding something which she must do,
something which the servants have neglected, to escape the second course
or the dessert; and now it has to be considered (which I cannot help
connecting with all this) that she frequently suffers, I have lately
learnt, from pain in the left side of her head. It is only at times, but
it is distressing, and may be of importance. So much upon this otherwise
sweet and lovely girl."
SECOND POSTSCRIPT, BY THE ASSISTANT
"Our excellent superior commonly permits me to read the letters in which
she communicates her observations upon her pupils to their parents and
friends. Such of them as are addressed to your ladyship I ever read with
twofold attention and pleasure. We have to congratulate you upon a
daughter who unites in herself every brilliant quality with which people
distinguish themselves in the world; and I at least think you no less
fortunate in having had bestowed upon you, in your step-daughter, a
child who has been born for the good and happiness of others, and
assuredly also for her own. Ottilie is almost our only pupil about whom
there is a difference of opinion between myself and our reverend
superior. I do not complain of the very natural desire in that good lady
to see outward and definite fruits arising from her labors. But there
are also fruits which are not outward, which are of the true germinal
sort, and which develop themselves sooner or later in a beautiful life.
And this I am certain is the case with your protegee. So long as she has
been under my care, I have watched her moving with an even step, slowly,
steadily forward--never back. As with a child it is necessary to begin
everything at the beginning, so it is with her. She can comprehend
nothing which does not follow from what precedes it; let a thing be as
simple and easy as possible, she can make nothing of it if it is not in
a recognizable connection; but find the intermediate links, and make
them clear to her, and then nothing is too difficult for her.
"Progressing with such slow steps, she remains behind her companions,
who, with capacities of quite a different kind, hurry on and on, learn
everything readily, connected or unconnected, recollect it with ease,
and apply it with correctness. And again, some of the lessons here are
given by excellent, but somewhat hasty and impatient teachers, who pass
from result to result, cutting short the process by which they are
arrived at; and these are not of the slightest service to her; she
learns nothing from them. There is a complaint of her handwriting. They
say she will not, or cannot, understand how to form her letters. I have
examined closely into this. It is true she writes slowly, stiffly, if
you like; but the hand is neither timid nor without character. The
French language is not my department, but I have taught her something of
it, in the step-by-step fashion; and this she understands easily.
Indeed, it is singular that she knows a great deal, and knows it well,
too; and yet when she is asked a question, it seems as if she knew
"To conclude generally, I should say she learns nothing like a person
who is being educated, but she learns like one who is to educate--not
like a pupil, but like a future teacher. Your ladyship may think it
strange that I, as an educator and a teacher, can find no higher praise
to give to any one than by a comparison with myself. I may leave it to
your own good sense, to your deep knowledge of the world and of mankind,
to make the best of my most inadequate, but well-intended expressions.
You may satisfy yourself that you have much happiness to promise
yourself from this child. I commend myself to your ladyship, and I
beseech you to permit me to write to you again as soon as I see reason
to believe that I have anything important or agreeable to communicate."
This letter gave Charlotte great pleasure. The contents of it coincided
very closely with the notions which she had herself conceived of
Ottilie. At the same time, she could not help smiling at the excessive
interest of the Assistant, which seemed greater than the insight into a
pupil's excellence usually calls forth. In her quiet, unprejudiced way
of looking at things, this relation, among others, she was contented to
permit to lie before her as a possibility; she could value the interest
of so sensible a man in Ottilie, having learnt, among the lessons of her
life, to see how highly true regard is to be prized in a world where
indifference or dislike are the common natural residents.
The topographical chart of the property and its environs was completed.
It was executed on a considerable scale; the character of the particular
localities was made intelligible by various colors; and by means of a
trigonometrical survey the Captain had been able to arrive at a very
fair exactness of measurement. He had been rapid in his work. There was
scarcely ever any one who could do with less sleep than this most
laborious man; and, as his day was always devoted to an immediate
purpose, every evening something had been done.
"Let us now," he said to his friend, "go on to what remains for us, to
the statistics of the estate. We shall have a good deal of work to get
through at the beginning, and afterward we shall come to the farm
estimates, and much else which will naturally arise out of them. Only we
must have one thing distinctly settled and adhered to. Everything which
is properly _business_ we must keep carefully separate from life.
Business requires earnestness and method; _life_ must have a freer
handling. Business demands the utmost stringency and sequence; in life,
inconsecutiveness is frequently necessary, indeed, is charming and
graceful. If you are firm in the first, you can afford yourself more
liberty in the second; while if you mix them, you will find the free
interfering with and breaking in upon the fixed."
In these sentiments Edward felt a slight reflection upon himself. Though
not naturally disorderly, he could never bring himself to arrange his
papers in their proper places. What he had to do in connection with
others, was not kept separate from what depended only on himself.
Business got mixed up with amusement, and serious work with recreation.
Now, however, it was easy for him, with the help of a friend who would
take the trouble upon himself; and a second "I" worked out the
separation, to which the single "I" was always unequal.
In the Captain's wing, they contrived a depository for what concerned
the present, and an archive for the past. Here they brought all the
documents, papers, and notes from their various hiding-places, rooms,
drawers, and boxes, with the utmost speed. Harmony and order were
introduced into the wilderness, and the different packets were marked
and registered in their several pigeon-holes. They found all they wanted
in greater completeness even than they had expected; and here an old
clerk was found of no slight service, who for the whole day and part of
the night never left his desk, and with whom, till then, Edward had been
"I should not know him again," he said to his friend, "the man is so
handy and useful."
"That," replied the Captain, "is because we give him nothing fresh to do
till he has finished, at his convenience, what he has already; and so,
as you perceive, he gets through a great deal. If you disturb him, he
becomes useless at once."
Spending their days together in this way, in the evenings they never
neglected their regular visits to Charlotte. If there was no party from
the neighborhood, as was often the case, they read and talked,
principally on subjects connected with the improvement of the condition
and comfort of social life.
Charlotte, always accustomed to make the most of opportunities, not only
saw her husband pleased, but found personal advantages for herself.
Various domestic arrangements, which she had long wished to make, but
which she did not know exactly how to set about, were managed for her
through the contrivance of the Captain. Her domestic medicine-chest,
hitherto but poorly furnished, was enlarged and enriched, and Charlotte
herself, with the help of good books and personal instruction, was put
in the way of being able to exercise her disposition to be of practical
assistance more frequently and more efficiently than before.
In providing against accidents, which, though common, yet only too often
find us unprepared, they thought it especially necessary to have at hand
whatever is required for the recovery of drowning men--accidents of this
kind, from the number of canals, reservoirs, and waterworks in the
neighborhood, being of frequent occurrence. This department the Captain
took expressly into his own hands; and the observation escaped Edward,
that a case of this kind had made a very singular epoch in the life of
his friend. The latter made no reply, but seemed to be trying to escape
from a painful recollection. Edward immediately stopped; and Charlotte,
who, as well as he, had a general knowledge of the story, took no notice
of the expression.
"These preparations are all exceedingly valuable," said the Captain, one
evening. "Now, however, we have not got the one thing which is most
essential--a sensible man who understands how to manage it all. I know
an army surgeon, whom I could exactly recommend for the place. You might
get him at this moment, on easy terms. He is highly distinguished in his
profession, and has frequently done more for me, in the treatment even
of violent inward disorders, than celebrated physicians. Help upon the
spot, is the thing you often most want in the country."
He was written for at once; and Edward and Charlotte were rejoiced to
have found so good and necessary an object on which to expend so much of
the money which they set apart for such accidental demands upon them.
Thus Charlotte, too, found means of making use, for her purposes, of the
Captain's knowledge and practical skill; and she began to be quite
reconciled to his presence, and to feel easy about any consequences
which might ensue. She commonly prepared questions to ask him; among
other things, it was one of her anxieties to provide against whatever
was prejudicial to health and comfort, against poisons and such like.
The lead-glazing on the china, the verdigris which formed about her
copper and bronze vessels, etc., had long been a trouble to her. She got
him to tell her about these, and, naturally, they often had to fall back
on the first elements of medicine and chemistry.
An accidental, but welcome occasion for entertainment of this kind, was
given by an inclination of Edward to read aloud. He had a particularly
clear, deep voice, and earlier in life had earned himself a pleasant
reputation for his feeling and lively recitations of works of poetry and
oratory. At this time he was occupied with other subjects, and the books
which, for some time past, he had been reading, were either chemical or
on some other branch of natural or technical science.
One of his especial peculiarities--which, by-the-by, he very likely
shares with a number of his fellow-creatures--was, that he could not
bear to have any one looking over him when he was reading. In early
life, when he used to read poems, plays, or stories, this had been the
natural consequence of the desire which the reader feels, like the poet,
or the actor, or the story-teller, to make surprises, to pause, to
excite expectation; and this sort of effect was naturally defeated when
a third person's eyes could run on before him, and see what was coming.
On such occasions, therefore, he was accustomed to place himself in such
a position that no one could get behind him. With a party of only three,
this was unnecessary; and as with the present subject there was no
opportunity for exciting feelings or giving the imagination a surprise,
he did not take any particular pains to protect himself.
One evening he had placed himself carelessly, and Charlotte happened by
accident to cast her eyes upon the page. His old impatience was aroused;
he turned to her, and said, almost unkindly:
[Illustration: EDWARD READING ALOUD TO CHARLOTTE AND THE CAPTAIN]
"I do wish, once for all, you would leave off doing a thing so out of
taste and so disagreeable. When I read aloud to a person, is it not
the same as if I was telling him something by word of mouth? The
written, the printed word, is in the place of my own thoughts, of my own
heart. If a window were broken into my brain or into my heart, and if
the man to whom I am counting out my thoughts, or delivering my
sentiments, one by one, knew beforehand exactly what was to come out of
me, should I take the trouble to put them into words? When anybody looks
over my book, I always feel as if I were being torn in two."
Charlotte's tact, in whatever circle she might be, large or small, was
remarkable, and she was able to set aside disagreeable or excited
expressions without appearing to notice them. When a conversation grew
tedious, she knew how to interrupt it; when it halted, she could set it
going. And this time her good gift did not forsake her.
"I am sure you will forgive me my fault," she said, when I tell you what
it was this moment which came over me. I heard you reading something
about Affinities, and I thought directly of some relations of mine, two
of whom are just now occupying me a great deal. Then my attention went
back to the book. I found it was not about living things at all, and I
looked over to get the thread of it right again."
"It was the comparison which led you wrong and confused you," said
Edward. "The subject is nothing but earths and minerals. But man is a
true Narcissus; he delights to see his own image everywhere; and he
spreads himself underneath the universe, like the amalgam behind the
"Quite true," continued the Captain. "That is the way in which he treats
everything external to himself. His wisdom and his folly, his will and
his caprice, he attributes alike to the animal, the plant, the elements,
and the gods."
"Would you," said Charlotte, "if it is not taking you away too much from
the immediate subject, tell me briefly what is meant here by
"I shall be very glad indeed," replied the Captain, to whom Charlotte
had addressed herself. "That is, I will tell you as well as I can. My
ideas on the subject date ten years back; whether the scientific world
continues to think the same about it, I cannot tell."
"It is most disagreeable," cried Edward, "that one cannot now-a-days
learn a thing once for all, and have done with it. Our forefathers could
keep to what they were taught when they were young; but we have, every
five years, to make revolutions with them, if we do not wish to drop
altogether out of fashion."
"We women need not be so particular," said Charlotte; "and, to speak the
truth, I only want to know the meaning of the word. There is nothing
more ridiculous in society than to misuse a strange technical word; and
I only wish you to tell me in what sense the expression is made use of
in connection with these things. What its scientific application is I am
quite contented to leave to the learned; who, by-the-by, as far as I
have been able to observe, do not find it easy to agree among
"Whereabouts shall we begin," said Edward, after a pause, to the
Captain, "to come most quickly to the point?"
The latter, after thinking as little while, replied shortly:
"You must let me make what will seem a wide sweep; we shall be on our
subject almost immediately."
Charlotte settled her work at her side, promising the fullest attention.
The Captain began:
"In all natural objects with which we are acquainted, we observe
immediately that they have a certain relation to themselves. It may
sound ridiculous to be asserting what is obvious to every one; but it is
only by coming to a clear understanding together about what we know,
that we can advance to what we do not know."
"I think," interrupted Edward, "we can make the thing more clear to her,
and to ourselves, with examples; conceive water, or oil, or quicksilver;
among these you will see a certain oneness, a certain connection of
their parts; and this oneness is never lost, except through force or
some other determining cause. Let the cause cease to operate, and at
once the parts unite again."
"Unquestionably," said Charlotte, "that is plain; rain-drops readily
unite and form streams; and when we were children, it was our delight to
play with quicksilver, and wonder at the little globules splitting and
parting and running into one another."
"And here," said the Captain, "let me just cursorily mention one
remarkable thing--I mean, that the full, complete correlation of parts
which the fluid state makes possible, shows itself distinctly and
universally in the globular form. The falling water-drop is round; you
yourself spoke of the globules of quicksilver; and a drop of melted lead
let fall, if it has time to harden before it reaches the ground, is
found at the bottom in the shape of a ball."
"Let me try and see," said Charlotte, "whether I can understand where
you are bringing me. As everything has a reference to itself, so it must
have some relation to others."
"And that," interrupted Edward, "will be different according to the
natural differences of the things themselves. Sometimes they will meet
like friends and old acquaintances; they will come rapidly together, and
unite without either having to alter itself at all--as wine mixes with
water. Others, again, will remain as strangers side by side, and no
amount of mechanical mixing or forcing will succeed in combining them.
Oil and water may be shaken up together, and the next moment they are
separate again, each by itself."
"One can almost fancy," said Charlotte, "that in these simple forms one
sees people that one is acquainted with; one has met with just such
things in the societies amongst which one has lived; and the strangest
likenesses of all with these soulless creatures are in the masses in
which men stand divided one against the other, in their classes and
professions; the nobility and the third estate, for instance, or
soldiers and civilians."
"Then again," replied Edward, "as these are united under common laws and
customs, so there are intermediate members in our chemical world which
will combine elements that are mutually repulsive."
"Oil, for instance," said the Captain, "we make combine with water with
the help of alkalis----"
"Do not go on too fast with your lesson," said Charlotte. "Let me see
that I keep step with you. Are we not here arrived among the
"Exactly," replied the Captain; "we are on the point of apprehending
them in all their power and distinctness; such natures as, when they
come in contact, at once lay hold of each other, each mutually affecting
the other, we speak of as having an affinity one for the other. With the
alkalis and acids, for instance, the affinities are strikingly marked.
They are of opposite natures; very likely their being of opposite
natures is the secret of their inter-relational effect--each reaches out
eagerly for its companion, they lay hold of each other, modify each
other's character, and form in connection an entirely new substance.
There is lime, you remember, which shows the strongest inclination for
all sorts of acids--a distinct desire of combining with them. As soon as
our chemical chest arrives, we can show you a number of entertaining
experiments which will give you a clearer idea than words, and names,
and technical expressions."
"It appears to me," said Charlotte, "that, if you choose to call these
strange creatures of yours related, the relationship is not so much a
relationship of blood as of soul or of spirit. It is the way in which we
see all really deep friendship arise among men, opposite peculiarities
of disposition being what best makes internal union possible. But I will
wait to see what you can really show me of these mysterious proceedings;
and for the present," she added, turning to Edward, "I will promise not
to disturb you any more in your reading. You have taught me enough of
what it is about to enable me to attend to it."
"No, no," replied Edward, "now that you have once stirred the thing, you
shall not get off so easily. It is just the most complicated cases which
are the most interesting. In these you come first to see the degrees of
the affinities, to watch them as their power of attraction is weaker or
stronger, nearer or more remote. Affinities begin really to interest
only when they bring about separations."
"What!" cried Charlotte, "is that miserable word, which unhappily we
hear so often now-a-days in the world; is that to be found in nature's
"Most certainly," answered Edward; "the title with which chemists were
supposed to be most honorably distinguished was, artists of separation."
"It is not so any more," replied Charlotte; "and it is well that it is
not. It is a higher art, and it is a higher merit, to unite. An artist
of union is what we should welcome in every province of the universe.
However, as we are on the subject again, give me an instance or two of
what you mean."
"We had better keep," said the Captain, "to the same instances of which
we have already been speaking. Thus, what we call limestone is a more or
less pure calcareous earth in combination with a delicate acid, which is
familiar to us in the form of a gas. Now, if we place a piece of this
stone in diluted sulphuric acid, this will take possession of the lime,
and appear with it in the form of gypsum, the gaseous acid at the same
time going off in vapor. Here is a case of separation; a combination
arises, and we believe ourselves now justified in applying to it the
words 'Elective Affinity;' it really looks as if one relation had been
deliberately chosen in preference to another.
"Forgive me," said Charlotte, "as I forgive the natural philosopher. I
cannot see any choice in this; I see a natural necessity rather, and
scarcely that. After all, it is perhaps merely a case of opportunity.
Opportunity makes relations as it makes thieves; and as long as the
talk is only of natural substances, the choice to me appears to be
altogether in the hands of the chemist who brings the creatures
together. Once, however, let them be brought together, and then God have
mercy on them. In the present case, I cannot help being sorry for the
poor acid gas, which is driven out up and down infinity again."
"The acid's business," answered the Captain, "is now to get connected
with water, and so serve as a mineral fountain for the refreshing of
sound or disordered mankind."
"That is very well for the gypsum to say," said Charlotte. "The gypsum
is all right, is a body, is provided for. The other poor, desolate
creature may have trouble enough to go through before it can find a
second home for itself."
"I am much mistaken," said Edward, smiling, "if there be not some little
_arriere pensee_ behind this. Confess your wickedness! You mean me by
your lime; the lime is laid hold of by the Captain, in the form of
sulphuric acid, torn away from your agreeable society, and metamorphosed
into a refractory gypsum."
"If your conscience prompts you to make such a reflection," replied
Charlotte, "I certainly need not distress myself. These comparisons are
pleasant and entertaining; and who is there that does not like playing
with analogies? But man is raised very many steps above these elements;
and if he has been somewhat liberal with such fine words as Election and
Elective Affinities, he will do well to turn back again into himself,
and take the opportunity of considering carefully the value and meaning
of such expressions. Unhappily, we know cases enough where a connection
apparently indissoluble between two persons, has, by the accidental
introduction of a third, been utterly destroyed, and one or the other of
the once happily united pair been driven out into the wilderness."
"Then you see how much more gallant the chemists are," said Edward.
"They at once add a fourth, that neither may go away empty."
"Quite so," replied the Captain. "And those are the cases which are
really most important and remarkable--cases where this attraction, this
affinity, this separating and combining, can be exhibited, the two pairs
severally crossing each other; where four creatures, connected
previously, as two and two, are brought into contact, and at once
forsake their first combination to form into a second. In this forsaking
and embracing, this seeking and flying, we believe that we are indeed
observing the effects of some higher determination; we attribute a sort
of will and choice to such creatures, and feel really justified in using
technical words, and speaking of 'Elective Affinities.'"
"Give me an instance of this," said Charlotte.
"One should not spoil such things with words," replied the Captain. "As
I said before, as soon as I can show you the experiment, I can make it
all intelligible and pleasant for you. For the present, I can give you
nothing but horrible scientific expressions, which at the same time will
give you no idea about the matter. You ought yourself to see these
creatures, which seem so dead, and which are yet so full of inward
energy and force, at work before your eyes. You should observe them with
a real personal interest. Now they seek each other out, attract each
other, seize, crush, devour, destroy each other, and then suddenly
reappear again out of their combinations, and come forward in fresh,
renovated, unexpected form; thus you will comprehend how we attribute to
them a sort of immortality--how we speak of them as having sense and
understanding; because we feel our own senses to be insufficient to
observe them adequately, and our reason too weak to follow them."
"I quite agree," said Edward, "that the strange scientific nomenclature,
to persons who have not been reconciled to it by a direct acquaintance
with or understanding of its object, must seem unpleasant, even
ridiculous; but we can easily, just for once, contrive with symbols to
illustrate what we are speaking of."
"If you do not think it looks pedantic," answered the Captain, "I can
put my meaning together with letters. Suppose an A connected so closely
with a B, that all sorts of means, even violence, have been made use of
to separate them, without effect. Then suppose a C in exactly the same
position with respect to D. Bring the two pairs into contact; A will
fling himself on D, C on B, without its being possible to say which had
first left its first connection, or made the first move toward the
"Now then," interposed Edward, "till we see all this with our eyes, we
will look upon the formula as an analogy, out of which we can devise a
lesson for immediate use. You stand for A, Charlotte, and I am your B;
really and truly I cling to you, I depend on you, and follow you, just
as B does with A. C is obviously the Captain, who at present is in some
degree withdrawing me from you. So now it is only just that if you are
not to be left to solitude a D should be found for you, and that is
unquestionably the amiable little lady, Ottilie. You will not hesitate
any longer to send and fetch her."
"Good," replied Charlotte; "although the example does not, in my
opinion, exactly fit our case. However, we have been fortunate, at any
rate, in today for once having met all together; and these natural or
elective affinities have served to unite us more intimately. I will tell
you, that since this afternoon I have made up my mind to send for
Ottilie. My faithful housekeeper, on whom I have hitherto depended for
everything, is going to leave me shortly, to be married. (It was done at
my own suggestion, I believe, to please me.) What it is which has
decided me about Ottilie, you shall read to me. I will not look over the
pages again. Indeed, the contents of them are already known to me. Only
With these words, she produced a letter, and handed it to Edward.
LETTER OF THE LADY SUPERIOR
"Your ladyship will forgive the brevity of my present letter. The public
examinations are but just concluded, and I have to communicate to all
the parents and guardians the progress which our pupils have made during
the past year. To you I may well be brief, having to say much in few
words. Your ladyship's daughter has proved herself first in every sense
of the word. The testimonials which I inclose, and her own letter, in
which she will detail to you the prizes which she has won, and the
happiness which she feels in her success, will surely please, and I hope
delight you. For myself, it is the less necessary that I should say
much, because I see that there will soon be no more occasion to keep
with us a young lady so far advanced. I send my respects to your
ladyship, and in a short time I shall take the liberty of offering you
my opinion as to what in future may be of most advantage to her.
"My good assistant will tell you about Ottilie."
LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT.
"Our reverend superior leaves it to me to write to you of Ottilie,
partly because, with her ways of thinking about it, it would be painful
to her to say what has to be said; partly, because she herself requires
some excusing, which she would rather have done for her by me.
"Knowing, as I did too well, how little able the good Ottilie was to
show out what lies in her, and what she is capable of, I was all along
afraid of this public examination. I was the more uneasy, as it was to
be of a kind which does not admit of any especial preparation; and even
if it had been conducted as usual, Ottilie never can be prepared to make
a display. The result has only too entirely justified my anxiety. She
has gained no prize; she is not even amongst those whose names have been
mentioned with approbation. I need not go into details. In writing, the
letters of the other girls were not so well formed, but their strokes
were far more free. In arithmetic, they were all quicker than she; and
in the more difficult problems, which she does the best, there was no
examination. In French, she was outshone and out-talked by many; and in
history she was not ready with her names and dates. In geography, there
was a want of attention to the political divisions; and for what she
could do in music there was neither time nor quiet enough for her few
modest melodies to gain attention. In drawing she certainly would have
gained the prize; her outlines were clear, and the execution most
careful and full of spirit; unhappily, she had chosen too large a
subject, and it was incomplete.
"After the pupils were dismissed, the examiners consulted together, and
we teachers were partially admitted into the council. I very soon
observed that of Ottilie either nothing would be said at all, or if her
name was mentioned, it would be with indifference, if not absolute
disapproval. I hoped to obtain some favor for her by a candid
description of what she was, and I ventured it with the greater
earnestness, partly because I was only speaking my real convictions, and
partly because I remembered in my own younger years finding myself in
the same unfortunate case. I was listened to with attention, but as soon
as I had ended, the presiding examiner said to me very kindly but
laconically, 'We presume capabilities: they are to be converted into
accomplishments. This is the aim of all education. It is what is
distinctly intended by all who have the care of children, and silently
and indistinctly by the children themselves. This also is the object of
examinations, where teachers and pupils are alike standing their trial.
From what we learn of you, we may entertain good hopes of the young
lady, and it is to your own credit also that you have paid so much
attention to your pupil's capabilities. If in the coming year you can
develop these into accomplishments, neither yourself nor your pupil
shall fail to receive your due praise.'
"I had made up my mind to what must follow upon all this; but there was
something worse that I had not anticipated, which had soon to be added
to it. Our good Superior, who like a trusty shepherdess could not bear
to have one of her flock lost, or, as was the case here, to see it
undistinguished, after the examiners were gone could not contain her
displeasure, and said to Ottilie, who was standing quite quietly by the
window, while the others were exulting over their prizes: 'Tell me, for
heaven's sake, how can a person look so stupid if she is not so?'
Ottilie replied, quite calmly, 'Forgive me, my dear mother, I have my
headache again today, and it is very painful.' Kind and sympathizing as
she generally is, the Superior this time answered, 'No one can believe
that,' and turned angrily away.
"Now it is true--no one can believe it--for Ottilie never alters the
expression of her countenance. I have never even seen her move her hand
to her head when she has been asleep.
"Nor was this all. Your ladyship's daughter, who is at all times
sufficiently lively and impetuous, after her triumph today was
overflowing with the violence of her spirits. She ran from room to room
with her prizes and testimonials, and shook them in Ottilie's face. 'You
have come badly off this morning,' she cried. Ottilie replied in her
calm, quiet way, 'This is not the last day of trial.' 'But you will
always remain the last,' cried the other, and ran away.
"No one except myself saw that Ottilie was disturbed. She has a way when
she experiences any sharp unpleasant emotion which she wishes to resist,
of showing it in the unequal color of her face; the left cheek becomes
for a moment flushed, while the right turns pale. I perceived this
symptom, and I could not prevent myself from saying something. I took
our Superior aside, and spoke seriously to her about it. The excellent
lady acknowledged that she had been wrong. We considered the whole
affair; we talked it over at great length together, and not to weary
your ladyship, I will tell you at once the desire with which we
concluded, namely, that you will for a while have Ottilie with yourself.
Our reasons you will yourself readily perceive. If you consent, I will
say more to you on the manner in which I think she should be treated.
The young lady your daughter we may expect will soon leave us, and we
shall then with pleasure welcome Ottilie back to us.
"One thing more, which another time I might forget to mention: I have
never seen Ottilie eager for anything, or at least ask pressingly for
anything. But there have been occasions, however rare, when on the other
hand she has wished to decline things which have been pressed upon her,
and she does it with a gesture which to those who have caught its
meaning is irresistible. She raises her hands, presses the palms
together, and draws them against her breast, leaning her body a little
forward at the same time, and turns such a look upon the person who is
urging her that he will be glad enough to cease to ask or wish for
anything of her. If your ladyship ever sees this attitude, as with your
treatment of her it is not likely that you will, think of me, and spare
Edward read these letters aloud, not without smiles and shakes of the
head. Naturally, too, there were observations made on the persons and on
the position of the affair.
"Enough!" Edward cried at last, "it is decided. She comes. You, my love,
are provided for, and now we can get forward with our work. It is
becoming highly necessary for me to move over to the right wing to the
Captain; evenings and mornings are the time for us best to work
together, and then you, on your side, will have admirable room for
yourself and Ottilie."
Charlotte made no objection, and Edward sketched out the method in which
they should live. Among other things, he cried, "It is really very
polite in this niece to be subject to a slight pain on the left side of
her head. I have it frequently an the right. If we happen to be
afflicted together, and sit opposite one another--I leaning on my right
elbow, and she on her left, and our heads on the opposite sides, resting
on our hands--what a pretty pair of pictures we shall make."
The Captain thought that might be dangerous. "No, no!" cried out Edward.
"Only do you, my dear friend, take care of the D, for what will become
of B, if poor C is taken away from it?"
"That, I should have thought, would have been evident enough," replied
"And it is, indeed," cried Edward; "he would turn back to his A, to his
Alpha and Omega;" and he sprung up and taking Charlotte in his arms,
pressed her to his breast.
The carriage which brought Ottilie drove up to the door. Charlotte went
out to receive her. The dear girl ran to meet her, threw herself at her
feet, and embraced her knees.
"Why such humility?" said Charlotte, a little embarrassed, and
endeavoring to raise her from the ground.
"It is not meant for humility," Ottilie answered, without moving from
the position in which she had placed herself; "I am only thinking of the
time when I could not reach higher than to your knees, and when I had
just learnt to know how you loved me."
She stood up, and Charlotte embraced her warmly. She was introduced to
the gentlemen, and was at once treated with especial courtesy as a
visitor. Beauty is a welcome guest everywhere. She appeared attentive to
the conversation, without taking a part in it.
The next morning Edward said to Charlotte, "What an agreeable,
entertaining girl she is!"
"Entertaining!" answered Charlotte, with a smile; "why, she has not
opened her lips yet!"
"Indeed!" said Edward, as he seemed to bethink himself; "that is very
Charlotte had to give the new-comer but a very few hints on the
management of the household. Ottilie saw rapidly all the arrangements,
and what was more, she felt them. She comprehended easily what was to be
provided for the whole party, and what for each particular member of it.
Everything was done with the utmost punctuality; she knew how to direct,
without appearing to be giving orders, and when any one had left
anything undone, she at once set it right herself.
As soon as she had found how much time she would have to spare, she
begged Charlotte to divide her hours for her, and to these she adhered
exactly. She worked at what was set before her in the way which the
Assistant had described to Charlotte. They let her alone. It was but
seldom that Charlotte interfered. Sometimes she changed her pens for
others which had been written with, to teach her to make bolder strokes
in her handwriting, but these, she found, would be soon cut sharp and
The ladies had agreed with one another when they were alone to speak
nothing but French, and Charlotte persisted in it the more, as she found
Ottilie more ready to talk in a foreign language, when she was told it
was her duty to exercise herself in it. In this way she often said more
than she seemed to intend. Charlotte was particularly pleased with a
description, most complete, but at the same time most charming and
amiable, which she gave her one day, by accident, of the school. She
soon felt her to be a delightful companion, and before long she hoped to
find in her an attached friend.
At the same time she looked over again the more early accounts which had
been sent her of Ottilie, to refresh her recollection with the opinion
which the Superior and the Assistant had formed about her, and compare
them with her in her own person. For Charlotte was of opinion that we
cannot too quickly become acquainted with the character of those with
whom we have to live, that we may know what to expect of them; where we
may hope to do anything in the way of improvement with them, and what
we must make up our minds, once for all, to tolerate and let alone.
[Illustration: CHARLOTTE RECEIVES OTTILIE]
This examination led her to nothing new, indeed; but much which she
already knew became of greater meaning and importance. Ottilie's
moderation in eating and drinking, for instance, became a real distress
The next thing on which the ladies were employed was Ottilie's toilet.
Charlotte wished her to appear in clothes of a richer and more
_recherche_ sort, and at once the clever active girl herself cut out the
stuff which had been previously sent to her, and with a very little
assistance from others was able, in a short time, to dress herself out
most tastefully. The new fashionable dresses set off her figure. An
agreeable person, it is true, will show through all disguises; but we
always fancy it looks fresher and more graceful when its peculiarities
appear under some new drapery. And thus, from the moment of her first
appearance, she became more and more a delight to the eyes of all who
beheld her. As the emerald refreshes the sight with its beautiful hues,
and exerts, it is said, a beneficent influence on that noble sense, so
does human beauty work with far larger potency on the outward and on the
inward sense; whoever looks upon it is charmed against the breath of
evil, and feels in harmony with himself and with the world.
In many ways, therefore, the party had gained by Ottilie's arrival. The
Captain and Edward kept regularly to the hours, even to the minutes, for
their general meeting together. They never kept the others waiting for
them either for dinner or tea, or for their walks; and they were in less
haste, especially in the evenings, to leave the table. This did not
escape Charlotte's observation; she watched them both, to see whether
one more than the other was the occasion of it. But she could not
perceive any difference. They had both become more companionable. In
their conversation they seemed to consider what was best adapted to
interest Ottilie; what was most on a level with her capacities and her
general knowledge. If she left the room when they were reading or
telling stories, they would wait till she returned. They had grown
softer and altogether more united.
In return for this, Ottilie's anxiety to be of use increased every day;
the more she came to understand the house, its inmates, and their
circumstances, the more eagerly she entered into everything, caught
every look and every motion; half a word, a sound, was enough for her.
With her calm attentiveness, and her easy, unexcited activity, she was
always the same. Sitting, rising up, going, coming, fetching, carrying,
returning to her place again, it was all in the most perfect repose; a
constant change, a constant agreeable movement; while, at the same time,
she went about so lightly that her step was almost inaudible.
This cheerful obligingness in Ottilie gave Charlotte the greatest
pleasure. There was one thing, however, which she did not exactly like,
of which she had to speak to her. "It is very polite in you," she said
one day to her, "when people let anything fall from their hand, to be so
quick in stooping and picking it up for them; at the same time, it is a
sort of confession that they have a right to require such attention, and
in the world we are expected to be careful to whom we pay it. Toward
women, I will not prescribe any rule as to how you should conduct
yourself. You are young. To those above you, and older than you,
services of this sort are a duty; toward your equals they are polite; to
those younger than yourself and your inferiors you may show yourself
kind and good-natured by such things--only it is not becoming in a young
lady to do them for men."
"I will try to forget the habit," replied Ottilie; "I think, however,
you will in the meantime forgive me for my want of manners, when I tell
you how I came by it. We were taught history at school; I have not
gained as much out of it as I ought, for I never knew what use I was to
make of it; a few little things, however, made a deep impression upon
me, among which was the following: When Charles the First of England
was standing before his so-called judges, the gold top came off the
stick which he had in his hand, and fell down. Accustomed as he had been
on such occasions to have everything done for him, he seemed to look
around and expect that this time too some one would do him this little
service. No one stirred, and he stooped down for it himself. It struck
me as so piteous, that from that moment I have never been able to see
any one let a thing fall, without myself picking it up. But, of course,
as it is not always proper, and as I cannot," she continued, smiling,
"tell my story every time I do it, in future I will try to contain
In the meantime the fine arrangements which the two friends had been led
to make for themselves, went uninterruptedly forward. Every day they
found something new to think about and undertake.
One day as they were walking together through the village, they had to
remark with dissatisfaction how far behind-hand it was in order and
cleanliness, compared to villages where the inhabitants were compelled
by the expense of building-ground to be careful about such things.
"You remember a wish we once expressed when we were traveling in
Switzerland together," said the Captain, "that we might have the laying
out of some country park, and how beautiful we would make it by
introducing into some village situated like this, not the Swiss style of
building, but the Swiss order and neatness which so much improve it."
"And how well it would answer here! The hill on which the castle stands,
slopes down to that projecting angle. The village, you see, is built in
a semicircle, regularly enough, just opposite to it. The brook runs
between. It is liable to floods; and do observe the way the people set
about protecting themselves from them; one with stones, another with
stakes; the next puts up a boarding, and a fourth tries beams and
planks; no one, of course, doing any good to another with his
arrangement, but only hurting himself and the rest too. And then there
is the road going along just in the clumsiest way possible,--up hill and
down, through the water, and over the stones. If the people would only
lay their hands to the business together, it would cost them nothing but
a little labor to run a semi-circular wall along here, take the road in
behind it, raising it to the level of the houses, and so give themselves
a fair open space in front, making the whole place clean, and getting
rid, once for all, in one good general work, of all their little
trifling ineffectual makeshifts."
"Let us try it," said the Captain, as he ran his eyes over the lay of
the ground, and saw quickly what was to be done.
"I can undertake nothing in company with peasants and shopkeepers,"
replied Edward, "unless I may have unrestricted authority over them."
"You are not so wrong in that," returned the Captain; "I have
experienced too much trouble myself in life in matters of that kind. How
difficult it is to prevail on a man to venture boldly on making a
sacrifice for an after-advantage! How hard to get him to desire an end,
and not hesitate at the means! So many people confuse means with ends;
they keep hanging over the first, without having the other before their
eyes. Every evil is to be cured at the place where it comes to the
surface, and they will not trouble themselves to look for the cause
which produces it, or the remote effect which results from it. This is
why it is so difficult to get advice listened to, especially among the
many: they can see clearly enough from day to day, but their scope
seldom reaches beyond the morrow; and if it comes to a point where with
some general arrangement one person will gain while another will lose,
there is no prevailing on them to strike a balance. Works of public
advantage can be carried through only by an uncontrolled absolute
While they were standing and talking, a man came up and begged of them.
He looked more impudent than really in want, and Edward, who was
annoyed at being interrupted, after two or three fruitless attempts to
get rid of him by a gentler refusal, spoke sharply to him. The fellow
began to grumble and mutter abusively; he went off with short steps,
talking about the right of beggars. It was all very well to refuse them
an alms, but that was no reason why they should be insulted. A beggar,
and everybody else too, was as much under God's protection as a lord. It
put Edward out of all patience.
The Captain, to pacify him, said, "Let us make use of this as an
occasion for extending our rural police arrangements to such cases. We
are bound to give away money, but we do better in not giving it in
person, especially at home. We should be moderate and uniform in
everything, in our charities as in all else; too great liberality
attracts beggars instead of helping them on their way. At the same time
there is no harm when one is on a journey, or passing through a strange
place, in appearing to a poor man in the street in the form of a chance
deity of fortune and making him some present which shall surprise him.
The position of the village and of the castle makes it easy for us to
put our charities here on a proper footing. I have thought about it
before. The public-house is at one end of the village, a respectable old
couple live at the other. At each of these places deposit a small sum of
money, and let every beggar, not as he comes in, but as he goes out,
receive something. Both houses lie on the roads which lead to the
castle, so that any one who goes there can be referred to one or the
"Come," said Edward, "we will settle that on the spot. The exact sum can
be made up another time."
They went to the innkeeper, and to the old couple and the thing was
"I know very well," Edward said, as they were walking up the hill to the
castle together, "that everything in this world depends on distinctness
of idea and firmness of purpose. Your judgment of what my wife has been
doing in the park was entirely right; and you have already given me a
hint how it might be improved. I will not deny that I told her of it."
"So I have been led to suspect," replied the Captain; "and I could not
approve of your having done so. You have perplexed her. She has left off
doing anything; and on this one subject she is vexed with us. She avoids
speaking of it. She has never since invited us to go with her to the
summer-house, although at odd hours she goes up there with Ottilie."