The World's Greatest Books, Vol IV.
Editors: Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton
Part 5 out of 6
But Miss Jessie was not long left alone. Miss Jenkyns insisted she
should come and stay with her, and would not hear of her going out into
the world to earn her living as a saleswoman. "Some people have no idea
of their rank as a captain's daughter," she related indignantly, and
stumped out of the room. Presently she came back with a strange look on
"I have been much startled--no, I've not been startled--don't mind me,
my dear Miss Jessie, only surprised--in fact, I've had a caller whom you
once knew, my dear Miss Jessie."
Miss Jessie went very white, then flushed scarlet.
"Is it?--it is not----" stammered out Miss Jessie, and got no farther.
"This is his card," said Miss Jenkyns, and went through a series of
winks and odd faces at me, and formed a long sentence with her lips, of
which I could not understand a word.
Major Gordon was shown upstairs.
While downstairs Miss Jenkyns told me what the major had told her. How
he had served in the same regiment as Captain Brown and had fallen in
love with Miss Jessie, then a sweet-looking, blooming girl of eighteen;
how she had refused him, though obviously not indifferent to him; how he
had discovered the obstacle to be the fell disease which had stricken
her sister, whom there was no one to nurse and comfort but herself; how
he had believed her cold and had left in anger; and finally how he had
read of the death of Captain Brown in a foreign newspaper.
Just then Miss Matty burst into the room.
"Oh, Deborah," she said, "there's a gentleman sitting in the drawing-
room with his arm round Miss Jessie's waist!"
"The most proper place for his arm to be in. Go, Matilda, and mind your
Poor Miss Matty! This was a shock, coming from her decorous sister.
Thus happiness, and with it some of her early bloom, returned to Miss
Jessie, and as Mrs. Gordon her dimples were not out of place.
My visits to Cranford continued for many years, and did not cease even
after the death of Miss Jenkyns.
Miss Matty became my new hostess. At first I rather dreaded the changed
aspect of things. Miss Matty, too, began to cry as soon as she saw me.
She was evidently nervous from having anticipated my visit. I comforted
her as well as I could, and I found the best consolation I could give
was the honest praise that came from my heart as I spoke of the
Miss Matty made me her confidante in many matters, and one evening she
sent Martha to go for eggs at a farm at the other end of the town and
told me the story of her brother.
"Poor Peter! The sole honour he brought from Shrewsbury was the
reputation of being captain of the school in the art of practical
joking. He even thought that the people of Cranford might be hoaxed.
'Hoaxing' is not a pretty word, my dear, and I hope you won't tell your
father I used it, for I should not like him to think I was not choice in
my language, after living with such a woman as Deborah. I don't know how
it slipped out of my mouth, except it was that I was thinking of poor
Peter, and it was always his expression.
"One day my father had gone to see some sick people in the village.
Deborah, too, was away from home for a fortnight or so. I don't know
what possessed poor Peter, but he went to her room and dressed himself
in her old gown and shawl and bonnet. And he made the pillow into a
little--you are sure you locked the door, my dear?--into--into a little
baby with white long clothes. And he went and walked up and down in the
Filbert Walk--just half hidden by the rails and half seen; and he
cuddled the pillow just like a baby and talked to it all the nonsense
people do. Oh, dear, and my father came stepping stately up the street,
as he always did, and pushing past the crowd saw--I don't know what he
saw--but old Clare said his face went grey-white with anger. He seized
hold of poor Peter, tore the clothes off his back--bonnet, shawl, gown,
and all--threw them among the crowd, and before all the people lifted up
his cane and flogged Peter.
"My dear, that boy's trick on that sunny day, when all promised so well,
broke my mother's heart and changed my father for life. Old Clare said
Peter looked as white as my father and stood still as a statue to be
"'Have you done enough, sir?' he asked hoarsely, when my father stopped.
Then Peter bowed grandly to the people outside the railing and walked
slowly home. He went straight to his mother, looking as haughty as any
man, and not like a boy.
"'Mother,' he said, 'I am come to say "God bless you for ever."'
"He would say no more, and by the time my mother had found out what had
happened from my father, and had gone to her boy's room to comfort him,
he had gone, and did not come back. That spring day was the last time he
ever saw his mother's face. He wrote a passionate entreaty to her to
come and see him before his ship left the Mersey for the war, but the
letter was delayed, and when she arrived it was too late. It killed my
mother. And think, my dear, the day after her death--for she did not
live a twelve-month after Peter left--came a parcel from India from her
poor boy. It was a large, soft white India shawl. Just what my mother
would have liked.
"We took it to my father in the hopes it would rouse him, for he had sat
with her hand in his all night long. At first he took no notice of it.
Then suddenly he got up and spoke. 'She shall be buried in it,' he said.
'Peter shall have that comfort; and she would have liked it.'"
"Did Mr. Peter ever come home?"
"Yes, once. He came home a lieutenant. And he and my father were such
friends. My father was so proud to show him to all the neighbours. He
never walked out without Peter's arm to lean on. And then Peter went to
sea again, and by-and-by my father died, blessing us both and thanking
Deborah for all she had been to him. And our circumstances were changed,
and from a big rectory with three servants we had come down to a small
house with a servant-of-all-work. But, as Deborah used to say, we have
always lived genteelly, even if circumstances have compelled us to
simplicity. Poor Deborah!"
"And Mr. Peter?" I asked.
"Oh, there was some great war in India, and we have never heard of Peter
since then. I believe he is dead myself. Sometimes when I sit by myself
and the house is quiet, I think I hear his step coming up the street,
and my heart begins to flutter and beat; but the sound goes, and Peter
never comes back."
_IV.--Friends in Need_
The years rolled on. I spent my time between Drumble and Cranford. I was
thankful that I happened to be staying with Miss Matty when the Town and
County Bank failed, which had such a disastrous effect on her little
It was an example to me, and I fancy it might be to many others, to see
how immediately Miss Matty set about the retrenchment she knew to be
right under her altered circumstances. I did the little I could. Some
months back a conjuror had given a performance in the Cranford Assembly
Rooms. By a strange set of circumstances the identity of Signor Brunoni
was revealed. He was plain Samuel Brown, who had fallen out of his cart
and had to be attended by our doctor. I went to visit the patient and
his wife, and learned that she had been India. She told me a long story
about being befriended, after a perilous journey, by a kind Englishman
who lived right in the midst of the natives. It was his name which
astonished me. Agra Jenkyns.
Could Agra Jenkyns be the long lost Peter? I resolved to say nothing to
Miss Matty, but got the address from the signor (as we still called him
from habit), spelt by sound, and very queer it looked, and posted a
letter to him.
All sorts of plans were discussed for Miss Matty's future. I thought of
all the things by which a woman, past middle age, and with the education
common to ladies fifty years ago, could earn or add to a living without
materially losing caste; but at length I put even this last clause on
one side, and wondered what in the world Miss Matty could do. Even
teaching was out of the question, for, reckoning over her
accomplishments, I had to come down to reading, writing, and
arithmetic--and in reading the chapter every morning she always coughed
before coming to long words.
I was still in a quandary the next morning, when I received a letter
from Miss Pole, so mysteriously wrapped up and with so many seals on it
to secure secrecy that I had to tear the paper before I could unfold it.
It summoned me to go to Miss Pole at 11 a.m., the a.m. twice dashed
under as if I were likely to come at eleven at night, when all Cranford
was usually abed and asleep by ten. I went and found Miss Pole dressed
in solemn array, though there were only Mrs. Forrester, crying quietly
and sadly, and Mrs. FitzAdam present. Miss Pole was armed with a card,
on which I imagine she had written some notes.
"Miss Smith," she began, when I entered (I was familiarly known to all
Cranford as Mary, but this was a state occasion), "I have conversed in
private with these ladies on the misfortune which has happened to our
friend, and one and all have agreed that while we have a superfluity, it
is not only a duty but a pleasure--a true pleasure, Mary!"--her voice
was rather choked just here, and she had to wipe her spectacles before
she could go on--"to give what we can to assist her--Miss Matilda
Jenkyns. Only in consideration of the feelings of delicate independence
existing in the mind of every refined female"--I was sure she had got
back to the card--"we wish to contribute our mites in a secret and
concealed manner, so as not to hurt the feelings I have referred to."
Well, the upshot of this solemn meeting was that each of those dear old
ladies wrote down the sum she could afford annually, signed the paper
and sealed it mysteriously, and I was commissioned to get my father to
administer the fund in such a manner that Miss Jenkyns should imagine
the money came from her own improved investments.
As I was going, Mrs. Forrester took me aside, and in the manner of one
confessing a great crime the poor old lady told me how very, very little
she had to live on--a confession she was brought to make from a dread
lest we should think that the small contribution named in her paper bore
any proportion to her love and regard for Miss Mary. And yet that sum
which she so eagerly relinquished was, in truth, more than a twentieth
part of what she had to live on. And when the whole income does not
nearly amount to a hundred pounds, to give up a twentieth of it will
necessitate many careful economies and many pieces of self-denial--small
and insignificant in the world's account, but bearing a different value
in another account book that I have heard of.
The upshot of it all was that dear Miss Matty was comfortably installed
in her own house, and added to her slender income by selling tea! This
last was my idea, and it was a proud moment for me when it realized. The
small dining-room was converted into a shop, without any of its
degrading characteristics, a table formed the counter, one window was
retained unaltered and the other changed into a glass door, and there
she was. Tea was certainly a happy commodity, as it was neither greasy
nor sticky, grease and stickiness being two of the qualities which Miss
Matty could not endure. Moreover, as Miss Matty said, one good thing
about it was that men did not buy it, and it was of men particularly she
was afraid. They had such sharp, loud ways with them, and did up
accounts and counted their change so quickly.
Very little remains to be told. The approval of the Honourable Mrs.
Jamieson set the seal upon the successful career of Miss Matty as a
purveyor of tea. Thus did she escape even the shadow of "vulgarity."
One afternoon I was sitting in the shop parlour with Miss Matty, when we
saw a gentleman go slowly past the window and then stand opposite to the
door, as if looking out for the name which we had so carefully hidden.
His clothes had an out-of-the-way foreign cut, and it flashed across me
it was the Agra himself! He entered.
Miss Matty looked at him, and something of tender relaxation in his face
struck home to her heart. She said: "It is--oh, sir, can you be Peter?"
and trembled from head to foot. In a moment he had her in his arms,
sobbing the tearless cries of old age.
* * * * *
"Mary Barton," although not Mrs. Gaskell's first attempt at
authorship, was her first literary success; and although her
later writings revealed a gain in skill, subtlety and humour,
none of them equalled "Mary Barton" in dramatic intensity and
fervent sincerity. This passionate tale of the sorrows of the
Manchester poor, given to the world anonymously in the year
1848, was greeted with a storm of mingled approval and
disapproval. It was praised by Carlyle and Landor, but some
critics attacked it fiercely as a slander on the Manchester
manufacturers, and there were admirers who complained that it
was too heartrending. The controversy has long since died
down, but the book holds a permanent place in literature as a
vivid revelation of a dark and painful phase of English life
in the middle of the last century.
_I.--Rich and Poor_
"Mary," said John Barton to his daughter, "what's come o'er thee and Jem
Wilson? You were great friends at one time."
"Oh, folk say he is going to be married to Molly Gibson," answered Mary,
as indifferently as she could.
"Thou'st played thy cards badly, then," replied her father in a surly
tone. "At one time he were much fonder o' thee than thou deservedst."
"That's as people think," said Mary pertly, for she remembered that the
very morning before, when on her way to her dressmaking work, she had
met Mr. Harry Carson, who had sighed, and sworn and protested all manner
of tender vows. Mr. Harry Carson was the son and the idol of old Mr.
Carson, the wealthy mill-owner. Jem Wilson, her old playmate, and the
son of her father's, closest friend, although he had earned a position
of trust at the foundry where he worked, was but a mechanic after all!
Mary was ambitious; she knew that she had beauty; she believed that when
young Mr. Carson declared he meant to marry her he spoke the truth.
It so happened that Jem, after much anxious thought, had determined that
day to "put his fortune to the touch." Just after John Barton had gone
out, Jem appeared at the door, looking more awkward and abashed than he
had ever done before.
He thought he had better begin at once.
"Mary, it's no new story I'm going to speak about. Since we were boy and
girl I ha' loved you above father and mother and all. And now, Mary, I'm
foreman at the works, and I've a home to offer you, and a heart as true
as ever man had to love you and cherish you. Darling, say that you'll be
Mary could not speak at once.
"Mary, they say, silence gives consent," he whispered.
"No, not with me! I can never be your wife."
"Oh, Mary, think awhile!" he urged.
"Jem, it cannot be," she said calmly, although she trembled from head to
foot. "Once for all, I will never marry you."
"And this is the end!" he cried passionately. "Mary, you'll hear, maybe,
of me as a drunkard, and maybe as a thief, and maybe as a murderer.
Remember! it's your cruelty that will have made me what I feel I shall
He rushed out of the house.
When he had gone, Mary lay half across the dresser, her head hidden in
her hands, and her body shaken with violent sobs. For these few minutes
had unveiled her heart to her; it had convinced her that she loved Jem
above all persons or things. What were the wealth and prosperity that
Mr. Harry Carson might bring to her now that she had suddenly discovered
the passionate secret of her soul?
Her first duty, she saw, was to reject the advances of her rich lover.
She avoided him as far as possible, and slighted him when he forced his
presence upon her. And how was she to redress the wrong she had done to
Jem in denying him her heart? She took counsel with her friend,
Margaret Legh. When Mary had first known Margaret and her grandfather,
Job Legh--an old man who belonged to the class of Manchester workmen who
are warm and devoted followers of science, a man whose home was like a
wizard's dwelling, filled with impaled insects and books and
instruments--Margaret had a secret fear of blindness. The fear had since
been realised, but she remained the quiet, sensible, tender-hearted girl
she had been before her great deprivation. She opposed Mary's notion of
writing a letter to Jem.
"You must just wait and be patient," she advised; "being patient is the
hardest work we have to do through life, I take it. Waiting is far more
difficult than doing; but it's one of God's lessons we must learn, one
way or another."
So Mary waited. But Jem took his disappointment as final, and her hopes
of seeing him were always baffled.
John Barton, on the night of Jem's proposal, had gone to his union. The
members of the union were all desperate men, ready for anything; made
ready by want. Barton himself was out of work. He had seen much of the
bitterness of poverty in Manchester; now he was feeling the pinch of it
Ever since the death of his wife, whose end had been hastened by the
sudden and complete disappearance of her darling sister Esther, the wan
colourlessness of his face had been intensified; his stern enthusiasm,
once latent, had become visible; his heart, tenderer than ever towards
the victims of the misery around him, grew harder towards the employers,
whom he believed to be the cause of that misery. Trade grew worse, but
there was no sign that the masters were suffering; they still had their
carriages and their comforts; the woe in these terrible years 1839,
1840, and 1841 seemed to fall wholly upon the poor. It is impossible
even faintly to picture the state of distress which prevailed in
Manchester at that time. Whole families went through a gradual
starvation; John Barton saw them starve, saw fathers and mothers and
children die of low, putrid fever in foetid cellars, and cursed the rich
men who never extended a helping hand to the sufferers.
"Working folk won't be ground to the dust much longer," he declared.
"We'n ha' had as much to bear as human nature can bear."
Fiercer grew he, and more sullen. Darker and darker were the schemes he
brooded over in his desolate home, or discussed with others at the
meetings of the union. Even Mary did not escape his ill-temper. Once he
struck her. And yet Mary was the one being on earth he devotedly loved.
What would he have thought had he known that his daughter had listened
to the voice of an employer's son? But he did not know.
One night, as Jem was leaving the foundry, a woman laid her hand upon
his arm. A momentary glance at the faded finery she wore told him the
class to which she belonged, and he made an effort to pass on. But she
grasped him firmly.
"You must listen to me, Jem Wilson," she said, "for Mary Barton's sake."
"And who can you be to know Mary Barton?" he exclaimed.
"Do you remember Esther, Mary's aunt?"
'"Yes, I mind her well." He looked into her face. "Why, Esther! Where
have ye been this many a year?"
She answered with fierce earnestness, "Where have I been? What have I
been doing? Can you not guess? See after Mary, and take care she does
not become like me. As she is loving now, so did I love once--one above
Jem cut her short with his hoarse, stern inquiry, "Who is this spark
that Mary loves?"
"It's old Carson's son." Then, after a pause, she continued, "Oh, Jem, I
charge you with the care of her! Her father won't listen to me." She
cried a little at the recollection of John Barton's harsh words when she
had timidly tried to approach him. "It would be better for her to die
than to live to lead such a life as I do!"
"It would be better," said Jem, as if thinking aloud. Then he went on.
"Esther, you may trust to my doing all I can for Mary. And now, listen.
Come home with me. Come to my mother."
"God bless you, Jem!" she replied. "But it is too late now--too late!"
She rapidly turned away. Jem felt that the great thing was to reach home
and solitude. His heart was filled with jealous anguish. Mary loved
another! She was lost to him for evermore. A frenzied longing for blood
entered his mind as he brooded that night over his loss. But at last the
thought of duty brought peace to his soul. If Carson loved Mary, Carson
must marry her. It was Jem's part to speak straightforwardly to Carson,
to be unto Mary as a brother.
Four days later his opportunity came. He met Carson in an unfrequented
"May I speak a word wi' you, sir?" said Jem respectfully.
"Certainly, my good man," replied Harry Carson.
"I think, sir, you're keeping company wi' Mary Barton?"
"Mary Barton! Ay, that is her name. An arrant flirt the little hussy is,
but very pretty."
"I will tell you in plain words," said Jem, angered, "what I have got to
say to you. I'm an old friend of Mary's and her father's, and I want to
know if you mean fair by Mary or not."
"You will have the kindness to leave us to ourselves," answered Carson
contemptuously. "No one shall interfere between my little girl and me.
Get out of my way! Won't you? Then I'll make you!"
He raised his cane, and smote the mechanic on his face. An instant
afterwards he lay stretched in the muddy road, Jem standing over him,
panting with rage. Just then a policeman, who had been watching them
unobserved, interfered with expostulations and warnings.
"If you dare to injure her," shouted Jem, as he was dragged away, "I
will wait you where no policeman can step in between. And God shall
judge between us two!"
* * * * *
The mill-workers had struck against low wages. Five haggard, earnest-
looking men had presented the workpeople's demands to the assembled
mill-owners, and the demands had been rejected. None had been fiercer in
opposing the delegates, none more bitter in mockery of their rags and
leanness, than the son of old Mr. Carson.
That evening, starved, irritated, despairing men gathered to hear the
delegates tell of their failure.
"It's the masters as has wrought this woe," said John Barton in a low
voice. "It's the masters as should pay for it. Set me to serve out the
masters, and see if there's aught I'll stick at!"
Deeper and darker grew the import of the speeches as the men stood
hoarsely muttering their meaning out with set teeth and livid looks.
After a fierce and terrible oath had been sworn, a number of pieces of
paper, one of them marked, were shuffled in a hat. The gas was
extinguished; each drew a paper. The gas was re-lighted. Each examined
his paper, with a countenance as immovable as he could make it. Then
they went every one his own way.
He who had drawn the marked paper had drawn the lot of the assassin. And
no one, save God and his own conscience, knew who was the appointed
Two nights later, Barton was to leave for Glasgow, whither he was to
travel as delegate to entreat assistance for the strikers. "What could
be the matter with him?" thought Mary. He was so restless; he seemed so
Presently he rose, and in a short, cold manner bade her farewell. She
stood at the door, looking after him, her eyes blinded with tears. He
was so strange, so cold, so hard. Suddenly he came back, and took her in
"God in heaven bless thee, Mary!"
She threw her arms round his neck. He kissed her, unlaced her soft,
twining arms, and set off on his errand.
When Mary reached the dressmaker's next morning, she noticed that the
girls stopped talking. They eyed her! then they began to whisper. At
last one of them asked her if she had heard the news.
"No! What news?" she answered.
"Have you not heard that young Mr. Carson was murdered last night?"
Mary could not speak, but no one who looked at her pale and
terror-stricken face could have doubted that she had not heard before of
the fearful occurrence.
She felt throughout the day as if the haunting horror were a nightmare
from which awakening would relieve her. Everybody was full of the one
In the evening she went to Mrs. Wilson's, hoping that at last she might
see Jem. But here a new and terrible shock awaited her.
Mrs. Wilson turned fiercely upon her.
"And is it thee that dares set foot in this house, after what has come
to pass? Dost thou know where my son is, all through thee?"
"No," quivered out poor Mary.
"He's lying in prison, waiting to take his trial for murdering young Mr.
So, indeed, it was. At the inquest the policeman who had witnessed the
quarrel between the rivals testified to the threats uttered by Jem; and
the gun used by the murderer, and thrown away by him in his haste to
escape, had been proved to be Jem's property.
Jem an assassin, and because of her! In the agony of that night Mary saw
the gallows standing black against the burning light which dazzled her
shut eyes, press on them as she would. She thought she was going mad;
then Heaven blessed her unawares, and she sank to sleep.
She was awakened by the coming of a visitor. It was her long-lost,
unrecognised aunt Esther, who had come to her niece bringing her a
little piece of paper compressed into a round shape. It was the paper
that had served as wadding for the murderer's gun. Esther had picked it
up while wandering in curiosity about the scene of the murder. There was
writing on the paper, and she had brought it to Mary, fearing that if it
fell into the hands of the police it would provide more evidence against
The paper told Mary everything. It had belonged to John Barton. Jem was
innocent, and her own father was the murderer! Jem must be saved, and
she must do it; for was she not the sole repository of the terrible
secret? And how could she prove Jem's innocence without admitting her
When she could think calmly, she realised that she must discover where
Jem had been on the Thursday night when the murder had been committed.
Tremblingly she went to Mrs. Wilson, and learnt what she wanted to know.
Jem had walked towards Liverpool with his cousin Will, a sailor who had
spent all his money in Manchester, and could not afford railway-fare.
Will's ship was to sail on Tuesday, and on Tuesday Jem was to be tried
at the Liverpool assizes.
Job Legh engaged a lawyer to defend Jem, and Mary prepared to go to
Liverpool to find the one man whose evidence could save her lover. Ere
she left, a policeman brought her a bit of parchment. Her heart misgave
her as she took it; she guessed its purport. It was a summons to bear
witness against Jem Wilson at the assizes.
Arrived at Liverpool on Monday, after the bewilderment of a railway
journey--the first she had ever made--Mary found her way to the little
court, not far from the docks, were Jem's sailor cousin lodged.
"Is Will Wilson here?" she asked the landlady.
"No, he is not," replied the woman, curtly.
"Tell me--where he is?" asked Mary, sickening.
"He's gone this very morning, my poor dear," answered the landlady,
relenting at the sight of Mary's obvious distress. "He's sailed, my
dear--sailed in the John Cropper this very blessed morning!"
Mary staggered into the house, stricken into hopelessness. Yet hope was
not dead. The landlady's son told her that the John Cropper would be
waiting for high-water to cross the sandbanks at the river's mouth, and
that there was a chance that a sailing-boat might overtake the vessel.
Mary hurried down to the docks, spent every penny she had in hiring a
boat, and presently was tossing on the water for the first time in her
life, alone with two rough men.
The boatmen hailed the John Cropper just as the crew were heaving
anchor, and told their errand. The captain refused with a dreadful oath
to stop his ship for anyone, whoever swung for it. But Will Wilson,
standing at the stern, shouted through his hands, "So help me God, Mary
Barton, I'll come back in the pilot-boat time enough to save his life!"
As the ship receded in the distance, Mary asked anxiously when the
pilot-boat would be back. The boatmen did not know; it might be twelve
hours, it might be two days. A chance yet remained, but she could no
longer hope. When she reached the landing-place, faint and penniless,
one of the boatmen took her to his home, and there she sat sleeplessly
awaiting the dawn of the day of trial.
When she entered the witness-box next day, the whole court reeled before
her, save two figures only--that of the judge and that of the prisoner.
Jem sat silent--he had held his peace ever since his arrest--with his
face bowed on his hands.
Mary answered a few questions with a sort of wonder at the reality of
the terrible circumstances in which she was placed.
"And pray, may I ask, which was the favoured lover?" went on the
A look of indignation for an instant contracted Mary's brow. She was
aware that Jem had raised his head and was gazing at her. Turning
towards the judge, she said steadily, "Perhaps I liked Mr. Harry Carson
once; but I loved James Wilson beyond what tongue can tell. When he
asked me to marry him, I was very hard in my answer; but he'd not been
gone out of my sight above a minute before I knew I loved him--far above
After these words the prisoner's head was no longer bowed. He stood
erect and firm, with self-respect in his attitude; yet he seemed lost in
But Will Wilson did not come, and the evidence against Jem grew stronger
and stronger. Mary was flushed and anxious, muttering to herself in a
wild, restless manner. Job Legh heard her repeat again and again, "I
must not go mad; I must not!"
Suddenly she threw up her arms and shrieked aloud: "Oh, Jem! Jem! You're
saved! and I am mad!" and was carried out of court stiff and convulsed.
And as they bore her off, a sailor forced his way over rails and seats,
through turnkeys and policemen. Will Wilson had come in time.
He told his tale clearly and distinctly; the efforts of the prosecution
to shake him were useless. "Not guilty" was the verdict that thrilled
through the breathless court. One man sank back in his seat in sickening
despair. The vengeance that old Mr. Carson had longed to compass for the
murder of his beloved boy was thwarted; he had been cheated of the
desire that now ruled his life--the desire of blood for blood.
_V.--"Forgive Us Our Trespasses_"
For many days Mary hovered between life and death, and it was long ere
she could make the journey back to Manchester under the tender care of
the man who now knew she loved him. Not until she had recovered did he
tell her that he had lost his situation at the foundry--the men refused
to work under one who had been tried for murder--and that he was looking
for work elsewhere.
"Mary," he asked, "art thou much bound to Manchester? Would it grieve
thee sore to quit the old smoke-jack?"
"With thee?" was her quiet response.
"I've heard fine things of Canada. Thou knowest where Canada is, Mary?"
"Not rightly--but with thee, Jem"--her voice sank to a
whisper--"anywhere." Then, after a pause, she added, "But father!"
John Barton was smitten, helpless, very near to death. His face was sunk
and worn--like a skull, with yet a suffering expression that skulls have
not! Crime and all had been forgotten by his daughter when she saw him;
fondly did she serve him in every way that heart could devise.
Jem had known from the first that Barton was the murderer of Harry
Carson. Several days before the murder Barton had borrowed Jem's gun,
and Jem had seen the truth at the moment of his arrest. When Mary came
to tell him that her father wished to speak to him, Jem could not guess
what was before him, and did not try to guess.
When they entered the room, Mary saw all at a glance. Her father stood
holding on to a chair as if for support. Behind him sat Job Legh,
listening; before him stood the stern figure of Mr. Carson.
"Don't dare to think that I shall be merciful; you shall be
hanged--hanged--man!" said Mr. Carson, with slow, emphasis.
"I've had far, far worse misery than hanging!" cried Barton. "Sir, one
word! My hairs are grey with suffering."
"And have I had no suffering?" interrupted Mr. Carson. "Is not my boy
gone--killed--out of my sight for ever? He was my sunshine, and now it
is night! Oh, my God! comfort me, comfort me!" cried the old man aloud.
Barton lay across the table broken-hearted. "God knows I didn't know
what I was doing," he whispered. "Oh, sir," he said wildly, "say you
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us,"
said Job solemnly.
Mr. Carson took his hands from his face.
"Let my trespasses be unforgiven, so that I may have vengeance for my
John Barton lay on the ground as one dead.
When Mr. Carson had left the house, he leant against a railing to steady
himself, for he was dizzy with agitation. He looked up to the calm,
majestic depths of the heavens, and by-and-by the last words he had
spoken returned upon him, as if they were being echoed through all that
infinite space in tones of unutterable sorrow. He went homewards; not to
the police-office. All night long, the archangel combated with the demon
in his soul.
All night long, others watched by the bed of death. As morning dawned,
Barton grew worse; his breathing seemed almost stopped. Jem had gone to
the druggist's, and Mary cried out for assistance to raise her father.
A step, which was not Jem's, came up the stairs. Mr. Carson stood in the
doorway. He raised up the powerless frame, and the departing soul looked
out of the eyes with gratitude.
"Pray for us!" cried Mary, sinking on her knees.
"God be merciful to us sinners," was Mr. Carson's prayer. "Forgive us
our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us."
And when the words were said, John Barton lay a corpse in Mr. Carson's
* * * * *
At the door of a long, low wooden house stands Mary, watching the return
of her husband from his work.
Her baby boy, in his grandmother's arms, sees him come with a crow of
"English letters!" cries Jem. "Guess the good news!"
"Oh, tell me!" says Mary.
"Margaret has recovered her sight. She and Will are to be married, and
he's bringing her out here to Canada; and Job Legh talks of coming,
too--not to see you, Mary, but to try and pick up a few specimens of
"Dear Job Legh!" said Mary, softly.
* * * * *
William Godwin, the son of a dissenting parson, was a man of
remarkable gifts and the father of the poet Shelley's second
wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (see Vol. VII). Born at
Wisbeach, England, March 3, 1756, he served for five years,
1778-83, as a Nonconformist minister, and then going to
London, joined the leading Whig circle of the day, and turned
his attention to political writings. His "Political Justice,"
though little read to-day, had a great number of readers and
considerable influence a hundred years ago. "Things as They
Are, or the Adventures of Caleb Williams," published in 1794,
has a philosophical significance, suggested by the falseness
of the common code of morality, which is apt to be overlooked
by many readers in the strong interest of the tale. It is one
of the few books of that period which may still be said to
live. It is quite the best of his novels. "It raised Godwin's
reputation to a pinnacle," according to contemporary
criticism, though some of his other novels, notably
"Fleetwood," have been preferred for their descriptive
writing. He was an exceedingly industrious writer; essays,
biography, political philosophy, and history all coming from
his pen; but in spite of this and of his many distinguished
friendships, Godwin was always in difficulties, which he bore
with the becoming grace of a philosopher. He died on April 7,
_I.--Mr. Falkland's Secret_
My life has for several years been a theatre of calamity. My fairest
prospects have been blasted. My enemy has shown himself inaccessible to
entreaties and untired in persecution. I was born of humble parents, in
a remote county of England. Their occupations were such as usually fall
to the lot of peasants, and they had no portion to give me. I was taught
the rudiments of no science, except reading, writing, and arithmetic.
But I had an inquisitive mind, and neglected no means of information
from conversation or books.
The residence of my parents was within the manor of Ferdinando Falkland,
a country squire of considerable opulence. At an early age I attracted
the favourable notice of Mr. Collins, this gentleman's steward, who used
to call in occasionally at my father's.
In the summer of the year----, Mr. Falkland visited his estate in our
county after an absence of several months. This was a period of
misfortune to me. I was then eighteen years of age. My father lay dead
in our cottage, and I had lost my mother some years before. In this
forlorn situation I received a message from the squire, ordering me to
repair to the manor house.
My reception was as gracious and encouraging as I could possibly desire.
Mr. Falkland questioned me respecting my learning, and my conceptions of
men and things, and listened to my answers with condescension and
approbation. He then informed me that he was in want of a secretary, and
that if I approved of the employment he would take me into his house.
I felt highly flattered by the proposal, and found my employment--which
included the duties of librarian as well as those of a secretary--easy
Mr. Falkland's mode of living was in the utmost degree recluse and
solitary. His features were scarcely ever relaxed in a smile, and the
distemper which afflicted him with incessant gloom had its paroxysms.
None of the domestics, except myself and Mr. Collins approached Mr.
Falkland but at stated seasons and then only for a very short interval.
Once after I had seen my patron in a strange fit of intolerable anguish,
I could not help confiding in Mr. Collins that I feared Mr. Falkland had
some secret trouble, and in answer to my communication Mr. Collins told
me the story of Tyrrel's murder.
Barnabas Tyrrel had been a neighbouring squire insupportably brutish and
arrogant, tyrannical to his inferiors, and insolent to his equals. From
the first he hated Falkland, whose dignity and courtesy were a constant
rebuke to the other's boorish ill-humours, and rejected with scorn all
proposals for civil intercourse.
The crisis came when Tyrrel, who had been expelled from the rural
assembly which met every week at the market-town, forced his way in. He
was intoxicated, and at once attacked Falkland, knocking him down, and
then kicking his prostrate enemy before anyone had time to interfere.
To Mr. Falkland disgrace was worse than death. This complication of
ignominy, base, humiliating, and public, stung him to the very soul, and
filled his mind with horror and uproar. One other event closed that
memorable evening. Mr. Tyrrel was found dead in the street, having been
murdered a few yards from the assembly-house.
From that day Falkland was a changed man. His cheerfulness and
tranquillity gave way to gloomy and unsociable melancholy, and, filled
with the ideas of chivalry, the humiliating and dishonourable situation
in which he had been placed could never be forgotten. To add to his
misfortunes, it was presently whispered that he was no other than the
murderer of his antagonist, and even the magistrates at length decided
that the matter must be investigated, and requested Falkland to appear
Mr. Falkland attended, and easily convinced the magistrates of his
innocence, pointing out that his one desire was to have called out the
man who had insulted him so horribly, and to have fought him to the
death. He was not only acquitted, but a public demonstration of sympathy
was arranged at once to show the esteem in which he was held.
A few weeks, and the real murderer was discovered. This was a man named
Hawkins, who, with his son, had been reduced from an honest livelihood
to beggary and ruin by Tyrrel. On circumstantial evidence, Hawkins and
his son were condemned and executed.
This was the story Mr. Collins told me in order that I might understand
Mr. Falkland's unhappy state. In reality it only added to my
Was it possible, after all, that Mr. Falkland should be the murderer? It
was but a passing thought, and yet what was the meaning of Mr.
Falkland's agonies of mind? I could not accept Mr. Collins's view that
Mr. Falkland was so much the slave and fool of honour that the shame of
Tyrrel's savage assault alone had driven him to this melancholy and
solitude, and compelled the violent outbursts of passion.
_II.--I Learn the Secret_
My suspicions would not be set at rest. No spark of malignity was
harboured in my soul. I reverenced the sublime mind of Mr. Falkland, but
I had a mistaken curiosity to find out the truth of Tyrrel's murder.
Often it seemed that Mr. Falkland was about to speak to me, but the
movement always ended in silence.
At last one day he sent for me to his room, and after making me swear
never to disclose his confidence, and warning me that he had observed my
suspicions, told me that he was the murderer of Tyrrel and the assassin
of the two Hawkins.
"This it is to be a gentleman, a man of honour!" Falkland went on, in
extreme distress. "My virtue, my honesty, my everlasting peace of mind,
all sacrificed that I may preserve my good name. And I am as much the
fool of fame as ever. Though I be the blackest of villains, I will leave
behind me a spotless and illustrious name. Why is it that I am compelled
to this confidence? From the love of fame. I had no alternative but to
make you my confidant or my victim, and perhaps my next murder would not
have been so fortunate. I do not want to shed more blood. It is better
to trust you with the whole truth, under every seal of secrecy, than to
live in perpetual fear of your penetration. But look what you have done
with your foolishly inquisitive humour. You shall continue in my
service, and I will benefit you in respect of fortune; but I shall
always hate you. If ever an unguarded word escape from your lips, you
may expect to pay for it with your death, or worse. By everything that
is sacred, preserve your faith!"
Such was the secret I had been so desirous to know.
"It is a wretched prospect," I said to myself, "that he holds up to me.
But I will never become an informer. I will never injure my patron; and
therefore he will not be my enemy."
It was no long time after this that Mr. Forester--Mr. Falkland's
half-brother--came to stay in the house while his own residence was
being got ready for him, and there being little in common between the
two, Mr. Forester being of a peculiarly sociable disposition, our
visitor chose to make me his companion. No sooner was this growing
intimacy observed than Mr. Falkland warned me that it was not agreeable
to him, and that he would not have it.
"Young man, take warning!" he said to me one day when we were alone.
"You little suspect the extent of my power. You might as well think of
escaping from the power of the omnipresent God as from mine."
My whole soul now revolted against the treatment I endured, and yet I
could not utter a word. I resolved to quit Mr. Falkland's service, and
when Mr. Forester had retired to his own house, I wrote a letter to Mr.
Falkland to that effect.
"You shall never quit it with your life," was his reply. "If you attempt
it, you shall never cease to rue your folly as long as you exist. Do not
imagine I am afraid of you! I wear an armour against which all your
weapons are impotent. Do you not know, miserable wretch, that I have
sworn to preserve my reputation, whatever it cost? I have dug a pit for
you, and whichever way you move it is ready to swallow you."
This speech was the dictate of frenzy, and it created in me a similar
frenzy. It determined me to do the very thing against which I was thus
solemnly warned, and fly from my patron's house.
No sooner, however, had I set off, and travelled some miles, than a
horseman overtook me, and handed me a letter from Mr. Forester. I opened
the letter, and read as follows:
"Williams:--My brother Falkland has sent the bearer in pursuit of you.
He expects that, if found, you will return with him. I expect it, too.
If you are a villain and a rascal, you will perhaps endeavour to fly; if
your conscience tells you you are innocent, you will, out of all doubt,
come back. If you come, I pledge myself that if you clear your
reputation, you shall not only be free to go wherever you please, but
shall receive every assistance in my power to give.
To a mind like mine, such a letter was enough to draw me from one end of
the earth to the other. I could not recall anything out of which the
shadow of a criminal accusation could be extorted, and I returned with
willingness and impatience. I knew the stern inflexibility of Mr.
Falkland's mind, but I also knew his virtuous and magnanimous
principles. I could not believe my innocence could be confounded with
_III.--My Persecutions and Sufferings_
Mr. Falkland accused me of having stolen money and jewels from him, and
when my boxes, which I had left behind, were opened, a watch and certain
jewels were found in one of them.
My amazement yielded to indignation and horror. I protested my innocence
I declared that Mr. Falkland knew I was innocent, and that while I was
wholly unable to account for the articles found in my possession, I
firmly believed that their being there was of Mr. Falkland's
Mr. Falkland now expressed his willingness to proceed no further against
me, and, since I had been brought to public shame, to let me depart
wherever I pleased. I was unworthy of his resentment, he said, and he
could afford to smile at my malice.
Mr. Forester, however, said this was impossible, and, as a magistrate,
he thereupon committed me to prison to await my trial. Not one of the
servants who had been present at my examination expressed any compassion
for me. The robbery appeared to them atrocious, and they were indignant
at my recrimination on their excellent master.
When I had been about a month in prison the assizes were held, but my
case was not brought forward, and I was suffered to stand over six
I noticed a change in my jailer's behaviour at this time. He offered to
make better provision for my comfort, and as I had no doubt he was
instigated by Mr. Falkland, I answered that he might tell his employer I
would accept no favours from a man that held a halter about my neck.
Then the idea of an escape occurred to me, and as I had some proficiency
in carpentry, I decided to obtain tools by proposing to make some chairs
for the jailer. My offer was accepted, and I gradually accumulated tools
of various sorts--gimlets, chisels, etc.
In the middle of the night, my plans being now thoroughly digested, I
set about making my escape. I had to get the first door from its hinges,
and though this was attended with considerable difficulty, I was
successful. The second door being fastened on the inside, all I had to
do was to push back the bolts and unscrew the box of the lock.
Thus far I had proceeded with the happiest success; but close on the
other side there was a kennel with a large mastiff dog, of which I had
not the smallest previous knowledge. However, I managed to soothe the
animal, and go to the wall. Before I had gained half the ascent, a voice
at the garden door cried out, "Halloa! Who is there?" At this the dog
began to bark violently, and a second man came out. Alarmed at my
situation, I descended on the other side too quickly, and in my fall
nearly dislocated my ankle.
In the meantime, the two warders came through a door in the wall, of
which I had not been aware, and were at the place where I had descended,
in no time. The pain in my ankle was so intense that I could scarcely
stand, and I suffered myself to be retaken.
The condition in which I was now placed was totally different from that
which had preceded this attempt. I was chained all day in my dungeon, my
manual labors were at an end, my cell was searched every night, and
every kind of tool carefully kept from me.
Nevertheless, an active mind, which has once been forced into any
particular train, can scarcely give it up as hopeless. One day I chanced
to observe a nail trodden into the mud floor at no great distance from
me. I seized upon this new treasure, and found that I could unlock with
it the padlock that fastened me to the staple in the floor. By this
means I had the pitiful consolation of being able to range, without
constraint, the miserable coop in which I was confined. It became my
constant practice to liberate myself at night; but security breeds
negligence. One morning I overslept myself, and the turnkey, to his
surprise, found me disengaged.
Again my apartment was changed. I was now put in the strong-room, an
underground dungeon, and handcuffs were added to my fetters.
It was at this time that Thomas, Mr. Falkland's footman, and an old
acquaintance of mine, visited me. He was of the better order of
servants, and my condition shocked him. He returned again in the
"Well, Master Williams," he said, "you have been very wicked, to be
sure, and I thought it would have done me good to see you hanged. I know
I am doing wrong; but if they hang me, too, I cannot help it. For
Christ's sake, get out of this place; I cannot bear the thought of it."
With that, he slipped into my hand a chisel, a file, and a saw. I
received the implements with great joy, and thrust them into my bosom.
I waited for bright moonlight; it was necessary that I should work in
the night, and between nine and seven.
It was ten o'clock when I first took off my handcuffs. I then filed
through my fetters, and next performed the same service to the three
iron bars that secured my window. All this was the work of more than two
hours. But, even with the bars removed, the space was by no means wide
enough to admit the passing of my body. Therefore, I had to loosen the
brickwork, and this I did partly with the chisel, and partly with one of
the iron bars. When the space was sufficient for my purpose, I crept
through the opening and stepped upon a shed outside.
The prison wall, which now had to be scaled, was of considerable height,
and there was no resource for me but that of making a breach in its
lower part. For six hours I worked at this with incredible labour, and
at last I had made a passage. But the day was breaking, and in ten
minutes' time the keepers would probably enter my apartment and see the
devastation I had left.
I decided to avoid the town as much as possible, and depended upon the
open country for protection; and so I passed along the lane beyond the
I was free of my prison, but I was destitute, and had not a shilling in
_IV.--The Doom of Falkland_
Mr. Falkland's implacable animosity pursued me beyond the prison. A
hundred guineas was at once offered for my recapture, and though I
evaded arrest for some months, a man named Gines, who had at one time
been a member of a gang of robbers, undertook to lay hold of me, and
tracked me to my place of hiding in London. By this time the hawkers
were actually selling papers in the streets containing "The most
Wonderful and Surprising History and Miraculous Adventures of Caleb
Williams," for a halfpenny, and I had the temerity to purchase one. In
this I was informed how I, Caleb Williams, "first robbed, and then
brought false accusations against my master"; how I attempted at divers
times to break out of prison, and at last succeeded "in the most
wonderful and incredible manner"; and how I had travelled the kingdom in
disguise, and was now lying concealed in London, with a hundred guineas
reward for my discovery.
It seemed then that there was no end to my persecution, and I thought of
death as my only release. That very night the landlord of my humble
lodgings brought Gines to the house, and gave me up to the authorities.
And now the result of all my labour to get out of prison and evade my
pursuers had brought me back to my starting-place! Never was a human
creature so hunted by enemies. What hope was there they would ever cease
My long-cherished reverence for Mr. Falkland was changed to something
like abhorrence. I determined to bring the real criminal to justice.
Accordingly, when I was taken before the magistrates at Bow Street, I
declared that Mr. Falkland was a murderer, and that I was entirely
But the magistrates simply told me they had nothing to do with such
statements, and that I seemed a most impudent rascal to trump up such
things against my master.
I was conducted back to the very prison from which I had escaped, and my
situation seemed more irremediable than ever. How great, therefore, was
my astonishment, at the assizes when my case was called, to find neither
Mr. Falkland, nor Mr. Forester, nor any individual to appear against me.
I, who had come to the bar with the sentence of death already ringing in
my ears, to be told I was free to go whithersoever I pleased!
I was not, however, yet free of Mr. Falkland. I was kidnapped by Gines
and an accomplice, and carried to an inn, and here Mr. Falkland
commanded me to sign a paper declaring that the charge I had alleged
against him at Bow Street was false, malicious, and groundless. On my
refusal, he told me that he would exercise a power that should grind me
The impression of that memorable meeting on my understanding is
indelible. The deathlike weakness and decay of Mr. Falkland, his misery
and rage, his haggard, emaciated, and fleshless visage, are still before
There was to be no peace or happiness for me. Wherever I went, sooner or
later, Gines found me, and any new acquaintances turned from me with
loathing after they had read the handbills containing my "Wonderful and
Surprising History." This man followed me from place to place, blasting
I now formed my resolution and carried it into execution. At all costs I
would free myself from this overpowering tyranny.
I set out for the chief town of the county in which Mr. Falkland lived,
and there laid a formal charge of murder before the principal
After an interval of three days, I met Mr. Falkland in the presence of
the magistrate. It was now the appearance of a ghost before me. He was
brought in in a chair, unable to stand, fatigued and almost destroyed by
the journey he had just taken.
Until that moment my breast was steeled to pity; it was now too late to
I told my story plainly, declared the nobility of Mr. Falkland's
character, and admitted that my own proceedings now seemed to me a
When I had finished, Mr. Falkland rose from his seat, and, to my
infinite astonishment, threw himself into my arms.
"Williams," said he, "you have conquered. All that I most ardently
desired is for ever frustrated. I have spent a life of the basest
cruelty to cover one act of momentary passion. And now"--turning to the
magistrate--"do with me as you please. I am prepared to suffer all the
vengeance of the law."
He survived this dreadful scene but three days, and I feel, and always
shall feel, that I have been his murderer. I began these memoirs to
vindicate my character. I have now no character that I wish to
* * * * *
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
The Sorrows of Young Werther
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the greatest of German poets, and
one of the most highly gifted men of the eighteenth century,
was born in 1749 at Frankfort-on-the-Main. He received his
early education from his father, who was an imperial
councillor, and in the year 1765 he went to the University of
Leipzig. Goethe's first great work was "Goetz von
Berlichingen" (see Vol. XVII). which was translated into
English by Sir Walter Scott. "The Sorrows of Young Werther"
("Die Leiden des jungen Werthers") was begun in 1772, when
Goethe was twenty-three years old, and was published
anonymously two years later. It immediately created an immense
sensation, made a round of the world, and was everywhere
either enthusiastically praised or severely condemned. It
became the fashion of young men to dress themselves in blue
coats and yellow breeches in imitation of the hero, and many
of them were moved to follow Werther's example as the simplest
way of settling their love affairs. Nevertheless, "Werther"
formed the real basis of Goethe's fame. It was the first
revelation to the world of the genius, which, a quarter of a
century later, was to give it "Faust" (Vol. XVI). The story is
frankly sentimental, but as such it is easily the best of the
sentimental novels of the eighteenth century. When, many years
later, Goethe was invited to an audience with Napoleon, the
emperor volunteered the information that he had read "Werther"
through six times. Goethe died in March, 1832, in his
_I.--"I Have Found an Angel"_
_May 4_. What a strange thing is the heart of man. To leave my dearest
friend, and yet to feel happy! I know you will forgive me, and I in
return will promise that I will no longer worry myself over every petty
stab of fortune. Poor Leonora! And yet I was not to blame. Was I in
fault that, while I was pleasantly entertained by the charms of her
sister, her feeble heart conceived a passion for me? And yet I am not
wholly blameless. Did I not encourage her emotion? Did I not--but what
is man that he dares so to accuse himself? Beyond doubt, the sufferings
of mankind would be far less did they but endure the present with
equanimity, instead of raking up the past for memories of sorrow.
A wonderful calm has come over me; I am alone, and feel that a spot like
this was created for the happiness of souls like mine. You ask if you
shall send me books; I pray you spare me. My heart craves for no
excitement; I need strains to soothe me, and I find them to perfection
in my Homer.
_May 17_. I have formed many acquaintances, but as yet have found no
friends. If you inquire what sort of people are here, I answer "the same
as everywhere." The human race is a monotonous affair. The majority
labours nearly all its time for mere subsistence, and is then so
distressed to have a small portion of freedom still unemployed that it
exerts even greater efforts to get rid of it.
I have just become acquainted with a very worthy person, the district
judge. They tell me how charming it is to see him in the midst of his
family of nine. His eldest daughter is much spoken of. He has invited me
to go and see him.
_June 16_. Why do I not write to you? You should have guessed that I was
pre-occupied; that, in a word, that I have made a friend who has won my
heart. I have found--I know not what. An angel? Nonsense! Everyone so
describes his mistress. And yet I cannot tell you how perfect she is, or
why so perfect. Between ourselves, I have been three times on the point
of throwing down my pen, ordering my horse, and riding out. And yet this
morning I determined not to ride to-day; and I keep running to the
window to see how high the sun is.
I could not restrain myself; go to her I must. I have just returned,
Wilhelm, and while I eat my supper I will write to you. I had already
made the acquaintance of her aunt, the judge's sister, and with her I
was going to accompany Charlotte to a ball given by some young people in
the neighbourhood. While we were on our way to fetch her, my companion
was loud in her praises of her niece's beauty and charm. "Take care,
however," she added, "that you do not lose your heart." "Why?" I asked.
"Because she is already betrothed to a most excellent man."
As the door opened, I saw before me the most charming sight that I have
ever beheld. Six children, of various ages, were running about the hall
and surrounding a lady of medium height, with a lovely figure, dressed
in a robe of simple white, trimmed with pink ribbons. She held a loaf of
brown bread, and was cutting slices for the little ones all round. She
apologised for not being quite ready, explaining that household duties
had made her forget the children's supper, which they always preferred
to take from her. I uttered some unmeaning compliment, but my whole soul
was absorbed by her air, her voice, her manner. You who know me can
imagine how I gazed upon her rich, dark eyes; how my soul gloated over
her warm lips and fresh glowing cheeks.
Never did I dance more lightly; I felt myself more than mortal, holding
this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying with her as rapidly as
the wind, till I lost sight of every other object. And, oh, Wilhelm, I
vowed at that moment that no maiden whom I loved should ever waltz with
another than myself, if I went to perdition for it.
Returning from the ball, there was a most magnificent sunrise. Our
companions were asleep. Charlotte asked me if I did not wish to sleep
too, and begged me not to stand on ceremony. Looking deep into her eyes,
I answered, "As long as those eyes remain open, there is no fear for
mine." We continued awake until we reached her door. I left her, asking
her permission to call in the course of the day. She consented, and I
went Since then, sun, moon, and stars may pursue their course; I know
not whether it is day or night; the whole world is nothing to me.
_June 21_. My days are as happy as those reserved by God for His elect,
and whatever be my fate hereafter, I can never say that I have not
tasted joy--the purest joy of life. Little did I think when I selected
this spot for my home that all heaven lay within half a league of it.
How childish is man. To be disturbed about a mere look. We had been to
Walheim, but during our walk I thought I saw in Charlotte's eyes--I am a
fool, but forgive me. You should see her eyes. However, to be brief, as
the ladies were preparing to drive away I watched her eyes; they
wandered from one to another, but they did not alight on me--on me who
saw nothing but her. She noticed me not. The carriage drove off, and my
eyes filled with tears. Suddenly I saw Charlotte's bonnet leaning out of
the window, and she turned to look back--was it at me? I know not, and
in uncertainty is my consolation. Perhaps she turned to look at me.
Perhaps. Good-night. What a child I am!
_July 10_. Someone asked me the other day how I like her. How I _like_
her! What sort of creature must he be who merely likes Charlotte? Whose
entire being were not absolutely filled with her? Like her! One might as
well ask if I like Ossian.
_July 13_. No, I am not deceived. In her dark eyes I read a real
interest in me. Yes, I feel it, and I believe my own heart which tells
me--dare I say it?--that she loves me. How the idea exalts me in my own
eyes. And as you can understand my feelings, I may say to you, how I
honour myself because she loves me.
I do not know a man able to take my place in her heart; yet when she
speaks of Albert with so much warmth and affection, I feel like a
soldier who has been stripped of all his honours. Sometimes when we are
talking, in the eagerness of conversation she comes closer to me, and
her balmy breath reaches my lips, I feel that I could sink into the
earth for very joy. And yet, Wilhelm, if I know myself, and should ever
dare--you understand me--No, no; my heart is not so corrupt; it is weak,
but is not that a degree of corruption?
She is to me a sacred being; how her simplest song enchants me.
Sometimes, when I am ready to commit suicide, she sings some favourite
air, and instantly the gloom and madness are dispersed.
_July 24_. Yes, dear Charlotte. I will arrange everything. Only give me
more commissions; the more the better. One thing, however, I must
request you--use no more writing-sand with the letters you send me!
Today, I raised your letter to my lips, and it set my teeth on edge.
_II.--Bereft of Comfort_
_July 30_. Albert is arrived, and I must take my departure. Were he the
best of men, and I absolutely beneath him, I could not endure to see him
in possession of my perfect being. Enough! her betrothed is here. A fine
fellow, whom I cannot help liking. And he is so considerate; he has not
given Charlotte one kiss in my presence. Heaven reward him for it. He is
free from ill-humour, which you know is the fault I detest most. I do
not ask whether he may not now and then tease her with some little
jealousies, as I know that in his place I should not be entirely free
from such feelings.
_August 8_. I am amazed to see from my diary, which I have somewhat
neglected of late, how deliberately I have entangled myself, step by
step. But even though I see the result plainly, I have no thought of
acting with any greater prudence. And yet I feel that if only I knew
where to go, I would abandon everything and fly from this place.
And yet I feel that, if I were not a fool, I could enjoy life here most
delightfully. Admitted into this charming family, loved by the father as
a son, by his children as a second father, and by Charlotte!
Furthermore, Albert welcomes me with the heartiest affection, and loves
me, next to Charlotte, more than all the world.
_August 21_. In vain do I stretch out my arms towards her when I wake in
the morning. In vain do I seek for her when some innocent dream has
happily deceived me, and placed me near her in the fields when I have
seized her hand and covered it with kisses. Tears flow from my oppressed
heart; and, bereft of all comfort, I weep over my future woes.
_August 28_. This is my birthday, and early in the morning I received a
packet from Albert. I found within one of the pink ribbons which
Charlotte wore in her dress the first time I saw her, and which I had
often asked her to give me. With it were two volumes of Wetstein's
Homer, a book I had often wished for. How well they understood those
little attentions of friendship, so superior to costly presents, unhappy
being that I am. Why do I thus deceive myself? What is to be the outcome
of all this wild, aimless, endless passion? I cannot pray except to her.
Oh, Wilhelm, the hermit's cell, his sackcloth and girdle of thorns,
would be luxury and indulgence compared with what I have to suffer.
_October 20_. I have taken the plunge, and following your repeated
advice, I have taken a post with the ambassador. We arrived here
yesterday. If he were less peevish and morose all would be well. As it
is, he occasions me continual annoyance; he is the most punctilious
blockhead in the world. He does everything step by step, with the paltry
fussiness of an old woman; and he is a man whom it is impossible to
please, because he is never pleased with himself.
_January 20_. I have but one being here to interest me, my dear
Charlotte--a Miss B----. She resembles you, if indeed anyone can
possibly resemble you. "Ah," you will say, "he has learnt to pay fine
compliments." And this is partly true; I have been very agreeable
lately, as it was not in my power to be otherwise. But I must tell you
of Miss B----. She has abundance of soul, which flashes from her deep
blue eyes. Her rank is a torment to her, and satisfies no single desire
of her heart. She knows you, my dear Charlotte, as I have told her all
about you, and renders homage to your merits; but her homage is not
exacted, but voluntary--she loves you, and delights to hear you made the
subject of conversation. Adieu! Is Albert with you, and what is he to
you? Forgive the question.
_February 20_. I thank you, Albert, for having deceived me. I waited for
the news that your wedding-day was fixed, and I meant on that day to
remove Charlotte's picture from the wall, and bury it with some old
papers that I wish destroyed. You are now united, and the picture
remains. Well, let it remain. Why should it not?
_III.--"I Can Remain No Longer"_
_June 11_. Say what you will, I can remain here no longer. Why should I
remain? The prince is as gracious to me as anyone could be, and yet I am
not at my ease. There is, indeed, nothing in common between us; he is a
man of understanding, but quite of the ordinary kind. His conversation
gives me no more amusement than I should derive from an ordinary
well-written book. Whither am I going? I think it would be better for me
to visit the mines in----. But I am only deluding myself thus. You know
that I only want to be near my dear Charlotte once more. I smile at the
suggestion of my heart, but I obey its dictates.
_July 29_. Dear Wilhelm, my whole frame feels convulsed when I see
Albert put his arms round that slender waist. Oh, the very thought of
folding that dearest of heaven's creatures in one's arms.
And--shall I avow it? Why should I not?--she would have been happier
with me than with him. Albert is not the man to satisfy the wishes of
such a heart. He wants a certain sensibility; he wants--in short, their
hearts do not beat in unison. But, Wilhelm, he loves her with his whole
heart, and what does not such a love deserve?
_September 5_. Charlotte had written a letter to her husband in the
country, where he was detained on business. It began: "My dearest love,
return as soon as possible. I await you with a thousand raptures!"
A friend who arrived brought word that he could not return immediately.
Her letter fell into my hands. I read it, and smiled. She asked the
reason. "What a heavenly treasure is imagination," I exclaimed. "I
fancied for a moment that this was written to me." She paused, and
seemed displeased. I was silent.
_October 10_. Only to gaze into her dark eyes is to me a source of
happiness. And what grieves me is that Albert does not seem so happy as
he--as I--as he hoped to be--as I should have been--if--. I am no friend
to these pauses, but here I cannot express myself otherwise; and
probably I am explicit enough.
_October 19_. Alas the void--the fearful void which I feel in my bosom!
Sometimes I think, if I could only once press her to my heart, this
dreadful void would be filled.
_October 30_. A hundred times I have been on the point of embracing her.
Heavens! what a torment it is to see so much loveliness passing and
repassing before us, and yet not dare to touch it. And to touch is the
most natural of human instincts. Do not children touch everything that
_November 8_. Charlotte reproves me for my excesses with so much
tenderness and goodness. I have lately drunk more wine than usual.
"Don't do it," she said; "think of Charlotte." "Think of you," I
answered; "can such advice be necessary? Do I not ever think of you?"
She immediately changed the subject to prevent me pursuing it further.
My dear friend, my energies are all prostrated; she can do with me what
she pleases. Yesterday, when I took leave, she seized me by the hand,
and said, "Adieu, dear Werther!" It was the first time she had ever
called me "dear." I have repeated it a hundred times.
_IV.--"I am Resolved to Die"_
_November 24_. She is sensible of my sufferings. This morning her look
pierced my soul. I found her alone; she was silent, and only gazed
steadfastly at me. Oh, who can express my emotions? I was quite
overcome, and bending down, pronounced this vow to myself, "Beautiful
lips, which angels guard, never will I seek to profane your purity with
a kiss." And yet, oh, I wish--But, alas, my heart is darkened by doubt
and indecision. Could I but taste felicity, and then die to expiate the
sin. What sin?
_December 21_. I am lost. My senses are bewildered, my recollection is
confused, my eyes are bathed in tears. I am ill, and yet am well. I wish
for nothing; I have no desires; it were better I were gone. I saw
Charlotte to-day; she was busy preparing some little gifts for her
brothers and sisters, to be given to them on Christmas Day. "You shall
have a gift too," she said, "if you behave well." "And what do you call
behaving well?" I asked. "What should I do; what can I do?" "Thursday
night," she answered, "is Christmas Eve; the children are all to be
here, and my father too; there is a present for each of them. Do you
come likewise, but do not come before that time!"
I started. She must have seen my emotion, for she continued, hastily "I
desire that you will not. It must be so; I ask it of you as a favour,
for my own peace and tranquillity. We cannot go on in this manner any
longer!" It were idle to attempt to describe my emotions I was as if
paralysed; it was as if the sun had suddenly gone out. When I
recollected myself, Charlotte was trying to speak on some indifferent
topic. "No, Charlotte," I explained, "I understand you perfectly. I will
never see you again!"
_December 22_. It is all over, Charlotte; I am resolved to die. I make
this declaration deliberately and coolly, without any romantic passion,
on the morning of the day when I am to see you for the last time. At the
moment that you read these lines the cold grave will hold the remains of
that restless and unhappy being who, in his last moments of existence,
knew no pleasure so great as that of conversing with you.
When I tore myself from you yesterday my senses were in tumult and
disorder. I could scarcely reach my room. A thousand ideas floated
through my mind. At last one fixed, final thought took possession of my
heart. It was to die. Oh, beloved Charlotte, this heart, excited by rage
and fury, has often conceived the horrid idea of murdering your
What do they mean by saying that Albert is your husband? He may be so
for this world, and in this world it is a sin to love you--to wish to
tear you from his embrace. Yes, it is a crime, and I suffer the
punishment--but I have enjoyed the full delight of my sin. I have
inhaled a balm that has revived my soul; from this hour you are mine;
yes, Charlotte, you are mine. I do not dream, I do not rave. Drawing
nearer to the grave my perceptions become clearer. We shall exist; we
shall see each other again.
I wish to be buried in the dress I wear at present; it has been made
sacred by your touch. How warmly I have loved you, Charlotte. Since the
first hour I saw you, how impossible have I found it to leave you. This
ribbon must be buried with me; it was a present from you on my birthday.
How confused it all appears. Little did I think then that I should
journey on this road. But peace, I pray you, peace.
Both my pistols are loaded. The clock strikes twelve. I say Amen.
Charlotte! Charlotte! Farewell! Farewell!
* * * * *
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Goethe's prestige was enormously increased by the publication
in 1796 of "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship" ("Wilhelm
Meisters Lehrjahre"). Representing the fruit of twenty years'
labour, it was, like "Faust," written in fragments during the
ripest period of his intellectual activity. The story of
"Wilhelm Meister" is by no means exciting, but, as a gallery
of portraits and repository of wise observation, it is more
characteristic of the genius of its author than any other of
his prose works. It is more mellow than "Werther," and the
action moves slower. Incident follows incident in a leisurely
fashion. The keen psychological analysis in the story is
assumed to have been derived from Goethe's own experience.
"Wilhelm Meister" was dramatised and produced at Leipzig a few
years ago, but with no marked success.
_I.--On the Road_
The moment was now at hand to which poor Mariana had been looking
forward as to the last of her life. Wilhelm Meister, the man she loved,
was departing on a long journey in connection with his father's
business; a disagreeable lover was threatening to come.
"I am miserable," she exclaimed, "miserable for life! I love him, and he
loves me; yet I see that we must part, and know not how I shall survive
it. Wilhelm is poor, and can do nothing for me--"
Darkness had scarcely come on when Wilhelm glided forth to her house; he
carried with him a letter in which he entreated her to marry him
forthwith, saying that he would abandon his father's business, and earn
his living on the stage, to which he had always been strongly drawn.
This he could do with certainty, as he was well acquainted with Serlo,
manager of a theatre in a town at some distance.
His plan was to leave the letter with her, and return a little later for
her answer. The vehemence of his emotion at first prevented him from
noticing that she did not greet him with her wonted heartiness; she
complained of a headache, and would not hear of his coming back later
that evening. Suspecting nothing wrong, he ceased to urge her, but he
felt that this was not the moment for delivering his letter. He retained
it, therefore, and, in a tumult of insatiable love, as he tore himself
away from her he snatched one of her neckerchiefs, and, after pressing
it madly to his lips, crushed it into his pocket.
His whole being was in a ferment of excitement as he walked aimlessly
about the streets. Midnight found him again in the neighbourhood of
Mariana's house; consciousness of the fact brought him to himself. He
went slowly away, set himself for home, and constantly turned round
again; at last, with an effort, he constrained himself, and actually
departed. At the corner of the street, looking back yet once more, he
imagined that he saw Mariana's door open, and a dark figure issue from
it. He was too distant to see clearly, and in a moment the appearance
was lost in the night.
On his way, he had almost effaced the unexpected delusion from his mind
by the most sufficient reasons. To soothe his heart, and put the last
seal on his returning belief, ere he disrobed for the night, he took her
kerchief from his pocket. The rustle of a letter which fell from it took
the kerchief from his lips; he lifted it, and read a passionate letter
from another man, railing at her for her coldness on the preceding
night, making an appointment for that same night, and breathing a spirit
of intimate familiarity.
* * * * *
A violent fever, with its train of consequences, besides the unwearied
attentions of his family, were so many fresh occupations for his mind,
and formed a kind of painful entertainment. On his recovery, he
determined to abandon for ever his former leaning towards the stage, and
to apply himself with greater diligence to business, and, to the great
contentment of his father, no one was now more diligent in the
counting-house. For a long time he continued to show exemplary attention
to his duties, and was then thought sufficiently master of his business
to be sent on a long expedition on behalf of the firm.
The first part of his business successfully accomplished, Wilhelm found
himself at a little mountain town called Hochdorf. A troupe of actors
had got stranded there, their exchequer empty, their properties seized
as security for debts. Wilhelm recognised among them an old man whom he
recollected as having seen on the stage with Mariana. After some
hesitation, he hazarded a question concerning her. "Do not speak to me
of that baggage!" cried the old man. "I am ashamed that I felt such a
friendship for her. Yet, had you known the girl better, you would excuse
me. I loved her as my own daughter; indeed, I had formed a resolution to
take the creature into my own house, and save her from the hands of that
old crone Barbara, her confidante; but my wife died, and so the project
came to nothing. At the end of our stay in your native town, I noticed a
visible sadness about her. I questioned her, but she evaded me. At last
we set out on our journey. She travelled in the same coach with me, and
I soon observed what she could not deny, that she was about to become a
mother. In a short time the manager made the same discovery; he paid her
off at once and left her behind at the village inn."
Wilhelm's old wounds were all torn open afresh by the old man's story;
the thought that perhaps Mariana was not wholly unworthy of his love was
again brought to life. Nay, even the bitter accusations brought against
her could not lower her in his estimation; for he, as well as she, was
guilty in all her aberrations. He saw her as a frail, ill-succoured
mother, wandering helplessly about the world.
The old longing for the stage came back to him with redoubled force; he
determined to give it vent, for a time at least, and to this end he
advanced to Melina, the manager of the actors, a sum of money sufficient
to redeem their properties, and accompanied the troupe until such time
as it should be repaid.
A profitable engagement soon came their way. A wealthy count, who
happened to pass through the town, required their services to entertain
the prince, whom he was shortly expecting as a guest. For several weeks
they stayed at his castle, and when, on the prince's departure, their
engagement came to an end, they were all weightier in purse than they
had been for many a long day. Melina was now in hopes to get established
with his company in a thriving town at some distance. To get there it
was necessary to take a considerable journey by unfrequented roads.
Accordingly, conveyances were hired, and a start was made. Towards
evening, they began to pitch their camp in the midst of a beech wood;
all were busily engaged about the task allotted to each--the women to
prepare the evening meal, the men to attend to everything necessary for
their comfort for the night. All at once, a shot went off; immediately
another; the party flew asunder in terror. Next moment armed men were to
be seen pressing forward to the spot where the coaches, packed with
The men all rushed at the intruders. Wilhelm fired his pistol at one who
was already on the top of the coach cutting the cords of the packages.
The scoundrel fell, but several of his friends rushed to his aid; our
hero fell, stunned by a shot-wound and by a sword-stroke that almost
penetrated to his brain.
When he recovered his senses, it was to find himself deserted by all his
companions except two of the girls. His head was lying in Phillina's
lap, while Mignon, the child whom he had rescued from a brutal circus
master who was ill-treating her, was vainly trying to staunch his wounds
with her hair. For some time they continued in this position, no one
returning to their aid. At last, they heard a troop of horses coming up
the road; a young lady emerged on horseback, accompanied by some
cavaliers. Wilhelm fixed his eye on the soft, calm, sympathising
features of the stranger; he thought he had never seen aught nobler or
more lovely. In a few moments one of the party stepped to the side of
our hero. He held in his hand some surgeon's instruments and bandages,
with which he hastily attended to his wounds. The lady asked several
questions, and then, turning to the old gentleman, said, "Dear uncle,
may I be generous at your expense?" taking off the coat that she was
wearing as she spoke, and laying it softly above him. As he tried to
open his mouth to stammer out some words of gratitude to the beautiful
Amazon, the impression of her presence worked so strongly on his senses
that all at once it seemed to him that her head was encircled with rays,
and a glancing light seemed by degrees to spread itself all over her
form. At this moment the surgeon gave him a sharper twinge; he lost
consciousness; and on returning to himself the horsemen and coaches, the
fair one and her attendants, had vanished like a dream.
_II.--A Message from the Dead_
Wilhelm's wounds were slow to heal, and it was long before he was able
to move about freely again. When he fully recovered he went to his old
friend, Serlo, and obtained a position in his company, both for himself,
and also for many of his companions in misfortune.
With Serlo he remained for a considerable period, until an untoward
event led to his leaving him. Aurelia, Serlo's sister, had long
entertained an affection for a nobleman, whom she knew by the name of
Lothario; though at one time much attached to her, his affection had
cooled off, and for a long time now he had not had any communication
with her. Heartbroken at this treatment, though still devotedly attached
to him, she gradually pined away, and complete neglect of her health
finally brought her to her death-bed. Before she died, however, she
wrote a letter of farewell to him, which she entrusted to Wilhelm to
deliver as soon after her death as possible.
Arrived at the castle where the baron lived, he found his lordship
unable to give him any attention that day, as he was engaged to fight a
duel, and was busy settling up his affairs in preparation. Wilhelm was
requested to remain until a more convenient season. On the following
morning, while the company were seated at breakfast, the baron was
brought back in a carriage, seriously wounded.
As the surgeon came out from attending him, the band hanging from his
pouch caught Wilhelm's eye; he fancied that he knew it. He was convinced
that he beheld the very pouch of the surgeon who had dressed his wounds
in the forest, and the hope, so long deferred, of again finding his
lovely Amazon struck like a flame through his soul.
The abbe entered from Lothario's chamber, and said to Wilhelm, "The
baron bids me ask you to remain here to share his hospitality, and, in
the present circumstances, to contribute to his solacement."
From this hour our friend was treated in the house as if he belonged to
"We have a kindness to ask of you," said Jarno, the baron's confidential
companion, to Wilhelm one morning. "The violent, unreasonable love and
passionateness of the Lady Lydia only hinder the baron's recovery. She
must be removed by some means. His wound requires rest and calmness; you
see how she tortures him with her tempestuous anxieties, her
ungovernable terrors, her never-drying tears. Enough! Our doctor
expressly requires that she should quit us for a while; we have
persuaded her to pay a visit to a lady, an old friend of hers; it will
be your task to escort her, as you can best be spared."
"I willingly undertake the charge," said Wilhelm, "though it is easy to
foresee the pain I shall have to suffer from the tears, the despair, of
"And for this no small reward awaits you," said Jarno. "Fraulein
Theresa, with whom you will get acquainted, is a lady such as you will
rarely see. Indeed, were it not for an unfortunate passage between her
mother and the baron, she would long since have been married to his
When they returned from their visit, Lothario was in the way of full
recovery. He was now for the first time able to talk with Wilhelm about
the sad cause that had brought him to the castle. "You may, however,
well forgive me," he said, with a smile, "that I forsook Aurelia for
Theresa; with the one I could expect a calm and cheerful life, with the
other not a happy hour."
"I confess," said Wilhelm, "that in coming hither I had no small anger
in my heart against you, that I proposed to censure with severity your
conduct towards Aurelia. But, at the grave in which the hapless mother
sleeps, let me ask you why you acknowledge not the child--a son in whom
any father might rejoice and whom you appear entirely to overlook. With
your tender nature, how can you altogether cast away the instinct of a
"Of whom do you speak?" said Lothario. "I do not understand you."
"Of whom but your son, Aurelia's son, the lovely child to whose good
fortune there is nothing wanting but that a tender father should
acknowledge and receive him."
"You mistake, my friend," said Lothario; "Aurelia never had a son. I
know of no child, or I would gladly acknowledge it. But did she ever
give you to believe that the boy was hers--was mine?"
"I cannot recollect that I ever heard a word from her expressly on the
subject, but we took it so, and I never for a moment doubted it."
"I can give you a clue to this perplexity," interposed Jarno. "An old
woman, whom Wilhelm must have noticed, gave Aurelia the child, telling
her that it was yours. She accepted it eagerly, hoping to alleviate her
sorrows by its presence; and, in truth, it gave her many a comfortable
This discovery awoke anxieties in Wilhelm. He thought of the beautiful
child Felix with the liveliest apprehension, and expressed his wish to
remove him from the state in which he was.
"We can soon arrange that," said Lothario. "I think you ought yourself
to take charge of him; what in us the women leave uncultivated, children
cultivate when we retain them near us."
It was agreed to lose no time in putting this plan into execution, and
Wilhelm departed forthwith to fetch the child.
Passing through the house, he found Aurelia's old serving-maid, whom he
had never seen at close quarters before, employed in sewing. Felix and
Mignon were sitting by her on the floor.
"Art thou the person," he demanded earnestly, "from whom Aurelia
received this child?"
She looked up, and turned her face to him; he saw her in full light, and
started back in terror. It was old Barbara!
"Where is Mariana?" cried he.
"Far from here."
"Is the son of that unhappy and too tender-hearted girl. Here are
Mariana's last words," she added, handing him a letter.
"She is dead?" cried he.
"Dead," said the old woman.
A bitter grief took hold of Wilhelm; he could scarcely read the words
that Barbara placed before him.
"If this should reach thee, then lament thine ill-starred friend. The
boy, whose birth I survived but a few days, is thine. I die faithful to
thee, much as appearances may be against me; with thee I lost everything
that bound me to life. This will be my only comfort, that though I
cannot call myself blameless, towards thee I am free from blame."
Wilhelm was stupified by this news. He removed the children from
Barbara's care, and took them both back with him to Lothario's castle.
Felix he kept with him, while Mignon, who was not in the best of health,
was sent by the baron to the house of his sister, at some distance.
One evening Jarno said to Wilhelm, "We can now consider you as one of
ourselves with such security that it were unjust not to introduce you
deeper into our mysteries. You shall see what a curious little world is
at your very hand, and how well you are known in it." He led our friend
through certain unknown chambers and galleries of the castle to a door,
strongly framed with iron. Jarno knocked; the door opened a little, so
as to admit one person. Jarno introduced our friend, but did not follow
Within was complete darkness. A voice cried "Enter"; he pressed forward
and found that only tapestry was hemming him in. Raising this, he
entered. Within, he found a man, who said, in a tone of dignity, "To
guard from error is not the instructor's duty, but to lead the erring
pupil; nay, let him quaff his error in deep, satiating draughts; he who
only tastes his error will long dwell with it; he who drains it to the
dregs will, if he be not crazy, find it out."
A curtain closed before the figure, whom Wilhelm vaguely recollected as
having seen at some time previously; possibly on the night when he had
parted from Mariana. Then the curtain opened again; another figure
advanced, "Learn to know the men who may be trusted," he said, and again
the curtain closed. "Dispute not with us," cried a voice; "thou art
saved, thou art on the way to the goal. None of thy follies wilt thou
repent; none wilt thou wish to repeat."
The curtain opened; the abbe came into view. "Come hither," he cried to
his marvelling friend. Wilhelm mounted the steps. On the table lay a
"Here is your indenture," said the abbe. "Take it to heart; it is of
weighty import." Wilhelm opened it, and read:
"_Art is long, life short, judgment difficult, opportunity
transient. To act is easy, to think is hard, to act according
to our thought is troublesome. It is but a part of art that
can be taught; the artist needs it all. Who knows it half,
speaks much, and is always wrong; who knows it all, speaks
seldom, and is inclined to act. No one knows what he is doing
while he acts aright; but of wrong-doing we are always
conscious. The instruction which the true artist gives us
opens the mind, for where words fail him, deeds speak. The
true scholar learns from the known to unfold the unknown, and
approaches more and more to being a master_----"
"Enough," cried the abbe; "the rest in due time. Now look round you
among these cases." With astonishment Wilhelm found, among others,
"_Lothario's Apprenticeship," "Jarno's Apprenticeship_," and his own
"_Apprenticeship_" placed there. "May I hope to look into these rolls?"
"In this chamber nothing is now hid from you."
Wilhelm heard a noise behind him, and saw a child's face peeping through
the tapestry at the end of the room. It was Felix. His father rushed
towards him, took him in his arms, and pressed him to his heart.
"Yes, I feel it," cried he. "Thou art mine. For what a gift of Heaven
have I to thank my friends! How comest thou, my child, at this important
"Ask not," said the abbe. "Hail, young man! Thy apprenticeship is done;
nature has pronounced thee free."
After sorrow, often and in vain repeated, for the loss of Mariana,
Wilhelm felt that he must find a mother for the boy; and also, that he
could not find one equal to Theresa. With this gifted lady he was now
thoroughly acquainted. Such a spouse and helpmate seemed the only one to
trust to in such circumstances. Her affection for Lothario did not make
him hesitate; she looked on herself as free; she had even spoken of
marrying, with indifference, indeed, but as a matter understood.
Before Theresa's answer came to hand, Lothario sent for our friend. "My
sister Natalia bids me beg of you to go to her as soon as possible. Poor
Mignon seems to be getting steadily worse, and it is thought that your
presence might allay the malady." Wilhelm agreed, and proceeded on the
_IV.--Heart Against Reason_
Behind a light screen, which threw a shadow on her, sat a young lady,
reading; she rose and came to him. It was the Amazon! Unable to restrain
himself, he fell on his knee and cried "It is she!" He seized her hand,
and kissed it with unbounded rapture.
A day or two later, the following letter from Theresa was handed to
"I am yours, as I am, and as you know me. I call you mine, as you are,
and as I know you. As it is no passion, but trust and inclination for
each other, that leads us together, we run less risk than thousands of
others. You will forgive me, will you not, if I still think often and
kindly of my former friend; in return, I will press Felix to my heart,
as if I were his mother. Adieu, dear friend! Theresa clasps you to her
breast with hope and joy."
Natalia wrote a letter to her brother; she invited Wilhelm to add a word
or two. They were just about to seal it, when Jarno unexpectedly came
"I am come," he said, "to give you very curious and pleasing tidings
about Theresa; now guess."
"We are more skilful than you think," said Natalia, smiling. "Before you
asked, we had the answer down in black and white," handing him as she
spoke the letter she had just written. Jarno read the sheet hastily.
"What shall I say?" cried he. "Surprise against surprise! I came to tell
you that Theresa is not the daughter of her reputed mother. There is no
obstacle to her marriage with Lothario: _I came to ask you to prepare
her for it_."
"And what," said Lothario, taking Wilhelm by the hand, "what if your
alliance with my sister were the secret article on which depended my
alliance with Theresa? These amends the noble maiden has appointed for
you; she has vowed that we two pairs should appear together at the
altar. 'His reason has made choice of me,' she said; 'his heart demands
Natalia: my reason shall assist his heart.'"
Lothario embraced his friend, and led him to Natalia, who, with Theresa,
came to meet them. "To my mind, thou resemblest Saul, the son of Kish,
who went out to seek his father's asses, and found a kingdom."
"I know not the worth of a kingdom," said Wilhelm, "but I know that I
have attained a happiness undeserved, which I would not change for
anything in life."
* * * * *
The Vicar of Wakefield
Oliver Goldsmith, the most versatile and perhaps the most
unstable of eighteenth century men of letters, was born in
Ireland on November 10, 1728. At Trinity College, Dublin, he
revealed three characteristics that clung to him throughout
his career--high spirits, conversational brilliance, and
inability to keep money in his pocket. After a spell of
"philosophic vagabondage" on the Continent, he settled in
London in 1756, earned money in various ways, and spent it
all. "The Vicar of Wakefield," perhaps the greatest of all
Goldsmith's works, was published on March 27, 1766, after Dr.
Johnson had raised L60 for him on the manuscript of it. The
liveliness and grace of Goldsmith's style were never more
plainly manifested than in this delightful story; and its
faults--it contains many coincidences and improbabilities--are
far more than atoned for by the masterly portrait of the
simple, manly, generous, and wholly lovable vicar who is the
central figure of the story. "It has," says Mitford, "the
truth of Richardson, without his minuteness, and the humour of
Fielding, without his grossness; if it yields to LeSage in the
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