Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

CHAPTER I

Edward–so we shall call a wealthy nobleman in the prime of life–had
been spending several hours of a fine April morning in his
nursery-garden, budding the stems of some young trees with cuttings
which had been recently sent to him.

He had finished what he was about, and having laid his tools together in
their box, was complacently surveying his work, when the gardener came
up and complimented his master on his industry.

“Have you seen my wife anywhere?” inquired Edward, as he moved to go
away.

“My lady is alone yonder in the new grounds,” said the man; “the
summer-house which she has been making on the rock over against the
castle is finished today, and really it is beautiful. It cannot fail to
please your grace. The view from it is perfect:–the village at your
feet; a little to your right the church, with its tower, which you can
just see over; and directly opposite you, the castle and the garden.”

“Quite true,” replied Edward; “I can see the people at work a few steps
from where I am standing.”

“And then, to the right of the church again,” continued the gardener,
“is the opening of the valley; and you look along over a range of wood
and meadow far into the distance. The steps up the rock, too, are
excellently arranged. My gracious lady understands these things; it is a
pleasure to work under her.”

“Go to her,” said Edward, “and desire her to be so good as to wait for
me there. Tell her I wish to see this new creation of hers, and enjoy it
with her.”

The gardener went rapidly off, and Edward soon followed. Descending the
terrace, and stopping as he passed to look into the hot-houses and the
forcing-pits, he came presently to the stream, and thence, over a narrow
bridge, to a place where the walk leading to the summer-house branched
off in two directions. One path led across the churchyard, immediately
up the face of the rock. The other, into which he struck, wound away to
the left, with a more gradual ascent, through a pretty shrubbery. Where
the two paths joined again, a seat had been made, where he stopped a few
moments to rest; and then, following the now single road, he found
himself, after scrambling along among steps and slopes of all sorts and
kinds, conducted at last through a narrow more or less steep outlet to
the summer-house.

Charlotte was standing at the door to receive her husband. She made him
sit down where, without moving, he could command a view of the different
landscapes through the door and window–these serving as frames, in
which they were set like pictures. Spring was coming on; a rich,
beautiful life would soon everywhere be bursting; and Edward spoke of it
with delight.

“There is only one thing which I should observe,” he added, “the
summer-house itself is rather small.”

“It is large enough for you and me, at any rate,” answered Charlotte.

“Certainly,” said Edward; “there is room for a third, too, easily.”

“Of course; and for a fourth also,” replied Charlotte. “For larger
parties we can contrive other places.”

“Now that we are here by ourselves, with no one to disturb us, and in
such a pleasant mood,” said Edward, “it is a good opportunity for me to
tell you that I have for some time had something on my mind, about which
I have wished to speak to you, but have never been able to muster up my
courage.”

“I have observed that there has been something of the sort,” said
Charlotte.

“And even now,” Edward went on, “if it were not for a letter which the
post brought me this morning, and which obliges me to come to some
resolution today, I should very likely have still kept it to myself.”

“What is it, then” asked Charlotte, turning affectionately toward him.

“It concerns our friend the Captain,” answered Edward; “you know the
unfortunate position in which he, like many others, is placed. It is
through no fault of his own; but you may imagine how painful it must be
for a person with his knowledge and talents and accomplishments, to find
himself without employment. I–I will not hesitate any longer with what
I am wishing for him. I should like to have him here with us for a
time.”

“We must think about that,” replied Charlotte; “it should be considered
on more sides than one.”

“I am quite ready to tell you what I have in view,” returned Edward.
“Through his last letters there is a prevailing tone of despondency; not
that he is really in any want. He knows thoroughly well how to limit his
expenses; and I have taken care for everything absolutely necessary. It
is no distress to him to accept obligations from me; all our lives we
have been in the habit of borrowing from and lending to each other; and
we could not tell, if we would, how our debtor and creditor account
stands. It is being without occupation which is really fretting him. The
many accomplishments which he has cultivated in himself, it is his only
pleasure–indeed, it is his passion–to be daily and hourly exercising
for the benefit of others. And now, to sit still, with his arms folded;
or to go on studying, acquiring, and acquiring, when he can make no use
of what he already possesses;–my dear creature, it is a painful
situation; and alone as he is, he feels it doubly and trebly.”

“But I thought,” said Charlotte, “that he had had offers from many
different quarters. I myself wrote to numbers of my own friends, male
and female, for him; and, as I have reason to believe, not without
effect.”

“It is true,” replied Edward; “but these very offers–these various
proposals–have only caused him fresh embarrassment. Not one of them is
at all suitable to such a person as he is. He would have nothing to do;
he would have to sacrifice himself, his time, his purposes, his whole
method of life; and to that he cannot bring himself. The more I think of
it all, the more I feel about it, and the more anxious I am to see him
here with us.”

“It is very beautiful and amiable in you,” answered Charlotte, “to enter
with so much sympathy into your friend’s position; only you must allow
me to ask you to think of yourself and of me, as well.”

“I have done that,” replied Edward. “For ourselves, we can have nothing
to expect from his presence with us, except pleasure and advantage. I
will say nothing of the expense. In any case, if he came to us, it would
be but small; and you know he will be of no inconvenience to us at all.
He can have his own rooms in the right wing of the castle, and
everything else can be arranged as simply as possible. What shall we not
be thus doing for him! and how agreeable and how profitable may not his
society prove to us! I have long been wishing for a plan of the property
and the grounds. He will see to it, and get it made. You intend yourself
to take the management of the estate, as soon as our present steward’s
term is expired; and that, you know, is a serious thing. His various
information will be of immense benefit to us; I feel only too acutely
how much I require a person of this kind. The country people have
knowledge enough, but their way of imparting it is confused, and not
always honest. The students from the towns and universities are
sufficiently clever and orderly, but they are deficient in personal
experience. From my friend, I can promise myself both knowledge and
method, and hundreds of other circumstances I can easily conceive
arising, affecting you as well as me, and from which I can foresee
innumerable advantages. Thank you for so patiently listening to me. Now,
do you say what you think, and say it out freely and fully; I will not
interrupt you.”

“Very well,” replied Charlotte; “I will begin at once with a general
observation. Men think most of the immediate–the present; and rightly,
their calling being to do and to work; women, on the other hand, more of
how things hang together in life; and that rightly too, because their
destiny–the destiny of their families–is bound up in this
interdependence, and it is exactly this which it is their mission to
promote. So now let us cast a glance at our present and our past life;
and you will acknowledge that the invitation of the Captain does not
fall in so entirely with our purposes, our plans, and our arrangements.
I will go back to those happy days of our earliest intercourse. We loved
each other, young as we then were, with all our hearts. We were parted:
you from me–your father, from an insatiable desire of wealth, choosing
to marry you to an elderly and rich lady; I from you, having to give my
hand, without any especial motive, to an excellent man, whom I
respected, if I did not love. We became again free–you first, your poor
mother at the same time leaving you in possession of your large fortune;
I later, just at the time when you returned from abroad. So we met once
more. We spoke of the past; we could enjoy and love the recollection of
it; we might have been contented, in each other’s society, to leave
things as they were. You were urgent for our marriage. I at first
hesitated. We were about the same age; but I as a woman had grown older
than you as a man. At last I could not refuse you what you seemed to
think the one thing you cared for. All the discomfort which you had ever
experienced, at court, in the army, or in traveling, you were to recover
from at my side; you would settle down and enjoy life; but only with me
for your companion. I settled my daughter at a school, where she could
be more completely educated than would be possible in the retirement of
the country; and I placed my niece Ottilie there with her as well, who,
perhaps, would have grown up better at home with me, under my own care.
This was done with your consent, merely that we might have our own
lives to ourselves–merely that we might enjoy undisturbed our
so-long-wished-for, so-long-delayed happiness. We came here and settled
ourselves. I undertook the domestic part of the ménage, you the
out-of-doors and the general control. My own principle has been to meet
your wishes in everything, to live only for you. At least, let us give
ourselves a fair trial how far in this way we can be enough for each
other.”

“Since the interdependence of things, as you call it, is your especial
element,” replied Edward, “one should either never listen to any of your
trains of reasoning, or make up one’s mind to allow you to be in the
right; and, indeed, you have been in the right up to the present day.
The foundation which we have hitherto been laying for ourselves, is of
the true, sound sort; only, are we to build nothing upon it? is nothing
to be developed out of it? All the work we have done–I in the garden,
you in the park–is it all only for a pair of hermits?”

“Well, well,” replied Charlotte, “very well. What we have to look to is,
that we introduce no alien element, nothing which shall cross or
obstruct us. Remember, our plans, even those which only concern our
amusements, depend mainly on our being together. You were to read to me,
in consecutive order, the journal which you made when you were abroad.
You were to take the opportunity of arranging it, putting all the loose
matter connected with it in its place; and with me to work with you and
help you, out of these invaluable but chaotic leaves and sheets to put
together a complete thing, which should give pleasure to ourselves and
to others. I promised to assist you in transcribing; and we thought it
would be so pleasant, so delightful, so charming, to travel over in
recollection the world which we were unable to see together. The
beginning is already made. Then, in the evenings, you have taken up your
flute again, accompanying me on the piano, while of visits backwards and
forwards among the neighborhood, there is abundance. For my part, I
have been promising myself out of all this the first really happy summer
I have ever thought to spend in my life.”

“Only I cannot see,” replied Edward, rubbing his forehead, “how, through
every bit of this which you have been so sweetly and so sensibly laying
before me, the Captain’s presence can be any interruption; I should
rather have thought it would give it all fresh zest and life. He was my
companion during a part of my travels. He made many observations from a
different point of view from mine. We can put it all together, and so
make a charmingly complete work of it.”

“Well, then, I will acknowledge openly,” answered Charlotte, with some
impatience, “my feeling is against this plan. I have an instinct which
tells me no good will come of it.”

“You women are invincible in this way,” replied Edward. “You are so
sensible, that there is no answering you, then so affectionate, that one
is glad to give way to you; full of feelings, which one cannot wound,
and full of forebodings, which terrify one.”

“I am not superstitious,” said Charlotte; “and I care nothing for these
dim sensations, merely as such; but in general they are the result of
unconscious recollections of happy or unhappy consequences, which we
have experienced as following on our own or others’ actions. Nothing is
of greater moment, in any state of things, than the intervention of a
third person. I have seen friends, brothers and sisters, lovers,
husbands and wives, whose relation to each other, through the accidental
or intentional introduction of a third person, has been altogether
changed–whose whole moral condition has been inverted by it.”

“That may very well be,” replied Edward, “with people who live on
without looking where they are going; but not, surely, with persons whom
experience has taught to understand themselves.”

“That understanding ourselves, my dearest husband,” insisted Charlotte,
“is no such certain weapon. It is very often a most dangerous one for
the person who bears it. And out of all this, at least so much seems to
arise, that we should not be in too great a hurry. Let me have a few
days to think; don’t decide.”

“As the matter stands,” returned Edward, “wait as many days as we will,
we shall still be in too great a hurry. The arguments for and against
are all before us; all we want is the conclusion, and as things are, I
think the best thing we can do is to draw lots.”

“I know,” said Charlotte, “that in doubtful cases it is your way to
leave them to chance. To me, in such a serious matter, this seems almost
a crime.”

“Then what am I to write to the Captain?” cried Edward; “for write I
must at once.”

“Write him a kind, sensible, sympathizing letter,” answered Charlotte.

“That is as good as none at all,” replied Edward.

“And there are many cases,” answered she, “in which we are obliged, and
in which it is the real kindness, rather to write nothing than not to
write.”

CHAPTER II

Edward was alone in his room. The repetition of the incidents of his
life from Charlotte’s lips; the representation of their mutual
situation, their mutual purposes, had worked him, sensitive as he was,
into a very pleasant state of mind. While close to her–while in her
presence–he had felt so happy, that he had thought out a warm, kind,
but quiet and indefinite epistle which he would send to the Captain.
When, however, he had settled himself at his writing-table, and taken up
his friend’s letter to read it over once more, the sad condition of this
excellent man rose again vividly before him. The feelings which had been
all day distressing him again awoke, and it appeared impossible to him
to leave one whom he called his friend in such painful embarrassment.

Edward was unaccustomed to deny himself anything. The only child, and
consequently the spoilt child, of wealthy parents, who had persuaded him
into a singular, but highly advantageous marriage with a lady far older
than himself; and again by her petted and indulged in every possible
way, she seeking to reward his kindness to her by the utmost liberality;
after her early death his own master, traveling independently of every
one, equal to all contingencies and all changes, with desires never
excessive, but multiple and various–free-hearted, generous, brave, at
times even noble–what was there in the world to cross or thwart him?

Hitherto, everything had gone as he desired! Charlotte had become his;
he had won her at last, with an obstinate, a romantic fidelity; and now
he felt himself, for the first time, contradicted, crossed in his
wishes, when those wishes were to invite to his home the friend of his
youth–just as he was longing, as it were, to throw open his whole heart
to him. He felt annoyed, impatient; he took up his pen again and again,
and as often threw it down again, because he could not make up his mind
what to write. Against his wife’s wishes he would not go; against her
expressed desire he could not. Ill at ease as he was, it would have been
impossible for him, even if he had wished, to write a quiet, easy
letter. The most natural thing to do, was to put it off. In a few words,
he begged his friend to forgive him for having left his letter
unanswered; that day he was unable to write circumstantially; but
shortly, he hoped to be able to tell him what he felt at greater length.

The next day, as they were walking to the same spot, Charlotte took the
opportunity of bringing back the conversation to the subject, perhaps
because she knew that there is no surer way of rooting out any plan or
purpose than by often talking it over.

It was what Edward was wishing. He expressed him self in his own way,
kindly and sweetly. For although, sensitive as, he was, he flamed up
readily–although the vehemence with which he desired anything made him
pressing, and his obstinacy made him impatient–his words were so
softened by his wish to spare the feelings of those to whom he was
speaking, that it was impossible not to be charmed, even when one most
disagreed, with him.

This morning, he first contrived to bring Charlotte into the happiest
humor, and then so disarmed her with the graceful turn which he gave to
the conversation, that she cried out at last:

“You are determined that what I refused to the husband you will make me
grant to the lover. At least, my dearest,” she continued, “I will
acknowledge that your wishes,–and the warmth and sweetness with which
you express them, have not left me untouched, have not left me unmoved.
You drive me to make a confession;–till now, I too have had a
concealment from you; I am in exactly the same position with you, and I
have hitherto been putting the same restraint on my inclination which I
have been exhorting you to put on yours.”

“Glad am I to hear that,” said Edward. “In the married state, a
difference of opinion now and then, I see, is no bad thing; we learn
something of each other by it.”

“You are to learn at present, then,” said Charlotte, “that it is with me
about Ottilie as it is with you about the Captain. The dear child is
most uncomfortable at the school, and I am thoroughly uneasy about her.
Luciana, my daughter, born as she is for the world, is there training
hourly for the world; languages, history, everything that is taught
there, she acquires with so much ease that, as it were, she learns them
off at sight. She has quick natural gifts, and an excellent memory; one
may almost say she forgets everything, and in a moment calls it all back
again. She distinguishes herself above every one at the school with the
freedom of her carriage, the grace of her movement, and the elegance of
her address, and with the inborn royalty of nature makes herself the
queen of the little circle there. The superior of the establishment
regards her as a little divinity, who, under her hands, is shaping into
excellence, and who will do her honor, gain her reputation, and bring
her a large increase of pupils; the first pages of this good lady’s
letters, and her monthly notices of progress, are forever hymns about
the excellence of such a child, which I have to translate into my own
prose; while her concluding sentences about Ottilie are nothing but
excuse after excuse–attempts at explaining how it can be that a girl in
other respects growing up so lovely seems coming to nothing, and shows
neither capacity nor accomplishment. This, and the little she has to say
besides, is no riddle to me, because I can see in this dear child the
same character as that of her mother, who was my own dearest friend; who
grew up with myself, and whose daughter, I am certain, if I had the care
of her education, would form into an exquisite creature.

“This, however, has not fallen in with our plan, and as one ought not to
be picking and pulling, or for ever introducing new elements among the
conditions of our lives, I think it better to bear, and to conquer as I
can, even the unpleasant impression that my daughter, who knows very
well that poor Ottilie is entirely dependent upon us, does not refrain
from flourishing her own successes in her face, and so, to a certain
extent, destroys the little good which we have done for her. Who are
well trained enough never to wound others by a parade of their own
advantages? and who stands so high as not at times to suffer under such
a slight? In trials like these, Ottilie’s character is growing in
strength, but since I have clearly known the painfulness of her
situation, I have been thinking over all possible ways to make some
other arrangement. Every hour I am expecting an answer to my own last
letter, and then I do not mean to hesitate any more. So, my dear Edward,
it is with me. We have both, you see, the same sorrows to bear, touching
both our hearts in the same point. Let us bear them together, since we
neither of us can press our own against the other.”

“We are strange creatures,” said Edward, smiling. “If we can only put
out of sight anything which troubles us, we fancy at once we have got
rid of it. We can give up much in the large and general; but to make
sacrifices in little things is a demand to which we are rarely equal. So
it was with my mother,–as long as I lived with her, while a boy and a
young man, she could not bear to let me be a moment out of her sight. If
I was out later than usual in my ride, some misfortune must have
happened to me. If I got wet through in a shower, a fever was
inevitable. I traveled; I was absent from her altogether; and, at once,
I scarcely seemed to belong to her. If we look at it closer,” he
continued, “we are both acting very foolishly, very culpably. Two very
noble natures, both of which have the closest claims on our affection,
we are leaving exposed to pain and distress, merely to avoid exposing
ourselves to a chance of danger. If this is not to be called selfish,
what is? You take Ottilie. Let me have the Captain; and, for a short
period, at least, let the trial be made.”

“We might venture it,” said Charlotte, thoughtfully, “if the danger were
only to ourselves. But do you think it prudent to bring Ottilie and the
Captain into a situation where they must necessarily be so closely
intimate; the Captain, a man no older than yourself, of an age (I am not
saying this to flatter you) when a man becomes first capable of love and
first deserving of it, and a girl of Ottilie’s attractiveness?”

“I cannot conceive how you can rate Ottilie so high,” replied Edward. “I
can only explain it to myself by supposing her to have inherited your
affection for her mother. Pretty she is, no doubt. I remember the
Captain observing it to me, when we came back last year, and met her at
your aunt’s. Attractive she is,–she has particularly pretty eyes; but I
do not know that she made the slightest impression upon me.”

“That was quite proper in you,” said Charlotte, “seeing that I was
there; and, although she is much younger than I, the presence of your
old friend had so many charms for you, that you overlooked the promise
of the opening beauty. It is one of your ways; and that is one reason
why it is so pleasant to live with you.”

Charlotte, openly as she appeared to be speaking, was keeping back
something, nevertheless; which was that at the time when Edward came
first back from abroad, she had purposely thrown Ottilie in his way, to
secure, if possible, so desirable a match for her protégée. For of
herself, at that time, in connection with Edward, she never thought at
all. The Captain, also, had a hint given to him to draw Edward’s
attention to her; but the latter, who was clinging determinately to his
early affection for Charlotte, looked neither right nor left, and was
only happy in the feeling that it was at last within his power to obtain
for himself the one happiness which he so earnestly desired; and which a
series of incidents had appeared to have placed forever beyond his
reach.

They were on the point of descending the new grounds, in order to return
to the castle, when a servant came hastily to meet them, and, with a
laugh on his face, called up from below, “Will your grace be pleased to
come quickly to the castle? The Herr Mittler has just galloped into the
court. He shouted to us, to go all of us in search of you, and we were
to ask whether there was need; ‘whether there is need,’ he cried after
us, ‘do you hear? But be quick, be quick.'”

“The odd fellow,” exclaimed Edward. “But has he not come at the right
time, Charlotte? Tell him, there is need,–grievous need. He must
alight. See his horse taken care of. Take him into the saloon, and let
him have some luncheon. We shall be with him immediately.”

“Let us take the nearest way,” he said to his wife, and struck into the
path across the churchyard, which he usually avoided. He was not a
little surprised to find here, too, traces of Charlotte’s delicate hand.
Sparing, as far as possible, the old monuments, she had contrived to
level it, and lay it carefully out, so as to make it appear a pleasant
spot on which the eye and the imagination could equally repose with
pleasure. The oldest stones had each their special honor assigned them.
They were ranged according to their dates along the wall, either leaning
against it, or let into it, or however it could be contrived; and the
string-course of the church was thus variously ornamented.

Edward was singularly affected as he came in upon it through the little
wicket; he pressed Charlotte’s hand, and tears started into his eyes.
But these were very soon put to flight, by the appearance of their
singular visitor. This gentleman had declined sitting down in the
castle; he had ridden straight through the village to the churchyard
gate; and then, halting, he called out to his friends, “Are you not
making a fool of me? Is there need, really? If there is, I can stay till
mid-day. But don’t keep me. I have a great deal to do before night.”

“Since you have taken the trouble to come so far,” cried Edward to him,
in answer, “you had better come through the gate. We meet at a solemn
spot. Come and see the variety which Charlotte has thrown over its
sadness.”

“Inside there,” called out the rider, “come I neither on horseback, nor
in carriage, nor on foot. These here rest in peace: with them I have
nothing to do. One day I shall be carried in feet foremost. I must bear
that as I can. Is it serious, I want to know?”

“Indeed it is,” cried Charlotte, “right serious. For the first time in
our married lives, we are in a strait and difficulty, from which we do
not know how to extricate ourselves.”

“You do not look as if it were so,” answered he. “But I will believe
you. If you are deceiving me, for the future you shall help yourselves.
Follow me quickly, my horse will be none the worse for a rest.”

The three speedily found themselves in the saloon together. Luncheon was
brought in, and Mittler told them what that day he had done, and was
going to do. This eccentric person had in early life been a clergyman,
and had distinguished himself in his office by the never-resting
activity with which he contrived to make up and put an end to quarrels:
quarrels in families, and quarrels between neighbors; first among the
individuals immediately about him, and afterward among whole
congregations, and among the country gentlemen round. While he was in
the ministry, no married couple was allowed to separate; and the
district courts were untroubled with either cause or process. A
knowledge of the law, he was well aware, was necessary to him. He gave
himself with all his might to the study of it, and very soon felt
himself a match for the best trained advocate. His circle of activity
extended wonderfully, and people were on the point of inducing him to
move to the Residence, where he would find opportunities of exercising
in the higher circles what he had begun in the lowest, when he won a
considerable sum of money in a lottery. With this, he bought himself a
small property. He let the ground to a tenant, and made it the centre of
his operations, with the fixed determination, or rather in accordance
with his old customs and inclinations, never to enter a house when there
was no dispute to make up, and no help to be given. People who were
superstitious about names, and about what they imported, maintained that
it was his being called Mittler which drove him to take upon himself
this strange employment.

Luncheon was laid on the table, and the stranger then solemnly pressed
his host not to wait any longer with the disclosure which he had to
make. Immediately after refreshing himself he would be obliged to leave
them.

Husband and wife made a circumstantial confession; but scarcely had he
caught the substance of the matter, when he started angrily up from the
table, rushed out of the saloon, and ordered his horse to be saddled
instantly.

“Either you do not know me, you do not understand me,” he cried, “or you
are sorely mischievous. Do you call this a quarrel? Is there any want
of help here? Do you suppose that I am in the world to give _advice_? Of
all occupations which man can pursue, that is the most foolish. Every
man must be his own counsellor, and do what he cannot let alone. If all
go well, let him be happy, let him enjoy his wisdom and his fortune; if
it go ill, I am at hand to do what I can for him. The man who desires to
be rid of an evil knows what he wants; but the man who desires something
better than he has got is stone blind. Yes, yes, laugh as you will, he
is playing blindman’s-buff; perhaps he gets hold of something, but the
question is what he has got hold of. Do as you will, it is all one.
Invite your friends to you, or let them be, it is all the same. The most
prudent plans I have seen miscarry, and the most foolish succeed. Don’t
split your brains about it; and if, one way or the other, evil comes of
what you settle, don’t fret; send for me, and you shall be helped. Till
which time, I am your humble servant.”

So saying, he sprang on his horse, without waiting the arrival of the
coffee.

“Here you see,” said Charlotte, “the small service a third person can
be, when things are off their balance between two persons closely
connected; we are left, if possible, more confused and more uncertain
than we were.”

They would both, probably, have continued hesitating some time longer,
had not a letter arrived from the Captain, in reply to Edward’s last. He
had made up his mind to accept one of the situations which had been
offered him, although it was not in the least up to his mark. He was to
share the ennui of certain wealthy persons of rank, who depended on his
ability to dissipate it.

Edward’s keen glance saw into the whole thing, and he pictured it out in
just, sharp lines.

“Can we endure to think of our friend in such a position?” he cried;
“you cannot be so cruel, Charlotte.”

“That strange Mittler is right after all,” replied Charlotte; “all such
undertakings are ventures; what will come of them it is impossible to
foresee. New elements introduced among us may be fruitful in fortune or
in misfortune, without our having to take credit to ourselves for one or
the other. I do not feel myself firm enough to oppose you further. Let
us make the experiment; only one thing I will entreat of you–that it be
only for a short time. You must allow me to exert myself more than ever,
to use all my influence among all my connections, to find him some
position which will satisfy him in his own way.”

Edward poured out the warmest expressions of gratitude. He hastened,
with a light, happy heart, to write off his proposals to his friend.
Charlotte, in a postscript, was to signify her approbation with her own
hand, and unite her own kind entreaties with his. She wrote, with a
rapid pen, pleasantly and affectionately, but yet with a sort of haste
which was not usual with her; and, most unlike herself, she disfigured
the paper at last with a blot of ink, which put her out of temper, and
which she only made worse with her attempts to wipe it away.

Edward laughed at her about it, and, as there was still room, added a
second postscript, that his friend was to see from this symptom the
impatience with which he was expected, and measure the speed at which he
came to them by the haste in which the letter was written.

The messenger was gone; and Edward thought he could not give a more
convincing evidence of his gratitude, than in insisting again and again
that Charlotte should at once send for Ottilie from the school. She said
she would think about it; and, for that evening, induced Edward to join
with her in the enjoyment of a little music. Charlotte played
exceedingly well on the piano, Edward not quite so well on the flute. He
had taken a great deal of pains with it at times; but he was without the
patience, without the perseverance, which are requisite for the
completely successful cultivation of such a talent; consequently, his
part was done unequally, some pieces well, only perhaps too
quickly–while with others he hesitated, not being quite familiar with
them; so that, for any one else, it would have been difficult to have
gone through a duet with him. But Charlotte knew how to manage it. She
held in, or let herself be run away with, and fulfilled in this way the
double part of a skilful conductor and a prudent housewife, who are able
always to keep right on the whole, although particular passages will now
and then fall out of order.