Whoever remembers the condition of the French kingdom, and is accurately and circumstantially acquainted with it from later writings, will easily figure to himself how, at that time, in the Alsatian semi-France, people used to talk about the king and his ministers, about the court and court-favorites. These were new subjects for my love of instructing myself, and very welcome ones to my pertness and youthful conceit. I observed every thing accurately, noted it down industriously; and I now see, from the little that is left, that such accounts, although only put together on the moment, out of fables and uncertain general rumors, always have a certain value in after-times, because they serve to confront and compare the secret made known at last with what was then already discovered and public, and the judgments of contemporaries, true or false, with the convictions of posterity.
Striking, and daily before the eyes of us street-loungers, was the project for beautifying the city; the execution of which according to draughts and plans, began in the strangest fashion to pass from sketches and plans into reality. Intendant Gayot had undertaken to new-model the angular and uneven lanes of Strasburg, and to lay the foundations of a respectable, handsome city, regulated by line and level. Upon this, Blondel, a Parisian architect, drew a plan, by which an hundred and forty householders gained in room, eighty lost, and the rest remained in their former condition. This plan accepted, but not to be put into execution at once, now, should in course of time have been approaching completion; and, meanwhile, the city oddly enough wavered between form and formlessness. If, for instance, a crooked side of a street was to be straightened, the first man who felt disposed to build moved forward to the appointed line, perhaps, too, his next neighbor, but perhaps, also, the third or fourth resident from him; by which projections the most awkward recesses were left, like front court-yards, before the houses in the background. They would not use force, yet without compulsion they would never have got on: on which account no man, when his house was once condemned, ventured to improve or replace any thing that related to the street. All these strange accidental inconveniences gave to us rambling idlers the most welcome opportunity of practising our ridicule; of making proposals, in the manner of Behrisch, for accelerating the completion, and of constantly doubting the possibility of it, although many a newly erected handsome building should have brought us to other thoughts. How far that project was advanced by the length of time, I cannot say.
Another subject on which the Protestant Strasburgers liked to converse was the expulsion of the Jesuits. These fathers, as soon as the city had fallen to the share of the French, had made their appearance and sought a /domicilium/. But they soon extended themselves and built a magnificent college, which bordered so closely on the minster that the back of the church covered a third part of its front. It was to be a complete quadrangle, and have a garden in the middle: three sides of it were finished. It is of stone, and solid, like all the buildings of these fathers. That the Protestants were pushed hard, if not oppressed by them, lay in the plan of the society which made it a duty to restore the old religion in its whole compass. Their fall, therefore, awakened the greatest satisfaction in the opposite party; and people saw, not without pleasure, how they sold their wines, carried away their books: and the building was assigned to another, perhaps less active, order. How glad are men when they get rid of an opponent, or only of a guardian! and the herd does not reflect, that, where there is no dog, it is exposed to wolves.
Now, since every city must have its tragedy, at which children and children's children shudder; so in Strasburg frequent mention was made of the unfortunate Praetor Klingling, who, after he had mounted the highest step of earthly felicity, ruled city and country with almost absolute power, and enjoyed all that wealth, rank, and influence could afford, had at last lost the favor of the court, and was dragged up to answer for all in which he had been indulged hitherto,—nay, was even thrown into prison, where, more than seventy years old, he died an ambiguous death.
This and other tales, that knight of St. Louis, our fellow-boarder, knew how to tell with passion and animation; for which reason I was fond of accompanying him in his walks, unlike the others, who avoided such invitations, and left me alone with him. As with new acquaintances I generally took my ease for a long time without thinking much about them or the effect which they were exercising upon me, so I only remarked gradually that his stories and opinions rather unsettled and confused than instructed and enlightened me. I never knew what to make of him, although the riddle might easily have been solved. He belonged to the many to whom life offers no results, and who, therefore, from first to last, exert themselves on individual objects. Unfortunately he had with this a decided desire, nay, even passion, for meditating, without having any capacity for thinking; and in such men a particular notion easily fixes itself fast, which may be regarded as a mental disease. To such a fixed view he always came back again, and was thus in the long run excessively tiresome. He would bitterly complain of the decline of his memory, especially with regard to the latest events, and maintained, by a logic of his own, that all virtue springs from a good memory, and all vice, on the contrary, from forgetfulness. This doctrine he contrived to carry out with much acuteness; as, indeed, any thing may be maintained when one has no compunction to use words altogether vaguely, and to employ and apply them in a sense now wider, now narrower, now closer, now more remote.
At first it was amusing to hear him; nay, his persuasiveness even astonished us. We fancied we were standing before a rhetorical sophist, who for jest and practice knew how to give a fair appearance to the strangest things. Unfortunately this first impression became blunted but too soon; for at the end of every discourse, manage the thing as I would, the man came back again to the same theme. He was not to be held fast to older events, although they interested him,—although he had them present to his mind with their minutest circumstances. Indeed, he was often, by a small circumstance, snatched out of the middle of a wild historical narrative, and thrust into his detestable favorite thought.
One of our afternoon walks was particularly unfortunate in this respect: the account of it may stand here instead of similar cases, which might weary if not vex the reader.
On the way through the city we were met by an old female mendicant, who, by her beggings and importunities, disturbed him in his story. "Pack yourself off, old witch!" said he, and walked by. She shouted after him the well-known retort,—only somewhat changed, since she saw well that the unfriendly man was old himself,—"If you did not wish to be old, you should have had yourself hanged in your youth!" He turned round violently, and I feared a scene. "Hanged cried he, "have myself hanged! No: that could not have been,—I was too honest a fellow for that; but hang myself—hang up my own self—that is true—that I should have done: I should have turned a charge of powder against myself, that I might not live to see that I am not even worth that any more." The woman stood as if petrified; but he continued, "You have said a great truth, witch- mother; and, as they have neither drowned nor burned you yet, you shall be paid for your proverb." He handed her a /buesel/, a coin not usually given to a beggar.
We had crossed over the first Rhine-bridge, and were going to the inn where we meant to stop; and I was trying to lead him back to our previous conversation, when, unexpectedly, a very pretty girl met us on the pleasant foot-path, remained standing before us, bowed prettily, and cried, "Eh, eh, captain, where are you going?" and, whatever else is usually said on such an occasion. "Mademoiselle," replied he, somewhat embarrassed, "I know not"—"How?" said she, with graceful astonishment, "do you forget your friends so soon?" The word "forget" fretted him: he shook his head and replied, peevishly enough, "Truly, mademoiselle, I did not know!"—She now retorted with some humor, yet very temperately, "Take care, captain: I may mistake you another time!" And so she hurried past, taking huge strides, without looking round. At once my fellow- traveller struck his forehead with both his fists: "Oh, what an ass I am!" exclaimed he, "what an old ass I am! Now, you see whether I am right or not." And then, in a very violent manner, he went on with his usual sayings and opinions, in which this case still more confirmed him. I can not and would not repeat what a philippic discourse he held against himself. At last he turned to me, and said, "I call you to witness! You remember that small-ware woman at the corner, who is neither young nor pretty? I salute her every time we pass, and often exchange a couple of friendly words with her; and yet it is thirty years ago since she was gracious to me. But now I swear it is not four weeks since this young lady showed herself more complaisant to me than was reasonable; and yet I will not recognize her, but insult her in return for her favors! Do I not always say, that ingratitude is the greatest of vices, and no man would be ungrateful if he were not forgetful?"
We went into the inn; and nothing but the tippling, swarming crowd in the ante-rooms stopped the invectives which he rattled off against himself and his contemporaries. He was silent, and I hoped pacified, when we stepped into an upper chamber, where we found a young man pacing up and down alone, whom the captain saluted by name. I was pleased to become acquainted with him; for the old fellow had said much good of him to me, and had told me that this young man, being employed in the war- bureau, had often disinterestedly done him very good service when the pensions were stopped. I was glad that the conversation took a general turn; and, while we were carrying it on, we drank a bottle of wine. But here, unluckily, another infirmity which my knight had in common with obstinate men developed itself. For as, on the whole, he could not get rid of that fixed notion; so did he stick fast to a disagreeable impression of the moment, and suffer his feelings to run on without moderation. His last vexation about himself had not yet died away; and now was added something new, although of quite a different kind. He had not long cast his eyes here and there before he noticed on the table a double portion of coffee, and two cups, and might besides, being a man of gallantry, have traced some other indication that the young man had not been so solitary all the time. And scarcely had the conjecture arisen in his mind, and ripened into a probability, that the pretty girl had been paying a visit here, than the most outrageous jealousy added itself to that first vexation, so as completely to perplex him.
Now, before I could suspect any thing,—for I had hitherto been conversing quite harmlessly with the young man,—the captain, in an unpleasant tone, which I well knew, began to be satirical about the pair of cups, and about this and that. The young man, surprised, tried to turn it off pleasantly and sensibly, as is the custom among men of good breeding: but the old fellow continued to be unmercifully rude; so that there was nothing left for the other to do but to seize his hat and cane, and at his departure to leave behind him a pretty unequivocal challenge. The fury of the captain now burst out the more vehemently, as he had in the interim drunk another bottle of wine almost by himself. He struck the table with his fist, and cried more than once, "I will strike him dead!" It was not, however, meant quite so badly as it sounded; for he often used this phrase when any one opposed or otherwise displeased him. Just as unexpectedly the business grew worse on our return; for I had the want of foresight to represent to him his ingratitude towards the young man, and to remind him how strongly he had praised to me the ready obligingness of this official person. No! such rage of a man against himself I never saw again: it was the most passionate conclusion to that beginning to which the pretty girl had given occasion. Here I saw sorrow and repentance carried into caricature, and, as all passion supplies the place of genius, to a point really genius-like. He then went over all the incidents of our afternoon ramble again, employed them rhetorically for his own self-reproach, brought up the old witch at last before him once more, and perplexed himself to such a degree, that I could not help fearing he would throw himself into the Rhine. Could I have been sure of fishing him out again quickly, like Mentor his Telemachus, he might have made the leap; and I should have brought him home cooled down for this occasion.
I immediately confided the affair to Lerse; and we went the next morning to the young man, whom my friend in his dry way set laughing. We agreed to bring about an accidental meeting, where a reconciliation should take place of itself. The drollest thing about it was, that this time the captain, too, had slept off his rudeness, and found himself ready to apologize to the young man, to whom petty quarrels were of some consequence. All was arranged in one morning; and, as the affair had not been kept quite secret, I did not escape the jokes of my friends, who might have foretold me, from their own experience, how troublesome the friendship of the captain could become upon occasion.
But now, while I am thinking what should be imparted next, there comes again into my thoughts, by a strange play of memory, that reverend minster-building, to which in those days I devoted particular attention, and which, in general, constantly presents itself to the eye, both in the city and in the country.
The more I considered the /facade/, the more was that first impression strengthened and developed, that here the sublime has entered into alliance with the pleasing. If the vast, when it appears as a mass before us, is not to terrify; if it is not to confuse, when we seek to investigate its details,—it must enter into an unnatural, apparently impossible, connection, it must associate to itself the pleasing. But now, since it will be impossible for us to speak of the impression of the minster except by considering both these incompatible qualities as united, so do we already see, from this, in what high value we must hold this ancient monument; and we begin in earnest to describe how such contradictory elements could peaceably interpenetrate and unite themselves.
First of all, without thinking of the towers, we devote out considerations to the /facade/ alone, which powerfully strikes the eye as an upright, oblong parallelogram. If we approach it at twilight, in the moonshine, on a starlight night, when the parts appear more or less indistinct and at last disappear, we see only a colossal wall, the height of which bears an advantageous proportion to the breadth. If we view it by day, and by the power of the mind abstract from the details, we recognize the front of a building which not only encloses the space within, but also covers much in its vicinity. The openings of this monstrous surface point to internal necessities, and according to these we can at once divide it into nine compartments. The great middle door, which opens into the nave of the church, first meets the eye. On both sides of it lie two smaller ones, belonging to the cross-ways. Over the chief door our glance falls upon the wheel-shaped window, which is to spread an awe-inspiring light within the church and its vaulted arches. At its sides appear two large, perpendicular, oblong openings, which form a striking contrast with the middle one, and indicate that they belong to the base of the rising towers. In the third story are three openings in a row, which are designed for belfries and other church necessities. Above them one sees the whole horizontally closed by the balustrade of the gallery, instead of a cornice. These nine spaces described are supported, enclosed, and separated into three great perpendicular divisions by four pillars rising up from the ground.
Now, as it cannot be denied that there is in the whole mass a fine proportion of height to breadth, so also in the details it maintains a somewhat uniform lightness by means of these pillars and the narrow compartments between them.
But if we adhere to our abstraction, and imagine to ourselves this immense wall without ornaments, with firm buttresses, with the necessary openings in it, but only so far as necessity requires them, we even then must allow that these chief divisions are in good proportion: thus the whole will appear solemn and noble indeed, but always heavily unpleasant, and, being without ornament, unartistical. For a work of art, the whole of which is conceived in great, simple, harmonious parts, makes indeed a noble and dignified impression; but the peculiar enjoyment which the pleasing produces can only find place in the consonance of all developed details.
And it is precisely here that the building we are examining satisfies us in the highest degree, for we see all the ornaments fully suited to every part which they adorn: they are subordinate to it, they seem to have grown out of it. Such a manifoldness always gives great pleasure, since it flows of its own accord from the suitable, and therefore at the same time awakens the feeling of unity. It is only in such cases that the execution is prized as the summit of art.
By such means, now, was a solid piece of masonry, an impenetrable wall, which had moreover to announce itself as the base of two heaven-high towers, made to appear to the eye as if resting on itself, consisting in itself, but at the same time light and adorned, and, though pierced through in a thousand places, to give the idea of indestructible firmness.
This riddle is solved in the happiest manner. The openings in the wall, its solid parts, the pillars, every thing has its peculiar character, which proceeds from its particular destination: this communicates itself by degrees to the subdivisions; hence every thing is adorned in proportionate taste, the great as well as the small is in the right place, and can be easily comprehended, and thus the pleasing presents itself in the vast. I would refer only to the doors sinking in perspective into the thickness of the wall, and adorned without end in their columns and pointed arches; to the window with its rose springing out of the round form; to the outline of its framework, as well as to the slender reed-like pillars of the perpendicular compartments. Let one represent to himself the pillars retreating step by step, accompanied by little, slender, light-pillared, pointed structures, likewise striving upwards, and furnished with canopies to shelter the images of the saints, and how at last every rib, every boss, seems like a flower-head and row of leaves, or some other natural object transformed into stone. One may compare, if not the building itself, yet representations of the whole and of its parts, for the purpose of reviewing and giving life to what I have said. It may seem exaggerated to many; for I myself, though transported into love for this work at first sight, required a long time to make myself intimately acquainted with its value.
Having grown up among those who found fault with Gothic architecture, I cherished my aversion from the abundantly overloaded, complicated ornaments which, by their capriciousness, made a religious, gloomy character highly adverse. I strengthened myself in this repugnance, since I had only met with spiritless works of this kind, in which one could perceive neither good proportions nor a pure consistency. But here I thought I saw a new revelation of it, since what was objectionable by no means appeared, but the contrary opinion rather forced itself upon my mind.
But the longer I looked and considered, I all the while thought I discovered yet greater merits beyond that which I have already mentioned. The right proportion of the larger divisions, the ornamental, as judicious as rich, even to the minutest, were found out; but now I recognized the connection of these manifold ornaments amongst each other, the transition from one leading part to another, the enclosing of details, homogeneous indeed, but yet greatly varying in form, from the saint to the monster, from the leaf to the dental. The more I investigated, the more I was astonished; the more I amused and wearied myself with measuring and drawing, so much the more did my attachment increase, so that I spent much time, partly in studying what actually existed, partly in restoring, in my mind and on paper, what was wanting and unfinished, especially in the towers.
Finding that this building had been based on old German ground, and grown thus far in genuine German times, and that the name of the master, on his modest gravestone, was likewise of native sound and origin, I ventured, being incited by the worth of this work of art, to change the hitherto decried appellation of "Gothic architecture," and to claim it for our nation as "German architecture;" nor did I fail to bring my patriotic views to light, first orally, and afterwards in a little treatise dedicated to the memory of Ervinus a Steinbach.
If my biographical narrative should come down to the epoch when the said sheet appeared in print, which Herder afterwards inserted in his pamphlet, "Von Deutscher Art und Kunst" ("Of German Manner and Art"), much more will be said on this weighty subject. But, before I turn from it this time, I will take the opportunity to vindicate the motto prefixed to the present volume with those who may have entertained some doubt about it. I know indeed very well, that in opposition to this honest, hopeful old German saying, "Of whatever one wishes in youth, he has abundance in old age," many would quote contrary experience, and many trifling comments might be made; but much, also, is to be said in its favor: and I will explain how I understand it.
Our wishes are presentiments of the capabilities which lie within us, and harbingers of that which we shall be in a condition to perform. Whatever we are able and would like to do, presents itself to our imagination, as without us and in the future. We feel a longing after that which we already possess in secret. Thus a passionate anticipating grasp changes the truly possible into a dreamed reality. Now, if such a bias lies decidedly in our nature, then, with every step of our development will a part of the first wish be fulfilled,—under favorable circumstances in the direct way, under unfavorable in the circuitous way, from which we always come back again to the other. Thus we see men by perseverance attain to earthly wealth. They surround themselves with riches, splendor, and external honor. Others strive yet more certainly after intellectual advantages, acquire for themselves a clear survey of things, a peacefulness of mind, and a certainty for the present and the future.
But now there is a third direction, which is compounded of both, and the issue of which must be the most surely successful. When a man's youth falls into a pregnant time; when production overweighs destruction, and a presentiment is early awakened within him as to what such an epoch demands and promises,—he will then, being forced by outward inducements into an active interest, take hold now here, now there, and the wish to be active on many sides will be lively within him. But so many accidental hinderances are associated with human limitation, that here a thing, once begun, remains unfinished: there that which is already grasped falls out of the hand, and one wish after another is dissipated. But had these wishes sprung out of a pure heart, and in conformity with the necessities of the times, one might composedly let them lie and fall right and left, and be assured that these must not only be found out and picked up again, but that also many kindred things, which one has never touched and never even thought of, will come to light. If, now, during our own lifetime, we see that performed by others, for which we ourselves felt an earlier call, but had been obliged to give it up, with much besides, then the beautiful feeling enters the mind that only mankind combined is the true man, and that the individual can only be joyous and happy when he has the courage to feel himself in the whole.
This contemplation is here in the right place; for when I reflect on the affection which drew me to these antique edifices, when I reckon up the time which I devoted to the Strasburg minster alone, the attention with which I afterwards examined: the cathedral at Cologne, and that at Freyburg, and more and more felt the value of these buildings, I could even blame myself for having afterwards lost sight of them altogether,— nay, for having left them completely in the background, being attracted by a more developed art. But when now, in the latest times, I see attention again turned to those objects; when I see affection, and even passion, for them appearing and flourishing; when I see able young persons seized with this passion, recklessly devoting powers, time, care, and property to these memorials of a past world,—then am I reminded with pleasure that what I formerly would and wished had a value. With satisfaction I see that they not only know how to prize what was done by our fore-fathers, but that, from existing unfinished beginnings, they try to represent, in pictures at least, the original design, so as thus to make us acquainted with the thought, which is ever the beginning and end of all undertakings; and that they strive with considerate zeal to clear up and vivify what seems to be a confused past. Here I especially applaud the brave Sulpiz Boisseree, who is indefatigably employed in a magnificent series of copper-plates to exhibit the cathedral of Cologne as the model of those vast conceptions, the spirit of which, like that of Babel, strove up to heaven, and which were so out of proportion to earthly means that they were necessarily stopped fast in their execution. If we have been hitherto astonished that such buildings proceeded only so far, we shall learn with the greatest admiration what was really designed to be done.
Would that literary-artistical undertakings of this kind were duly patronized by all who have power, wealth, and influence; that the great and gigantic views of our fore-fathers may be presented to our contemplation; and that we may be able to form a conception of what they dared to desire. The insight resulting from this will not remain fruitless; and the judgment will, for once at least, be in a condition to exercise itself on these works with justice. Nay, this will be done most thoroughly if our active young friend, besides the monograph devoted to the cathedral of Cologne, follows out in detail the history of our mediaeval architecture. When whatever is to be known about the practical exercise of this art is further brought to light, when the art is represented in all its fundamental features by a comparison with the Graeco-Roman and the Oriental Egyptian, little can remain to be done in this department. And I, when the results of such patriotic labors lie before the world, as they are now known in friendly private communications, shall be able, with true content, to repeat that motto in its best sense, "Of whatever one wishes in youth, he will have enough in old age."
But if, in operations like these, which belong to centuries, one can trust one's self to time, and wait for opportunity, there are, on the contrary, other things which in youth must be enjoyed at once, fresh, like ripe fruits. Let me be permitted, with this sudden turn, to mention dancing, of which the ear is reminded, as the eye is of the minster, every day and every hour in Strasburg and all Alsace. From early youth my father himself had given my sister and me instruction in dancing, a task which must have comported strangely enough with so stern a man. But he did not suffer his composure to be put out by it: he drilled us in the positions and steps in a manner the most precise; and, when he had brought us far enough to dance a minuet, he played for us something easily intelligible in three-four time, on a /flute-douce/, and we moved to it as well as we could. On the French theatre, likewise, I had seen from my youth upwards, if not ballets, yet /pas seuls/ and /pas de deux/, and had noticed in them various strange motions of the feet, and all sorts of springs. When we had had enough of the minuet, I requested my father to play some other dance-music, of which our music-books, in their jigs and murkies, [Footnote: A "murki" is defined as an old species of short composition for the harpsichord, with a lively murmuring accompaniment in the bass.—TRANS.] offered us a rich supply; and I immediately found out, of myself, the steps and other motions for them, the time being quite suitable to my limbs, and, as it were, born with them. This pleased my father to a certain degree; indeed, he often, by way of joke for himself and us, let the "monkies" dance in this way. After my misfortune with Gretchen, and during the whole of my residence in Leipzig, I did not make my appearance again on the floor: on the contrary, I still remember, that when, at a ball, they forced me into a minuet, both measure and motion seemed to have abandoned my limbs, and I could no longer remember either the steps or the figures; so that I should have been put to disgrace and shame if the greater part of the spectators had not maintained that my awkward behavior was pure obstinacy, assumed with the view of depriving the ladies of all desire to invite me and draw me into their circle against my will.
During my residence in Frankfort I was quite cut off from such pleasures; but in Strasburg, with other enjoyments of life, there soon arose in my limbs the faculty of keeping time. On Sundays and week-days one sauntered by no pleasure-ground without finding there a joyous crowd assembled for the dance, and for the most part revolving in the circle. Moreover, there were private balls in the country houses; and people were already talking of the brilliant masquerades of the coming winter. Here, indeed, I should have been out of my place, and useless to the company, when a friend, who waltzed very well, advised me to practise myself first in parties of a lower rank, so that afterwards I might be worth something in the highest. He took me to a dancing-master, who was well known for his skill. This man promised me, that, when I had in some degree repeated the first elements and made myself master of them, he would then lead me farther. He was one of your dry, ready French characters, and received me in a friendly manner. I paid him a month in advance, and received twelve tickets, for which he agreed to give me certain hours' instruction. The man was strict and precise, but not pedantic; and, as I already had some previous practice, I soon gave him satisfaction, and received his commendation.
One circumstance, however, greatly facilitated the instruction of this teacher: he had two daughters, both pretty, and both not yet twenty. Having been instructed in this art from their youth upwards, they showed themselves very skilful, and might have been able, as partners, soon to help even the most clumsy scholars into some cultivation. They were both very polite, spoke nothing but French; and I, on my part, did my best, that I might not appear awkward or ridiculous before them. I had the good fortune that they likewise praised me, and were always willing to dance a minuet to their father's little violin, and, what indeed was more difficult for them, to initiate me by degrees into waltzing and whirling. Their father did not seem to have many customers, and they led a lonely life. For this reason they often asked me to remain with them after my hour, and to chat away the time a little, which I the more willingly did, as the younger one pleased me well; and generally they both altogether behaved very becomingly. I often read aloud something from a novel, and they did the same. The elder, who was as handsome as, perhaps even handsomer than, the second, but who did not correspond with my taste so well as the latter, always conducted herself towards me more obligingly, and more kindly in every respect. She was always at hand during the lesson, and often protracted it: hence I sometimes thought myself bound to offer back a couple of tickets to her father, which, however, he did not accept. The younger, on the contrary, although never showing me any ill will, was more reserved, and waited till she was called by her father before she relieved the elder.
The cause of this became manifest to me one evening; for when, after the dance was done, I was about to go into the sitting-room with the elder, she held me back, and said, "Let us remain here a little longer; for I will confess to you that my sister has with her a woman who tells fortunes from cards, and who is to reveal to her how matters stand with an absent lover, on whom her whole heart hangs, and upon whom she has placed all her hope. Mine is free," she continued, "and I must accustom myself to see it despised." I thereupon said sundry pretty things to her, replying that she could at once convince herself on that point by consulting the wise woman likewise; that I would do so myself, for I had long wished to learn something of the kind, but lacked faith. She blamed me for this, and assured me that nothing in the world was surer than the responses of this oracle; only it must be consulted, not out of sport and mischief, but solely in real affairs. However, I at last compelled her to go with me into that room, as soon as she had ascertained that the consultation was over. We found her sister in a very cheerful humor: and even towards me she was kinder than usual, sportive, and almost witty; for, since she seemed to be secure of an absent friend, she may have thought it no treachery to be a little gracious with a present friend of her sister's, which she thought me to be. The old woman was now flattered, and good payment was promised her if she would tell the truth to the elder sister and to me. With the usual preparations and ceremonies she began her business, in order to tell the fair one's fortune first. She carefully considered the situation of the cards, but seemed to hesitate, and would not speak out what she had to say. "I see now," said the younger, who was already better acquainted with the interpretation of such a magic tablet, "you hesitate, and do not wish to disclose any thing disagreeable to my sister; but that is a cursed card!" The elder one turned pale, but composed herself, and said, "Only speak out: it will not cost one's head!" The old woman, after a deep sigh, showed her that she was in love; that she was not beloved; that another person stood in the way; and other things of like import. We saw the good girl's embarrassment. The old woman thought somewhat to improve the affair by giving hopes of letters and money. "Letters," said the lovely child, "I do not expect; and money I do not desire. If it is true, as you say, that I love, I deserve a heart that loves me in return."—"Let us see if it will not be better," replied the old woman, as she shuffled the cards and laid them out a second time; but before the eyes of all of us it had only become still worse. The fair one stood, not only more lonely, but surrounded with many sorrows. Her lover had moved somewhat farther, and the intervening figures nearer. The old woman wished to try it a third time, in hopes of a better prospect; but the beautiful girl could restrain herself no longer,—she broke out into uncontrollable weeping, her lovely bosom heaved violently, she turned round, and rushed out of the room. I knew not what to do. Inclination kept me with the one present: compassion drove me to the other. My situation was painful enough. "Comfort Lucinda," said the younger: "go after her." I hesitated. How could I comfort her without at least assuring her of some sort of affection? and could I do that at such a moment in a cool, moderate manner? "Let us go together," said I to Emilia. "I know not whether my presence will do her good," replied she. Yet we went, but found the door bolted. Lucinda made no answer, we might knock, shout, entreat, as we would. "We must let her have her own way," said Emilia: "she will not have it otherwise now." And, indeed, when I called to my mind her manner from our very first acquaintance, she always had something violent and unequal about her, and chiefly showed her affection for me by not behaving to me with rudeness. What was I to do? I paid the old woman richly for the mischief she had caused, and was about to go, when Emilia said, "I stipulate that the cards shall now be cut for you too." The old woman was ready. "Do not let me be present," cried I, and hastened down stairs.
The next day I had not courage to go there. The third day, early in the morning, Emilia sent me word by a boy,—who had already brought me many a message from the sisters, and had carried back flowers and fruits to them in return,—that I should not fail that day. I came at the usual hour, and found the father alone, who, in many respects, improved my paces and steps, my goings and comings, my bearing and behavior, and, moreover, seemed to be satisfied with me. The younger daughter came in towards the end of the hour, and danced with me a very graceful minuet, in which her movements were extraordinarily pleasing, and her father declared that he had rarely seen a prettier and more nimble pair upon his floor. After the lesson, I went as usual into the sitting-room; the father left us alone; I missed Lucinda. "She is in bed," said Emilia, "and I am glad of it: do not be concerned about it. Her mental illness is first alleviated when she fancies herself bodily sick: she does not like to die, and therefore she then does what we wish. We have certain family medicines which she takes, and reposes; and thus, by degrees, the swelling waves subside. She is indeed too good and amiable in such an imaginary sickness; and as she is in reality very well, and is only attacked by passion, she imagines various kinds of romantic deaths, with which she frightens herself in a pleasant manner, like children when we tell them ghost-stories. Thus, only last night, she announced to me with great vehemence, that this time she should certainly die; and that only when she was really near death, they should bring again before her the ungrateful, false friend, who had at first acted so handsomely to her, and now treated her so ill; she would reproach him bitterly, and then give up the ghost."—"I know not that I am guilty," exclaimed I, "of having expressed any sort of affection for her. I know somebody who can best bear me witness in this respect." Emilia smiled, and rejoined, "I understand you; and, if we are not discreet and determined, we shall all find ourselves in a bad plight together. What will you say if I entreat you not to continue your lessons? You have, I believe, four tickets yet of the last month: and my father has already declared that he finds it inexcusable to take your money any longer, unless you wish to devote yourself to the art of dancing in a more serious manner; what is required by a young man of the world you possess already."—"And do you, Emilia, give me this advice, to avoid your house?" replied I. "Yes, I do," said she, "but not of myself. Only listen! When you hastened away, the day before yesterday, I had the cards cut for you; and the same response was repeated thrice, and each time more emphatically. You were surrounded by every thing good and pleasing, by friends and great lords; and there was no lack of money. The ladies kept themselves at some distance. My poor sister in particular stood always the farthest off: one other advanced constantly nearer to you, but never came up to your side; for a third person, of the male sex, always came between. I will confess to you that I thought that I myself was meant by the second lady, and after this confession you will best comprehend my well-meant counsel. To an absent friend I have promised my heart and my hand; and, until now, I loved him above all: yet it might be possible for your presence to become more important to me than hitherto; and what kind of a situation would you have between two sisters, one of whom you had made unhappy by your affection, and the other by your coldness, and all this ado about nothing and only for a short time? For, if we had not known already who you are and what are your expectations, the cards would have placed it before my eyes in the clearest manner. Fare you well!" said she, and gave me her hand. I hesitated. "Now," said she, leading me towards the door, "that it may really be the last time that we shall speak to each other, take what I would otherwise have denied you." She fell upon my neck, and kissed me most tenderly. I embraced her, and pressed her to my bosom.
At this moment the side-door flew open; and her sister, in a light but becoming night-dress, rushed out and cried, "You shall not be the only one to take leave of him!" Emilia let me go; and Lucinda seized me, clung close to my heart, pressed her black locks upon my cheeks, and remained in this position for some time. And thus I found myself between the two sisters, in the dilemma Emilia had prophesied to me a moment before. Lucinda let me loose, and looked earnestly into my face. I was about to grasp her hand and say something friendly to her; but she turned herself away, walked with violent steps up and down the room for some time, and then threw herself into a corner of the sofa. Emilia went to her, but was immediately repulsed; and here began a scene which is yet painful to me in the recollection, and which, although really it had nothing theatrical about it, but was quite suitable to a lively young Frenchwoman, could only be properly repeated in the theatre by a good and feeling actress.
Lucinda overwhelmed her sister with a thousand reproaches. "This is not the first heart," she cried, "that was inclining itself to me, and that you have turned away. Was it not just so with him who is absent, and who at last betrothed himself to you under my very eyes? I was compelled to look on; I endured it; but I know how many thousand tears it has cost me. This one, too, you have now taken away from me, without letting the other go; and how many do you not manage to keep at once? I am frank and good natured; and every one thinks he knows me soon, and may neglect me. You are secret and quiet, and people think wonders of what may be concealed behind you. Yet there is nothing behind but a cold, selfish heart that can sacrifice every thing to itself; this nobody learns so easily, because it lies deeply hidden in your breast: and just as little do they know of my warm, true heart, which I carry about with me as open as my face."
Emilia was silent, and had sat down by her sister, who became constantly more and more excited in her discourse, and let certain private matters slip out, which it was not exactly proper for me to know. Emilia, on the other hand, who was trying to pacify her sister, made me a sign from behind that I should withdraw; but, as jealousy and suspicion see with a thousand eyes, Lucinda seemed to have noticed this also. She sprang up and advanced to me, but not with vehemence. She stood before me, and seemed to be thinking of something. Then she said, "I know that I have lost you: I make no further pretensions to you. But neither shall you have him, sister!" So saying, she took a thorough hold of my head, thrusting both her hands into my locks and pressing my face to hers, and kissed me repeatedly on the mouth. "Now," cried she, "fear my curse! Woe upon woe, for ever and ever, to her who kisses these lips for the first time after me! Dare to have any thing more to do with him! I know Heaven hears me this time. And you, sir, hasten now, hasten away as fast as you can!"
I flew down the stairs, with the firm determination never again to enter the house.