Home  »  Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship  »  Chapter IX

J.W. von Goethe (1749–1832). Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Book IV

Chapter IX

THE HUNTSMAN now came back with several people, and made preparations for carrying away the wounded youth. He had persuaded the parson of the place to receive the “young couple” into his house; Philina’s trunk was taken out; she followed with a natural air of dignity. Mignon ran before; and when the patient reached the parsonage, a wide couch, which had long been standing ready as guest’s bed and bed of honour, was assigned him. Here it was first discovered, that his wound had opened and bled profusely. A new bandage was required for it. He fell into a feverish state; Philina waited on him faithfully; and when fatigue overpowered her, she was relieved by the Harper. Mignon, with the firmest purpose to watch, had fallen asleep in a corner.

Next morning, Wilhelm, who felt himself in some degree refreshed, learned by inquiring of the huntsman, that the honourable persons who last night assisted him so nobly, had shortly before left their estates, in order to avoid the movements of the contending armies, and remain till the time of peace in some more quiet district. He named the elderly nobleman as well as his niece; mentioned the place they were first going to; and told how the young lady had charged him to take care of Wilhelm.

The entrance of the surgeon interrupted the warm expressions of gratitude, in which our friend was pouring out his feelings. He made a circumstantial description of the wounds; and certified that they would soon heal, if the patient took care of them, and kept himself at peace.

When the huntsman was gone, Philina signified that he had left with her a purse of twenty louis-d’or; that he had given the parson a remuneration for their lodging, and left with him money to defray the surgeon’s bill when the cure should be completed. She added, that she herself passed everywhere for Wilhelm’s wife: that she now begged leave to introduce herself once for all to him in this capacity, and would not allow him to look out for any other sick-nurse.

“Philina,” said Wilhelm, “in this disaster that has overtaken us, I am already deeply in your debt for kindness shown me; and I should not wish to see my obligations increased. I am restless so long as you are near me: for I know of nothing by which I can repay your labour. Give me my things which you have saved in your trunk; unite yourself to the rest of the company; seek another lodging, take my thanks, and the gold watch as a small acknowledgment: only leave me; your presence disturbs me more than you can fancy.”

She laughed in his face when he had ended. “Thou art a fool,” she said; “thou wilt not gather wisdom. I know better what is good for thee; I will stay, I will not budge from the spot. I have never counted on the gratitude of men, and therefore not on thine; and if I have a touch of kindness for thee, what hast thou to do with it?”

She stayed accordingly; and soon wormed herself into favour with the parson and his household; being always cheerful, having the knack of giving little presents, and of talking to each in his own vein; at the same time always contriving to do exactly what she pleased. Wilhelm’s state was not uncomfortable: the surgeon, an ignorant but no unskilful man, let nature play her part; and the patient was not long till he felt himself recovering. For such a consummation, being eager to pursue his plans and wishes, he vehemently longed.

Incessantly he kept recalling that event, which had made an ineffaceable impression on his heart. He saw the beautiful Amazon again come riding out of the thickets; she approached him, dismounted, went to and fro, and strove to serve him. He saw the garment she was wrapt in fall down from her shoulders; he saw her countenance, her figure vanish in their radiance. All the dreams of his youth now fastened on this image. Here he conceived he had at length beheld the noble, the heroic Clorinda with his own eyes: and again he bethought him of that royal youth, to whose sickbed the lovely sympathising princess came in her modest meekness.

“May it not be,” said he often to himself in secret, “that in youth as in sleep, the images of coming things hover round us, and mysteriously become visible to our unobstructed eyes? May not the seeds of what is to betide us be already scattered by the hand of Fate; may not a foretaste of the fruits we yet hope to gather possibly be given us?”

His sickbed gave him leisure to repeat those scenes in every mood. A thousand times he called back the tone of that sweet voice; a thousand times he envied Philina, who had kissed that helpful hand. Often the whole incident appeared before him as a dream; and he would have reckoned it a fiction, if the white surtout had not been left behind to convince him that the vision had a real existence.

With the greatest care for this piece of apparel, he combined the greatest wish to wear it. The first time he arose he put it on; and was kept in fear all day lest it might be hurt by some stain or other injury.