Home  »  Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship  »  Chapter VII

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

Book IV

Chapter VII

WILHELM’S wounds once dressed, and his clothes put on, the surgeon hastened off; just as the Harper with a number of peasants arrived. Out of some cut boughts, which they speedily wattled with twigs, a kind of litter was constructed; upon which they placed the wounded youth, and under the conduct of a mounted huntsman, whom the noble company had left behind them, carried him softly down the mountain. The Harper, silent and shrouded in his own thoughts, bore with him his broken instrument. Some men brought on Philina’s box, herself following with a bundle. Mignon skipped along through copse and thicket, now before the party, now beside them, and looked up with longing eyes at her hurt protector.

He meanwhile, wrapped in his warm surtout, was lying peacefully upon the litter. An electric warmth seemed to flow from the fine wool into his body: in short, he felt himself in the most delightful frame of mind. The lovely being, whom this garment lately covered, had affected him to the very heart. He still saw the coat falling down from her shoulders; saw that noble form, begirt with radiance, stand beside him; and his soul hied over rocks and forests on the footsteps of his vanished benefactress.

It was nightfall when the party reached the village, and halted at the door of the inn where the rest of the company in the gloom of despondency, were bewailing their irreparable loss. The one little chamber of the house was crammed with people. Some of them were lying upon straw; some were occupying benches; some had squeezed themselves behind the stove. Frau Melina, in a neighbouring room, was painfully expecting her delivery. Fright had accelerated this event. With the sole assistance of the landlady, a young inexperienced woman, nothing good could be expected.

As the party just arrived required admission, there arose a universal murmur. All now maintained, that by Wilhelm’s advice alone, and under his especial guidance, they had entered on this dangerous road, and exposed themselves to such misfortunes. They threw the blame of the disaster wholly on him; they stuck themselves in the door to oppose his entrance, declaring that he must go elsewhere and seek quarters. Philina they received with still greater indignation: nor did Mignon and the Harper escape their share.

The huntsman, to whom the care of the forsaken party had been earnestly and strictly recommended by his beautiful mistress, soon grew tired of this discussion: he rushed upon the company with oaths and menaces; commanding them to fall to the right and left and make way for this new arrival. They now began to pacify themselves. He made a place for Wilhelm on a table, which he shoved into a corner; Philina had her box put there, and then sat down upon it. All packed themselves as they best could; and the huntsman went away to see if he could not find for “the young couple” a more convenient lodging.

Scarcely was he gone, when spite again grew noisy, and one reproach began to follow close upon another. Each described and magnified his loss; censuring the foolhardiness they had so keenly smarted for. They did not even hide the malicious satisfaction they felt at Wilhelm’s wounds: they jeered Philina, and imputed to her as a crime the means by which she had saved her trunk. From a multitude of jibes and bitter innuendoes you were required to conclude, that during the plundering and discomfiture she had endeavoured to work herself into favour with the captain of the band, and had persuaded him, Heaven knew by what arts and complaisance, to give her back the chest unhurt. To all this she answered nothing; only clanked with the large paddocks of her box, to impress her censurers completely with its presence, and by her own good fortune to augment their desperation.