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

Book IV

Chapter XII

THE SOFT allurements of his dear presiding angel, far from leading our friend to any one determined path, did but nourish and increase the unrest which he had previously experienced. A secret fire was gliding through his veins; objects distinct and indistinct alternated within his soul, and awoke unspeakable desire. At one time he wished for a horse, at another for wings; and not till it seemed impossible that he could stay, did he look round him to discover whither he was wanting to go.

The threads of his destiny had become so strangely entangled, he wished to see its curious knots unravelled or cut in two.

Often, when he heard the tramp of a horse or the rolling of a carriage, he would run to the window and look out, in hopes it might be some one seeking him; some one, even though it were by chance, bringing him intelligence and certainty and joy. He told stories to himself, how his friend Werner might visit these parts and come upon him; how perhaps Mariana might appear. The sound of every post’s horn threw him into agitation. It would be Melina sending news to him of his adventures; above all, it would be the huntsman coming back to carry him to the beauty whom he worshipped.

Of all these possibilities, unhappily no one occurred: he was forced at last to return to the company of himself; and in again looking through the past, there was one circumstance, which the more he viewed and weighed it, grew the more offensive and intolerable to him. It was his unprosperous generalship, of which he never thought without vexation. For although, on the evening of that luckless day, he had produced a pretty fair defence of his conduct when accused by the company, yet he could not hide from himself that he was guilty. On the contrary, in hypochondriacal moments he took the blame of the whole misfortune.

Self-love exaggerates our faults as well as our virtues. Wilhelm thought he had awakened confidence in him, had guided the will of the rest; that, led by inexperience and rashness, they had ventured on, till a danger seized them, for which they were not match. Loud as well as silent reproaches had then assailed him: and if in their sorrowful condition he had promised to the company, misguided by him, never to forsake them till their loss had been repaid with usury; this was but another folly for which he had to blame himself, the folly of presuming to take upon his single shoulders a misfortune that was spread over many. One instant he accused himself of uttering this promise, under the excitement and the pressure of the moment; the next he again felt that this generous presentation of his hand, which no one deigned to accept, was but a light formality compared with the vow which his heart had taken. He meditated means of being kind and useful to them; he found every cause conspire to quicken his visit to Serlo. Accordingly he packed his things together; and without waiting his complete recovery, without listening to the counsel of the parson or the surgeon, he hastened, in the strange society of Mignon and the Harper, to escape the inactivity, in which his fate had once more too long detained him.