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The Sorrows of Werter

By Johann Wolfgang Goethe

LETTER LXXVII--continued.

Forgive! forgive! -- yesterday -- Alas! that moment should have been the last of {204} my life. I am beloved! am beloved by her! the delightful sense of it for the first time penetrated, enflamed my heart. My lips still feel the sacred warmth they received from thine. New torrents of delight flow in upon my heart. -- Forgive me! forgive me!

Oh! I knew that I was dear to you; I saw it in the first animated look which you directed to me; I knew it the first time you pressed my hand: but when I was absent from you, when I saw Albert by your side, my doubts and fears returned.

Do you recollect the flowers you sent me, when at a disagreeable time and crowded assembly you could neither speak to me, nor hold out your hand? Half the night I was on my knees before those flowers; they were the pledges of affection: but these impressions grew fainter, and were at length effaced. -- Every thing passes away; but a whole eternity could not extinguish the flame which was yesterday kindled by your lips, the flame I feel {205} within me. -- She loved me! these arms have encircled her waist, these lips have trembled upon hers; she is mine -- Yes, Charlotte! you are mine for ever!

Albert is your husband; but what of that? it is for this life only. -- And in this life only it is a crime to love you, to wish to tear you from him! This is a crime, and I punish myself for it: I have enjoyed it -- I have enjoyed the full delight of it. -- I drew in a balm which has revived my soul. From this moment you are mine -- yes, Charlotte, you are mine. I go before you, I go to my father, to thy father; I shall carry my sorrows to the foot of his throne, and he will give me comfort till you arrive. Then will I fly to meet you, I will claim you, and remain with you for ever in the presence of the Almighty. I do not dream, I do not rave; drawing near to the grave, my perceptions are more clear. We shall exist, we shall see one another again; we shall see your respected mother; I shall see her, I shall {206} find her out, and I shall not be afraid to shew her my heart. -- Your mother! your image!

[ABOUT eleven o'clock, Werter asked his servant if Albert was returned: he answered. "Yes; for he had seen him go by on horseback." Upon which Werter sent him with the following note unsealed.

"Be so good to lend me your pistols for a journey. Adieu!"

The tender Charlotte had passed the night in great agitation and distress; her blood boiled in her veins, and painful sensations rent her heart. The ardor of Werter's passionate embraces had, in spite of all her efforts, stolen into her bosom: at the same time she recalled to her memory the days of her tranquillity and innocence, and they appeared to her with new charms. She dreaded the looks of her husband, and the pointed irony of his {207} questions, after he had heard of Werter's visit. She had never been guilty of any falsehood, never had dissembled, and for the first time she felt the necessity of it. Her distress and repugnance made her think her fault more enormous; and yet she could neither hate the author of it, nor even resolve to see him no more. Melancholy and languid, she was scarcely dressed when her husband came in: his presence was for the first time irksome to her. She trembled lest he should perceive that she had been crying, and had had no sleep; and this apprehension increased her embarrassment. She received him with a kind of eagerness, which rather betrayed remorse and confusion, than expressed any real satisfaction. Albert observed it; and after opening some letters, he drily asked her, whether there was any news, and who she had seen in his absence? She answered, after some hesitation, "Werter spent an hour here yesterday." -- "He chuses his time well," said {208} Albert; and went into his room. Charlotte remained alone for a quarter of an hour. The presence of a man she esteemed and loved, gave a new turn to her thoughts: she recollected all his kindness, the generosity of his character, his attachment to her; and she reproached herself for having so ill requited him. A secret impulse prompted her to follow him; she went to his room, and took her work with her, as she sometimes used to do. She asked him, when she went in, if he wanted anything? he said "No," and began to write: she sat down and worked. Albert from time to time took a few turns up and down the room; and then Charlotte addressed some discourse to him: but he scarcely made her any answer, and sat down again to his bureau. This behaviour was made more painful to her, by her endeavours to hide the concern she felt from it, and to restrain the tears which were every moment ready to flow. They had passed an hour to this irksome situa- {209} tion, when the arrival of Werter's servant compleated Charlotte's distress. As soon as Albert had read the note, he turned coldly to his wife, and said, "Give him the pistols -- I wish him a good journey." These words were a thunder stroke to Charlotte; she got up, and tottering, walked slowly to the wall, with a trembling hand took down the pistols, and by degrees wiped off the dust. She would have made still more delay, had not a look from Albert obliged her to leave off. She then delivered the fatal arms to the servant, without being able to speak a single word; folded up her work, and went directly to her room, overcome with mortal grief, and her heart foreboding dreadful calamities. Sometimes she was upon the point of going to her husband, to throw herself at his feet, and to acquaint him with all that had happened the preceding evening; to tell him her fault, and her apprehensions: -- but then she foresaw that it would be useless, and {210} that Albert would certainly not be persuaded to go to Werter's house. Dinner was served; and a friend of Charlotte's, whom she desired to stay with her, helped to support the conversation. When Werter heard that Charlotte had given the pistols with her own hand to his servant, he received them with transport. He eat some bread, and drank a glass of wine, sent his servant to dinner, and then began to write.]