Wieland or the Transformation
Early in the morning of a sultry day in August, he left Mettingen, to go to the city. He had
seldom passed a day from home since his return from the shores of the Ohio. Some
urgent engagements at this time existed, which would not admit of further delay. He
returned in the evening, but appeared to be greatly oppressed with fatigue. His silence
and dejection were likewise in a more than ordinary degree conspicuous. My mother's
brother, whose profession was that of a surgeon, chanced to spend this night at our house.
It was from him that I have frequently received an exact account of the mournful
catastrophe that followed.
As the evening advanced, my father's inquietudes increased. He sat with his family as
usual, but took no part in their conversation. He appeared fully engrossed by his own
reflections. Occasionally his countenance exhibited tokens of alarm; he gazed stedfastly
and wildly at the ceiling; and the exertions of his companions were scarcely sufficient to
interrupt his reverie. On recovering from these fits, he expressed no surprize; but pressing
his hand to his head, complained, in a tremulous and terrified tone, that his brain was
scorched to cinders. He would then betray marks of insupportable anxiety.
My uncle perceived, by his pulse, that he was indisposed, but in no alarming degree, and
ascribed appearances chiefly to the workings of his mind. He exhorted him to recollection
and composure, but in vain. At the hour of repose he readily retired to his chamber. At
the persuasion of my mother he even undressed and went to bed. Nothing could abate his
restlessness. He checked her tender expostulations with some sternness. "Be silent," said
he, "for that which I feel there is but one cure, and that will shortly come. You can help
me nothing. Look to your own condition, and pray to God to strengthen you under the
calamities that await you." "What am I to fear?" she answered. "What terrible disaster is
it that you think of?" "Peace--as yet I know it not myself, but come it will, and shortly."
She repeated her inquiries and doubts; but he suddenly put an end to the discourse, by a
stern command to be silent.
She had never before known him in this mood. Hitherto all was benign in his deportment.
Her heart was pierced with sorrow at the contemplation of this change. She was utterly
unable to account for it, or to figure to herself the species of disaster that was menaced.
Contrary to custom, the lamp, instead of being placed on the hearth, was left upon the
table. Over it against the wall there hung a small clock, so contrived as to strike a very
hard stroke at the end of every sixth hour. That which was now approaching was the
signal for retiring to the fane at which he addressed his devotions. Long habit had
occasioned him to be always awake at this hour, and the toll was instantly obeyed.
Now frequent and anxious glances were cast at the clock. Not a single movement of the
index appeared to escape his notice. As the hour verged towards twelve his anxiety