Wieland or the Transformation
The shock which this disastrous occurrence occasioned to my mother, was the foundation
of a disease which carried her, in a few months, to the grave. My brother and myself were
children at this time, and were now reduced to the condition of orphans. The property
which our parents left was by no means inconsiderable. It was entrusted to faithful hands,
till we should arrive at a suitable age. Meanwhile, our education was assigned to a
maiden aunt who resided in the city, and whose tenderness made us in a short time cease
to regret that we had lost a mother.
The years that succeeded were tranquil and happy. Our lives were molested by few of
those cares that are incident to childhood. By accident more than design, the indulgence
and yielding temper of our aunt was mingled with resolution and stedfastness. She
seldom deviated into either extreme of rigour or lenity. Our social pleasures were subject
to no unreasonable restraints. We were instructed in most branches of useful knowledge,
and were saved from the corruption and tyranny of colleges and boarding-schools.
Our companions were chiefly selected from the children of our neighbours. Between one
of these and my brother, there quickly grew the most affectionate intimacy. Her name
was Catharine Pleyel. She was rich, beautiful, and contrived to blend the most bewitching
softness with the most exuberant vivacity. The tie by which my brother and she were
united, seemed to add force to the love which I bore her, and which was amply returned.
Between her and myself there was every circumstance tending to produce and foster
friendship. Our sex and age were the same. We lived within sight of each other's abode.
Our tempers were remarkably congenial, and the superintendants of our education not
only prescribed to us the same pursuits, but allowed us to cultivate them together.
Every day added strength to the triple bonds that united us. We gradually withdrew
ourselves from the society of others, and found every moment irksome that was not
devoted to each other. My brother's advance in age made no change in our situation. It
was determined that his profession should be agriculture. His fortune exempted him from
the necessity of personal labour. The task to be performed by him was nothing more than
superintendance. The skill that was demanded by this was merely theoretical, and was
furnished by casual inspection, or by closet study. The attention that was paid to this
subject did not seclude him for any long time from us, on whom time had no other effect
than to augment our impatience in the absence of each other and of him. Our tasks, our
walks, our music, were seldom performed but in each other's company.
It was easy to see that Catharine and my brother were born for each other. The passion
which they mutually entertained quickly broke those bounds which extreme youth had set
to it; confessions were made or extorted, and their union was postponed only till my
brother had passed his minority. The previous lapse of two years was constantly and