Chance of Happiness: A Polish Emigrant’s Love Story

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Business was his greatest pleasure, and he found no Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] time for the indulgence of extravagant dissipation. Even the charms of the fair sex had never excited his attention, notwithstanding the attractions of his countrywomen. His knowledge of them was confined to their love for ornaments and jewelry, a taste of which he never failed to take proper advantage. The youths and maidens had attended the church in their gayest attire, and had joined in the sacred processions.

They afterwards mingled through the town in separate companies, or dispersed through the country in search of amusements, or they assembled in the large square, engaging in various active pursuits and exhibiting feats of skill and dexterity, for which small prizes were bestowed. But after he had for some time observed the happiness of the children, and the delight of their parents, and witnessed so many persons in the full enjoyment of present bliss, and the indulgence of the fondest hopes, he could not help reflecting upon the wretchedness of his own condition.

The thought of his own solitary home began for the first time to be distressing to him, and he thus gave vent to his melancholy thoughts. Why are my eyes opened so late? Why, in my old age, do I first become acquainted with those blessings which can alone insure the happiness of mankind? What toil have I endured! What labors have I borne! And what have they done for me? The more I have, the more I want—one coin requires another, and one diamond wishes for its fellow. I am not the master of my riches. They command me in imperious tone. Gold delights in gold, and jewels in their fellows.

They have ruled me all my life; and now I find, too late, that they possess no real value. Now, when age approaches, I begin for the first time to reflect, and to complain, that I enjoy none of the treasures which I possess, and that no one will enjoy them after me. Have I ever used them to adorn the person of a beloved wife? Have I ever, by their means, enabled a son to win and to dower the maiden of his heart?

None of these treasures have ever enriched me or mine; and what I have collected with so much toil some stranger, after my death, will thoughtlessly dissipate. What joy have I beheld beaming from their eyes, and what hopes from the happiness of their beloved offspring! And must I ever be a stranger to hope? Am I grown gray?

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Is it not enough to see my error, before the final evening of my days arrives? No, in my ripe years, it is not foolish to dream of love. I will enrich a fair maiden with my wealth, and make her happy. And should my house ever become blessed with children, those late fruits will render me happy, instead of proving a plague and a torment, as they often do, to those who too early receive such gifts from heaven. He then called two of his intimate companions, and opened his mind to them.

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They were ever ready to aid him in all emergencies, and were not wanting upon the present occasion. They hastened, therefore, into the town, to make inquiries after the fairest and most beautiful maidens; for they knew their master was a man who, whatever goods he might wish to acquire, would never be satisfied with any but the best.

He was himself active, went about, inquired, saw and listened, and soon found what he sought in the person of a young maiden about sixteen years of age, accomplished and well educated. Her person and disposition pleased him, and gave him every hope of happiness. In fact, at this time, no maiden in the whole town was more admired for her beauty. His rarest and most costly silks were devoted to the adornment of his bride, and his diamonds gleamed more brilliantly upon the neck and amid the tresses of his love than they had ever shone in his caskets; and his rings acquired an inexpressible value from the beauty of the hand by which they were adorned.

And thus he felt that he was not only as wealthy, but even wealthier than before; and all he possessed acquired a new value from being shared with her whom he loved. The happy couple spent a year together in the most perfect contentment, and he seemed to experience a real joy in having exchanged his active and wandering course of life for the calm content of domestic bliss. But he could not so easily divest himself of his nature; and he found that a habit acquired in early youth, though it may for a time be interrupted, can never be completely laid aside. These feelings increased daily, and were gradually converted into so intense a longing for his old course of life that at last he became positively miserable, and a serious illness was the result.

How can we separate ourselves from our thoughts and our habits? What have I done? Once I possessed the perfect freedom which a bird enjoys in open air, and now I am imprisoned in a dwelling with all my wealth and jewels, and my beauteous wife.

I thought thus to win contentment and enjoy my riches; but I feel that I lose everything so long as I cannot increase my stores. Unjustly are men considered fools who add to their wealth by ceaseless activity—for activity itself is happiness, and riches themselves are valueless in comparison with the delight of the toil by which they are acquired.

I am wretched from idleness, sick from inactivity, and, if I do not determine upon some other course, I may soon bid farewell to life. I know how unjust it is to win the affections of a charming maiden, and, after a brief possession, to abandon her to the wearisome society of her own desires and emotions. I know, even now, how many vain and frivolous youths display their conceited persons before my windows. I know that in church and in the public promenades they seek to attract the notice and engage the attention of my wife.

What may not take place, then, if I absent myself?

~~Gay love story~~GachaLife~~Polish version

Can I hope for the intervention of some miracle to save her from her almost inevitable fate? It were vain to expect that at her age, and with her warm affections, she can withstand the seductions of love. If I depart, I know that upon my return I shall have lost the attachment of my wife, and that she will have forfeited her fidelity and tarnished the honor of my house. His wife, no less than his relations and friends, sympathized deeply with him, without being able to comprehend the cause of his illness.

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Is it not better to preserve your life, even though in the effort you risk the loss of the greatest treasure which a woman can possess? How many find their very presence ineffectual to preserve this treasure, and patiently endure a privation which they cannot prevent! Why cannot you summon up courage to be independent of so precarious a blessing, since upon this resolution your very existence depends? He instructed them without delay to charter a vessel, to load it, and to hold themselves ready to set sail with the first favorable wind.

He then unburdened himself in the following terms to his wife:—.

The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald

Be not overcome with grief when I inform you that I am once more bent upon a sea voyage. My love is still unchanged towards you, and so it will doubtless remain Edition: current; Page: [ i ] Edition: current; Page: [ j ] Edition: current; Page: [ k ] Edition: current; Page: [ l ] Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] during my life.

I am sensible of the bliss I have enjoyed in your society, and should feel it still more powerfully but for the silent censures of idleness and inactivity with which my conscience reproves me.

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My old disposition returns, and my former habits are still alive. Let me once more visit the markets of Alexandria, to which I shall repair with the greater joy, because I can there procure for you the richest merchandise and most valuable treasures. I leave you in possession of all my fortune and of all my goods; make use of them without restraint, and enjoy yourself in the company of your relatives and friends.

The period of our separation will roll swiftly by, and we shall see each other once more with inexpressible delight. I am, it is true, young and of a cheerful disposition, and you fear that, in your absence, I shall be found inconstant and unfaithful. I do not find fault with your suspicions: it is the habit of your sex; but, if I know my own heart, I may assure you that I am not so susceptible of impressions as to be induced, lightly, to stray from the paths of love and duty, through which I have hitherto journeyed.

Fear not; you shall find your wife as true and faithful on your return as you have ever found her hitherto, when you have come to her arms at evening after a short absence. But let us conceive the possibility of the worst. Why should we shrink from it? You know yourself how the beauty of your person attracts the admiration of all our young fellow-citizens.

During my absence they will be more attentive to you than ever. They will redouble their efforts to attract and to please you. The image of your husband will not prove as effective as his presence in banishing them from my doors and from your heart. I know you are a noble being; but the blandishments of love are powerful, and oftentimes overcome the firmest resolutions.

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Interrupt me not. Your very thoughts of me during my absence may inflame your passions. I may for some time continue to be the object of your dearest wishes; but who can foretell what opportunities may occur and allow a stranger to enjoy those privileges which were destined for me. Be not impatient, I beseech you, but hear me out. Permit no thoughtless youth to supplant me, whatever may be the attractions of his person, for such lovers are more dangerous to the honor than to the virtue of a woman.

Incited rather by vanity than by love, they seek the general favors of the sex, and are ever ready to transfer their transitory affections. If you wish for the society of a friend, look out for one who is worthy of the name, whose modesty and discretion understands the art of exalting the joys of love by the virtue of secrecy. If such an idea shall ever suggest itself to my imagination, may the earth in that instant open and swallow me up, and all hope of that joy forever vanish which promises a blessed immortality! His voyage was prosperous, and he soon arrived in Alexandria.

The business of her absent husband was discharged by trustworthy servants, and she inhabited a large mansion, in whose splendid salons she was able to enjoy the daily pleasure of recalling the remembrance of his love. They frequented the street, passed incessantly before her windows, and in the evening sought by means of music and serenades to attract her attention. The pretty prisoner at first found these attentions troublesome and annoying, but gradually she became reconciled to the vexation, and when the long evenings arrived she began to consider the serenades in the light of an agreeable entertainment, and could scarcely suppress an occasional sigh, which, strictly speaking, belonged to her absent husband.

She began, at last, to recognize the oft-repeated instruments and voices, to grow familiar with the melodies, and to feel an anxiety to know the names of her most constant serenaders. She might innocently indulge so harmless a curiosity.