She spoke with the utmost tenderness to her husband. She had nothing to ask of him, except that for the present he would leave the poor girl to herself. Edward was not insensible to the worth, the affection, the strong sense of his wife; but his passion absorbed him exclusively. Charlotte tried to cheer him with hopes. She promised that she herself would make no difficulties about the separation; but it had small effect with him. He was so much shaken that hope and faith alternately forsook him. A species of insanity appeared to have taken possession of him. He urged Charlotte to promise to give her hand to the Major. To satisfy him and to humor him, she did what he required. She engaged to become herself the wife of the Major, in the event of Ottilie consenting to the marriage with Edward; with this express condition, however, that for the present the two gentlemen should go abroad together. The Major had a foreign appointment from the Court, and it was settled that Edward should accompany him. They arranged it all together, and in doing so found a sort of comfort for themselves in the sense that at least something was being done.
In the meantime they had to remark that Ottilie took scarcely anything to eat or drink. She still persisted in refusing to speak. They at first used to talk to her, but it appeared to distress her, and they left it off. We are not, universally at least, so weak as to persist in torturing people for their good. Charlotte thought over what could possibly be done. At last she fancied it might be well to ask the Assistant of the school to come to them. He had much influence with Ottilie, and had been writing with much anxiety to inquire the cause of her not having arrived at the time he had been expecting her; but as yet she had not sent him any answer.
In order not to take Ottilie by surprise, they spoke of their intention of sending this invitation in her presence. It did not seem to please her; she thought for some little time; at last she appeared to have formed some resolution. She retired to her own room, and before the evening sent the following letter to the assembled party:
OTTILIE TO HER FRIENDS
“Why need I express in words, my dear friends, what is in itself so plain? I have stepped out of my course, and I cannot recover it again. A malignant spirit which has gained power over me seems to hinder me from without, even if within I could again become at peace with myself.
“My purpose was entirely firm to renounce Edward, and to separate myself from him for ever. I had hoped that we might never meet again; it has turned out otherwise. Against his own will he stood before me. Too literally, perhaps, I have observed my promise never to admit him into conversation with me. My conscience and the feelings of the moment kept me silent toward him at the time, and now I have nothing more to say. I have taken upon myself,