"Yes," said Johanna, "that was the way with my former madame, and wholly without occasion. But there is nothing of that kind about our mistress."
"Is he very affectionate?"
"Oh very. That you can easily imagine."
"But the fact that he leaves her thus alone—"
"Yes, dear Mrs. Paaschen, but you must not forget—the Prince. After all, you know, he is a district councillor, and perhaps he wants to rise still higher."
"Certainly he wants to, and he will, too. It's in him. Paaschen always says so and he knows."
This walk over to the office had consumed perhaps a quarter of an hour, and when Johanna returned, Effi was already sitting before the pier-glass, waiting.
"You were gone a long time, Johanna."
"Yes, your Ladyship—I beg your Ladyship's pardon—I met Mrs. Paaschen over there and was delayed a bit. It is so quiet here. One is always glad to meet a person with whom one can speak a word. Christel is a very good person, but she doesn't talk, and Frederick is such a sleepy-head. Besides, he is so cautious and never comes right out with what he has to say. True, one must be able to hold one's tongue when necessary, and Mrs. Paaschen, who is so inquisitive, is really not at all according to my taste. Yet one likes to see and hear something once in a while."
Effi sighed. "Yes, Johanna, it is better so."
"Your Ladyship has such beautiful hair, so long, and soft as silk."
"Yes, it is very soft. But that is not a good thing, Johanna. As the hair is, so is the character."
"Certainly, your Ladyship. And a soft character is better than a hard one. I have soft hair, too."
"Yes, Johanna. And you have blonde hair, too. That the men like best."
"Oh, there is a great difference, your Ladyship. There are many who prefer black."
"To be sure," laughed Effi, "that has been my experience, too. But it must be because of something else entirely. Now, those who are blonde always have a white complexion. You have, too, Johanna, and I would wager my last pfennig that you have a good deal of attention paid to you. I am still very young, but I know that much. Besides, I have a girl friend, who was also so blonde, a regular flaxen blonde, even blonder than you, and she was a preacher's daughter."
"I beg you, Johanna, what do you mean by 'oh yes?' It sounds very sarcastic and strange, and you have nothing against preachers' daughters, have you?—She was a very pretty girl, as even our officers thought, without exception, for we had officers, red hussars, too. At the same time she knew very well how to dress herself. A black velvet bodice and a flower, a rose or sometimes heliotrope, and if she had not had such large protruding eyes—Oh you ought to have seen them, Johanna, at least this large—" Effi laughingly pulled down her right eye-lid—"she would have been simply a beauty. Her name was Hulda, Hulda Niemeyer, and we were not even so very intimate. But if I had her here now, and she were sitting there, yonder in the corner of the little sofa, I would chat with her till midnight, or even longer. I am so homesick"—in saying this she drew Johanna's head close to her breast—"I am so much afraid."
"Oh, that will soon be overcome, your Ladyship, we were all that way."
"You were all that way? What does that mean, Johanna?"
"If your Ladyship is really so much afraid, why, I can make a bed for myself here. I can take the straw mattress and turn down a chair, so that I have something to lean my head against, and then I can sleep here till morning, or till his Lordship comes home."
"He doesn't intend to disturb me. He promised me that specially."
"Or I can merely sit down in the corner of the sofa."
"Yes, that might do perhaps. No, it will not, either. His Lordship must not know that I am afraid, he would not like it. He always wants me to be brave and determined, as he is. And I can't be. I was always somewhat easily influenced.—But, of course, I see plainly, I must conquer myself and subject myself to his will in such particulars, as well as in general. And then I have Rollo, you know. He is lying just outside the threshold."
Johanna nodded at each statement and finally lit the candle on Effi's bedroom stand. Then she took the lamp. "Does your Ladyship wish anything more?"
"No, Johanna. The shutters are closed tight, are they not?"
"Merely drawn to, your Ladyship. Otherwise it would be so dark and stuffy."
Johanna withdrew, and Effi went to bed and wrapped herself up in the covers.
She left the candle burning, because she was determined not to go to sleep at once. On the contrary, she planned to recapitulate her wedding tour, as she had her wedding-eve celebration a short time before, and let everything pass before her mind's eye in review. But it turned out otherwise than she had expected, for when she had reached Verona and was looking for the house of Juliet Capulet, her eyes fell shut. The stub of candle in the little silver holder gradually burned down, flickered once or twice, and went out.
Effi had slept quite soundly for a while, when all of a sudden she started up out of her sleep with a loud scream, indeed, she was able to hear the scream, as she awoke, and she also noticed Rollo's barking outside. His "bow-wow" went echoing down the hall, muffled and almost terrifying. She felt as though her heart stood still, and was unable to call out. At this moment something whisked past her, and the door into the hall sprang open. But the moment of extreme fright was also the moment of her rescue, for, instead of something terrible, Rollo now came up to her, sought her hand with his head, and, when he had found it, lay down upon the rug before her bed. With her other hand Effi had pressed three times on the button of the bell and in less than half a minute Johanna was there, in her bare feet, her skirt hanging over her arm and a large checkered cloth thrown over her head and shoulders.
"Thank heaven, Johanna, that you are here."
"What was the matter, your Ladyship? Your Ladyship has had a dream."
"Yes, a dream. It must have been something of the sort, but it was something else besides."
"Pray, what, your Ladyship?"
"I was sleeping quite soundly and suddenly I started up and screamed—perhaps it was a nightmare—they have nightmares in our family—My father has them, too, and frightens us with them. Mama always says he ought not to humor himself so—But that is easy to say—Well, I started up out of my sleep and screamed, and when I looked around, as well as I could in the dark, something slipped past my bed, right there where you are standing now, Johanna, and then it was gone. And if I ask myself seriously, what it was—"
"Well, your Ladyship?"
"And if I ask myself seriously—I don't like to say it, Johanna—but I believe it was the Chinaman."
"The one from upstairs?" said Johanna, trying to laugh, "our little Chinaman that we pasted on the back of the chair, Christel and I? Oh, your Ladyship has been dreaming, and even if your Ladyship was awake, it all came from a dream."
"I should believe that, if it had not been exactly the moment when Rollo began to bark outside. So he must have seen it too. Then the door flew open and the good faithful animal sprang toward me, as though he were coming to my rescue. Oh, my dear Johanna, it was terrible. And I so alone and so young. Oh, if I only had some one here with whom I could weep. But so far from home—alas, from home."
"The master may come any hour."
"No, he shall not come. He shall not see me thus. He would probably laugh at me and I could never pardon him for that. For it was so fearful, Johanna—You must stay here now—But let Christel sleep and Frederick too. Nobody must know about it."
"Or perhaps I may fetch Mrs. Kruse to join us. She doesn't sleep anyhow; she sits there all night long."
"No, no, she is a kindred spirit. That black chicken has something to do with it, too. She must not come. No, Johanna, you just stay here yourself. And how fortunate that you merely drew the shutters to. Push them open, make a loud noise, so that I may hear a human sound, a human sound—I have to call it that, even if it seems queer—and then open the window a little bit, that I may have air and light."
Johanna did as ordered and Effi leaned back upon her pillows and soon thereafter fell into a lethargic sleep.
It was six o'clock in the morning when Innstetten returned home from Varzin. He made Rollo omit all demonstrations of affection and then retired as quietly as possible to his room. Here he lay down in a comfortable position, but would not allow Frederick to do more than cover him up with a traveling rug. "Wake me at nine." And at this hour he was wakened. He arose quickly and said: "Bring my breakfast."
"Her Ladyship is still asleep."
"But it is late. Has anything happened?"
"I don't know. I only know that Johanna had to sleep all night in her Ladyship's room."
"Well, send Johanna to me then."
She came. She had the same rosy complexion as ever, and so seemed not to have been specially upset by the events of the night.
"What is this I hear about her Ladyship? Frederick tells me something happened and you slept in her room."
"Yes, Sir Baron. Her Ladyship rang three times in very quick succession, and I thought at once it meant something. And it did, too. She probably had a dream, or it may perhaps have been the other thing."
"What other thing?"
"Oh, your Lordship knows, I believe."
"I know nothing. In any case we must put an end to it. And how did you find her Ladyship?"
"She was beside herself and clung to Rollo's collar with all her might. The dog was standing beside her Ladyship's bed and was frightened also."
"And what had she dreamed, or, if you prefer, what had she heard or seen? What did she say?"
"That it just slipped along close by her."
"The man from upstairs. The one from the social hall or from the small chamber."
"Nonsense, I say. Over and over that same silly stuff. I don't want to hear any more about it. And then you stayed with her Ladyship?"
"Yes, your Lordship. I made a bed on the floor close by her. And I had to hold her hand, and then she went to sleep."
"And she is still sleeping?"
"I am worried about that, Johanna. One can sleep one's self well, but also ill. We must waken her, cautiously, of course, so that she will not be startled again. And tell Frederick not to bring the breakfast. I will wait till her Ladyship is here. Now let me see how clever you can be."
Half an hour later Effi came. She looked charming, but quite pale, and was leaning on Johanna. The moment she caught sight of Innstetten she rushed up to him and embraced and kissed him, while the tears streamed down her face. "Oh, Geert, thank heaven, you are here. All is well again now. You must not go away again, you must not leave me alone again."
"My dear Effi—Just put it down, Frederick, I will do the rest—my dear Effi, I am not leaving you alone from lack of consideration or from caprice, but because it is necessary. I have no choice. I am a man in office and cannot say to the Prince, or even to the Princess: Your Highness, I cannot come; my wife is so alone, or, my wife is afraid. If I said that it would put us in a rather comical light, me certainly, and you, too. But first take a cup of coffee."
Effi drank her coffee and its stimulating effect was plainly to be seen. Then she took her husband's hand again and said: "You shall have your way. I see, it is impossible. And then, you know, we aspire to something higher. I say we, for I am really more eager for it than you."
"All wives are," laughed Innstetten.
"So it is settled. You will accept invitations as heretofore, and I will stay here and wait for my 'High Lord,' which reminds me of Hulda under the elder tree. I wonder how she is getting along?"
"Young ladies like Hulda always get along well. But what else were you going to say?"
"I was going to say, I will stay here, and even alone, if necessary. But not in this house. Let us move out. There are such handsome houses along the quay, one between Consul Martens and Consul Gruetzmacher, and one on the Market, just opposite Gieshuebler. Why can't we live there? Why here, of all places? When we have had friends and relatives as guests in our house I have often heard that in Berlin families move out on account of piano playing, or on account of cockroaches, or on account of an unfriendly concierge. If it is done on account of such a trifle—"
"Trifle? Concierge? Don't say that."
"If it is possible because of such things it must also be possible here, where you are district councillor and the people are obliged to do your bidding and many even owe you a debt of gratitude. Gieshuebler would certainly help us, even if only for my sake, for he will sympathize with me. And now say, Geert, shall we give up this abominable house, this house with the—"
"Chinaman, you mean. You see, Effi, one can pronounce the fearful word without his appearing. What you saw or what, as you think, slipped past your bed, was the little Chinaman that the maids pasted on the back of the chair upstairs. I'll wager he had a blue coat on and a very flat-crowned hat, with a shining button on top."
"Now you see, a dream, a hallucination. And then, I presume, Johanna told you something last night, about the wedding upstairs."
"So much the better."
"She didn't tell me a word. But from all this I can see that there is something queer here. And then the crocodile; everything is so uncanny here."
"The first evening, when you saw the crocodile, you considered it fairy-like—"
"And then, Effi, I can't well leave here now, even if it were possible to sell the house or make an exchange. It is with this exactly as with declining an invitation to Varzin. I can't have the people here in the city saying that District Councillor Innstetten is selling his house because his wife saw the little pasted-up picture of a Chinaman as a ghost by her bed. I should be lost, Effi. One can never recover from such ridiculousness."
"But, Geert, are you so sure that there is nothing of the kind?"
"That I will not affirm. It is a thing that one can believe or, better, not believe. But supposing there were such things, what harm do they do? The fact that bacilli are flying around in the air, of which you have doubtless heard, is much worse and more dangerous than all this scurrying about of ghosts, assuming that they do scurry about, and that such a thing really exists. Then I am particularly surprised to see you show such fear and such an aversion, you a Briest. Why, it is as though you came from a low burgher family. Ghosts are a distinction, like the family tree and the like, and I know families that would as lief give up their coat of arms as their 'Lady in white,' who may even be in black, for that matter."
Effi remained silent.
"Well, Effi; no answer?"
"What do you expect me to answer? I have given in to you and shown myself docile, but I think you in turn might be more sympathetic. If you knew how I long for sympathy. I have suffered a great deal, really a very great deal, and when I saw you I thought I should now be rid of my fear. But you merely told me you had no desire to make yourself ridiculous in the eyes either of the Prince or of the city. That is small comfort. I consider it small, and so much the smaller, since, to cap the climax, you contradict yourself, and not only seem to believe in these things yourself, but even expect me to have a nobleman's pride in ghosts. Well, I haven't. When you talk about families that value their ghosts as highly as their coat of arms, all I have to say is, that is a matter of taste, and I count my coat of arms worth more. Thank heaven, we Briests have no ghosts. The Briests were always very good people and that probably accounts for it."
The dispute would doubtless have gone on longer and might perhaps have led to a first serious misunderstanding if Frederick had not entered to hand her Ladyship a letter. "From Mr. Gieshuebler. The messenger is waiting for an answer."
All the ill-humor on Effi's countenance vanished immediately. It did her good merely to hear Gieshuebler's name, and her cheerful feeling was further heightened when she examined the letter. In the first place it was not a letter at all, but a note, the address "Madame the Baroness von Innstetten, nee Briest," in a beautiful court hand, and instead of a seal a little round picture pasted on, a lyre with a staff sticking in it. But the staff might also be an arrow. She handed the note to her husband, who likewise admired it.
"Now read it."
Effi broke open the wafer and read: "Most highly esteemed Lady, most gracious Baroness: Permit me to join to my most respectful forenoon greeting a most humble request. By the noon train a dear friend of mine for many years past, a daughter of our good city of Kessin, Miss Marietta Trippelli, will arrive here to sojourn in our midst till tomorrow morning. On the 17th she expects to be in St. Petersburg, where she will give concerts till the middle of January. Prince Kotschukoff is again opening his hospitable house to her. In her immutable kindness to me, Miss Trippelli has promised to spend this evening at my house and sing some songs, leaving the choice entirely to me, for she knows no such thing as difficulty. Could Madame the Baroness consent to attend this soiree musicale, at seven o'clock? Your husband, upon whose appearance I count with certainty, will support my most humble request. The only other guests are Pastor Lindequist, who will accompany, and the widow Trippel, of course. Your most obedient servant. A. Gieshuebler."
"Well," said Innstetten, "yes or no?"
"Yes, of course. That will pull me through. Besides, I cannot decline my dear Gieshuebler's very first invitation."
"Agreed. So, Frederick, tell Mirambo, for I take it for granted he brought the letter, that we shall have the honor."
Frederick went out. When he was gone Effi asked: "Who is Mirambo?"
"The genuine Mirambo is a robber chief in Africa,—Lake Tanganyika, if your geography extends that far—but ours is merely Gieshuebler's charcoal dispenser and factotum, and will this evening, in all probability, serve as a waiter in dress coat and cotton gloves."
It was quite apparent that the little incident had had a favorable effect on Effi and had restored to her a good share of her light-heartedness. But Innstetten wished to do what he could to hasten the convalescence. "I am glad you said yes, so quickly and without hesitation, and now I should like to make a further proposal to you to restore you entirely to your normal condition. I see plainly, you are still annoyed by something from last night foreign to my Effi and it must be got rid of absolutely. There is nothing better for that than fresh air. The weather is splendid, cool and mild at the same time, with hardly a breeze stirring. How should you like to take a drive with me? A long one, not merely out through the "Plantation." In the sleigh, of course, with the sleigh-bells on and the white snow blankets. Then if we are back by four you can take a rest, and at seven we shall be at Gieshuebler's and hear Trippelli."
Effi took his hand. "How good you are, Geert, and how indulgent! For I must have seemed to you very childish, or at least very childlike, first in the episode of fright and then, later, when I asked you to sell the house, but worst of all in what I said about the Prince. I urged you to break off all connection with him, and that would be ridiculous. For after all he is the one man who has to decide our destiny. Mine, too. You don't know how ambitious I am. To tell the truth, it was only out of ambition that I married you. Oh, you must not put on such a serious expression. I love you, you know. What is it we say when we pluck a blossom and tear off the petals? 'With all my heart, with grief and pain, beyond compare.'" She burst out laughing. "And now tell me," she continued, as Innstetten still kept silent, "whither shall we go?"
"I thought, to the railway station, by a roundabout way, and then back by the turnpike. We can dine at the station or, better, at Golchowski's, at the Prince Bismarck Hotel, which we passed on the day of our return home, as you perhaps remember. Such a visit always has a good effect, and then I can have a political conversation with the Starost by the grace of Effi, and even if he does not amount to much personally he keeps his hotel in good condition and his cuisine in still better. The people here are connoisseurs when it comes to eating and drinking."
It was about eleven when they had this conversation. At twelve Kruse drove the sleigh up to the door and Effi got in. Johanna was going to bring a foot bag and furs, but Effi, after all that she had juat passed through, felt so strongly the need of fresh air that she took only a double blanket and refused everything else. Innstetten said to Kruse: "Now, Kruse, we want to drive to the station where you and I were this morning. The people will wonder at it, but that doesn't matter. Say, we drive here past the 'Plantation,' and then to the left toward the Kroschentin church tower. Make the horses fly. We must be at the station at one."
Thus began the drive. Over the white roofs of the city hung a bank of smoke, for there was little stir in the air. They flew past Utpatel's mill, which turned very slowly, and drove so close to the churchyard that the tips of the barberry bushes which hung out over the lattice brushed against Effi, and showered snow upon her blanket. On the other side of the road was a fenced-in plot, not much larger than a garden bed, and with nothing to be seen inside except a young pine tree, which rose out of the centre.
"Is anybody buried there?" asked Effi.
"Yes, the Chinaman."
Effi was startled; it came to her like a stab. But she had strength enough to control herself and ask with apparent composure: "Ours?"
"Yes, ours. Of course, he could not be accommodated in the community graveyard and so Captain Thomsen, who was what you might call his friend, bought this patch and had him buried here. There is also a stone with an inscription. It all happened before my time, of course, but it is still talked about."
"So there is something in it after all. A story. You said something of the kind this morning. And I suppose it would be best for me to hear what it is. So long as I don't know, I shall always be a victim of my imaginations, in spite of all my good resolutions. Tell me the real story. The reality cannot worry me so much as my fancy."
"Good for you, Effi. I didn't intend to speak about it. But now it comes in naturally, and that is well. Besides, to tell the truth, it is nothing at all."
"All the same to me: nothing at all or much or little. Only begin."
"Yes, that is easy to say. The beginning is always the hardest part, even with stories. Well, I think I shall begin with Captain Thomsen."
"Now Thomsen, whom I have already mentioned, was for many years a so-called China-voyager, always on the way between Shanghai and Singapore with a cargo of rice, and may have been about sixty when he arrived here. I don't know whether he was born here or whether he had other relations here. To make a long story short, now that he was here he sold his ship, an old tub that he disposed of for very little, and bought a house, the same that we are now living in. For out in the world he had become a wealthy man. This accounts for the crocodile and the shark and, of course, the ship. Thomsen was a very adroit man, as I have been told, and well liked, even by Mayor Kirstein, but above all by the man who was at that time the pastor in Kessin, a native of Berlin, who had come here shortly before Thomsen and had met with a great deal of opposition."
"I believe it. I notice the same thing. They are so strict and self-righteous here. I believe that is Pomeranian."
"Yes and no, depending. There are other regions where they are not at all strict and where things go topsy-turvy—But just see, Effi, there we have the Kroschentin church tower right close in front of us. Shall we not give up the station and drive over to see old Mrs. von Grasenabb? Sidonie, if I am rightly informed, is not at home. So we might risk it."
"I beg you, Geert, what are you thinking of? Why, it is heavenly to fly along thus, and I can simply feel myself being restored and all my fear falling from me. And now you ask me to sacrifice all that merely to pay these old people a flying visit and very likely cause them embarrassment. For heaven's sake let us not. And then I want above all to hear the story. We were talking about Captain Thomsen, whom I picture to myself as a Dane or an Englishman, very clean, with white stand-up collar, and perfectly white linen."
"Quite right. So he is said to have looked. And with him lived a young person of about twenty, whom some took for his niece, but most people for his grand-daughter. The latter, however, considering their ages, was hardly possible. Beside the grand-daughter or the niece, there was also a Chinaman living with him, the same one who lies there among the dunes and whose grave we have just passed."
"This Chinaman was a servant at Thomsen's and Thomsen thought a great deal of him, so that he was really more a friend than a servant. And it remained so for over a year. Then suddenly it was rumored that Thomsen's grand-daughter, who, I believe, was called Nina, was to be married to a captain, in accordance with the old man's wish. And so indeed it came about. There was a grand wedding at the house, the Berlin pastor married them. The miller Utpatel, a Scottish Covenanter, and Gieshuebler, a feeble light in church matters, were invited, but the more prominent guests were a number of captains with their wives and daughters. And, as you can imagine, there was a lively time. In the evening there was dancing, and the bride danced with every man and finally with the Chinaman. Then all of a sudden the report spread that she had vanished. And she was really gone, somewhere, but nobody knew just what had happened. A fortnight later the Chinaman died. Thomsen bought the plot I have shown you and had him buried in it. The Berlin Pastor is said to have remarked: 'The Chinaman might just as well have been buried in the Christian churchyard, for he was a very good man and exactly as good as the rest.' Whom he really meant by the rest, Gieshuebler says nobody quite knew."
"Well, in this matter I am absolutely against the pastor. Nobody ought to say such things, for they are dangerous and unbecoming. Even Niemeyer would not have said that."
"The poor pastor, whose name, by the way, was Trippel, was very seriously criticised for it, and it was truly a blessing that he soon afterward died, for he would have lost his position otherwise. The city was opposed to him, just as you are, in spite of the fact that they had called him, and the Consistory, of course, was even more antagonistic."
"Trippel, you say? Then, I presume, there is some connection between him and the pastor's widow, Mrs. Trippel, whom we are to see this evening."
"Certainly there is a connection. He was her husband, and the father of Miss Trippelli."
Effi laughed. "Of Miss Trippelli! At last I see the whole affair in a clear light. That she was born in Kessin, Gieshuebler wrote me, you remember. But I thought she was the daughter of an Italian consul. We have so many foreign names here, you know. And now I find she is good German and a descendant of Trippel. Is she so superior that she could venture to Italianize her name in this fashion?"
"The daring shall inherit the earth. Moreover she is quite good. She spent a few years in Paris with the famous Madame Viardot, and there made the acquaintance of the Russian Prince. Russian Princes, you know, are very enlightened, are above petty class prejudices, and Kotschukoff and Gieshuebler—whom she calls uncle, by the way, and one might almost call him a born uncle—it is, strictly speaking, these two who have made little Marie Trippel what she is. It was Gieshuebler who induced her to go to Paris and Kotschukoff made her over into Marietta Trippelli."
"Ah, Geert, what a charming story this is and what a humdrum life I have led in Hohen-Cremmen! Never a thing out of the ordinary."
Innstetten took her hand and said: "You must not speak thus, Effi. With respect to ghosts one may take whatever attitude one likes. But beware of 'out of the ordinary' things, or what is loosely called out of the ordinary. That which appears to you so enticing, even a life such as Miss Trippelli leads, is as a rule bought at the price of happiness. I know quite well how you love Hohen-Cremmen and are attached to it, but you often make sport of it, too, and have no conception of how much quiet days like those in Hohen-Cremmen mean."
"Yes I have," she said. "I know very well. Only I like to hear about something else once in a while, and then the desire comes over me to have a similar experience. But you are quite right, and, to tell the truth, I long for peace and quiet."
Innstetten shook his finger at her. "My dear, dear Effi, that again you only imagine. Always fancies, first one thing, then another."
[Innstetten and Effi stopped at the Prince Bismarck Hotel for dinner and heard some of Golchowski's gossip. All three went out near the tracks, when they heard a fast express coming, and as it passed in the direction of Effi's old home, it filled her heart with longing. The soiree musicale at Gieshuebler's was particularly enlivened by the bubbling humor of Miss Trippelli, whose singing was excellent, but did not overshadow her talent as a conversationalist. Effi admired her ability to sing dramatic pieces with composure. An uncanny ballad led to a discussion of haunted houses and ghosts, in both of which Miss Trippelli believed.]
The guests did not go home till late. Soon after ten Effi remarked to Gieshuebler that it was about time to leave, as Miss Trippelli must not miss her train and would have to leave Kessin at six in order to catch it. But Miss Trippelli overheard the remark and, in her own peculiar unabashed way, protested against such thoughtful consideration. "Ah, most gracious Lady, you think that one following my career needs regular sleep, but you are mistaken. What we need regularly is applause and high prices. Oh, laugh if you like. Besides, I can sleep in my compartment on the train—for one learns to do such things—in any position and even on my left side, and I don't even need to unfasten my dress. To be sure, I am never laced tight; chest and lungs must always be free, and, above all, the heart. Yes, most gracious Lady, that is the prime essential. And then, speaking of sleep in general, it is not the quantity that tells; it is the quality. A good nap of five minutes is better than five hours of restless turning over and over, first one way, then the other. Besides, one sleeps marvelously in Russia, in spite of the strong tea. It must be the air that causes it, or late dinners, or because one is so pampered. There are no cares in Russia; in that regard Russia is better than America. In the matter of money the two are equal." After this explanation on the part of Miss Trippelli, Effi desisted from further warnings that it was time to go. When twelve o'clock came, the guests, who had meanwhile developed a certain degree of intimacy, bade their host a merry and hearty good night.
* * * * *
Three days later Gieshuebler's friend brought herself once more to Effi's attention by a telegram in French, from St. Petersburg: "Madame the Baroness von Innstetten, nee von Briest. Arrived safe. Prince K. at station. More taken with me than ever. Thousand thanks for your good reception. Kindest regards to Monsieur the Baron. Marietta Trippelli."
Innstetten was delighted and gave more enthusiastic expression to his delight than Effi was able to understand.
"I don't understand you, Geert."
"Because you don't understand Miss Trippelli. It's her true self in the telegram, perfect to a dot."
"So you take it all as a bit of comedy."
"As what else could I take it, pray? All calculated for friends there and here, for Kotschukoff and Gieshuebler. Gieshuebler will probably found something for Miss Trippelli, or maybe just leave her a legacy."
Gieshuebler's party had occurred in the middle of December. Immediately thereafter began the preparations for Christmas. Effi, who might otherwise have found it hard to live through these days, considered it a blessing to have a household with demands that had to be satisfied. It was a time for pondering, deciding, and buying, and this left no leisure for gloomy thoughts. The day before Christmas gifts arrived from her parents, and in the parcels were packed a variety of trifles from the precentor's family: beautiful queenings from a tree grafted by Effi and Jahnke several years ago, beside brown pulse-warmers and knee-warmers from Bertha and Hertha. Hulda only wrote a few lines, because, as she pretended, she had still to knit a traveling shawl for X. "That is simply not true," said Effi, "I'll wager, there is no X in existence. What a pity she cannot cease surrounding herself with admirers who do not exist!"
When the evening came Innstetten himself arranged the presents for his young wife. The tree was lit, and a small angel hung at the top. On the tree was discovered a cradle with pretty transparencies and inscriptions, one of which referred to an event looked forward to in the Innstetten home the following year. Effi read it and blushed. Then she started toward Innstetten to thank him, but before she had time to carry out her design a Yule gift was thrown into the hall with a shout, in accordance with the old Pomeranian custom. It proved to be a box filled with a world of things. At the bottom they found the most important gift of all, a neat little lozenge box, with a number of Japanese pictures pasted on it, and inside of it a note, running,—
"Three kings once came on a Christmas eve, The king of the Moors was one, I believe;— The druggist at the sign of the Moor Today with spices raps at your door; Regretting no incense or myrrh to have found, He throws pistachio and almonds around."
Effi read the note two or three times and was pleased. "The homage of a good man has something very comforting about it. Don't you think so, Geert?"
"Certainly I do. It is the only thing that can afford real pleasure, or at least ought to. Every one is otherwise so encumbered with stupid obligations—I am myself. But, after all, one is what one is."
The first holiday was church day, on the second they went to the Borckes'. Everybody was there, except the Grasenabbs, who declined to come, "because Sidonie was not at home." This excuse struck everybody as rather strange. Some even whispered: "On the contrary, this is the very reason they ought to have come."
New Year's eve there was to be a club ball, which Effi could not well miss, nor did she wish to, for it would give her an opportunity to see the cream of the city all at once. Johanna had her hands full with the preparation of the ball dress. Gieshuebler, who, in addition to his other hobbies, owned a hothouse, had sent Effi some camelias. Innstetten, in spite of the little time at his disposal, had to drive in the afternoon to Papenhagen, where three barns had burned.
It became very quiet in the house. Christel, not having anything to do, sleepily shoved a footstool up to the stove, and Effi retired into her bedroom, where she sat down at a small writing desk between the mirror and the sofa, to write to her mother. She had already written a postal card, acknowledging receipt of the Christmas letter and presents, but had written no other news for weeks.
/# "Kessin, Dec. 31.
"My dear mama:
"This will probably be a long letter, as I have not let you hear from me for a long time. The card doesn't count. The last time I wrote, I was in the midst of Christmas preparations; now the Christmas holidays are past and gone. Innstetten and my good friend Gieshuebler left nothing undone to make Holy Night as agreeable for me as possible, but I felt a little lonely and homesick for you. Generally speaking, much as I have cause to be grateful and happy, I cannot rid myself entirely of a feeling of loneliness, and if I formerly made more fun than necessary, perhaps, of Hulda's eternal tears of emotion, I am now being punished for it and have to fight against such tears myself, for Innstetten must not see them. However, I am sure that it will all be better when our household is more enlivened, which is soon to be the case, my dear mama. What I recently hinted at is now a certainty and Innstetten gives me daily proof of his joy on account of it. It is not necessary to assure you how happy I myself am when I think of it, for the simple reason that I shall then have life and entertainment at home, or, as Geert says, 'a dear little plaything.' This word of his is doubtless proper, but I wish he would not use it, because it always give me a little shock and reminds me how young I am and that I still half belong in the nursery. This notion never leaves me (Geert says it is pathological) and, as a result, the thing that should be my highest happiness is almost the contrary, a constant embarrassment for me. Recently, dear mama, when the good Flemming damsels plied me with all sorts of questions imaginable, it seemed as though I were undergoing an examination poorly prepared, and I think I must have answered very stupidly. I was out of sorts, too, for often what looks like sympathy is mere inquisitiveness, and theirs impressed me as the more meddlesome, since I have a long while yet to wait for the happy event. Some time in the summer, early in July, I think. You must come then, or better still, so soon as I am at all able to get about, I'll take a vacation and set out for Hohen-Cremmen to see you. Oh, how happy it makes me to think of it and of the Havelland air! Here it is almost always cold and raw. There I shall drive out upon the marsh every day and see red and yellow flowers everywhere, and I can even now see the baby stretching out its hands for them, for I know it must feel really at home there. But I write this for you alone. Innstetten must not know about it and I should excuse myself even to you for wanting to come to Hohen-Cremmen with the baby, and for announcing my visit so early, instead of inviting you urgently and cordially to Kessin, which, you may know, has fifteen hundred summer guests every year, and ships with all kinds of flags, and even a hotel among the dunes. But if I show so little hospitality it is not because I am inhospitable. I am not so degenerate as that. It is simply because our residence, with all its handsome and unusual features, is in reality not a suitable house at all; it is only a lodging for two people, and hardly that, for we haven't even a dining room, which, as you can well imagine, is embarrassing when people come to visit us. True, we have other rooms upstairs, a large social hall and four small rooms, but there is something uninviting about them, and I should call them lumber rooms, if there were any lumber in them. But they are entirely empty, except for a few rush-bottomed chairs, and leave a very queer impression, to say the least. You no doubt think this very easy to change, but the house we live in is—is haunted. Now it is out. I beseech you, however, not to make any reference to this in your answer, for I always show Innstetten your letters and he would be beside himself if he found out what I have written to you. I ought not to have done it either, especially as I have been undisturbed for a good many weeks and have ceased to be afraid; but Johanna tells me it will come back again, especially if some new person appears in the house. I couldn't think of exposing you to such a danger, or—if that is too harsh an expression—to such a peculiar and uncomfortable disturbance. I will not trouble you with the matter itself today, at least not in detail. They tell the story of an old captain, a so-called China-voyager, and his grand-daughter, who after a short engagement to a young captain here suddenly vanished on her wedding day. That might pass, but there is something of greater moment. A young Chinaman, whom her father had brought back from China and who was at first the servant and later the friend of the old man, died shortly afterward and was buried in a lonely spot near the churchyard. Not long ago I drove by there, but turned my face away quickly and looked in the other direction, because I believe I should otherwise have seen him sitting on the grave. For oh, my dear mama, I have really seen him once, or it at least seemed so, when I was sound asleep and Innstetten was away from home visiting the Prince. It was terrible. I should not like to experience anything like it again. I can't well invite you to such a house, handsome as it is otherwise, for, strange to say, it is both uncanny and cozy. Innstetten did not do exactly the right thing about it either, if you will allow me to say so, in spite of the fact that I finally agreed with him in many particulars. He expected me to consider it nothing but old wives' nonsense and laugh about it, but all of a sudden he himself seemed to believe in it, at the very time when he was making the queer demand of me to consider such hauntings a mark of blue blood and old nobility. But I can't do it and I won't, either. Kind as he is in other regards, in this particular he is not kind and considerate enough toward me. That there is something in it I know from Johanna and also from Mrs. Kruse. The latter is our coachman's wife and always sits holding a black chicken in an overheated room. This alone is enough to scare one. Now you know why I want to come when the time arrives. Oh, if it were only time now! There are so many reasons for this wish. Tonight we have a New Year's eve ball, and Gieshuebler, the only amiable man here, in spite of the fact that he has one shoulder higher than the other, or, to tell the truth, has even a greater deformity—Gieshuebler has sent me some camelias. Perhaps I shall dance after all. Our doctor says it would not hurt me; on the contrary. Innstetten has also given his consent, which almost surprised me. And now remember me to papa and kiss him for me, and all the other dear friends. Happy New Year!
The New Year's eve ball lasted till the early morning and Effi was generously admired, not quite so unhesitatingly, to be sure, as the bouquet of camelias, which was known to have come from Gieshuebler's greenhouse. After the ball everybody fell back into the same old routine, and hardly any attempt was made to establish closer social relations. Hence the winter seemed very long. Visits from the noble families of the neighborhood were rare, and when Effi was reminded of her duty to return the visits she always remarked in a half-sorrowful tone: "Yes, Geert, if it is absolutely necessary, but I shall be bored to death." Innstetten never disputed the statement. What was said, during these afternoon calls, about families, children, and agriculture, was bearable, but when church questions were discussed and the pastors present were treated like little popes, even looked upon themselves as such, then Effi lost her patience and her mind wandered sadly back to Niemeyer, who was always modest and unpretentious, in spite of the fact that on every important occasion it was said he had the stuff in him to be called to the cathedral. Seemingly friendly as were the Borcke, Flemming, and Grasenabb families, with the exception of Sidonie Grasenabb, real friendship was out of the question, and often there would have been very little of pleasure and amusement, or even of reasonably agreeable association, if it had not been for Gieshuebler.
He looked out for Effi as though he were a special Providence, and she was grateful to him for it. In addition to his many other interests he was a faithful and attentive reader of the newspapers. He was, in fact, the head of the Journal Club, and so scarcely a day passed that Mirambo did not bring to Effi a large white envelope full of separate sheets and whole papers, in which particular passages were marked, usually with a fine lead pencil, but occasionally with a heavy blue pencil and an exclamation or interrogation point. And that was not all. He also sent figs and dates, and chocolate drops done up in satin paper and tied with a little red ribbon. Whenever any specially beautiful flower was blooming in his greenhouse he would bring some of the blossoms himself and spend a happy hour chatting with his adored friend. He cherished in his heart, both separately and combined, all the beautiful emotions of love—that of a father and an uncle, a teacher and an admirer. Effi was affected by all these attentions and wrote to Hohen-Cremmen about them so often that her mother began to tease her about her "love for the alchymist." But this well-meant teasing failed of its purpose; it was almost painful to her, in fact, because it made her conscious, even though but dimly, of what was really lacking in her married life, viz., outspoken admiration, helpful suggestions, and little attentions.
Innstetten was kind and good, but he was not a lover. He felt that he loved Effi; hence his clear conscience did not require him to make any special effort to show it. It had almost become a rule with him to retire from his wife's room to his own when Frederick brought the lamp. "I have a difficult matter yet to attend to." With that he went. To be sure, the portiere was left thrown back, so that Effi could hear the turning of the pages of the document or the scratching of his pen, but that was all. Then Rollo would often come and lie down before her upon the fireplace rug, as much as to say: "Must just look after you again; nobody else does." Then she would stoop down and say softly: "Yes, Rollo, we are alone." At nine Innstetten would come back for tea, usually with the newspaper in his hand, and would talk about the Prince, who was having so much annoyance again, especially because of that Eugen Richter, whose conduct and language beggared all description. Then he would read over the list of appointments made and orders conferred, to the most of which he objected. Finally he would talk about the election and how fortunate it was to preside over a district in which there was still some feeling of respect. When he had finished with this he asked Effi to play something, either from Lohengrin or the Walkuere, for he was a Wagner enthusiast. What had won him over to this composer nobody quite knew. Some said, his nerves, for matter-of-fact as he seemed, he was in reality nervous. Others ascribed it to Wagner's position on the Jewish question. Probably both sides were right. At ten Innstetten relaxed and indulged in a few well-meant, but rather tired caresses, which Effi accepted, without genuinely returning them.
Thus passed the winter. April came and Effi was glad when the garden behind the court began to show green.
She could hardly wait for summer to come with its walks along the beach and its guests at the baths. * * * The months had been so monotonous that she once wrote: "Can you imagine, mama, that I have almost become reconciled to our ghost? Of course, that terrible night, when Geert was away at the Prince's house, I should not like to live through again, no, certainly not; but this being always alone, with nothing whatever happening, is hard, too, and when I wake up in the night I occasionally listen to see if I can hear the shoes, shuffling up above, and when all is quiet I am almost disappointed and say to myself: If only it would come back, but not too bad and not too close!"
It was in February that Effi wrote these words and now it was almost May. The "Plantation" was beginning to take on new life again and one could hear the song of the finches. During this same week the storks returned, and one of them soared slowly over her house and alighted upon a barn near Utpatel's mill, its old resting place. Effi, who now wrote to her mother more frequently than heretofore, reported this happening, and at the conclusion of her letter said: "I had almost forgotten one thing, my dear mama, viz., the new district commander of the landwehr, who has been here now for almost four weeks. But shall we really have him? That is the question, and a question of importance, too, much as my statement will make you laugh, because you do not know how we are suffering here from social famine. At least I am, for I am at a loss to know what to make of the nobility here. My fault, perhaps, but that is immaterial. The fact remains, there has been a famine, and for this reason I have looked forward, through all the winter months, to the new district commander as a bringer of comfort and deliverance. His predecessor was an abominable combination of bad manners and still worse morals and, as though that were not enough, was always in financial straits. We have suffered under him all this time, Innstetten more than I, and when we heard early in April that Major von Crampas was here—for that is the name of the new man—we rushed into each other's arms, as though no further harm could befall us in our dear Kessin. But, as already mentioned, it seems as though there will be nothing going on, now that he is here. He is married, has two children, one eight, the other ten years old, and his wife is a year older than he—say, forty-five. That of itself would make little difference, and why shouldn't I find a motherly friend delightfully entertaining? Miss Trippelli was nearly thirty, and I got along with her quite well. But Mrs. Crampas, who by the way was not a von, is impossible. She is always out of sorts, almost melancholy, much like our Mrs. Kruse, of whom she reminds me not a little, and it all comes from jealousy. Crampas himself is said to be a man of many 'relations,' a ladies' man, which always sounds ridiculous to me and would in this case, if he had not had a duel with a comrade on account of just such a thing. His left arm was shattered just below the shoulder and it is noticeable at first sight, in spite of the operation, which was heralded abroad as a masterpiece of surgical art. It was performed by Wilms and I believe they call it resection.
"Both Mr. and Mrs. Crampas were at our house a fortnight ago to pay us a visit. The situation was painful, for Mrs. Crampas watched her husband so closely that he became half-embarrassed, and I wholly. That he can be different, even jaunty and in high spirits, I was convinced three days ago, when, he sat alone with Innstetten, and I was able to follow their conversation from my room. I afterward talked with him myself and found him a perfect gentleman and extraordinarily clever. Innstetten was in the same brigade with him during the war and they often saw each other at Count Groeben's to the north of Paris. Yes, my dear mama, he is just the man to instill new life into Kessin. Besides, he has none of the Pomeranian prejudices, even though he is said to have come from Swedish Pomerania. But his wife! Nothing can be done without her, of course, and still less with her."
Effi was quite right. As a matter of fact no close friendship was established with the Crampas family. They met once at the Borckes', again quite casually at the station, and a few days later on a steamer excursion up the "Broad" to a large beech and oak forest called "The Chatter-man." But they merely exchanged short greetings, and Effi was glad when the bathing season opened early in June. To be sure, there was still a lack of summer visitors, who as a rule did not come in numbers before St. John's Day. But even the preparations afforded entertainment. In the "Plantation" a merry-go-round and targets were set up, the boatmen calked and painted their boats, every little apartment put up new curtains, and rooms with damp exposure and subject to dry-rot were fumigated and aired.
In Effi's own home everybody was also more or less excited, not because of summer visitors, however, but of another expected arrival. Even Mrs. Kruse wished to help as much as she could. But Effi was alarmed at the thought of it and said: "Geert, don't let Mrs. Kruse touch anything. It would do no good, and I have enough to worry about without that." Innstetten promised all she asked, adding that Christel and Johanna would have plenty of time, anyhow.
* * * * *
[An elderly widow and her maid arrived and took rooms for the season opposite the Innstetten house. The widow died and was buried in the cemetery. After watching the funeral from her window Effi walked out to the hotel among the dunes and on her way home turned into the cemetery, where she found the widow's maid sitting in the burning sun.]
* * * * *
"It is a hot place you have picked out," said Effi, "much too hot. And if you are not cautious you may have a sun-stroke."
"That would be a blessing."
"Then I should be out of the world."
"I don't think you ought to say that, even if you had bad luck or lost a dear friend. I presume you loved her very dearly?"
"I? Her? Oh, heaven forbid!"
"You are very sad, however, and there must be some cause."
"There is, too, your Ladyship."
"Do you know me?"
"Yes. You are the wife of the district councillor across the street from us. I was always talking with the old woman about you. But the time came when she could talk no more, because she could not draw a good breath. There was something the matter with her here, dropsy, perhaps. But so long as she could speak she spoke incessantly. She was a genuine Berlin—"
"No. If I said that it would be a lie. She is in her grave now and we ought not to say anything bad about the dead, especially as even they hardly have peace. Oh well, I suppose she has found peace. But she was good for nothing and was quarrelsome and stingy and made no provision for me. The relatives who came yesterday from Berlin * * * were very rude and unkind to me and raised all sorts of objections when they paid me my wages, merely because they had to and because there are only six more days before the beginning of a new quarter. Otherwise I should have received nothing, or only half, or only a quarter—nothing with their good will. And they gave me a torn five-mark note to pay my fare back to Berlin. Well, it is just enough for a fourth-class ticket and I suppose I shall have to sit on my luggage. But I won't do it. I will sit here and wait till I die—Heavens, I thought I should have peace here and I could have stood it with the old woman, too. But now this has come to nothing and I shall have to be knocked around again. Besides, I am a Catholic. Oh, I have had enough of it and I wish I lay where the old woman lies. She might go on living for all of me. * * *"
Rollo, who had accompanied Effi, had meanwhile sat down before the maid, with his tongue away out, and looked at her. When she stopped talking he arose, stepped forward, and laid his head upon her knees. Suddenly she was transformed. "My, this means something for me. Why, here is a creature that can endure me, that looks at me like a friend and lays its head on my knees. My, it has been a long time since anything like that has happened to me. Well, old boy, what's your name? My, but you are a splendid fellow!"
"Rollo," said Effi.
"Rollo; that is strange. But the name makes no difference. I have a strange name, too, that is, forename. And the likes of me have no other, you know."
"What is your name?"
"I am called Roswitha."
"Yes, that is strange; why, that is—"
"Yes, quite right, your Ladyship, it is a Catholic name. And that is another trouble, that I am a Catholic. From Eichsfeld. Being a Catholic makes it harder and more disagreeable for me. Many won't have Catholics, because they run to the church so much. * * *"
"Roswitha," said Effi, sitting down by her on the bench. "What are you going to do now?"
"Ah, your Ladyship, what could I be going to do? Nothing. Honestly and truly, I should like to sit here and wait till I fall over dead. * * *"
"I want to ask you something, Roswitha. Are you fond of children? Have you ever taken care of little children?"
"Indeed I have. That is the best and finest thing about me. * * * When a dear little thing stands up in one's lap, a darling little creature like a doll, and looks at one with its little peepers, that, I tell you, is something that opens up one's heart. * * *"
"Now let me tell you, Roswitha, you are a good true person; I can tell it by your looks. A little bit unceremonious, but that doesn't hurt; it is often true of the best people, and I have had confidence in you from the beginning. Will you come along to my house? It seems as though God had sent you to me. I am expecting a little one soon, and may God help me at the time. When the child comes it must be cared for and waited upon and perhaps even fed from a bottle, though I hope not. But one can never tell. What do you say? Will you come?"
Roswitha sprang up, seized the hand of the young wife and kissed it fervently. "Oh, there is indeed a God in heaven, and when our need is greatest help is nearest. Your Ladyship shall see, I can do it. I am an orderly person and have good references. You can see for yourself when I bring you my book. The very first time I saw your Ladyship I thought: 'Oh, if I only had such a mistress!' And now I am to have her. O, dear God, O, holy Virgin Mary, who would have thought it possible, when we had put the old woman in her grave and the relatives made haste to get away and left me sitting here?"
"Yes, it is the unexpected that often happens, Roswitha, and occasionally for our good. Let us go now. Rollo is getting impatient and keeps running down to the gate."
Roswitha was ready at once, but went back to the grave, mumbled a few words and crossed herself. Then they walked down the shady path and back to the churchyard gate. * * *
In less than a quarter of an hour the house was reached. As they stepped into the cool hall * * * Effi said: "Now, Roswitha, you go in there. That is our bedroom. I am going over to the district councillor's office to tell my husband that I should like to have you as a nurse for the baby. He will doubtless agree to it, but I must have his consent. Then when I have it we must find other quarters for him and you will sleep with me in the alcove * * *"
When Innstetten learned the situation he said with alacrity: "You did the right thing, Effi, and if her testimonials are not too bad we will take her on her good face * * *"
Effi was very happy to have encountered so little difficulty, and said: "Now it will be all right. Now I am no longer afraid * * *"
That same hour Roswitha moved into the house with her few possessions and established herself in the little alcove. When the day was over she went to bed early and, tired as she was, fell asleep instantly.
The next morning Effi inquired how she had slept and whether she had heard anything.
"What?" asked Roswitha.
"Oh, nothing. I just meant some sound as though a broom were sweeping or some one were sliding over the floor."
Roswitha laughed and that made an especially good impression upon her young mistress. Effi had been brought up a Protestant and would have been very much alarmed if any Catholic traits had been discovered in her. And yet she believed that Catholicism affords the better protection against such things as "that upstairs" * * *
All soon began to feel at home with one another, for Effi, like most country noblewomen of Brandenburg, had the amiable characteristic of liking to listen to such little stories as those for which the deceased widow, with her avarice, her nephews and their wives, afforded Roswitha an inexhaustible fund of material. Johanna was also an appreciative listener.
Often, when Effi laughed aloud at the drastic passages, Johanna would deign to smile, but inwardly she was surprised that her Ladyship found pleasure in such stupid stuff. This feeling of surprise, along with her sense of superiority, proved on the whole very fortunate and helped to avoid quarrels with Johanna about their relative positions. Roswitha was simply the comic figure, and for Johanna to be jealous of her would have been as bad as to envy Rollo his position of friendship.
Thus passed a week, chatty and almost jolly, for Effi looked forward with less anxiety than heretofore to the important coming event. Nor did she think that it was so near. On the ninth day the chattering and jollity came to an end. Running and hurrying took their place, and Innstetten himself laid aside his customary reserve entirely. On the morning of the 3d of July a cradle was standing by Effi's bed. Dr. Hannemann joyously grasped the young mother's hand and said: "We have today the anniversary of Koeniggraetz; a pity, that it is a girl. But the other may come yet, and the Prussians have many anniversaries of victories." Roswitha doubtless had some similar idea, but for the present her joy over the new arrival knew no bounds. Without further ado she called the child "little Annie," which the young mother took as a sign. "It must have been an inspiration," she said, "that Roswitha hit upon this particular name." Even Innstetten had nothing to say against it, and so they began to talk about "little Annie" long before the christening day arrived.
Effi, who expected to be with her parents in Hohen-Cremmen from the middle of August on, would have liked to postpone the baptism till then. But it was not feasible. Innstetten could not take a vacation and so the 15th of August * * * was set for the ceremony, which of course was to take place in the church. The accompanying banquet was held in the large clubhouse on the quay, because the district councillor's house had no dining hall. All the nobles of the neighborhood were invited and all came. Pastor Lindequist delivered the toast to the mother and the child in a charming way that was admired on all sides. But Sidonie von Grasenabb took occasion to remark to her neighbor, an assessor of the strict type: "Yes, his occasional addresses will pass. But he cannot justify his sermons before God or man. He is a half-way man, one of those who are rejected because they are lukewarm. I don't care to quote the Bible here literally." Immediately thereafter old Mr. von Borcke took the floor to drink to the health of Innstetten: "Ladies and Gentlemen: These are hard times in which we live; rebellion, defiance, lack of discipline, whithersoever we look. But * * * so long as we still have men like Baron von Innstetten, whom I am proud to call my friend, just so long we can endure it, and our old Prussia will hold out. Indeed, my friends, with Pomerania and Brandenburg we can conquer this foe and set our foot upon the head of the poisonous dragon of revolution. Firm and true, thus shall we gain the victory. The Catholics, our brethren, whom we must respect, even though we fight them, have the 'rock of Peter,' but our rock is of bronze. Three cheers for Baron Innstetten!" Innstetten thanked him briefly. Effi said to Major von Crampas, who sat beside her, that the 'rock of Peter' was probably a compliment to Roswitha, and she would later approach old Councillor of Justice Gadebusch and ask him if he were not of her opinion. For some unaccountable reason Crampas took this remark seriously and advised her not to ask the Councillor's opinion, which amused Effi exceedingly. "Why, I thought you were a better mind-reader."
"Ah, your Ladyship, in the case of beautiful young women who are not yet eighteen the art of mind-reading fails utterly."
"You are defeating your cause completely, Major. You may call me a grandmother, but you can never be pardoned for alluding to the fact that I am not yet eighteen."
When they left the table the late afternoon steamer came down the Kessine and called at the landing opposite the clubhouse. Effi sat by an open window with Crampas and Gieshuebler, drinking coffee and watching the scene below. "Tomorrow morning at nine the same boat will take me up the river, and at noon I shall be in Berlin, and in the evening I shall be in Hohen-Cremmen, and Roswitha will walk beside me and carry the child in her arms. I hope it will not cry. Ah, what a feeling it gives me even today! Dear Gieshuebler, were you ever so happy to see again your parental home?"
[Illustation: Permission F. Bruckmann A.-G. Munich PROCESSION AT GASTEIN Adolph von Menzel] "Yes, the feeling is not new to me, most gracious Lady, excepting only that I have never taken any little Annie with me, for I have none to take."
Effi left home in the middle of August and was back in Kessin at the end of September. During the six weeks' visit she had often longed to return, but when she now reached the house and entered the dark hall into which no light could enter except the little from the stairway, she had a sudden feeling of fear and said to herself: "There is no such pale, yellow light in Hohen-Cremmen."
A few times during the days in Hohen-Cremmen she had longed for the "Haunted house," but on the whole her life there had been full of happiness and contentment. To be sure, she had not known what to make of Hulda, who was not taking kindly to her role of waiting for a husband or fiance to turn up. With the twins, however, she got along much better, and more than once when she played ball or croquet with them she entirely forgot that she was married. Those were happy moments. Her chief delight was, as in former days, to stand on the swing board as it flew through the air and gave her a tingling sensation, a shudder of sweet danger, when she felt she would surely fall the next moment. When she finally sprang out of the swing, she went with the two girls to sit on the bench in front of the schoolhouse and there told old Mr. Jahnke, who joined them, about her life in Kessin, which she said was half-hanseatic and half-Scandinavian, and anything but a replica of Schwantikow and Hohen-Cremmen.
Such were the little daily amusements, to which were added occasional drives into the summery marsh, usually in the dog-cart. But Effi liked above everything else the chats she had almost every morning with her mother, as they sat upstairs in the large airy room, while Roswitha rocked the baby and sang lullabies in a Thuringian dialect which nobody fully understood, perhaps not even Roswitha. Effi and her mother would move over to the open window and look out upon the park, the sundial, or the pond with the dragon flies hovering almost motionless above it, or the tile walk, where von Briest sat beside the porch steps reading the newspapers. Every time he turned a page he took off his nose glasses and greeted his wife and daughter. When he came to his last paper, usually the Havelland Advertiser, Effi went down either to sit beside him or stroll with him through the garden and park. On one such occasion they stepped from the gravel walk over to a little monument standing to one side, which Briest's grandfather had erected in memory of the battle of Waterloo. It was a rusty pyramid with a bronze cast of Bluecher in front and one of Wellington in the rear.
"Have you any such walks in Kessin?" said von Briest, "and does Innstetten accompany you and tell you stories?"
"No, papa, I have no such walks. It is out of the question, for we have only a small garden behind the house, in reality hardly a garden at all, just a few box-bordered plots and vegetable beds with three or four fruit trees. Innstetten has no appreciation of such things and, I fancy, does not expect to stay much longer in Kessin."
"But, child, you must have exercise and fresh air, for you are accustomed to them."
"Oh, I have both. Our house is situated near a grove, which they call the 'Plantation,' and I walk there a great deal and Rollo with me."
"Always Rollo," laughed von Briest. "If I didn't know better, I should be tempted to think that you cared more for Rollo than for your husband and child."
"Ah, papa, that would be terrible, even if I am forced to admit that there was a time when I could not have gotten along without Rollo. That was—oh, you know when—On that occasion he virtually saved my life, or I at least fancied he did, and since then he has been my good friend and my chief dependence. But he is only a dog, and of course human beings come first."
"Yes, that is what they always say, but I have my doubts. There is something peculiar about brute creatures and a correct understanding of them has not yet been arrived at. Believe me, Effi, this is another wide field. When I think how a person has an accident on the water or on the slippery ice, and some dog, say, one like your Rollo, is at hand, he will not rest till he has brought the unfortunate person to the shore. And if the victim is already dead, the dog will lie down beside him and bark and whine till somebody comes, and if nobody comes he will stay by the corpse till he himself is dead. That is what such an animal always does. And now take mankind on the other hand. God forgive me for saying it, but it sometimes seems to me as though the brute creature were better than man."
"But, papa, if I said that to Innstetten—"
"No, Effi, you would better not."
"Rollo would rescue me, of course, but Innstetten would, too. He is a man of honor, you know."
"That he is."
"And loves me."
"That goes without saying. And where there is love it is reciprocated. That is the way of the world. I am only surprised that he didn't take a vacation and flit over here. When one has such a young wife—"
Effi blushed, for she thought exactly the same thing. But she did not care to admit it. "Innstetten is so conscientious and he desires to be thought well of, I believe, and has his own plans for the future. Kessin, you know, is only a stepping stone. And, after all, I am not going to run away from him. He has me, you see. If he were too affectionate—beside the difference between our ages—people would merely smile."
"Yes, they would, Effi. But one must not mind that. Now, don't say anything about it, not even to mama. It is so hard to say what to do and what not. That is also a wide field."
More than once during Effi's visit with her parents such conversations as the above had occurred, but fortunately their effect had not lasted long. Likewise the melancholy impression made upon her by the Kessin house at the moment of her return quickly faded away. Innstetten was full of little attentions, and when tea had been taken and the news of the city and the gossip about lovers had been talked over in a merry mood Effi took his arm affectionately and went into the other room with him to continue their chat and hear some anecdotes about Miss Trippelli, who had recently had another lively correspondence with Gieshuebler. This always meant a new debit on her never settled account. During this conversation Effi was very jolly, enjoying to the full the emotions of a young wife, and was glad to be rid of Roswitha, who had been transferred to the servants' quarters for an indefinite period.
The next morning she said: "The weather is beautiful and mild and I hope the veranda on the side toward the 'Plantation' is in good order, so that we can move out of doors and take breakfast there. We shall be shut up in our rooms soon enough, at best, for the Kessin winters are really four weeks too long."
Innstetten agreed heartily. The veranda Effi spoke of, which might perhaps better be called a tent, had been put up in the summer, three or four weeks before Effi's departure for Hohen-Cremmen. It consisted of a large platform, with the side in front open, an immense awning overhead, while to the right and left there were broad canvas curtains, which could be shoved back and forth by means of rings on an iron rod. It was a charming spot and all summer long was admired by the visitors who passed by on their way to the baths.
Effi had leaned back in a rocking chair and said, as she pushed the coffee tray toward her husband: "Geert, you might play the amiable host today. I for my part find this rocker so comfortable that I do not care to get up. So exert yourself and if you are right glad to have me back again I shall easily find some way to get even." As she said this she straightened out the white damask cloth and laid her hand upon it. Innstetten took her hand and kissed it.
"Well, how did you get on without me?"
"Badly enough, Effi."
"You just say so and try to look gloomy, but in reality there is not a word of truth in it."
"As I will prove to you, If you had had the least bit of longing for your child—I will not speak of myself, for, after all, what is a woman to such a high lord, who was a bachelor for so many years and was in no hurry—"
"Yes, Geert, if you had had just the least bit of longing, you would not have left me for six weeks to enjoy widow-like my own sweet society in Hohen-Cremmen, with nobody about but Niemeyer and Jahnke, and now and then our friends in Schwantikow. Nobody at all came from Rathenow, which looked as though they were afraid of me, or I had grown too old."
"Ah, Effi, how you do talk! Do you know that you are a little coquette?"
"Thank heaven that you say so. You men consider a coquette the best thing a woman can be. And you yourself are not different from the rest, even if you do put on such a solemn and honorable air. I know very well, Geert—To tell the truth, you are—"
"Well, I prefer not to say. But I know you very well. To tell the truth, you are, as my Schwantikow uncle once said, an affectionate man, and were born under the star of love, and Uncle Belling was quite right when he said so. You merely do not like to show it and think it is not proper and spoils one's career. Have I struck it?"
Innstetten laughed. "You have struck it a little bit. And let me tell you, Effi, you seem to me entirely changed. Before little Annie came you were a child, but all of a sudden—"
"All of a sudden you are like another person. But it is becoming to you and I like you very much. Shall I tell you further?"
"There is something alluring about you."
"Oh, my only Geert, why, what you say is glorious. Now my heart is gladder than ever—Give me another half a cup—Do you know that that is what I have always desired? We women must be alluring, or we are nothing whatever."
"Is that your own idea?"
"I might have originated it, but I got it from Niemeyer."
"From Niemeyer! My, oh my, what a fine pastor he is! Well, I just tell you, there are none like him here. But how did he come by it? Why, it seems as though some Don Juan, some regular heart smasher had said it."
"Ah, who knows?" laughed Effi. "But isn't that Crampas coming there? And from the beach! You don't suppose he has been swimming? On the 27th of September!"
"He often does such things, purely to make an impression."
Crampas had meanwhile come up quite near and greeted them.
"Good morning," cried Innstetten. "Come closer, come closer."
Crampas, in civilian dress, approached and kissed Effi's hand. She went on rocking, and Innstetten said: "Excuse me, Major, for doing the honors of the house so poorly; but the veranda is not a house and, strictly speaking, ten o'clock in the morning is no time. At this hour we omit formalities, or, if you like, we all make ourselves at home. So sit down and give an account of your actions. For by your hair,—I wish for your sake there were more of it—I see plainly you have been swimming."
"Inexcusable," said Innstetten, half in earnest and half joking. "Only four weeks ago you yourself witnessed Banker Heinersdorf's calamity. He too thought the sea and the magnificent waves would respect him on account of his millions. But the gods are jealous of each other, and Neptune, without any apparent cause, took sides against Pluto, or at least against Heinersdorf."
Crampas laughed. "Yes, a million marks! If I had that much, my dear Innstetten, I should not have risked it, I presume; for beautiful as the weather is, the water was only 9 deg. centigrade. But a man like me, with his million deficit,—permit me this little bit of boasting—a man like me can take such liberties without fearing the jealousy of the gods. Besides, there is comfort in the proverb, 'Whoever is born for the noose cannot perish in the water.'"
"Why, Major," said Effi, "you don't mean to talk your neck into—excuse me!—such an unprosaic predicament, do you? To be sure, many believe—I refer to what you just said—that every man more or less deserves to be hanged. And yet, Major—for a major—"
"It is not the traditional way of dying. I admit it, your Ladyship. Not traditional and, in my case, not even very probable. So it was merely a quotation, or, to be more accurate, a common expression. Still, there is some sincerity back of it when I say the sea will not harm me, for I firmly expect to die a regular, and I hope honorable, soldier's death. Originally it was only a gypsy's prophesy, but with an echo in my own conscience."
Innstetten laughed. "There will be a few obstacles, Crampas, unless you plan to serve under the Sublime Porte or the Chinese dragon. There the soldiers are knocking each other around now. Take my word for it, that kind of business is all over here for the next thirty years, and if anybody has the desire to meet his death as a soldier—"
"He must first order a war of Bismarck. I know all about it, Innstetten. But that is a mere bagatelle for you. It is now the end of September. In ten weeks at the latest the Prince will be in Varzin again, and as he has a liking for you—I will refrain from using the more vulgar term, to avoid facing the barrel of your pistol—you will be able, won't you, to provide a little war for an old Vionville comrade? The Prince is only a human being, like the rest of us, and a kind word never comes amiss."
During this conversation Effi had been wadding bread and tossing it on the table, then making figures out of the little balls, to indicate that a change of topic was desirable. But Innstetten seemed bent on answering Crampas's joking remarks, for which reason Effi decided it would be better for her simply to interrupt. "I can't see, Major, why we should trouble ourselves about your way of dying. Life lies nearer to us and is for the time being a more serious matter."
"I am glad you agree with me. How are we to live here? That is the question right now. That is more important than anything else. Gieshuebler has written me a letter on the subject and I would show it to you if it did not seem indiscreet or vain, for there are a lot of other things besides in the letter. Innstetten doesn't need to read it; he has no appreciation of such things. Incidentally, the handwriting is like engraving, and the style is what one would expect if our Kessin friend had been brought up at an Old French court. The fact that he is humpbacked and wears white jabots such as no other human being wears—I can't imagine where he has them ironed—all this fits so well. Now Gieshuebler has written to me about plans for the evenings at the club, and about a manager by the name of Crampas. You see, Major, I like that better than the soldier's death, let alone the other."
"And I, personally, no less than you. It will surely be a splendid winter if we may feel assured of the support of your Ladyship. Miss Trippelli is coming—"
"Trippelli? Then I am superfluous."
"By no means, your Ladyship. Miss Trippelli cannot sing from one Sunday till the next; it would be too much for her and for us. Variety is the spice of life, a truth which, to be sure, every happy marriage seems to controvert."
"If there are any happy marriages, mine excepted," and she held out her hand to Innstetten.
"Variety then," continued Crampas. "To secure it for ourselves and our club, of which for the time being I have the honor to be the vice-president, we need the help of everybody who can be depended upon. If we put our heads together we can turn this whole place upside down. The theatrical pieces have already been selected—War in Peace, Mr. Hercules, Youthful Love, by Wilbrandt, and perhaps Euphrosyne, by Gensichen. You as Euphrosyne and I middle-aged Goethe. You will be astonished to see how well I can act the prince of poets, if act is the right word."
"No doubt. In the meantime I have learned from the letter of my alchemistic correspondent that, in addition to your other accomplishments, you are an occasional poet. At first I was surprised."
"You couldn't see that I looked the part."
"No. But since I have found out that you go swimming at 9 deg. I have changed my mind. Nine degrees in the Baltic Sea beats the Castalian Fountain."
"The temperature of which is unknown."
"Not to me; at least nobody will contradict me. But now I must get up. There comes Roswitha with little Annie."
She arose and went toward Roswitha, took the child, and tossed it up with pride and joy.
[For the next few weeks Crampas came regularly every morning to gossip a while with Effi on the veranda and then ride horseback with her husband. Finally she desired to ride with them and, although Innstetten did not approve of the idea, Crampas secured a horse for her. On one of their rides Crampas let fall a remark about how it bored him to have to observe such a multitude of petty laws. Effi applauded the sentiment. Innstetten took the Major to task and reminded him that one of his frivolous escapades had cost him an arm. When the election campaign began Innstetten; could no longer take the time for the horseback rides, and so Effi went out with Crampas, accompanied by two lackeys. One day, while riding slowly through the woods, Crampas spoke at length of Innstetten's character, telling how in earlier life the councillor was more respected than loved, how he had a mystical tendency and was inclined to make sport of his comrades. He referred also to Innstetten's fondness for ghost stories, which led Effi to tell her experience with the Chinaman. Crampas said that because of an unusual ambition Innstetten had to have an unusual residence; hence the haunted house. He further poisoned Effi's mind by telling her that her husband was a born pedagogue and in the education of his wife was employing the haunted house in accordance with a definite pedagogical plan.]
The clock struck two as they reached the house. Crampas bade Effi adieu, rode into the city, and dismounted at his residence on the market square. Effi changed her dress and tried to take a nap, but could not go to sleep, for she was less weary than out of humor. That Innstetten should keep his ghosts, in order to live in an extraordinary house, that she could endure; it harmonized with his inclination to be different from the great mass. But the other thing, that he should use his ghosts for pedagogical purposes, that was annoying, almost insulting. It was clear to her mind that "pedagogical purposes" told less than half the story. What Crampas had meant was far, far worse, was a kind of instrument designed to instill fear. It was wholly lacking in goodness of heart and bordered almost on cruelty. The blood rushed to her head, she clenched her little fist, and was on the point of laying plans, but suddenly she had to laugh. "What a child I am!" she exclaimed. "Who can assure me that Crampas is right? Crampas is entertaining, because he is a gossip, but he is unreliable, a mere braggart, and cannot hold a candle to Innstetten."
At this moment Innstetten drove up, having decided to come home earlier today than usual. Effi sprang from her seat to greet him in the hall and was the more affectionate, the more she felt she had something to make amends for. But she could not entirely ignore what Crampas had said, and in the midst of her caresses, while she was listening with apparent interest, there was the ever recurring echo within: "So the ghost is part of a design, a ghost to keep me in my place."
Finally she forgot it, however, and listened artlessly to what he had to tell her.
* * * * *
About the middle of November the north wind blew up a gale, which for a day and a half swept over the moles so violently that the Kessine, more and more dammed back, finally overflowed the quay and ran into the streets. But after the storm had spent its rage the weather cleared and a few sunny autumn days followed. "Who knows how long they will last," said Effi to Crampas, and they decided to ride out once more on the following morning. Innstetten, who had a free day, was to go too. They planned to ride to the mole and dismount there, then take a little walk along the beach and finally have luncheon at a sheltered spot behind the dunes.
At the appointed hour Crampas rode up before the house. Kruse was holding the horse for her Ladyship, who quickly lifted herself into the saddle, saying that Innstetten had been prevented from going and wished to be excused. There had been another big fire in Morgenitz the night before, the third in three weeks, pointing to incendiarism, and he had been obliged to go there, much to his sorrow, for he had looked forward with real pleasure to this ride, thinking it would probably be the last of the season.
Crampas expressed his regret, perhaps just to say something, but perhaps with sincerity, for inconsiderate as he was in chivalrous love affairs, he was, on the other hand, equally a hale fellow well met. To be sure, only superficially. To help a friend and five minutes later deceive him were things that harmonized very well with his sense of honor. He could do both with incredible bonhomie.
The ride followed the usual route through the "Plantation." Rollo went ahead, then came Crampas and Effi, and Kruse followed. Crampas's lackey was not along.
"Where did you leave Knut?"
"He has the mumps."
"Remarkable," laughed Effi. "To tell the truth, he always looked as though he had something of the sort."
"Quite right. But you ought to see him now. Or rather not, for you can take the mumps from merely seeing a case."
"I don't believe it."
"There is a great deal that young wives don't believe."
"And again they believe many things they would better not believe."
"Do you say that for my benefit?"
"How becoming this 'sorry' is to you! I really believe, Major, you would consider it entirely proper, if I were to make a declaration of love to you."
"I will not go quite that far. But I should like to see the fellow who would not desire such a thing. Thoughts and wishes go free of duty."