[Illustration: Charlotte, Ottilie, Edward and the captain discuss the new plan of the house From the Painting by Franz Simm]
The more they talked it over, the more conclusive was their judgment in favor of Ottilie; and Edward could not conceal his triumph that the thought had been hers. He was as proud as if he had hit upon it himself.
Early the following morning the Captain examined the spot: he first threw off a sketch of what should be done, and afterward, when the thing had been more completely decided on, he made a complete design, with accurate calculations and measurements. It cost him a good deal of labor, and the business connected with the sale of the farm had to be gone into, so that both the gentlemen now found a fresh impulse to activity.
The Captain made Edward observe that it would be proper, indeed that it would be a kind of duty, to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday with laying the foundation-stone. Not much was wanted to overcome Edward’s disinclination for such festivities—for he quickly recollected that a little later Ottilie’s birthday would follow, and that he could have a magnificent celebration for that.
Charlotte, to whom all this work and what it would involve was a subject for much serious and almost anxious thought, busied herself in carefully going through the time and outlay which it was calculated would be expended on it. During the day they rarely saw each other, so that the evening meeting was looked forward to with all the more anxiety.
Ottilie meantime was complete mistress of the household—and how could it be otherwise, with her quick methodical rays of working? Indeed, her whole mode of thought was suited better to home life than to the world, and to a more free existence. Edward soon observed that she only walked about with them out of a desire to please; that when she stayed out late with them in the evening it was because she thought it a sort of social duty, and that she would often find a pretext in some household matter for going in again—consequently he soon managed so to arrange the walks which they took together, that they should be at home before sunset; and he began again, what he had long left off, to read aloud poetry—particularly such as had for its subject the expression of a pure but passionate love.
They ordinarily sat in the evening in the same places round a small table—Charlotte on the sofa, Ottilie on a chair opposite to her, and the gentlemen on each side. Ottilie’s place was on Edward’s right, the side where he put the candle when he was reading—at such times she would draw her chair a little nearer to look over him, for Ottilie also trusted her own eyes better than another person’s lips, and Edward would then always make a move toward her, that it might be as easy as possible for her—indeed he would frequently make longer stops than necessary, that he might not turn over before she had got to the bottom of the page.