Mr. Fritz’s matrimonial speculations took a somewhat different turn. He raved to his friends about the perfection of Ilka’s physical development; talked about her “points” as if she had been a horse. So much of cynicism always mingled with his ardor that his devotion could hardly be dignified by the name of love. He was convinced that if he could keep Ilka for some years in Berlin and persuade her to continue cultivating her voice, she would some day be a great prima donna. And Fritz had an idea that prima donnas always grew immensely rich, and married worthless husbands whom they allowed great liberties in financial matters. Fritz had no objection to playing this subordinate part, as long as he could be sure of “having a good time.” Beyond this point his ambition had never extended. In spite of his great confidence in his own irresistibility, and his frequent boasts of the favors he had received from the maiden of his choice, he knew in his heart that his wooing had so far been very unprosperous, and that the prospects for the future were not encouraging. Ilka could never rid herself of the impression that Fritz was to be taken very seriously,—that, in fact, there was something almost awful about him. She could laugh at old Hahn’s jokes, and if he attempted to take liberties she could push him away, or even give him a slap on his broad back. But Fritz’s talk frightened her by its very unintelligibility; his mirth seemed terrible; it was like hearing a man laugh in his sleep; and his touch made her shudder.
The return of the first regiments of the united armies was delayed until after the middle of May, and the Siegesfest accordingly had to be postponed. But the delay was rather in Mr. Hahn’s favor, as it gave him ample time to perfect his arrangements, so that, when the day arrived, the “Haute Noblesse” presented a most brilliant appearance. Vividly colored transparencies, representing the most sanguinary battle scenes in more or less fictitious surroundings were suspended among the trees; Danish officers were seen in all sorts of humble attitudes, surrendering their swords or begging for mercy, while the Prussian and Austrian heroes, maddened with warlike fury, stormed onward in the path of glory and victory. The gas-jet programme, with the royal and military portraits, was carried out to perfection; and each new wonder was hailed with immense enthusiasm by the assembled multitude. Innumerable Chinese lanterns glimmered throughout the garden, and from time to time red, white, and blue magnesium lights sent up a great blaze of color among the trees, now making the budding leaves blush crimson, now silvering them, as with hoar-frost, or illuminating their delicate tracery with an intense blue which shone out brilliantly against the nocturnal sky. Even the flower-beds were made to participate in the patriotic frenzy; and cunning imitations, in colored glass, of tulips, lilies, and roses, with little gas-jets concealed in their chalices, were scattered among the natural flowers, which looked like ghosts of their real selves among the splendid counterfeits. In order to tune the audience into perfect accord with the occasion, Mr. Hahn had also engaged three monster bands, which, since early in the afternoon, had been booming forth martial melodies from three different platforms draped in national banners.