“Well, that is all right, Effi, I am glad to hear it. But there is something else troubling you.”
“You see, mama, the fact that he is older than I does no harm. Perhaps that is a very good thing. After all he is not old and is well and strong and is so soldierly and so keen. And I might almost say I am altogether in favor of him, if he only—oh, if he were only a little bit different.”
“How, pray, Effi.”
“Yes, how? Well, you must not laugh at me. It is something that I only very recently overheard, over at the parsonage. We were talking about Innstetten and all of a sudden old Mr. Niemeyer wrinkled his forehead, in wrinkles of respect and admiration, of course, and said: ’Oh yes, the Baron. He is a man of character, a man of principles.”
“And that he is, Effi.”
“Certainly. And later, I believe, Niemeyer said he is even a man of convictions. Now that, it seems to me, is something more. Alas, and I—I have none. You see, mama, there is something about this that worries me and makes me uneasy. He is so dear and good to me and so considerate, but I am afraid of him.”
The days of festivity at Hohen-Cremmen were past; all the guests had departed, likewise the newly married couple, who left the evening of the wedding day.
The nuptial-eve performance had pleased everybody, especially the players, and Hulda had been the delight of all the young officers, not only the Rathenow Hussars, but also their more critically inclined comrades of the Alexander regiment. Indeed everything had gone well and smoothly, almost better than expected. The only thing to be regretted was that Bertha and Hertha had sobbed so violently that Jahnke’s Low German verses had been virtually lost. But even that had made but little difference. A few fine connoisseurs had even expressed the opinion that, “to tell the truth, forgetting what to say, sobbing, and unintelligibility, together form the standard under which the most decided victories are won, particularly in the case of pretty, curly red heads.” Cousin von Briest had won a signal triumph in his self-composed role. He had appeared as one of Demuth’s clerks, who had found out that the young bride was planning to go to Italy immediately after the wedding, for which reason he wished to deliver to her a traveling trunk. This trunk proved, of course, to be a giant box of bonbons from Hoevel’s. The dancing had continued till three o’clock, with the effect that Briest, who had been gradually talking himself into the highest pitch of champagne excitement, had made various remarks about the torch dance, still in vogue at many courts, and the remarkable custom of the garter dance. Since these remarks showed no signs of coming to an end, and kept getting worse and worse, they finally reached the point where they simply had to be choked off. “Pull yourself together, Briest,” his wife had whispered to him in a rather earnest tone; “you are not here for the purpose of making indecent remarks, but of doing the honors of the house. We are having at present a wedding and not a hunting party.” Whereupon von Briest answered: “I see no difference between the two; besides, I am happy.”