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