“What is the matter with you?” repeated Innstetten. “I thought you had spent happy days here. And now you cry out, ‘Thank God!’ as though your whole life here had been one prolonged horror. Have I been a horror to you? Or is it something else? Speak!”
“To think that you can ask such a question!” said Effi, seeking by a supreme effort to suppress the trembling of her voice. “Happy days! Yes, certainly, happy days, but others, too. Never have I been entirely free from fear here, never. Never yet a fortnight that it did not look over my shoulder again, that same face, the same sallow complexion. And these last nights while you were away, it came back again, not the face, but there was shuffling of feet again, and Rollo set up his barking again, and Roswitha, who also heard it, came to my bed and sat down by me and we did not go to sleep till day began to dawn. This is a haunted house and I was expected to believe in the ghost, for you are a pedagogue. Yes, Geert, that you are. But be that as it may, thus much I know, I have been afraid in this house for a whole year and longer, and when I go away from here the fear will leave me, I think, and I shall be free again.”
Innstetten had not taken his eyes off her and had followed every word. What could be the meaning of “You are a pedagogue,” and the other statement that preceded, “And I was expected to believe in the ghost?” What was all that about? Where did it come from? And he felt a slight suspicion arising and becoming more firmly fixed. But he had lived long enough to know that all signs deceive, and that in our jealousy, in spite of its hundred eyes, we often go farther astray than in the blindness of our trust. Possibly it was as she said, and, if it was, why should she not cry out: “Thank God!”
And so, quickly looking at the matter from all possible sides, he overcame his suspicion and held out his hand to her across the table: “Pardon me, Effi, but I was so much surprised by it all. I suppose, of course, it is my fault. I have always been too much occupied with myself. We men are all egoists. But it shall be different from now on. There is one good thing about Berlin, that is certain: there are no haunted houses there. How could there be! Now let us go into the other room and see Annie; otherwise Roswitha will accuse me of being an unaffectionate father.”
During these words Effi had gradually become more composed, and the consciousness of having made a felicitous escape from a danger of her own creation restored her countenance and buoyancy.
The next morning the two took their rather late breakfast together. Innstetten had overcome his ill-humor and something worse, and Effi was so completely taken up with her feeling of liberation that not only had her power of feigning a certain amount of good humor returned, but she had almost regained her former artlessness. She was still in Kessin, and yet she already felt as though it lay far behind her.