“Of course,” laughed Effi, “from whom we are all descended, the Jahnkes certainly, and perhaps the Briests, too.”
Then she dropped the subject of Ruegen and the Hertha Lake and asked about his grandchildren and which of them he liked best, Bertha’s or Hertha’s.
Indeed Effi was on a very friendly footing with Jahnke. But in spite of his intimate relation to Hertha Lake, Scandinavia, and Wisby, he was only a simple man and so the lonely young woman could not fail to value her chats with Niemeyer much higher. In the autumn, so long as promenades in the park were possible, she had an abundance of such chats, but with the beginning of winter came an interruption for several months, because she did not like to go to the parsonage. Mrs. Niemeyer had always been a very disagreeable woman, but she pitched her voice higher than ever now, in spite of the fact that in the opinion of the parish she herself was not altogether above reproach.
The situation remained the same throughout the winter, much to Effi’s sorrow. But at the beginning of April when the bushes showed a fringe of green and the park paths dried off, the walks were resumed.
Once when they were sauntering along they heard a cuckoo in the distance, and Effi began to count to see how many times it called. She was leaning on Niemeyer’s arm. Suddenly she said: “The cuckoo is calling yonder, but I don’t want to consult him about the length of my life. Tell me, friend, what do you think of life?”
“Ah, dear Effi, you must not lay such doctors’ questions before me. You must apply to a philosopher or offer a prize to a faculty. What do I think of life? Much and little. Sometimes it is very much and sometimes very little.”
“That is right, friend, I like that; I don’t need to know anymore.” As she said this they came to the swing. She sprang into it as nimbly as in her earliest girlhood days, and before the old man, who watched her, could recover from his fright, she crouched down between the two ropes and set the swing board in motion by a skillful lifting and dropping of the weight of her body. In a few seconds she was flying through the air. Then, holding on with only one hand, she tore a little silk handkerchief from around her neck and waved it happily and haughtily. Soon she let the swing stop, sprang out, and took Niemeyer’s arm again.
“Effi, you are just as you always were.”
“No, I wish I were. But I am too old for this; I just wanted to try it once more. Oh, how fine it was and how much good the air did me! It seemed as though I were flying up to heaven. I wonder if I shall go to heaven? Tell me, friend, you ought to know. Please, please.”
Niemeyer took her hand into his two wrinkled ones and gave her a kiss on the forehead, saying: “Yes, Effi, you will.”