At the end of the bottle, they got up and clinked their glasses together. They then took each his bottle of Burgundy for dinner, hung their coats on their arms, and went up into the daylight. It was strictly forbidden for any one to meet them when they came out of the cellar, and Miss Cordsen had trouble enough to keep the way clear. They presented a most extraordinary spectacle, especially the precise Christian Frederick, coming up red and beaming, in their shirtsleeves, covered with dust, and each carrying his bottle and his light.
An hour later they met at the dinner-table—Richard, trim and smart as usual, with his conventional diplomatic smile; the Consul precise, haughty, and correct to the very tips of his fingers.
Dinner was served in the small room on the north side of the house, and the company assembled in the two so-called Sunday-rooms, which looked over the garden.
Mrs. Garman always dressed in black silk, but to-day she was more shining and ponderous than usual. She had been looking forward to a nice quiet little dinner with Pastor Martens and the new school inspector; and now here came a whole posse of worldly minded people. Mrs. Garman was thus not in the best of tempers, and Miss Cordsen had to display all her tact. But Miss Cordsen had had long practice, for Mrs. Garman had always been difficult to manage, especially of late years since “religion had come into fashion,” as the careless Uncle Richard declared.
Mrs Garman did not really manage her own house; everything went on without change, according to the immutable rules which had come down from the old Consul’s time, and she very soon gave up the attempt to bring in new ideas, according to her own pleasure. But now, since she was as it were without any positive influence, she contented herself with saying “No” to everything that she observed the others wished to do. In this way she acquired a kind of negative authority, for although her “No” did not always prevail, it still seemed to give her a right to show her annoyance, by meeting it with an expression full of unmerited suffering and Christian forbearance.
It was thus, with this expression, that Mrs. Garman was listening to Mr. Aalbom, the tall assistant master, who was holding forth about the delicacy and effeminacy of the rising generation. Mrs. Aalbom sat by the window, pretending to listen to the Consul, who was describing with great clearness, and in carefully chosen language, how the garden had been arranged in his late father’s time. But the lady was in reality listening to her husband, for whom she had a most unbounded admiration. Mrs. Aalbom was extremely tall, lean, bony, and angular; her lips were thin, and her teeth long and yellow.
The pastor and the carriage from the town had not yet arrived. The Consul’s only daughter, Rachel, was standing by the old-fashioned stove, talking merrily with Uncle Richard, and as the door opened, and the pastor and the new inspector entered the room, she was laughing still more gaily, and her mother gave her a reproving look.