No sooner had Delphin taken the clergyman’s place, than the conversation changed its tone.
“Our worthy chaplain did not much like Johnsen’s going to Sandsgaard,” said Fanny.
“That was just the reason I mentioned it,” said Delphin.
“Yes, I could see that very well. You are always so dreadfully mischievous. But can you make out what is the matter with my learned sister-in-law? Rachel, who is generally as cold and unsympathetic as an iceberg, becomes all at once quite taken up with what appears to me the most unlikely person.”
“Your sister-in-law always appears attracted towards any one who shows originality.”
“Well,” objected the lady, “I don’t see much in him; at first I thought he was rather interesting. He reminded me somewhat of Brand in Ibsen’s play, or something of that sort; but really, how tiresome he is, with his short, cutting remarks, which come plump into the middle of a conversation like so many stones!”
“I am a man of the people! my place is among the people!” said Delphin, imitating Johnsen’s voice and manner.
Fanny laughed, and clapped her hands. Madeleine laughed too; she could not help it when Delphin said anything amusing. It is true she liked him better when he was serious, as he was when they were alone; he had then a frank, genuine manner that she found particularly attractive. She could talk to Mr. Delphin on many subjects which she would never have had the courage to mention to others. It was plain enough—that is to Fanny, though not to Madeleine—that he always paid his visits, quite accidentally, of course, whenever Madeleine was in the town.
As they sat chatting merrily on different subjects, Fanny, who always kept her eye on passers-by, suddenly cried, “Just look! there is Jacob Worse. I declare, he is passing the house without looking up; but I saw him speak to some one at the door. I wonder who it could have been?” and, with a woman’s curiosity, she hurried over to the window.
“Ah!” said she, laughing, “I declare it was my little Frederick he was talking to. Freddy,” she cried, looking out of the window, “come up to mother, and you shall have some chocolate.”
Little Christian Frederick, a white-haired, sturdy little fellow of between six and seven, came scrambling up the stairs. The maid opened the door for him, and his mother asked, as she poured him out some chocolate, “Who was it my Freddy was talking to downstairs there by the door?”
“It was the big man,” answered the child, looking at the cup with eager eyes.
“The big man is Jacob Worse, and the little man is yourself, Mr. Delphin,” explained Fanny, laughing. “My son’s manners are not yet quite perfect. Did the big man ask who was up here with mother?”
“He asked if Aunt Rachel was in town,” answered the child, putting out his hand for the cup.
Madeleine did not exactly see what the others found so amusing, but she joined in the laugh, because little Freddy was her darling.