Wilhelm was painfully surprised. What a mercy that the letter had not come sooner. It might have influenced his manner so much as to spoil his relations with Loulou. Now that the Ellrichs were gone, it could for the moment do no harm.
Vanities of vanities.
A brilliant company filled the Ellrichs’ drawing-rooms. These lofty rooms, thrown open to the guests, were more like the reception-rooms in a great castle than those of a bourgeois townhouse in Berlin.
The councilor’s drawing-rooms occupied the first floor of the largest house in the Lannestrasse. The carpeted staircase was decorated with plants and candelabra, and the guests were shown into a well-lighted anteroom, and on through folding doors into the large square drawing-room. The walls were covered with gold-framed mirrors reflecting the great marble stove, with its Chinese bronze ornaments; the Venetian glass chandelier, the painting on the ceiling representing Apollo in his sun chariot, while the rows of pretty gilt chairs in red silk, the palm trees in the corner, and the wax candles in the brass sconces on the walls were repeated in endless perspective. On the right was a little room not intended for dancing, thickly carpeted, with old Gobelin tapestry on all the walls and doors; inlaid tables, ebony tables, and silk, satin, and tapestry in every conceivable form. A glass door, half-covered by a portiere, gave a glimpse into a well-lighted winter garden, full of fantastic plants in beds, bushes and pots. On the left of the large drawing-room was the dining-room, with white varnished walls divided into squares by gold beading, and decorated by a number of bright pictures of symbolic female figures representing various kinds of wine. A gigantic porcelain stove filled one end of the room, and a sideboard the other. Through the dining-room was a smoking-room furnished with Smyrna carpets, low divans, chairs in mother-of-pearl, and from the ceiling hung a number of colored glass lanterns. This was intended for old gentlemen who wished to enjoy the latest scandal, and a card table was arranged for them with an open box of cigars.
The decoration of these rooms was handsome without being overloaded, and tasteful without being odd or obtrusive, qualities which one does not often find in Germany, even in princes’ palaces. A fine perception would perhaps have felt the want of smilarity in style in the numerous rooms, giving them the character of a museum or curiosity shop, rather than that of the harmonious dwelling of educated people of a particular period, and in a certain country. Herr Ellrich was, however, quite innocent of this imperfection. He had not chosen anything himself. Everything had come from Paris, and was the selection of a Parisian decorator, and one of the proudest moments in the councilor’s life was on the occasion of the ball he gave on his daughter’s return from England, when Count Benedetti, the French ambassador, said to him: “One would imagine oneself in an historical house in the Faubourg St. Germain, c’est tout a fait Parisien, Monsieur, tout a fait Parisien.”