Sophie Wahrmund clasps her hands together over her heart. “After Papa’s funeral, I couldn’t bring myself to think of leaving all the family in Fredericksburg. I started weeping the minute they started playing ‘Oh Fair, Oh Sweet, Oh Holy!’ and didn’t stop dabbing at my eyes until we pulled up to the front door. Yet here I am, thoroughly wrapped up in this wedding. How can one so rapidly leap from the depths of despair to a state of bliss? My tears of mourning have been replaced by those of joy.”
“Nothing helps heal loss like births or weddings, Sophie.”
The fireflies are beginning to flicker as servants wander through the yard lighting candles at all the tables. Over Sophie’s shoulder, Emma catches a glimpse of her husband on the dance floor. She smiles. Otto’s partner is none other than the groom’s grandmother, Johanna Steves. While Otto does do a turn or two or more with some of the prettiest women in town, he always takes care to alternate them with the oldest widows available at any social occasion. “And your Jennie just looks positively radiant in that green.”
Andy draws open the heavy drapes and, despite the crisp winter day, cracks two of the windows. He hauls a heavy brass ashtray stand out of the depths of the closet and places it between the two chairs in front of Mr. Koehler’s massive walnut desk. Both his older brother, John, and Mr. Wahrmund are right-handed though, so he fetches another.
He does not want to have to answer to Mrs. Koehler if one of the men carelessly allows a burning ember to drop from his cigar onto the Oriental carpet. But, if the men are drinking, which they will be, they might smoke with their left hands. One more stand is in order. Mrs. Koehler terms them hideous, hence the closet hide-away, but the elegant Meissner ashtrays she brought back from Germany are far too shallow-bowled to serve any purpose aside from collecting dust.
Returning again and again and again, the nightmare is unbearable. Seared in her mind, the vivid images haunt her even in daylight.
Leon Johnson continues to stare at her. But when Sheriff Tobin slips down the black hood, it is Hedda who is plunged into claustrophobic darkness. She senses hundreds of eyes trained upon her as he tightens the rope around her neck.
Dr. Herff said the condemned young man gripped a cross in his right hand and thanked everyone for giving him a fair trial. Hedda, though, finds herself teetering on the trap door with no cross in her hand and no thanks to offer.