When supper was announced, I went upstairs again to show my aunt the way to the room
in which we took our meals.
"Well?" I said.
"Well," she answered coolly, "Madame Fontaine has promised to reconsider it."
I confess I was staggered. By what possible motives could the widow have been
animated? Even Mr. Engelman's passive assistance was now of no further importance to
her. She had gained Mr. Keller's confidence; her daughter's marriage was assured; her
employment in the house offered her a liberal salary, a respectable position, and a
comfortable home. Why should she consent to reconsider the question of marrying a
man, in whom she could not be said to feel any sort of true interest, in any possible
acceptation of the words? I began to think that my aunt was right, and that I really did
know absolutely nothing about women.
At supper Madame Fontaine and her daughter were both unusually silent. Open-hearted
Minna was not capable of concealing that her mother's concession had been made known
to her in some way, and that the disclosure had disagreeably surprised her. However,
there was no want of gaiety at the table--thanks to my aunt, and to her faithful attendant.
Jack Straw followed us into the room, without waiting to be invited, and placed himself,
to Joseph's disgust, behind Mrs. Wagner's chair.
"Nobody waits on Mistress at table," he explained, "but me. Sometimes she gives me a
bit or a drink over her shoulder. Very little drink--just a sip, and no more. I quite approve
of only a sip myself. Oh, I know how to behave. None of your wine-merchant's fire in my
head; no Bedlam breaking loose again. Make your minds easy. There are no cooler brains
among you than mine." At this, Fritz burst into one of his explosions of laughter. Jack
appealed to Fritz's father, with unruffled gravity. "Your son, I believe, sir? Ha! what a
blessing it is there's plenty of room for improvement in that young man. I only throw out
a remark. If I was afflicted with a son myself, I think I should prefer David."
This specimen of Jack's method of asserting himself, and other similar outbreaks which
Fritz and I mischievously encouraged, failed apparently to afford any amusement to
Madame Fontaine. Once she roused herself to ask Mr. Keller if his sister had written to
him from Munich. Hearing that no reply had been received, she relapsed into silence. The
old excuse of a nervous headache was repeated, when Mr. Keller and my aunt politely
inquired if anything was amiss.
When the letters were delivered the next morning, two among them were not connected
with the customary business of the office. One (with the postmark of Bingen) was for me.
And one (with the postmark of Wurzburg) was for Madame Fontaine. I sent it upstairs to