After leaving Mrs. Wagner, the widow considered with herself, and then turned away
from the commercial regions of the house, in search of her daughter.
She opened the dining-room door, and found the bagatelle-board on the table. Fritz and
Minna were playing a game of the desultory sort--with the inevitable interruptions
appropriate to courtship.
"Are you coming to join us, mamma? Fritz is playing very badly."
"This sort of thing requires mathematical calculation," Fritz remarked; "and Minna
distracts my attention."
Madame Fontaine listened with a smile of maternal indulgence. "I am on my way back to
my room," she said. "If either of you happen to see Jack Straw----"
"He has gone out," Fritz interposed. "I saw him through the window. He started at a run--
and then remembered his dignity, and slackened his pace to a walk. How will he come
back, I wonder?"
"He will come back with greater dignity than ever, Fritz. I have given him the money to
buy himself a pair of gloves. If you or Minna happen to meet with him before I do, tell
him he may come upstairs and show me his new gloves. I like to indulge the poor
imbecile creature. You mustn't laugh at him--he is to be pitied."
Expressing these humane sentiments, she left the lovers to their game. While Jack was
still pleasurably excited by the new gift, he would be in the right frame of mind to feel
her influence. Now or never (if the thing could be done) was the time to provide against
the danger of chance-allusions to what had happened at Wurzburg. It was well known in
the house that Mrs. Wagner wished to return to London, as soon after the marriage as
certain important considerations connected with the management of the office would
permit. By Madame Fontaine's calculations, Jack would be happily out of the way of
doing mischief (if she could keep him quiet in the meanwhile) in a month or six weeks'
The game went on in the dining-room--with the inevitable intervals. Beyond reproach as
a lover, Fritz showed no signs of improvement as a bagatelle-player. In a longer pause
than usual, during which the persons concerned happened to have their backs turned to
the door, a disagreeable interruption occurred. At a moment of absolute silence an
intruding voice made itself heard, inviting immediate attention in these words:--
"I say, you two! If you want to see the finest pair of gloves in Frankfort, just look here."
There he stood with outstretched hands, exhibiting a pair of bright green gloves, and
standing higher in his own estimation than ever.