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Jezebel's Daughter

Chapter II.8
The widow presented herself, with a dogged resignation singularly unlike her customary
manner. Her eyes had a set look of hardness; her lips were fast closed; her usually
colorless complexion had faded to a strange grayish pallor. If her dead husband could
have risen from the grave, and warned Mr. Keller, he would have said, "Once or twice in
my life, I have seen her like that--mind what you are about!"
She puzzled Mr. Keller. He tried to gain time--he bowed and pointed to a chair. Madame
Fontaine took the chair in silence. Her hard eyes looked straight at the master of the
house, overhung more heavily than usual by their drooping lids. Her thin lips never
opened. The whole expression of the woman said plainly, "You speak first!"
Mr. Keller spoke. His kindly instinct warned him not to refer to Minna, in alluding to the
persons from whom he had derived his information. "I hear from my son," he said, "that
you do not approve of our putting off the wedding-day, though it is only for a fortnight.
Are you aware of the circumstances?"
"I am aware of the circumstances."
"Your daughter informed you of my sister's illness, I suppose?"
At that first reference to Minna, some inner agitation faintly stirred the still surface of
Madame Fontaine's face.
"Yes," she said. "My thoughtless daughter informed me."
The epithet applied to Minna, aggravated by the deliberate emphasis laid on it, jarred on
Mr. Keller's sense of justice. "It appears to me," he said, "that your daughter acted in this
matter, not only with the truest kindness, but with the utmost good sense. Mrs. Wagner
and my sister's physician were both present at the time, and both agreed with me in
admiring her conduct. What has she done to deserve that you should call her
thoughtless?"
"She ought to have remembered her duty to her mother. She ought to have consulted me,
before she presumed to decide for herself."
"In that case, Madame Fontaine, would you have objected to change the day of the
marriage?"
"I am well aware, sir, that your sister has honored my daughter by making her a
magnificent present----"
Mr. Keller's face began to harden. "May I beg you to be so good as answer my question
plainly?" he said, in tones which were peremptory for the first time. "Would you have
objected to grant the fortnight's delay?"
 
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