The widow stopped at a jeweler's window in the famous street called the Zeil. The only
person in the shop was a simple-looking old man, sitting behind the counter, reading a
She went in. "I have something to show you, sir," she said, in her softest and sweetest
tones. The simple old man first looked at her thick veil, and then at the necklace. He
lifted his hands in amazement and admiration. "May I examine these glorious pearls?" he
asked--and looked at them through a magnifying glass, and weighed them in his hand. "I
wonder you are not afraid to walk out alone in the dark, with such a necklace as this," he
said. "May I send to my foreman, and let him see it?"
Madame Fontaine granted his request. He rang the bell which communicated with the
work-rooms. Being now satisfied that she was speaking to the proprietor of the shop, she
risked her first inquiry.
"Have you any necklace of imitation pearls which resembles my necklace?" she asked.
The old gentleman started, and looked harder than ever at the impenetrable veil. "Good
heavens--no!" he exclaimed. "There is no such thing in all Frankfort.
"Could an imitation be made, sir?"
The foreman entered the shop--a sullen, self-concentrated man. "Fit for a queen," he
remarked, with calm appreciation of the splendid pearls. His master repeated to him
Madame Fontaine's last question. "They might do it in Paris," he answered briefly. "What
time could you give them, madam?"
"I should want the imitation sent here before the thirteenth of next month."
The master, humanely pitying the lady's ignorance, smiled and said nothing. The
foreman's decision was rough and ready. "Nothing like time enough; quite out of the
Madame Fontaine had no choice but to resign herself to circumstances. She had entered
the shop with the idea of exhibiting the false necklace on the wedding-day, whilst the
genuine pearls were pledged for the money of which she stood in need. With the necklace
in pawn, and with no substitute to present in its place, what would Minna say, what
would Mr. Keller think? It was useless to pursue those questions--some plausible excuse
must be found. No matter what suspicions might be excited, the marriage would still take
place. The necklace was no essential part of the ceremony which made Fritz and Minna
man and wife--and the money must be had.
"I suppose, sir, you grant loans on valuable security--such as this necklace?" she said.