There was something so absurd in the association of Madame Fontaine's charms with the
extinction of Mr. Engelman's pipe, that I burst out laughing. My good old friend looked
at me in grave surprise.
"What is there to laugh at in my forgetting to keep my pipe alight?" he asked. "My whole
mind, David, was absorbed in that magnificent woman the instant I set eyes on her. The
image of her is before me at this moment--an image of an angel in moonlight. Am I
speaking poetically for the first time in my life? I shouldn't wonder. I really don't know
what is the matter with me. You are a young man, and perhaps you can tell. Have I fallen
in love, as the saying is?" He took me confidentially by the arm, before I could answer
this formidable question. "Don't tell friend Keller!" he said, with a sudden outburst of
alarm. "Keller is an excellent man, but he has no mercy on sinners. I say, David! couldn't
you introduce me to her?"
Still haunted by the fear that I had spoken too unreservedly during my interview with the
widow, I was in the right humor to exhibit extraordinary prudence in my intercourse with
"I couldn't venture to introduce you," I said; "the lady is living here in the strictest
"At any rate, you can tell me her name," pleaded Mr. Engelman. "I dare say you have
mentioned it to Keller?"
"I have done nothing of the sort. I have reasons for saying nothing about the lady to Mr.
Well, you can trust me to keep the secret, David. Come! I only want to send her some
flowers from my garden. She can't object to that. Tell me where I am to send my
nosegay, there's a dear fellow."
I dare say I did wrong--indeed, judging by later events, I know I did wrong. But I could
not view the affair seriously enough to hold out against Mr. Engelman in the matter of the
nosegay. He started when I mentioned the widow's name.
"Not the mother of the girl whom Fritz wants to marry?" he exclaimed.
"Yes, the same. Don't you admire Fritz's taste? Isn't Miss Minna a charming girl?"
"I can't say, David. I was bewitched--I had no eyes for anybody but her mother. Do you
think Madame Fontaine noticed me?"
"Oh, yes. I saw her look at you."