Thanks to the instructions confided to me, my errand presented no difficulties. There
were certain persons to whom I was introduced, and certain information to be derived
from them, which it was my duty to submit to Mr. Keller on my return. Fidelity was
required of me, and discretion was required of me--and that was all.
At the close of my day's work, the hospitable merchant, whose references I had been
engaged in verifying, refused to permit me to return to the hotel. His dinner-hour had
been put off expressly to suit my convenience. "You will only meet the members of my
family," he said, "and a cousin of my wife's who is here with her daughter, on a visit to
us--Frau Meyer, of Wurzburg."
I accepted the invitation, feeling privately an Englishman's reluctance to confronting an
assembly of strangers, and anticipating nothing remarkable in reference to Frau Meyer,
although she did come from Wurzburg. Even when I was presented to the ladies in due
form, as "the honored representative of Mr. Keller, of Frankfort," I was too stupid, or too
much absorbed in the business on which I had been engaged, to be much struck by the
sudden interest with which Frau Meyer regarded me. She was a fat florid old lady, who
looked coarsely clever and resolute; and she had a daughter who promised to resemble
her but too faithfully, in due course of time. It was a relief to me, at dinner, to find myself
placed between the merchant's wife and her eldest son. They were far more attractive
neighbors at table, to my thinking, than Frau Meyer.
Dinner being over, we withdrew to another room to take our coffee. The merchant and
his son, both ardent musicians in their leisure hours, played a sonata for pianoforte and
violin. I was at the opposite extremity of the room, looking at some fine proof
impressions of prints from the old masters, when a voice at my side startled me by an
"May I ask, sir, if you are acquainted with Mr. Keller's son?"
I looked round, and discovered Frau Meyer.
"Have you seen him lately?" she proceeded, when I had acknowledged that I was
acquainted with Fritz. "And can you tell me where he is now?"
I answered both these questions. Frau Meyer looked thoroughly well satisfied with me.
"Let us have a little talk," she said, and seated herself, and signed to me to take a chair
"I feel a true interest in Fritz," she resumed, lowering her voice so as not to be heard by
the musicians at the other end of the room. "Until to-day, I have heard nothing of him
since he left Wurzburg. I like to talk about him--he once did me a kindness a long time
since. I suppose you are in his confidence? Has he told you why his father sent him away
from the University?"