Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.23
Circumstances had obliged my aunt to perform the last stage of her journey to Frankfort
by the night mail. She had only stopped at our house on her way to the hotel; being
unwilling to trespass on the hospitality of her partners, while she was accompanied by
such a half-witted fellow as Jack. Mr. Keller, however, refused even to hear of the head
partner in the business being reduced to accept a mercenary welcome at an hotel. One
whole side of the house, situated immediately over the offices, had been already put in
order in anticipation of Mrs. Wagner's arrival. The luggage was then and there taken off
the carriage; and my aunt was obliged, by all the laws of courtesy and good fellowship, to
This information was communicated to me by Joseph, on my return from an early visit to
one of our warehouses at the riverside. When I asked if I could see my aunt, I was
informed that she had already retired to rest in her room, after the fatigue of a seven
hours' journey by night.
"And where is Jack Straw?" I asked.
"Playing the devil already, sir, with the rules of the house," Joseph answered.
Fritz's voice hailed me from the lower regions.
"Come down, David; here's something worth seeing!"
I descended at once to the servants' offices. There, crouched up in a corner of the cold
stone corridor which formed the medium of communication between the kitchen and the
stairs, I saw Jack Straw again--in the very position in which I had found him at Bedlam;
excepting the prison, the chains, and the straw.
But for his prematurely gray hair and the strange yellow pallor of his complexion, I doubt
if I should have recognized him again. He looked fat and happy; he was neatly and
becomingly dressed, with a flower in his button-hole and rosettes on his shoes. In one
word, so far as his costume was concerned, he might have been taken for a lady's page,
dressed under the superintendence of his mistress herself.
"There he is!" said Fritz, "and there he means to remain, till your aunt wakes and sends
for him."
"Upsetting the women servants, on their way to their work," Joseph added, with an air of
supreme disgust--"and freezing in that cold corner, when he might be sitting comfortably
by the kitchen fire!"
Jack listened to this with an ironical expression of approval. "That's very well said,
Joseph," he remarked. "Come here; I want to speak to you. Do you see that bell?" He
pointed to a row of bells running along the upper wall of the corridor, and singled out one
of them which was numbered ten. "They tell me that's the bell of Mistress's bedroom," he