Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter II.2
Madame Fontaine dropped into a chair, overwhelmed by the discovery.
She looked at the key left in the cupboard. It was of an old-fashioned pattern--but
evidently also of the best workmanship of the time. On its flat handle it bore engraved the
words, "Pink-Room Cupboard"--so called from the color of the curtains and hangings in
the bedchamber.
"Is my brain softening?" she said to herself. "What a horrible mistake! What a frightful
risk to have run!"
She got on her feet again, and opened the cupboard.
The two lower shelves were occupied by her linen, neatly folded and laid out. On the
higher shelf, nearly on a level with her eyes, stood a plain wooden box about two feet in
height by one foot in breadth. She examined the position of this box with breathless
interest and care--then gently lifted it in both hands and placed it on the floor. On a table
near the window lay a half-finished watercolor drawing, with a magnifying glass by the
side of it. Providing herself with the glass, she returned to the cupboard, and closely
investigated the place on which the box had stood. The slight layer of dust--so slight as to
be imperceptible to the unassisted eye--which had surrounded the four sides of the box,
presented its four delicate edges in perfectly undisturbed straightness of line. This mute
evidence conclusively proved that the box had not been moved during her quarter of an
hour's absence in Mr. Keller's room. She put it back again, and heaved a deep breath of
But it was a bad sign (she thought) that her sense of caution had been completely
suspended, in the eagerness of her curiosity to know if Mr. Keller's message of invitation
referred to the wedding day. "I lose my best treasure," she said to herself sadly, "if I am
beginning to lose my steadiness of mind. If this should happen again----"
She left the expression of the idea uncompleted; locked the door of the room; and
returned to the place on which she had left the box.
Seating herself, she rested the box on her knee and opened it.
Certain tell-tale indentations, visible where the cover fitted into the lock, showed that it
had once been forced open. The lock had been hampered on some former occasion; and
the key remained so fast fixed in it that it could neither be turned nor drawn out. In her
newly-aroused distrust of her own prudence, she was now considering the serious
question of emptying the box, and sending it to be fitted with a lock and key.
"Have I anything by me," she thought to herself, "in which I can keep the bottles?"
She emptied the box, and placed round her on the floor those terrible six bottles which
had been the special subjects of her husband's precautionary instructions on his death-