Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter II.3
In the gloom thrown over the household by Mr. Engelman's death, Mrs. Wagner, with
characteristic energy and good sense, had kept her mind closely occupied. During the
office hours, she studied those details of the business at Frankfort which differed from the
details of the business in London; and soon mastered them sufficiently to be able to fill
the vacancy which Mr. Engelman had left. The position that he had held became, with all
its privileges and responsibilities, Mrs. Wagner's position--claimed, not in virtue of her
rank as directress of the London house, but in recognition of the knowledge that she had
specially acquired to fit her for the post.
Out of office-hours, she corresponded with the English writer on the treatment of insane
persons, whose work she had discovered in her late husband's library, and assisted him in
attracting public attention to the humane system which he advocated. Even the plan for
the employment of respectable girls, in suitable departments of the office, was not left
neglected by this indefatigable woman. The same friendly consideration which had
induced her to spare Mr. Keller any allusion to the subject, while his health was not yet
completely restored, still kept her silent until time had reconciled him to the calamity of
his partner's death. Privately, however, she had caused inquiries to be made in Frankfort,
which would assist her in choosing worthy candidates for employment, when the
favorable time came--probably after the celebration of Fritz's marriage--for acting in the
interests of the proposed reform.
"Pray send me away, if I interrupt you," said Madame Fontaine, pausing modestly on the
threshold before she entered the room. She spoke English admirably, and made a point of
ignoring Mrs. Wagner's equally perfect knowledge of German, by addressing her always
in the English language.
"Come in by all means," Mrs. Wagner answered. "I am only writing to David Glenney, to
tell him (at Minna's request) that the wedding-day is fixed."
"Give your nephew my kind regards, Mrs. Wagner. He will be one of the party at the
wedding, of course?"
"Yes--if he can be spared from his duties in London. Is there anything I can do for you,
Madame Fontaine?"
"Nothing, thank you--except to excuse my intrusion. I am afraid I have offended our little
friend there, with the pretty straw hat in his hand, and I want to make my peace with
Jack looked up from his work with an air of lofty disdain. "Oh, dear me, it doesn't
matter," he said, in his most magnificent manner.
"I was dressing when he knocked at my door," pursued Madame Fontaine; "and I asked
him to come back, and show me his keys in half an hour. Why didn't you return, Jack?
Won't you show me the keys now?"