Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter II.12
As the presiding genius of the household, Madame Fontaine was always first in the room
when the table was laid for the early German dinner. A knife with a speck on the blade, a
plate with a suspicion of dirt on it, never once succeeded in escaping her observation. If
Joseph folded a napkin carelessly, Joseph not only heard of it, but suffered the indignity
of seeing his work performed for him to perfection by the housekeeper's dexterous hands.
On the second day of the New Year, she was at her post as usual, and Joseph stood
convicted of being wasteful in the matter of wine.
He had put one bottle of Ohligsberger on the table, at the place occupied by Madame
Fontaine. The wine had already been used at the dinner and the supper of the previous
day. At least two-thirds of it had been drunk. Joseph set down a second bottle on the
opposite side of the table, and produced his corkscrew. Madame Fontaine took it out of
his hand.
"Why do you open that bottle, before you are sure it will be wanted?" She asked sharply.
"You know that Mr. Keller and his son prefer beer."
"There is so little left in the other bottle," Joseph pleaded; "not a full tumbler altogether."
"It may be enough, little as it is, for Mrs. Wagner and for me." With that reply she
pointed to the door. Joseph retired, leaving her alone at the table, until the dinner was
ready to be brought into the room.
In five minutes more, the family assembled at their meal.
Joseph performed his customary duties sulkily, resenting the housekeeper's reproof.
When the time came for filling the glasses, he had the satisfaction of hearing Madame
Fontaine herself give him orders to draw the cork of a new bottle, after all.
Mrs. Wagner turned to Jack, standing behind her chair as usual, and asked for some wine.
Madame Fontaine instantly took up the nearly empty bottle by her side, and, half-filling a
glass, handed it with grave politeness across the table. "If you have no objection," she
said, "we will finish one bottle, before we open another."
Mrs. Wagner drank her small portion of wine at a draught. "It doesn't seem to keep well,
after it has once been opened, she remarked, as she set down her glass. "The wine has
quite lost the good flavor it had yesterday."
"It ought to keep well," said Mr. Keller, speaking from his place at the top of the table.
"It's old wine, and good wine. Let me taste what is left."
Joseph advanced to carry the remains of the wine to his master. But Madame Fontaine
was beforehand with him. "Open the other bottle directly," she said--and rose so
hurriedly to take the wine herself to Mr. Keller, that she caught her foot in her dress. In