Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.1
In the matter of Jezebel's Daughter, my recollections begin with the deaths of two foreign
gentlemen, in two different countries, on the same day of the same year.
They were both men of some importance in their way, and both strangers to each other.
Mr. Ephraim Wagner, merchant (formerly of Frankfort-on-the-Main), died in London on
the third day of September, 1828.
Doctor Fontaine--famous in his time for discoveries in experimental chemistry--died at
Wurzburg on the third day of September, 1828.
Both the merchant and the doctor left widows. The merchant's widow (an Englishwoman)
was childless. The doctor's widow (of a South German family) had a daughter to console
At that distant time--I am writing these lines in the year 1878, and looking back through
half a century--I was a lad employed in Mr. Wagner's office. Being his wife's nephew, he
most kindly received me as a member of his household. What I am now about to relate I
saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. My memory is to be depended on.
Like other old men, I recollect events which happened at the beginning of my career far
more clearly than events which happened only two or three years since.
Good Mr. Wagner had been ailing for many months; but the doctors had no immediate
fear of his death. He proved the doctors to be mistaken; and took the liberty of dying at a
time when they all declared that there was every reasonable hope of his recovery. When
this affliction fell upon his wife, I was absent from the office in London on a business
errand to our branch-establishment at Frankfort-on-the-Main, directed by Mr. Wagner's
partners. The day of my return happened to be the day after the funeral. It was also the
occasion chosen for the reading of the will. Mr. Wagner, I should add, had been a
naturalized British citizen, and his will was drawn by an English lawyer.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth clauses of the will are the only portions of the document
which it is necessary to mention in this place.
The fourth clause left the whole of the testator's property, in lands and in money,
absolutely to his widow. In the fifth clause he added a new proof of his implicit
confidence in her--he appointed her sole executrix of his will.
The sixth and last clause began in these words:--
"During my long illness, my dear wife has acted as my secretary and representative. She
has made herself so thoroughly well acquainted with the system on which I have
conducted my business, that she is the fittest person to succeed me. I not only prove the
fullness of my trust in her and the sincerity of my gratitude towards her, but I really act in
the best interests of the firm of which I am the head, when I hereby appoint my widow as