Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.10
On the afternoon of the next day, while my two good friends were still occupied by the
duties of the office, I stole out to pay my promised visit to Minna and Minna's mother.
It was impossible not to arrive at the conclusion that they were indeed in straitened
circumstances. Their lodgings were in the cheap suburban quarter of Frankfort on the left
bank of the river. Everything was scrupulously neat, and the poor furniture was arranged
with taste--but no dexterity of management could disguise the squalid shabbiness of the
sitting-room into which I was shown. I could not help thinking how distressed Fritz
would feel, if he could have seen his charming Minna in a place so unworthy of her as
The rickety door opened, and the "Jezebel" of the anonymous letter (followed by her
daughter) entered the room.
There are certain remarkable women in all countries who, whatever sphere they may be
seen in, fill that sphere as completely as a great actor fills the stage. Widow Fontaine was
one of these noteworthy persons. The wretched little room seemed to disappear when she
softly glided into it; and even the pretty Minna herself receded into partial obscurity in
her mother's presence. And yet there was nothing in the least obtrusive in the manner of
Madame Fontaine, and nothing remarkable in her stature. Her figure, reaching to no more
than the middle height, was the well-rounded figure of a woman approaching forty years
of age. The influence she exercised was, in part, attributable, as I suppose, to the supple
grace of all her movements; in part, to the commanding composure of her expression and
the indescribable witchery of her manner. Her dark eyes, never fully opened in my
remembrance, looked at me under heavy overhanging upper eyelids. Her enemies saw
something sensual in their strange expression. To my mind it was rather something
furtively cruel--except when she looked at her daughter. Sensuality shows itself most
plainly in the excessive development of the lower part of the face. Madame Fontaine's
lips were thin, and her chin was too small. Her profuse black hair was just beginning to
be streaked with gray. Her complexion wanted color. In spite of these drawbacks, she
was still a striking, I might almost say a startling, creature, when you first looked at her.
And, though she only wore the plainest widow's weeds, I don't scruple to assert that she
was the most perfectly dressed woman I ever saw.
Minna made a modest attempt to present me in due form. Her mother put her aside
playfully, and held out both her long white powerful hands to me as cordially as if we had
known each other for years.
"I wait to prove other people before I accept them for my friends," she said. "Mr. David,
you have been more than kind to my daughter--and you are my friend at our first
I believe I repeat the words exactly. I wish I could give any adequate idea of the exquisite
charm of voice and manner which accompanied them.