Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.16
Mr. Keller and Mr. Engelman were both waiting to receive me. They looked over my
written report of my inquiries at Hanau, and expressed the warmest approval of it. So far,
all was well.
But, when we afterwards sat down to our supper, I noticed a change in the two partners,
which it was impossible to see without regret. On the surface they were as friendly
towards each other as ever. But a certain constraint of look and manner, a palpable effort,
on either side, to speak with the old unsought ease and gaiety, showed that the disastrous
discovery of Madame Fontaine in the hall had left its evil results behind it. Mr. Keller
retired, when the meal was over, to examine my report minutely in all its details.
When we were alone, Mr. Engelman lit his pipe. He spoke to me once more with the
friendly familiarity of past days--before he met the too-fascinating widow on the bridge.
"My dear boy, tell me frankly, do you notice any change in Keller?"
"I see a change in both of you," I answered: "you are not such pleasant companions as
you used to be."
Mr. Engelman blew out a mouthful of smoke, and followed it by a heavy sigh.
"Keller has become so bitter," he said. "His hasty temper I never complained of, as you
know. But in these later days he is hard--hard as stone. Do you know what he did with
dear Madame Fontaine's letter? A downright insult, David--he sent it back to her!"
"Without explanation or apology?" I asked.
"With a line on the envelope. 'I warned you that I should refuse to read your letter. You
see that I am a man of my word.' What a message to send to a poor mother, who only
asks leave to plead for her child's happiness! You saw the letter. Enough to melt the heart
of any man, as I should have thought. I spoke to Keller on the subject; I really couldn't
help it."
"Wasn't that rather indiscreet, Mr. Engelman?"
"I said nothing that could reasonably offend him. 'Do you know of some discreditable
action on the part of Madame Fontaine, which has not been found out by anyone else?' I
asked. 'I know the character she bears in Wurzburg,' he said; 'and the other night I saw
her face. That is all I know, friend Engelman, and that is enough for me.' With those sour
words, he walked out of the room. What lamentable prejudice! What an unchristian way
of thinking! The name of Madame Fontaine will never be mentioned between us again.
When that much-injured lady honors me with another visit, I can only receive her where
she will be protected from insult, in a house of my own."
"Surely you are not going to separate yourself from Mr. Keller?" I said.