Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.17
The widow was alone in the room; standing by the bedside table on which Mr. Keller's
night-drink was placed. I was so completely taken by surprise, that I stood stock-still like
a fool, and stared at Madame Fontaine in silence.
On her side she was, as I believe, equally astonished and equally confounded, but better
able to conceal it. For the moment, and only for the moment, she too had nothing to say.
Then she lifted her left hand from under her shawl. "You have caught me, Mr. David!"
she said--and held up a drawing-book as she spoke.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
She pointed with the book to the famous carved mantelpiece.
"You know how I longed to make a study of that glorious work," she answered. "Don't be
hard on a poor artist who takes her opportunity when she finds it."
"May I ask how you came to know of the opportunity, Madame Fontaine?"
"Entirely through your kind sympathy, my friend," was the cool reply.
"My sympathy? What do you mean?"
"Was it not you, David, who considerately thought of Minna when the post came in? And
did you not send the man-servant to us, with her letter from Fritz?"
The blubbering voice of Joseph, trembling for his situation, on the landing outside,
interrupted me before I could speak again.
"I'm sure I meant no harm, sir. I only said I was in a hurry to get back, because you had
all gone to the theater, and I was left (with nobody but the kitchen girl) to take care of the
house. When the lady came, and showed me her drawing-book----"
"That will do, friend Joseph," said the widow, signing to him to go downstairs in her easy
self-possessed way. "Mr. David is too sensible to take notice of trifles. There! there! go
down," She turned to me, with an expression of playful surprise. "How very serious you
look!" she said gaily.
"It might have been serious for you, Madame Fontaine, if Mr. Keller had returned to the
house to fetch his opera-glass himself."
"Ah! he has left his opera-glass behind him? Let me help you to look for it. I have done
my sketch; I am quite at your service." She forestalled me in finding the opera-glass. "I
really had no other chance of making a study of the chimney-piece," she went on, as she
handed the glass to me. "Impossible to ask Mr. Engelman to let me in again, after what
happened on the last occasion. And, if I must confess it, there is another motive besides