be in rose silk and pearls. Your tongue must be in full dress; your manner must be the same. Let me tell you that, among ladies, their tongues and their minds are never with one slipper off, the other on, never with sooty smears across them, but always wreathed with pearls and rustling in rose silk. They have never known anything else. Do you understand me?’
Joanna put her finger to her lips and considered. As she thought, she put forward one of her feet; Charles Cheek noticed it at once. ‘Joanna,’ he said, ‘you are dressed like a princess, but you betray yourself by your stocking. You are not only shoeless, but you have a hole in your sock.’
The girl started, and drew back her foot.
‘I do not want to hurt you,’ he said goodnaturedly; ‘I use this only as an illustration of what I mean. If you were in the society of gentlemen and ladies, you would betray yourself by your stocking holes.’
‘I would not wear——' She stopped.
‘No. I do not mean stockings. I mean the gaps and shortcomings in speech and culture.’
She looked intently at him for a minute.
‘I have never seen real ladies and gentlemen—never, that is, except on business. Are you a real, proper gentleman?’
Charles laughed. ‘That is a cruel question, Joanna; I cannot answer it. You must inquire of others.’
Joanna considered again. Presently she said, ‘Here I see nothing but raggedness, wretchedness, and care. I know nothing of a richly clothed, happy, and careless world. Here I am surrounded by poverty, and the air is charged with the dust of old clothes and the reek of Laira mud; the light that comes through these windows is never clean; the air is always stale. Why should not I sometimes spring up into the region of light and liveliness? Lazarus often tells me I am a maggot, but a maggot becomes a moth with wings of silver. Am I to be always a grub—never to rise? If Lazarus offers me the chance to have a short flutter, may I not accept it?’
‘You are a queer girl,’ answered the young man. ‘Take care not to leave your proper element. Have you ever heard of the flying fish? The fish have fins so long that they can rise on them a little way out of the waves, and the silly creatures think they are birds; so they spring above the water, and are immediately snapped up by gulls.’
Joanna laughed. ‘I am not afraid of that; I am more likely to snap the gulls than the gulls snap me.’