Page:Court Royal.djvu/108

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‘You are a comical girl,’ said Charles. ‘It is a pleasure to hear you talk. Are you happy in this den?’

‘How can I be? Look about at the den. I will show you where I sleep, on a sack full of shavings under the counter. My food consists of crusts of bread, rinds of cheese, and apple parings, which Lazarus cannot eat. My playground is a backyard in which the only green thing is the slime on the pavement. Lazarus has no Sundays and I no Sabbaths, so I never have a holiday.’

‘Then why do you not leave?’

‘Because I cannot. I am pawned.’

‘Pawned!’

‘Pawned by my mother. I cannot leave. She expects me to remain till she redeems me. There is no help for it. I must abide where I am till she returns.’

‘Where is your mother?’

‘I do not know.’

‘Good heavens! and you are enslaved all this while, without power of obtaining your freedom!—Till when?’

‘Till I am nineteen years old—that is, seven years since mother pawned me. If she does not bring the ticket and release me before then——’ She did not finish the sentence.

‘Well then——?’

‘I will kill myself.’

‘Nonsense, Joanna. You are a little goose. I can’t follow your scruples. I see no right and wrong in the matter—no such obligations as you fancy.’

‘I do not suppose you can. You belong to the gentry.’

‘Well!’ Charles Cheek laughed. ‘Have gentlefolks no consciences?’

‘No, none at all,’ she replied.

‘How do you know that?’

‘Because I know them through Lazarus’ books and the society papers.’

‘And you have no other sources of information?’

‘I want no other. Lazarus deals with gentlefolks of all kinds, and through his account books and what he tells me I know about most of the officers and officers’ wives and gentlefolks of every sort here, and the society papers tell us what the rest are like in London.’

‘Every picture has two sides, Joanna. You see only the back.’

‘Has society another side?’