Page:Court Royal.djvu/125

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‘That is not what I scruple about. I will not have my mother mentioned. She may be back any day with my ticket and ten shillings.’

‘Very well,’ said the Jew, ‘then we will make it “white swelling.” No—that won’t do. Say, “domestic affliction.”’

‘Domestic affliction,’ repeated Joanna after her dictator.

‘“When released,”’ continued Lazarus, ‘“Mrs. Delany had supplied her place, and could not in conscience dismiss her new housemaid.”’

‘Go on,’ said the girl. ‘I have written as far as “housemaid.”’

‘Full stop after “maid,”’ said the Jew. ‘Begin again with a capital. “Mrs. Delany has always found the girl Joanna steady, conscientious, and hard-working; very clean, both in her person and her work; and, though young-looking for her age, is turned twenty.”’

‘This is the first time you’ve said a good word for me,’ muttered the girl, ‘and now it is half lies. Shall I add “eats voraciously and grows at a gallop”?’

‘On no account, my dear child. Continue writing from my dictation,’ said the Jew; ‘“Joanna is unable to read or write.”’

Joanna laid down her pen. ‘Why do you say that?’

‘Because it is the best recommendation that can be given. It is as much as saying that you are a good servant. Besides, Mr. C. Worthivale will be less afraid of leaving about letters and account-books if he thinks they are unintelligible to you.’

‘I have written after your dictation that I cannot write. Is that all?’

‘Yes, that will suffice. I will take the letter to Mrs. Delany, and get her to transcribe and post it—and put the penny stamp on also. You are sure of the situation.’

‘You have not told me yet why I am to take it.’

‘I will tell you now. Mr. Christopher Worthivale is steward to the Duke of Kingsbridge. I have advanced a great deal of money on the property of the duke—more money than was prudent to put in one bag. The estate is so hampered with mortgages, and the requirements of the duke are so great, that Court Royal must come to the hammer. The family is pretty well in my hands. I have the mortgage on the home estate, which is the same as a grip on their very heart. Now I want you to ascertain for me how matters really stand there. You must pry and discover. I want to know when to close