‘I will tell you all—then you may judge if I have cause to love them; if I desire to spare them.’
Joanna laid aside her knife and fork; she was interested now, and alarmed. She was afraid to think that she had been working for the downfall of that dear Lady Grace whom she regarded above every mortal being.
‘As you say, you are no longer a child. You are a woman, so you can hear the whole story. I was married eight years ago to Rachel; she was seventeen, and beautiful. She was very fond of theatrical performances; her mother had been on the stage, and it ran in the blood. Our people, leastways our Jewish girls, take to the stage as ducks to water, and as Jewish men to business. I married her on that day I spoke of, when I ate a meringue that cost fourpence. At that time the Marquess of Saltcombe was in the army, and with his regiment at Plymouth. He and some other officers got up amateur theatricals, for some charitable purpose nominally, really for their own entertainment. There was difficulty about filling the ladies’ parts. They tried a professional, but she was not good-looking enough, or a stick, I do not recollect which, and so my wife was asked to assist. I objected, and we had a quarrel. She was headstrong and took her own way. We did not run smoothly together. It was with us broad and narrow gauge running over the same line; constant hitches, nothing to time, an occasional smash, and then a block. I suppose the performances went off to general satisfaction. I believe a hundred pounds was cleared for the charitable institution, but that did not concern me. What did concern me was the conduct of my wife; she got more estranged from me than before, and the end was she left me and went abroad with the Marquess.’
‘Did you go after her?’ asked Joanna.
‘Not I. They went to the Island of Sicily—to Palermo. It would not have cost me a halfpenny less than fifty pounds to have gone in pursuit. My business would have suffered. In the time I would have been absent I might have turned over three hundred pounds. Besides, what was the good? I couldn’t take her back. Was not that a dreadful thing, Joanna?’
‘I am not surprised at anyone running away from you. I suppose you fed her on cold artichokes, and made her drink Ems water,’
‘I did not,’ said Lazarus angrily. ‘I treated her as I ought. I know my duty. A queen is a queen; a pawn is a pawn.’