Page:Court Royal.djvu/26

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‘That also is true, but a dog grows his own coat, and a girl grows out of every suit you put her into.’

‘The girl is a golden girl, gold through and through,’ said the mother. ‘She wakes early, and has her hand in work all day; is never idle, never plays, never neglects a duty; try her.’

Mr. Lazarus came from behind the counter, put his hand under Joanna’s chin, and thrust the wet hair from her brow. He pursed up his lips, half closed his eyes, and studied her critically.

Then Joanna, surmising that Mr. Lazarus was about to relent, put forth her full powers of resistance. She clawed at his coat, which being rusty gave way; she bit at his hands, and made them bleed; she kicked his shins, and forced him to caper; and she yelled, as surely no mortal lungs had yelled before.

The men outside drew near the shop, flattened their noses against the window-panes and looked in, then grinned, rubbed their hands, laughed in each other’s faces, and said: ‘Her’s born to make a noise in the world, no mistake—an irrepressible.’ Then they backed. The screams pierced the drums of their ears like bradawls.

Joanna danced and tore, and shrieked and writhed. ‘I am not good,’ she cried; ‘I am not golden. I am bad, and brazen. I’m a little devil. Don’t buy me. I’m worth nothing at all. I scream all day. All night as well. No one can sleep in the house where I am. I never work. I scat (break) all the cloam (crockery). I smash the windows. I set a house on fire. I’m a devil; I’m a devil.’

In vain did the poor mother reason with, and try to pacify the child. The little creature was as one possessed. She shook herself in convulsions of rage, so that the water spirted off her, as from a poodle drying itself after a bath.

Mr. Lazarus was fain to put the counter between himself and the child. He was not angry; he looked on approvingly.

‘With burglars,’ said he, nodding to the mother, ‘this would be first-rate.’

Then the girl tore round the shop, kicking the counter, and dashing against the goods piled in the corners.

‘Look here!’ said Mr. Lazarus. ‘Do you see all these walking-sticks? Thorn and bamboo they are. I’ll try their respective merits on your ribs, you wild cat, unless you desist.’ Then to the mother, ‘She will do. I take her. You shall have