Page:Court Royal.djvu/276

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him. ‘I have not many minutes to spare, I have come here from Plymouth, and must return whilst my master is absent. All lies in a nutshell. There are your mortgages. Destroy them.’

‘I cannot touch them,’ said the Duke. ‘Do you mean to tell me that you have abstracted them from the holder?’

‘Yes, I took them from his strong box.’

‘You have acted very wrongly. You have committed a crime. You are liable to be tried for this and imprisoned. This is robbery.’

‘I do not care. I want to do something for Lady Grace. I am the Jew’s heir, and if I steal the money I rob myself. There is no harm in that. Besides, he used me unfairly in sending me here, and I will pay him out for it.’

‘You must go back at once and replace these documents where you found them.’

‘You will not destroy them?’

‘Most certainly not.’

‘But I will tear them to shreds.’

‘That will not relieve me. I am morally bound by them. I should meet my liabilities just the same whether the deeds existed or were destroyed. I hold their counterparts, and will act on them. There—child—take them back, and never, never again act in so rash a manner. Your motives may be good, but your conduct has been most reprehensible.’

‘Your Grace does not know all. The truth is kept from you. Ask Lord Saltcombe, ask Lord Ronald, to tell you the truth. Or there—look at this Society paper. There is a paragraph in it about you. My master put it in, and was paid for the information. No—do not look at it till I am gone. I tell you that you are ruined, and the world knows it now. Your last hope was in the marriage of Lord Saltcombe, and that is taken from you. Will you have the mortgages?’

‘Certainly, certainly not,’ said the Duke, uneasy, offended, bewildered. He could not understand who Joanna was, why she addressed him, what her interest in him was, and his pride was hurt at her offer, at her daring to talk of his embarrassments to his face.

‘And really,’ he continued, after a pause, ‘I am at a loss to explain this visit; though I feel flattered that my family, or any members in it, should have inspired——

Joanna again interrupted him. ‘Your Grace, my time is