four-and-sixpence farthing. Say twelve weeks of firing, that makes—twelve times four, forty-eight; twelve times six, six shillings; forty-eight and six make fifty-two. Why, Joanna, that is the clearing of two pounds twelve and three-pence per annum. At that rate you may burn coals and I will not grumble.’
‘There is nothing like thrift, is there, master?’
‘Ah,’ said the Jew, ‘talk of the beauties of nature! What I look to is the moral lessons it preaches. How many of your holiday-takers, who run over the sea cliffs, look at the thrift that covers them, and lay the flower to heart? I’m not one who approves of hoarding. Hoarding is a low and savage virtue, but Turning over is the cultured virtue. Turn your eggs and they don’t addle, but they won’t set. It is better with moneys. You can always restore the vital heat to them in your pocket, turn them over, and hatch out of them a pretty brood.’
Lazarus spread his hands before the fire, and the light played over his face. He smiled with satisfaction.
‘The domestic circle,’ said he to himself, or Joanna, or both, ‘is a very pleasant circle to him who is its centre. I only passed through it as the man in the circus goes through a hoop, and mine was on fire, and singed me. Nevertheless, I won’t say but——’
He did not finish his sentence, and Joanna did not trouble herself to inquire what he intended to say.
‘I think a shave wouldn’t do you harm,’ she observed. ‘There is a frowsy growth on your upper lip like a neglected plantation.’
‘I’m going to grow a moustache,’ said the Jew. ‘I’m about to mark an epoch with it.’
‘You—you going to make yourself ridiculous?’
‘Not at all ridiculous. I’ve come to that period of life when a judicious growth of hair disguises the ravages of time.’
‘Pray, what is the epoch to be marked by a moustache?’ asked the girl.
Instead of answering the question directly, he sighed, stretched his legs and arms, and said, ‘I’m a lone, lorn widower.’
‘That ought not to trouble you much,’ observed Joanna. ‘You’ve been a grass widower long enough.’
‘That is just it, Joanna,’ said the Jew; ‘I’ve been in grass so long that I should like now to get into clover.’