‘Do you think of retiring from business?’ asked the girl.
‘Oh dear, no! I couldn’t live without it.’
‘Then you will allow me to spend more on housekeeping?’
He shook his head and hitched his shoulders uneasily. ‘I’m not inclined to launch out far yet,’ he said, with an intonation on the last word. ‘The time will soon come when it will be otherwise. I am going to foreclose on those Kingsbridge people. What is more, I’ve been about and seen some of the other mortgagees, and given them such a scare that I’ve no doubt they will do the same. I’ve got it into the Society papers, Joanna—published to the world that the great ironclad Duke is foundering. The beauty of my position is that I strike at the heart. I have my hold on Court Royal itself. They will sell anything rather than that; and if they once begin to sell, it will go like a forest on fire—there will be no stopping it.’
‘They will be beyond your reach when the marriage takes place,’ said Joanna.
‘I have put a spoke in that wheel. The marriage is broken off.’
Joanna was sincerely distressed. ‘I wish I had done nothing for you. I wish—I wish I had not!’
‘You have done everything for me,’ said Lazarus. ‘Through you I have ascertained who are the mortgagees, and who hold the bills, and I have been able to see and scare them all. Even the insurance company, that has the heaviest mortgage of all, is made uneasy. You may depend upon it, I have taken the pillars between my arms, and brought down the house upon the Philistines.’
Joanna burst into tears.
‘There, there,’ said the Jew, ‘you have been dazzled and bewitched by those aristocrats, like so many others. It is a short enchantment that will soon pass. Joanna, we will have a bloater for supper. Eh? soft roe! eh?’
Joanna held down her head, and the tears dropped on the work on which she was engaged. Lazarus looked at her with a peculiar expression in his eyes. Then he began to whistle plaintively to himself Azucena’s song in ‘Trovatore,’ ‘Homeward returning to our green mountain.’
Presently the girl looked up, saw him watching her, and something in his expression offended her, for she coloured, and said, ‘I did not know you were musical.’
‘I’m what you may call a many-sided man,’ answered the