‘And you,’ she said quietly—‘you are Mr. Cheek of the Monokeratic Principle.’
‘I received a letter from you on the 12th instant.’
‘Which I posted on the 11th instant.’
‘You have not a leg to stand on,’ said Mr. Cheek, roughly. ‘My son is a fool, but not such a fool as to propose to make you his wife. He swears he never asked you.’
She made no reply, but stood opposite him with her hands on the counter, her face in shadow, studying him.
‘Now look here,’ he said further: ‘in an amicable way I don’t mind squaring off. If you choose to fight, I’m your man, with thousands at my disposal, and quite prepared to chuck away thousands in law. What do you say?’
‘Perhaps you suppose that law in England is made for the purpose of redressing wrongs. No such thing. Law is made for the maintenance of lawyers. Justice is sold in England, and he with the longest purse wins; he can appeal from court to court, and ruin his adversary. You have nothing. What lawyer will look at you? Now—are you disposed for a compromise?’
‘I will take a hundred pounds.’
‘A hundred cocoa-nuts!’ scoffed Mr. Clieck. ‘Say five-and-twenty, and I will listen to you.’
‘I have named the sum,’ answered Joanna, and reseated herself, took up her sewing, and proceeded with it as if nothing had interrupted her. Mr. Cheek watched her thread a needle. Her hand did not shake.
‘You will get nothing if you refuse my offer.’
She made no answer, but continued stitching.
‘Charles is ashamed of himself already for having even spoken to you. What are you? A gutter girl.’
‘Lower than that, sir,’ exclaimed Joanna, without raising her head. ‘The gutters empty into Sutton Pool, and I came out of the blackest mud in the bottom of the pool.’
‘Charles has not a penny of his own.’
‘He has less than a penny, sir. He is in debt.’
‘Will you give him up?’
‘You know my terms.’
He stood watching her, puzzled at and admiring her self-possession.
‘Very well,’ he said, thrusting a hundred-pound note across the counter with one hand, and a paper with the other.