‘Sign this, and you shall have the money.’
She stood up, dipped the desk pen in ink, and appended her signature to the renunciation of her claims. Then she reseated herself, having taken the bank note, with an involuntary sigh, folded it, and put it in her bosom.
‘So—you, who could not read nor write at Mr. Worthivale’s, can read what is penned here, and sign your name to it in a bold hand—the same hand that wrote to me on the 11th instant.’
Joanna looked up at him in surprise.
‘I know all about it. Mr. Worthivale is a sort of relation, and has told me. What took you to him with forged testimonials, eh? Both you and the lady who gave the character have become actionable. Aware of that, eh?’
Joanna made no reply.
‘What took you there?’
‘I was sent,’ she answered.
‘I said so—sent by Lazarus.’
She did not answer.
‘Why did you examine the books and make extracts from them? Was that what Lazarus sent you there for, eh?’
She remained silent.
‘Never mind. Always make a cat squeak by pinching its tail. Make you speak. Where is Lazarus?’
‘He is not at home, sir. He will be here directly. Take a chair.’
Mr. Cheek did so. Just then, in came a woman with a Britannia metal teapot, milk jug, and sugar bowl, which she wanted to dispose of.
Mr. Cheek listened to the disputation over its value, to the remorseless way in which Joanna pointed out its defects, the way in which she flouted the poor woman when she named a reasonable sum as that which she demanded for them, the battle fought over a few pence when the shillings were settled, and the ignominious rout of the seller. As he listened Mr. Cheek’s interest was quickened. He looked more attentively at the girl, and observed her keen face and brilliant eyes. ‘She is no fool,’ he said to himself. ‘I wish I had her in my shop. She’d be worth pounds to me.’
Then in came Lazarus. Mr. Cheek gave him a nod. The Jew recognised him, uttered a crow of admiration, and rushed at him with both hands extended. Mr. Cheek at once put his hands under his coat-tails, and repelled Lazarus with a look.