‘A word with you,’ said he, ‘in your den.’
Lazarus bowed and pointed the way. Cheek knew the passage and the room well enough, though many years had passed since he had seen them.
‘Take a sedan, sir,’ begged the Jew, bowing at every comma. ‘You will find it easy, cuts off the draughts on all sides, sir. I will sit on my bed, my dear Mr. Cheek. Lord! what pleasure to see an old customer again! I hear affairs are flourishing with you, Mr. Cheek. I hear golden tidings of you, sir; and to think I had a hand in the making of you! Well, humble instruments, sir! very humble.’
‘A hand in the undoing of my son, if in the making of me,’ said Mr. Cheek, grimly. ‘Which latter proposition I dispute.’
‘No sudden embarrassment? Want a helping hand over a style?’ inquired Lazarus, fawningly.
‘No such luck for you?’ answered Mr. Cheek.
‘Then how may I meet your wishes?’
‘I am about,’ said Mr. Cheek, pompously, ‘to make large investments in mortgages on the property of a great duke in these parts, his Grace of Kingsbridge. I understand that he is in immediate need of a considerable sum; and as I have my tens and hundreds of thousands at command, I am inclined to lend him what he wants on the security of some of his estates. Now’—suddenly—‘what have you to do with the Duke’s affairs? You sent that clever girl outside to Court Royal to pry into and find out how the Duke’s books stood. What is your stake?’
Lazarus was so startled that he could not speak. He sat with open mouth and eyes, staring at his visitor.
‘Know all about it,’ said Mr. Cheek, coolly. ‘Steward is my relation. He and your girl out there have told me all but one thing. What is your interest in the Kingsbridge estates?’
Lazarus pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his face.
‘You—you are going to lend money to the Duke!’ he exclaimed. ‘I did not suppose you such a gull. Do you know that his land is mortgaged to its full value in times like these?It is a bad business. Do not soil your fingers with it.’
‘Can take care of myself. Want no advice,’ said Mr. Cheek, unmoved.
‘You are bewildered and befooled by aristocratical hocus-pocus. I’ve seen the sort of thing done on a platform with a few passes, and a man loses his power of will. He does every-