Page:Court Royal.djvu/334

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

broker had stooped; his attitude was cringing as he shrank from the menaced blow. His eyes glittered with hate.

Lord Saltcombe drew down his hat and folded his arms. ‘Well,’ he said in a low tone, ‘say what you will, I cannot touch you.’

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Lazarus, ‘you may well stand still and look down when you encounter me—me, the man whose home you broke up, whose honour you stained, whose happiness you blighted. What was I? Only a Jew usurer. What were you? A great noble. Now I am in the ascendant, and you grovel. Now it is my turn to cast you down, and put my foot on your proud neck. I will hold you there, writhe as you may to be free. It was I who spoiled your fine matrimonial schemes with the coffee-planter’s daughter. It was I who warned off old Cheek from coming to your assistance. It was I who put your affairs into the Society papers, and made you the talk of the town. It was I who stirred up the other mortgagees to foreclose. I have waited long till I could find a way to hurt you. Did I say just now you were at my mercy? It was a wrong word. I have no mercy in my heart for such as you, only retribution.’

Then Lord Saltcombe looked him full in the face. He was deadly pale, but he did not move a muscle, nor did his lips quiver. He spoke with perfect calmness, the calmness of perfect self-control.

‘Mr. Lazarus,’ he said, ‘I would have sought you out years ago, had I thought the interview would lead to good. But though I did not seek you, I have always desired to meet you, that I might express to you my sorrow, my deepest sorrow for the wrong I did you. Perhaps it was weakness and want of resolution which hindered my going direct to you. Providence has now brought us face to face, and I hasten to express my contrition. You can say to me nothing that I have not said, and said daily, almost hourly, to myself. You speak of retribution. She—she—’ his voice vibrated for a moment. ‘She has been overtaken by the hand of God, and has suffered where she sinned. I do not hope, I do not wish to escape the chastisement of heaven. Why should I go free, when she has endured the penalty? If it has pleased the Almighty to touch me in the place where most sensitive, in my pride and love for my family—His will be done. My only regret is that I must draw down with me other, and those very dear heads.’ He was silent for a moment, with his eyes