Page:Court Royal.djvu/34

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the nearest hospital, where she had been pronounced ill with rheumatic fever.

After that Mr. Hull had been to Belgium for iron. There had been a strike at Middlesborough, and the furnaces had been let out, and the ironmasters had executed their contracts by purchasing their iron at Verviers. When next Captain Hull came to Goole and inquired after the woman, he learned that she had been discharged, but whither she had gone, and what was her present address, he was unable to ascertain. Joanna was much troubled. She had a tender spot in her heart. She was passionately devoted to her mother. Not a line had reached her from Mrs. Rosevere. Whether she were alive or dead she could not tell. She cried bitterly at night under the counter, and could not sleep for sobs. But she did not allow the skipper to see her tears. She shook and turned white when he told his tale, and then fled to the kitchen to conceal her emotion.

‘Ah!’ said the pawnbroker, when she had disappeared, ‘this is my fate. I advanced ten shillings on the child, and now she is thrown on my hands. This is the second time this sort of thing has occurred—before it was white mice.’

‘What about the white mice?’

‘I advanced money on a couple of white mice to a school-boy, and was not repaid. I had to feed those mice for weeks, and they cost me a fortune. I put them in the window, but, though it brought all the Barbican children to the glass, there came no buyer. At last I was forced to drown them, to be rid of the daily burden of their maintenance. The law won’t let me deal like that with children. I’ll never advance money on live animals again—never. I’ve been bitten twice, once by the mice, now by the girl. Ten shillings! I gave a half-sovereign in gold. I shall never see the colour of the coin again.’

‘Now, Mr. Lazarus, speak nobut the truth. You gave ne’er a penny in cash. It was all took out in clothes.’

‘Was it? Dear me, I had forgot. Well, it does not matter. I made a bad bargain. The creature eats with a voracity perfectly appalling. Did you ever see a cow or a horse in a meadow, how it goes on, never stopping? It is just the same with this child. The cost of her food is frightful, the cost of her clothes sickening. She outgrows her dresses as fast as they are fitted on her. Why did I take her? Why was I such a fool? This is what comes of having a feeling heart. Take her away, Mr. Hull, take her away, chuck her as ballast into the bilge-