Page:Court Royal.djvu/358

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

‘It is not that,’ he said, humbly.

‘Then what is it?’

‘Dye,’ he replied, with deepened colour,—a coppery blush. ‘Dye that cost me five shillings. I’ve gone through a course of Zylobalsamum and Eau des Fées. There, Joanna, if I blacken my pillowcase I am sorry. Henceforth I’ll tie a black silk handkerchief round my head when I retire to bed.’

‘What was that concern I found on the chair in your room, this morning?’

‘My stays,’ whispered the Jew.

‘Stays!’ echoed Joanna.

‘Call it corset,’ said Lazarus. ‘It sounds more aristocratic. My figure wants it.’

‘What next?’ asked Joanna contemptuously. ‘Are you coming out in knickerbockers and a Norfolk blouse?’

‘I don’t like irony,’ said the Jew; ‘it hurts my feelings, which are ticklish as the soles of my feet. Joanna! what say you to a picnic? A jaunt to Prince’s Town, on the moors in this brilliant spring weather, and a look at the convicts—so as to combine moral edification with pleasure?’

‘I should like it.’

‘You shall have it. Express a wish, and I fly to fulfil it. I have even forestalled your wishes. I’ve invited the old lady from the ham and sausage shop to join us as a sort of chaperon, you understand.’

‘When is this to be?’

‘On Sunday, when no business is doing. A carriage and pair, in style. It will cost a lot, too, but what of that, if it give Joanna pleasure, and the mountain air bring roses to her cheeks, and the sight of the prisoners inspire her heart with virtue.’

‘Why have you invited Mrs. Thresher?’

‘As a chaperon. But,’ with a chuckle, ‘if it would suit you better, Joanna, to come alone with me, I’m—as I always am and must be—agreeable. The weight will be less for the horses. The ham and sausage woman weighs ten stone before her dinner. Not that we shall be charged less for going without her—but we shall have to feed her out of our pockets. There is that to be considered. If I order a dinner at six shillings, and there are only ourselves to eat it, we shall consume three-shillings’ worth each, whereas if Mrs. Thresher comes we shall be limited to two. That has to be considered. However, it is for you to decide. I’ll regulate my appetite by your decision.’