would you, Mr. Hull? You see what sacrifices one makes through having a feeling heart. Mr. Hull, I’ll take the money, and set it off against the breakages: you contribute ten shillings and I forty-nine pounds twelve and six.’
Mr. Hull grew red, and fumbled in his pocket. ‘Dang it!’ said he, ‘here’s another half-sovereign.’
‘Thank you, captain, thank you. You understand, it don’t release her from pawn. The mother pawned her, and has the ticket.’
‘Oh, I don’t want t’ bairn out. Keep her till her mother redeems her. I’m a’most feared though t’ old lass is dead. Shoo were but a weakly creetur’ at best.’
‘I’ll keep her till then,’ said Lazarus, and added to himself, ‘I wouldn’t do without her for five-and-twenty pounds.’
As Mr. Lazarus said, Joanna was at school, and the school was the private establishment of Mr. Lazarus, in which he was head and second master and usher rolled into one, and in which she was the only scholar. Consequently on her was concentrated the full teaching power of the academy. She knew her letters and could sum when she came there, but her knowledge of men and the world was rudimentary. This was the speciality of Mr. Lazarus’s teaching. Under his tuition she rapidly acquired an insight into the shady ways of the world and acquaintance with the skeletons in the cupboards of a good many houses in Plymouth.
Joanna also gained insight into her master’s business, and unfolded a remarkable aptitude for it. The business was one that ramified in all directions, a fungous, cancerous growth with fibres extracting nutriment from every social bed.
Mr. Lazarus visited extravagant ladies at their homes, and lent them money on their diamonds. He gave out coppers on the flat-irons of drunken washerwomen. He took the gold repeaters of officers and the tools of artisans. He lent money on bills of sale, notes of hand, and post-obits. He was yielding about renewals.
The house was crowded from garret to cellar with articles of every description on which money had been advanced, or which had been seized in default of payment. A retentive memory was in demand to recollect where anything was, when wanted by a depositor, who came, money in hand, to release it; to know what pledges had lapsed, and when, without hunting them out of the ledger.
Dealers of various kinds visited Mr. Lazarus: slop-shop