Page:Court Royal.djvu/361

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349
AN APRIL FOOL.

her off. Alarmed at the prospect of losing her, his eyes opened to the fact that she was grown to be a woman, and a beautiful woman. He grew jealous of the visits of young Cheek, and jealousy, bred in self-interest, awoke a sort of monkey-love in the old man. His wife was dead and he was free.

Joanna did not, perhaps, read all that passed in his mind, but she read enough to be uncomfortable in his presence, and to repel his advances with decision.

She used his infatuation as far as served her purposes, but she kept him well at bay. Several times when they were together, she noticed that he was working himself up to a declaration of his sentiments. The sure sign of this was his helping himself repeatedly to the spirit-bottle. When he did this the girl left the kitchen, and did not return till his courage had evaporated.

Formerly the Jew had drunk nothing but water, only occasionally mixed with whisky. Of late he had enlarged his doses, not of water, but of whisky. He sometimes pressed her to take hot spirits and water, to sip some from his glass, on the pretext that she had taken a chill, but she steadily, even rudely, refused.

Lazarus was disagreeable enough in his earlier bearish mood, he was worse in his later loving mood; and, in spite of the increased comfort in the house, Joanna would gladly have returned to the former state of affairs, to be freed from his ungainly and irksome amiabilities.

Joanna was not happy. She had not seen Charles Cheek for some time, nor heard more of him than a report brought by Lazarus, that he had been to his father and that the old man had forbidden his return to Plymouth, the scene of so many follies.

The day fixed for the excursion to Prince’s Town broke brilliantly.

Dartmoor is a high barren region, rising from two to three thousand feet above the sea, towering into granite peaks, broken by brawling torrents. In the heart of this desolate region, and in the most desolate portion, in a boggy basin devoid of picturesqueness, stands the convict prison of Prince’s Town, above the line where corn will ripen and deciduous trees will grow; often enveloped in vapour, exposed to every raging blast from the ocean.

To pass from the warm, steamy atmosphere of Plymouth to the cold and bracing air of Prince’s Town, is almost a leap