men to purchase a lot of secondhand clothing, curiosity dealers to overhaul his china and engravings, jewellers for his watches and rings and bracelets, furniture-makers to buy up cracked mahogany-veneered chests of drawers for conversion into Florentine antiques by coating them with Dutch marquetry.
Thus the goods in Mr. Lazarus’s establishment went into circulation. Old things went and new came. But there always remained some deposit which no tide swept away, and which lay as a burden on the Jew’s mind. The articles occupied space and were unsaleable. Joanna applied her mind to the solution of this difficulty, and showed a rare sagacity in converting them into usable, and therefore saleable goods, and thus launching them.
As Joanna grew up, and grew into the business, she exhibited a rare talent in negotiating with both sellers and purchasers. She did not become the right hand of Lazarus, only because he had no right hand. Even he, with his long experience, was unable to surpass her in disparagement of articles offered, in shaming a poor pledger into yielding them for a trifle. The expressions she threw into her face, the scorn that quivered in her finger-tips, the keenness of eyesight that overlooked no defect, cowed the spirit of the pledger, and took the value out of the piece of goods before a word was spoken. On the other hand, in treating with dealers, her genius was equally conspicuous. She praised the articles, dexterously disguised their defects, flattered and cajoled the purchasers, and sent them away to find that they had been overreached. But what delighted Joanna especially was to have to do with an amateur antiquary or china fancier: then she became simplicity itself, profoundly ignorant of the real value of rare articles, and she sent the greenhorns off deluding themselves that they had secured treasures ‘in a poky out-of-the-way odds-and-ends shop,’ when they had paid heavy gold for utter rubbish.
Joanna, as has been said, developed admirable skill in turning unsaleable goods into articles of commerce. We give one instance. Mr. Lazarus was unable to resist the temptation of purchasing, at a low figure, a large number of scarlet uniforms slightly damaged and discoloured. No one would buy the red-cloth jackets. Joanna unpicked them, sent them into the dye-vat, and with a pair of scissors and a needle and black thread converted them into fashionable short coats. The breast of one made the tail of another.