‘Very well, Mr. Lazarus, if you will not press for payment, I will take the young lady. I trust she dresses well.’
‘Dress!—she’ll dress as well as the best, I promise you.’
So it was settled. Mrs. Yellowleaf was uneasy about her undertaking, but unable to evade it.
On the evening of the ball Joanna was seen into a cab by Mr. Lazarus. ‘Ah, lack-a-day!’ said he, as he shut the door on her, ‘I can’t go with you, but it ain’t possible. The sight of me in the assembly-room would be too much for the nerves of some folk there.’
The Hon. Mrs. Yellowleaf’s carriage led the way, followed by Joanna’s cab. The lady had just seen her in the hall. She was sorry that she had no place in her own carriage to offer Miss Rosevere, as her daughters and son went with her; if Miss Rosevere would follow in her fly, she would await her in the entrance or disrobing room.
Accordingly she saw Joanna when she put off her cloak and shawl. She looked scrutinisingly at her, and was struck by her beauty. She turned sharply round, with motherly apprehension, and caught an admiring expression in her son’s face. ‘I wonder whether she be really an heiress!’ thought Mrs. Yellowleaf. ‘Possibly enough that, being a stranger, she may not have known anyone to whom to apply.’
She thereupon softened towards the girl, and spoke to her amiably. Joanna had much less dialect than one of her status might be supposed to be infected with, for she had not associated with other girls at the Barbican. She had grown up alone, talking only to Lazarus, who had no provincial brogue. His English was passable. Joanna’s was also passable, though not the language of perfect culture. Mrs. Yellowleaf knew, the moment she opened her mouth, that she had not the bringing up of a lady. A very few words sufficed. ‘Ah!’ she thought, ‘some mining captain’s daughter, who made a fortune in tin, and left it to her. She has money, but not breed. Still, she has money. After all, nowadays, money is everything.’ That was to be her explanation, if asked about Joanna. ‘My dear, an acquaintance whom I could not refuse asked me to be civil to the young lady. People are very inconsiderate. They ask you to carry parcels for them, and stand chaperon to all sorts and conditions of girls. It ought not to be done. As for this Miss Rosevere, I know nothing about her, except that elle est une bonne partie, worth, I am told, but I do not know, three thousand a year.’ That is what she would say. What she