Page:Court Royal.djvu/38

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

The demand for Mr. Lazarus’s Rinking, Lorne, and Brighton suits, at a price with which the ready-made dealers could not compete, soon exceeded the supply.

When one of H.M.’s vessels was put in commission the mess was furnished with new linen, plate, china, glass. When discharged—sometimes at the end of a few months—everything was sold off at miserably low prices. Mr. Lazarus was a large and constant purchaser at these sales. Sometimes he took the entire lot in a lump, by negotiation, without auction. Then he and Joanna went over all the acquisitions with care. The markings were removed from the linen. If the tablecloths were much cut, they were converted into napkins; if slightly injured, Joanna darned and disguised the cuts. The plate was subjected to much polishing, till it bore the appearance of new, or was redipped and sold as new—possibly to the same vessel when recommissioned. The glass was sorted into complete lots; the knives and china found their way among the poor.

In their views of life Joanna and her master agreed perfectly; but then Joanna’s mind had been formed by Mr. Lazarus, and she drank in his doctrines as freely as he let her drink water.

Mr. Lazarus was a conscientious man in a way. He instructed Joanna in morals. He taught her that great sin would lie at her door if she acted towards himself dishonestly, and untruthfully and wastefully.

They had ample opportunity for exchanging ideas whilst feather-picking.

The pawnbroker received many pillows and bed-tyes as pledges. When he did so he slit them at a seam, put in his hand and extracted feathers; from a pillow he withdrew one handful, from a bed four. In their place he put hay, so as not to alter their weight. Then Joanna sewed up the seams so neatly that it could not be told they had been opened; and the feathers were stored in chests to be sold at tenpence per pound. Whilst thus engaged Joanna and her master discussed the world, the profligacy of the rich, the meanness of the poor, the greed of rival pawnbrokers, the universal corruption of men and morals.

What was the world coming to, when debtors bolted to America, and when those on whose furniture Mr. Lazarus had made advances ‘flitted’ by moonlight, leaving him out of pocket, without power of recovery? What was the world