stones. It stands written in fire on my heart that I cannot go without the duplicate, and that if Lazarus chooses to make me his wife I cannot help myself. If I go against that writing, all light will go black before my eyes, and I shall be blind.’
‘Oh, Joe! Joe! it must not be!’ Charles spoke in pain.
‘How can I escape?’
‘The thought is too terrible; that hateful, loathsome Jew—and you—you!’ He caught her arm, and drew it through his and paced the pier. ‘It maddens me; I must work off my fever. You do not mean it. You say it out of frolic to torture me, and when you have driven me to desperation, you will burst forth into one of your fresh laughs. Is it not so?’
‘No, it is true.’
‘But you cannot like him.’
‘I respect him as a master. I hate him as a lover.’
‘Joe, it must not be. Run away. Go into service; if you want money, I will give you all I have; sell the very clothes off my back to support you. Trust me, try me; I will work the flesh off my fingers to save you from so hateful a fate. I am in earnest; you will not believe me. You have known me only as an idler and a good-for-naught. I have had no one to care for, nothing to work for. Promise me, promise me you will not——’ His voice gave way. He could not finish his sentence.
‘My friend,’ she said quietly, ‘I cannot run away. I have told you so already. It would be wrong according to my pawnbroking conscience. I cannot receive your money, that would be wrong according to my womanly conscience. I cannot remain with Lazarus, except as his wife, now that he has asked me to be that. That also, according to my womanly conscience, would be wrong. If he had not asked me, I could have remained, and I would have remained, as hitherto, working, starving, bargaining, begging, lying for him. As that cannot be, there remains a single door of escape.’
‘Then escape by it,’ said Charles.
‘You wish it?’ she asked quietly, looking him full in the face.
‘Certainly, anything rather than—— But what is it?’
She shook her head and drew a long deep sigh.
‘Let me go!’ she said; for he was still holding her wrist.
‘No, tell me.’
She suddenly extricated herself from his grasp.