Page:Court Royal.djvu/399

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attic broom-and-pail cupboard. Turn out, if need be, the old woman who missed a baronetcy. I’ll pay the difference. Give the boarders kidneys for breakfast now and then, and fowls for supper, or anything else they fancy. Cost, ma’am, is no object to me. I can’t feed Charles differently from the rest, so they must all be well-fed together. No more of your American cheese; Stilton and Cheshire, and, if you will, Gorgonzola, Not a word about me. Take all the credit to yourself.’

Charles was able to get away early on Whitsun-eve. Monday would be a Bank holiday. He had been hard worked, and worked till late at night for some weeks, and Messrs. Newcomen and Bowcher put up their shutters on Friday night, and allowed their clerks holiday from the Saturday to the Tuesday morning. Charles took an early train on Saturday to Plymouth, and arrived at the Barbican the same afternoon. He went to the Golden Balls immediately, without stopping to have anything to eat. His heart was beating fast. His step was light, his eyes full of glad expectation, and he held his head up proudly. He was surprised to see that the house of Lazarus had been repainted. The shop was open. A good deal of business was done on a Saturday, double on the eve of a Bank holiday. People would pawn necessaries to obtain money for a day’s pleasure.

He looked in at the window, and saw Joanna behind the counter talking to a woman who was in the shop with some article she wished to dispose of.

Charles waited till the woman came out, then he caught the door before she closed it, and stepped in.

Joanna, not hearing the door re-opened, did not suppose any one had entered. She did not see him, as she was engaged examining the article—a brooch, which she had taken.

Charles had a few moments in which to observe her. She was well, even handsomely dressed, but pale and worn. She put away the brooch, and seated herself; then she leaned her elbow on the counter, and put her hand to her brow, and drew a deep sigh.

‘Joe!’

She sprang to her feet, and stepped back. He saw her turn deadly pale, and then lean both her hands on the counter to steady herself, as though afraid she would faint. She recovered herself, however, quickly, but her colour did not return as rapidly as her composure.

‘Mr. Charles! You here?’