One evening, after Mr. Lazarus had shut up shop, his private door-bell was rung sharply. Joanna answered it, but opened only so much of the door as allowed a portion of her face to appear, whilst she inquired the name and business of the visitor at so unwonted an hour.
‘Crudge,’ answered the caller; ‘Crudge, solicitor. Come, open, and let me in. Here is my card.’
‘Crudge, is it?’ exclaimed Lazarus, who was behind the girl. ‘Let in Mr. Crudge, Joanna, and don’t keep him there under the drip of the door. Can’t you see that it is raining, and that he has on his best hat? Joanna, be careful, lock and chain after the gentleman.’
Lazarus backed, bowing before his visitor, till he backed against a wall; then he stood hesitating, looking about him, doubtful whither to conduct Mr. Crudge.
‘Really, sir,’ said the Jew, ‘I am sorry to see you in so unworthy a den; but a shop is not the rose-garden of Gulistan, and the seat of business is not the lap of luxury. Where shall we go? Will you condescend to step into the kitchen?’
‘Anywhere you like,’ answered the lawyer. ‘No ceremony with me. Give me a chair to sit on, and a light by which to find one. I want no more.’
‘There is a nice easy arm-chair, leather covered, with springs in the seat; but it is upstairs. It would take a quarter of an hour to get it down. Besides, Inchball’s “British Theatre,” in twenty-five vols. half-bound, the rest in paper parts, occupy the seat. Time, Mr. Crudge, is too precious a commodity with you to let us think of that thin buoyant-seated chair.’
‘I will content myself with one that is cane-bottomed,’ said Mr. Crudge.
‘I’m afraid I must ask you to take one that was cane-bottomed, but is now sat through, but will be re-caned in a fortnight,’ said the Jew, apologetically. ‘If you don’t mind taking a place between the præterite and the future tenses, nothing can be better. It is not so far gone that you will slip through. I will put a baking-tray from the oven over the hole, and then you will run no risk. Don’t be afraid of grease.