‘No,’ she answered, ‘it was no joke to me. Your father was in earnest, so was I. And now it is too late—now——’
Then the door burst open, and Lazarus, in a black frock coat, rushed out of the inner part of the house.
‘What! You here again? You dare to enter my premises. You scoundrel, you wastrel! Get out of my doors directly. Is it not enough that your father has snatched the Marquess from my grasp, but must you come here to carry off my wife also?’
‘Stand back,’ said Charles, thrusting the Jew away. ‘I will not be touched by you. Wife! Joanna never shall be that if I can prevent it.’
‘She is! Tell him, Joanna. Let him hear it from your own lips—make the news the sweeter, perhaps.’
Charles stood looking from one to another, petrified.
‘Mr. Charles,’ said the girl without looking at him, but with face averted, and playing a tune with her fingers on the counter to conceal her trembling, ‘I told you it was to be so. This morning we went together before the registrar, and after sundown the cohen will be here to marry us by Jewish rites.’
‘You coward! you vile Jewish coward!’ cried Charles, losing all control over himself, and seizing Lazarus by the collar and shaking him. ‘You have taken a despicable advantage over this poor girl, to make her life ten thousand times more wretched than it was before.’
As he shook the Jew his blood heated, then boiled; and, blind to what he was about, stung by disappointed love, jealousy, disgust, flaring into inconsiderate rage, he took up one of the many sticks that were exposed in the shop for sale, and, holding Lazarus by the collar, swung him from side to side, beating him fast and hard. Lazarus screamed for help. He was not much hurt; he writhed so that the blows fell on his new black frock coat, but now and then a cut caught him across the legs. A woman—Mrs. Thresher—who had been in the kitchen, hearing the shrieks, ran in, and then rushed forth into the street crying ‘Murder!’
Charles was excited to madness at the tossings, and screaming, and dodging of the Jew, at his want of success in hurting him.
His arm relaxed at length; he was exhausted, and he cast the wretched man away.
‘There!’ said he; ‘remember Charles Cheek in connection with your wedding-day.’