Page:Court Royal.djvu/41

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Nothing fatty ever goes into my oven. If you shirk it, take the dustpan.’

Mr. Crudge did not, however, relish the appearance of the chair offered him, or the kitchen into which he was introduced. He remained standing. Joanna entered after barring the door.

‘I want to see you in private,’ he said; ‘I have come on business. We may need a table, and pens and ink. Besides,’ he added, ‘the place is full of feathers, and I don’t want my coat covered with down.’

Mr. Lazarus laughed. ‘Joanna has been plucking geese. Roast goose for dinner to-morrow. I would invite you to partake, Mr. Crudge, but your time is precious, and my house ill-suited as a place of entertainment. Plenty of goose-plucking done in this establishment, my dear sir, I assure you.’

No goose was visible, not even a fowl, but bolsters and pillows strewed the floor, and Mr. Crudge had to step over them by the light of a tallow candle stuck in the neck of a broken brandy bottle.

‘If I might be allowed to propose,’ said Lazarus, ‘I would suggest your following me into my sanctum sanctorum. There we can talk together alone. Not that Joanna is to be considered. Step this way, Mr. Crudge. Joanna, let me have the light. You must sit in the dark, and pluck the goose after the gentleman is gone. Take care, Mr. Crudge, solicitor, there is a broken slate in the floor. Kick that bolster aside, it lies in your way. Don’t strike your head against this butcher’s steel-yard. Mind the floor; there is a dozen of mineral water ranged along the wall. You may notice an unpleasant savour. It is occasioned by nothing more than a dead rat. Overrun with them; so near the water; and I have poisoned them. They die in their holes, and under floors and behind wainscots. In a fortnight the smell will be gone. Here, sir, is my little room. You will excuse the bed being in it. Here is a seat for you, Mr. Crudge. It may be peculiar, but it is not uncomfortable. In fact, it is an old sedan-chair with the front knocked out. If you will look round the room you will see sedan-chairs let in between the presses. I got a stock of them, when they went out of fashion, and lay rotting in a yard. They came in handy, fitted with shelves for keeping sundries, my papers, and poor valuables. One I use as a chair. I sit on it at the table. The sides cut off draughts. I’ll turn it round. I can seat myself on the bed, if you will condescend to occupy the sedan-chair.’