Page:Court Royal.djvu/411

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RELEASE.

covered it with kisses and tears; clasped the hands, rough, soiled, wrinkled, and bathed them with tears, and dried them with her burning lips. Then she held the hands to her beating heart as though their pressure would lull its tumult.

‘Oh, mother! my own, my own, my dearest mother!’

She could say no more, only repeat these words again and again, and intercept them with fresh transports. Then she cast herself on her knees and threw one arm about her mother’s waist and the other round her neck, and laid her own hot cheek and burning head against the bosom on which they had rested so often, and where they had found comfort in olden times.

‘Oh, mother! my sweet mother!’ she repeated, and laughed, and wiped her tears away against the poor woman’s breast. ‘Oh, my mother! my mother! God be praised! God be praised!’—and that was the first time Joanna had ever raised her heart to one above. Her joy was so great that it gave her soul wings for the moment, and carried her, unconsciously, on high.

When she became a little calmer she slightly relaxed her hold that she might look at her mother’s face attentively, by the light of the street lamp.

‘Why, my child,’ said the poor woman, ‘what is this? Why are you dressed in this fashion? Are you going to be married?’

At the same moment the girls outside tapped loudly, and Polly Thresher called through the door—

‘They be all waiting, and Mr. Lazarus has sent down to know why you are not come up. Please be quick, miss!’

‘Mother!’ exclaimed Joanna, ‘help me.’

She threw off the veil, and tore off the white silk dress and everything she had on wherewith she had been adorned for the marriage, and eagerly, with hasty fingers, put on her old stuff dress, patched and darned, and her house slippers.

‘I am coming,’ she said triumphantly to those without. ‘Tell them I am ready.’

Then she threw open the door, ran into the shop, took the ledger from the desk, and catching her mother by the hand, drew her with her up the stairs into the room, where a gaily dressed and glittering party were assembled—a room brilliantly lighted—and, drawing her mother after her, pressed forward, and threw the ledger on the table,

‘Lazarus!’ she cried, with exultation in her voice. ‘My