Page:Court Royal.djvu/412

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mother has come, and brought the money and the duplicate. Score me out! I am no longer Six-hundred-and seventeen. I am free.’


Joanna was resolute. It was in vain that those present represented to her that she had been with Lazarus to the registrar’s office, so that in the eye of the law she was already married. She refused peremptorily, absolutely, to go through the religious ceremony. She was triumphant, defiant. Her eyes were sparkling, her cheeks kindled. No necessity now for the make-up box and rouge de théâtre.

‘I wouldn’t be drowned, I said, this day seven years, and I won’t be wedded now,’ she said.

Everyone spoke at once. The cohen addressed her seriously; Mrs. Thresher, who came up, overwhelmed her with reproaches. Lazarus stormed and screamed with rage, and insisted on her obedience to his wishes. But the time for submission was past. As long as he was her master she had served him, in cold and hunger and rags. She had begged for him, bargained for him, fought for him. She had nursed him in sickness, she had guarded his goods like a watch-dog. She never had defrauded him of a penny. Now that she was free she would not be his wife.

She paid no attention to those present; their voices sounded in her ears, but she did not hear their words; she saw the persons that surrounded her as figures in a dream. One face alone was distinct before her—her mother’s, one voice alone entered her ears and reached her brain—her mother’s. Her soul was like a long-closed room, into which no light has entered; suddenly the shutters are thrown back, and the window flung open, and the whole chamber is full of summer sweetness and sunny splendour. Her step was elastic, flame leaped through her pulses and flashed in her eyes. She had recovered her mother, the only person in the world to whom she belonged, who belonged to her, the mother on whose lap she had lain, in whose arms she had been rocked, against whose heart she had cried herself to sleep, the mother who was the