truest, most unchangeable of friends, the best of refuges in sorrow, the surest of counsellors,—she had everything now—everything of which she had been deprived for seven years.
Heedless of every circumstance, deaf to every argument, blind to every advantage, she drew her mother away. She wanted to be alone with her again, to hear her story and to tell her own, to sweep her away again in the flood of her overflowing love. She held her hand so fast that not for a moment could the poor woman disengage herself. Mrs. Rosevere was bewildered. She understood nothing of what went on about her, the lighted room, with the gentlemen in evening dresses, the ladies glittering with jewelry, the crimson canopy, the seven-flamed lamp, her daughter’s strange demeanour. She was a timid woman with a mazed mind at the best of times; and this sudden episode completely distracted her.
Joanna brought her mother back into the room below, and fastened the door, but Lazarus had followed and was kicking and hammering at it with his fists, and swearing that he would have her out. He would not be insulted thus before all his guests.
Joanna remained quietly in her chair, clinging to her mother. There was disturbance outside. Voices speaking in the passage to Lazarus, he answering in shrill tones, in accents of passion; the trampling of feet and the slamming of the house-door, and after awhile, stillness. The guests had withdrawn to laugh with each other outside the house, on their way home; Polly was with her mother in the kitchen, uttering exclamations of amazement and disgust.
When all was quiet, and the fear of being disturbed had passed away, then Joanna said, ‘And now, my darling mother, tell me all that you have done and gone through during these seven years—and tell me why you did not come to release me earlier.’
Then the poor faded woman narrated a long story of troubles, beginning with her sickness on board Mr. Hull’s boat, and how she had been taken to a hospital, and got better, and been discharged, and had gone into service and earned some money, which had been dissipated by a return of sickness. A story of recurrent toil and disappointment, of saving and scattering, of hope and despair. Joanna sat by her, holding her hands and pressing them, and when she heard how her mother had toiled she kissed her hands, and when she heard how she had been sick she flung her arms about her and swayed her, and sobbed and fondled her. Mrs. Rosevere went