Page:Court Royal.djvu/417

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what before she proceeded with her narrative. She drew her back upon the seat, and took her hand again between her own. Her face was earnest and pale now; it had lost its light and colour.

‘Mother, the Jews have a ceremony at their weddings of filling a large glass with red wine, and the bridegroom sips this, then passes it to the bride, who also sips it. Then he finishes it, and when it is empty he dashes it to fragments on the ground. I had to prepare everything upstairs, and I poured the laudanum into the goblet, and mixed it well with the wine. Then I purposed, when it came to me to sip, to take a long deep draught, leaving only just enough for Lazarus to suit my purpose. None would suspect what I had done. I would go away to my little attic-room and lock the door, and lay me down on the bed and never wake again, and that would have been the end of my story, mother, had not you arrived at the proper moment, and for a second time given me life.’

‘Joanna,’ said Mrs. Rosevere, ‘this is very terrible, and I cannot bear to think of it. God forgive me that I ever showed you a way out of misery. The Lord interfered then to save me from myself; and the Lord has interfered now to save you. Now, Joanna, to my thinking, there is no time to be lost, we must go upstairs at once and throw away the poison. It must not be left exposed another minute.’

‘Yes, mother,’ said the girl, ‘you are right. It is the last duty I have to do in this house, and it shall be done forthwith. After that we will go out and leave it, never to set foot over its threshold again.’

They ascended the stairs together. The door was shut. Joanna knocked. She received no answer.

‘Perhaps Mr. Lazarus has gone out,’ whispered her mother. ‘If so, we must not leave the house till his return.’

Joanna opened the door into the newly furnished dining-room. The apartment would have been dark but for the flicker of the seven-wicked Sabbatical lamp. Lazarus, governed always by the idea of economy, had extinguished the candles. The lamp-wicks burned badly, and the light was lurid.

Joanna and her mother stood in the doorway looking round. All at once the woman uttered a piercing cry, and staggered back. Joanna at the same moment started forward.

On the floor, under the red silk gold-embroidered canopy, lay Lazarus, as one dead, holding the empty goblet in his hand.