Page:Court Royal.djvu/44

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observe that you have upset the ink and paste over the table in your effort to clean it. Instead of mending, you have messed the table.’

‘I do not care. My fancy ran away with me. I am an Oriental, a child of the sun, with a rich imagination that flashes into poetry. What care I about these noble mushrooms? They date from the Conquest, but what is the Conquest to us? An affair of yesterday. I have done. Go on. They want more money, do they?’ He reascended the bed, and sat on it with legs depending over the side.

‘The end must come; it is inevitable,’ said the solicitor. ‘Everything is in your hands. You may bring the walls about their ears when you will. If you choose, we can proceed to extremities at once. Nothing can save them. You are practically the sole creditor, for you have got the home mortgages into your own hands. You have no rivals to contend against. The estate must be sold, and if you choose to become possessor of Court Royal you may.’

Lazarus rubbed his hands, and crowed, rather than laughed.

‘I—I have the estates! What good would they do to me? I set up as a grand English squire! Not I. That is not my ambition. I have Court Royal! I could not keep it up.’

‘Well, there is no accounting for tastes. For the coup de grâce we must have five thousand pounds. As usual, I suppose, the money is to go through a third party, so that your name may not appear? I will manage that. I suppose some debts are pressing, and the usual annual expense is becoming burdensome—that is the occasion of this fresh demand.’

‘Mr. Crudge,’ said the Jew, ‘you seem confident that the end is near. I do not share your confidence. A great house like that of the Duke of Kingsbridge will not go to pieces all at once. It has its supports, on all sides, in rich and powerful families. When the rumour spreads that the Kingsbridge house is trembling, the noble relations from all parts will hasten to uphold it. There are a thousand means to which such a family may have recourse, inaccessible to such as us. They are like a tent pegged all round into the soil, and if this or that guy snaps, what does it matter?—the rest will hold.’

‘Who are to help them? The central pole of your tent is sawn through, and the guys will not uphold a fallen and flapping mass of rag. They stay it while upright, but are worthless when it is down.’

‘But the house is not down yet. Why, Lord Edward is