Page:Court Royal.djvu/88

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cudgel in hand, to belabour all whom he could reach. Disappointed in this anticipation, they removed the guy to the bonfire, and planted the figure, in its chair, on the top. Torches were applied, and amid huzzas and capers, and a ring of urchins dancing round the pile, the bonfire burst into lurid blaze.

Joanna saw the faces of the crowd illuminated by the fire. She saw those who lounged out of their windows looking on, laughing and applauding. She gnashed her teeth with impotent rage, and clenched her hands. She sat crouched, frog-like, on the top of a chest of drawers, with her fists closed, and her chin resting on them.

‘Ah!’ she muttered, ‘you come to Lazarus, all of you, when in need; you can’t do without him, and yet this is the reward he gets for helping you in trouble. Never mind, he has you all in his grip. He will not scruple now to give a squeeze, and your blood will run between his fingers. You also! How dare you!’ she exclaimed, and pointed to an attic window from which peered a woman’s face. The flames lit up the room, and cast Joanna’s shadow against the wall, distorting and exaggerating the length of her extended arm. Her finger indicated the woman leaning forth from the garret window, watching what went on below, and enjoying the scene. That woman was the mother of two children. She pawned the blankets every morning that had covered her and her sons by night, for three-halfpence, and redeemed the children’s clothes for the day. At night she pawned their rags and released the blankets. Six per cent is the legal rate of usury, but Lazarus obtained from this widow five hundred per cent. And this woman dared to applaud his being burnt in effigy? Whither is gratitude flown?

Suddenly a report, a roar, then a burst of cheers, followed by a crash, and dead silence!

The ham-bone had gone off! That ham-bone was a rocket disguised in coloured paper. The designer of this exquisite piece of humour had planned that the rocket, on exploding, should shoot out to sea and extinguish itself innocuously in the water; but in the haste and excitement of planting Lazarus on the pyre no thought had been given to the pointing of the head of the ham-bone. The only idea prominent in the minds of the urchins was to set the figure opposite the door of the Golden Balls. The rocket was from the Government coastguard stores, liberally contributed by the man invested with charge of them.