—a small balance. It is pleasant to have a balance in one’s favour, is it not, Joanna? I will show you my gratitude. We shall have a regular royal debauch for supper. I have some tinned tomatoes. Tomatoes are said to be nutritious, and clear the complexion. I had half a dozen tins and one over from a broken grocer in Courtney Street. We’ll debauch on the odd tin. I am double your age, Joanna, and therefore require twice as much nutriment as you, so I shall eat two tomatoes to your one. You, however, may enjoy the gravy. Sop your bread in that, and close your eyes whilst it lies on your tongue. A tin of tomato is sold for one-and-threepence at the grocers and tenpence at the stores. Hang the expense; we will revel in good things for once; and we will wash down the tomatoes with water. That, Joanna, is the drink of the Quality. No more tawny old port, its day is done. Not nutty sherry any more. Not claret, nor Burgundy; not even champagne. They are all played out. Now the Quality are teetotal. Let us be of the Quality also, and teetotal too. Fashions change in drinks as in dress. Now it is cardinal red and marsala, then crushed strawberries and water. Prepare the table, Joanna.’
The girl obeyed without enthusiasm. She placed broad on the table in the kitchen, lighted the fire in the stove to heat some vegetables, and threw a ragged but clean cloth over the table. One candle and the fire in the stove illumined the wretched kitchen.
‘I take a little whisky with my water,’ said the Jew, pouring some spirits into his glass, ‘but I do not approve of alcohol for the young. It stunts their growth, and sows the seeds of a craving for strong liquor which may in after-life bring them to D. T.’
‘Who was Rachel?’ asked Joanna.
‘Upon my word, Joanna! What persistency you have! When you have set your head on doing a thing you do it, and when you have set your head on knowing a thing you give a body no peace till you know it.’
‘You promised to tell me.’
‘I must keep my promise; I am a conscientious man, and when I say a word I hold by it. That is the principle of business. Only at the last moment give your word a twist in your direction, if you can. When you have agreed to sell for three sovereigns don’t make out the bill for four, but for three guineas.’