‘Who was Rachel?’
‘Snuff the candle, Joanna, with your fingers, and—there—don’t throw the snuff on the floor lest you set it on fire; and don’t wipe your fingers in your apron where the smut will show, but in your hair, where it will not be seen.’
‘Who was Rachel?’
‘I will tell you, child, but really you irritate me with your pertinacity. I will first light a pipe. I don’t offer you one, as it is not decent for a woman to smoke. The habit might grow and interfere with your matrimonial prospects. Some women take cigarettes on the grounds that they suffer from asthma or bronchitis. You are sound in throat and lung, Joanna, sound as a bell. Never knew anything the matter with you except inordinate appetite. Let me have that chair, Joanna. It is the only one with a seat. You can accommodate yourself on the fender.’
An old flour-barrel stood in the corner. Joanna sprang on it and seated herself thereon. Then, fixing the Jew with her keen eyes, she asked again, ‘Who was Rachel?’
‘Really, Joanna,’ said the pawnbroker, ‘your ways are inhuman, and give one a cold shiver. You squat there on the cask like a goblin in an illustrated fairy-tale. You are not a bit like an ordinary girl. There is no buoyancy and freshness in you. Yet—I’ll tell you what—I’ll do something splendid to show you my gratitude, and wipe off my indebtedness. I’ll learn you to dance.’
‘What!’ exclaimed the girl, starting.
‘I have a bad debt with a dancing master,’ said the Jew; ‘and the only way in which I can recover my money is to take it out in lessons. You want refinement and deportment, and I will do what is magnanimous, and have you instructed by Mr. Deuxtemps in what becomes a lady. You shall learn to polk and jig and curtsey like a blue-blooded born marchioness.’
‘That’s grand,’ said Joanna.
‘I thought I should please you,’ said the Jew; ‘I’m not a master to be served without reward. Now I will do something more for you. I will show you the jewels I have, and perhaps let you put some on. I have diamonds, carbuncles, and sapphires fit to make a cat scream. Put out the fire, give me the candle, and follow me to my room.’
He led the way into his private chamber, where was his bed, and where he kept his most precious articles, his money, and his account-books. He set the candle on the table, and