Shylock and Lancelot came out of Shylock’s house together. Shylock shook his head and tutted. ‘Well you will see,’ he said. ‘Your eyes will be the judge as to the difference between Old Shylock and Bassanio.’ He turned impatiently to the open door. ‘Jessica!’ he called. ‘You won’t stuff yourself as you’ve done with me. What, Jessica! Or sleep and snore and wear out your clothes.’ He called more insistently: ‘What, Jessica, I say!’ He was holding a ring of keys and he rattled them impatiently.
Lancelot placed his hands around his mouth. ‘Jessica!’ he shouted.
‘Who told you to call?’ said Shylock, irritably. ‘I didn’t tell you to call!’
‘Your worship always said that I never did anything without being told to,’ said Lancelot.
Jessica came out to them. ‘Did you call? What do you want?’
‘I’ve been invited to dinner, Jessica,’ said Shylock. ‘Here are my keys. I don’t know why I’m going, though. I haven’t been invited out of love. They’re flattering me. But still, I’ll go in hatred, to eat the wasteful Christian’s food. Jessica, my girl, look after my house. I really don’t want to go. I’ve got a premonition that something bad’s going to happen because I dreamt of moneybags last night.’
‘I beg of you, go,’ said Lancelot. ‘My young master is looking forward to your bad temper.’
‘As I am his,’ snapped Shylock.
‘And they’ve planned something together. I won’t exactly go as far as to say that you’ll see a masque…’ Lancelot have him an exaggerated wink, ‘… but if you do it wasn’t for nothing that my nose bled on last Black Monday, at six o’clock in the morning, when it occurred that year on Ash Wednesday…’
‘What! Are there going to be masques? Listen to me Jessica. Lock my doors. And when you hear the drum and the atrocious squealing of the curved fife, don’t climb up to the window and thrust your head out into the street to stare at the Christian fools with their painted masks. Plug my house’s eyes – I mean close the shutters and don’t allow the sound of shallow foolishness to enter my sober house. By Jacob’s staff I swear I don’t feel like eating out tonight. But I will go. Go ahead of me, you, and tell them I’m coming.’
’I’m going, sir,’ said Lancelot, but he hung back for a moment. ‘Miss,’ he whispered to Jessica. ‘Look out of the window because there will be a Christian coming by, who will be worth a Jewess’ eye.’
‘What did that foolish offspring of Hagar say?’ demanded Shylock as Lancelot went off, whistling.
‘He said, “goodbye mistress,” nothing else,’ said Jessica.
‘The lad is harmless, but he’s a huge eater, a snail-slow worker, and he sleeps more during the day than a wildcat. I won’t have drones in my house so I’ll let him go. To someone whom he can help waste borrowed money. Well, Jessica, in you go. I may be back very soon. Do as I’ve told you and lock the doors behind you. Fast bind, fast bind, a proverb always appropriate to a thrifty mind.’
Jessica watched him stride off. Goodbye, she thought. And if nothing went wrong she had lost a father and he had lost a daughter. She went inside and shut the door.
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