Page:Court Royal.djvu/293

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‘It is a trouble to me. I suppose the officers I associate with know about my father, or I suspect they do, and every allusion to a unicorn cuts into me as if the beast itself were driving its horn between my ribs. There it is, plastered on every hoarding, with the inscription “Try Cheek’s Monokeratic System.”’

‘I am sorry to have offended you. I do not see why you should dislike to hear of that which has made you.’

‘Wait, Joanna, till you are near the top of the tree, and then the words Golden Balls will drive you frantic.’

‘Maybe,’ said Joanna, ‘though I do not see why it should. But to return to what I was speaking about before you interrupted me. To my thinking you are leading an altogether unworthy life. Life is a time for making money.’

‘Only for those born without it,’ said the young man. ‘My father has amassed a large fortune. It will be mine some day, no doubt. It is hard that I should be limited to a beggarly four hundred per annum. You would not have me make more money. That would indeed be carrying coals to Newcastle.’

‘No, but life has other objects for which a man may strive. There is position. Push for that. Your father is not a gentleman, but you can be one.’

‘Well, I am working in that direction,’ said Charles. ‘I associate with officers, play billiards and cards, and ride and smoke and eat with them.’

‘And lose money to them on snails.’

‘Yes, all conduces to good fellowship. I am friends with those who would not meet my father. I have stepped from the counter to one of the shelves.’

‘I am glad your life is not aimless,’ said the girl. ‘If you are striving for position I can respect you; an aimless life is to me despicable.’

‘I cannot say that I have ever thought much about a purpose,’ said Charles Cheek, ‘still—I like to be with those who are my social superiors.’

‘And sometimes to have a chat with such as me—your social inferior.’

‘No doubt about that, Joe.’

‘Well, Mr. Cheek, form a purpose, and drive hard after it.’

‘Joe!’ The young man reseated himself on the counter, in a graver, more meditative mood than was common with him.