Page:Court Royal.djvu/301

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289
CHEEK SENIOR.

Mr. Worthivale, ‘and even then—there always remains lurking in the system a je-ne-sais-quoi.’

‘A what?’ exclaimed Mr. Cheek, looking frightened. ‘Is it in the skin?’

‘Only a French expression,’ exclaimed the steward.

‘Never understood other than one foreign word, and that—monokeratic, for which I paid five guineas,’ said Mr. Cheek. ‘I wanted a suitable word, I went to an Oxford scholar, and said, find me the word, and I’ll find you a five-pound note and five shillings. That’s how I came by it.’

Neither spoke. The steward was peeling an orange. Presently Mr. Cheek began to move uneasily in his chair, to swell and puff. Then out came a confidence. ‘Charles is a trouble to me. I fill the barrel, and when I’m gone he’ll turn the tap and let it run. No fortune can stand a running tap. I wish I knew how to cure him. This consciousness takes the taste out of my profits. It is like eating bread from which the salt is omitted in the making.’

‘Take my advice,’ said Worthivale; ‘mix him in good society. He hangs about a garrison town for the sake of the officers, but he never associates with the better class of officers, only with those who like his dinners, and bleed him at billiards. He never sees the ladies, and it is ladies who humanise, civilise, and refine.’

‘Can’t do it. I’m not in society myself. Shop stands in the way.’

‘I wish I could persuade him to come to Court Royal Lodge, and pay me a long visit. I could introduce him to people of the first quality, and show him something better than gambling officers and fast ladies. You will never do anything with him, Cheek, till you have put him in a situation where his better qualities may be drawn out, and he may learn to blush at his weaknesses.’

‘If he were up here in town,’ said the father, scratching his nose meditatively with a stalk of raisins, ‘it might be done—by paying. Some quality people do come to my shop. They don’t put on their best bonnets and come in their own carriages when they do, but I know ’em. A long bill might be forgiven some lady of rank and fashion if she would invite Charles to dinner or a dance—such things are done—just to give him the chance of putting his foot into high society. If he were once in, Charlie could maintain himself there. Society would want him when it had seen him. I wouldn’t mind