When Charles Cheek came next evening to see his father, he found the old man in a condition of excitement such as made his heart sink, and despair of extracting money from him. He came at his father’s dinner time, knowing the impossibility of getting a conversation with him during business hours.
‘Are you unwell, father?’ he asked, when he observed the perturbed condition of the old man.
‘Unwell? Cause to be so.’
‘What is the matter with you?’
‘Any annoyance lately?’
What was it that troubled the old man? During dinner he would hardly speak. His pasty face exuded a gloss. He growled, and cast furtive glances at his son, which Charles caught, and was unable to interpret.
‘Was Mr. Worthivale here yesterday, governor?’
‘Worthivale? Yes. Has a son, never gave him an hour’s uneasiness. Came crowing and flapping here because he has a good son.’
‘Do you mean, father, that—that——’
‘That—that! Yes. Ugh!’
It was impossible to extract anything from the old man during the meal. Charles put on a gay manner, and talked of the weather, of politics, of the regiments ordered abroad, of the depression, of the gossip of society, the improvements effected in torpedoes, Devonshire cream, the Prince of Wales, butterine, Nihilism, Robert Browning, anything, everything that came into his head, but without provoking his father to take part in the conversation.
As soon, however, as the dessert was on the table—the same dessert as the day before—the father drew the dish of raisins and almonds over to himself, waved the servants to withdraw, and burst forth with, ‘So—so—clapping the cross on top of St. Paul’s! brought your folly to a climax at last. Ugh!’
‘What have I done?’ asked Charles, as his spirit quaked at his father’s anger, and his consciousness of having deserved it.