Page:Court Royal.djvu/305

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293
AN ENTANGLEMENT.

countenance. The old man was simmering with anger and apprehension.

‘Thought so!’ burst forth Mr. Cheek as he stretched his arms so suddenly and violently as to knock over one of the wine-glasses. ‘I always feared it would come to this. I hoped against hope. I did trust you would be preserved by Providence from plunging into such an abyss of imbecility.’

‘My dear father, you take this too seriously.’

‘Take it too seriously!’ echoed the old man. ‘What is more serious than marriage!’

‘But, my dear governor!’

‘Don’t governor me. I’m your father, I presume, though God forgive me for begetting such an ass.’

The young man was hurt and incensed. His father loved him, but he was rough with him, and had no self-restraint when angered. He spoke coarsely, brutally, all the coarse and brutal things that came off his heart, which is never done by those who have been put through the mill of culture.

How much the old man loved him, how proud he was of him in spite of his weakness, in spite of the disappointment his pride had encountered, this Charles did not know. Mr. Cheek made no show of affection; or he showed it by licking his cub with a very rough tongue, so rough as to flay him.

‘Well!’ shouted the old man, ‘well!’

‘The letter is preposterous,’ said Charlie, sulkily.

‘Preposterous! What I find preposterous is not the letter, but the conduct that provoked the letter.’

‘It is not true—it is a hoax,’ said the young man.

‘Not true!’ repeated the old man. He had eaten all the almonds; now he took a bunch of raisins, put it in his mouth, and passionately tore off the fruit with one nip of his teeth, and put the spray on his plate. When he had gulped down the raisins he said, ‘Not true! oh no. Cap imbecility with falsehood. Now deny everything. I thought I had a son who was a fool; don’t convince me that he is a liar and a coward as well.’

The young man stood up. He turned pale. ‘You are my father,’ he said, ‘and have some privilege of language; but this exceeds what I will endure. I had rather break stones on the road than submit to such insults.’

‘Rejoice to see you break stones—do any useful work. At present breaking your father’s heart.’

The old man’s voice shook.