Page:Court Royal.djvu/315

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he willed he had always been able to carry out, because he cared for no one who opposed him. The public was the ass on which he had ridden ever since he began business. He knew perfectly its moods and maladies. He was indifferent to its wants, save so far as they affected him and helped in his business. Humbug was with him a form of advertisement—a means to an end. He was not himself a humbug, he was even brutally straightforward, but the public demanded cant of the man who posed before them as a politician, a preacher, or a trader, and Mr. Cheek donned it. In his domestic relations he was truthful, honest, and direct; in his relations with the public he was perfectly unscrupulous. He had a code of ethics for dealings within his home circle, but that home circle was limited now, it was contained within his waistband; he had none at all for dealings outside. He was a hard man, but he had a tender point—love for and pride in his son, a love that met with little response because ill-expressed, and a pride that met with rude shocks. He was an ambitious man. For long his ambition had been to make money. Now he was ambitious to make Charles a gentleman. But he did not know how to set about it. He had sent him, as a boy, to private schools, and, despising the classics, had refused to put him at an university. From dread of losing him from under his eye, he had opposed his going into the army; now he was conscious that he had made a mistake, but too proud to admit it. He was angry with society for not taking up Charles into it. Why should it not? Every day he heard of society letting down its net and drawing it up into its heaven, like the sheet of St. Peter’s vision, full of all sorts of strange beasts. Why was not Charles accepted? If society would not take up Charles, society must be cut down to his level.

He entered the shop of the Golden Balls with firm tread, and with his usual brusque and determined manner. Joanna was there. Towards dusk more business was done than at other times of the day. One gas jet was flaring near her head, accentuating her features. Mr. Cheek did not care in the least whether she was good-looking or the reverse. He looked at her no more than to satisfy himself that this was the same girl who had been photographed with his son.

‘Your name is Joanna Rosevere,’ he said.

Joanna stood up at once, and turned the gas so as to throw the light full on his face, and off her own.