Charles was naturally weak, and his father’s roughness had made him weaker. The old man had mortified his self-respect, till self-respect was almost dead within him. Now, suddenly, it had sprung to life and assorted itself.
Mr. Cheek stood up. He said nothing, and left the room. Charles saw no more of him that evening.
Next day, at breakfast (the fifth meal at which we have met him), he asked his son whether he still meant what he had said the night before, and when Charles insisted that he had spoken seriously, the father said, ‘Charles, I recognise something good in this. It gratifies me. Begin to work for yourself. Learn the value of every sixpence. I will put you with Messrs. Newcomen and Bowcher, ship-agents in Wapping. They will take you to oblige me. I will see them and arrange about salary.’
‘I ask nothing better.’
‘And—accept from me fifty pounds to begin life upon. You must live in lodgings. But we see no more of each other till you have grown into this new condition of life. If you go into lodgings you must have some money.’
‘I accept it, father,’ said Charles, ‘and,’ he added with faltering voice, ‘pardon me if I spoke too plain, and wounded you last night.’
‘Wounded me! Not a bit. Words break no bones.’
A month had passed. Charles had not been seen by his father, who had fulfilled his undertaking, and had placed him with shipping agents, in a subordinate place. The old man had arranged with Messrs. Newcomen and Bowcher, who were ready to oblige him. Charles was to have plenty of work, and was to receive two pounds per week, of which, no doubt—though he did not know it—his father found a portion.
After the lapse of the month, Mr. Cheek, senior, visited the agents and inquired into the conduct of their new clerk. Messrs. Newcomen and Bowcher were glad to testify that, as far as they could judge, he was steady and attentive to his