Page:Court Royal.djvu/397

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work. He had been regular in his attendance, careful, obliging, and reliable.

Then Mr. Cheek made an excursion to Ebury Street, Pimlico, where his son lived in a boarding-house, kept by a Miss Jones. He chose a time for his visit when he knew his son would be at the office. Ebury Street, Pimlico, is a long way from Wapping, but Charles went to and fro by steamer from Vauxhall Bridge, and the air did him good.

Mr. Cheek found the dingy lodging-house kept by Miss Jones; he rang the bell, and rapped sharply with the knocker, and the door was opened by Miss Jones herself, a thin lady with curls, a pasty face, and eyes so pale in their colour that they must have been washed and rewashed with soda till all the colour had been washed out of them. Miss Jones was full of amiability when Mr. Cheek introduced himself, and hastened to assure him of the respectabihty of her establishment, the high social standing of her guests, and the comforts they enjoyed. The house was admirably situated, away from the fogs; and the health of the boarders was robust, as she could testify by their appetites. They breakfasted together, and she presided. She furnished them with coffee and tea, whichever they preferred. Some gentlemen were averse to tea in the morning, and they drank coffee. Others liked to change their drink week and week about. Each had an egg and a rasher of bacon, sometimes she substituted bloater for rasher. There was always a rack of toast on the table, as a pleasant change to bread and butter. When the gentlemen returned from their offices they had tea, and in the evening supper off cold meat, bread, and cheese, ‘best American. I had Dutch cheese for some time, but I find the American is preferred by the gentlemen, so I have that now.’

She went on to assure Mr. Cheek that her lodgers were of the most select description. For many years she had among them an old Waterloo officer, but he was dead. The lady lodging on the first floor ought, if everyone had his rights, to be a baronet, but her aunt, from whom she had great expectations, had left everything to a female companion who had exercised great influence over her at the last. It was a pity, Miss Jones thought, that the lady had not gone to law and upset the will, and recovered the title and a real sealskin jacket which had gone to the companion, worth forty pounds. Another of her lodgers was a gentleman of some literary fame who at one time had earned five pounds by writing verses for Christmas cards.