“You mean that he doesn’t know the value and uses of money?”
“So far as I am aware,” I replied coolly, “he has never seen a piece of money in his life.”
“All wrong, all wrong, Canby. This won’t do at all. He had his arithmetic, percentage and so forth?”
“Yes. But money doesn’t interest him. Can you see any reason why it should?”
Again the frown and level gaze.
“And what had you planned for him?” he asked. He did not intend to be satirical perhaps. He was merely worldly.
“I thought when the time came he might be permitted to choose a vocation for himself. In the meanwhile—”
“A vocation!” he snapped. “Isn’t the controlling interest in a transcontinental line of railroad vocation enough? To say nothing of coal, copper and iron mines, a steel mill or two and a fleet of steamers?”
He overpowered me for the moment. I had not thought of Jerry as being all these things. To me he was merely Jerry. But I struggled upward through the miasma of oppressive millions and met the issue squarely.
“There is nothing in John Benham’s advice which directs any vocational instruction,” I said staunchly. “I was to bring the boy to the age of manhood without realization of sin.”
“A dream, Canby. Utopian, impossible!”
“It has not proved so,” I replied, nettled. “I am merely following instructions, Mr. Benham’s instructions through you to me. The dream is very real to Jerry.”
Mr. Ballard gazed into the fire and smiled.
“The executors are permitted some license in this matter. We are entirely satisfied with your work. We have no desire to modify in the slightest degree the purely moral character of your instruction or indeed to change his mode of life. Indeed, I think we all agree that you are carrying out with rare judgment the spirit if not the actual letter of John Benham’s wishes. Jerry is a wonderful boy. But in our opinion the time has come when his mind should be slowly shaped to grasp the essentials of the great career that awaits him.”
“I can be of no assistance to you, Mr. Ballard,” I said dryly.
“We think the time has arrived,” he went on, passing over my remark as though it hadn’t been uttered, “for Jerry to have some instruction from one versed in the theory, if not the practice, of business. It is our purpose to engage a professor from a school of finance of one of the universities to work with Jerry for a part of each summer.”
I did not dare to speak for fear of saying something I might regret. Thus far he was within his rights, I knew, but had he proposed to take Jerry into the cafes of Broadway that night, he couldn’t have done my plans for the boy a greater hurt. He was proposing nothing less than an assault upon my barriers of idealism. He was going to take the sentient thing that was Jerry and make of him an adding machine. Would he? Could he? I found courage in a smile.