“Of course, if that is your desire,” I managed at last, “I have nothing to say except that if you had asked my opinion I should have advised against it.”
“I’m sorry, Canby,” he finished, “but the matter has already been taken out of your hands.”
Youth fortunately is the age of the most lasting impressions. Dr. Carmichael, of the Hobart School of Finance of Manhattan University, came and went, but he made no appreciable ripple in the placid surface of Jerry’s philosophy. He cast stone after stone into the lovely pool of Jerry’s thoughts, which broke the colorful reflections into smaller images, but did not change them. And when he was gone the pool was as before he came. Jerry listened politely as he did to all his masters and learned like a parrot what was required of him, but made no secret of his missing interest and enthusiasm. I watched furtively, encouraging Jerry, as my duty was, to do his tasks as they were set before him. But I knew then what I had suspected before, that they would never make a bond-broker of Jerry. I had but to say a word, to give but a sign and bring about an overt rebellion. But I was too wise to do that. I merely watched the widening circles in the pool and saw them lost in the border of dreamland.
Jerry learned, of course, the difference between a mortgage and an insurance policy; he knew the meaning of economics, the theory of supply and demand, and gained a general knowledge which I couldn’t have given him of the general laws of barter and trade. But he followed Carmichael listlessly. What did he care for bonds and receiverships when the happy woods were at his elbow, the wild-flowers beckoning, his bird neighbors calling? Where I had appealed to Jerry through his imagination, Carmichael used only the formulae of matter and fact. There was but one way in which he could have succeeded, and that was through the picture of the stupendous agencies of which Jerry was to be the master: the fast-flying steamers, the monster engines on their miles of rails, the glowing furnaces, the sweating figures in the heat and grime of smoke and steam, the energy, the inarticulate power, the majesty of labor which bridged oceans, felled mountains and made animate the sullen rock. All this I saw, as one day Jerry should see it. But I did not speak. The time was not yet. Jerry’s understanding of these things would come, but not until I had prepared him for them.
This memoir is not so much the history of a boy or of a man as of an experiment. Therefore I will not longer delay in bringing Jerry to the point where my philosophy and John Benham’s was to be put to the test. I have tried to indicate in as few phrases as possible Jerry Benham’s essential characteristics, the moral attributes that were his and the shapeliness and strength of his body. I have never set great value on mere physical beauty, which too often reacts unpleasantly upon the character of its owner. But looks meant nothing to Jerry and he was as unconscious of his striking beauty as the scarlet poppy that nods in the meadow.