“Brief! I feel as though I’d just emerged from a glacial douche.”
“Oh, he’s nippy. But he never misses a trick, and he got your number all O.K.”
As we reached the street I took his hand.
“Thanks, Ballard,” I said warmly. “It’s been fine of you, but I’m sorry that I can’t share your hopes.”
“Rot! The thing’s as good as done. There’s another executor or two to be consulted, but they’ll be glad enough to take the governor’s judgment. You’ll hear from him tomorrow. In the meanwhile,” and he thrust a paper into my hands, “read this. It’s interesting. It’s John Benham’s brief for masculine purity with a few remarks (not taken from Hegel) upon the education and training of the child.”
We had reached the corner of the street when he stopped and took out his watch.
“Unfortunately this is the Thursday that I work,” he laughed, “and it’s past two o’clock, so good-by. I’ll stop in for you tomorrow,” and with a flourish of the hand he left me.
Still dubious as to the whole matter, which had left me rather bewildered, when I reached my shabby room I took out the envelope which Ballard had handed me and read the curious paper that it contained.
As I began reading this remarkable document (neatly typed and evidently copied from the original in John Benham’s own hand) I recognized some of the marks of the Platonic philosophy and read with immediate attention. Before I had gone very far it was quite clear to me that the pedagogue who took upon himself the rearing of the infant Benham, must himself be a creature of infinite wisdom and discretion. As far as these necessary qualifications were concerned, I saw no reason why I should refuse. The old man’s obvious seriousness of purpose interested me.
“It is my desire that my boy, Jeremiah, be taught simple religious truths and then simple moral truths, learning thereby insensibly the lessons of good manners and good taste. In his reading of Homer and Hesiod the tricks and treacheries of the gods are to be banished, the terrors of the world below to be dispelled, and the misbehavior of the Homeric heroes are to be censured.
“If there is such a thing as original sin—and this I beg leave to doubt, having looked into the eyes of my boy and failed to find it there—then teaching can eradicate it, especially teaching under such conditions as those which I now impose. The person who will be chosen by my executors for the training of my boy will be first of all a man of the strictest probity. He will assume this task with a grave sense of his responsibility to me and to his Maker. If after a proper period of time he does not discover in his own heart a sincere affection for my child, he will be honest enough to confess the truth, and be discharged of the obligation. For it is clear that without love, such an experiment is foredoomed to failure. To a man such as my mind has pictured, affection here will not be difficult, for nature has favored Jerry with gifts of mind and body.”