“‘But other people would benefit, wouldn’t they?’ I asked.
“He glared at me, speechless, Roger, and got very red in the face. ‘And this,’ he stammered at last, ’is the fine result of your Utopia. Ideals! Dreams! My God! If your father could hear you—he’d rise in his grave!’
“I’m just what he made me,’ I said coolly.
“He stared at me again as though he hadn’t heard what I had said.
“’Do you mean that you’re going to abandon this career we’ve made for you, the most wonderful that could be given mortal man?’ he asked, though his tone was not pleasant.
“I did owe him a lot, you see. He’s true to his own ideals, though they’re not mine. And I was very uncomfortable.
“‘I hope you won’t think me ungrateful, Mr. Ballard,’ I said as calmly as I could. ’In some ways you’ve been very like a father to me. I want you to understand that I appreciate all that you and the other co-executors have done for me. I’ve been very happy. But I want you to know, if you don’t know it already, that I’m very stupid about business. It bewilders me. I’ll try as hard as I can to please you and will do my best at it, but you can understand that that won’t be very much when my heart isn’t in it. I don’t want to see the Benham securities fall, because that would hurt you, too. I’ll keep silent for awhile and do just what you want me to do. But I don’t want any more money. The responsibility, the weight of it, oppresses me. I’m too simple, if you like, but I don’t think I’ll change.’
“‘And what,’ he asked slowly when I stopped, ’what do you propose to do with all this money we’ve kept together for you?’
“His voice was low, but his face was purple and he snapped his words off short as if their utterance hurt him.
“‘With your permission, sir,’ I said quietly, ’I expect to give a great deal of it away.’
“Roger, he couldn’t speak for rage. He glared at me again and then, jamming his hat on his head, stalked stiffly out. Oh, I’ve made a mess of things, I suppose,” he sighed, “but I can’t help it. I’m sick of the whole miserable business.”
I made no comment. I had foreseen this interview, but it had come much sooner than I had expected. I felt that I had known Jerry’s mind and what he would do eventually, but it was rather startling that he had come to so momentous a decision and had expressed it so vigorously at the very outset of his career. It was curious, too, as I remembered things that had gone before, how nearly his resolution coincided with the one boyishly confessed to the female, Una Smith, in the cabin in the woods last summer. At the time, I recalled, the matter had made no great impression upon me. I had not believed that Jerry could realize what he was promising. But here he was reiterating the promise at the very seats of the mighty.
The subject was too vast a one for me to grasp at once. I wanted to think about it. Besides, he didn’t ask my advice. I don’t think he really wanted it. I looked at Jerry’s chin. It was square. For all his sophistries, Jack Ballard was no mean judge of human nature.