It was bewildering for me to discover how deeply I was becoming involved in Jerry’s personal affairs. With the appointed day I had turned him adrift to work out in his future career, alone and unaided, my theory of life and his own salvation. And yet here, at the first sign of danger, I found myself flying to his defense as Jack Ballard would have it, like a hen that had hatched out a duckling. I reasoned with myself sternly that I feared nothing for Jerry. He would emerge from such an experience greater, stronger, purer even, and yet, in spite of my confidence, I found myself planning, devising something that would open the boy’s eyes before damage was done. I was solicitous for Jerry, but there were other considerations. Jerry wasn’t like other men. He had been taught to reason carefully from cause to effect. He would not understand intrigue, of course, or double dealing. They would bewilder him and he would put them aside, believing what he was told and acting upon it blindly. For instance, if this girl told him she cared for him, he would believe it and expect her to prove it, not in accordance with her notions of the obligation created, but in accordance with his own. There lay the difficulty, for he was all ideals, and she, as I suspected, had none. There would be damage done, spiritual damage to Jerry, but what might happen to Marcia? Jerry was innocent, but he was no fool, and with all his gentleness he wasn’t one to be imposed upon. Flynn had understood him. He was polite and very gentle, but Sagorski, the White Hope, knew what he was when aroused. I wondered if Marcia Van Wyck with all her cleverness might miss this intuition.
Dinner time found the boy quiet and preoccupied. If he hadn’t been Jerry I should have said he was sullen. That he was not himself was certain. It was not until he had lighted his cigarette after dinner that he was sure enough of himself to speak.
“What made you talk of Una to Marcia, Roger?” he asked quietly.
“I didn’t,” I said coolly. “You did, Jerry. And if I had, I can’t see what it matters.”
“It does a little, I think. You see, Marcia knows who she is. Una gave a false name. She wouldn’t care to have people know she had come in here alone.”
This was a reason, but of course not the real one. It wasn’t like Jerry to mask his purposes in this fashion. I laughed at him.
“If you’ll remember, Jerry, I mentioned no names.”
“But why mention the incident at all?”
“Because to tell the truth,” I said frankly, “I thought Miss Marcia Van Wyck entirely too self-satisfied.”
He opened his eyes wide and stared at me. “Oh!” he said.
And then after the pause:
“You don’t like Marcia?”
“No,” I replied flatly, “I don’t.”
He paced the length of the room, while I sat by a lamp and ostentatiously opened the evening paper.
“I hope you realize,” he said presently, with a dignity that would have been ridiculous if it hadn’t been pathetic, “that Miss Van Wyck is a very good friend of mine.”