That’s what I thought at first, and I hated you for it, but afterward I realized it was not that—it was worse.
Yes. It wasn’t that you grudged the money, it was that you simply didn’t think of it. You felt that something had to be done, because I made you feel uncomfortable, but you didn’t know exactly what, and you were both relieved to see me go. I had spoiled your Thanksgiving dinner—that was the depth of your realization.
No, no, Richard! You were so cold, so silent. You made it impossible for us to help you.
I suppose I did seem cold. That’s the instinct of inexperienced natures when they are desperate. But it would have been so easy to break through with one kind word or act.
There, there! How glad I am that conditions are changed!
Changed, yes, but it was I who changed them! The shock of poverty was terrible at first, not because I set too much value on money, nor because I was unwilling to work, but because I felt I had no power of attack. My nature was introspective, I lived in an epic of my own creation. My strength and my courage were wrapped up in dreams, and seemed to have no relation to the practical world. I could have faced the devil himself for an ideal, but to make my own living—that was the nightmare!...
That was why I was so cold, so silent. If you had said one human thing, straight from your heart to mine, I should have been comforted. In a case like that, as I now know, it is not money a man wants, even if he himself thinks it is. No. It is just sympathy, the right word that renews his courage and arms him against the new circumstances by making him feel he doesn’t stand alone. If you had found that word, or even tried to find it, I should have loved you like a son. My heart was ready—you did not want it!
But you finished at college, Richard....
Yes, I finished. And do you know how? I spent that first night all alone in my room, thinking. In the morning I called on a classmate, a poor man who was working his way. I said: “Here, I haven’t a cent. Advise me.”
We talked it all over. He helped me sell my furniture, he sublet my room. And he gave me a job.