“Say, Bill, I guess I been talkin’ too much with my face. Bring’s another of those li’l bo’ls.”
Certina Charley, plus an indeterminate quantity of alcohol, had acted upon Hal’s mind as a chemical precipitant. All the young man’s hitherto suppressed or unacknowledged doubts of the Certina trade and its head were now violently crystallized. Hal hurried out of the hotel, the wrath in his heart for the deception so long wrought upon him chilled by a profounder feeling, a feeling of irreparable loss. He thought in that moment that his love for his father was dead. It was not. It was only his trust that was dying, and dying hard.
Since that day of his first visit to the Certina factory, Hal’s standards had undergone an intrinsic but unconscious alteration. Brought up to the patent medicine trade, though at a distance, he thought of it, by habit, as on a par with other big businesses. One whose childhood is spent in a glue factory is not prone to be supersensitive to odors. So, to Harrington Surtaine, those ethical and moral difficulties which would have bulked huge to one of a different training, were merely inherent phases of a profitable business. Misgivings had indeed stirred, at first. For these he had chided himself, as for an over-polite revulsion from the necessary blatancy of a broadly advertised enterprise. More searching questions, as they arose within him, he had met with the counter-evidence of the internal humanism and fair-dealing of the Certina shop, and of the position of its beloved chief in the commercial world.
In the face of the Relief Pills exposure, Hal could no longer excuse his father on the ground that Dr. Surtaine honestly credited his medicines with impossible efficacies. Still, he had reasoned, the Doctor had been willing instantly to abandon this nostrum when the harm done by it was concretely brought home to him. Though this argument had fallen far short of reconciling Hal to the Surtaine standards, nevertheless it had served as a makeshift to justify in part his abandonment of the hard-won principles of the “Clarion,” a surrender necessary for the saving of a loved and honored father in whose essential goodness he had still believed.
Now the edifice of his faith was in ruins. If Certina itself, if the tutelary genius of the House of Surtaine, were indeed but a monstrous quackery cynically accepted as such by those in the secret, what shred of defense remained to him who had so prospered by it? Through the wreckage of his pride, his loyalty, his affection, Hal saw, in place of the glowing and benign face of Dr. Surtaine, the simulacrum of Fraud, sleek and crafty, bloated fat with the blood of tragically hopeful dupes.
One great lesson of labor Hal had already learned, that work is an anodyne. From his interview with Certina Charley he made straight for the “Clarion” office. As he hurried up the stairs, the door of Shearson’s room opened upon him, and there emerged therefrom a brick-red, agile man who greeted him with a hard cordiality.