Draper considered this. “And your idea is that he acts on principles he has never thought of testing or defining?”
Millner looked up quickly, and for an instant their glances crossed. “How do you mean?”
“I mean: that he’s an inconscient instrument of goodness, as it were? A—a sort of blindly beneficent force?”
The other smiled. “That’s not a bad definition. I know one thing about him, at any rate: he’s awfully upset at your having chucked your Bible Class.”
A shadow fell on young Spence’s candid brow. “I know. But what can I do about it? That’s what I was thinking of when I tried to show him that goodness, in a certain sense, is purely subjective: that one can’t do good against one’s principles.” Again his glance appealed to Millner. “_ You_ understand me, don’t you?”
Millner stirred his coffee in a silence not unclouded by perplexity. “Theoretically, perhaps. It’s a pretty question, certainly. But I also understand your father’s feeling that it hasn’t much to do with real life: especially now that he’s got to make a speech in connection with the founding of this Missionary College. He may think that any hint of internecine strife will weaken his prestige. Mightn’t you have waited a little longer?”
“How could I, when I might have been expected to take a part in this performance? To talk, and say things I didn’t mean? That was exactly what made me decide not to wait.”
The door opened and Mr. Spence re-entered the room. As he did so his son rose abruptly as if to leave it.
“Where are you off to, Draper?” the banker asked.
“I’m in rather a hurry, sir—”
Mr. Spence looked at his watch. “You can’t be in more of a hurry than I am; and I’ve got seven minutes and a half.” He seated himself behind the coffee—tray, lit a cigar, laid his watch on the table, and signed to Draper to resume his place. “No, Millner, don’t you go; I want you both.” He turned to the secretary. “You know that Draper’s given up his Bible Class? I understand it’s not from the pressure of engagements—” Mr. Spence’s narrow lips took an ironic curve under the straight-clipped stubble of his moustache—“it’s on principle, he tells me. He’s principled against doing good!”
Draper lifted a protesting hand. “It’s not exactly that, father—”
“I know: you’ll tell me it’s some scientific quibble that I don’t understand. I’ve never had time to go in for intellectual hair-splitting. I’ve found too many people down in the mire who needed a hand to pull them out. A busy man has to take his choice between helping his fellow-men and theorizing about them. I’ve preferred to help. (You might take that down for the Investigator, Millner.) And I thank God I’ve never stopped to ask what made me want to do good. I’ve just yielded to the impulse—that’s all.” Mr. Spence turned back to his son. “Better men than either of us have been satisfied with that creed, my son.”