The Clarion HTML version

5. The Scion
To Harrington Surtaine, life had been a game with easy rules. Certain things one must not
do. Decent people didn't do them. That's all there was to that. In matters of morals and
conduct, he was guided by a natural temperance and an innate sense of responsibility to
himself. Difficult questions had not come up in his life. Consequently he had not found
the exercise of judgment troublesome. His tendency, as regarded his own affairs, was to a
definite promptness of decision, and there was an end of the matter. Others he seldom felt
called upon to judge, but if the instance were ineluctable, he was prone to an amiable
generosity. Ease of living does not breed in the mind a strongly defined philosophy. All
that young Mr. Surtaine required of his fellow beings was that they should behave
themselves with a due and respectable regard to the rights of all in general and of himself
in particular—and he would do the same by them. Rather a pallid attenuation of the
Golden Rule; but he had thus far found it sufficient to his existence.
Into this peaceful world-scheme intruded, now, a disorganizing factor. He had brought it
home with him from his visit to the "shop." An undefined but pervasive distaste for the
vast, bustling, profitable Certina business formed the nucleus of it. As he thought it over
that night, amidst the heavily ornate elegance of the great bedroom, which, with its
dressing-room and bath, his father had set aside for his use in the Surtaine mansion, he
felt in the whole scheme of the thing a vague offense. The air which he had breathed in
those spacious halls of trade had left a faintly malodorous reminiscence in his nostrils.
One feature of his visit returned insistently to his mind: the contrast between the semi-
contemptuous carelessness exhibited by his father toward the processes of compounding
the cure and the minute and insistent attention given to the methods of expounding it.
Was the advertising really of so much more import than the medicine itself? If so, wasn't
the whole affair a matter of selling shadow rather than substance?
But it is not in human nature to view with too stern a scrutiny a business which furnishes
one's easeful self with all the requisites of luxury, and that by processes of almost magic
simplicity. Hal reflected that all big businesses doubtless had their discomforting phases.
He had once heard a lecturing philosopher express a doubt as to whether it were possible
to defend, ethically, that prevalent modern phenomenon, the millionaire, in any of his
manifestations. By the counsel of perfection this might well be true. But who was he to
judge his father by such rigorous standards? Of the medical aspect of the question he
could form no clear judgment. To him the patent medicine trade was simply a part of the
world's business, like railroading, banking, or any other form of merchandising. His own
precocious commercial experience, when, as a boy, he had played his little part in the
barter and trade, had blinded him on that side. Nevertheless, his mind was not
impregnably fortified. Old Lame-Boy, bearer of dollars to the bank, loomed up, a
disturbing figure.
Then, from a recess in his memory, there popped out the word "genteel." His father had
characterized the Certina business as being, possibly, not sufficiently "genteel" for him.