Then you will not take the share in the business which I have offered you??

?No, I think not, sir. I don?t like it. I don?t like the way in which it is worked. It would be entirely out of accordance with all my training.?

?So much the worse for your training?and for you,? said Mr Burton, hastily.

?Well, sir, perhaps so. I feel it?s ungenerous to say that the training was your{2} own choice, not mine. I think it, of course, the best training in the world.?

?So it is?so it was when I selected it for you. There?s no harm in the training. Few boys come out of it with your ridiculous prejudices against their bread and butter. It?s not the training, it?s you?that are a fool, Gervase.?

?Perhaps so, sir,? said the young man with great gravity. ?I can offer no opinion on that subject.?

The father and son were seated together in a well-furnished library in a large house in Harley Street?not fashionable, but extremely comfortable, spacious, expensive, and dignified. It was a library in the truest sense of the word, and not merely the ?gentleman?s room? in which the male portion of a family takes refuge.{3} There was an excellent collection of books on the shelves that lined the walls, a few good pictures, a bust or two placed high on the tops of the bookcases. It bore signs, besides, of constant occupation, and of being, in short, the room in which its present occupants lived?which was the fact. They were all their family. Mrs Burton had died years before, and her husband had after her death lived only for his boy and?his business. The latter devotion kept everything that was sentimental out of the former. He was very kind and indulgent to Gervase, and gave him the ideal English education?the education of an English gentleman: five or six years at Eton, three or four at Oxford. He intended to do, and did, his son ?every justice.? Expense had{4} never been spared in any way. Though he did not himself care for shooting, he had taken a moor in the Highlands for several successive seasons, in order that his boy should be familiar with that habit of the higher classes. Though he hated travelling, he had gone abroad for the same purpose. Gervase had never been stinted in anything: ???? he had a good allowance, rooms handsomely furnished, horses at his disposal, everything that heart could desire. And he on his part had done all that could be desired or expected from a young man. If he had not electrified his tutors and masters, he had not disappointed them. He had done very well all round. His father had no reason to be otherwise than proud of his son. Both at school and college he{5} had done well; he had got into no scrapes. He had even acquired a little distinction; not much, not enough to spoil him either for business or society?yet something, enough to enable people to say,
  • ?He did very well at Oxford.? And he had made some good friends, which perhaps was what his father prized most. One or two scions of noble houses came to Harley Street to see him; he had invitations from a few fine people for their country houses, and ladies of note who had a number of daughters were disposed to smile upon the merchant?s son. All these things pleased Mr Burton much, and he had been quite willing to assent to his son?s wish that he should end and complete his experiences by a visit to America, before beginning the work which{6} had always been his final destination. He had now just returned from that expedition, and it had been intended that he should step at once into his place in the business?that business which was as good as, nay, much better than, an estate. Up to this time the young man had made no objection to the plan, which he was perfectly acquainted with. So far as his father knew, he was as well disposed towards that plan as Mr Burton himself, and looked forward to it with as much satisfaction. It may therefore be supposed that it was with no small consternation, with displeasure, disappointment, and indignation, one greater than the other, that the father had sat and listened to the sudden and astounding protest of the son. Not go into the business!{7} It was to Mr Burton as if a man had refused to go to heaven; indeed it was less reasonable by far: for though going to heaven is supposed to be the height of everybody?s desire, even the most pious of clergymen has been known to say ?God forbid!? when he has been warned that he stands on the brink of another world. One would wish generally to postpone that highest of consummations; but to refuse to go into the business was a thing incredible. Mr Burton had raged and stormed, but afterwards he had been brought into partial calm through the evident impossibility of treating his son in any other way. To scold Gervase was practically impossible. To treat him like a child or a fool was a thing that could not be done. His own composure naturally affected all who had{8} to do with him, and his father among the rest. That passionate speaking or abuse, or violence of any kind, should fall dumb before his easy and immovable quiet, was inevitable. He had waited till the outburst was over, and then he had gone on.