Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/103

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URIAH’S SON

69

enemy almost too much for one that one gets courage and endurance and fortitude. I chose to make life hard and difficult for you, where it might have been smooth and easy, so that you would not drown in stale honey, as your father drowned. I do not repent.

“I do not repent, for with test after test, you got hardier, and surer, and less afraid of anything, even of me. I made you my worthy enemy. I bound the difficult habit of years upon you like an honourable chain—and hardened, hardened it, till at last your father lay dead in you, and you had an armour not even success could pierce.

“Then, when you were a man, I let you find out, as you thought. You took it as I hoped you would take it—and the night you said you would break me, I looked at you and knew that between us we had made a man. But you were very young, and I was not quite certain.

“I made it my business to be entirely certain, though my time was growing short. But I could not face your mother and not be certain. So once again I took upon myself a certain prerogative, and where you went, I spied upon you like a ghost. In all ways I left you free to make your own decisions—and if you had fallen in the mire deliberately, I would not have raised you—or I might have raised you scornfully, and given you the petty damnation of easy riches, and died. But you did not fall. A strong man does not lie down before his enemy. You prospered instead, till now you are ready to break me, and I can go.

“I can go, for your marriage was my last concern, and I have seen you with the girl you are to marry, and seen her alone and heard her talk of you. You do not lie to women, as your father did, and you have chosen as I hoped you would choose. Your mother would like her, my son.

“Well, it has been a long task, and it is finished. I could have been kinder to you easily, though you may doubt that. I have had no son of my body. You have been my son. Sometimes, indeed more frequently than you might suppose, it was somewhat difficult not to be too kind.

“Do not think, by the way, that your present success is in any way due to me. I fought your business combinations with all my skill. But you have been too strong and adroit for me there. That is all.