My friend Todd owes me a dollar. He has owed it to me for twelve months, and I fear that there is little prospect of his ever returning it. I can realize whenever I meet him that he was forgotten that he owes me a dollar. He meets me in the same frank friendly way as always. My dollar has clean gone out of his mind. I see that I shall never get it back.
On the other hand I know that I shall remember all my life that Todd owes me a dollar. It will make no difference, I trust our friendship, but I shall never be able to forget it. I don’t know how it is with other people; but if any man borrows a dollar from me I carry the recollection of it to the grave.
Let me relate what happened. Todd borrowed this dollar last year on the 8th of the April (I mention the date in case this should ever meet Todd’s eye), just as he was about to leave for Bermuda. He needed a dollar, in change to pay his taxi and I lent it to him. It happened quite simply and naturally, I hardly realized it till it was all over. He merely said ”Let me have a dollar, will you !” and I said, ”Certainly.” Is a dollar enough? I believe, in fact I know, that when Todd took that dollar he meant to pay for it.
He sent me a note from Hamilton, Bermuda. I thought when I opened it that the dollar would be in it. But it wasn’t. He merely said that the temperature was up to nearly 100. The figure confused me for a minute.
Todd came back within three weeks. I met him at the train, not because, of the dollar, but because I really esteem him, I felt it would be nice for him to see someone waiting for him on the platform after eing away for three weeks. I said, ”Let’s take a taxi up the Club. ”But he answered, ”No, let’s walk.
We spent the evening together, talking about Bermuda. I was thinking of the dollar but of course I didn’t refer to it. One simply can’t. I asked him what currency was used in Bermuda, and whether the American Dollar goes at par (I put a slight emphasis on the American Dollar), but found again that I could not bring myself to make any reference to it. I took me something (I see Todd practically everyday at my Club) to realize that he had completely forgotten the dollar. I asked him one day what his trip cost him and he said that he kept no accounts. A little later I asked him if he felt settled down after his trip, and he said that he had practically forgotten about it. So I knew it was all over.
In all this, I bear Todd no grudge. I have simply added him to the list of men who owe me a dollar and who have forgotten about it. There are quite a few of them now. It makes no difference in my demeanor to them, but I only wish that I could forget. I meet Todd very frequently. Only two nights ago I met him out at dinner and he was talking, apparently without self consciousness, about Poland. He said that Poland would never pay her debts. You’d think a thing like that would remind him, wouldn’t you? But it didn’t seem to. But meantime. a thought – rather painful thought – has begun to come into my mind at intervals. It is this-. ”If Todd owes a dollar and has forgotten it, it is possible – indeed it is theoretically probable – that there must be men to whom I owe a dollar which I have forgotten. There may be a list of them. The more I think of it the less I like it, because I am quite sure that if I had once forgotten a dollar, I should never pay it, on this side of the grave.”
If there are such men I want them to speak out. Not all at once: but in reasonable numbers, as far as may be in alphabetical order, and I will immediately, write their names down on paper. I don’t count here men who may have lent me an odd dollar over a bridge table; and I am not thinking (indeed I am taking care not to think) of the man who lent me thirty cents to pay for a bottle of plain soda in the Detroit Athletic Club last month. I always find that there’s nothing like plain soda after a tiring ride across the Canada frontier, and that man who advanced that thirty cents knows exactly why I felt that I had done enough for him. But if any man ever lent me a dollar to pay for a taxi when I was starting for Bermuda, I want to pay it. More than that; I want to start a general movement, a Back to Honesty movement, for paying all these odd dollars that are borrowed in moments of expansion. Let us remember that the greatest nations were built upon the rock basis of absolute honesty.