CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND
"The Little Moment of Happiness," "The High Flyers," "Sudden Jim," "The Source," "The Hidden Spring," etc.
Bonbright Foote VI arose and stood behind the long table which served him as a desk and extended his hand across it. His bearing was that of a man taking a leading part in an event of historic importance.
"My son," said he, "it gratifies me to welcome you to your place in this firm." Then he smiled. When Bonbright Foote VI smiled it was as though he said to himself, "To smile one must do thus and so with the features," and then systematically put into practice his instructions. It was a cultured smile, one that could have been smiled only by a gentleman conscious of generations of correct antecedents; it was an aristocratic smile. On the whole it was not unpleasant, though so excellently and formally done.
"Thank you, father," replied Bonbright Foote VII. "I hope I shall be of some use to you."
"Your office is ready for you," said his father, stepping to a door which he unlocked with the gravity of a man laying a corner stone. "This door," said he, "has not been opened since I took my place at the head of the business—since I moved from the desk you are to occupy to the one in this room. It will not be closed again until the time arrives for you to assume command. We have—we Footes—always regarded this open door as a patent token of partnership between father and son."
Young Foote was well acquainted with this—as a piece of his family's regalia. He knew he was about to enter and to labor in the office of the heir apparent, a room which had been tenantless since the death of his grandfather and the consequent coronation of his father. Such was the custom. For twelve years that office had been closed and waiting. None had ventured into it, except for a janitor whose weekly dustings and cleanings had been performed with scrupulous care. He knew that Bonbright Foote VI had occupied the room for seventeen years. Before that it had stood vacant eleven years awaiting for Bonbright Foote VI to reach such age and attainments as were essential. Young Foote realized that upon the death of his father the office would be closed again until his son, Bonbright Foote VIII, should be equipped, by time and the university founded by John Harvard, to enter as he was entering to-day. So the thing had been done since the first Bonbright Foote invested Bonbright Foote II with dignities and powers.
Father and son entered the long-closed office, a large, indeed a stately room. It contained the same mahogany table at which Bonbright Foote II had worked; the same chairs, the same fittings, the same pictures hung on the walls, that had been the property of the first crown prince of the Foote dynasty. It was not a bright place, suggestive of liveliness or gayety, but it was decorously inviting—a place in which one could work with comfort and satisfaction.
"Let me see you at your desk," said the father, smiling again. "I have looked forward to seeing you there, just as you will look forward to seeing YOUR son there."
Bonbright sat down, wondering if his father had felt oppressed as HE felt oppressed at this moment. He had a feeling of stepping from one existence into another, almost of stepping from one body, one identity, to another. When he sat at that desk he would be taking up, not his own career, but the career of the entity who had occupied this office through generations, and would occupy it in perpetual succession. Vaguely he began to miss something. The sensation was like that of one who has long worn a ring on his finger, but omits to put it on one morning. For that person there is a vague sense of something missing throughout the day. Bonbright did not know what he felt the lack of—it was his identity.
"For the next month or so," said his father, "about all you can hope to do is to become acquainted with the plant and with our methods. Rangar will always be at your disposal to explain or to give you desired information. I think it would be well if he were to conduct you through the plant. It will give you a basis to work from."
"The plant is still growing, I see," said Bonbright. "It seems as if a new building were being put up every time I come home."
"Yes, growing past the prophecy of any of our predecessors," said his father. He paused. "I am not certain," he said, as one who asks a question of his inner self, "but I would have preferred a slower, more conservative growth."
"The automobile has done it, of course."
"Axles," said his father, with a hint of distaste. "The manufacturing of rear axles has overshadowed everything else. We retain as much of the old business—the manufacturing of machinery—as ever. Indeed, THAT branch has shown a healthy growth. But axles! A mushroom that has overgrown us in a night."
It was apparent that Bonbright Foote VI did not approve of axles, as it was a known fact that he frowned upon automobiles. He would not own one of them. They were too new, too blatant. His stables were still stables. His coachman had not been transmuted into a chauffeur. When he drove it was in a carriage drawn by horses—as his ancestors had driven.
"Yes... yes..." he said, slowly, with satisfaction, "it is good to have you in the business, son. It's a satisfaction to see you sitting there.... Now we must look about to find a suitable girl for you to marry. We must begin to think about Bonbright Foote VIII." There was no smile as he said this; the observation was made in sober earnest. Bonbright saw that, just as his ancestors looked to him to carry on the business, so they looked to him to produce with all convenient dispatch a male successor to himself. It was, so to speak, an important feature of his job.
"I'll send in Rangar," said his father, not waiting for Bonbright to reply to the last suggestion, and walked with long-legged dignity out of the room.
Bonbright rested his chin on his palm and stared gloomily at the wall. He felt bound and helpless; he saw himself surrounded by firm and dignified shades of departed Bonbright Footes whose collective wills compelled him to this or prohibited that course of action.
Adventure, chance, were eliminated from his life. He was to be no errant musician, improvising according to his mood; the score he was to play was before him, and he must play it note for note, paying strict attention to rests, keys, andantes, fortissimos, pianissimos. He had been born to this, had been made conscious of his destiny from babyhood, but never had he comprehended it as he did on this day of his investiture.
Even the selection and courting of a mate, that greatest of all adventures (to the young), was made humdrum. Doubtless his mother already had selected the girl, and presently would marry him to her. ... Somehow this was the one phase of the situation that galled him most.
"I'll see about that," he muttered, rebelliously, "I'll see about that."
Not that marriage was of importance to him yet, except as a thing to be avoided until some dim future. Women had not assumed consequence to him; his relations with them had been scant surface relations. They were creatures who did or did not please the eye, who did or did not dance well, who did or did not amuse one. That was all. He was only twenty-three.
Rangar, his father's secretary, and the man who stood as shield between Bonbright Foote VI and unpleasant contacts with his business and the world's business, entered. Rangar was a capable man whose place as secretary to the head of the business did not measure his importance in the organization. Another man of his abilities and opportunity and position would have carried the title of general manager or vice president—something respect-carrying. As for Rangar, he was content. He drew the salary that would have accompanied those other titles, possessed in an indirect sort of way the authority, and yet managed to remain disentangled from the responsibilities. Had he suddenly vanished the elder Foote would have been left suspended in rarefied heights between heaven and his business, lacking direct contact with the mills and machine shops and foundries; yet, doubtless, would have been unable to realize that the loss of Rangar had left him so. Rangar was a competent, efficient man, if peculiar in his ambitions.
"Your father," said he, "has asked me to show you through the plant."
"Thank you—yes," said Bonbright, rising.
They went out, passing from the old, the family, wing of the office building, into the larger, newer, general offices, made necessary by the vastly increased business of the firm. Here, in a huge room, were bookkeepers, stenographers, clerks, filing cabinets, desks, typewriters—with several cubicles glassed off for the more important employees and minor executives.
"We have tried," said Rangar, "to retain as far as possible the old methods and systems. Your father, Mr. Foote, is conservative. He clings to the ways of his father and his grandfather."
"I remember," said Bonbright, "when we had no typewriting machines."
"We had to come to them," said Rangar, with a note of regret. "Axles compelled us. But we have never taken up with these new contraptions —fads—like phonographs to dictate to, card indices, loose-leaf systems, adding machines, and the like. Of course it requires more clerks and stenographers, and possibly we are a bit slower than some. Your father says, however, that he prefers conducting his business as a gentleman should, rather than to make a mere machine of it. His idea," said Rangar, "of a gentleman in business is one who refuses to make use of abbreviations in his correspondence."
Bonbright was looking about the busy room, conscious that he was being covertly studied by every occupant of it. It made him uncomfortable, uneasy.
"Let's go on into the shops," he said, impatiently.
They turned, and encountered in the aisle a girl with a stenographer's notebook in her hand; indeed, Bonbright all but stepped on her. She was a slight, tiny thing, not thin, but small. Her eyes met Bonbright's eyes and she grinned. No other word can describe it. It was not an impertinent grin, nor a familiar grin, nor a COMMON grin. It was spontaneous, unstudied—it lay at the opposite end of the scale from Bonbright Foote VI's smile. Somehow the flash of it COMFORTED Bonbright. His sensations responded to it. It was a grin that radiated with well wishes for all the world. Bonbright smiled back, awkwardly, and bobbed his head as she stepped aside for him to pass.
"What a grin!" he said, presently.
"Oh," said Rangar. "Yes—to be sure. The Girl with the Grin—that's what they call her in the office. She's always doing it. Your father hasn't noticed. I hope he doesn't, for I'm sure he wouldn't like it."
"As if," said Bonbright to himself, "she were happy—and wanted everybody else to be."
"I'm sure I don't know," said Rangar. "She's competent."
They passed outside and through a covered passageway into the older of the shops. Bonbright was not thinking about the shops, but about the girl. She was the only thing he had encountered that momentous morning that had interested him, the only thing upon which Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, had not set the stamp of its repressing personality.
He tried to visualize her and her smile that he might experience again that sensation of relief, of lightened spirit. In a measure he was able to do so. Her mouth was large, he saw—no small mouth could have managed that grin. She was not pretty, but, somehow, attractive. Her eyes were bully; intelligent, humorous sort of eyes, he decided.
"Bet she's a darn nice kid," he concluded, boyishly. His father would have been shocked at a thought expressed in such words.
"The business has done wonders these last five years," said Rangar, intruding on Bonbright's thoughts. "Five years ago we employed less than a thousand hands; to-day we have more than five thousand on the payroll. Another few years and we shall have ten thousand."
"Axles?" asked Bonbright, mechanically.
"Axles," replied Rangar.
"Father doesn't approve of them—but they must be doing considerable for the family bank account."
Rangar shot a quick glance at the boy, a glance with reproof in it for such a flippancy. Vaguely he had heard that this young man had done things not expected from a Foote; had, for instance, gone in for athletics at the university. It was reported he had actually allowed himself to be carried once on the shoulders of a cheering mob of students! There were other rumors, also, which did not sit well on the Foote tradition. Rangar wondered if at last a Foote had been born into the family who was not off the old piece of cloth, who might, indeed, prove difficult and disappointing. The flippancy indicated it.
"Our inventory," he said, severely, "five years ago, showed a trifle over a million dollars. To-day these mills would show a valuation of five millions. The earnings," he added, "have increased in even greater ratio."
"Hum," said Bonbright, his mind already elsewhere. His thought, unspoken, was, "If we've got so blamed much, what's the use piling it up?"
At noon they had not finished the inspection of the plant; it was well toward five o'clock when they did so, for Rangar did his duty conscientiously. His explanations were long, careful, technical. Bonbright set his mind to the task and listened well. He was even interested, for there were interesting things to see, processes requiring skilled men, machines that had required inventive genius to devise. He began to be oppressed by the bigness of it. The plant was huge; it was enormously busy. The whole world seemed to need axles, preferably Foote axles, and to need them in a hurry.
At last, a trifle dazed, startled by the vastness of the domain to which he was heir apparent, Bonbright returned to the aloof quiet of his historic room.
"I've a lot to learn," he told Rangar.
"It will grow on you.... By the way, you will need a secretary." (The Footes had secretaries, not stenographers.) "Shall I select one for you?"
"Yes," said Bonbright, without interest; then he looked up quickly. "No," he said, "I've selected my own. You say that girl—the one who grinned—is competent?"
"Yes, indeed—but a girl! It has been the custom for the members of the firm to employ only men."
Bonbright looked steadily at Rangar a moment, then said:
"Please have that girl notified at once that she is to be my secretary."
"Yes, sir," said Rangar. The boy WAS going to prove difficult. He owned a will. Well, thought the man, others may have had it in the family before—but it has not remained long.
"Anything more, Mr. Foote?"
"Thank you, no," said Bonbright, and Rangar said good evening and disappeared.
The boy rested his chin on his hand again, and reflected gloomily. He hunched up his shoulders and sighed. "Anyhow," he said to himself, "I'll have SOMEBODY around me who is human."
Bonbright's father had left the office an hour before he and Rangar had finished their tour of the works. It was always his custom to leave his business early and to retire to the library in his home, where daily he devoted two hours to adding to the manuscript of The Philosophical Biography of Marquis Lafayette. This work was ultimately to appear in several severe volumes and was being written, not so much to enlighten the world upon the details of the career of the marquis as it was to utilize the marquis as a clotheshorse to be dressed in Bonbright Foote VI's mature reflections on men, events, and humanity at large.
Bonbright VII sat at his desk motionless, studying his career as it lay circumscribed before him. He did not study it rebelliously, for as yet rebellion had not occurred to him. The idea that he might assert his individuality and depart from the family pattern had not ventured to show its face. For too many years had his ancestors been impressing him with his duty to the family traditions. He merely studied it, as one who has no fancy for geometry will study geometry, because it cannot be helped. The path was there, carefully staked out and bordered; to-day his feet had been placed on it, and now he must walk. As he sat he looked ahead for bypaths—none were visible.
The shutting-down whistle aroused him. He walked out through the rapidly emptying office to the street, and there he stood, interested by the spectacle of the army that poured out of the employees' entrances. It was an inundation of men, flooding street from sidewalk to sidewalk. It jostled and joked and scuffled, sweating, grimy, each unit of it eager to board waiting, overcrowded street cars, where acute discomfort would be suffered until distant destinations were reached. Somehow the sight of that surging, tossing stream of humanity impressed Bonbright with the magnitude of Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, even more than the circuit of the immense plant had done.
Five thousand men, in a newspaper paragraph, do not affect the imagination. Five thousand men in the concrete are quite another matter, especially if you suddenly realize that each of them has a wife, probably children, and that the whole are dependent upon the dynasty of which you are a member for their daily bread.
"Father and I," he said to himself, as the sudden shock of the idea impacted against his consciousness, "are SUPPORTING that whole mob."
It gave him a sense of mightiness. It presented itself to him in that instant that he was not a mere business man, no mere manufacturer, but a commander of men—more than that, a lord over the destinies of men. It was overwhelming. This realization of his potency made him gasp. Bonbright was very young.
He turned, to be carried on by the current. Presently it was choked. A stagnant pool of humanity formed around some center, pressing toward it curiously. This center was a tiny park, about which the street divided, and the center was a man standing on a barrel by the side of a sign painted on cloth. The man was speaking in a loud, clear voice, which was able to make itself perfectly audible even to Bonbright on the extreme edge of the mass.
"You are helpless as individuals," the man was saying. "If one of you has a grievance, what can he do?... Nothing. You are a flock of sheep.... If ALL of you have a grievance, what can you do? You are still a pack of sheep.... Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, owns you, body and soul.... Suppose this Foote who does you the favor to let you earn millions for him—suppose he wants to buy his wife a diamond necklace.... What's to prevent him lowering your wages next week to pay for it?... YOU couldn't stop him!... Why can an army beat a mob of double its numbers? Because the army is ORGANIZED! Because the army fights as one man for one object!... You are a mob. Capital is organized against you.... How can you hope to defend yourselves? How can you force a betterment of your conditions, of your wage?... By becoming an army—a labor army!... By organizing.... That's why I'm here, sent by the National Federation—to organize you. To show you how to resist!... To teach you how to make yourselves irresistible!..." There were shouts and cheers which blotted out the speaker's words. Then Bonbright heard him again:
"Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, is entitled to fair interest on the money it has invested in its plant. It is entitled to a fair profit on the raw materials it uses in manufacture.... But how much of the final cost of its axles does raw material represent? A fraction! What gives the axles the rest of their value?... LABOR! You men are paid two, three, some of you even four dollars a day—for your labor. Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, adds a little pig iron to your labor, and gives you a place to work in, and takes his millions of dollars a year.... Do you get your fair share?... You do NOT, and you will never get a respectable fraction of your fair share till you organize—and seize it."
There was more. Bonbright had never heard the like of it before and it fascinated him. Here was a point of view that was new to him. What did it mean? Vaguely he had heard of Socialism, of labor unions, of the existence of a spirit of suspicion and discord between capital and labor. Now he saw it, face uncovered starkly.
A moment before he had realized his power over these men; now he perceived that these men, some of them, realized it even better than he.... Realized it and resented it; resented it and fought with all the strength of their souls to undermine it and make it topple in ruin.
His mind was a caldron into which cross currents of thought poured and tossed. He had no experience to draw on. Here was a thing he was being plunged into all unprepared. It had taken him unprepared, and shaken him as he had never been shaken before. He turned away.
Half a dozen feet away he saw the Girl with the Grin—not grinning now, but tense, pale, listening with her soul in her eyes, and with the light of enthusiasm glowing beside it.
He walked to her side, touched her shoulder.... It was unpremeditated, something besides his own will had urged him to speak to her.
"I don't understand it," he said, unsteadily.
"Your class never does," she replied, not sharply, not as a retort, but merely as one states a fact to give enlightenment.
"My father," she said, "was killed leading the strikers at Homestead. ... The unions educated me."
"What is this man—this speaker—trying to do? Stir up a riot?"
She smiled. "No. He is an organizer sent by the National Federation. ... They're going to try to unionize our plant."
"Bonbright Foote, Incorporated," she said, "is a non-union shop."
"I didn't know," said he, after a brief pause. "I'm afraid I don't understand these things.... I suppose one should know about them if he is to own a plant like ours." Again he paused while he fumbled for an idea that was taking shape. "I suppose one should understand about his employees just as much as he does about his machinery."
She looked at him with a touch of awakened interest. "Do you class men with machinery?" she asked, well knowing that was not his meaning. He did not reply. Presently he said:
"Rangar told you you were to be my secretary?"
"Yes, sir," she said, using that respectful form for the first time. The relation of employer and employee had been re-established by his words. "Thank you for the promotion."
"You understand what this is all about," he said. "I shall want to ask you about it.... Perhaps you even know the man who is speaking?"
"He boards with my mother," said she. "That was natural," she added, "my father being who he was."
Bonbright turned and looked at the speaker with curiosity awakened as to the man's personality. The man was young—under thirty, and handsome in a black, curly, quasi-foreign manner.
Bonbright turned his eyes from the man to the girl at his side. "He looks—" said Bonbright.
"How?" she asked, when it was apparent he was not going to finish.
"As if," he said, musingly, "he wouldn't be the man to call on for a line smash in the last quarter of a tough game."
Suddenly the speech came to an end, and the crowd poured on.
"Good night," said the girl. "I must find Mr. Dulac. I promised I would walk home with him."
"Good night," said Bonbright. "His name is Dulac?"
Men like Dulac—the work they were engaged upon—had not fallen within the circle of Bonbright's experience. Bonbright's training and instincts had all been aristocratic. At Harvard he had belonged to the most exclusive clubs and had associated with youths of training similar to his. In his athletics there had been something democratic, but nothing to impress him with democracy. Where college broadens some men by its contacts it had not broadened Bonbright, for his contacts had been limited to individuals chipped from the same strata as himself.... In his home life, before going to college, this had been even more marked. As some boys are taught arithmetic and table manners, Bonbright had been taught veneration for his family, appreciation for his position in the world, and to look upon himself and the few associates of his circumscribed world as selected stock, looked upon with especial favor and graciousness by the Creator of the universe.
Therefore this sudden dip into reality set him shivering more than it would another who entered the water by degrees. It upset him.... The man Dulac stirred to life in him something that was deeper than mere curiosity.
"Miss—" said he, and paused. "I really don't know your name."
"Frazer," she supplied.
"Miss Frazer, I should like to meet this Dulac. Would you be willing?"
She considered. It was an unusual request in unusual circumstances, but why not? She looked up into his boyish face and smiled. "Why not?" she said, aloud.
They pressed forward through the crowd until they reached Dulac, standing beside his barrel, surrounded by a little knot of men. He saw the girl approaching, and lifted his hand in acknowledgment of her presence. Presently he came to her, casting a careless glance at Bonbright.
"Mr. Dulac," she said, "Mr. Foote has been listening to your speech. He wants to meet you."
"Foote!" said Dulac. "Not—"
"Mr. Bonbright Foote," said the girl.
Evidently the man was nonplussed. He stared at Bonbright, who extended his hand. Dulac looked at it, took it mechanically.
"I heard what you were saying, Mr. Dulac," said Bonbright. "I had never heard anything like it before—so I wanted to meet you."
Dulac recovered himself, perceived that here was an opportunity, and spoke loudly so that the staring, interested workingmen, who now surrounded them, could hear distinctly.
"I'm glad you were present," said he. "It is not often we workingmen catch the ear of you employers so readily. You sit apart from your men in comfortable offices or in luxurious homes, so they get little opportunity to talk straight from the shoulder to you.... Even if they had the chance," he said, with a look about him, "they would not dare. To be respectful and to show no resentment mean their bread and butter."
"Resentment?" said Bonbright. "You see I am new to the business and to this. What is it they resent?"
"They resent being exploited for the profit of men like yourself.... They resent your having the power of life and death over them...."
The girl stood looking from one man to the other; from Dulac, tall, picturesquely handsome, flamboyant, conscious of the effect of each word and gesture, to Bonbright, equally tall, something broader, boyish, natural in his unease, his curiosity. She saw how like he was to his slender, aristocratic father. She compared the courtesy of his manner toward Dulac with Dulac's studied brusqueness, conscious that the boy was natural, honest, really endeavoring to find out what this thing was all about; equally conscious that Dulac was exercising the tricks of the platform and utilizing the situation theatrically. Yet he was utilizing it for a purpose with which she was heart and soul in sympathy. It was right he should do so....
"I wish we might sit down and talk about it," said Bonbright. "There seem to be two sides in the works, mine and father's—and the men. I don't see why there should be, and I'd like to have you tell me. You see, this is my first day in the business, so I don't understand my own side of it, or why I should have a side—much less the side of the men. I hadn't imagined anything of the sort.... I wish you would tell me all about it. Will you?"
The boy's tone was so genuine, his demeanor so simple and friendly, that Dulac's weapons were quite snatched from his hands. A crowd of the men he was sent to organize was looking on—a girl was looking on. He felt the situation demanded he should show he was quite as capable of courtesy as this young sprig of the aristocracy, for he knew comparisons were being made between them.
"Why," said he, "certainly.... I shall be glad to."
"Thank you," said Bonbright. "Good night." He turned to the girl and lifted his hat. "Thank YOU," said he, and eyes in which there was no unfriendliness followed him as he walked away, eyes of men whom Dulac was recruiting for the army of the "other side" of the social struggle.
He hurried home because he wanted to see his father and to discuss this thing with him.
"If there is a conflict," he said to himself, "in our business, workingmen against employer, I suppose I am on the employer's side. THEY have their reasons. We must have our reasons, too. I must have father explain it all to me."
His mother called to him as he was ascending the stairs:
"Be as quick as you can, Bonbright. We have guests at dinner to- night."
"Some one I know?"
"I think not," His mother hesitated. "We were not acquainted when you went to college, but they have become very prominent in the past four years.... Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Lightener—and their daughter,"
Bonbright noticed the slight pause before the mention of the daughter, and looked quickly at his mother. She looked as quickly away.
"All right, mother," he said.
He went to his room with another disturbance added to the many that disquieted him. Just as certainly as if his mother had put it into words he knew she had selected this Lightener girl to be Mrs. Bonbright Foote VII—and the mother of Bonbright Foote VIII.
"Confound it," he said, "it's started already.... Dam Bonbright Foote VIII!"
Bonbright dressed with a consciousness that he was to be on exhibition. He wondered if the girl had done the same; if she, too, knew why she was there and that it was her duty to make a favorable impression on him, as it was his duty to attract her. It was embarrassing. For a young man of twenty-three to realize that his family expects him to make himself alluring to a desirable future wife whom he has never seen is not calculated to soothe his nerves or mantle him with calmness. He felt silly.
However, here HE was, and there SHE would be. There was nothing for it but to put his best foot forward, now he was caught for the event, but he vowed it would require more than ordinary skill to entrap him for another similar occasion. It seemed to him at the moment that the main object of his life thenceforward would be, as he expressed it, "to duck" Miss Lightener.
When he went down the guests had arrived. His mother presented him, using proudly her formula for such meetings, "Our son." Somehow it always made him feel like an inanimate object of virtue—as if she had said "our Rembrandt," or, "our Chippendale sideboard."
Mrs. Lightener did not impress him. Here was a quiet, motherly personality, a personality to grow upon one through months and years. At first meeting she seemed only a gray-haired, shy, silent sort of person, not to be spoken of by herself as Mrs. Lightener, but in the reflected rays of her husband, as Malcolm Lightener's wife.
But Malcolm Lightener—he dominated the room as the Laocoon group would dominate a ten by twelve "parlor." His size was only a minor element in that impression. True, he was as great in bulk as Bonbright and his father rolled in one, towering inches above them, and they were tall men. It was the jagged, dynamic, granite personality of him that jutted out to meet one almost with physical impact. You were conscious of meeting a force before you became conscious of meeting a man. And yet, when you came to study his face you found it wonderfully human—even with a trace of granite humor in it.
Bonbright was really curious to meet this man, whose story had reached him even in Harvard University. Here was a man who, in ten years of such dogged determination as affected one almost with awe, had turned a vision into concrete reality. In a day when the only mechanical vehicles upon our streets were trolley cars, he had seen those streets thronged with "horseless carriages." He had seen streets packed from curb to curb with endless moving processions of them. He had seen the nation abandon its legs and take to motor- driven wheels. This had been his vision, and he had made it reality.
From the place of a master mechanic, at four dollars a day, he had followed his vision, until the world acknowledged him one of her richest men, one of her greatest geniuses for organization. In ten years, lifting himself by his boot straps, he had promoted himself from earnings of twelve hundred dollars a year to twelve million dollars a year.... He interested Bonbright as a great adventurer.
To Hilda Lightener he was presented last. He had expected, hoped, to be unfavorably impressed; he had known he would be ill at ease, and that any attempts he made at conversation would be stiff and stilted. ... It was some moments after his presentation when he realized he felt none of these unpleasant things. She had shaken hands with him boyishly; her eyes had twinkled into his—and he was at his ease. Afterward he studied over the thing, but could not comprehend it.... It had been as if he were encountering, after a separation, a friend of years—not a girl friend, but a friend with no complications of sex.
She was tall, nearly as tall as Bonbright, and she favored her father. Not that the granite was there. She was not beautiful, not even pretty—but you liked her looks. Bonbright liked her looks.
At table Bonbright was seated facing Hilda Lightener. His father at once took charge of the conversation, giving the boy a breathing space to collect and appraise his impressions. Presently Mr. Foote said, impressively:
"This is an important day in our family, Lightener. My son entered the business this morning."
Lightener turned his massive, immobile face toward the boy, his expression not inviting, yet the seeing might have marked the ghost of a twinkle in his gray eyes.
"Um.... Any corrections, amendments, or substitutions to offer?" he demanded.
Bonbright looked at him, obviously not comprehending the sarcasm.
"Most young spriggins I take into MY business," said Lightener, "think a whole day's experience equips them to take hold and make the whole thing over.... They can show me where I'm all wrong."
Bonbright smiled, not happily. He was not accustomed to this sort of humor, and did not know how to respond to it.
"It was so big," he said. "It sort of weighed me down—yet—somehow I didn't get interested till after the whistle blew."
"That's what interests most of 'em—getting out of the place after the whistle blows."
"Dad!" said Hilda. "What was it interested you then, Mr. Foote?"
"The men," said Bonbright—"that great mob of men pouring out of the gates and filling the street.... Somehow they seemed to stand for the business more than all the buildings full of machinery.... I stood and watched them."
Interest kindled in Lightener's eyes. "Yes?" he prompted.
"It never occurred to me before that being at the head of a business meant—meant commanding so many men... meant exercising power over all those lives.... Then there were the wives and children at home...."
Bonbright's father leaned forward icily. "Son," he said, coldly, "you haven't been picking up any queer notions in college?"
"Socialistic, anarchistic notions. That sort of thing."
"I don't believe," said Bonbright, with utter honesty, "that I ever gave the workingman a thought till to-day.... That's why it hit me so hard, probably."
"It hit you, eh?" said Lightener. He lifted his hand abruptly to motion to silence Mr. Foote, who seemed about to interrupt. "Leave the boy alone, Foote.... This is interesting. Never saw just this thing happen before.... It hit you hard, eh?"
"It was the realization of the power of large employers of labor— like father and yourself, sir."
"Was that all?"
"At first.... Then there was a fellow on a barrel making a speech about us.... I listened, and found out the workingmen realize that we are sort of czars or some such thing—and resent it. I supposed things were different. This Dulac was sent here to organize our men into a union—just why I didn't understand, but he promised to explain it to me."
"WHAT?" demanded Bonbright Foote VI, approaching nearer than his wife had ever seen him to losing his poise.
"You talked to him?" asked Hilda, leaning forward in her interest.
"I was introduced to him; I wanted to know.... He was a handsome fellow. Not a gentleman, of course—"
"Oh!" Lightener pounced on that expression. "Not a gentleman, eh?... Expect to find the Harvard manner in a man preaching riot from a potato barrel?... Well, well, what did he say? How did HE affect you?"
"He seemed to think the men resented our power over them. Just how correctly he stated their feeling I don't know, of course. They cheered his speech, however.... He said father had the power to buy mother a diamond necklace to-morrow, and cut their wages to pay for it—and they couldn't help themselves."
"I don't know. I didn't understand it all, but it didn't seem right that those men should feel that way toward us. I want to talk to father about it—have him explain it to me."
Lightener chuckled and turned to Mr. Foote. "I don't suppose you appreciate the humor of that, Foote, the way I do. He's coming to you for an unbiased explanation of why your employees—feel that way.... Young fellow," he turned to Bonbright again—"I could come closer to doing it than your father—because I was one of them once. I used to come home with grease on my hands and a smudge on my nose, smelling of sweat." Mrs. Foote repressed a shudder and lowered her eyes. "But I couldn't be fair about it. Your father has no more chance of explaining the thing to you—than my wife has of explaining the theory of an internal-combustion engine.... We employers can't do it. We're on the other side. We can't see anything but our own side of it."
"Come now, Lightener, I'm fair-minded. I've even given some study to the motives of men."
"And you're writing a book." He shrugged his shoulders. "The sort of philosophical reflections that go in books aren't the sort to answer when you're up against the real thing in social unrest.... In your whole business life you've never really come into contact with your men. Now be honest, have you?"
"I've always delegated that sort of thing to subordinates," said Mr. Foote, stiffly.
"Which," retorted Mr. Lightener, "is one of the reasons for the unrest.... That's it. We don't understand what they're up against, nor what we do to aggravate them."
"It's the inevitable warfare between capital and labor," said Mr. Foote. "Jealousy is at the root of it; unsound theories, like this of socialism, and too much freedom of speech make it all but unbearable."
"Dulac said they must organize to be in condition to fight us."
"Organize," said Mr. Foote, contemptuously. "I'll have no unions in my shop. There never have been unions and there never shall be. I'll put a sudden stop to that.... Pretty idea, when the men I pay wages to, the men I feed and clothe, can dictate to me how I shall conduct my affairs."
"Yes," said Lightener, "we automobile fellows are non-union, but how long we can maintain it I don't know. They have their eyes on us and they're mighty hungry."
"To-morrow morning," said Mr. Foote, "notices will appear in every department stating that any man who affiliates with a labor union will be summarily dismissed."
"Maybe that will end the thing this time, Foote, but it'll be back. It 'll be back."
Hilda leaned forward again and whispered to Bonbright, "You're not getting much enlightenment, are you?" Her eyes twinkled; it was like her father's twinkle, but more charming.
"How," he asked, slowly, "are we ever to make anything of it if we, on the employers' side, can't understand their point of view, and they can't understand ours?"
Mrs. Foote arose. "Let's not take labor unions into the other room with us," she said.
Bonbright and Hilda walked in together and immediately engaged in comfortable conversation; not the sort of nonsense talk usually resorted to by a young man and a young woman on their first meeting. They had no awkwardness to overcome, nor was either striving to make an impression on the other. Bonbright had forgotten who this girl was, and why she was present, until he saw his mother and Mrs. Lightener approach each other, cast covert glances in their direction, and then observe something with evident pleasure.
"They seem attracted by each other," Mrs. Foote said.
"He's a nice boy," replied Mrs. Lightener. "I think you're right."
"An excellent beginning. Propinquity and opportunity ought to do the rest.... We can see to that."
Bonbright understood what they were saying as if he had heard it; bit his lips and looked ruefully from the mothers to Hilda. Her eyes had just swung from the same point to HIS face, and there was a dancing, quizzical light in them. SHE understood, too. Bonbright blushed at this realization.
"Isn't it funny?" said Hilda, with a little chuckle. "Mothers are always doing it, though."
"What?" he asked, fatuously.
"Rubbish!" she said. "Don't pretend not to understand. I knew YOU knew what was up the moment you came into the room and looked at me. ... You—dodged."
"I'm sure I didn't," he replied, thrown from his equilibrium by her directness, her frankness, so like her father's landslide directness.
"Yes, you dodged. You had made up your mind never to be caught like this again, hadn't you? To make it your life work to keep out of my way?"
He dared to look at her directly, and was reassured.
"Something like that," he responded, with miraculous frankness for a Foote.
"Just because they want us to we don't have to do it," she said, reassuringly.
"I suppose not."
"I'm a Foote, you know, Bonbright Foote VII. I do things I'm told to do. The last six generations have planned it all out for me.... We do things according to inherited schedules.... Probably it sounds funny to you, but you haven't any idea what pressure six generations can bring to bear." He was talking jerkily, under stress of emotion. He had never opened his mouth on this subject to a human being before, had not believed it possible to be on such terms with anybody as to permit him to unbosom himself. Yet here he was, baring his woes to a girl he had known but an hour.
"Of course," she said, with her soft, throaty chuckle, "if you really feel you have to.... But I haven't any six generations forcing ME. Or do you think yours will take me in hand?"
"It isn't a joke to me," he said. "How would you like it if the unexpected—chance—had been carefully weeded out of your future?... It makes things mighty flat and uninteresting. I'm all wrapped up in family traditions and precedents so I can't wriggle—like an Indian baby.... Even THIS wouldn't be so rotten if it were myself they were thinking about. But they're not. I'm only an incident in the family, so far as this goes.... It's Bonbright Foote VIII they're fussing about.... It's my duty to see to it there's a Bonbright Foote VIII promptly."
She didn't sympathize with him, or call him "poor boy," as so many less natural, less comprehending girls would have done.
"I haven't the least idea in the world," she said, "whether I'll ever want to marry you or not—and you can't have a notion whether you'll want me. Suppose we just don't bother about it? We can't avoid each other—they'll see to that. We might as well be comfortably friendly, and not go shying off from each other. If it should happen we do want to marry each other—why, all right. But let's just forget it. I'm sure I sha'n't marry you just because a lot of your ancestors want me to.... Folks don't fall in love to order—and you can put this away carefully in your mind—when I marry it will be because I've fallen in love."
"You're very like your father," he said.
"Rushing in where angels fear to tread, you mean? Yes, dad's more direct than diplomatic, and I inherit it.... Is it a bargain?"
"To be friends, and not let our mammas worry us.... I like you."
"Really?" he asked, diffidently.
"Really," she said.
"I like you, too," he said, boyishly.
"We'll take in our Keep Off the Grass signs, then," she said. "Mother and father seem to be going." She stood up and extended her hand. "Good night, chum," she said. To herself she was saying what she was too wise to say aloud: "Poor kid! A chum is what he needs."
Bonbright's first day in the plant had carried no suggestion from his father as to what his work was actually to be. He had merely walked about, listening to Rangar's expositions of processes and systems. After he was in bed that night he began to wonder what work would fall to him. What work had it been the custom for the heir apparent to perform? What work had his father and grandfather and great- grandfather performed when their positions were his position to- day?... Vaguely he recognized his incompetence to administer anything of importance. Probably, little by little, detail by detail, matters would be placed under his jurisdiction until he was safely functioning in the family groove.
His dreams that night were of a reluctant, nightmarish passage down a huge groove, a monotonous groove, whose smooth, insurmountable sides offered no hint of variety.... As he looked ahead he could see nothing but this straight groove stretching into infinity. Always he was disturbed and made wretched by a consciousness of movement, of varied life and activity, of adventure, of thrill, outside the groove, but invisible, unreachable.... He strove to clamber up the glassy sides, only to slip back, realizing the futility of the EFFORT.
He breakfasted alone, before his father or mother was about, and left the house on foot, driven by an aching restlessness. It was early. The factory whistle had not yet blown when he reached the gates, but already men carrying lunch boxes were arriving in a yawning, sleepy stream.... Now Bonbright knew why he had arisen early and why he had come here. It was to see this flood of workmen again; to scrutinize them, to puzzle over them and their motives and their unrest. He leaned against the wall and watched.
He was recognized. Here and there a man offered him good morning with a friendliness of tone that surprised Bonbright. A good many men spoke to him respectfully; more regarded him curiously; some hopefully. It was the occasional friendly smile that affected him. One such smile from an older workman, a man of intelligent face, of shrewd, gray eyes, caused Bonbright to move from his place to the man's side.
"I don't know your name, of course," he said, diffidently.
"Hooper," said the man, pleasantly.
"The men seem to know me," Bonbright said. "I was a little surprised. I only came yesterday, you know."
"Yes," said Hooper, "they know who you are."
"They seemed—-almost friendly."
Hooper looked sharply at the young man. "It's because," said he, "they're pinning hopes to you."
"Labor can't get anywhere until it makes friends in the ranks of the employers," said Hooper. "I guess most of the men don't understand that—even most of the leaders, but it's so. It's got to be so if we get what we must have without a revolution."
Bonbright pondered this. "The men think I may be their friend?"
"Some saw you last night, and some heard you talk to Dulac. Most of them have heard about it now."
"That was it?... Thank you, Mr. Hooper."
Bonbright went up to his office, where he stood at the window, looking down upon the thickening stream of men as the minute for the starting whistle approached.... So he was of some importance, in the eyes of the workingmen, at least! They saw hope in his friendship. ... He shrugged his shoulders. What could his friendship do for them? He was impotent to help or harm. Bitterly he thought that if the men wanted friendship that would be worth anything to them, they should cultivate his dead forbears.
Presently he turned to his desk and wrote some personal letters—as a distraction. He did not know what else to do. There was nothing connected with the plant that he could set his hand to. It seemed to him he was just present, like a blank wall, whose reason for existence was merely to be in a certain place.
He was conscious of voices in his father's room, and after a time his father entered and bade him a formal good morning. Bonbright was acutely conscious of his father's distinguished, cultured, aristocratic appearance. He was conscious of that manner which six generations of repression and habit in a circumscribed orbit had bestowed on Bonbright Foote VI. Bonbright was unconscious of the great likeness between him and his father; of the fact that at his father's age it would be difficult to tell them apart. Physically he was out of the Bonbright Foote mold.
"Son," said Bonbright Foote VI, "you have made an unfortunate beginning here. You have created an impression which we shall have to eradicate promptly."
"I don't understand."
"It has been the habit of our family to hold aloof from our employees. We do not come directly into contact with them. Intercourse between us and them is invariably carried out through intermediaries."
Bonbright waited for his father to continue.
"You are being discussed by every man in the shops. This is peculiarly unfortunate at this moment, when a determined effort is being made by organized labor to force unionism on us. The men have the notion that you are not unfriendly toward unionism."
"I don't understand it," said Bonbright. "I don't know what my feelings toward it may be."
"Your feelings toward it," said his father with decision, "are distinctly unfriendly."
Again Bonbright was silent.
"Last evening," said his father, "you mingled with the men leaving the shops. You did a thing no member of our family has ever done— consented to an interview with a professional labor agitator."
"That is hardly the fact, sir.... I asked for the interview."
"Which is worse.... You even, as it is reported to me, agreed to talk with this agitator at some future time."
"I asked him to explain things to me."
"Any explanations of labor conditions and demands I shall always be glad to make. The thing I am trying to bring home to you is that the men have gotten an absurd impression that you are in sympathy with them.... Young men sometimes come home from college with unsound notions. Possibly you have picked up some socialistic nonsense. You will have to rid yourself of it. Our family has always arrayed itself squarely against such indefensible theories.... But the thing to do at once is to wipe out any silly ideas your indiscretion may have aroused among our workingmen."
"But I am not sure—"
"When you have been in this business ten years I shall be glad to listen to your matured ideas. Now your ideas—your actions at least- must conform to the policy we have maintained for generations. I have called some of our department heads to my room. I believe I hear them assembling. Let us go in."
Bonbright followed his father mechanically. The next room contained some ten or twelve subordinate executives who eyed Bonbright curiously.
"Gentlemen," said the elder Foote, "this is my son, whom you may not have met as yet. I wish to present him to you formally, and to tell you that hereafter he and I share the final authority in this plant. Decisions coming from this office are to be regarded as our joint decisions—except in the case of an exception of immediate moment. ... As you know, a fresh and determined effort is afoot to unionize this plant. My son and I have conferred on the matter, but I have seen fit to let the decision rest with him, as to our policy and course of action."
The men looked with renewed curiosity at the young man who stood, white of face, with compressed lips and troubled eyes.
"My son has rightly determined to adhere to the policy established many years ago. He has determined that unionism shall not be permitted to enter Bonbright Foote, Incorporated.... I state your sentiments, do I not, my son?"
At the direct challenge Bonbright raised his eyes to his father's face appealingly. "Father—" he said.
"I state your position?" his father said, sternly.
Against Bonbright's will he felt the accumulated power of the family will, the family tradition. He had been reared in its shadow. Its grip lay firm upon him. Struggle he might, but the strength to defy was not yet in him.... He surrendered, feeling that, somehow, his private soul had been violated, his individuality rent from him.
"Yes," he said, faintly.
"The first step he has decided upon," said his father, "and one which should be immediately repressive. It is to post in every room and department of the shops printed notices to the effect that any man who affiliates himself with organized labor, or who becomes a member of a so-called trade-union, will be summarily dismissed from his employment.... That was the wording you suggested, was it not?"
"Yes," said Bonbright, this time without struggle.
"Rangar," said Mr. Foote, "my son directs that these cards be printed AT ONCE, and put in place before noon. It can be done, can it not?"
"Yes, sir," said Rangar.
"I think that is all, gentlemen.... You understand my son's position, I believe, so that if anyone questions you can answer him effectively?"
The department heads stirred uneasily. Some turned toward the door, but one man cleared his throat.
"Well, Mr. Hawthorne?" said the head of the business.
"The men seem very determined this time. I'm afraid too severe action on our part will make trouble."
"A strike," said Hawthorne. "We're loaded with contract orders, Mr. Foote. A strike at this time—"
"Rangar," said Mr. Foote, sharply, "at the first sign of such a thing take immediate steps to counteract it.... Better still, proceed now as if a strike were certain. These mills MUST continue uninterruptedly.... If these malcontents force a strike, Mr. Hawthorne, we shall be able to deal with it.... Good morning, gentlemen."
The men filed out silently. It seemed as if they were apprehensive, almost as if they ventured to disagree with the action of their employers. But none voiced his disapproval.
Bonbright stood without motion beside his father's desk, his eyes on the floor, his lips pressed together.
"There," said his father, with satisfaction, "I think that will set you right."
"Right?... The men will think I was among them last night as a spy!... They'll despise me.... They'll think I wasn't honest with them."
Bonbright Foote VI shrugged his shoulders. "Loyalty to your family," he said, "and to your order is rather more important than retaining the good will of a mob of malcontents."
Bonbright turned, his shoulders dropping so that a more sympathetic eye than his father's might have found itself moistening, and walked slowly back to his room. He did not sit at his desk, but walked to the window, where he rested his brow against his hand and looked out upon as much of the world as he could see.... It seemed large to him, filled with promise, filled with interests, filled with activities for HIM—if he could only be about them. But they were held tantalizingly out of reach.
He was safe in his groove; had not slipped there gradually and smoothly, but had been thrust roughly, by sudden attack, into it.
His young, healthy soul cried out in protest against the affront that had been put upon it. Not that the issue itself had mattered so much, but that it had been so handled, ruthlessly. Bonbright was no friend to labor. He had merely been a surprised observer of certain phenomena that had aroused him to thought. He did not feel that labor was right and that his father was wrong. It might be his father was very right.... But labor was such a huge mass, and when a huge mass seethes it is impressive. Possibly this mass was wrong; possibly its seething must be stilled for the better interests of mankind. Bonbright did not know. He had wanted to know; had wanted the condition explained to him. Instead, he had been crushed into his groove humiliatingly.
Bonbright was young, to be readily impressed. If his father had received his uncertainty with kindliness and had answered his hunger's demand for enlightenment with arguments and reasoning, the crisis probably would have passed harmlessly. His father had seen fit not to use diplomacy, but to assert autocratically the power of Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. Bonbright's individuality had thought to lift its head; it had been stamped back into its appointed, circumscribed place.
He was not satisfied with himself. His time for protest had been when he answered his father's challenge. The force against him had been too great, or his own strength too weak. He had not measured up to the moment, and this chagrined him.
"All I wanted," he muttered, "was to KNOW!"
His father called him, and he responded apathetically.
"Here are some letters," said Mr. Foote. "I have made notes upon each one how it is to be answered. Be so good as to dictate the replies."
There it was again. He was not even to answer letters independently, but to dictate to his secretary words put into his mouth by Bonbright Foote, Incorporated.
"It will help you familiarize yourself with our routine," said his father, "and your signature will apprise the recipients that Bonbright Foote VII has entered the concern."
He returned to his desk and pressed the buzzer that would summon Ruth Frazer with book and pencil. She entered almost instantly, and as their eyes met she smiled her famous smile. It was a thing of light and brightness, compelling response. In his mood it acted as a stimulant to Bonbright.
"Thank you," he said, involuntarily.
"For what?" she asked, raising her brows.
"For—why, I'm sure I don't know," he said. "I don't know why I said that.... Will you take some letters, please?"
He began dictating slowly, laboriously. It was a new work to him, and he went about it clumsily, stopping long between words to arrange his thoughts. His attention strayed. He leaned back in his chair, dictation forgotten for the moment, staring at Ruth Frazer without really being conscious of her presence. She waited patiently. Presently he leaned forward and addressed a question to her:
"Did you and Mr. Dulac mention me as you walked home?"
"Yes," she said.
"Would it be—impertinent," he asked, "to inquire what you said?"
She wrinkled her brows to aid recollection.
"Mr. Dulac," she replied, "wondered what you were up to. That was how he expressed it. He thought it was peculiar—your asking to know him."
"What did YOU think?"
"I didn't think it was peculiar at all. You"—she hesitated—"had been taken sort of by surprise. Yes, that was it. And you wanted to KNOW. I think you acted very naturally."
"Naturally!" he repeated after her. "Yes, I guess that must be where I went wrong. I was natural. It is not right to be natural. You should first find how you are expected to act—how it is planned for you to act. Yourself—why, yourself doesn't count."
"What do you mean, Mr. Foote?"
"This morning," he said, bitterly, "cards with my name signed to them have been placed, or will be placed, in every room of the works, notifying the men that if they join a labor union they will be discharged."
"I have made a statement that I am against labor unions."
She looked at him uncomprehendingly, but somehow compelled to sympathize with him. He had passed through a bitter crisis of some sort, she perceived.
"I am not interested in all those men—that army of men," he went on. "I don't want to understand them. I don't want to come into contact with them. I just want to sit here in my office and not be bothered by such things.... We have managers and superintendents and officials to take care of labor matters. I don't want to talk to Dulac about what he means, or why our men feel resentment toward us. Please tell him I have no interest whatever in such things."
"Mr. Foote," she said, gently, "something has happened to you, hasn't it? Something that has made you feel bitter and discouraged?"
"Nothing unusual—in my family—Miss Frazer. I've just been cut to the Bonbright Foote pattern. I didn't fit my groove exactly—so I was trimmed until I slipped into it. I'm in now."
A sudden tumult of shouts and cheers arose in the street under his window; not the sound of a score of voices nor of a hundred, but a sound of great volume. Ruth looked up, startled, frightened. Bonbright stepped to the window. "It's only eleven o'clock," he said, "but the men are all coming out.... The whistle didn't blow. They're cheering and capering and shaking hands with one another. What does that mean, do you suppose?"
"I'm afraid," said Miss Frazer, "it's your placard."
"The men had their choice between their unions and their jobs—and they've stood by their unions."
"They've struck," said Ruth.
There are family traditions among the poor just as there are among the rich. The families of working-men may cling as tenaciously to their traditions as the descendants of an earl. In certain families the sons are compelled by tradition to become bakers, in others machinists; still other lowly family histories urge their members to conduct of one sort or another. It is inherent in them to hold certain beliefs regarding themselves. Here is a family whose tradition is loyalty to another family which has employed the father, son, grandfather; across the street may live a group whose peculiar religion is to oppose all constituted authority and to uphold anarchism. Theories and beliefs are handed down from generation to generation until they assume the dignity of blood laws.
Bonbright was being wrenched to fit into the Foote tradition. Ruth Frazer, his secretary, needed no alterations to conform to the tradition of HER family. This was the leveling tradition; the elevating of labor and the pulling down of capital until there was a dead level of equality—or, perhaps, with labor a bit in the saddle. Probably a remote ancestor of hers had been a member of an ancient guild; perhaps one had risen with Wat Tyler. Not a man of the family, for time beyond which the memory of man runneth not, but had been a whole-souled, single-purposed labor man—trade-union man—extremist— revolutionist. Her father had been killed in a labor riot—and beatified by her. As the men of her family had been, so were the women—so was she.
Rights of man, tyranny of capital, class consciousness had been taught her with her nursery rhymes. She was a zealot. A charming zealot with a soul that laughed and wanted all mankind to be happy with it—a soul that translated itself by her famous grin.
When she thought of capital, of moneyed aristocracy in the mass and in the abstract, she hated it. It was a thing to be uprooted, plotted against, reviled. When she met a member of it in the body, and face to face, as she was meeting Bonbright Foote, she could not hate. He was a man, an individual. She could not withhold from him the heart- warming flash of her smile, could not wish him harm. Somehow, in the concrete, he became a part of mankind, and so entitled to happiness.
She was sincere. In her heart she prayed for the revolution. Her keen brain could plan for the overthrow of the enemy and her soul could sacrifice her body to help to bring it to pass. She believed. She had faith. Her actions would be true to her faith even at a martyr cost. But to an individual whom she saw face to face, let him be the very head and front of the enemy, and she could not wish him personal harm. To a psychologist this might have presented a complex problem. To Ruth it presented no problem at all. It was a simple condition and she lived it.
She was capable of hero worship, which, after all, is the keystone of aristocracies. But her heroes were not warriors, adventurers, conquerors of the world, conquerors of the world's wealth. They were revolutionists. They were men who gave their lives and their abilities to laboring for labor.... Already she was inclining to light the fires of her hero worship at the feet of the man Dulac.
Ruth Frazer's grin has been spoken of. It has been described as a grin. That term may offend some sensitive eye as an epithet applicable only to something common, vulgar. To smile is proper, may even be aristocratic; only small boys and persons of slack breeding are guilty of the grin.... Ruth Frazer's grin was neither common nor vulgar. It was warming, encouraging, bright with the flashing of a quick mind, and withal sweet, womanly, delicious. Yet that it was a grin cannot be denied. Enemies to the grin must make the most of it.
The grin was to be seen, for Dulac had just entered Ruth's mother's parlor, and it glowed for him. The man seemed out of place in that cottage parlor. He seemed out of place in any homelike room, in any room not filled by an eager, sweating, radical crowd of men assembled to hang upon his words. That was the place for him, the place nature had created him to become. To see him standing alone any place, on the street, in a hotel, affected one with the feeling that he was exotic there, misplaced. He must be surrounded by his audience to be RIGHT.
Something of this crossed Ruth's mind. No woman, seeing a possible man, is without her sentimental speculation. She could not conceive of Dulac in a HOME.
"It's been a day!" he said.
"Every skilled mechanic has struck," he said, with pride, as in a personal achievement. "And most of the rest. To-night four thousand out of their five thousand men were with us."
"It came so suddenly. Nobody thought of a strike this morning."
"We were better organized than they thought," he said, running his hand through his thick, black hair, and throwing back his head. "Better than I thought myself.... I've always said fool employers were the best friends we organizers have. The placard that young booby slapped the men in the face with—that did it....That and his spying on us last night."
"I'm sure he wasn't spying last night."
"Bosh! He was mighty quick to try to get our necks under his heel this morning."
"I don't know what happened this morning," she said, slowly. "I'm his secretary, you know. Something happened about that placard. I don't believe he wanted it to go up."
"You're defending him? Of course. You're a girl and you're close to the throne with a soft job. He's a good-looking kid in his namby- pamby Harvard way, too."
"Mr. Dulac!...My job—I was going to ask you what I should do. I want to help the men. I want them to feel that I'm with them, working for them and praying for them. Ought I to quit, too—to join the strike?"
Dulac looked at her sharply, calculatingly. "No," he said, presently, "you can do a lot more good where you are."
"Will there be trouble? I dread to think of rioting and maybe bloodshed. It will be bad enough, anyhow—if it lasts long. The poor women and children!"
"There'll be trouble if they try to turn a wheel or bring in scab labor." He laughed, so that his white teeth showed. "The first thing they did was to telephone for the police. I suppose this kid with a whole day's experience in the business will be calling in strike breakers and strong-arms and gunmen....Well, let him bring it down on himself if he wants to. We're in this thing to win. It means unionism breaking into this automobile game. This is just the entering wedge."
"Won't the automobile manufacturers see that, too?" she asked. "Won't the men have all their power and wealth to fight?"
Dulac shrugged his shoulders. "I guess the automobile world knows who Dulac is to-night," he said, with gleaming eyes.
Somehow the boast became the man. It was perfectly in character with his appearance, with his bearing. It did not impress Ruth as a brag; it seemed a natural and ordinary thing for him to say.
"You've been here just two weeks," she said, a trifle breathlessly; for he loomed big to her girlish eyes. "You've done all this in two weeks."
He received the compliment indifferently. Perhaps that was a pose; perhaps the ego of the man made him impervious even to compliments. There are men so confident in their powers that a compliment always falls short of their own estimate of themselves.
"It's a start—but all our work is only a start. It's preliminary," His voice became oratorical. "First we must unionize the world. Now there are strong unions and weak unions—both arrayed against a capital better organized and stronger than ever before in the world's history. Unionism is primary instruction in revolution. We must teach labor its power, and it is slow to learn. We must prepare, prepare, prepare, and when all is ready we shall rise. Not one union, not the unions of a state, of a country, but the unions of the world...hundreds of millions of men who have been ground down by aristocracies and wealth for generations. Then we shall have such an overturning as shall make the French Revolution look like child's play....A World's Republic—that's our aim; a World's Republic ruled by labor!"
Her eyes glistened as he talked; she could visualize his vision, could see a united world, cleansed of wars, of boundary lines; a world where every man's chance of happiness was the equal of every other man's chance; where wealth and poverty were abolished, from which slums, degradation, starvation, the sordid wickednesses compelled by poverty, should have vanished. She could see a world of peace, plenty, beauty.
It was for this high aim that Dulac worked. His stature increased. She marveled that such a man could waste his thoughts upon her. She idealized him; her soul prostrated itself before him.
So much of accomplishment lay behind him—and he not yet thirty years old! The confidence reposed in him by labor was eloquently testified to by the sending of him to this important post on the battle line. Already he had justified that confidence. With years and experience what heights might he not climb!...This was Ruth's thought. Beside Dulac's belief in himself and his future it was colorless.
Dulac had been an inmate of the Frazer cottage two weeks. In that time he had not once stepped out of his character. If his attitude toward the world were a pose it had become so habitual as to require no objective prompting or effort to maintain. This character was that of the leader of men, the zealot for the cause of the under dog. It held him aloof from personal concerns. Individual affairs did not touch him, but functioned unnoticed on a plane below his clouds. Not for an instant had he sought the friendship of Ruth and her mother, not to establish relations of friendship with them. He was devoted to a cause, and the cause left no room in his life for smaller matters. He was a man apart.
Now he was awkwardly tugging something from his pocket. Almost diffidently he offered it to Ruth. It was a small box of candy.
"Here..." he said, clumsily.
"For me!" Ruth was overpowered. This demigod had brought HER a gift. He had thought about her—insignificant her! True, she had talked with him, had even taken walks with him, but those things had not been significant. It had seemed he merely condescended to the daughter of a martyr to his cause. He had been paying a tribute to her father. But a gift—a personal gift such as any young man might make to a girl whose favor he sought! Could it mean...?
Then she saw that he was embarrassed, actually embarrassed before her, and she was ashamed of herself for it. But she saw, too, that in him was a human man, a man with fears and sensations and desires and weaknesses like other men. After all, a demigod is only half of Olympus.
"Thank you," she said. "Thank you SO much."
He was recovering himself. In an instant he was back again in character.
"We men," he said, "who are devoted to the Cause have little time in our lives for such things. The Cause demands all. When we go into it we give up much that other men enjoy. We are wanderers. We have no homes. We can't AFFORD to have homes....I," he said, it proudly, "have been in jail more than once. A man cannot ask a woman to share such a life. A man who leads such a life has no place in it for a woman."
"I should think," she said, "that women would be proud to share such a life. To know they were helping a little! To know they were making one comfortable spot for you to come to and rest when you were tired or discouraged...."
"Comforts are not for us," he said, theatrically, yet he did not seem theatrical to her, only nobly self-sacrificing.
"It isn't right," she said, passionately. "The poorest laborer has more than you. He has his home and his family. No matter how poor he is, no matter what he suffers, he has some compensations....And you —you're giving your life and everything in life that's bright and beautiful for that laborer."
"The happiness of one man buying the happiness of millions," he said, his black eyes glowing. "Yet sometimes we have our weak moments. We see and we desire."
"And are entitled to possess," she said.
His eyes glowed upon her hungrily—she read the hunger in them, hunger for HER! It frightened her, yet it made her heart leap with pride. To be looked upon with favor by such a man!
"Some women," he said, slowly, "might live through it. There are women big enough and strong enough—a few, maybe. Big enough to endure neglect and loneliness; to live and not know if their husbands would sleep at home that night or in a jail or be in the middle of a riot on the other side of the world! They could not even depend on their husbands for support....A few might not complain, might be able to endure....You, Miss Ruth—I believe you are one of them!"
Her cheeks paled. Was he—could he be about to ask her to share his life? It was impossible! Yet what else could he mean? To what else could his words be tending? She was awed, frightened—yet warmed by a surge of pride. She thought of her father....If he could see and know! If knowledge could only pass to him that his daughter had been thought worthy by such a man to play her part for the Cause!...She waited tensely, hand pressed to her bosom.
Dulac stepped toward her, barbarically handsome. She felt the force, the magnetism of him. It called to her, compelled her....She could not lift her eyes.
Slowly he approached another step. It was as though he were forced to her against his will. The silence in the room was the tense silence of a human crisis....Then it was broken ruthlessly. There came a pounding on the door that was not a knock, but an alarm. It was imperative, excited, ominous.
"Oh..." Ruth cried.
Her mother was opening the door.
"Dulac! Where's Dulac?" a man's voice demanded.
"Here," he replied. "What is it?"
"O'Hagan's in town," the man panted, rushing into the room. "They've brought in O'Hagan and his gang of bullies."
O'Hagan, king of strike breakers! Ruth knew that name well, and what the arrival of the man of evil omen foretold. It promised violence, riot, bloodshed, suffering.
"They're going to try to run, then," said Dulac, calmly.
"The police have escorted a mob of scabs into the mill yards. They've tried to drive away our pickets. They've locked up Higgins and Bowen. Got Mason, too, but the crowd took him away from the police."
"It's on their own heads," said Dulac, solemnly. "I'll come with you." He turned to Ruth and took her hand. "You see," he said, "it calls me away—even from a moment like that...."
Malcolm Lightener was not a man to send messages nor to depend upon telephones. He was as direct as a catapult, and was just as regardful of ceremony. The fact that it was his and everybody else's dinner hour did not hold him back an instant from having himself driven to the Foote residence and demanding instant speech with Mr. Foote.
Mr. Foote, knowing Lightener, shrugged his shoulders and motioned Bonbright to follow him from the table.
"If we asked him to be seated and wait," said he, "Lightener would burst into the dining room."
They found their visitor not seated, but standing like a granite monolith in the center of the library.
"Well," he said, observing no formalities of greeting, "you've chucked a brick into the hornets' nest."
"Won't you be seated?" asked Mr. Foote, with dignified courtesy.
"Seated? No, I've got no time for seats, and neither have you, if you would wake up to it. Do you know what you've done with your bullheadedness? You've rammed the automobile manufacturers up against a crisis they've been dodging for years. Needlessly. There was no more need for this strike at this time than there is for fur overcoats in hell. But just when the hornets were stirred up and buzzing, you had to heave your brick.... And now we've got to back your play."
"I am not aware," said Mr. Foote, icily, "that we have asked assistance."
"If the house next to mine catches fire the owner doesn't have to holler to me for help. I've got to help to keep the blaze from spreading to my own house.... You've never thought beyond the boundaries of Bonbright Foote, Incorporated—that's what's the matter with you. You're hidebound. A blind man could see the unions look at this thing as their entering wedge into the automobile industry. If they break into you they'll break into us. So we've got to stop 'em short."
"If we need any help—" Mr. Foote began.
"Whether you need it or whether you want it," said Lightener, "you get it."
"Let me point out to you," said Mr. Foote, with chilly courtesy, "that my family has been able to manage its business for several generations—with some small success.... Our relations with our employees are our own concern, and we shall tolerate no interference. ... I have placed my son in complete charge of this situation, with confidence that he will handle it adequately."
"Huh!" grunted Lightener, glancing at Bonbright. "I heard about THAT. ... What I came to say principally was: This thing can be headed off now if you go at it with common sense. Make concessions. Get to this Dulac. You can get your men back to work—and break up this union thing."
"Mr. Lightener, our course is decided on. We shall make no concessions. My son has retained O'Hagan, the strike breaker. To- morrow morning the mills start up as usual, with new men. We have them camped in the yards now. There shall be no compromising. When we have the strikers whipped into their places we'll talk to them—not before."
"What's the idea of putting up the boy as stalking horse? What do you expect to get by hiding behind him?"
"My son was indiscreet. He created a misapprehension among the men as to his attitude toward labor. I am merely setting them right."
"And sewing a fine crop of hatred for the boy to reap."
Mr. Foote shrugged his shoulders "The position of my family has not been doubtful since the inception of our business. I do not propose that my son shall make it so. Our traditions must be maintained."
"If you'd junk a few traditions," said Lightener, "and import a little modern efficiency—and human understanding of human beings— you might get somewhere. You quit developing with that first ancestor of yours. If the last hundred years or so haven't been wasted, there's been some progress. You're wabbling along in a stage coach when other folks use express trains.... When I met the boy here last night, I thought he was whittled off a different stick from the rest of you.... I guess he was, too. But you're tying a string of ancestors around his neck and squeezing him into their likeness."
"My son knows his duty to his family," said Mr. Foote.
"I didn't have a family to owe duty to, thank God," said Lightener, "but I spent quite some time figuring out my duty to myself.... You won't listen to reason, eh? You're going to bull this thing through?"
"My son will act as my son should act," said Mr. Foote.
Lightener turned to where Bonbright stood with set face and eyes that smoldered, and studied him with an eye accustomed to judging men.
"There'll be rioting," he said. "Probably there'll be bloodshed. There'll certainly be a devil of a lot of suffering. Your father is putting the responsibility for it on your shoulders, young fellow. Does that set comfortably on your mind?"
Bonbright was slow to answer. His position was difficult, for it seemed to him he was being asked by a stranger to criticize his father and his family. His own unrest under the conditions which were forced upon him was not to be mentioned. The major point—the conflict between capital as represented by Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, and labor—as represented by the striking employees—he did not understand. He had wanted to understand it; he had felt a human interest in the men, but this was forbidden to him.... Whatever he felt, whatever he thought, whatever dread he might have of the future as it impended over himself—he must be loyal to his name. So when he spoke it was to say in a singularly unboyish voice:
"My father has spoken for me, Mr. Lightener."
For the first time Lightener smiled. He laid a heavy hand on Bonbright's shoulder. "That was well done, my boy," he said. Bonbright was grateful for his understanding.
A servant appeared. "Mr. Bonbright is wanted on the telephone," she said.
It was Rangar. "There's rioting at the plant," the man said, unemotionally. "I have notified the police and taken the necessary steps."
"Very well," said Bonbright. He walked to the library, and, standing in the door, stirred by excitement so that his knees quivered and a great emptiness was within him, he said to his father, "There's rioting at the plant, sir."
Then he turned, put on his coat and hat, and quietly left the house.
There was rioting at the mills! Bonbright was going to see what rioting was like, what it meant. It was no impulse, no boyish spirit of adventure or curiosity, that was taking him, but a command. No sooner had Rangar spoken the words over the telephone than Bonbright knew he must go.
"Whatever is happening," he said to himself, "I'm going to be blamed for it."
With some vague juvenile notion of making himself unrecognizable he turned up the collar of his coat and pulled down his cap....
When still some blocks from the mills a patrol wagon filled with officers careened past him, its gong emitting a staccato, exciting alarm. Here was reality. Bonbright quickened his step; began to run. Presently he entered the street that lay before the face of the factory—a street lighted by arc lamps so that the scene was adequately visible. As far as the main gates into the factory yards the street was in the possession of the police; beyond them surged and clamored the mob, not yet wrought to the pitch of attack. Bonbright thought of a gate around the corner. He would enter this and ascend to his office, whence he could watch the street from his window.
Before the gate a man sat on a soap box, a short club dangling by a thong from his wrist. As Bonbright approached he arose.
"What you want?" he demanded, taking a businesslike grip on his weapon.
"I want to go in," said Bonbright. "I'm Mr. Foote."
The man grinned. "To be sure, Mr. Foote. Howdy, Mr. Foote. You'll be glad to meet me. I'm Santa Claus."
"I tell you I'm Mr. Foote. I want to go inside."
"And I tell you," said the man, suddenly dropping his grin, "to beat it—while you're able."
Youthful rage sent its instant heat through Bonbright. For an instant he meditated jerking the man from that gate by the nape of the neck and teaching him a lesson with his athletic foot.... It was not fear of the result that deterred him; it was the thought that this man was his own employee, placed there by him for this very purpose. If the guard made HIM bristle with rage, how would the sight of the man and his club affect the strikers? He was a challenge and an insult, an invitation to violence. Bonbright turned and walked away, followed by a derisive guffaw from the strike breaker.
Bonbright retraced his steps and approached the rear of the police. Here he was stopped by an officer.
"Where you goin'?"
"I'm Mr. Foote," said Bonbright. "I want to see what's happening."
"I can't help it if you're Mr. Roosevelt, you can't go any farther than this.... Now GIT." He gave Bonbright a violent and unexpected shove, which almost sent the young man off his feet. He staggered, recovered himself, and stood glowering at the officer. "Move!" came the short command, and once more burning with indignation, he obeyed. Here was another man acting in his behalf, summoned to his help. It was thus the police behaved, roughly, intolerantly, neither asking nor accepting explanations. It did not seem to Bonbright this could be the right way to meet the emergency. It seemed to him calculated only to aggravate it. The application of brute force might conquer a mob or stifle a riot, but it would leave unquenched fires of animosity. A violent operation may be necessary to remove a malignant growth. It may be the only possible cure; but no physician would hope to cure typhoid fever by knocking the patient insensible with a club. True, the delirium would cease for a time, but the deep-seated ailment would remain and the patient only be the worse for the treatment.... Here the disease was disagreement, misunderstanding, suspicion, bitterness of heart between employer and employees. Neither hired strike breaker nor policeman's baton could get to the root of it.... Yet he, Bonbright Foote VII, was the man held out to all the world as favoring this treatment, as authorizing it, as ordering it!
He walked quite around the block, approaching again on a side street that brought him back again just ahead of the police. This street was blocked by excited, restless, crowding, jeering men, but Bonbright wormed his way through and climbed upon a porch from which he could see over the heads of the foremost to where a line of police and the front rank of strikers faced each other across a vacant space of pavement, the square at the intersection of the streets.
Behind him a hatless man in a high state of excitement was making an inflammatory speech from a doorstep. He was urging the mob to charge the police, to trample them under.... Bonbright leaned far over the railing so he could look down the street where the main body of the mob was assembled. There was another speaker. Bonbright recognized Dulac—and Dulac, with all his eloquence, was urging the men to disperse to their homes in quiet. Bonbright listened. The man was talking sense! He was pointing out the folly of mob violence! He was showing them that it achieved nothing.... But the mob was beyond the control of wise counsel. Possibly the feet of many had pressed brass rails while elbows crooked. Certainly there was present a leaven of toughs, idlers, in no way connected with the business, but sent by the devil to add to the horror of it.
One of these, discreetly distant from the front, hurled half a brick into the line of police. It was a vicious suggestion. Other bricks and missiles followed, while the crowd surged forward. Suddenly the line of patrolmen opened to let through a squad of mounted police, who charged the mob.... It was a thing requiring courage, but a thing ordered by an imbecile.
Horses and men plunged into that dammed river of men.... It was a scene Bonbright could never erase from his memory, yet never could have described. It was a nightmare, a sensation of dread rather than a scene of fierce, implacable action.
The police drew back. The strikers hesitated.... Between them, on the square of pavement, lay quiet, or writhing in pain, half a dozen human forms.... Bonbright, his face colorless as those who lay below, stared at the bodies. For this that he saw he would be held responsible by the world....
He ran down the steps and began struggling through the mob. "Let me through.... Let me through," he panted.
He broke through to the front, not moved by reason, but quivering with the horror of the sight of men needlessly slain or maimed.... He must do something. He must stop it!
Then he Was recognized. "It's young Foote," a man shouted, and snatched at his shoulder. He shook the man off, but the cry was taken up. "It's Foote—young Foote.... Spying again."
Men sprang upon him, but he turned furiously and hurled them back. They must not stop him. He must not be interfered with, because he had to put an end to this thing. The mob surged about him, striking, threatening, so that he had to turn his face toward them, to strike out with his fists. More than one man went down under his blows before he could break away and run toward the police.
"See what you've done," he shouted in their faces. "This must stop." He advanced another step, as if to force the mounted officers to retreat.
"Grab him," ordered a sergeant.
Bonbright was promptly grabbed and hauled through the line of mounted police, to be thrown into the arms of waiting patrolmen. He fought as strength was given him to fight, but they carried him ungently and hurled him asprawl upon the floor of a patrol wagon, already well occupied by arrests from the mob.
"Git 'em to the station," the driver was ordered, and off lurched the patrol wagon.
That rapid ride brought cooling to Bonbright's head. He had made a fool of himself. He was ashamed, humiliated, and to be humiliated is no minor torture to a young man.
Instead of giving his name to the lieutenant on the desk he refused to give a name, and was entered as John Doe. It was his confused thought to save his family from publicity and disgrace.... So he knew what it was to have barred doors shut upon him, to be alone in a square cell whose only furnishing was a sort of bench across one end. He sank upon this apathetically and waited for what morning should bring.
The world owes no small part of its advancement to the reflections of men in jails.
Bonbright, alone in the darkness of his cell, was admirably situated for concentrated thought. All through the sleepless night he reviewed facts and theories and conditions. He reached few definite conclusions, and these more boyish than mature; he achieved to no satisfaction with himself. His one profound conclusion was that everything was wrong. Capital was wrong, labor was wrong; the whole basis upon which society is organized was wrong. It was an exceedingly sweeping conclusion, embracing EVERYTHING. He discerned no ray of light.
He studied his own conduct, but could convince himself of no voluntary wrongdoing. Yet he was in a cell.... In the beginning he had merely tried to understand something that aroused his curiosity— labor. From the point of view of capital, as represented by his father, this had been a sin. How or why it was a sin he could not comprehend.... Labor had been willing to be friendly, but now it hated him. Orders given in his name, but not originating in his will, had caused this. His attitude became fatalistic—he was being moved about by a ruthless hand without regard to his own volition. He might as well close his eyes and his mind and submit, for Bonbright Foote VII did not exist as a rational human individual, but only as a checker on the board, to be moved from square to square with such success or error as the player possessed.
Last night.... He had been mishandled by the employees of capital and the guardians of society; he had been mobbed by labor. He resented the guard and the police, but could not resent the mobbing. ... He seemed to be dangling between two worlds, mishandled by either that he approached. But one fact he realized—labor would have none of him. His father had seen to that. There was no place for him to go but into the refuge of capital, and so to become an enemy to labor against which he had no quarrel.... This night set him more deeply in the Bonbright Foote groove. There was nothing for him now but complete submission, apathetic submission.
If it must be so, it must be so. He would let the family current bear him on. He would be but another Bonbright Foote, differentiated from the others only by a numeral to designate his generation.
Singularly, his own immediate problem did not present itself insistently until daylight began to penetrate the murk of the cell. What would the authorities do with him? How was he to get his liberty? Would the thing become public? He felt his helplessness, his inadequacy. He could not ask his father to help him, for he did not want his father ever to know what had happened the night before, yet he must have help from some one. Suddenly the name of Malcolm Lightener occurred to him.
After a time the doorman appeared with breakfast.
"Can I send a message?" asked Bonbright.
The doorman scrutinized him, saw he was no bum of the streets, but quite evidently a gentleman in temporary difficulty.
"Maybe," he said, grudgingly. "Gimme the message and I'll see."
"Please telephone Mr. Malcolm Lightener that the younger of the gentlemen he called on last evening is here and would like to see him."
"Malcolm Lightener, the automobile feller?"
"Friend of your'n?"
"Um!..." The doorman disappeared to return presently with the lieutenant.
"What's this about Malcolm Lightener?" the officer asked.
"I gave the man here a message for him," said Bonbright.
"Is it on the level? You know Lightener?"
"Yes," said Bonbright, impatiently.
"Then what the devil did you stay here all night for? Why didn't you have him notified last night? Looks darn fishy to me."
"It will do no harm to deliver my message," said Bonbright.
"Huh!... Let him out." The doorman swung wide the barred door and the lieutenant motioned Bonbright out. "Come and set in the office," he said. "Maybe you'd rather telephone yourself?"
"If I might," said Bonbright, amazed at the potency of Lightener's name to open cell doors and command the courtesy of the police. It was his first encounter with Influence.
He was conducted into a small office; then the lieutenant retired discreetly and shut the door. Bonbright made his call and asked for speech with Malcolm Lightener.
"Hello!... Hello!" came Lightener's gruff voice. "What is it?"
"This is Bonbright Foote.... I'm locked up in the Central Station. I wonder if you can't help me somehow?"
There was a moment's silence; then Bonbright heard a remark not intended for his ears but expressive of Lightener's astonishment, "Well, I'm DARNED!" Then: "I'll be right there. Hold the fort."
Bonbright opened the door and said to the lieutenant, "Mr. Lightener's on his way down."
"Um!... Make yourself comfortable. Say, was that breakfast all right? Find cigars in that top drawer." The magic of Influence!
In twenty minutes Lightener's huge form pushed through the station door. "Morning, Lieutenant. Got a friend of mine here?"
"Didn't know he was a friend of yours, Mr. Lightener. He wouldn't give his name, and never asked to have you notified till this morning.... He's in my office there."
Lightener strode into the room and shut the door.
"Well?" he demanded.
Breathlessly, almost without pause, Bonbright poured upon him an account of last night's happenings, making no concealments, unconsciously giving Lightener glimpses into his heart that made the big man bend his brows ominously. The boy did not explain; did not mention accusingly his father, but Lightener understood perfectly what the process of molding Bonbright was being subjected to. He made no comment.
"I don't want father to know this," Bonbright said. "If it can be kept out of the papers.... Father wouldn't understand. He'd feel I had disgraced the family."