Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Youth Challenges
Author: Kelland, Clarence Budington, 1881-1964
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Youth Challenges" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Youth Challenges

By

CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

AUTHOR OF

"The Little Moment of Happiness," "The High Flyers," "Sudden Jim," "The
Source," "The Hidden Spring," etc.



CHAPTER I


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."



CHAPTER II


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."

"Unionize?"

"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?"

"Yes."

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!"



CHAPTER III


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."

Lightener grunted.

"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?"

"Queer notions?"

"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."

"Well--could they?"

"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."

"Suppose?"

"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?"

"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."



CHAPTER IV


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."

"Hopes?"

"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."

"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."

"Why--why--"

"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."

"My placard?"

"The men had their choice between their unions and their jobs--and
they've stood by their unions."

"You mean--?"

"They've struck," said Ruth.



CHAPTER V


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.

"Yes."

"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."

"You're not--offended?"

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...."



CHAPTER VI


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.



CHAPTER VII


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?"

"Yes."

"Friend of your'n?"

"Yes."

"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."

"Doggone the family," snapped Lightener. "Come on."

Bonbright followed him out.

"May I take him along, Lieutenant? I'll fix it with the judge if
necessary.... And say, happen to recognize him?"

"Never saw him before."

"If any of the newspaper boys come snoopin' around, you never saw me,
either. Much obliged, Lieutenant."

"You're welcome, Mr. Lightener. Glad I kin accommodate you."

Lightener pushed Bonbright into his limousine. "You don't want to go
home, I guess. We'll go to my house. Mother'll see you get breakfast.
... Then we'll have a talk.... Here's a paper boy; let's see what's
doing."

It was the morning penny paper that Lightener bought, the paper with
leanings toward the proletariat, the veiled champion of labor. He
bought it daily.

"Huh!" he grunted, as he scanned the first page. "They kind of allude
to you."

Bonbright looked. He saw a two-column head:

YOUNG MILLIONAIRE URGES ON POLICE

The next pyramid contained his name; the story related how he had
rushed frantically to the police after they had barbarously charged a
harmless gathering of workingmen, trampling and maiming half a dozen,
and had demanded that they charge again. It was a long story, with
infinite detail, crucifying him with cheap ink; making him appear a
ruthless, heartless monster, lusting for the spilled blood of the
innocent.

Bonbright looked up to meet Lightener's eyes.

"It--it isn't fair," he said, chokingly.

"Fairness," said Lightener, almost with gentleness, "is expected only
when we are young."

"But I didn't.... I tried to stop them."

"Don't try to tell anybody so--you won't be believed."

"I'm going to tell somebody," said Bonbright, his mind flashing to Ruth
Frazer, "and I'm going to be believed. I've got to be believed."

After a while he said: "I wasn't taking sides. I just went there to
see. If I've got to hire men all my life I want to understand them."

"You've got to take sides, son. There's no straddling the fence in this
world.... And as soon as you've taken sides your own side is all you'll
understand. Nobody ever understood the other side."

"But can't there ever be an understanding? Won't capital ever
understand labor, or labor capital?"

"I suppose a philosopher would say there is no difference upon which
agreement can't be reached; that there must somewhere be a common
meeting ground.... The Bible says the lion shall lie down with the
lamb, but I don't expect to live to see him do it without worrying some
about the lion's teeth."

"It's one man holding power over other men," said Bonbright.

As the car stopped at Malcolm Lightener's door, sudden panic seized
Bonbright.

"I ought not to come here," he said, "after last night. Mrs.
Lightener... your daughter."

"I'll bet Hilda's worrying you more than her mother. Nonsense! They
both got sense."

Certainly Mrs. Lightener had.

"Just got him out of the police station," her husband said as he led
the uncomfortable Bonbright into her presence. "Been shut up all
night.... Rioting--that's what he's been doing. Throwing stones at the
cops."

Mrs. Lightener looked at Bonbright's pale, weary, worried face. "You
let him be, Malcolm.... Never mind HIM," she said to the boy. "You just
go right upstairs with him. A warm bath and breakfast are what you
need. You don't look as if you'd slept a WINK."

"I haven't," he confessed.

When Bonbright emerged from the bath he found the motherly woman had
sent out to the haberdashers for fresh shirt, collar, and tie. He
donned them with the first surge of genuine gratefulness he had ever
known. Of course he had said thank you prettily, and had thought he
felt thanks.... Now he knew he had not.

"Guess you won't be afraid to face Hilda now," said Lightener, entering
the room. "I notice a soiled collar is worn with a heap more misgiving
than a soiled conscience.... Grapefruit, two soft-boiled eggs, toast,
coffee.... Some prescription."

Hilda was in the library, and greeted him as though it were an ordinary
occurrence to have a young man just out of the cell block as a
breakfast guest. She did not refer to it, nor did her father at the
moment. Bonbright was grateful again.

After breakfast the boy and girl were left alone in the library,
briefly.

"I'm ashamed," said Bonbright, chokingly.

"You needn't be," she said. "Dad told us all about it. I thought the
other night I should like you. Now I'm sure of it." She owned her
father's directness.

"You're good," he said.

"No--reasonable," she answered.

He sat silent, thinking. "Do you know," he said, presently, "what a lot
girls have to do with making a fellow's life endurable?... Since I went
to work I--I've felt really GOOD only twice. Both times it was a girl.
The other one just grinned at me when I was feeling down on my luck. It
was a dandy grin.... And now you..."

"Tell me about her," she said.

"She's my secretary now. Little bit of a thing, but she grins at all
the world... Socialist, too, or anarchist or something. I made them
give her to me for my secretary so I could see her grin once in a
while."

"I'd like to see her."

"I don't know her," said Bonbright. "She's just my secretary. I'll bet
she'd be bully to know."

Hilda Lightener would not have been a woman had she not wondered about
this girl who had made such an impression on Bonbright. It was not that
she sensed a possible rival. She had not interested herself in
Bonbright to the point where a rival could matter. But--she would like
to see that girl.

Malcolm Lightener re-entered the room.

"Clear out, honey," he said to his daughter. "Foote and I have got to
make medicine."

She arose. "If he rumbles like a volcano," she said to Bonbright,
"don't be afraid. He just rumbles. Pompeii is in no danger."

"You GIT," her father said.

"Now," he said when they were alone, "what's to pay?"

"I don't know."

"Will your father raise the devil? Maybe you'd like to have me go along
when you interview him."

"I think I'd rather not."

Lightener nodded with satisfaction.

"Well, then--I've kind of taken a shine to you. You're a young idiot,
all right, but there's something about you.... Let's start off with
this: You've got something that's apt to get you into hot water. Either
it's fool curiosity or genuine interest in folks. I don't know which.
Neither fits into the Bonbright Foote formula. Six generations of 'em
seem to have been whittled off the same chip--and then the knife
slipped and you came off some other chip altogether. But the Foote chip
don't know it, and won't recognize it if it does.... I'm not going to
criticize your father or your ancestors, whatever kind of darn fools I
may personally think they are. What I want to say is, if you ever kick
over the traces, drop in and tell me about it. I'll see you on your
road."

"Thanks," said Bonbright, not half comprehending.

"You can't keep on pressing men out of the same mold forever. Maybe you
can get two or three or a dozen to be as like as peas--and then nature
plays a joke on you. You're the joke on the Foote mold, I reckon. Maybe
they can squeeze you into the form and maybe they can't.... But
whatever happens is going to be darn unpleasant for you."

Bonbright nodded. THAT he knew well.

"You've got a choice. You can start in by kicking over the traces--with
the mischief to pay; or you can let the vanished Footes take a crack at
you to see what that can make of you. I advise no boy to run against
his father's wishes. But everybody starts out with something in him
that's his own--individual--peculiar to him. Maybe it's what the
preachers call his soul. Anyhow, it's HIS. Whatever they do to you, try
to hang on to it. Don't let anybody pump it out of you and fill its
room with a standardized solution. Get me?"

"I think so."

"I guess that's about, all from me. Now run along to your dad. Got any
idea what will happen?"

Bonbright studied the rug more than a minute before he answered.

"I think I was right last night. Maybe I didn't go about it the way I
should, but I INTENDED right. At least I didn't intend WRONG. Father
will be--displeased. I don't think I can explain it to him... "

"Uh!" grunted Lightener.

"So I--I guess I sha'n't try," Bonbright ended. "I think I'll go along
and have it over with."

When he was gone Malcolm Lightener made the following remark to his
wife, who seemed to understand it perfectly:

"Some sons get born into the wrong families."



CHAPTER VIII


Bonbright entered his office with the sensations of a detected juvenile
culprit approaching an unavoidable reckoning. If there was a ray of
brightness in the whole episode it was that the newspapers had
miraculously been denied the meatiest bit of his night's adventure--his
detention in a cell. If that had been flaunted before the eyes of the
public Bonbright felt he would never have been able to face his father.

He was vividly aware of the stir his entrance caused among the office
employees. It was as though the heart of the office skipped a beat. He
flushed, and, with eyes straight before him, hurried into his own room
and sat in his chair. He experienced a quivering, electric
emptiness--his nerves crying out against an approaching climax. It was
blood-relative to panic.

Presently he was aware that his father stood in the door scrutinizing
him. Bonbright's eyes encountered his father's. They seemed to lock ...
In that tense moment the boy was curiously aware how perfectly his
father's physical presence stood for and expressed his theory of being.
Tall, unbending, slender, aristocratic, intellectual--the pose of the
body, the poise of the head, even that peculiar, slanting set of the
lips expressed perfectly the Bonbright Foote idea. Five generations had
bred him to be the perfect thing it desired.

"Well, sir," he said, coldly. Bonbright arose. There was a formality
about the situation which seemed to require it. "Good morning," he
said, in a low tone.

"I have seen the papers."

"Yes, sir."

"What they printed was in substance true?"

"I prefer not--to discuss it, sir."

"And _I_ prefer TO discuss it... Do you fancy you can drag the name of
Foote through the daily press as though it were that of some dancing
girl or political mountebank, and have no reference made of it? Tell me
exactly what happened last night--and why it was permitted to happen."

"Father--" Bonbright's voice was scarcely audible, yet it was alive and
quivering with pain. "I cannot talk to you about last night."

The older man's lips compressed. "You are a man grown--are supposed to
be a man grown. Must I cross-examine you as if you were a sulking
schoolboy?"

Bonbright was not defiant, not sulkily stubborn. His night's
experiences had affected, were affecting him, working far-reaching
changes in him, maturing him. But he was too close to them for their
effect to have been accomplished. The work was going on each moment,
each hour. He did not reply to his father immediately, but when he did
so it was with a certain decision, a firmness, a lack of the old
boyishness which was marked and distinct.

"You must not cross-question me. There are things about which one's own
father has not the right to ask.... If I could have come to you
voluntarily--but I could not. In college I have seen fellows get into
trouble, and the first thing they thought of was to go to their fathers
with it... It was queer. What happened last night happened to ME.
Possibly it will have some effect on my family and on the name of
Foote, as you say... But it happened to ME. Nobody else can understand
it. No one has the right to ask about it."

"It happened to YOU! Young man, you are the seventh Bonbright
Foote--member of a FAMILY. What happens to you happens to it. You
cannot separate yourself from it. You, as an individual, are not
important, but as Bonbright Foote VII you become important. Do you
imagine you can act and think as an entity distinct from Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated?... Nonsense. You are but one part of a whole; what
you do affects the whole, and you are responsible for it to the shops."

"A man must be responsible to himself," said Bonbright, fumbling to
express what was troubling his soul. "There are bigger things than
family..."

His father had advanced to the desk. Now he interrupted by bringing his
hand down upon it masterfully. "For you there is no bigger thing than
family. You have a strange idea. Where did you get it? Is this sort of
thing being taught in college to-day? I suppose you have some notion of
asserting your individuality. Bosh! Men in your position, born as you
have been born, have no right to individuality. Your individuality must
express the individuality of your family as mine has done, and as my
father's and HIS father's did before me... I insist that you explain
fully to me what occurred last night."

"I am sorry, sir, but I cannot."

There was no outburst of passion from the father; it would have been
wholly out of keeping with his character. Bonbright Foote VI was a
strong man in his way; he possessed force of character--even if that
force were merely a standardized, family-molded force of character. He
recognized a crisis in the affairs of the Foote family which must be
met wisely. He perceived that results could not be obtained through the
violent impact of will; that here was a dangerous condition which must
be cured--but not by seizing it and wrenching it into place... Perhaps
he could make Bonbright obey him, but if matters were as serious as
they seemed, it would be far from wise. The thing must be dealt with
patiently, firmly. Here was only a symptom; the disease went deeper.
For six generations one Bonbright Foote after another had been born
true to tradition's form--the seventh generation had gone askew! It
must be set right, remolded.

"Let me point out to you," said he, "that you are here only because you
are my son and the descendant of our forefathers. Aside from that you
have no right to consideration or to position. You possess wealth. You
are a personage... Suppose it were necessary to deprive you of these
things. Suppose, as I have the authority to do, I should send you out
of this office to earn your own living. Suppose, in short, I should
find it necessary to do as other fathers have done--to disown you...
What then? What could you do? What would your individuality be
worth?... Think it over, my son. In the meantime we will postpone this
matter until you revise your mood."

He turned abruptly and went into his own room. He wanted to consider.
He did not know how to conduct himself, nor how to handle this
distressing affair... He fancied he was acting wisely and
diplomatically, but at the same time he carried away with him the
unpleasant consciousness that victory lay for the moment with his son.
Individuality was briefly triumphant. One thing was clear to him--it
should not remain so. The Bonbright Foote tradition should be continued
correctly by his son. This was not so much a determination as a state
of mind. It was a thing of inevitability.

Bonbright's feeling as his father left him was one of utter
helplessness, of futility. He had received his father's unveiled threat
and later it would have its effect. For the moment it passed without
consideration. First in his mind was the fact that he did not know what
to do--did not even know what he WANTED to do. All he could see was the
groove he was in, the family groove. He did not like it, but he was not
sure he wanted to be out of it. His father had talked of individuality;
Bonbright did not know if he wanted to assert his individuality. He was
at sea. Unrest grappled with him blindly, urging him nowhere, seeming
merely to wrestle with him aimlessly and maliciously... What was it all
about, anyhow? Why was he mixed up in the struggle? Why could not he be
left alone in quiet? If he had owned a definite purpose, a definite
ambition, a describable desire, it would have been different, but he
had none. He was merely bitterly uncomfortable without the slightest
notion what event or course of action could bring him comfort.

One thought persisted through the chaos of his surging thoughts. He
must call in Ruth Frazer and explain to her that he had not done what
the papers said he did. Somehow he felt he owed her explanation, her of
all the world.

She entered in response to the button he pushed, but there was not the
broad smile--the grin--he looked up eagerly to see. She was grave,
rather more than grave--she was troubled, so troubled that she did not
raise her eyes to look at him, but took her seat opposite him and laid
her dictation book on the desk.

"Miss Frazer--" he said, and at his tone she looked at him. He seemed
very young to her, yet older than he had appeared before. Older he was,
with a tired, haggard look left by his sleepless night. She could not
restrain her heart from softening toward him, for he was such a
boy--just a boy.

"Miss Frazer," he said again, "I want to--talk to you about last
night--about what the papers said."

If he expected help from her he was disappointed. Her lips set visibly.

"It was not true--what they said... I sha'n't explain it to anybody
else. What good could it do? But I want you to understand. It seems as
if I HAVE to explain to you.... I can't have you believing--"

"I didn't read it in the papers," she said. "I heard from an eyewitness.

"Mr. Dulac," he said. "Yes, he would have seen. Even to him it might
have looked that way--it might. But I didn't--I didn't! You must
believe me. I did not run to the police to have them charge the
strikers again... Why should I?"

"Why should you?" she repeated, coldly.

"Let me tell you... I went there--out of curiosity, I guess. This whole
strike came so suddenly. I don't understand why strikes and troubles
like this must be, and I thought I might find out something if I went
and watched... I wasn't taking sides. I don't know who is right and who
is wrong. All I wanted was to learn. One thing... I don't blame the
strikers for throwing bricks. I could have thrown a brick at one of our
guards; a policeman shoved me and I could have thrown a brick at
him.... I suppose, if there are to be strikes and mobs who want to
destroy our property, that we must have guards and police... But they
shouldn't aggravate things. I went around where I could see--and I saw
the police charge. I saw them send their horses smashing into that
crowd--and I saw them draw back, leaving men on the pavement,... There
was one who writhed about and made horrible sounds!... The mob was
against us and the police were for us--but I couldn't stand it. I guess
I lost my head. I hadn't the least intention of doing what I did, or of
doing anything but watch... but I lost my head. I did rush up to the
police, Miss Frazer, and the strikers tried to mob me. I was struck
more than once... It wasn't to tell the police to charge. You must
believe me--you MUST.... I was afraid they WOULD charge again, so I
rushed at them. All I remember distinctly is shouting to them that they
mustn't do it again--mustn't charge into that defenseless mob.... It
was horrible." He paused, and shut his eyes as though to blot out a
picture painted on his mind. Then he spoke more calmly. "The police
didn't understand, either. They thought I belonged to the mob, and they
arrested me.... I slept--I spent the night in a cell in Police
Headquarters."

Ruth was leaning over the desk toward him, eyes wide, lips parted.
"Is--is that the TRUTH?" she asked; but as she asked she knew it was
so. Then: "I'm sorry--so sorry. You must let me tell Mr. Dulac and he
will tell the men. It would be terrible if they kept on believing what
they believe now. They think you are--"

"I know," he said, wearily. "It can't be helped. I don't know that it
matters. What they think about me is what--it is thought best for them
to think. I am supposed to be fighting the strike."

"But aren't you?"

"I suppose so. It's the job that's been assigned to me--but I'm doing
nothing. I'm of no consequence--just a stuffed figure."

"You caused the strike."

"I?" There was genuine surprise in his voice. "How?"

"With that placard."

"I suppose so," he said, slowly. "My name WAS signed to it, wasn't
it?... You see I had been indiscreet the night before. I had mingled
with the men and spoken to Mr. Dulac.... I had created a false
impression--which had to be torn up--by the roots."

"I don't understand, Mr. Foote."

"No," he said, "of course not.... Why should you? I don't understand
myself. I don't see why I shouldn't talk to Mr. Dulac or the men. I
don't see why I shouldn't try to find out about things. But it wasn't
considered right--was considered very wrong, and I was--disciplined.
Members of my family don't do those things. Mind, I'm not complaining.
I'm not criticizing father, for he may be right. Probably he IS right.
But he didn't understand. I wasn't siding with the men; I was just
trying to find out..."

"Do you mean," she asked, a bit breathlessly, "that you have done none
of these things of your own will--because you wanted to? I mean the
placard, and bringing in O'Hagan and his strike breakers, and taking
all these ruthless methods to break the strike?... Were you made to
APPEAR as though it was you--when it wasn't?"

"Don't YOU misunderstand me, Miss Frazer. You're on the other
side--with the men. I'm against them. I'm Bonbright Foote VII." There
was a trace of bitterness in his voice as he said it, and it did not
escape her attention. "I wasn't taking sides.... I wouldn't take sides
now--but apparently I must.... If strikes are necessary then I suppose
fellows in places like mine must fight them.... I don't know. I don't
see any other way.... But it doesn't seem right--that there should be
strikes. There must be a reason for them. Either our side does
something it shouldn't--and provokes them, or your side is unfair and
brings them on.... Or maybe both of us are to blame.... I wanted to
find out."

"I shall tell Mr. Dulac," she said. "I shall tell him EVERYTHING. The
men mustn't go on hating and despising you. Why, they ought to be sorry
for you!... Why do you endure it? Why don't you walk out of this place
and never enter it again?..."

"You don't understand," he said, with perplexity." I knew you would
think I am siding with the men."

"I don't think that--no!... You might come to side with us--because
we're right. But you're not siding with yourself. You're letting
somebody else operate your very soul--and that's a worse sin than
suicide.... You're letting your father and this business, this
Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, wipe you out as if you were a mark on a
slate--and make another mark in your place to suit its own plans. ...
You are being treated abominably."

"Miss Frazer, I guess neither of us understands this thing. You see
this business, for generations, has had a certain kind of man at the
head of it. Always. It has been a successful business. Maybe when
father, and his father, were young, they had to be disciplined as I am
being. Maybe it is RIGHT--what I have heard called TRAINING."

"Do you like it?"

He did not answer at once. "I--it disturbs me. It makes me uneasy. ...
But I can do nothing. They've got me in the groove, and I suppose I'll
move along it."

"If you would own up to it, you're unhappy. You're being made
miserable.... Why, you're being treated worse than the strikers--and by
your own father!... Everybody has a right to be himself."

"You say that, but father and the generations of Footes before him say
the exact opposite.... However, I'm not the question. All I wanted to
do was to explain to you about last night. You believe me?"

"Of course. And I shall tell--"

He shook his head. "I'd rather you didn't. Indeed, you mustn't. As long
as I am here I must stick by my family. Don't you see? I wanted YOU to
know. My explanation was for you alone."

Rangar appeared in the door--quietly as it was his wont to move.
"Pardon," he said. "Your father wishes to speak to you, Mr. Foote."

"One moment, Miss Frazer. I have some letters," Bonbright said, and
stepped into his father's office.

"Bonbright," said his father, "Rangar has just discovered that your
secretary--this Miss Frazer--lives in the same house with Dulac the
strike leader.... She comes of a family of disturbers herself. Probably
she is very useful to Dulac where she is. Therefore you will dismiss
her at once."

"But, father--"

"You will dismiss her at once--personally."

A second time that day the eyes of father and son locked.

Bonbright's face was colorless; he felt his lips tremble.

"At once," said his father, tapping his desk with his finger.

Bonbright's sensation was akin to that of falling through space--there
seemed nothing to cling to, nothing by which to sustain himself. How
utterly futile he was was borne in upon him! He could not resist.
Protestation would only humiliate him. He turned slowly and walked into
his own room, where he stood erect before his desk.

"Miss Frazer," he said in a level, timbreless voice, "the labor leader
Dulac lives in your house. You come of a family of labor agitators.
Therefore you are discharged."

"WHAT?" she exclaimed, the unexpectedness of it upsetting her poise.

"You are discharged," he repeated; and then, turning his back on her,
he walked to the window, where he stood tense, tortured by humiliation,
gazing down upon a street which he could not see.

Ruth gathered her book and pencils and stood up. She moved slowly to
the door without speaking, but there she stopped, turned, and looked at
Bonbright. There was neither dismay nor anger in her eyes--only
sympathy. But she did not speak it aloud. "Poor boy!" she whispered to
herself, and stepped out into the corridor.



CHAPTER IX


Ruth Frazer had passed her twentieth birthday, and now, for the first
time, she was asking herself that question which brings tearful
uncertainty, vague fears, disquieting speculations to the great
majority of women--should she give herself, body and soul, into the
hands of a definite man? It was the definiteness, the identification of
the man, that caused all her difficulty. All women expect to be chosen
by, and to choose, some man; but when he arrives in actual flesh and
blood--that is quite another matter. Some, perhaps many, have no
doubts. Love has come to them unmistakably. But not so with most. It is
a thing to be wept over, and prayed over, and considered with many
changes of mind, until final decision is made one way or the other.

Dulac had been interrupted in what Ruth knew would have been a proposal
of marriage; the scene would be resumed, and when it was what answer
should she give?

It is no easy task for a girl of twenty to lay her heart under the
microscope and to see if the emotion which agitates it is love, or
admiration, or the excitation of glamour. She has heard of love, has
read of love, has dreamed of love, possibly, but has never experienced
love. How, then, is she to recognize it? With Ruth there had been no
long acquaintanceship with this man who came asking her future of her.
There had been no months or years of service and companionship.
Instead, he had burst on her vision, had dazzled her with his presence
and his mission. Hers was a steady little head, and one capable of
facing the logic of a situation. Was her feeling toward Dulac merely
hero worship?

The cause he represented was dear to her heart, and he was an eminent
servant in that cause. It thrilled her to know that such a man as he
could want HER for his wife. It quite took her breath away. Present
also was the feeling that if Dulac wanted her, if she could bring
happiness, ease, help to him, it would be her duty to give herself. By
so doing she would contribute her all to the cause.... Behind that
thought were generations of men and women who had sacrificed and
suffered for labor. If her father had given his life, would he not
expect his daughter to give HER life? If she could make Dulac stronger
to carry on his work for social revolution, had she a right to withhold
herself?...

But, being a girl, with youth singing in her heart, it was impossible
that anything should take precedence of love. That was the great
question. Did she love?... At noon she was sure she did; at one o'clock
she was sure she did not; at two o'clock she was wavering between the
two decisions; at six o'clock she had passed through all these stages
half a dozen times, and was no nearer certainty.

Being who she was and what she was, her contacts with the world had not
been those of the ordinary girl of her age and her station in life. In
her earlier years she had been accustomed to radical words, radical
thought, radical individuals. The world she was taught to see was not
the world girl children are usually taught to see. And yet she retained
her humor, her brightness of spirit, the joy of life that gave her her
smile.... She had known boys and men. However, none of these had made
marked impression upon her. They had been mere incidents, pleasant,
uninteresting, wearying, amusing. None had thrilled her.... So she had
less experience to call to her aid than the average girl.

Dulac occupied her mind as no man had ever occupied it before; the
thought of him thrilled her.... He wanted her, this magnetic,
theatrically handsome man wanted her....

When we make a choice we do so by a process of comparison. We buy this
house because we like it better than that house; we buy this hat
because we prefer it to that other;... it is so we get our notions of
value, of desirability. It is more than possible that some effort at
comparison is made by a woman in selecting a husband. She compares her
suitor with other men. Her decision may hinge upon the result. ...
Dulac was clearly superior to most of the men Ruth had known.... Then,
unaccountably, she found herself thinking of Bonbright Foote, who had
that morning discharged her from her employment. She found herself
setting young Foote and Dulac side by side and, becoming objectively
conscious of this, she felt herself guilty of some sort of disloyalty.
What right had a man in Foote's position to stand in her thoughts
beside Dulac? He was everything Dulac was not; Dulac was nothing that
Foote was.

She realized she was getting nowhere, was only confusing herself.
Perhaps, she told herself, when Dulac was present, when he asked her to
be his wife, she would know what to answer. So, resolutely, she put the
matter from her mind. It would not stay out.

She dreaded meeting Dulac at supper--for the evening meal was supper in
the Frazer cottage--and yet she was burningly curious to meet him, to
be near him, to verify her image of him.... Extra pains with the detail
of her simple toilet held her in her room until her mother called to
know if she were not going to help with the meal. As she went to the
kitchen she heard Dulac moving about in his room.

When they were seated at the table it was Mrs. Frazer who jerked the
conversation away from casual matters.

"Ruth was discharged this morning, Mr. Dulac," she said, bitterly, "and
her as good a typewriter and as neat and faithful as any. No fault
found, either, nor could be, not if anybody was looking for it with a
fine-tooth comb. Meanness, that's what I say. Nothing but meanness....
And us needing that fifteen dollars a week to keep the breath of life
in us."

"Don't worry about that, mother," Ruth said, quickly. "There are plenty
of places--"

"Who fired you?" interrupted Dulac, his black eyes glowing angrily.
"That young cub?"

"Young Mr. Foote," said Ruth.

"It was because I live here," said Dulac, intensely. "That was why,
wasn't it? That's the way they fight, striking at us through our
womenfolks.... And when we answer with bricks..."

"I don't think he wanted to do it," Ruth said. "I think he was made to."

"Nonsense! Too bad the boys didn't get their hands on him last
night--the infernal college-bred whipper-snapper!... Well, don't you
worry about that job. Nor you, either, Mrs. Frazer."

"Seems like I never did anything but worry; if it wasn't about one
thing it was another, and no peace since I was in the cradle," said
Mrs. Frazer, dolefully. "If it ain't the rent it's strikes and riots
and losin' positions and not knowin' if your husband's comin' home to
sleep in bed, or his name in the paper in the morning and him in jail.
And since he was killed--"

"Now, mother," said Ruth, "I'll have a job before tomorrow night. We
won't starve or be put out into the street."

Mrs. Frazer dabbed at her eyes with her apron and signified her firm
belief that capital was banded together for the sole purpose of causing
her mental agony; indeed, that capital had been invented with that end
in view, and if she had her way--which seldom enough, and her never
doing a wrong to a living body--capital should have visited on it
certain plagues and punishments hinted at as adequate, but not named.
Whereupon she got up from the table and went out into the kitchen after
the pie.

"Mrs. Frazer," said Dulac, when she returned, "I've got to hurry
downtown to headquarters, but I want to have a little talk with Ruth
before I go. Can't the dishes wait?"

"I did up dishes alone before Ruth was born, and a few thousand times
since. Guess I can get through with it without her help at least once
more."

Dulac smiled, so that his white, even teeth showed in a foreign sort of
way. In that moment Ruth thought there was something Oriental or Latin
about his appearance--surely something exotic. He had a power of
fascination, and its spell was upon her.

He stood up and walked to the door of the little parlor, where he stood
waiting. Ruth, not blushing, but pale, afraid, yet eager to hear what
she knew he was going to say, passed him into the room. He closed the
door.

"You know what I want to say," he began, approaching close to her, but
not touching her. "You know what life will be like with a man whose
work is what mine is.... But I'd try to make up for the hardships and
the worries and the disagreeable things. I'd try, Ruth, and I think I
could do it.... Your heart is with the Cause. I wouldn't marry you if
it wasn't because you couldn't stand the life. But you want to see what
I want to see.... If I'm willing to run the risks and live the life I
have to live because I see how I can help along the work and make the
world a better place for those to live in who need to have it a better
place... if I can do what I do, I've thought you might be willing to
share it all.... You're brave. You come of a blood that has suffered
and been willing to suffer. Your father was a martyr--just as I would
be willing to be a martyr...."

Somehow the thing did not seem so much like a proposal of marriage as
like a bit of flamboyant oratory. The theatrical air of the man, his
self-consciousness--with the saving leaven of unquestionable
sincerity--made it more an exhortation from the platform. Even in his
intimate moments Dulac did not step out of character.... But this was
not apparent to Ruth. Glamour was upon her, blinding her. The
personality of the man dominated her personality. She saw him as he saw
himself.... And his Cause was her Cause. If he would have suffered
martyrdom for it, so would she. She raised her eyes to his and, looking
into them, saw a soul greater than his soul, loftier than his soul. She
was an apostle, and her heart throbbed with pride and joy that this man
of high, self-sacrificing purpose should desire her.... She was ready
to surrender; her decision was made. Standing under his blazing eyes,
in the circle of his magnetism, she was sure she loved him.

But the surrender was not to be made then. Her mother rapped on the
door.

"Young gentleman to see you, Ruth," she called.

She heard Dulac's teeth click savagely. "Quick," he said. "What is it
to be?"

The spell was broken, the old uncertainty, the wavering, was present
again. "I--oh, let me think. To-morrow--I'll tell you to-morrow."

She stepped--it was almost a flight--to the door, and opened it. In the
dining room, hat in hand, stood Bonbright Foote. Dulac saw, too.

"What does he want here?" he demanded, savagely.

"I don't know."

"I'll find out. It's no good to you he intends."

"Mr. Dulac!" she said, and faced him a moment. He stopped, furious
though he was. She stopped him. She held him.... There was a strength
in her that he had not realized. Her utterance of his name was a
command and a rebuke.

"I know his kind," Dulac said, sullenly. "Let me throw him out."

"Please sit down," she said. "I want to bring him in here. I know him
better than you--and I think your side misunderstands him. It may do
some good."

She stepped into the dining room. "Mr. Foote," she said.

He was embarrassed, ill at ease. "Miss Frazer," he said, with boyish
hesitation, "you don't want to see me--you have no reason to do
anything but--despise me, I guess. But I had to come. I found your
address and came as quickly as I could."

"Step in here," she said. Then, "You and Mr. Dulac have met."

Dulac stood scowling. "Yes," he said, sullenly. Bonbright flushed and
nodded.... Dulac seemed suddenly possessed by a gust of passion. He
strode threateningly to Bonbright, lips snarling, eyes blazing.

"What do you mean by coming here? What do you want?" he demanded,
hoarsely. "You come here with your hands red with blood. Two men are
dead.... Four others smashed under the hoofs of your police!... You're
trying to starve into submission thousands of men. You're striking at
them through their wives and babies.... What do you care for them or
their suffering? You and your father are piling up millions--and every
penny a loaf stolen from the table of a workingman!... There'll be
starving out there soon.... Babies will be dying for want of food--and
you'll have killed them.... You and your kind are bloodsuckers,
parasites!... and you're a sneaking, spying hound.... Every man that
dies, every baby that starves, every ounce of woman's suffering and
misery that this strike causes are on your head.... You forced the
strike, backed up by the millions of the automobile crowd, so you could
crush and smash your men so they wouldn't dare to mutter or complain.
You did it deliberately--you prowling, pampered puppy...." Dulac was
working himself into blind rage.

Bonbright looked at the man with something of amazement, but with
nothing of fear. He was not afraid. He did not give back a step, but,
as he stood there, white to the lips, his eyes steadily on Dulac's
eyes, he seemed older, weary. He seemed to have been stripped of youth
and of the lightheartedness and buoyancy of youth. He was thinking,
wondering. Why should this man hate him? Why should others hate him?
Why should the class he belonged to be hated with this blighting
virulence by the class they employed?...

He did not speak nor try to stem Dulac's invective. He was not angered
by it, nor was he hurt by it.... He waited for it to subside, and with
a certain dignity that sat well on his young shoulders. Generations of
ancestors trained in the restraints were with him this night, and stood
him in good stead.

Ruth stood by, the situation snatched beyond her control. She was
terrified, yet even in her terror she could not avoid a sort of
subconscious comparison of the men.

"Mr. Dulac!... Please!... Please!..." she said, tearfully.

"I'm going to tell this--this murderer what he is. and then I'm going
to throw him out," Dulac raged.

"Mr. Foote came to see ME," Ruth said, with awakened spirit. "He is in
my house.... You have no right to act so. You have no right to talk
so.... You sha'n't go on."

Dulac turned on her. "What is this cub to you? What do you care?...
Were you expecting him?"

"She wasn't expecting me," said Bonbright, breaking silence for the
first time. "I came because she didn't get a square deal.... I had to
come."

"What do you want with her?... You've kicked her out of your
office--now leave her alone.... There's just one thing men of your
class want of girls of her class...."

At first Bonbright did not comprehend Dulac's meaning; then his face
reddened; even his ears were enveloped in a surge of color. "Dulac," he
said, evenly, "I came to say something to Miss Frazer. When I have done
I'm going to thrash you for that."

Ruth seized Dulac's arm. "Go away," she cried. "You have no right. ...
If you ever want an answer--to that question--you'll go NOW... If this
goes on--if you don't go and leave Mr. Foote alone, I'll never see you
again.... I'll never speak to you again.... I mean it!"

Dulac, looking down into her face, saw that she did mean it. He shot
one venomous glance at Bonbright, snatched his hat from the table, and
rushed from the room.

Presently Ruth spoke.

"I'm so sorry," she said.

Bonbright smiled. "It was too bad.... He believes what he says about
me...."

"Yes, he believes it, and thousands of other men believe it.... They
hate you."

"Because I have lots of money and they have little. Because I own a
factory and they work in it.... There must be a great deal to it
besides that.... But that isn't what I came to say. I--it was about
discharging you."

"Yes," she said. "I knew it wasn't you.... Your father made you."

He flushed. "You see... I'm not a real person. I'm just something with
push buttons. When somebody wants a thing done he pushes one, and I do
it.... I didn't want you to go. I--Well, things aren't exactly joyous
for me in the plant. I don't fit--and I'm being made to fit." His voice
took on a tinge of bitterness. "I've got to be something that the label
'Bonbright Foote VII' will fit.... It was on account of that smile of
yours that I made them give you to me for my secretary. The first time
I saw you you smiled--and it was mighty cheering. It sort of lightened
things up--so I got you to do my work--because I thought likely you
would smile sometimes...."

Her eyes were downcast to hide the moisture that was in them.

"Father made me discharge you.... I couldn't help it--and you don't
know how ashamed it made me.... To know I was so helpless. That's what
I came to say. I wanted you to know--on account of your smile. I didn't
want you to think--I did it willingly.... And--sometimes it isn't easy
to get another position--so--so I went to see a man, Malcolm Lightener,
and told him about you. He manufactures automobiles--and he's--he's a
better kind of man to work for than--we were. If you are willing you
can--go there in the morning."

She showed him her smile now--but it was not the broad, beaming grin;
it was a dewy, tremulous smile.

"That was good of you," she said, softly.

"I was just trying to be square," he said. "Will you take the place? I
should like to know. I should like to know I'd helped to make things
right."

"Of course I shall take it," she said.

"Thank you.... I--shall miss you. Really.... Good night, Miss
Frazer--and thank you."

She pitied him from her heart. His position was not a joyful one....
And, as people sometimes do, she spoke on impulse, not calculating
possible complications.

"If--you may come to see me again if you want to."

He took her extended hand. "I may?" he said, almost incredulously. "And
will you smile for me?"

"Once, each time you come," she said.



CHAPTER X


Day after day and week after week the strike dragged on. Daily strength
departed from it and entered into Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. The
men had embarked upon it with enthusiasm, many of them with fanatic
determination; but with the advent in their home of privation, of
hunger, their zeal was transmuted into heavy determination, lifeless
stubbornness. Idleness hung heavily on their hands, and small coins
that should have passed over the baker's counter clinked upon mahogany
bars.

Dulac labored, exhorted, prayed with them. It was his personality, his
individual powers over the minds and hearts of men, that kept the
strike alive. The weight rested upon his shoulders alone, but he did
not bend under it. He would not admit the hopelessness of the
contest--and he fought on. At the end of a month he was still able to
fire his audiences with sincere, if theatrical, oratory; he could still
play upon them and be certain of a response. At the end of two months
he--even he--was forced to admit that they listened with stolidness,
with apathy. They were falling away from him; but he fought on. He
would not admit defeat, would not, even in his most secret thoughts,
look forward to inevitable failure.

Every man that deserted was an added atom of strength to Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated. Every hungry baby, every ailing wife, every empty
dinner table fought for the company and against Dulac. Rioting ended.
It requires more than hopeless apathy to create a riot; there must be
fervor, determination, enthusiasm. Daily Dulac's ranks were thinned by
men who slunk to the company's employment office and begged to be
reinstated.... The back of the strike was broken.

Bonbright Foote saw how his company crushed the strike; how,
ruthlessly, with machinelike certainty and lack of heart, it went ahead
undeviatingly, careless of obstructions, indifferent to human beings in
its path. There was something Prussian about it; something that
recalled to him Bismarck and Moltke and 1870 with the exact, soulless
mechanical perfection of the systematic trampling of the France of
Napoleon III.... And, just as the Bonbright Foote tradition crunched
the strike to pieces so it was crunching and macerating his own
individuality until it would be a formless mass ready for the mold.

The will should be a straight steel rod urged in one undeviating
direction by heart and mind. No day passed upon which the rod of
Bonbright's will was not bent, was not twisted to make it follow the
direction of some other will stronger than his--the direction of the
accumulated wills of all the Bonbright Footes who had built up the
family tradition.

No initiative was allowed him; he was not permitted to interest himself
in the business in his own youthful, healthy way; but he must see it
through dead eyes, he must initiate nothing, criticize nothing, suggest
nothing. He must follow rule.

His father was not satisfied with him, that he realized--and that he
was under constant suspicion. He was unsatisfactory. His present mental
form was not acceptable and must undergo painful processes of
alteration. His parents would have taken him back, as a bad bargain,
and exchanged him for something else if they could, but being unable,
they must make him into something else.

Humiliation lay heavy on him. Every man in the employ of Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated, must realize the shamefulness of his position,
that he was a fiction, a sham held up by his father's hands. Orders
issued from his lips to unsmiling subordinates, who knew well they were
not his orders, but words placed in his mouth to recite parrot-like.
Letters went out under his signature, dictated by him--according to the
dictation of his father. He was a rubber stamp, a mechanical means of
communication.... He was not a man, an individual--he was a marionette
dancing to ill-concealed strings.

The thing he realized with abhorrence was that when he was remade, when
he became the thing the artisans worked upon him to create--when at
last his father passed from view and he remained master of Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated, it would not be Bonbright Foote VII who was
master. It would be an automaton, a continuation of other
automatons.... It is said the Dalai Lama is perpetual, always the same,
never changing from age to age. A fiction maintained by a mystic
priesthood supplying themselves secretly with fresh Dalai Lama material
as needful--with a symbol to hold in awe the ignorance of their
religionists.... Bonbright saw that he was expected to be a symbol....

He approached his desk in the morning with loathing, and left it at
night without relief. Hopelessness was upon him and he could not flee
from it; it was inescapable.

True, he sought relief. Malcolm Lightener had become his fast friend--a
sort of life preserver for his soul. In spite of his youth and
Lightener's maturity there was real companionship between them....
Lightener knew what was going on, and in his granite way he tried to
help the boy. Bonbright was not interested in his own business, so
Lightener awakened in him an interest in Lightener's business. He
discussed his affairs with the boy. He talked of systems, of
efficiency, of business methods. He taught Bonbright as he would have
taught his own son, half realizing the futility of his teaching. Nor
had he question as to the righteousness of his proceeding. Because a
boy's father follows an evil course the parenthood does not hallow that
course.... So Bonbright learned, not knowing that he learned, and in
his own office he made comparisons. The methods of Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, he compared with the methods of Malcolm Lightener. He saw
where modern business would make changes and improvements--but after
the first few trampled-on suggestions he remained silent and grew
indifferent.

Once he suggested the purchase of dictating machines.

"Fol-de-rol," said his father, brusquely--and the matter ended.

In Lightener's plant he saw lathes which roughed and finished in one
process and one handling. In his own plant castings must pass from one
machine to another, and through the hands of extra and unnecessary
employees. It was economic waste. But he offered no suggestion. He saw
time lost here, labor lavished there, but he was indifferent. He knew
better. He knew how it should be done--but he did not care.... The
methods of Bonbright Foote I not only suited his father, but were the
laws of his father's life.

Not only had Bonbright established sympathetic relations with Malcolm
Lightener, but with Lightener's family. In Mrs. Lightener he found a
woman whose wealth had compelled the so-called social leaders of the
city to accept her, but whose personality, once she was accepted, had
won her a firm, enduring position. He found her a woman whose sudden,
almost magical, change from obscurity and the lower fringe of
salary-drawers to a wealth that made even America gasp, had not made
her dizzy. Indeed, it seemed not to have affected her character at all.
Her dominant note was motherliness. She was still the housewife. She
continued to look after her husband and daughter just as she had looked
after them in the days when she had lived in a tiny frame house and had
cooked the meals and made the beds.... She represented womanhood of a
sort Bonbright had never been on terms of intimate friendship with....
There was much about her which gave him food for reflection.

And Hilda.... Since their first meeting there had been no reference to
the desire of their mothers for their marriage. For a while the
knowledge of this had made it difficult for Bonbright to offer her his
friendship and companionship. But when he saw, as the weeks went by,
how she was willing to accept him unaffectedly as a friend, a comrade,
a chum, how the maternal ambition to unite the families seemed to be
wholly absent from her thoughts, they got on delightfully.

Bonbright played with her. Somehow she came to represent recreation in
his life. She was jolly, a splendid sportswoman, who could hold her own
with him at golf or tennis, and who drove an automobile as he would
never have dared to drive.

She was not beautiful, but she was attractive, and the center of her
attractiveness was her wholesomeness, her frankness, her simplicity.
... He could talk to her as he could not talk even to her father, yet
he could not open his heart fully even to her. He could not show her
the soul tissues that throbbed and ached.

He was lonely. A lonely boy thrown with an attractive girl is a fertile
field for the sowing of love. But Bonbright was not in love with
Hilda.... The idea did not occur to him. There was excellent
reason--though he had not arrived at a realization of it, and this
excellent reason was Ruth Frazer.

He had ventured to accept Ruth's impulsive invitation to come to see
her. Not frequently, not so frequently as his inclinations urged, but
more frequently than was, perhaps, wise in his position.... She
represented a new experience. She was utterly outside his world, and so
wholly different from the girls of his world. It was an attractive
difference.... And her grin! When it glowed for him he felt for the
moment as if the world were really a pleasant place to spend one's life.

He learned from her. New ideas and comprehensions came to him as a
result of her conversations with him. Through her eyes he was seeing
the other side. Not all her theories, not even all her facts, could he
accept, but no matter how radical, no matter how incendiary her words,
he delighted to hear her voice uttering them. In short, Bonbright Foote
VII, prince of the Foote Dynasty, was in danger of falling in love with
the beggar maid.

So, many diverse forces and individualities were at work upon the
molding of Bonbright Foote. One, and one only, he recognized, and that
was the stern, ever-apparent, iron-handed wrenching of his father.
There were times, which grew more and more frequent, when he fancied he
had surrendered utterly to it and had handed over his soul to Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated. He fancied he was sitting by apathetically
watching the family tradition squeeze it into the desired form....

After a wretched day he had called on Ruth. The next morning
soft-footed Rangar had moved shadowlike into his father's office, and
presently his father summoned him to come in.

"I am informed," said the gentleman who was devoting his literary
talents to a philosophical biography of the Marquis Lafayette, Hero of
Two Worlds, friend of Liberty and Equality, "that you have been going
repeatedly to the house of that girl who formerly was your
secretary--whose mother runs a boarding house for anarchists."

The suddenness, the unexpectedness of attack upon this angle,
nonplussed Bonbright. He could only stand silent, stamped with the
guilty look of youth.

"Is it true?" snapped his father.

"I have called on Miss Frazer," Bonbright said, unsteadily.

Mr. Foote stood up. It was his habit to stand up in all crises, big or
little.

"Have you no respect for your family name?... If you must have things
like this in your life, for God's sake keep them covered up. Don't be
infernally blatant about them. Do you want the whole city whispering
like ghouls over the liaison of my son with--with a female anarchist
who is--the daughter of a boarding-house keeper?"

Liaison!... Liaison!... The foreign term beat again and again against
Bonbright's consciousness before it gained admission. Used in
connection with Ruth Frazer, with his relations with Ruth Frazer, it
was dead, devoid of meaning, conveyed no meaning to his brain.

"Liaison, sir!... Liaison?" he said, fumblingly.

"I can find a plainer term if you insist."

For a moment Bonbright felt curiously calm, curiously cold, curiously
detached from the scene. He regarded the other man.... This man was his
father. His FATHER! The laws of life and of humanity demanded that he
regard this man with veneration. Yet, offhand, without investigation,
this man could jump to a vile conclusion regarding him. Not only that,
but could accuse him, not of guilt, but of failing to conceal guilt!...
Respectability! He knew he was watching a manifestation of the family
tradition. It was wrong to commit an unworthy act, but it was a sin
unspeakable to be caught by the public in the commission.

His mind worked slowly. It was a full half minute before the thought
bored through to him that HE was not the sole nor the greatest sufferer
by this accusation. It was not HE who was insulted. It was not HE who
was outraged.... It was HER!

His father could think that of her--casually. The mere fact that she
was poor, not of his station, a wage-earner, made it plain to the
senior Foote that Ruth Frazer would welcome a squalid affair with his
son.... The Sultan throwing his handkerchief.

Bonbright's calm gave place to turmoil, his chill to heat.

"It's not true," he said, haltingly, using feeble words because
stronger had not yet had time to surge up to the surface.

"Bosh!" said the father.

Then Bonbright blazed. Restraints crumbled. The Harvard manner peeled
off and lay quivering with horror at his feet. He stepped a pace closer
to his father, so that his face was close to his father's face, and his
smoldering eyes were within inches of his father's scornful ones.

"It's a lie," he said, huskily, "a damned, abominable, insulting lie."

"Young man," his father shipped back, "be careful...."

"Careful!... I don't know who carried this thing to you, but whoever
did was a miserable, sneaking mucker. He lied and he knew he lied. ...
And you, sir, you were willing to believe. Probably you were eager to
believe.... I sha'n't defend Miss Frazer. Only a fool or a mucker could
believe such a thing of her.... Yes, I have been to see her, and I'll
tell you why.... I'll tell you why, good and plenty! ... My first day
in this place she was the only human, pleasant thing I met. Her smile
was the only life or brightness in the place.... Everything else was
dead men's bones. The place is a tomb and it stinks of graveclothes.
Our whole family stinks of graveclothes. Family tradition!... Men dead
and rotten and eaten by worms--they run this place, and you want me to
let them run me.... Every move you make you consult a skeleton.... And
you want to smash and crush and strangle me so that I'll be willing to
walk with a weight of dead bones.... I've tried. You are my father, and
I thought maybe you knew best.... I've submitted. I've submitted to
your humiliations, to having everything that's ME--that is individual
in me--stamped out, and stuff molded to the family pattern rammed back
in its place. ... She was the only bright spot in the whole outfit--and
you kicked her out.... And I've been going to see her--just to see her
smile and to get courage from it to start another day with you....
That's what my life has been here, and you made it so, and you will
keep on making it so.... Probably you'll grind me into the family
groove. Maybe I'm ground already, but that doesn't excuse what you've
just said, and it doesn't make it any less an abominable lie, nor the
man who reported it to you any less a muck-hearted sewer..."

He stopped, pale, panting, quivering.

"How dare you!... How dare--"

"Dare!"... Bonbright glared at his father; then he felt a great,
quivering emotion welling up within him, a something he was ashamed to
have the eye of man look upon. His lips began to tremble. He swung on
his heel and ran staggeringly toward his door, but there he stopped,
clutched the door frame, and cried, chokingly, "It's a lie. ... A
lie.... A slimy lie!"



CHAPTER XI


Mr. Foote stood motionless, staring after his son as he might have
stared at some phenomenon which violated a law of nature; for instance,
as he might have stared at the sun rising in the west, at a stream
flowing uphill, at Newton's apple remaining suspended in air instead of
falling properly to the ground. He was not angry--yet. That personal
and individual emotion would come later; what he experienced now was a
FAMILY emotion, a staggering astonishment participated in by five
generations of departed Bonbright Footes.

He was nonplussed. Here had happened a thing which could not happen. In
the whole history of the Foote family there had never been recorded an
instance of a son uttering such words to his father or of his family.
There was no instance of an outburst even remotely resembling this one.
It simply could not be.... And yet it was. He had witnessed it,
listened to it, had been the target at which his son's hot words had
been hurled.

For most occurrences in his life Mr. Foote could find a family
precedent. This matter had been handled thus, and that other matter had
been handled so. But this thin--it had never been handled because it
had never happened. He was left standing squarely on his own feet,
without aid or support.

Mortification mingled with his astonishment. It had remained for
him--who had thought to add to the family laurels the literary
achievement of portraying philosophically the life of the Marquis
Lafayette--to father a son who could be guilty of thinking such
thoughts and uttering such words. He looked about the room
apprehensively, as if he feared to find assembled there the shades of
departed Bonbrights who had been eavesdropping, as the departed are
said to do by certain psychic persons.... He hoped they had not been
listening at his keyhole, for this was a squalid happening that he must
smother, cover up, hide forever from their knowledge.

These sensations were succeeded by plain, ordinary, common, uncultured,
ancestorless anger. Bonbright Foote VI retained enough personality,
enough of his human self, to be able to become angry. True, he did not
do it as one of his molders would have done; he was still a Foote, even
in passion. It was a dignified, a cultured, a repressed passion... but
deep-seated and seething for an outlet, just the same. What he felt
might be compared distantly to what other men feel when they seize upon
the paternal razor strop and apply it wholesomely to that portion of
their son's anatomy which tradition says is most likely to turn boys to
virtue.... He wanted to compel Bonbright to make painful reparation to
his ancestors. He wanted to inflict punishment of some striking,
uncommon, distressing sort....

His anger increased, and he became even more human. With a trifle more
haste than was usual, with the studied, cultured set of his lips less
studied and cultured than ever they had been before, he strode to his
son's door. Something was going to happen. He was restraining himself,
but something would happen now. He felt it and feared it. ... His rage
must have an outlet. Vaguely he felt that fire must be fought with
fire--and he all unaccustomed to handling that element. But he would
rise to the necessities....

He stepped into Bonbright's room, keyed up to eruption, but he did not
erupt. Nobody was there to erupt AT. Bonbright was gone....

Mr. Foote went back to his desk and sat there nervously drumming on its
top with his fingers. He was not himself. He had never been so
disturbed before and did not know it was possible for him to be upset
in this manner. There had been other crises, other disagreeable
happenings in his life, but he had met them calmly, dispassionately,
with what he was pleased to call philosophy. He had liked to fancy
himself as ruled wholly by intellect and not at all by emotion. And now
emotion had caught him up as a tidal wave might catch up a strong
swimmer, and tossed him hither and thither, blinded by its spray and
helpless.

His one coherent thought was that something must be done about it. At
such a moment some fathers would have considered the advisability of
casting their sons loose to shift for themselves as a punishment for
too much independence and for outraging the laws requiring
unquestioning respect for father from son. This course did not even
occur to Mr. Foote. It was in the nature of things that it should not,
for in his mind his son was a permanent structure, a sort of extension
on the family house. He was THERE. Without him the family ended, the
family business passed into the hands of strangers. There would be no
Bonbright Foote VIII who, in his turn, should become the father of
Bonbright Foote IX, and so following. No, he did not hold even
tentatively the idea of disinheritance.

Something, however, must be done, and the something must result in his
son's becoming what he wanted his son to become. Bonbright must be
grasped and shoved into the family groove and made to travel and
function there. There could be no surrender, no wavering, no concession
made by the family.... The boy must be made into what he ought to
be--but how? And he must have his lesson for this day's scene. He must
be shown that he could not, with impunity, outrage the Family Tradition
and flout the Family Ghosts.... Again--how?

What Bonbright intended in his present state of boyish rage and revolt,
his father did not consider. It was characteristic of him that he
failed to think of that. All his considerations were of what he and the
Family should do to Bonbright.... A general would doubtless have called
this defective strategy. To win battles one must have some notion of
the enemy's intentions--and of his potentialities.... His
determination--set and stiff as cold metal--was that something
unpleasant should happen to the boy and that the boy should be brought
to his senses.... If anyone had hinted to him that the boy was just
coming to his senses he would have listened as one listens to a patent
absurdity.

He pressed the buzzer which summoned Rangar, and presently that
soft-footed individual appeared silently in the door--looking as Mr.
Foote had never seen him look before. Rangar was breathing hard, he was
flustered, his necktie was awry, and his face was ivory white. Also,
though Mr. Foote did not take in this detail, his eyes smoldered with
restrained malignancy.

"Why, Rangar," said Mr. Foote, "what's wrong?"

"Wrong, Mr. Foote!... I--It was Mr. Bonbright."

"What about Mr. Bonbright?"

"A moment ago he came rushing out of his office--I use the word rushing
advisedly.... He was in a rage, sir. He was, you could see it plain.
I--I was in his way, sir, and I stepped aside. But he wouldn't have it.
No, sir, he wouldn't.... He reached out, Mr. Foote, and grabbed me;
yes, sir, grabbed me right before the whole office. It was by the front
of the shirt and the necktie, and he shook me.... He's a strong young
man.... And he said, 'You're the sneak that's been running to father
with lies,' and then he shook me again. 'I suppose,' he says in a
second, 'that I've got to expect to be spied on.... Go ahead, it's a
job that fits you.' Yes, sir, that's exactly what he said in his own
words. 'Fits me,' says he. And then he shook me again and threw me
across the alleyway so that I fell over on a desk. 'Spy ahead,' he
says, so that everybody in the office heard him and was snickering at
me, 'but report what you see after this--and see to it it's the
truth.... One more lie like this one,' he says, and then stopped and
rushed on out of the office. It was a threat, Mr. Foote, and he meant
it. He means me harm."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Foote, holding himself resolutely in the character
he had built for himself. "A fit of boyish temper."

Rangar's eyes glinted, but he made no rejoinder.

"He rather lost his temper with ME," said Mr. Foote, "when I accused
him of a liaison with that girl.... He denied it, Rangar, or so I
understood. He was very young and--tempestuous about it. Are you sure
you were right?"

"What else would he be going there for, Mr. Foote?"

"My idea exactly."

"Unless, sir, he fancies he's in love with the girl.... I once knew a
young man in a position similar to Mr. Bonbright's who fell in love
with a girl who sold cigars in a hotel.... He fairly DOGGED her, sir.
Wanted to marry her. You wouldn't believe it, but that's what he did,
and his family had to buy her off and send her away or he'd have done
it, too.... It might happen to any young man, Mr. Foote."

"Not to a member of my family, Rangar."

"I can't agree with you, sir.... Nobody's immune to it. You can't deny
that Mr. Bonbright has been going to see her regularly. Five or six
times he's been there, and stayed a long time every visit.... It was
one thing or the other he went for, and you can't deny that. If he says
it wasn't what you accused him of, then it was the other."

"You mean that my son--a Foote--could fall in love, as you call it,
with the daughter of a boarding house and a companion of anarchists?"

"I hate to say it to you, sir, but there isn't anything else to
believe.... He's young, Mr. Foote, and fiery. She isn't bad looking,
either, and she's clever. A clever girl can do a lot with a boy, no
matter who he is, if she sets her heart on him. It wouldn't be a bad
match for a girl like her if she was to entice Mr. Bonbright into a
marriage."

"Impossible, Rangar.... However, you have an eye kept on him. I want to
be told every move he makes, where he goes, who he sees. I want to know
everything about him, Rangar. Will you see to it?"

"Yes, sir," said Rangar, a gleam of malice again visible in his eyes.

"What do you know about this girl? Have you had her looked up?"

"Not fully, sir. But I've heard she was heart and soul with what these
anarchists believe. Her father was one of them. Killed by the police or
soldiers or somebody.... The unions educated her. That's why Dulac went
to live there--to help them out.... And it's been reported to me, Mr.
Foote, that Dulac was sweet on her himself. That came from a reliable
source."

"My son a rival of an anarchist for the favor of the daughter of a
cheap boarding house!" exclaimed Mr. Foote.

"This Dulac was seen, Mr. Foote, with reference to the strike. He's a
fanatic. Nothing could be done with him. He actually offered violence
to our agent who attempted to show him how it would be to his benefit
to--to be less energetic. We offered him--"

"I don't care to hear what we offered him. Such details are
distasteful, Rangar. That's what I hire you for, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir.... Anyhow, Mr. Foote, he couldn't be bought."

"Yes.... Yes. Well, we'll have to continue along the lines we've been
following. They have been not unsuccessful."

"True enough. It's just a question of time now. It might do some good,
Mr. Foote, to have the rumor get about that we wouldn't take back any
men who did not apply for reinstatement before the end of next week....
There's considerable discontent, due largely to insufficient
nourishment. Yes, we can lay it to that, I imagine. It's this man Dulac
that holds the strike together. If only every laboring man had a dozen
babies there'd be less strikes," Rangar finished, not exactly
callously, but in a matter-of-fact way. If he had thought of it he
might have added, "and a sick wife." Rangar would not have hesitated to
provide each striker with the babies and the wife, purely as a
strike-breaking measure, if he could have managed the matter.

"They're improvident," said Mr. Foote, sagaciously. "If they must
strike and cut off their earnings every so often, why don't they lay up
savings to carry them through?"

"They seem to have the notion, sir, that they don't earn enough to
save. That, while it isn't their main grievance, is an important one.
But the idiots put nonsensical, immaterial grievances ahead of money
matters mostly.... Rights! Rights to do this or not to do that--to
organize or to sit at board meetings. They're not practical, Mr. Foote.
If it was just money they wanted we might get on with them. It's men
like this Dulac putting notions into their heads that they haven't
brains enough to think of themselves. Social revolution, you know--that
sort of thing."

"Do what you like about it. You might have notices tacked up outside
the gates stating that we wouldn't take back men who weren't back by
the date you named. And, Rangar, be sure Mr. Bonbright's name is signed
to it. I want to rid the men thoroughly of any absurd ideas about him."

"You have, sir. If Dulac is a fair sample, you have. Why, he seems
regularly to HATE Mr. Bonbright. Called him names, and that sort of
thing.... Maybe, though, there's something personal mixed up in it."

"That girl?..."

"Very likely, sir."

"You know her, Rangar. She worked under you. What sort of girl is
she?... I mean would you consider it wise to approach her with a
proposition--delicately put, of course--to--say--move to another city,
or something of the sort?"

"My observation of her--while not close--(you understand I have little
opportunity for close observations of unimportant subordinates)--was
that it would be unwise and--er--futile. She seemed to have quite a
will. Indeed, I may say she seemed stubborn ... and no fool. If she's
got a chance at Mr. Bonbright she wouldn't give it up for a few
dollars. Not her, sir."

"I don't recall her especially. Small--was she not? Not
the--ah--ripe--rounded type to attract a boy? Eh?"

"Curves and color don't always do it, Mr. Foote, I've observed. I've
known scrawny ones, without a thing to stir up the imagination, that
had ten boys running after them to one running after the kind they have
pictures of on calendars.... I don't know if it's brains, or what, but
they've got something that attracts."

"Hum!... Can't say I've had much experience. Probably you're right.
Anyhow, we're faced by something definite in the way of a condition.
... If the thing is merely a liaison--we can break it up, I imagine,
without difficulty. If my son is so blind to right and wrong, and to
his position, as to want to MARRY the girl, we'll have to resort
promptly to effective measures."

"Promptly," said Rangar. "And quietly, Mr. Foote. If she got an idea
there was trouble brewing, she might off with him and get married
before we could wink."

"Heavens!... An anarchistic boarding-house girl for a daughter-in-law!
We'd be a proud family, Rangar."

"Yes, sir. I understand you leave it with me?"

"I leave it with you to keep an eye on Bonbright. Consult with me
before acting. My son is in a strange humor. He'll take some handling,
I'm afraid, before we bring him to see things as my son ought to see
them. But I'll bring him there, Rangar. I should be doing my duty very
indifferently, indeed, if I did not. He's resentful. He wants to
display a thing he calls his individuality--as if our family had use
for such things. We're Footes, and I rather fancy the world knows what
that means.... My son shall be a Foote, Rangar. That's all.... Stay a
moment, though. Hereafter bear in mind I do not care to be troubled
with squalid details. If things have to be done, do them.... If babies
must be hungry--why, I suppose it is a condition that must exist from
time to time. The fault of their fathers.... However, I do not care to
hear about them. I am engaged on an important literary work, as you
know, and such things tend to distract me."

"Naturally, sir," said Rangar.

"But you will on no account relax your firmness with these strikers.
They must be shown."

"They're being shown," said Rangar, grimly, and walked out of the
office. In the corridor his face, which had been expressionless or
obsequious when he saw the need, changed swiftly. His look was that of
a man thinking of an enemy. There was malice, vindictiveness, hatred in
that look, and it expressed with exactness his sentiments toward young
Bonbright Foote.... It did not express all of them, for, lurking in the
background, unseen, was a deep contempt. Rangar despised Bonbright as a
nincompoop, as he expressed it privately.

"If I didn't think," he said, "I'd get all the satisfaction I need by
leaving him to his father, I'd take a hand myself. But the Foote spooks
will give it to him better than I could.... I can't wish him any worse
luck than to be left to THEM." He chuckled and felt of his disarranged
tie.

As for Bonbright Foote VI, he was frightened. No other word can
describe his sensations. The idea that his son might marry--actually
MARRY--this girl, was appalling. If the boy should actually take such
an unthinkable step before he could be prevented, what a situation
would arise!

"Of course it wouldn't last," he said to himself. "Such marriages never
do.... But while it did last--And there might be a child--a SON!" A
Bonbright Foote VIII come of such a mother, with base blood in his
veins! He drew his aristocratic shoulders together as though he felt a
chill.

"When he comes back," Mr. Foote said, "we'll have this thing out."

But Bonbright did not come back that day, nor was he visible at home
that night.... The next day dragged by and still he did not appear. ...



CHAPTER XII


Ruth Frazer had been working nearly two months for Malcolm Lightener,
and she liked the place. It had been a revelation to her following her
experience with Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. It INTERESTED her,
fascinated her. There was an atmosphere in the tremendous offices--a
tension, a SNAPPINESS, an alertness, an efficiency that made Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated, seem an anachronism; as belonging in an earlier,
more leisurely, less capable century. There was a spirit among the
workers totally lacking in her former place of employment; there was an
attitude in superiors, and most notable in Malcolm Lightener himself,
which was so different from that of Mr. Foote that it seemed
impossible. Foote held himself aloof from contacts with his help and
his business. Malcolm Lightener was everywhere, interested in
everything, mixing into everything. And though she perceived his
granite qualities, experienced his brusqueness, his gruffness, she, in
common with the office, felt for him something that was akin to
affection. He was the sort to draw forth loyalty.

Her first encounter with him occurred a couple of days after her
arrival in the office. She was interrupted in the transcription of a
letter by a stern voice behind her, saying:

"You're young Foote's anarchist, aren't you?"

She looked up frightened into the unsmiling eyes of Malcolm Lightener.

"Mr. Foote--got me my place here," she said, hesitatingly.

"Here--take this letter." And almost before she could snatch book and
pencil he was dictating, rapidly, dynamically. When Malcolm Lightener
dictated a letter he did it as though he were making a public speech,
with emphasis and gesture. "There," he said, "read it back to me."

She did, her voice unsteady.

"Spell isosceles," he demanded.

She managed the feat accurately.

"Uh!... That usually gets 'em.... Needn't transcribe that letter. Like
it here?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why?"

She looked up at him, considering the matter. Why did she like it
there? "Because," she said, slowly, "it doesn't seem like just
a--a--big, grinding machine, and the people working here like wheels
and pulleys and little machines. It all feels ALIVE, and--and--we feel
like human beings."

"Huh!..." he grunted, and frowned down at her. "Brains," he said.
"Mighty good thing to have. Took brains to be able to think that--and
say it." He turned away, then said, suddenly, over his shoulder, "Got
any bombs in your desk?"

"Bombs!..."

"Because," he said, with no trace of a smile, "we don't allow little
girls to bring bombs in here.... If you see anything around that you
think needs an infernal machine set off under it, why, you come and
tell me. See?... Tell me before you explode anything--not after. You
anarchists are apt to get the cart before the horse."

"I'm not an anarchist, Mr. Lightener."

"Huh!... What are you, then?"

"I think--I'm sure I'm a Socialist."

"All of the same piece of cloth.... Mind, if you feel a bomb coming
on--see me about it." He walked away to stop by the desk of a mailing
clerk and enter into some kind of conversation with the boy.

Ruth looked after him in a sort of daze. Then she heard the girls about
her laughing.

"You've passed your examination, Miss Frazer," said the girl at the
next desk. "Everybody has to.... You never can tell what he's going to
do, but he's a dear. Don't let him scare you. If he thought he had he'd
be tickled to death--and then he'd find some way to show you you
needn't be at all."

"Oh!" said Ruth.

More than once she saw laboring men, machinists, men in greasy
overalls, with grimy hands and smeared faces, pass into Malcolm
Lightener's office, and come out with the Big Boss walking beside them,
talking in a familiar, gruff, interested way. She was startled
sometimes to hear such men address him by his first name--and to see no
lightning from heaven flash blastingly. She was positively startled
once when a machinist flatly contradicted Lightener in her hearing on
some matter pertaining to his work.

"That hain't the way at all," the man said, flatly. Ruth waited for the
explosion.

"Landers planned it that way." Landers was chief engineer in the plant,
drawing a princely salary.

"Landers is off his nut. He got it out of a book. I'm DOIN' it. I tell
you it won't work."

"Why?" Always Lightener had a WHY. He was constantly shooting it at
folks, and it behooved them to have a convincing answer. The machinist
had, and he set it forth at length and technically. Lightener listened.

"You win," he said, when the man was done. That was all.

More than once Ruth saw Hilda Lightener in the office. Usually the
girls in an office fancy they have a grudge against the fortunate
daughter of their employer. They are sure she snubs them, or is a snob,
or likes to show off her feathers before them. This was notably absent
in Hilda's case. She knew many by name and stopped to chat with them.
She was simple, pleasant, guiltless of pomp and circumstance in her
comings and goings.

"They say she's going to marry young Foote. The Foote company makes
axles for us," said Ruth's neighbor, and after that Ruth became more
interested in Hilda.

She liked Bonbright Foote and was sorry for him. Admitting the unwisdom
of his calls upon her, she had not the heart to forbid him, especially
that he had shown no signs of sentiment, or of stepping beyond the
boundary lines of simple friendship.... She saw to it that he and Dulac
did not meet.

As for Dulac--she had disciplined him for his outbreak as was the duty
of a self-respecting young woman, and had made him eat his piece of
humble pie. It had not affected her veneration for his work, nor her
admiration for the man and his sincerity and his ability.... She had
answered his question, and the answer had been yes, for she had come to
believe that she loved him....

She saw how tired he was looking. She perceived the discouragements
that weighed on him, and saw, as he refused to see, that the strike was
a failure in spite of his efforts. And she was sensible. The strike had
failed; nothing was to be gained by sustaining the ebbing remnants of
it, by making men and women and children suffer futilely. ... She would
have ended it and begun straight-way preparing a strike that would not
fail. But she did not say so to him. He HAD to fight. She saw that. She
saw, too, that it was not in him to admit defeat or to surrender. It
would be necessary to crush him first.

And then, at five o'clock, as she came out of the office she found
Bonbright Foote waiting for her in his car. It had never happened
before.

"I--I came for you," he said, awkwardly, yet with something of
tenseness in his voice.

"You shouldn't," she said, not unkindly. He would understand the
reasons.

"I had to," he said. "I--all day I've done nothing but wait to see you.
I've got to talk to you.... Please, now that I'm here, won't you get
in?"

She saw that something was wrong, that something out of the ordinary
had happened, and as she stepped into the car she shot a glance at his
set face and felt a wave of sympathy for him.

"I want you to--to have something to eat with me--out in the country. I
want to get away from town. Let me send a messenger to your mother. I
know you don't want to, and--and all that, but you'll come, won't you?"

Ruth considered. There was much to consider, but she knew he was an
honest, wholesome boy--and he was in trouble.

"This once," she said, and let him see her grin.

"Thank you," he said, simply.

It was but a short drive to an A. D. T. office, where Bonbright wrote a
message to Mrs. Frazer:

I'm taking your daughter to Apple Lake to dinner. I hope you won't
mind. And I promise to have her home safe and early.

A boy was dispatched with this, and Bonbright and Ruth drove out the
Avenue with the evening sun in their faces, toward distant, beautiful
Apple Lake. Bonbright drove in silence, his eyes on the road. Ruth was
alone in her appreciation of the loveliness of the waning day.

The messenger left on his bicycle, but had not gone farther than around
the first corner when a gentleman drew up beside him in an automobile.

"Hey, kid, I want to speak to you," said Mr. Rangar.

The boy stopped and the car stopped.

"You've got a message there that I'm interested in," said Rangar. "It
isn't sealed. I want a look at it." He held out a five-dollar bill. The
boy pocketed the bill and handed over the message, which Rangar read
and returned to him. Then Rangar drove to the office from which the boy
had come and dispatched a message of his own, one not covered by his
instructions from Mr. Foote. It was a private matter with him, inspired
by an incident of the morning having to do with a rumpled necktie and a
ruffled dignity. The malice which had glittered in his eyes then was
functioning now.

Rangar's message was to Dulac.

"Your girl's just gone to Apple Lake with young Foote in his car," it
said. That was all, but it seemed ample to Rangar.

Bonbright was not a reckless driver, but he drove rapidly this evening,
with a sort of driven eagerness. From, time to time Ruth turned and
glanced at his face and wondered what could have happened, for she had
never seen him like this before, even in his darkest moments. There was
a new element in his bearing, an element never there before.
Discouragement, apathy, she had seen, and bitterness. She had seen
wistfulness, hopelessness, chagrin, humiliation, but never until now
had she seen set determination, smoldering embers of rage. What, she
wondered, could this boy's father have done to him now?

Soon they were beyond the rim of industry which banded the city, and,
leaving behind them towering chimneys, smokeless for the night, clouds
of released working-men waiting their turns to crowd into overloaded
street cars, the grimy, busy belt line which extended in a great arc
through the body of the manufacturing strip, they passed through
sprouting, mushroomlike suburban villages--villages which had not been
there the year before, which would be indistinguishable from the city
itself the year after. Farther on they sped between huge-lettered
boards announcing the location of real-estate developments which as yet
consisted only of new cement sidewalks, immature trees promising future
shade, and innumerable stakes marking lot boundaries. Mile after mile
these extended, a testimonial to the faith of men in the growth of
their city.... And then came the country, guiltless of the odors of
gregarious humanity, of gasses, of smokes, of mankind itself, and of
the operations which were preparing its food. Authentic farms spread
about them; barns and farmhouses were dropped down at intervals;
everywhere was green quiet, softened, made to glow enticingly by the
sun's red disk about to dip behind the little hills.... All this Ruth
saw and loved. It was an unaccustomed sight, for she was tied to the
city. It altered her mood, softened her, made her more pliable.
Bonbright could have planned no better than to have driven her along
this road....

Presently they turned off at right angles, upon a country road shaded
by century-old maples--a road that meandered leisurely along, now
dipping into a valley created for agriculture, now climbing a hillside
rich with fruit trees; and now and then, from hilltop, or through gap
in the verdure, the gleam of quiet, rush-fringed lakes came to
Ruth--and touched her, touched her so that her heart was soft and her
lashes wet.... The whole was so placid, so free from turmoil, from
competition, from the tussling of business and the surging upward of
down-weighted classes. She was grateful to it.

Yet when, as she did now and then, she glanced at Bonbright, she felt
the contrast. All that was present in the landscape was absent from his
soul. There was no peace there, no placidity, but unrest, bitterness,
unhappiness--grimness. Yes, grimness. When the word came into her mind
she knew it was the one she had been searching for.... Why was he so
grim?

Presently they entered upon a road which ran low beside Apple Lake
itself, with tiny ripples lapping almost at the tire marks in the sand.
She looked, and breathed deeply and gladly. If she could only live on
such a spot!...

The club house was deserted save by the few servants, and Bonbright
gave directions that they should be served on the veranda. It was
almost the first word he had uttered since leaving the city. He led the
way to a table, from which they could sit and look out on the water.

"It's lovely," she said.

"I come here a good deal," he said, without explanation, but she
understood.

"If I were you, I'd LIVE here. Every day I would have the knowledge
that I was coming home to THIS in the evening.... You could. Why don't
you, I wonder?"

"I don't know. I can't remember a Foote who has ever lived in such a
place. If it hasn't been done in my family, of course I couldn't do it."

She pressed her lips together at the bitter note in his voice. It was
out of tune. "Have the ancestors been after you?" she asked. She often
spoke of the ancestors lightly and jokingly, which she saw he rather
liked.

"The whole lot have been riding me hard. And I'm a well-trained nag. I
never buck or balk.... I never did till to-day."

"To-day?"

"I bucked them off in a heap," he said, with no trace of humor. He was
dead serious. "I didn't know I could do it, but all of a sudden I was
plunging and rearing--and snorting, I expect.... And they were off."

"To stay?"

He dropped his eyes and fell silent. "Anyhow," he said, presently,
"it's a relief to be running free even for an hour."

"When they go to climb back why don't you buck some more? Now that
they're off--keep them off."

"It's not so easy. You see, I've been trained all my life to carry
them. You can't break off a thing like that in an instant. A priest
doesn't turn atheist in a night... and this Family Tradition business
is like a religion. It gets into your bones. You RESPECT it. You feel
it demanding things of you and you can't refuse.... I suppose there is
a duty."

"To yourself," she said, quickly.

"To THEM--and to the--the future.... But I bucked them off once. Maybe
they'll never ride so hard again, and maybe they'll try to break me by
riding harder.... Until to-day I never had a notion of fighting
back--but I'm going to give them a job of it now.... There are things I
WILL do. They sha'n't always have their way. Right now, Miss Frazer,
I've broken with the whole thing. They may be able to fetch me back. I
don't know.... Sometime I'll have to go. When father's through I'd have
to go, anyhow--to head the business."

"Your father ought to change the name of the business to Family Ghosts,
Incorporated," she said, with an attempt to lighten his seriousness.

"I'll be general manager--responsible to a board of directors from
across the Styx," he said, with an approach to a smile. "Here's our
waiter. I telephoned our order. Hope I've chosen to please you."

"Indeed you have," she replied. "I feel quite the aristocrat. I ought
not to do this sort of thing.... But I'm glad to do it once. I abhor
the rich," she said, laughing, "but some of the things they do and have
are mighty pleasant."

After a while she said: "If I were a rich man's wife I'd be something
more than a society gadabout. I'd insist on knowing his business... and
I'd make him do a lot of things for his workmen. Think of being a woman
and able to do so much for thousands of--of my class," she finished.

"Your class!" he said, sharply.

"I belong to the laboring class. First, because I was born into it,
and, second, because my heart is with it."

"Class doesn't touch you. It doesn't concern you. You're YOURSELF." For
the first time in her acquaintance with him he made her uneasy. His
eyes and the way he spoke those sentences disturbed her.

"Nonsense!" she said.

Neither spoke for some time. It was growing dark now, and lights were
glowing on the veranda. "When we're through," Bonbright said, "let's
walk down by the lake. There's a bully walk and a place to sit.... I
asked you to come because I wanted to take you there--miles away from
everybody...."

She was distinctly startled now, but helpless. She read storm signals,
but no harbor was at hand.

"We must be getting back," she said, lamely.

"It's not eight. We can go back in an hour.... Shall we walk down now?
I can't wait, Ruth, to say what I've got to say...."

It was impossible to hold back, futile to attempt escape. She knew now
why he had brought her and what he wanted to say, but she could not
prevent it.... If he must have his say let it be where he desired. Very
grave now, unhappy, her joy marred, she walked down the steps by his
side and along the shore of the lake. "Here," he said, presently,
drawing her into a nook occupied by a bench. She sat down obediently.

Was it fortunate or unfortunate that she did not know an automobile was
just turning into the lake road, a hired automobile, occupied by her
fiance, Dulac? Rangar's note had reached his hands and he had acted as
Rangar had hoped....



CHAPTER XIII


Until a few moments before Ruth had never had a suspicion of
Bonbright's feeling for her; she had not imagined he would ever cross
that distinct line which separates the friend from the suitor. It was
an unpleasant surprise to her. Not that he was repugnant to her, but
she had already bestowed her affections, and now she would have to hurt
this boy who had already suffered so much at the hands of others. She
recoiled from it. She blamed herself for her blindness, but she was not
to blame. What she had failed to foresee Bonbright himself had realized
only that morning.

He had awakened suddenly to the knowledge that his sentiment for Ruth
Frazer was not calm friendship, but throbbing love. He had been
awakened to it rudely, not as most young men are shown that they
love.... When he flung out of his father's office that morning he had
recognized only a just rage; hardly had his feet carried him over the
threshold before rage was crowded out by the realization of love. His
father's words had aroused his rage because he loved the woman they
maligned! Suddenly he knew it....

"It's SO," he said to himself. "It's so--and I didn't know it."

It was disconcerting, but he was glad. Almost at once he realized what
a change this thing brought into his life, and the major consequences
of it.... First, he would have her--he must have her--he would not live
without her. It required no effort of determination to arrive at that
decision. To win her, to have her for his own, was now the one
important thing in his life. To do so would mean--what would it mean?
The Family, dead and living, would be outraged. His father would stand
aghast at his impiousness; his mother, class conscious as few of the
under dogs are ever class conscious, would refuse to receive this girl
as her daughter.... There would be bitterness--but there would be
release. By this one step he would break with the Family Tradition and
the Family Ghosts. They would cast him out.... But would they cast him
out? He was Bonbright Foote VII, crown prince of the dynasty, vested
with rights in the family and in the family's property by family laws
of primogeniture and entail.... No, he would not be cast out, could not
be cast out, for his father would let no sin of his son's stand in the
way of a perpetuation of the family. Bonbright knew that if a complete
breach opened between his father and himself it must be his hand that
opened it. His father's would never do so.... He wondered if he could
do so--if, when he was calm, he would desire to do so.

Once he recognized his love he could not be still; office walls could
not contain him. He was in a fever to see Ruth with newly opened eyes,
with eyes that would see her as they had not seen her in the days
before.... He rushed out--to encounter Hangar, and to experience a
surging return of rage.... Then he went on, with no aim or purpose but
to get rid of the time that must pass before he could see Ruth. It was
ten o'clock, and he could not see her until five. Seven hours....

Now she was here, within reach of his hand, her face, not beautiful by
day, very lovely to his eyes as the rising moon stretched a ribbon of
light across the lake to touch her with its magic glow... and he could
not find words to say what must be said.

He had seated her on the bench and now paced up and down before her,
struggling to become coherent.

Then words came, a torrent of them, not coherent, not eloquent, but
REAL. Ruth recognized the reality in them. "I want you," he said,
standing over her. "I didn't know--I didn't realize... until to-day.
It's so.... It's been so right along. That's why I had to come to
you.... I couldn't get along without seeing you, but I didn't know
why.... I thought it was to see you smile. But it was because I had to
be near you.... I want to be near you always. This morning I found
out--and all day I've waited to see you.... That's all I've
done--thought about you and waited. It seems as if morning were years
away.... I don't know what I've done all day--just wandered around. I
didn't eat--until to-night. I couldn't. I couldn't do anything until I
saw you--and told you.... That's why I brought you here.... I wanted to
tell you HERE--not back there.... Away from all that. ... I can't go on
without you--that's what you mean to me. You're NECESSARY--like air or
water.... I--Maybe you haven't thought about me this way. I didn't
about you.... But you MUST... you MUST!"

It was pitiful. Tears wet Ruth's cheeks and she caught her breath to
restrain a rising sob.

He became calmer, gentler. "Maybe I've surprised you," he said. "Maybe
I've frightened you--I hope not. I don't mean to frighten you. I don't
want you ever to be frightened or worried.... I want to keep all kinds
of suffering out of your life if you'll let me. Won't you let me?..."
He stood waiting.

"Mr. Foote," she said, presently, "I--" then she stopped. She had
intended to tell him about Dulac; that she loved him and had promised
to marry him, but she could not utter the words. It would hurt him so
to know that she loved another man. She could refuse him without that
added pain. "Don't you see," she said, "how impossible it is? It
wouldn't do--even if I cared for you."

"If you cared for me," he said, "nothing could make it impossible."

"We belong in different worlds.... You couldn't come down to mine; I
wouldn't fit into yours. My world wouldn't have you, and your world
wouldn't have me.... Don't you see?"

"I don't see. What has your world or mine to do with it? It's just you
and me."

"When you saw that your family wouldn't have me, when you found out
that your friends wouldn't be friends with me, and that they didn't
want to be friends with you any longer just because you married me ..."

"I don't want any friends or family but you," he said, eagerly,
boyishly.

"Be reasonable, Mr. Foote.... You're rich. Some day you'll be the head
of a great business--with thousands of men working for you.... I belong
with them. You must be against them.... I couldn't bear it. You know
all about me. I've been brought up to believe the things I believe. My
father and grandfather and HIS grandfather worked and suffered for
them.... Just as your ancestors have worked and planned for the things
you represent.... It wouldn't ever do. We couldn't be happy. Even if
I--cared--and did as you ask--it wouldn't last."

"It would last," he said. "I KNOW. I've been trying to tell you, to
make you believe that you have crowded everything else out of my life.
There's just you in it.... It would last--and every day and every year
it would grow--more wonderful."

"There must be agreement and sympathy between a husband and his wife,
Mr. Foote.... Oh, I KNOW. In the bigger things. And there we could
never agree. It would make trouble--trouble that couldn't be avoided
nor dodged. It would be there with us every minute--and we'd know it.
You'd know I hated the things you stand for and the things you have to
do.... No man could bear that--to have his wife constantly reproaching
him."

"I think," he said, "that your word would be my law...."

She sat silent, startled. Unasked, unsought, a thought had entered her
mind; a terrifying thought, but a big and vital thought. HER WORD WOULD
BE HIS LAW. Her influence would be upon him.... And he was master of
thousands of her class. He would be master of more thousands.... If she
were his wife--if her word might become his law--how would those
laboring men be affected? Would her word be his law with respect to
them?...

She did not love him, but she did love the Cause she represented, that
her promised husband, Dulac, represented.... Her father had given his
life for it. She had given nothing. Now she could give--herself.... She
could sacrifice herself, she could pass by her love--but would it avail
anything?... This boy loved her, loved her with all his strength and
honesty. He would continue to love her. She believed that.... If, not
loving him, she should marry him, she would be able to hold his
love--and her word would be in some sort his law. She could influence
him--not abruptly, not suddenly, but gradually, cleverly, cunningly.
She could use him for her great purpose. Thousands of men might be
happier, safer from hunger and misery, closer to a realization of their
hope, if she gave herself to this boy.... She was filled with
exaltation--a Joan of Arc listening to her Voices....

It was possible--possible.... And if it were possible, if she could
accomplish this great thing for the Cause, dared she avoid it? Was it
not a holy duty?

Remember her parentage, her training; remember that she had drawn into
her being enthusiasm, fanaticism with the air she breathed in the very
cradle. She was a revolutionist.... Greater crimes than loveless
marriages have been committed in the name of Enthusiasm for a Cause.

She hesitated. What should she say?.... She must think, for a new face
was upon the matter. She must think, and she must talk with Dulac.
Dulac was stronger than she--but he saw eye to eye with her. The things
she set up and worshiped in their shrines he worshiped more
fervently.... She must put the boy off with evasion. She must postpone
her answer until she was certain she saw her duty clearly.

Love of humanity in the mass was in her heart--it shouldered out
fairness to an individual man. She did not think of this. If she had
thought it might not have mattered, for if she were willing to immolate
herself would she not have been as ready to sacrifice one man--for the
good of thousands?

"I-" she began, and was dimly conscious of shame at her duplicity. "I
did not know you--wanted me this way.... Let me think. I can't
answer--to-night. Wait.... Give me time."

His voice was glad as he answered, and its gladness shamed her again.
"Wait.... I'd wait forever. But I don't want to wait forever.... It is
more than I hoped, more than I had the right to hope. I know I took you
by surprise.... Let me have time and the chance to make you love me--to
let you get used to the idea of my loving you. But try not to be long.
I'm impatient--you don't know how impatient...."

"I-I sha'n't be long," she said. "You mustn't build too many hopes...."

He laughed. She had never heard him laugh with such lightness, with
such a note of soul-gladness, before. "Hope.... I shall eat and drink
hope--until you--come to me. For you will come to me. I know it.... It
couldn't be any other way." He laughed again, gayly. And then from out
the blackness of the surrounding shrubbery there plunged the figure of
a man....

Before Bonbright could lift a hand to shield himself blows began to
fall, blows not delivered with the naked fist. Once, twice, again the
man struck with the strength of frenzy. Ruth sat silent, stunned,
paralyzed by fright, and uttered no scream. Then she saw the face of
Bonbright's assailant. It was Dulac--and she understood.

She sprang to him, clutched at his arm, but he hurled her off and
struck again.... It was enough. Bonbright stood wavering a moment,
struggling to remain upright, but sagging slowly. Then he slumped to
the ground in a sort of uncanny sitting posture, his head sunk upon his
knees.

Ruth stood looking down upon him with horror-widened eyes. Dulac hurled
his weapon into the bushes and turned upon her furiously, seizing her
arm and dragging her to him so that his eyes, glowing with unreason,
could burn into hers.

"Oh--" she moaned.

"I've taught him," Dulac said, his voice quivering with rage. "It was
time... the vermin. Because he was rich he thought he was safe. He
thought he could do anything.... But I've taught him. They starve us
and stamp on us--and then steal our wives and smirch our sweethearts."

Ruth tried to bend over Bonbright, to lift his head, to give him
assistance, but Dulac jerked her away.

"Don't touch him. Don't dare to touch him," he said.

"He doesn't--move," she said, in a horrified whisper. "Maybe
you've-killed him."

"He deserved it.... And you--have you anything to say? What are you
doing here--with him?"

"Let me go," she panted. "Let me see--I must see. He can't be--dead.
... You--you BEAST!" she cried, shrilly. "He was good. He meant no
harm.... He loved me, and that's why this happened. It's my fault--my
fault."

"Be still," he commanded. "He loved you--you admit it. You dare admit
it--and you here alone with him at night."

"He asked--me--to--marry--him," she said, faintly. "He was not--what
you think.... He was a good--boy."

Suddenly she tried to break from him to go to Bonbright, but he
clutched her savagely. "Help!... Help!..." she cried. Then his hand
closed over her mouth and he gathered her up in his arms and carried
her away.

He did not look behind at Bonbright huddled there with the ribbon of
moonlight pointing across the lake at his limp body, but half
staggered, half ran to his waiting car.... A snarled word, and the
engine started. Ruth, choking, helpless, was carried away, leaving
Bonbright alone and still....



CHAPTER XIV


Bonbright was on his hands and knees on the edge of the lake, dizzily
slopping water on his head and face. He was struggling toward
consciousness, fighting dazedly for the power to act. As one who, in a
dream, reviews the events of another half-presented dream, he knew what
had happened. Consciousness had not fully deserted him. Dulac had
attacked him; Dulac had carried Ruth away.... Somehow he had no fears
for her personal safety, but he must follow. He must KNOW that she was
safe....

Not many minutes had passed since Dulac struck him down. His body was
strong, well trained to sustain shocks and to recover from them, thanks
to four years of college schooling in the man's game of football. Since
he left college he had retained the respect for his body which had been
taught him, and with golf and tennis and gymnasium he had kept himself
fit... so that now his vital forces marshaled themselves quickly to
fight his battle for him. Presently he raised himself to his feet and
stood swaying dizzily; with fingers that fumbled he tied his
handkerchief about his bruised head and staggered toward his car, for
his will urged him on to follow Dulac.

To crank the motor (for the self-starter had not yet arrived) was a
task of magnitude, but he accomplished it and pulled himself into the
seat. For a moment he lay upon the steering wheel, panting, fighting
back his weakness; then he thrust forward his control lever and the car
began to move. The motion, the kindly touch of the cool night air
against his head, stimulated him; he stepped on the gas pedal and the
car leaped forward as though eager for the pursuit.

Out into the main road he lurched, grimly clutching the steering wheel,
leaning on it for support, his aching, blurred eyes clinging to the
illuminated way before him, and he drove as he had never ventured to
drive before. Beating against his numbed brain was his will's
sledge-hammer demands for speed, and he obeyed recklessly....

Roadside objects flicked by, mile after mile was dropped behind, the
city's outskirts were being snatched closer and closer--and then he saw
the other car far ahead. All that remained to be asked of his car he
demanded now, and he overhauled the smaller, less speedy machine. Now
his lights played on its rear and his horn sounded a warning and a
demand. Dulac's car veered to the side to let him pass, and he lurched
by, only turning a brief, wavering glance upon the other machine to
assure himself that Ruth was there. He saw her in a flashing second, in
the tonneau, with Dulac by her side.... She was safe, uninjured. Then
Bonbright left them behind.

The road narrowed, with deep ditches on either hand. Here was the place
he sought. He set his brakes, shut off his power, and swung his car
diagonally across the way, so that it would be impossible for Dulac to
pass. Then he alighted, and stood waiting, holding on to his machine
for support.

The other car came to a stop and Dulac sprang out. Bonbright saw Ruth
rise to follow; heard Dulac say, roughly: "Get back. Stay where you
are."

"No," she replied, and stepped to the road.

Bonbright could see how pale she was, how frightened.

"Don't be afraid," he said to her. "Nothing is going to--happen."

He stood erect now, free from the support of the car, waiting for
Dulac, who approached menacingly.

"Dulac," he said, "I can't--fight you. I can't even---defend
myself--much.... Unless you insist."

The men were facing each other now, almost toe to toe. Dulac's face was
stormy with passion under scant restraint; Bonbright, though he swayed
a bit unsteadily, faced him with level eyes. Ruth saw the decent
courage of the boy and her fear for him made her clutch Dulac's sleeve.
The man shook her off.

"I know--why you attacked me," said Bonbright, slowly, "what you
thought.... I--stopped you to--be sure Miss Frazer was safe... and to
tell you you were--wrong.... Not that you have a--right to question me,
but nobody must think--ill of Miss Frazer.... No misunderstanding...."

"Get that car out of the way," said Dulac.

Bonbright shook his head. "Not till I'm--through," he said. "Then you
may--take Miss Frazer home.... But be kind to her--gentle.... I shall
ask her about it--and I sha'n't be--knocked out long."

"You threaten me, you pampered puppy!"

"Yes," said Bonbright, grimly, "exactly."

Dulac started to lift his arm, but Ruth caught it. "No.... No," she
said, in a tense whisper. "You mustn't. Can't you see how--hurt he is?
He can hardly stand.... You're not a COWARD...."

"Dulac," said Bonbright, "here's the truth: I took Miss Frazer to the
lake to--ask her to--marry me.... No other reason. She was--safe with
me--as with you. I want her for--my wife. Do you understand?... You
thought--what my father thought."

Ruth uttered a little cry. So THAT was what had happened!

"All the decency in the world," Bonbright said, "isn't in--union men,
workingmen.... Because I have more money than you--you want to
believe--anything of me.... You're even willing to--believe it of
her.... I can--love as well as if I were poor.... I can--honor and
respect the girl I want to marry as well as if I--carried a union
card.... That is TRUE."

Dulac laughed shortly; then, even in his rage, he became oratorical,
theatrical.

"We know the honor and respect of your kind.... We know what our
sisters and daughters have to expect from you. We've learned it. You
talk fair--you dangle your filthy money under their eyes--you promise
this and you promise that.... And then you throw away your toys....
They come back to us covered with disgrace, heart-broken, marked
forever, and fit to be no man's wife.... That's your respect and honor.
That's your decency.... Leave our women alone.... Go to your
bridge-playing, silly, husband-swapping society women. They know you.
They know what to expect from you--and get what they deserve. Leave our
women alone.... Leave this girl alone. We men have to endure enough at
your hands, but we won't endure this.... We'll do as I did to-night. I
thrashed you--"

"Like a coward, in the dark, from behind," said Bonbright, boyish pride
insisting upon offering its excuse. "I didn't stop you to argue about
capital and labor. I stopped you--to tell you the truth about to-night.
I've told it."

"You've lied the way your kind always lies."

Bonbright's lips straightened, his eyes hardened, and he leaned
forward. "I promised Miss Frazer nothing--should happen. It sha'n't.
... But you're a fool, Dulac. You know I'm telling the truth--but you
won't admit it--because you don't want to. Because I'm not on your
side, you won't admit it.... And that makes you a fool.... Be still.
You haven't hesitated to tell me I lied. I've taken that--and you'll
take what I have to say. It isn't much. I don't know much about
the--differences between your kind and my kind.... But your side gets
more harm than good from men like you. You're a blind fanatic. You cram
your men on lies and stir them up to hate us.... Maybe there's cause,
but you magnify it.... You won't see the truth. You won't see
reason.... You hold us apart. Maybe you're honest--fanatics usually
are, but fanatics are fools. It does no good to tell you so. I'm
wasting my breath.... Now take Miss Frazer home--and be careful how you
treat her."

He turned his back squarely and pulled himself into his car. Then he
turned to Ruth. "Good night, Miss Frazer," he said. "I am sorry--for
all this.... May I come for--your answer to-morrow?"

"No...." she said, tremulously. "Yes...."

Bonbright straightened his car in the road and drove on. He was at the
end of his strength. He wanted the aid of a physician, and then he
wanted to lie down and sleep, and sleep. The day that had preceded the
attack upon him had been wearing enough to exhaust the sturdiest. The
tension of waiting, the anxiety, the mental disturbance, had demanded
their usual wages of mind and body. Sudden shock had done the rest.

He drove to the private hospital of a doctor of his acquaintance, a
member of his club, and gained admission. The doctor himself was there,
by good fortune, and saw Bonbright at once, and examined the wounds in
his scalp.

"Strikers get you?" he asked.

"Automobile mix-up," said Bonbright, weakly.

"Uh-huh!" said the doctor. "I suppose somebody picked up a light
roadster and struck you over the head with it.... Not cut much. No
stitches. A little adhesive'll do the trick--and then.... Sort of
excited, eh? Been under a bit of a strain?... None of my business, of
course.... Get into bed and I'll send up something to tone you down and
make you sleep. You've been playing in too high a key--your fiddle
strings are too tight."

Getting into that cool, soft bed was one of the pleasantest experiences
of Bonbright's life. He was almost instantly asleep--and he still
slept, even at the deliberate hour that saw his father enter the office
at the mills.

Mr. Foote was disturbed. He had not seen his son since the boy flung
out of the office the morning before; had had no word of him. He had
expected Bonbright to come home in the evening and had waited for him
in the library to have a word with him. He had come to the conclusion
that it would be best to throw some sort of sop to Bonbright in the way
of apparent authority, of mock responsibility. It would occupy the
boy's mind, he thought, while in no way altering the conditions, not
affecting the end to be arrived at. Bonbright must be held.... If it
were necessary to administer an anaesthetic while the operation of
remaking him into a true Foote was performed, why, the anaesthetic
would be forthcoming.

But Bonbright did not come, even with twelve strokes of the clock. His
father retired, but in no refreshing sleep.... On that day no progress
had been made with the Marquis Lafayette. That work required a calm
that Mr. Foote could not master.

His first act after seating himself at his desk was to summon Rangar.

"My son was not at home last night," he said. "I have not seen him
since yesterday morning. I hope you can give me an account of him."

"Not home last night, Mr. Foote!" Manifestly Rangar was startled. He
had not been at ease before, for he had been unable to pick up any
trace of the boy this morning; had not seen him return home the night
before.... It might be that he had gone too far when he sent his
anonymous note to Dulac. Dulac had gone in pursuit, of that he had made
sure. But what had happened? Had the matter gone farther than the mere
thrashing he had hoped for?... He was frightened.

"I directed you to keep him under your eye."

"Your directions were followed, Mr. Foote, so far as was possible. I
know where he was yesterday, and where he went last night, but when a
young man is running around the country in an automobile with a girl,
it's mighty hard to keep at his heels. He was with that girl."

"When?... What happened?"

"He waited for her at the Lightener plant. She works there now. They
drove out the Avenue together--some place into the country. Mr.
Bonbright is a member of the Apple Lake Club, and I was sure they were
going there.... That's the last I know."

"Telephone the Apple Lake Club. See if he was there and when he left."

Rangar retired to do so, and returned presently to report that
Bonbright and a young lady had dined there, but had not been seen after
they left the table. Nobody could say when they went away from the club.

"Call Malcolm Lightener--at his office. Once the boy stayed at his
house."

Rangar made the call, and, not able to repress the malice that was in
him, went some steps beyond his directions. Mr. Lightener was on the
wire.

"This is Rangar, Mr. Lightener--Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. Mr.
Foote wished me to inquire if you had seen Mr. Bonbright between six
o'clock last night and this morning."

"No.... Why does he ask me? What's the matter?"

"Mr. Foote says Bonbright stayed with you one night, and thought he
might have done so again. Mr. Foote is worried, sir. The young man
has--er--vanished, so to speak. He was seen last at your plant about
five o'clock. In his automobile, Mr. Lightener. He was waiting for a
young woman who works for you--a Miss Frazer, I understand. Used to be
his secretary. They drove away together, and he hasn't been seen
since.... Mr. Foote has feared some sort of--er--understanding between
them."

"Huh!" grunted Lightener. "Don't know anything about it. Tell Foote to
look after his own son... if he knows how." Then the receiver clicked.

Lightener swung away from the telephone and scowled at the wall. "He
don't look it," he said, presently, "and I'm darned if SHE does....
Huh!..." He pressed a button. "Send in Miss Frazer," he said to the boy
who answered the buzzer.

In a moment Ruth stood in the door. He let her stand while he
scrutinized her briefly. She looked ill. Her eyes were dull and marked
by surrounding darkness. She had no color. He shook his head Like a
displeased lion.

"Miss Frazer," he said, gruffly, "I make it a practice always to mind
my own business except when there's some reason for not minding
it--which is frequent."

"Yes, sir," she said, as he paused.

"Yes, sir.... Yes, sir. What do YOU know about it? Come in and shut the
door. Come over here where I can look at you. What's the matter? Ill?
If you're sick what are you doing here? Home's the place for you."

"I'm not ill, Mr. Lightener."

"Huh!... I liked your looks--like 'em yet. Like everybody's looks who
works here, or I wouldn't have 'em.... You're all right, I'll bet a
dollar--all RIGHT.... You know young Foote got you your job here?"

He saw the sudden intake of her breath as Bonbright's name was
mentioned. "Yes," she said, faintly.

"What about him?... Know him well? LIKE HIM?"

"I--I know him quite well, Mr. Lightener. Yes, I--like him."

"Trust him?"

She looked at him a moment before replying; then her chin lifted a
trifle and there came a glint into her eyes. "Absolutely," she said.

"Um!... Good enough. So do I.... Enough to let him play around with my
daughter.... Has he anything to do with the way you look to-day?... Not
a fair question--yet. You needn't answer."

"I shouldn't," she said, and he smiled at the asperity of her tone.

"Mr. Bonbright Foote seems to be causing his family anxiety," he said.
"He's disappeared.... I guess they think you carried him off. Did you
go somewhere with him in his car last night?"

"You have no right to question me, Mr. Lightener."

"Don't I know it? I tell you I like you and I like him--and I think his
father's a stiff-backed, circumstantial, ancestor-ridden damn fool....
Something's happened or Foote wouldn't be telephoning around. He's got
reason to be frightened, and good and frightened. ... A girl,
especially a girl in your place, hasn't any business being mixed up in
any mess, much less with a young millionaire.... That's why I'm not
minding my own business. You work for me, don't you--and ain't I
responsible for you, sort of? Well, then? Were you with Bonbright last
night?"

"Yes, sir."

"Huh!... Something happened, didn't it?" "Nothing that--Mr. Foote had
anything to do with--"

"But something happened. What?"

"I can't tell you, Mr. Lightener."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Where is he now?"

"I don't know."

"When did you see him last?"

"A little after nine o'clock last night."

"Where?"

"Going toward home--I thought."

"He didn't go there. Where else would he go?"

"I don't--know." Her voice broke, her self-control was deserting her.

"Hey!... Hold on there. No hysterics or anything. Won't have 'em. Brace
up."

"Let me alone, then," she said, childishly. "Why can't you let me
alone?"

"I--Confound it! I'm not deviling you. I'm trying to haul you out of a
muss. Quit it, will you?" She had sunk into a chair and covered her
face. He got up and stood over her, scowling. "Will you stop it? Hear
me? Stop it, I tell you'... What's the matter--anyhow? If Bonbright
Foote's done anything to you he hadn't ought to I'll skin him alive."

The door opened and Hilda Lightener tripped into the room. "Hello,
dad!" she said. "Surprise.... I want to--" She stopped to look at her
father, and then at Ruth, crouched in her chair. "What's the matter,
dad?" Hilda asked. "You haven't been scaring this little girl? If you
have--" She paused threateningly.

"Oh, the devil!... I'll get out. You see if you can make her stop it.
Cuddle her, or something. I've done a sweet job of it.... Miss Frazer,
this is my daughter. Er--I'm going away from here." And he went,
precipitately.

There was a brief silence; then Hilda laid her hand on Ruth's head.
"What's dad been doing to you?" she asked. "Scare you? His bark's a
heap sight worse than his bite."

"He--he's good," said Ruth, tearfully. "He was trying to be good to
me.... I'm just upset--that's all. I'll be--all right in a moment." But
she was not all right in a moment. Her sobs increased. The strain, the
anxiety, a sleepless night of suffering--and the struggle she had
undergone to find the answer to Bonbright's question--had tried her to
the depths of her soul. Now she gave quite away and, unwillingly
enough, sobbed and mumbled on Hilda Lightener's shoulder, and clung to
the larger girl pitifully, as a frightened baby clings to its mother.

Hilda's face grew sober, her eyes darkened, as, among Ruth's broken,
fragmentary, choking words, she heard the name of Bonbright Foote. But
her arm did not withdraw from about Ruth's shoulders, nor did the
sympathy in her kind voice lessen.... Most remarkable of all, she did
not give way to a very natural curiosity. She asked no question.

After a time Ruth grew quieter, calmer.

"I'll tell you what you need," said Hilda. "It's to get away from here.
My electric's downstairs. I'm going to take you away from father. We'll
drive around a bit, and then I'll run you home.... You're all aquiver."

She went out, closing the door after her. Her father was pacing
uneasily up and down the alley between the desks, and she motioned to
him.

"She's better now. I'm going to take her home.... Dad, she was
muttering about Bonbright. What's he got to do with this?"

"I don't know, honey. Nothing--nothing ROTTEN.... It isn't in him--nor
HER."

Hilda nodded.

"Bonbright seems to have disappeared," her father said.

"DISAPPEARED?"

"His father's hunting for him, anyhow. Hasn't been home all night."

"I don't blame him," said Hilda, with a flash in her eyes. "But what's
this girl got to do with it?"

"I wish you'd find out. I was trying to--and that blew up the house."

"I'll try nothing of the kind," she said. "Of course, if she WANTS to
tell me, and DOES tell me, I'll listen.... But I won't tell you. You
run your old factory and keep out of such things. You just MESS them."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, with mock submissiveness, "it looks like I do
just that."

Hilda went back into the room, and presently she and Ruth emerged and
went out of the building. That day began their acquaintance, which was
to expand into a friendship very precious to both of them--and one day
to be the rod and staff that sustained Ruth and kept her from despair.



CHAPTER XV


Hilda Lightener represented a new experience to Ruth. Never before had
she come into such close contact with a woman of a class she had been
taught to despise as useless and worse than useless. Even more than
they hated the rich man Ruth's class hated the rich man's wife and
daughter. Society women stood to them for definite transgressions of
the demands of human equality and fairness and integrity of life. They
were parasites, wasters, avoiding the responsibilities of womanhood and
motherhood. They flaunted their ease and their luxuries. They were
arrogant. When their lives touched the lives of the poor it was with
maddening condescension. In short, they were not only no good, but were
flagrantly bad.

The zealots among whom Ruth's youth had lain knew no exceptions to this
judgment. All so-called society women were included. Now Ruth was
forced to make a revision.... All employers of labor had been
malevolent. Experience had proven to her that Bonbright Foote was not
malevolent, and that a more conspicuous, vastly more powerful figure in
the industrial world, Malcolm Lightener, was human, considerate,
respectful of right, full of unexpected disturbing virtues.... Ruth was
forced to the conclusion that there were good men and good women where
she had been taught to believe they did not exist.... It was a
pin-prick threatening the bubble of her fanaticism.

She had not been able to withhold her liking from Hilda Lightener.
Hilda was strongly attracted by Ruth. King Copetua may occasionally wed
the beggar maid, but it is rare for his daughter or his sister to
desire a beggar maid's friendship.

Hilda did not press Ruth for confidences, nor did Ruth bestow them. But
Hilda succeeded in making Ruth feel that she was trustworthy, that she
offered her friendship sincerely.... That she was an individual to
depend on if need came for dependence. They talked. At first Hilda
carried on a monologue. Gradually Ruth became more like her sincere,
calm self, and she met Hilda's advances without reservation.... When
Hilda left her at her home both girls carried away a sense of
possessing something new of value.

"Don't you come back to the office to-day," Hilda told her. "I'll
settle dad."

"Thank you," said Ruth. "I do need--rest. I've got to be alone
to--think." That was the closest she came to opening her heart.

She did have to think, though she had thought and reasoned and suffered
the torture of mental conflict through a nearly sleepless night. She
had told Bonbright to come on this day for her answer.... She must have
her answer ready. Also she must talk the thing over with Dulac. That
would be hard--doubly hard in the situation that existed.

Last night she had not spoken of it to him; had scarcely spoken to him
at all, as he had been morosely silent to her. She had been shocked,
frightened by his violence, yet she knew that his violence had been
honest violence, perpetrated because he believed her welfare demanded
it. She did not feel toward him the aversion that the average girl
might have felt for one who precipitated her into such a scene.... She
was accustomed to violence and to the atmosphere of violence.

When she and Dulac arrived at the Frazer cottage, he had helped her to
alight. Then he uttered a rude apology, but a sincere one--according to
his lights.

"I'm sorry I had to do it with you watching," he said. Then, curtly,
"Go to bed now."

Clearly he suspected her of no wrongdoing, of no intention toward
future wrongdoing. She was a VICTIM. She was a pigeon fascinated by a
serpent.

Now she went to her room, and remained there until the supper hour.

When she and her mother and Dulac were seated at the table her mother
began a characteristic Jeremiad. "I hope you ain't coming down with a
spell of sickness. Seems like sickness in the family's about the only
thing I've been spared, though other things worse has been aplenty.
Here we are just in a sort of a breathing spell, and you begin to look
all peeked and home from work, with maybe losing your place, for
employers is hard without any consideration, and food so high and all.
I wasn't born to no ease, nor any chance of looking forward like some
women, though doing my duty at all times to the best of my ability. And
now you on the verge of a run of the fever, with nobody can say how
long in bed, and doctors and medicines and worry...."

"I'm not going to be ill, mother," Ruth said. "Please don't worry about
me."

"If a mother can't worry about her own daughter, then I'd like to know
what she can do," said Mrs. Frazer, with the air of one suffering
meekly a studied affront.

Ruth turned to Dulac. "Before you go downtown," she said, "I want to
talk to you."

Dulac had not hoped to escape a reckoning with Ruth, and now he
supposed she was demanding it. Well, as well now as later, if the thing
had to be. He was a trifle sulky about it; perhaps, now that his blind
rage had subsided, not wholly satisfied with himself and his conduct.
"All right," he said, and went silently on with his meal. After a time
he pushed back his chair. "I've got a meeting downtown," he said to
Ruth, paving the way for a quick escape.

"Maybe what I have to say," she said, gravely, "will be as important as
your meeting," and she preceded him into the little parlor.

His attitude was defensive; he expected to be called on for
explanations, to be required to soothe resentment; his mental condition
was more or less that of a schoolboy expecting a ragging.

Ruth did not begin at once, but walked over to the window, and, leaning
her elbow against the frame, pressed her forehead against the cool
glass. She wanted to clear and make direct and coherent her thoughts.
She wanted to express well, leaving no ground for misunderstanding of
herself or her motives, what she had to say. Then she turned, and began
abruptly; began in a way that left Dulac helplessly surprised, for it
was not the attack he expected.

"Mr. Foote asked me to marry him, last night," she said, and stopped.
"That is why he took me out to the lake.... I hadn't any idea of it
before. I didn't know... He was honest and sincere. At first I was
astonished. I tried to stop him. I was going to tell him I loved you
and that we were going to be married." She stopped again, and went on
with an effort. "Then something came to me--and it frightened me. All
the time he was talking to me I kept on thinking about it... and I
didn't want to think about it because of--you.... You know I want to do
something for the Cause--something big, something great! It's hard for
a woman to do such a thing--but I saw a chance. It was a hard chance, a
bitter chance, but it was there.... I'm not a doll. I think I could be
strong. He's just a boy, and I am strong enough to influence him....
And I thought how his wife could help. Don't you see? He will own
thousands of laboring men--thousands and thousands. If I married him I
could do--what couldn't I do?--for them. I would make him see through
my eyes. I would make him UNDERSTAND. My work would be to make him
better conditions, to give those thousands of men what they are
entitled to, to give them all men like you and like my father have
taught me they ought to have.... I could do it. I know. Think of
it--thousands of men, and then--wives and children, made happier, made
contented, given their fair share--and by me!... That's what I thought
about--and so--so I didn't refuse him. I didn't tell him about you....
I told him I'd give him my answer--later...."

His face had changed from sullenness to relief, from relief to
astonishment, then to black anger.

"Your answer," he said, passionately. "What answer could you give but
one? You're mine. You've promised me. That's the answer you'll give
him.... You THOUGHT. I know what you thought. You thought about his
money--about his millions. You thought what his wife would have, how
she would live. You thought about luxuries, about automobiles, about
jewels.... Laboring men!... Hell! He showed you the kingdoms of the
earth--and you wanted them. He offered to buy you--and you looked at
the price and it was enough to tempt you.... You'll give him no answer.
I'll give it to him, and it'll be the same kind of answer I gave him
last night.... But this time he won't get up so quick. This time..."

"Stop!... That's not true. You know it's not true.... I've promised to
marry you--and I've loved you. Yes, I've loved you.... I'm glad of
that. It makes the sacrifice real. It makes all the more I have to
give.... Father gave his life. You're giving your life and your
strength and your abilities.... I want to give, too, and so I'm glad,
glad that I love you, and that I can give that.... If I didn't love
you, if I did care for Mr. Foote, it would be different. I would be
afraid I was marrying him because of what he is and what he has. ...
But I am giving up more than he can ever return to me with all his
money.... Money can't buy love. It can't give back to me that happiness
I would have known with you, working for you, suffering with you,
helping you. It's my chance.... You must see. You must believe the
truth. I couldn't bear it if you didn't--if you didn't see that I am
throwing away my happiness and giving myself--just for the Cause. That
I am giving all of myself--not to a quick, merciful death. That
wouldn't be hard.... But to years of misery, to a lifetime of
suffering. Knowing I love you, I will have to go to him, and be his
wife, and pretend--pretend--day after day, year after year, that I love
him.... I'll have to deceive him. I'll have to hold his love and make
it stronger, and I'll--I'll come to loathe him. Does that sound easy?
Could money buy that? Look into your heart and see...."

He strode to her, and his hands fell heavily on her shoulders, his
black, blazing eyes burned into hers.

"You love me--you haven't lied to me?" he demanded, hoarsely.

"I love you."

"Then, by God! you're mine, and I'll have you. He sha'n't buy you away
if I have to kill him. You're mine, do you hear?--MINE!"

"Who do you belong to?" she asked. "If I demanded that you give up your
work, abandon the Cause, would you do it for me?"

"No."

"You belong to the Cause--not to me.... I belong to the Cause, too. ...
Body and soul I belong to it. What am I to you but a girl, an incident?
Your duty lies toward all those men. Your work is to help them.... Then
you should give me willingly; if I hesitate you should try to force me
to do this thing-for it will help. What other thing could do what it
will do? Think! THINK!... THINK!"

"You're mine.... He has everything else. His kind take everything else
from us. Now they want our wives. They sha'n't have them.... He sha'n't
have them.... He sha'n't have you."

"It is for me to say," she replied, gently. "I'm so sorry--so sorry--if
it hurts you. I'm sorry any part of the suffering and sorrow must fall
on you. If I could only bear it alone! If I can help, it's my right to
help, and to give.... Don't make it harder. Oh, don't make it harder!"

He flung her from him roughly. "You're like all of them.... Wealth
dazzles you. You fear poverty.... Softness, luxuries--you all--you
women--are willing to sell your souls for them."

"Did my mother sell her soul for luxuries? If she did, where are they?
Did your mother sell her soul for them?... Have the wives of all the
men who have worked and suffered and been trampled on for the Cause
sold their souls?... You're bitter. I--I am sorry--so sorry. If you
care for me as I do for you--I--I know how bitterly hard it will
be--to--give me up--to see me his wife...."

"I'll never see that. You can throw me over, but you'll never marry
him."

"You're big--you're big enough to see this as I see it, and big enough
to let me do it.... You will be when--the surprise and the first hurt
of it have gone. It's asking just one more thing of you--when you've
willingly given so much.... But it's I who do the harder giving. In a
few months, in a year, you will have forgotten me.... I can never
forget you. Every day and every hour I'll be reminded of you. I'll be
thinking of you.... When I greet HIM it will be YOU I'm greeting....
When I am pretending to--to care for him, it will be YOU I am loving.
The thought of that, and the knowledge of what I am doing for those
poor men--will be all the happiness I shall have... will give me
courage to live on and to GO on.... You believe me, don't you, dear?
You must, you must believe me!"

He approached her again. "Look at me!... Look at me," he demanded, and
she gave her eyes to his. They were pure eyes, the eyes of an
enthusiast, the eyes of a martyr. He could not misread them, even in
his passion he could not doubt them.... The elevation of her soul shone
through them. Constancy, steadfastness, courage, determination,
sureness, and loftiness of purpose were written there.... He turned
away, his head sinking upon his breast, and when he spoke the passion,
the rancor, the bitterness, were gone from his voice. It was lower,
quivering, almost gentle.

"You sha'n't.... It isn't necessary. It isn't required of you."

"If it is possible, then it is required of me," she said.

"No.... No...." He sank into a chair and covered his face, and she
could hear the hissing of his breath as he fought for self-control.

"If it were you," she said. "If you could bring about the things I
can--the good for so many--would you hesitate? Is there anything you
wouldn't do to give THEM what I can give?... You know there's not. You
know you could withhold no sacrifice.... Then don't make this one
harder for me. Don't stand in my way."

"I HATE him," Dulac said, in a tense whisper. "If you--married him and
I should meet him--I couldn't keep my hands off him.... The thought of
YOU--of HIM--I'd KILL him...."

"You wouldn't," she said. "You'd think of ME--and you'd remember that I
love you--and that I have given you up--and all the rest, so I could be
his wife--and rule him.... And you wouldn't make it all futile by
killing him.... Then I'd be helpless. I've got to have him to--to do
the rest."

She went to him, and stroked his black, waving hair--so gently.

"Go now, my dear," she said. "You've got to rise to this with me.
You've got to sustain me.... Go now.... My mind is made up. I see my
way...." Her voice trembled pitifully. "Oh, I see my way--and it is
hard, HARD...."

"No," he cried, struggling to his feet.

"Yes," she said, softly. "Good-by.... This is our good-by. I--oh, my
dear, don't forget--never forget--Oh, go, GO!"

In that moment it seemed to her that her heart was bursting for him,
that she loved him to the very roots of her soul. She was sure at last,
very sure. She was certain she was not blinded by glamour, not
fascinated by the man and his part in the world.... If there had been,
in a secret recess of her heart, a shadow of uncertainty, it was gone
in this moment.

"Good-by," she said.

He arose and walked toward the door. He did not look at her. His hand
was on the knob, and the door was opening, yet he did not turn or
look.... "Good-by.... Good-by," she sobbed--and he was GONE...

She was alone, and through all the rest of her years she must be alone.
She had mounted the altar, a sacrifice, a willing sacrifice, but never
till this minute had she experienced the full horror and bitterness and
woe that were required of her.... She was ALONE.

The world has seen many minor passions in the Garden. It sees and
passes on, embodying none of them in deathless epic as His passion was
embodied.... Men and women have cried out to listening Heaven that the
cup might pass from their lips, and it has not been permitted to pass,
as His was not permitted to pass. In the souls of men and of women is
something of the divine, something high and marvelous--a gift from
Heaven to hold the human race above the mire which threatens to engulf
it.... Every day it asserts itself somewhere; in sacrifice, in
devotion, in simple courage, in lofty renunciation. It is common;
wonderfully, beautifully common... yet there are men who do not see it,
or, seeing, do not comprehend, and so despair of humanity.... Ruth,
crouching on the floor of her little parlor, might have numbered
countless brothers and sisters, had she known.... She was uplifting
man, not because of the thing she might accomplish, but because she was
willing to seek its accomplishment....

Her eyes were dry. She could not weep. She could only crouch there and
peer into the blackness of the gulf that lay at her feet.... Then the
doorbell rang, and she started. Eyes wide with tragedy, she looked
toward the door, for she knew that there stood Bonbright Foote, come
for his answer....



CHAPTER XVI


Bonbright had disobeyed the physician's orders to stay in bed all day,
but when he arose he discovered that there are times when even a
restless and impatient young man is more comfortable with his head on a
pillow. So until evening he occupied a lounge with what patience he
could muster. So it was that Rangar had no news of him during the day
and was unable to relieve his father's increasing anxiety. Mr. Foote
was not anxious now, but frightened; frightened as any potentate might
be who perceived that the succession was threatened, that extinction
impended over his line.

Bonbright scarcely tasted the food that was brought him on a tray at
six o'clock. He was afire with eagerness, for the hour was almost there
when he could go to Ruth for her answer. He arose, somewhat dizzily,
and demanded his hat, which was given him with protests. It was still
too early to make his call, but he could not stay away from the
neighborhood, so he took a taxicab to Ruth's corner, and there
alighted. For half an hour he paced slowly up and down, eying the
house, picturing in his mind Ruth in the act of accepting him or Ruth
in the act of refusing him. One moment hope flashed high; the next it
was quenched by doubt.... He saw Dulac leave the house; waited another
half hour, and then rang the doorbell.

Mrs. Frazer opened the door.

"Evening, Mr. Foote," she said, without enthusiasm, for she had not
approved of this young man's calls upon her daughter.

"Miss Frazer is expecting me," he said, diffidently, for he was
sensitive to her antagonism.

"In the parlor," said she, "and no help with the dishes, which is to be
expected at her age, with first one young man and then another, which,
if she gets any pleasure out of it, I'm not one to deny her, though not
consulted. If I was starting over again I'd wish it was a son to be
traipsing after some other woman's daughter and not a daughter to have
other women's sons traipsing after.... That door, Mr. Foote. Go right
in."

Bonbright entered apprehensively, as one might enter a court room where
a jury was about to rise and declare its verdict of guilty or not
guilty. He closed the door after him mechanically.

"Ruth..." he said.

Her face, marked with tears, not untouched by suffering, startled him.
"Are you--ill?" he said.

"Just--just tired" she said.

"Shall I go?... Shall I come again to-morrow?"

"No." She was aware of his concern, of the self-effacing thoughtfulness
of his offer. He was a good boy, decent and kind. He deserved better
than he was getting.... She bit her lips and vowed that, giving no
love, she would make him happy. She must make him happy.

"You know why I've come, Ruth," he said. "It has seemed a long time to
wait--since last night. You know why I've come?"

"Yes."

"You have--thought about me?"

"Yes."

He stepped forward eagerly. "You look so unhappy, so tired. It hasn't
been worrying you like this? I couldn't bear to think it had.... I--I
don't want you ever worried or tired, but always--glad.... I've been
walking up and down outside for an hour. Couldn't stay away.... Ruth,
you haven't been out of my mind since last night--since yesterday
morning. I've had time to think about you.... I'm beginning to realize
how much you mean to me. I'll never realize it fully--but it will come
to me more every day, and every day I shall love you more than I did
the day before--if your answer can be yes. ..." He turned away his head
and said, "I'm afraid to ask...."

"I will marry you," she said, in a dead voice. She felt cold, numb. Her
body seemed without sensation, but her mind was sharply clear. She
wanted to scream, but she held herself.

His face showed glad, relieved surprise. The shine of his eyes accused
her.... She was making capital of his love--for a great and worthy
purpose--but none the less making capital of it. She was sorry for him,
bitterly sorry for herself. He came forward eagerly, with arms
outstretched to receive her, but she could not endure that--now. She
could not endure his touch, his caress.

"Not now.... Not yet," she said, holding up her hand as though to ward
him off. "You mustn't."

His face fell and he stopped short. He was hurt--surprised. He did not
understand, did not know what to make of her attitude.

"Wait," she said, pitifully. "Oh, be patient with me.... I will marry
you. I will be a good--a faithful wife to you.... But you must be
patient with me. Let me have time.... Last night--and all to-day-have
been--hard.... I'm not myself. Can't you see?..."

"Don't you love me?" he asked.

"I--I've said I would marry you," she replied. Then she could restrain
herself no longer. "But let it be soon--soon," she cried, and throwing
herself on the sofa she burst into tears.

Bonbright did not know what to do. He had never seen a woman cry so
before.... Did girls always act this way when they became engaged? Was
it the usual thing, or was something wrong with Ruth? He stood by,
dumbly waiting, unhappy when he knew he should be happy; troubled when
he knew there should be no cloud in his sky; vaguely apprehensive when
he knew he should be looking into the future with eyes confident of
finding only happiness there.

He wanted to pick her up and comfort her in his arms. He could do it,
he could hold her close and safe, for she was so small. But he dared
not touch her. She had forbidden it; her manner had forbidden it more
forcefully than her words. He came closer, and his hand hovered over
her hair, her hair that he would have loved to press with his lips-he,
he did not dare.

"Ruth," he said.... "Ruth!"

Suddenly she sat up and faced him; forced herself to speak; compelled
herself to rise to this thing that she had done and must see through.

"I'm--ashamed," she said, irrepressible sobs interrupting her. "It's
silly, isn't it--but--but it's hard to KNOW. It's for so long--so LONG!"

"Yes," he said, "that's the best part of it.... I shall have you
always."

Always. He should have her always! It was no sentence for a month or a
year, but for life. She was tying herself to this boy until death
should free her.... She looked at him, and thanked God that he was as
he was, young, decent, clean, capable of loving her and cherishing
her.... For her sake she was glad it was he, but his very attributes
accused her. She was accepting these beautiful gifts and was giving in
return spurious wares. For love she would give pretense of love. ...
Yet if he had been other than he was, if he had been old, seeking her
youth as some men might seek it, steeped in experience to satiety as
some rich man might have been, she knew she could not have gone through
with it. To such a man she could not have given herself--even for the
Cause.... Bonbright made his own duping a possibility.

"I--I sha'n't act this way again," she said, trying to smile. "You
needn't be afraid.... It's just nerves."

"Poor kid!" he said, softly, but even yet he dared not touch her.

"You want me? You're very, very sure you want me? How do you know? I
may not be what you think I am. Maybe I'm different. Are you sure,
Bonbright?"

"It's the only thing in the world I am sure of," he said.

"And you'll be good to me?... You'll be patient with me, and gentle?
Oh, I needn't ask. I know you will. I know you're good...."

"I love you," was his reply, and she deemed it a sufficient answer.

"Then," she said, "let's not wait. There's no need to wait, is there?
Can't it be right away?"

His face grew radiant. "You mean it, Ruth?"

"Yes," she said.

"A month?"

"Sooner."

"A week?"

"Sooner.... Sooner."

"To-morrow? You couldn't?... You don't mean--TO-MORROW?"

She nodded, for she was unable to speak

"Sweetheart," he cried, and again held out his arms.

She shook her head and drew back. "It's been so--so quick," she said.
"And to-morrow comes so soon.... Not till then. I'll be your wife
then--your WIFE."

"To-morrow morning? I will come to-morrow morning? Can it be then?"

"Yes."

"I--I will see to everything. We'll be married, and then we will go
away--somewhere. Where would you like to go, Ruth?"

"Anywhere.... I don't care. Anywhere."

"It 'll be my secret," he said, in his young blindness. "We'll start
out--and you won't know where we're going. I sha'n't tell you. I'll
pick out the best place in the world, if I can find it, and you won't
know where we're going till we get there.... Won't that be bully?... I
hate to go now, dear, but you're all out of sorts--and I'll have a heap
of things to do--to get ready. So will you." He stopped and looked at
her pleadingly, but she could not give him what his eyes asked; she
could not give him her lips to-night.... He waited a moment, then, very
gently, he took her hand and touched it with his lips.

"I'm patient," he said, softly. "You see how patient I am.... I can
wait... when waiting will bring me so much.... At twelve o'clock?
That's the swell hour," he laughed. "Shall I drag along a bishop or
will an ordinary minister do?"

She tried to smile in response.

"Good night, dear," he said, and raised her hand again to his lips.

"Good night."

"Is that all?"

"All."

"No--trimmings? You might say good night to the groceryman that way."

"Good night--dear," she said, obediently.

"It's true. I'm not dreaming it. Noon TO-MORROW?"

"Noon to-morrow," she repeated.

He walked to the door, stopped, turned, hesitated as if to come back.
Then he smiled at her boyishly, happily, wagged his head gayly, as
though admonishing himself to be about his business and to stop
philandering, and went out.... He did not see her drag herself to the
sofa wearily; he did not see her sink upon it and bury her face again
in the cushions; he did not hear the sobs that wrenched and shook
her.... He would then have understood that this was not the usual way
for a girl to enter her engagement. He would have understood that
something was wrong, very wrong.

After waiting a long time for her daughter to come out, Mrs. Frazer
opened the door determinedly and went in. Ruth sat up and, wiping her
eyes on a tear-soggy handkerchief, said:

"I'm going to marry Bonbright Foote to-morrow noon mother."

Mrs. Frazer sat down very suddenly in a chair which was fortunately at
hand, and stared at her daughter.

"Of all things..." she said, weakly.

Bonbright was on the way to make a similar announcement to his parents.
It was a task he did not approach with pleasure; indeed, he did not
look forward with pleasure to any sort of meeting with his father. In
his heart he had declared his independence. He had broken away from
Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, had clambered out of the family
groove--had determined to be himself and to maintain his individuality
at any cost.... Ruth would make it easier for him. To marry Ruth was
the first great step toward independence and the throwing off of the
yoke of the Foote tradition.

As he walked home he planned out what he would say and what he would do
with respect to his position in the family. He could not break away
from the thing wholly. He could not step out of Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, as one steps out of an old coat, and think no more of it.
No.... But he would demand concessions. He would insist upon being
something in the business, something real. He would no longer be an
office boy, a rubber stamp, an automaton, to do thus and to do so when
his father pressed the requisite buttons.... Oh, he would go back to
the office, but it would be to a very different office and to function
in a very different manner.

The family ghosts had been dissatisfied with him. Well, they could go
hang. Using his father as the working tool, they had sought to remake
him according to their pattern. He would show them. There would be a
row, but he was buoyed up for whatever might happen by what had just
happened.... The girl he loved had promised to marry him--and
to-morrow. With a consciousness of that he was ready for anything.

He did not realize how strongly he was gripped by the teaching that had
been his from his cradle; he did not realize how the Foote tradition
was an integral part of him, as his arm or his skin. It would not be so
easy to escape. Nor, perhaps, would his father be so ready to make
concessions. He thought of that. But he banished it from his mind. When
his father saw how determined he was the concessions would follow. They
would have to follow. He did not ask himself what would happen if they
did not follow.

Of course his father and mother would resent Ruth. Because Bonbright
loved her so truly he was unable to see how anybody could resent her
very much. He was blinded by young happiness. Optimism had been born in
him in a twinkling, and set aside a knowledge of his parents and their
habits of thought and life that should have warned him. He might have
known that his father could have overlooked anything but this--the
debasing of the Foote blood by mingling with it a plebeian,
boarding-house strain; he might have comprehended that his mother, Mrs.
Bonbright Foote VI, no less, could have excused crime, could have
winked at depravity, but could never tolerate a daughter-in-law of such
origin; would never acknowledge or receive her.

As a last resort, to save Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, his father
might even submit to Bonbright's wife; his mother did not bow so low
before that god; her particular deity was a social deity. If
Bonbright's argosy did not wreck against the reef of his father, it
never could weather the hidden rock of his mother's class consciousness.

Bonbright went along, whistling boyishly. He was worried, but not so
worried but that he could find room also to be very happy. Everything
would come out all right.... Young folks are prone to trust implicitly
to the goodness of the future. The future will take care of troubles,
will solve difficulties, will always bring around a happy ending. He
was not old enough or experienced enough to know that the future
bothers with nobody's desires, but goes on turning out each day's work
with calm detachment, continues to move its endless film of tomorrow's
events to the edge of its kingdom and to give them life on the screen
of to-day. It does not change or retouch the film, but gives it to
to-day as it is, relentlessly, without pity and without satisfaction.

Bonbright saw the future as a benignant soul; he did not realize it is
a nonsentient machine.



CHAPTER XVII


Bonbright stopped in the library door, for he saw there not only his
father, whom he had expected to see, but his mother also. He had not
foreseen this. It made the thing harder to tell, for he realized in an
instant how his mother would receive the news. He wished he had been
less abrupt, but here he was and there could be no drawing back now.
His mother was first to see him.

"Bonbright..." she said, rising.

He walked to her and kissed her, not speaking.

"Where have you been? Your father and I have been terribly worried. Why
did you stay away like this, without giving us any word?"

"I'm sorry if I've worried you, mother," he said, but found himself
dumb when he tried to offer an explanation of his absence.

"You have worried us," said his father, sharply. "You had no business
to do such a thing. How were we to know something hadn't happened to
you--with the strike going on?"

"It was very inconsiderate," said his mother.

There fell a silence awkward for Bonbright. His parents were expecting
some explanation. He had come to give that explanation, but his
mother's presence complicated the situation, made it more difficult.
There had never been that close confidence between Mrs. Foote and
Bonbright which should exist between mother and son. He had never
before given much thought to his relations with her; had taken them as
a matter of course. He had not given to her that love which he had seen
manifested by other boys for their mothers, and which puzzled him. She
had never seemed to expect it of him. He had been accustomed to treat
her with grave respect and deference, for she was the sort of person
who seems to require and to be able to exact deference. She was a very
busy woman, busy with extra-family concerns. Servants had carried on
the affairs of the household. Nurses, governesses, and such
kittle-cattle had given to Bonbright their sort of substitute for
mother care. Not that Mrs. Foote had neglected her son--as neglect is
understood by many women of her class. She had seen to it rigidly that
his nurses and tutors were efficient. She had seen to it that he was
instructed as she desired, and his father desired, him to be
instructed. She had not neglected him in a material sense, but on that
highest and sweetest sense of pouring out her affection on him in
childhood, of giving him her companionship, of making her love compel
his love--there she had been neglectful.... But she was not a
demonstrative woman. Even when he was a baby she could not cuddle him
and wonder at him and regard him as the most wonderful thing in
creation.... She had never held him to her breast as God and nature
meant mothers to hold their babies. A mercenary breast had nourished
him.

So he grew up to admire her, perhaps; surely to stand in some awe of
her. She was his mother, and he felt vaguely that the relationship
demanded some affection from him. He had fancied that he was giving her
affection, but he was doing nothing of the sort.... His childish
troubles had been confided to servants. His babyish woes had been
comforted by servants. What genuine love he had been able to give had
been given to servants. She had not been the companion of his babyhood
as his father had failed to be the companion of his youth. ... So far
as the finer, the sweeter affairs of parenthood went, Bonbright had
been, and was, an orphan....

"Have you nothing to say?" his father demanded, and, when Bonbright
made no reply, continued: "Your mother and I have been unable to
understand your conduct. Even in our alarm we have been discussing your
action and your attitude. It is not one we expected from a son of
ours.... You have not filled our hopes and expectations. I, especially,
have been dissatisfied with you ever since you left college. You have
not behaved like a Foote.... You have made more trouble for me in these
few months than I made for my father in my life.... And yesterday--I
would be justified in taking extreme measures with you. Such an
outburst! You were disrespectful and impertinent. You were positively
REBELLIOUS. If I had not more important things to consider than my own
feelings you should have felt, more vigorously than you shall, my
displeasure. You dared to speak to me yesterday in a manner that would
warrant me in setting you wholly adrift until you came to your
senses.... But I shall not do that. Family considerations demand your
presence in our offices. You are to take my place and to carry on our
line.... This hasn't seemed to impress you. You have been childishly
selfish. You have thought only of yourself--of that thing you fancy is
your individuality. Rubbish! You're a Foote--and a Foote owes a duty to
himself and his family that should outweigh any personal desires.... I
don't understand you, my son. What more can you want than you have and
will have? Wealth, position, family? Yet for months you have been
sullen and restless-and then openly rebellious.... And worse, you have
been compromising yourself with a girl not of your class...."

"I could not believe my ears," said Mrs. Foote, coldly.

"However," said his father, "I shall overlook what has passed." Now
came the sop he had planned to throw to Bonbright.

"You have been in the office long enough to learn something of the
business, so I shall give you work of greater interest and
responsibility.... You say, ridiculously enough, that you have been a
rubber stamp. Common sense should have told you you were competent to
carry no great responsibilities at first.... But you shall take over a
part of my burden now.... However, one thing must come first. Before we
go any farther, your mother and I must have your promise that you will
discontinue whatever relations you have with this boarding-house
keeper's daughter, this companion of anarchists and disturbers."

"I have insisted upon THAT," said Mrs. Foote. "I will not tolerate such
an affair."

"There is no AFFAIR," said Bonbright, finding his voice. His young eyes
began to glow angrily. "What right have you to suppose such a
thing--just because Miss Frazer happens to be a stenographer and
because her mother keeps a boarder! Father insulted her yesterday. That
caused the trouble. I couldn't let it pass, even from him. I can't let
it pass from you, mother."

"Oh, undoubtedly she's worthy enough," said Mr. Foote, who had
exchanged a glance with his wife during Bonbright's outburst, as much
as to say, "There is a serious danger here."

"Worthy enough!" said Bonbright, anger now burning with white heat.

"But," said his father, "worthy or not worthy, we cannot have our son's
name linked in any way with a person of her class. It must stop, and
stop at once."

"That you must understand distinctly," said Mrs. Foote.

"Stop!" said Bonbright, hoarsely. "It sha'n't stop, now or ever. That's
what I came home to tell you.... I'm not a dumb beast, to be driven
where you want to drive me. I'm a human being. I have a right to make
my own friends and to live my own life.... I have a right to love where
I want to--and to marry the girl I love.... You tried to pick out a
wife for me.... Well, I've picked out my own. Whether you approve or
not doesn't change it. Nobody, nothing can change it.... I love Ruth
Frazer and I'm going to marry her. That's what I came home to tell you."

"What?" said his father, in a tone of one who listens to blasphemy.

Bonbright did not waver. He was strong enough now, strong in his anger
and in his love. "I am going to marry Ruth Frazer," he repeated.

"Nonsense!" said his mother.

"It is not nonsense, mother. I am a man. I have found the girl I love
and will always love. I intend to marry her. Where is there nonsense in
that?"

"Do you fancy I shall permit such a thing? Do you imagine for an
instant that I shall permit you to give me a daughter-in-law out of a
cheap boarding house? Do you think I shall submit to an affront like
that?... Why, I should be the laughingstock of the city."

"The city finds queer things to laugh at," said Bonbright.

"My son--" began Mr. Foote; but his wife silenced him. She had taken
command of the family ship. From this moment in this matter Bonbright
Foote VI did not figure. This was her affair. It touched her in a vital
spot. It threatened her with ridicule; it threatened to affect that
most precious of her possessions--the deference of the social world.
She knew how to protect herself, and would attend to the matter without
assistance.

"You will never see that girl again," she said, as though the saying of
it concluded the episode.

Bonbright was silent.

"You will promise me NOW that this disgraceful business is ended.
NOW.... I am waiting."

"Mother," said Bonbright, "you have no right to ask such a thing. Even
if I didn't love Ruth, I have pledged my word to her..."

Mrs. Foote uttered an exclamation indicative of her disgust.

"Pledged your word!... You're a silly boy, and this girl has schemed to
catch you and has caught you.... You don't flatter yourself that she
cares for you beyond your money and your position.... Those are the
things she had her eye on. Those are what she is trading herself
for.... It's scandalous. What does your pledged word count for in a
case like this?... Your pledged word to a scheming, plotting, mercenary
little wretch!"

"Mother," said Bonbright, in a strained, tense voice, "I don't want to
speak to you harshly. I don't want to say anything sharp or unkind to
you--but you mustn't repeat that.... You mustn't speak like that about
Ruth."

"I shall speak about her as I choose..."

"Georgia!..." said Mr. Foote, warningly.

"If you please, Bonbright." She put him back in his place. "_I_ will
settle this matter with our son--NOW."

"It is settled, mother," said Bonbright.

"Suppose you should be insane enough to marry her," said Mrs. Foote.
"Do you suppose I should tolerate her? Do you suppose I should admit
her to this house? Do you suppose your friends--people of your own
class--would receive her--or you?"

"Do you mean, mother," said Bonbright, his voice curiously quiet and
calm, "that you would not receive my wife here?"

"Exactly that. And I should make it my business to see that she was
received nowhere else.... And what would become of you? Everyone would
drop you. Your wife could never take your position, so you would have
to descend to her level. Society would have none of you."

"I fancy," said Bonbright, "that we could face even that--and live."

"More than that. I know I am speaking for your father when I say it. If
you persist in this we shall wash our hands of you utterly. You shall
be as if you were dead.... Think a moment what that means. You will not
have a penny. We shall not give you one penny. You have never worked.
And you would find yourself out in the world with a wife to support and
no means of supporting her. How long do you suppose she would stay with
you?... The moment she found she couldn't get what she had schemed for,
you would see the last of her.... Think of all that."

"I've thought of all that--except that Ruth would care for my money.
... Yesterday I left the office determined never to go into it again. I
made up my mind to look for a job--any job--that would give me a
living--and freedom from what Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, means to
me. I was ready to do that without Ruth.... But the family has some
claims to me. I could see that. So I came back. I was going to tell
father I would go ahead and do my best.... But not because I wanted to,
nor because I was afraid."

"You see," his mother said, bitingly, "it lasted a whole day with you."

"Mother!"

Bonbright turned to his father. "I am going to marry Ruth. That cannot
be changed. Nothing can alter it.... I am ready to come back to the
office--and be Bonbright Foote VII... and you can't guess what that
means. But I'll do it--because it seems to be the thing I ought to
do.... I'll come back if--and only if--you and mother change your minds
about Ruth.... She will be my wife as much as mother is your wife, and
you must treat her so. She must have your respect. You must receive her
as you would receive me... as you would have been glad to receive Hilda
Lightener. If you refuse--I'm through with you. I mean it.... You have
demanded a promise of me. Now you must give me your promise--to act to
Ruth as you should act toward my wife.... Unless you do the office and
the family have seen the last of me." He did not speak with heat or in
excitement, but very gravely, very determinedly. His father saw the
determination, and wavered.

"Georgia," he said, again.

"No," said Mrs. Foote.

"The Family--the business." said Mr. Foote, uncertainly.

"I'd see the business ended and the Family extinct before I would
tolerate that girl.... If Bonbright marries her he does it knowing how
I feel and how I shall act. She shall never step a foot in this house
while I live--nor afterward, if I can prevent it. Nor shall Bonbright."

"Is that final, mother?... Are you sure it is your final decision?"

"Absolutely," she said, her voice cold as steel.

"Very well," said Bonbright, and, turning, he walked steadily toward
the door.

"Where are you going?" his father said, taking an anxious step after
his son.

"I don't know," said Bonbright. "But I'm not coming back."

He passed through the door and disappeared, but his mother did not call
after him, did not relent and follow her only son to bring him back.
Her face was set, her lips a thin, white line.

"Let him go," she said. "He'll come back when he's eaten enough husks."

"He's GOT to come back.... We've got to stop this marriage. He's our
only son, Georgia--he's necessary to the Family. HIS son is necessary."

"And hers?" she asked, with bitter irony.

"Better hers than none," said Mr. Foote.

"You would give in.... Oh, I know you would. You haven't a thought
outside of Family. I wasn't born in your family, remember. I married
into it. I have my own rights in this matter, and, Family or no Family,
Bonbright, that girl shall never be received where I am received....
NEVER."

Mr. Foote walked to the window and looked out. He saw his son's tall
form pass down the walk and out into the street--going he did not know
where; to return he did not know when. He felt an ache in his heart
such as he had never felt before. He felt a yearning after his son such
as he had never known. In that moment of loss he perceived that
Bonbright was something more to him than Bonbright Foote VII--he was
flesh of his flesh and blood of his blood. The stifled, cramped, almost
eliminated human father that remained in him cried out after his son....



CHAPTER XVIII


As Bonbright walked away from his father's house he came into
possession for the first time of the word RESPONSIBILITY. It was
defined for him as no dictionary could define it. Every young man meets
a day when responsibility becomes to him something more than a
combination of letters, and when it comes he can never be the same
again. It marks definitely the arrival of manhood, the dropping behind
of youth. He can never look upon life through the same eyes. Forever,
now, he must peer round and beyond each pleasure to see what burden it
entails and conceals. He must weigh each act with reference to the
RESPONSIBILITY that rests upon him. Hitherto he had been swimming in
life's pleasant, safe, shaded pools; now he finds himself struggling in
the great river, tossed by currents, twirled by eddies, and with no
bottom upon which to rest his feet. Forever now it will be swim--or
sink....

To-morrow Bonbright was to undertake the responsibilities of family
headship and provider; to-night he had sundered himself from his means
of support. He was jobless. He belonged to the unemployed.... In the
office he had heard without concern of this man or that man being
discharged. Now he knew how those men felt and what they faced.

Realization of his condition threw him into panic. In his panic he
allowed his feet to carry him to the man whose help had come readily
and willingly in another moment of need--to Malcolm Lightener.

The hour was still early. Lights shone in the Lightener home and
Bonbright approached the door. Mr. Lightener was in and would see him
in the office. It was characteristic of Lightener that the room in the
house which was peculiarly his own was called by him his office, not
his den, not the library.... There were two interests in Lightener's
life--his family and his business, and he stirred them together in a
quaintly granite sort of way.

For the second time that evening Bonbright stood hesitating in a
doorway.

"Well, young fellow?" said Lightener. Then seeing the boy's hesitation:
"Come in. Come in. What's happened NOW?"

"Mr. Lightener," said Bonbright, "I want a job. I've got to have a job."

"Um!... Job! What's the matter with the job you've got?"

"I haven't any job.... I--I'm through with Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated--forever."

"That's a darn long time. Sit down. Waiting for it to pass will be
easier that way.... Now spit it out." He was studying the boy with his
bright gray eyes, wondering if this was the row he had been expecting.
He more than half hoped, as he would have expressed it, "that the kid
had got his back up." Bonbright's face, his bearing, made Lightener
believe his back WAS up.

"I've got to have a job--"

"You said that once. Why?"

"I'm going to be married to-morrow--"

"What?"

"I'm going to be married to-morrow--and I've got to support my
wife--decently..."

"It's that little Frazer girl who was crying all over my office
to-day," said Lightener, deducing the main fact with characteristic
shrewdness. "And your father wouldn't have it--and threw you out...or
did the thing that stands to him for throwing out?"

"I got out. I had gotten out before. Yesterday morning.... Somebody
told him I'd been going to see Ruth--and he was nasty about it. Called
it a liaison....I--I BURNED UP and left the office. I haven't been
back."

"That accounts for his calling me up--looking for you. You had him
worried."

"Then I got to thinking," said Bonbright, ignoring the interruption. "I
was going back because it seemed as if I HAD to go back. You
understand? As if there was something that compelled me to stick by the
Family...."

"How long have you been going to marry this girl?"

"She said she would marry me to-night."

"Engaged to-night--and you're going to marry to-morrow?"

"Yes....And I went home to tell father. Mother was there--"

Lightener sucked in his breath. He could appreciate what Bonbright's
mother's presence would contribute to the episode.

"--and she was worse than father. She--it was ROTTEN, Mr.
Lightener--ROTTEN. She said she'd never receive Ruth as her daughter,
and that she'd see she was never received by anybody else, and she--she
FORCED father to back her up....There wasn't anything for me to do but
get out....I didn't begin to wonder how I was going to support Ruth
till it was all over with."

"That's the time folks generally begin to wonder."

"So I came right here--because you CAN give me a job if you will--and
I've got to have one to-night. I've got to know to-night how I'm going
to get food and a place to live for Ruth."

"Um!...We'll come to that." He got up and went to the door. From thence
he shouted--the word is used advisedly--for his wife and daughter.
"Mamma.... Hilda. Come here right off." He had decided that Bonbright's
affairs stood in need of woman's counsel.

Mrs. Lightener appeared first. "Why, Bonbright!" she exclaimed.

"Where's Hilda?" asked Lightener. "Need her, too."

"She's coming, dear," said Mrs. Lightener.

There are people whose mere presence brings relief. Perhaps it is
because their sympathy is sure; perhaps it is because their souls were
given them, strong and simple, for other souls to lean upon. Mrs.
Lightener was one of these. Before she knew why Bonbright was there,
before she uttered a word, he felt a sense of deliverance. His
necessities seemed less gnawing; there was a slackening of taut
nerves....

Then Hilda appeared. "Evening, Bonbright," she said, and gave him her
hand.

"Let's get down to business," Lightener said. "Tell 'em, Bonbright."

"I'm going to marry Ruth Frazer to-morrow noon," he said, boldly.

Mrs. Lightener was amazed, then disappointed, for she had come to hope
strongly that she would have this boy for a son. She liked him, and
trusted in his possibilities. She believed he would be a husband to
whom she could give her daughter with an easy heart.... Hilda felt a
momentary shock of surprise, but it passed quickly. Like her father,
she was sudden to pounce upon the concealed meaning of patent
facts--and she had spent the morning with Ruth. She was first to speak.

"So you've decided to throw me over," she said, with a smile.... "I
don't blame you, Bonbright. She's a dear."

"But who is she?" asked Mrs. Lightener. "I seem to have heard the name,
but I don't remember meeting her."

"She was my secretary," said Bonbright. "She's a stenographer in Mr.
Lightener's office now."

"Oh," said Mrs. Lightener, and there was dubiety in her voice.

"Exactly," said Lightener.

"MOTHER!" exclaimed Hilda. "Weren't you a stenographer in the office
where dad worked?"

"It isn't THAT," said Mrs. Lightener. "I wasn't thinking about the girl
nor about Bonbright. I was thinking of his mother."

"That's why he's here," said Lightener. "The Family touched off a mess
of fireworks. Mrs. Foote refuses to have anything to do with the girl
if Bonbright marries her. Promised to see nobody else did, too. Isn't
that it, Bonbright?"

"Yes."

"I don't like to mix in a family row..."

"You've GOT to, dad," said Hilda. "Of course Bonbright couldn't stand
THAT." They understood her to mean by THAT the Foote family's position
in the matter. "He couldn't stand it.... I expect you and mother are
disappointed. You wanted me to marry Bonbright, myself..."

"HILDA!" Mrs. Lightener's voice was shocked.

"Oh, Bonbright and I talked it over the night we met. Don't be a bit
alarmed. I'm not being especially forward.... We've got to do
something. What does Bon want us to do?"

"He wants me to give him a job."

She turned to Bonbright. "They turned you out?"

"I turned myself out," he said.

She nodded understandingly. "You WOULD," she said, approvingly. "What
kind of a job can you give him, dad?"

"H'm. THAT'S settled, is it? What do you think, mother?"

"Why, dear, he's got to support his wife," said Mrs. Lightener.

Malcolm Lightener permitted the granite of his face to relax in a
rueful smile. "I called you folks in to get your advice--not to have
you run the whole shebang."

"We're going to run it, dad....Don't you like Ruth Frazer?"

"I like her. She seems to be a nice, intelligent girl....Cries all over
a man's office...."

"I like her, too, and so will mother when she meets Ruth. I like her a
eap, Bon; she's a DEAR. Now that the job for you is settled--"

"Eh?" said Lightener.

Hilda smiled at him and amended herself. "Now that a very GOOD job for
you is settled, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. First thing, I'm
invited to the wedding, and so is mother, and so are some other folks.
I'll see to that. It isn't going to be any justice-of-the-peace
wedding, either. It's going to be in the church, and there'll be enough
folks there to make it read right in the paper."

"I'm afraid Ruth wouldn't care for that," said Bonbright, dubiously. "I
know she wouldn't."

"She's got to start off RIGHT as your wife, Bon. The start's
everything. You want your friends to know her and receive her, don't
you? Of course you do. I'll round up the folks and have them there. It
will be sort of romantic and interesting, and a bully send off for Ruth
if it's done right. It 'll make her quite the rage. You'll see.
...That's what I'm going to do--in spite of your mother. Your wife will
be received and invited every place that _I_ am....Maybe your mother
can run the dowagers, but I'll bet a penny I can handle the young
folks." In that moment she looked exceedingly like her father.

"HILDA!" her mother exclaimed again. "You must consider Mrs. Foote. We
don't want to have any unpleasantness over this...."

"We've got it already," said Hilda, "and the only way is to--go the
limit."

Lightener slammed the desk with his fist. "Right!" he said. "If we
meddle at all we've got to go the whole distance. Either stay out
altogether or go in over our heads.... But how about this girl, Hilda,
does she belong?"

"She's decently educated. She has sweet manners. She's brighter than
two-thirds of us. She'll fit in all right. Don't you worry about her."

"Young man," growled Lightener, "why couldn't you have fallen in love
with my daughter and saved all this fracas?"

Bonbright was embarrassed, but Hilda came to his rescue. "Because I
didn't want him to," she said. "You wouldn't have MADE me marry him,
would you?"

"PROBABLY not," said her father, with a rueful grin.

"I'm going to take charge of her," said Hilda. "We'll show your mother,
Bon."

"You're--mighty good," said Bonbright, chokingly.

"I'm going to see her the first thing in the morning. You see. I'll fix
things with her. When I explain everything to her she'll do just as I
want her to."

Mrs. Lightener was troubled; tears stood in her eyes. "I'm so sorry,
Bonbright. I--I suppose a boy has the right to pick out his own wife,
but it's too bad you couldn't have pleased your mother.... Her heart
must ache to-night."

"I'm afraid," said Bonbright, slowly, "that it doesn't ache the way you
mean, Mrs. Lightener."

"It's a hard place to put us. We're meddling. It doesn't seem the right
thing to come between mother and son."

"You're not," said Hilda. "Mrs. Foote's snobbishness came between them."

"HILDA!"

"That's just what it is. Ruth is just as nice as she is or anybody
else. She ought to be glad she's getting a daughter like Ruth. You'd
be....And we can't sit by and see Bon and his wife STARVE, can we? We
can't fold our hands and let Mrs. Foote make Ruth unhappy. It's cruel,
that's what it is, and nothing else. When Ruth is Bon's wife she has
the right to be treated as his wife should be. Mrs. Foote has no
business trying to humiliate her and Bon--and she sha'n't."

"I suppose you're right, dear. I KNOW you're right.... But I'm thinking
how I'd feel if it were YOU."

"You'd never feel like Mrs. Foote, mother. If I made up my mind to
marry a man out of dad's office--no matter what his job was, if he was
all right himself--you wouldn't throw me out of the house and set out
to make him and me as unhappy as you could. You aren't a snob."

"No," said Mrs. Lightener, "I shouldn't."

Malcolm Lightener, interrupted. "Now you've both had your say," he
said, "and you seem to have decided the thing between you. I felt kind
of that way, myself, but I wanted to know about you folks. What you say
GOES....Now clear out; I want to talk business to Bonbright."

Hilda gave Bonbright her hand again. "I'm glad," she said, simply. "I
know you'll be very happy."

"And I'll do what I can, boy," said Mrs. Lightener

Bonbright was moved as he had never been moved before by kindliness and
womanliness. "Thank you.... Thank you," he said, tremulously. "I--you
don't know what this means to me. You've--you've put a new face on the
whole future...."

"Clear out," said Malcolm Lightener.

Hilda made a little grimace at him in token that she flouted his
authority, and she and her mother said good night and retired from the
room.

"Now," said Malcolm Lightener.

Bonbright waited.

"I'm going to give you a job, but it won't be any private-office job. I
don't know what you're good for. Probably not much. Don't get it into
your head I'm handing a snap to you, because I'm not. If you're not
worth what I pay you you'll get fired. Understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"If you stick you'll learn something. Not the kind of rubbish you've
been sopping up in your own place. I run a business, not a museum of
antiquity. You'll have to work. Think you can?"

"I've wanted to. They wouldn't let me."

"Um!...You'll get dirt on your hands....Most likely you'll be running
Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, one of these days. This thing won't
last. Your father'll have to come around....I only hope he lets you
stay with me long enough to teach you some business sense and something
about running a plant. I'll pay you enough to support you and this girl
of yours--but you'll earn it. When you earn more you'll get it...Sounds
reasonable."

"I--I can't thank you enough."

"Report for work day after to-morrow, then. You're a man out of a job.
You can't afford honeymoons. I'll let you have the day off to-morrow,
but next morning you be in my office when the whistle blows. I always
am."

"Yes, sir."

"Where are you going to live? Got any money?"

"I don't know where we shall live. Maybe we'd better find a place to
board for a while. I've got a hundred dollars or so."

"Board!...Huh! Nobody's got any business boarding when they're married.
Wife has too much time on her hands. Nothing to do. Especially at the
start of things your wife'll need to be busy. Keep her from getting
notions....I'll bet the percentage of divorces among folks that board
is double that it is among folks that keep house. Bound to be....You
get you a decent flat and furnish it. Right off. After you get married
you and your wife pick out the furniture. That's what I'm giving you
the day off to-morrow for. You can furnish a little flat--the kind you
can afford, for five hundred dollars.... You're not a millionaire now.
You're a young fellow with a fair job and a moderate salary that you've
got to live on. ...Better let your wife handle it. She's used to it and
you're not. She'll make one dollar go as far as you would make ten."

"Yes, sir."

Lightener moved awkwardly and showed signs of embarrassment. "And
listen here," he said, gruffly, "a young girl's a pretty sweet and
delicate piece of business. They're mighty easy to hurt, and the hurt
lasts a long time....You want to be married a long time, I expect, and
you want your wife to--er--love you right on along. Well, be darn
careful, young fellow. Start the thing right. More marriages are
smashed in the first few days than in the next twenty years....You be
damn gentle and considerate of that little girl."

"I--I hope I shall, Mr. Lightener."

"You'd better be....Where you going to-night?"

"To the club. I have some things there. I've always kept enough clothes
there to get along on."

"Your club days are over for some time. Married man has no business
with a club till he's forty....Evenings, anyhow. Stay at home with your
wife. How'd you like to have her running out to some darn thing three
or four nights a week?...Go on, now. I'll tell Hilda where you are.
Probably she'll want to call you up in the morning....Good night."

"Good night...and thank you."

"Huh!" said Malcolm Lightener, and without paying the slightest bit of
attention to whether Bonbright stayed or went away, he took up the
papers on his desk and lost himself in the figures that covered them.
Bonbright went out quietly, thankfully, his heart glad with its own
song....The future was settled; safe. He had nothing to fear. And
to-morrow he was going to enter into a land of great happiness. He felt
he was entering a land of fulfillment. That is the way with the very
young. They enter upon marriage feeling it is a sort of haven of
perpetual bliss, that it marks the end of unhappiness, of difficulties,
of loneliness, of griefs...when, in reality, it is but the beginning of
life with all the diverse elements of joy and grief and anxiety and
comfort and peace and discord that life is capable of holding....



CHAPTER XIX


Hilda Lightener had found Ruth strangely quiet, with a manner which was
not indifference to her imminent marriage, but which seemed more like
numbness.

"You act as if you were going to be hanged instead of married," Hilda
told her, and found no smile answering her own.

Ruth was docile. She offered no objection to any suggestion offered by
Hilda, accepted every plan without demurring. Hilda could not
understand her, and was troubled. Wholly lacking was the girlish
excitement to be expected. "Whatever you want me to do I will do, only
get it over with," seemed to be Ruth's attitude. She seemed to be
holding herself in, communing with herself. A dozen times Hilda had to
repeat a question or a statement which Ruth had not heard, though her
eyes were on Hilda's and she seemed to be giving her attention.

She was saying to herself: "I must go through with it.... I can't draw
back.... What I am doing is RIGHT--RIGHT."

She obeyed Hilda, not so much through pliancy as through listlessness,
and presently Hilda was going ahead with matters and acting as a sort
of specially appointed general manager of the marriage. She directed
Ruth what to wear, saw it was put on, almost bundled Ruth and her
mother into the carriage, and convoyed them to the church, where
Bonbright awaited them. She could not prevent a feeling of
exasperation, especially toward Mrs. Frazer, who had moved from chair
to chair, uttering words of self-pity, and pronouncing a constant
jeremiad.... Such preliminaries to a wedding she had never expected to
witness, and she witnessed them with awakened foreboding.

A dozen or so young folks and Malcolm Lightener and his wife witnessed
the brief ceremony. Until Ruth's appearance there had been the usual
chattering and gayety, but even the giddiest of the youngsters was
restrained and subdued by her white, tense face, and her big, unseeing
eyes.

"I don't like it," Lightener whispered to his wife.

"Poor child!... Poor child!" she whispered back, not taking her eyes
from Ruth's face.

After the rector pronounced the final words of the ceremony Ruth stood
motionless. Then she turned slowly toward Bonbright, swaying a trifle
as if her knees were threatening to fail her, and said in a half
whisper, audible to those about: "It's over?... It's all over?"

"Yes, dear."

"It can't be undone," she said, not to her husband, but to herself. "We
are--married."

Hilda, fearing some inauspicious act or word, bustled forward her bevy
of young folks to offer their babel of congratulations. As she
presented them one by one, Ruth mustered a wan smile, let them take her
cold, limp hand. But her mind was not on them. All the while she was
thinking: "This is my HUSBAND.... I belong to this man.... I am his
WIFE." Once in a while she would glance at Bonbright; he seemed more a
stranger to her than he had done the first time her eyes had ever
rested on him--a stranger endowed with odious potentialities. ...

Mrs. Lightener took Ruth into her arms and whispered, "He's a dear,
good boy...." There was comfort in Mrs. Lightener's arms, but scant
comfort in her words, yet they would remain with Ruth and she would
find comfort in them later. Now she heard Malcolm Lightener speaking to
her husband. "You be good to that little girl, young man," he said. "Be
mighty patient and gentle with her." She waited for Bonbright's reply.
"I love her," she heard Bonbright say in a low voice. It was a good
answer, a reassuring answer, but it stabbed Ruth with a new pang, for
she had traded on that love; she was a cheat. Bonbright was giving her
his love in exchange for emptiness. Somehow she could not think of the
Cause now, for this was too intimate, too individual, too personal....

Presently Bonbright and Ruth were being driven to their hotel. The
thought of wedding breakfast or of festivities of any sort had been
repugnant to Ruth, and Hilda had not insisted. They were alone. Ruth
lay back against the soft upholstery of Malcolm Lightener's limousine,
colorless, eyes closed. Bonbright watched her face hungrily,
scrutinizing it for some sign of happiness, for some vestige of feeling
that reciprocated his own. He saw nothing but pallor, weariness.

"Dear," he whispered, and touched her hand almost timorously. Her hand
trembled to his touch, and involuntarily she drew away from him. Her
eyes opened, and in them his own eager eyes read FEAR.... He was
startled, hurt. Being only a boy, with a boy's understanding and a
boy's pride, he was piqued, and himself drew back. This was not what he
had expected, not what the romances he had read had led him to believe
would take place. In stories the bride was timid, yet eager; loving,
yielding, happy. She clung to her husband, her heart beating against
his heart, whispering her adoration and demanding whispered adoration
from him.... Here all of this was lacking, and something which crouched
at the opposite pole of human emotion was present--FEAR.

"You must be patient and gentle with her," Malcolm Lightener had said
with understanding, and Bonbright was wise enough to know that there
spoke experience; probably there spoke truth, not romance, as it is set
down on the printed page. Even if Ruth's attitude were unusual, so the
circumstances were unusual. It was no ordinary marriage preceded by an
ordinary, joyous courtship. In this moment Bonbright took thought, and
it was given him to understand that now, as at no other moment in his
life with Ruth, was the time to exercise patience and gentleness.

"Ruth," he said, taking her hand and holding it with both his own, "you
mustn't be afraid of ME.... You are afraid. You're my wife," he said,
boyishly. "It's my job to make you happy--the most important job I've
got--and to look after you and to keep away from you everything that
might--make you afraid." He lifted her fingers to his lips; they were
cold. "I want to take you in my arms and hold you... but not until you
want me to. I can wait.... I can do ANYTHING that you want me to do.
Both of us have just gone through unpleasant things--and they've tired
and worried you.... I wish I might comfort you, dear...." His voice was
low and yearning.

She let her hand remain in his, and with eyes from which the terror was
fading she looked into his eyes to find them clear, honest, filled with
love and care for her. They were good eyes, such as any bride might
rejoice to find looking upon her from her husband's face.

"You're--so good," she whispered. Then: "I'm tired, Bonbright, so
tired--and--Oh, you don't understand, you CAN'T understand.... I'll be
different presently--I know I shall. Don't be angry..."

"Angry!"

"I'll be a good wife to you, Bonbright," she said, tremulously, a bit
wildly. "I--You sha'n't be disappointed in me.... I'll not cheat. ...
But wait--WAIT. Let me rest and think. It's all been so quick."

"You asked that," he said, hurt and puzzled.

"Yes.... It had to be--and now I'm your wife... and I feel as if I
didn't know you--as if you were a stranger. Don't you understand?...
It's because I'm so helpless now--just as if you owned me and could do
what you wanted to with me... and it makes me afraid...."

"I--I don't understand very well," he said, slowly. "Maybe it's because
I'm a man--but it doesn't seem as if it ought to be that way." He
stopped and regarded her a moment, then he said, "Ruth, you've never
told me you loved me."

She sensed the sudden fear in his voice and saw the question that had
to be answered, but she could not answer it. To-day she could not bring
herself to the lie--neither to the spoken lie nor the more difficult
lying action. "Not now," she said, hysterically. "Not to-day....
Wait.... I've married you. I've given myself to you.... Isn't that
enough for now?... Give me time."

It was not resentment he felt, not doubt of her. Her pitiful face, her
cold little hands, the fear that lurked in her eyes, demanded his
sympathy and forbearance, and, boy though he was, with all a boy's
inexperience, he was man enough to give them, intuitive enough to
understand something of the part he must play until she could adjust
herself to her new condition.

He pressed her hand--and released it. "I sha'n't bother you," he said,
"until you want me.... But it isn't because I don't want you--don't
want to hold you--to LOVE you... and to have you love me.... It will be
all right, dear. You needn't be afraid of me...."

The car was stopping before the hotel. Now the doorman opened the door
and Bonbright helped his bride to alight. She tottered as her feet
touched the sidewalk, and he took her arm to support her as he might
have helped an invalid. The elevator carried them up to the floor on
which were the rooms that had been prepared for them, and they stopped
before the door while he inserted the key and turned the lock for their
admission. On the threshold she halted, swept by a wave of terror, but,
clenching her hands and pressing shut her eyes, she stepped within. The
door closed behind them--closed out her girlhood, closed out her
independence, shut away from her forever that ownership of herself
which had been so precious, yet so unrecognized and unconsidered. It
seemed to her that the closing of that door--even more than the
ceremony of marriage--was symbolical of turning over to this young man
the title deeds of her soul and body. ...

Bonbright was helping her to rid herself of her wraps, leading her to a
sofa.

"Lie down," he said, gently. "You're tired and bothered. Just lie down
and rest."

"Are we going away?" she asked, presently. "Have I got to get ready?"

He had promised her they would go away--and had not seen her since that
moment to tell her what had happened. Hilda would not let him go to her
that morning, so she was in ignorance of the change in his condition,
of his break with his family, and of the fact that he was nothing but a
boy with a job, dependent upon his wages. Until this moment he had not
thought how it might affect her; of her disappointment, of the fact
that she might have expected and looked forward to the position he
could give her as the wife of the heir apparent to the Foote
dynasty.... It embarrassed him, shamed him as a boy might be shamed who
was unable to buy for his girl a trinket she coveted at some country
fair. Now she must be told, and she was in no condition to bear
disappointments.

"I promised you we should go away," he said, haltingly, "but--but I
can't manage it. Things have happened....I've got to be at work in the
morning. Maybe I should have told you. Maybe I should have come last
night after it happened--"

She opened her eyes, and at the expression of his face she sat up,
alarmed. It told her that no ordinary, small, casual mishap had
befallen, but something vital, something which might affect him--and
her tremendously.

"What is it?" she asked. "What has happened?"

"I went home last night," he said, slowly. "After--you promised to
marry me--I went home to tell father....Mother was there. There was a
row--but mother was worse than father. She was--rather bad."

"Rather bad--how, Bonbright?"

"She--didn't like my marrying you. Of course we knew neither of them
would like it, but I didn't think anything like this would happen.
...You know father and I had a fuss the other day, and I left the
office. I had thought things over, and was going back. It seemed as if
I ought to go back--as if that was the thing to do.... Well, mother
said things that made it impossible. I'm through with them for good.
The Family and the Ancestors can go hang." His voice grew angry as
recollection of that scene presented itself. "Mother said I shouldn't
marry you..."

"You--you don't mean you're not going to--to have anything to do with
Bonbright Foote, Incorporated--and all those thousands of men?"

"That's it....I couldn't do anything else. I had to break with them.
Father was bad, but it was mother....She said she would never receive
you or recognize you as my wife--and that sort of thing--and I left.
I'm never going back.... On your account I'm sorry. I can't give you so
much, and I can't do the things for you that I could.... We'll be quite
poor, but I've got a job. Mr. Lightener gave me a job, and I've got to
go to work in the morning. That's why we can't go away...."

"You mean," she said, dully, trying to sense this calamity, "that you
will never go back? Never own--that--business?"

"It was a choice of giving you up or that. Mother made that clear. If I
married you I should never have anything from them...."

She did not see the happiness that might lie for her in the possession
of a husband whose love was so great that he could give up the kingdoms
of the earth for her. She could not see the strength of the boy, his
loyalty, his honor. All she saw was the crushing of her plan before it
began to germinate.... She had given herself for the Cause. She was
here, this young man's wife, alone in these rooms with him, because she
loved the Cause and had martyred herself for it.... Her influence was
to ameliorate the conditions of thousands of the Bonbright Foote
laborers; she was to usher in a new era for them--and for that she had
offered herself up.... And now, having bound herself forever to this
boy that she did not love--loving another man--the possibility of
achievement was snatched from her and her immolation made futile. It
was as if she plunged into a rapids, offering her life to save a child
that struggled there, to find, when she reached the little body, and it
was too late to save herself, that it was a wax figure from some shop
window.... But her position was worse than that; what she faced was
worse than swift, merciful death.... It was years of a life of horrid
possibilities, tied to a man whose chattel she was. She stood up and
clutched his arm.

"You're joking," she said, in a tense, metallic voice.

"I'm sorry, dear. It's very true."

"Oh!" Her voice was a wail. "It can't be--it can't be. I couldn't bear
that--not THAT...."

Bonbright seized her by the arms and peered into her face. "Ruth," he
said, "what do you mean? Was THAT why you married me? You're not like
those women I've heard about who married--for MONEY."

"No....No..." she cried. "Not that--Oh, don't believe that."

She spoke the truth, and Bonbright could not doubt it. Truth was in her
words, her tone, her face....It was a thing she was incapable of, and
he knew it. She could not be mean, contemptible. He drew her to him and
kissed her, and she did not resent it. A surge of happiness filled
him....She had been dismayed because of him. There was no other
interpretation of her words and actions. She was conscience stricken
because she had brought misfortune upon him.

He laughed boyishly. "Don't worry about me. I don't care," he said,
gayly, "so long as I have you. You're worth it a dozen times....I'm
glad, Ruth--I'm glad I had to pay for you dearly. Somehow it makes me
seem worthier--you understand what I mean...."

She understood--understood, too, the interpretation he had put on her
words. It brought a flush to her white cheeks....She disengaged herself
gently.

"If we're not going away," she said, "I can lie down--and rest."

"Of course."

"Alone? In the next room?"

He opened the door for her. "I'll be as quiet as a mouse," he said.
"Have a good sleep. I'll sit here and read." She read in his eyes a
plea for affection, for another kiss, as she left him, but she had not
the strength to give it. She went into the adjoining room, and shut the
door after her. Then she stood there silently regarding the
door--regarding the KEY.... If she locked it she was safe from him. He
could not come in.... She could lock him out.

Her hand went to the key, but came away without turning it. No.... She
had no right. She had made her bargain and must abide by it. Bonbright
was her husband and she was his wife, and as such she must not turn
locks upon him.... Marriage gave him the right of free access.

Dressed as she was, in the suit that had been her wedding dress, she
threw herself upon the bed and gave up her soul to torment. She had
taken her all and paid it for a thing desirable in her eyes--and her
all had bought her nothing. She had wrenched her love from the man to
whom she had given it, and all her life must counterfeit love for a man
whom she did not love--and in return she would receive--nothing. She
had seen herself a Joan of Arc. That dream was blown away in a
breath.... But the bargain was made. That she did not receive what she
had thought to receive was no fault of Bonbright's--and she must endure
what was to be endured. She must be honest with him--as honesty showed
its face to her. To be honest with him meant to her to deceive him
daily, hourly, to make her life a lie. He was cheated enough as matters
stood--and he did not deserve to be cheated. He was good, gentle, a
man. She appreciated him--but she did not love him. ... And
appreciating him, aware of his strength and his goodness to her, she
could not keep her eyes off the door. She lay there eying it with ever
increasing apprehension--yet she did not, would not, could not, rise to
turn the key....



CHAPTER XX


In every formation of a fresh family group there must be readjustments
of habit and of thought. Two people who fancy they know each other
intimately discover that they are in reality utter strangers. They
start a new acquaintanceship at the moment of marriage, and the wonder
of it is that so many millions of them manage the thing with success.
It is true that a man and woman who join their hands and their fortunes
because of a deep-seated, genuine, calm affection have a greater chance
of lasting happiness than those who unite because of the spur of
sudden, flaring passion. There are those who contend that friendship
and mutual confidence are a firmer foundation for marriage than the
emotion that we call love. Thousands of men and women have married
because prudence told them a certain other individual would make a
trustworthy, efficient, comfortable husband or wife, and as days and
weeks and years passed this respect and trust and regard has blossomed
into a beautifully permanent flower of love....Doubtless happiness has
resulted from marriages which resulted from motives purely mercenary,
for human beings are blessed by Heaven with a quality called
adaptability. Of no marriage can one predict happiness surely. At the
altar the best one can do is to hope for the best....But what can be
said of a marriage brought about by the causes and motives that led
Bonbright Foote to Ruth Frazer and Ruth Frazer to Bonbright Foote?

Of the two, Bonbright's reasons most nearly approached the normal, and
therefore the safe; Ruth had been urged by a motive, lofty perhaps,
visionary, but supremely abnormal. Therefore the adjustments to be
made, the problems to be mastered, the difficulties in their road to a
comfortable, reasonably happy future, were multiplied many times.
Instead of being probable, the success of their little social entity
became merely possible, doubtfully possible.

Ruth, being a woman, understood something of this. Bonbright, being a
boy, and a singularly inexperienced boy, understood it not at all, and
as he sat alone, a closed door between him and his wife, he wearied his
brain upon the puzzle of it. He came to the conclusion that the present
difficult situation was the natural thing. It was natural for the bride
to be timid, frightened, reluctant, for she was entering a dark forest
of strange, new experiences. He understood that his own case might be
exaggerated because their marriage had been preceded by no ordinary
courtship, with the opportunity which a courtship gives to begin the
inevitable readjustments, and to become accustomed to intimacy of
thought and act.

The ordinary man has little intuition, but a world of good intentions.
Men blunder woefully in their relations with women, not because of
innate boorishness in the sex, not because of willful brashness, but
because of lack of understanding. They mean well, but their performance
is deplorable.... In that moment Bonbright's most valuable possession
was a certain intuition, a fineness, a decency, a reserve, a natural
modesty. As he sat there alone he reached a conclusion which was,
probably, the most profoundly wise conclusion he was to arrive at in
his life. It came not so much from taking thought, as by blessed
inspiration. This conclusion was that he must court Ruth Frazer as a
sweetheart, not approach her as a husband....

It was a course that would require infinite patience, forbearance,
fineness. In his love for Ruth he felt himself capable of it; felt that
it would bring its reward.

So he sat and waited. He did not approach the door which she had
watched with apprehensive eyes until weariness had closed them in
sleep....

The luncheon hour had passed when he heard Ruth moving about within.

"Hungry?" he called to her, boyishly. His voice reassured her. It was
comradely. There was nothing in it that menaced her security....The
sleep and the rest had bettered her. She was less tense, more calmly
resigned to events. She had marshaled her will; had set it to bear her
up and to compel her to carry on bravely and without hysteria the part
of a wife.

"I am hungry," she said, and presently she appeared in the door, stood
there a moment, and then walked across the room to Bonbright. "Thank
you," she said, simply, and he understood.

"You don't mind being poor for a while?" he asked.

"I've always been poor," she said, with something that approached her
old smile.

"Because," he said, "we are poor. I am going to earn about thirty
dollars a week. So, you see, we can't afford to live here. We've got to
find a little house or flat...."

"Let's begin," she cried. It was not the delight of a woman at the
thought of hunting for her first home, but the idea of having something
to do, of escaping from these rooms. "Let's go right out to look."

"First," he said, with pretended severity, "we eat."

So they went down to the dining room, and after they had eaten they
inaugurated their house hunting. Perhaps Providence intervened at this
difficult moment to give them occupation. If so, Providence acted with
amazing wisdom and kindness.

Ruth found an interest in the search. She forgot. Her mind was taken
from morbid breedings as they climbed stairs and explored rooms and
questioned agents. Bonbright was very happy--happier because he was
openly and without shame adapting his circumstances to his purse....
They found a tiny flat, to be had for a fourth of their income. Ruth
said that was the highest proportion of their earnings it was safe to
pay for rent, and Bonbright marveled at her wisdom in such matters. ...

Then there were the furnishings to select. Bonbright left the selection
and the chaffering wholly to Ruth--and she enjoyed it. The business
rested, refreshed, stimulated her. It pushed her fears into the dim
background and brought again to the light of day her old self that
Bonbright loved. More than once she turned the light of her famous grin
upon him or upon some thrice lucky salesman.

But the end was reached at last; everything was done that could be
done, and there was nothing to do but to return to the hotel. Ruth did
her best to keep up her spirits, but by every block that they
approached the hotel, by so much her lightness vanished, by so much her
apprehension, her heartache, the black disappointment of the failure of
her great plan, returned.

Bonbright saw the change and it grieved him--it strengthened the
determination he had made. When they reached their rooms he drew her
over to the sofa.

"Let's sit here together, dear," he said. "We haven't had a decent
talk, and there are a heap of things to talk about, aren't there?"

She forced herself to sit down close to him, and waited icily, steeling
herself to yield to his demonstrations of affection if he offered them,
but he did not.

"I've an idea," he said. "I--I hope you'll like it. It'll be sort
of--fun. Sort of a game, you know.... While I sat here this afternoon I
was thinking about us--and--how I want to make you happy....We were
married--suddenly. Most folks play along and get to know each other,
and grow to love each other gradually, I guess....I didn't grow to love
you gradually. I don't know how it was with you. But, anyhow, we missed
our courtship. We started right in by being husband and wife. Of course
I'm glad of that....Don't think I'm not. I wanted you--right away.
But--but my idea was that maybe we could--have our courtship now--after
we are married....Mayn't we?"

"What--what do you mean?" she asked, fearfully, hopefully.

"We'll pretend we aren't married at all," he said. "We'll make believe
we're at a house party or something, and I just met you. I'm no end
interested in you right off, of course. I haven't any idea how you feel
about me....We'll start off as if we just met, and it's up to me to
make you fall in love with me....I'll bring out the whole bag of
tricks. Flowers and candy and such like, and walks and rides. I'll get
right down and pursue you....After a while you'll--maybe--get so far as
to call me by my first name." He laughed like a small boy. "And some
day you'll let me hold your hand--pretending you don't know I'm holding
it at all....And I'll be making love to you to--to beat the band.
Regular crush I'll have on you....What do you think?"

"You mean REALLY?...You mean we'll LIVE like that? That we won't be
married, but do like you said?" She was staring at him with big,
unbelieving eyes.

"That's the idea exactly....We won't be married till I WIN you. That's
the game....And I'll try hard--you haven't any notion how hard I'll
try." There was something pleading, pathetic in his voice, that went to
her heart.

"Oh," she said, breathlessly, "that's DEAR of you.... You're good--so
GOOD.... I--I hate myself.... You'll do THAT?... I didn't--know
anybody--could be--so--so good." She swayed, swayed toward him in a
storm of tears, and he drew her face down on his shoulder while with
awkward hand he patted her shoulder.

"There.... There..." he said, clumsily, happily. She did not draw away
from him, but lay there wetting his coat with her tears, her heart
swelling with thanks-giving; fear vanished, and something was born in
her breast that would never die. The thing that was born was a perfect
trust in this man she had married, and a perfect trust is one of the
rarest and most wonderful things under the sun.

For so young a man, Bonbright felt singularly fatherly. He held his
wife gently, silently, willing that she should cry, with a song in his
heart because she nestled to him and wept on his shoulder. If he
deluded himself that she clung to him because of other, sweeter emotion
than grief, relief, it did not diminish his happiness. The moment was
the best he had known for months, perhaps the best he had ever known.

Ruth sat up and wiped her eyes. He looked into them, saw them cleared
now of dread, and it was a sufficient reward. For her part, in that
instant, Ruth almost loved Bonbright, not as lovers love, but as one
loves a benefactor, some one whose virtues have earned affection. But
it was not that sort that Bonbright asked of her, she knew full well.

"Now--er--Miss Frazer," he said, briskly, "I don't want to appear
forward for a new acquaintance, but if I suggested that there was a
bully play in town--sort of tentatively, you know--what would happen to
me?"

"Why, Mr. Foote," she replied, able to enter into the spirit of the
pretense, "I think you'd find yourself in the awkward position of a
young man compelled to buy two seats."

"No chaperons?"

"Where I come from," she said, "chaperons are not in style."

"And we'll go some place after the play....I want to make the most of
my opportunity, because I've got to work all day to-morrow. It's a
shame, too, because I have a feeling that I'd like to monopolize you."

"Aren't you going a bit fast for a comparative stranger?" she asked,
merrily.

He pretended to look crestfallen. "You sha'n't have to put me in my
place again," he promised; "but wait--wait till we've known each other
a week!...Do you know, Miss Frazer, you have a mighty charming smile!"

"It has been remarked before," she said.

"We mustn't keep our hostess waiting. I'm afraid we'll be late for
dinner, now." He chuckled at the idea.

"I never have eaten dinner with a man in evening dress," she said, with
a touch of seriousness. "In the country I come from the men don't wear
them." How true that was--in the country she came from, the country of
widows who kept boarding houses, of laborers, of Dulac and their sort!
She was in another land now, a land she had been educated to look upon
with enmity; the land of the oppressor. Little revolutionist--she was
to learn much of that country in the days to come and to know that in
it bad men and good men, worthy women and trifling women, existed in
about the same ratio as in her own familiar land....Bonbright insisted
upon buying her violets--the first costly flowers she had ever worn.
They occupied desirable seats--and the few plays Ruth had seen she had
seen from gallery heights! Fortunately it was a bright play, brimming
with laughter and gayety, presenting no squalid problems, holding up to
the shrinking eyes of the audience no far-fetched, impossible tangles
of sex. They enjoyed it. Ruth enjoyed it. That she could do so is
wonderful, perhaps, but then, so many human capabilities are wonderful!
Men about to be hanged eat a hearty meal with relish.... How much more
might Ruth find pleasure since she had been granted a reprieve!

When the curtain descended they moved toward the exits, waiting for the
crowd to clear the way. Bonbright's attention was all for Ruth, but her
eyes glanced curiously about, observing the well-fed, well-kept,
brilliantly dressed men and women--men and women of the world to which
she belonged now. As one approached them and saw them, they were
singularly human. Their faces were not different from faces she was
accustomed to. Cleaner they were, perhaps, with something more of
refinement. They were better dressed, but there she saw the same
smiles, the same weariness, the same charm, the same faces that told
their tales of hard work and weary bodies.... They were just human
beings, all of them, HER sort and these....

Suddenly her fingers tightened on her husband's arm. He heard her draw
a quick, startled little breath, and looked up to see his father and
mother approaching them, from the opposite direction. Bonbright had not
expected this. It was the last place in the world he had thought to
encounter his parents--but there they were, not to be avoided. He
stopped, stiffened. Ruth stole a glance at his face and saw it suddenly
older, tenser.

Mr. and Mrs. Foote approached slowly. Ruth knew the moment Mrs. Foote
saw her husband, for the stately woman bit her lip and spoke hurriedly
to Bonbright's father, who glanced at Bonbright and then at her
uncertainly. Ruth saw that Mrs. Foote held her husband's arm, did not
allow him to turn aside, but led him straight toward them.... Bonbright
stood stiff, expectant. On came his father and mother, with no
quickening of pace. Bonbright's eyes moved from one face to the other
as they approached. Now they were face to face. Mrs. Foote's eyes
encountered Ruth's, moved away from the girl to her son, moved
on--giving no sign of recognition. Mr. Foote looked stonily before
him....And so they passed, refusing even a bow to their son, the only
child that had been given them....That others had seen the episode Ruth
knew, for she saw astonished glances, saw quick whisperings.

Then she looked up at her husband. He had not turned to look after his
parents, but was staring before him, his face white, his eyes burning,
little knots of muscle gathered at the points of his jaw. She pressed
his arm gently and heard his quick intake of breath--so like a sob.

"Come," he said, harshly. "Come."

"It was cruel--heartless," she said, fiercely, quickly partisan, making
his quarrel her own, with no thought that the slight had been for her
as well as for him.

"Come," he repeated.

They went out into the street, Bonbright quivering with shame and
anger, Ruth not daring to speak, so white, so hurt was his face, so
fierce the smolder in his eyes.

"You see..." he said, presently. "You see...."

"I've cost you THAT," she said.

"That," he said, slowly, as if he could not believe his words, "that
was my father and--my mother."

Ruth was frightened. Not until this moment did she realize what she had
done; not until now did the teeth of remorse clench upon her. To marry
her--because he loved her--this boy at her side must suffer THIS. It
was her doing....She had cheated him into it. She had cost him this and
was giving nothing to pay for it. He had foreseen it. Last night he had
cut adrift from his parents because of her--willingly. She knew he
would have made, would make, any sacrifice for her....And she had
married him with no love in her heart, married him to use him for her
own ends!

She dared not doubt that what she had done was right. She dared not
question her act, nor that the end justified the means she had used.
...But the end was not to be attained. By the act of marrying Bonbright
she had made it impossible for herself to further the Cause....It was a
vicious circle of events.

As she watched his face she became all woman; revolutionist and martyr
disappeared. Her heart ached for him, her sympathy went out to him.
"Poor boy!..." she said, and pressed his arm again.

"It was to--be expected," he said, slowly. "I'm glad it's over....I
knew what would happen, so why should the happening of it trouble
me?...There have been six generations in my family that would do that
thing.... Ruth, the Foote Tradition is ended. It ended with me. Such
things have no right to exist.... Six generations of it...."

She did not speak, but she was resolving silently: "I'll be good to
him. I'll make him happy. I'll make up to him for this...."

He shook himself. "It doesn't matter," he said. "We sha'n't let it
interfere with our evening....Come, Miss Frazer, where shall we lunch?"



CHAPTER XXI


All of Ruth's life had been spent in contact with the abnormal, the
ultraradical. The tradition which time had reared about HER family--as
powerful in its way as the Foote Tradition, but separated from it by a
whole world--had brought acquaintanceship and intimacy with strange
people and strange cults. In the parlor of her home she had listened to
frank, fantastic discussions; to lawless theories. These discussions,
beginning anywhere, ended always with the reform of the marriage
relation. Anarchist, socialist, nihilist, atheist, Utopian,
altruist--all tinkered with the family group, as if they recognized
that the civilization they were at war with rested upon this and no
other foundation.

So Ruth was well aware how prone the individual is to experiment with
the processes of forming and continuing the relations between men and
women which have for their cardinal object the peopling of the earth.
But in spite of the radicalism which was hers by right of inheritance
and training, she had not been attracted by any of them. A certain
basic sense of balance had enabled her to see these things were but
vain gropings in the dark; that they might flower successfully in
abnormal individual cases--orchid growths--but that each was doomed to
failure as a universal solution. For mankind in bulk is normal, and its
safety lies in a continuance of normality. Ages had evolved the
marriage relation as it existed; ages might evolve it into something
different as sudden revolution could not. It was the one way, and she
knew it to be the one way.

Therefore she recognized that Bonbright and herself were embarked on
one of these unstable, experimental craft. She saw, as he did not, that
it was unseaworthy and must founder at the first touch of storm. She
pinned no false hopes to it; recognized it as a makeshift, welcome to
her only as a reprieve--and that it must soon be discarded for a vessel
whose planking was reality and whose sails were woven of normal stuff.

As the days went by and they were settled in their little flat, living
the exotic life which temporarily solved their problem, she knew it
could not last; feared it might dissolve at any moment. Inevitable
signs of the gust that should destroy it had been apparent...and her
dread returned. Even Bonbright was able to see that his plan was not a
perfect success.

If it had not been for Dulac.... He complicated the thing
unendurably.... If Bonbright were still heir apparent to the Foote
dynasty, and her plan might be carried out.... She felt a duty toward
Dulac--she had promised to hold him always in her thoughts, felt he was
entitled to a sort of spiritual loyalty from her. And, deprived of him,
she fancied her love for him was as deep as the sea and as enduring as
time....

Long days alone, with only the slightest labor to occupy her hands and
mind, gave her idle time--fertile soil for the raising of a dark crop
of morbid thoughts. She brooded much, and, brooding, became restless,
unhappy, and she could not conceal it from Bonbright when he came home
eagerly for his dinner, ready to take up with boyish hope the absurd
game he had invented. She allowed herself to think of Dulac; indeed,
she forced herself to think of him....

Five days she had been married, when, going to the door in answer to
the bell, she opened it, to find Dulac standing there. She uttered a
little cry of fright and half closed the door. He held it open with his
knee.

Sudden terror, not of him, but of herself, caused her to thrust against
the door with all her strength, but he forced it open slowly and
entered.

"Go away," she said, shrinking from him and standing with her back
against the wall. "Go away...."

"I stayed away as long as I could," he said. "Now I'm not going
away--until we've had a talk."

"There's nothing for us to--say," she whispered. "You must be crazy--to
come here."

He was laboring under excitement. She could see the smoldering fire in
his black eyes; it was plain that he was worn, tired, a man fighting in
the last ditch. His hold upon himself was not secure, but she could not
be sorry for him now. The possibilities his presence suggested
terrified her and excluded all other thoughts.

He stood with his burning eyes upon her face, not speaking; staring.
"Go away," she begged, but he shook his head.

"You've been cheated," he said, hoarsely. "It doesn't matter if you
gave yourself to HIM for the reason you said you did--or for his money.
You're cheated.... His kind always cheats. You're getting NOTHING....
Are you going to stand it? That's what I came to find out.... Are you
going to stand it?"

She could make no reply.

"What are you going to do about it?" he demanded.

"What can I do?... It's too late."

"Look here, you married him to get something--to be able to do
something.... You didn't have any other reason. You didn't love him.
... You loved ME. He's been kicked out by his family. He doesn't own
anything. He's out for good, and you can't get anything or do anything.
I want to know what you're going to do about it."

"Nothing."

"Nothing?... You're not going to stick to him. You don't love
him--probably you hate him by this time.... You couldn't help it."

"I married him," she said. "It isn't his fault if his family put him
out.... It was MY fault. They did it because he married me.... It was I
who cheated HIM--and you can see--what it's--cost him.... I've got to
make it up to him--someway. I--I don't hate him.... He's been good....
Oh, he's been wonderfully good."

"Do you want to live with him?"

"No," she said. "No...."

"What about me?... I love you, don't I? Wasn't I before HIM?... Didn't
you give yourself to me? What about me?..."

"That's all--over," she said. "Oh, please go away. I mustn't talk about
that....I'm MARRIED...."

"Listen," he said, feverishly. "I love you. This fellow you've married
doesn't know what love is.... What does he know about it? What would he
do for you?..." He leaned forward, his face working, his body quivering
with passion. She let her eyes fall, unable to support his gaze, and
she trembled. His old fascination was upon her; the glamour of him was
drawing her. He poured out a flood of passionate words, bared his soul
to her starkly, as he talked swiftly, burningly of his love, and what
his love meant to him and what it would mean to her. She closed her
eyes to shut out the sight of him; she summoned all the strength of her
will to preserve her from his fascination, to resist his temptation....

"I'd have left you alone," he said, "if you'd got what you paid for.
...But when you didn't--when you got nothing--there was no reason for
me to stay away.... You belonged to me. You do belong to me.... Why
should you stick to him? Why?"

She could not answer him. The only reason she should cling to her
husband was because he WAS her husband, but she knew that would be no
reason to Dulac.

"There's been a marriage ceremony," he said, scornfully. "What of it?
It isn't marriage ceremonies that unite men and women.... It's
love--nothing else.... When you told me you loved me you married me
more really than any minister can marry you. That was a real
marriage--but you didn't think you were breaking any laws or violating
any morals when you left me and married HIM. Just because we hadn't
gone to a church.... You're married to ME and living with him--that's
what it amounts to.... Now I'm here demanding you. I'm after my wife."

"No..." she said, weakly.

"Yes, my wife.... I want you back and I'm going to have you back. ...
With the bringing up you've had, you're not going to let this
CONVENTION--this word--marriage--hold you.... You're coming with me."

The thing was possible. She saw the possibility of it, the danger that
she might yield. The man's power drew her. She WANTED to go; she WANTED
to believe his sophistry, but there was a stanchness of soul in her
that continued to resist.

"No..." she said, again.

"You'll come," he said, "because you can't stand it. I know.... Every
time he touches you you want to scream. I know. It's torture. ... He'll
find out. Don't you think he'll find out you don't love him--how you
feel when he comes near you? And what then?... You'll come to me
willingly now--or you'll come when he pushes you out."

"He'll--not--find out."

Dulac laughed. "Anybody but a young fool would have known before
this....But I don't want to wait for that. I want you now." He came
toward her eagerly to take her in his arms. She could not move; her
knees refused to carry her from him....Her senses swam. If he touched
her it would be the end--she knew it would be the end. If he seized her
in his arms she would never be able to escape. His will would master
her will. Yet she could not move--she was under his spell. It was only
subconsciously that she wanted to escape. It was only the true instinct
in her that urged her to escape.

His arms were reaching out for her now; in an instant his hands would
touch her; she would be clutched tightly to him--and she would be
lost....

Her back was against the wall....In that supreme instant, the instant
that stood between her and the thing that might be, the virtue in her
recoiled, the stanchness asserted itself, the command to choose the
better from the worse course made itself heard to her will. She cried
out inarticulately, thrust out with terrified arms, and pushed him from
her.

"Don't touch me," she cried. "What you say is not true. I know. ...I'm
his wife--and--you must go. You must--never come back. ...Bonbright is
my husband--and I'll--stay with him....I'll do what I've got to do. I
sha'n't listen to you. Go--please, oh, please go--NOW."

The moment had come to Dulac and he had not been swift enough to grasp
it. He realized it, realized he had failed, that nothing he could do or
say would avail him now....He backed toward the door, never removing
his eyes from her face.

"You're MY wife," he said. "You won't come now, but you'll come.
...I'll make you come." He stopped a moment in the door, gazing at her
with haggard eyes.... "And you know it," he said. Then he closed the
door, and she was alone.

She sank to the floor and covered her face with her hands, not to hide
her tears--for there were no tears to flow--but because she was ashamed
and because she was afraid....She knew how close she had been to
yielding, how narrow had been the margin of her rescue--and she was
afraid of what might happen next time, of what might happen when her
life with Bonbright became unbearable, as she knew it must become
unbearable.

She crouched and trembled...and then she began to think. It was given
her to perceive what she must do. Instead of fondling Dulac in her
thoughts, she must put him out of her heart, she must not permit him in
her dreams....She had promised him he should be always present in her
thoughts. That promise she must break. Daily, hourly, she must steel
herself against him in preparation for his next appearance, for she
knew he would appear again, demanding her....It was not in the man to
give her up, as it was not in him to surrender any object which he had
set his soul to attain.

In spite of cults and theories and makeshifts and sophistries, she knew
where her duty lay, where the safety of her soul lay--it was in
fidelity to her husband. She resolved that fidelity should be his, and
as she resolved it she knew that he deserved it of her. She resolved
that she would eject Dulac from her life, and that, with all the
strength of her will, she would try to bring herself to give that love
to Bonbright which she had promised him by implication, but never by
word. She did not know that love cannot be created by an effort of the
will....

Before she arose from her pitiful posture she considered many plans,
and discarded them all. There was no plan. It must all be left to the
future. First she believed it was required that she should tell
Bonbright she had married him without love, and beg of him to be
patient and to wait, for she was trying to turn her love to him. But
that, she saw, would not serve. He was being patient now, wonderfully,
unbelievably patient. What more could she ask of him? It would only
wound him, who had suffered such wounds through her. She could not do
that. She could do nothing but wait and hope--and meet her problems as
best she could when they arose. It was not an encouraging outlook.

Resolve as she would, she could not quiet her fears. Dulac would come
again. He might find her in a weaker moment. Now, instead of one terror
she harbored two....



CHAPTER XXII


Bonbright, in his business experience, had been like a man watching a
play in a foreign language, from a box seat--with an interpreter to
translate the dialogue. Now he found himself a member of the cast; very
much a member, with abundant lines and business. In his old position as
heir apparent to Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, he had been unhappy.
Time had hung heavily on his hands. He had not been allowed to
participate in actual affairs except as some automatic machine or
rubber stamp participates. There every effort of his superiors had been
directed to eliminating his individuality and to molding him to the
Bonbright Foote type. He had not been required to use his
brains--indeed, had been forbidden to do so.

In his new employment the condition was reversed. It seemed as if
everything his father had desired him to do was interdicted in Malcolm
Lightener's vast organization; everything that had been taboo before
was required of him now. He was asked to think; he was taught to make
his individuality felt; he was encouraged to suggest and to exercise
his intelligence independently. There were actually suggestion boxes in
every department where the humblest laborer might deposit a slip of
paper telling the boss any notion he had which he deemed of service to
the enterprise. More than that--any suggestion accepted was paid for
according to its value.

In Bonbright's father's plant change and invention were frowned upon.
New devices were regarded as impious. The typewriter was tolerated; the
telephone was regarded with shame. The Ancestors had not made use of
such things....Malcolm Lightener let no instrument for adding
efficiency pass untried. It was the same in office and in shop. The
plant was modern to the second--indeed, it was a stride ahead of the
minute. There was a large experimental laboratory presided over by an
engineer of inventive trend, whose business it was to eliminate and
combine processes; to produce machines which would enable one man to
perform the labor of three; to perform at one process and one handling
the work that before required several processes and the passing of the
thing worked upon from hand to hand.

If Bonbright had been interested in any phase of his father's business
it had been in the machine shops. Now he saw how costly were those
antique processes, how wasteful of time and labor. His father's profits
were large; Bonbright saw very quickly how a revolution in methods
would make them enormous. But he knew that revolution would not take
place--the Ancestors forbade....

The thing had started at the first moment of his connection with
Malcolm Lightener as an employee. He had reported promptly at seven
o'clock, and found Lightener already in his office. It was Lightener's
custom to come down and to go home later for breakfast.

"Morning," said Lightener. "Where's your overalls?"

"Overalls?" said Bonbright.

"Didn't I tell you to bring some? You'll need 'em. Wait, I'll send a
boy out for some--while we have a talk....Now then, you've got a job.
After six o'clock you and I continue on the same basis as before;
between seven in the morning and six at night you're one of the men who
work for me--and that's all. You get no favors. What they get you
get....There aren't any soft jobs or hangers-on here. Everybody earns
what he's paid--or he finds he isn't getting paid. Clear?"

"Perfectly," said Bonbright, not wholly at his ease.

"The object of this plant is to make automobiles--to make GOOD
automobiles, and to make the most of them that can be made. If one man
falls down on his job it delays everybody else. Suppose one man
finishing THIS"--he held up a tiny forging--"does a botch job....
There's just one of these to a car, and he's held up the completion of
a car. That means money.... Suppose the same man manages to turn out
two perfect castings like this in the time it once took to turn out
one.... Then he's a valuable man, and he hustles up the whole
organization to keep even with him. Every job is important because it
is a part of the whole operation, which is the turning out of a
complete automobile. Understand?"

"Yes."

"Some men are created to remain laborers or mechanics all their lives.
Some are foreordained bookkeepers. A few can handle labor--but that's
the end of them. A very few have executive and organizing and financial
ability. The plums are for them.... Every man in this plant has a
chance at them. You have.... On the other hand, you can keep on earning
what you're getting now until you're sixty. It's up to you.... I'm
giving you a start. That's not sentiment. It's because you've education
and brains--and there's something in heredity. Your folks have been
successful--to a degree and in their own way. I'm making a bet on
you--that's all. I'm taking a chance that you'll pay back at the box
office what you're going to cost for some months. In other words,
instead of your paying for your education, I'm sending you to school on
the chance that you'll graduate into a man that will make money for me.
But you've got to make good or out you go. Fair?"

"Yes," said Bonbright.

"All right. Remember it....You've got the stuff in you to make a man at
the top--maybe. But you don't start at the top. You've got to scramble
up just like anybody else. Right now you're not worth a darn. You don't
know anything and you can't do anything. Day labor's where you
belong--but you couldn't stand it. And it wouldn't be sense to put you
at it, or I would. I'd set you to sweeping out the machine shops if I
thought you needed it....Maybe you figured on sitting at a mahogany
desk?"

"I came to do whatever you put me at," Bonbright said. "I've been fed
up on sitting at a mahogany desk."

"Good--if you mean it. I hear a lot of four flush about what men are
willing to do. Heaps of them repeat copybook platitudes....You're going
to wear overalls and get your hands dirty. If you don't like it you can
always quit....I know how to do darn nearly everything that's done in
this place. The man who gets up near me has got to know it, too." Here
was a hint for Bonbright of the possibilities that Malcolm Lightener
opened up to him. "This morning you're going into the machine shop to
run a lathe, and you're going to stay there till you KNOW how it's
done. Then we'll move you some place else. Your place is in the office.
But how soon you get there, or whether you ever get there, is up to
you. Like the looks of it?"

Bonbright was silent a moment. When he spoke it was not in reply to
Lightener's question, but to put into words a fear that had become
apparent.

"The men," he said; "how about them?...You know, father sort of
advertised me as a strike breaker and that kind of thing. Our men hate
me. I suppose all laboring men feel that way about me."

"We don't have any unions here. I run my own plant, and, by gracious! I
always will. I give my men fair pay--better than most. I give them all
the opportunity they ask for. I give them the best and safest
conditions to work in that can be had. I figure a good crew in a plant
is a heap more valuable than good machinery--and I keep my machinery in
repair and look after it mighty careful. But no union nonsense.... You
won't have any trouble with the men."

Bonbright was not so sure.... Presently the boy returned with the
overalls. Lightener wrote a note and handed it to the boy. "Take this
man to Shop One and give this note to Maguire," he said; then he turned
to Bonbright and jerked his thumb toward the door. Bonbright got up
without a word and followed the boy.

In a moment the boy opened a big door, and Bonbright stepped through.
The sight took away his breath--not that he had never seen this room
before, but that he was now seeing it through other eyes, not merely as
a spectator, but as a participant. It seemed to him as if the
dimensions of the room should be measured not in feet, but in acres. It
was enormous, but huge as it was it was all too small for the tangle of
machinery it contained. To Bonbright's eyes it seemed a tangle. A
labyrinth of shafting, countershafting, hung from the high ceiling,
from whose whirring pulleys belts descended to rows upon rows of
machines below. It looked like some strange sort of lunar forest, or
some species of monstrous, magic banyan tree. Here were machines of a
hundred uses and shapes, singly, in batteries--a scrambled mass it
seemed. There were small machines--and in the distance huge presses,
massive, their very outlines speaking of gigantic power. Bonbright had
seen sheets of metal fed into them, to be spewed out at another point
bent and molded to a desired form. Overhead conveyers increased the
scrambled appearance. Men with trucks, men on hurried errands, hurried
here and there; other men stood silently feeding hungry
contrivances--men were everywhere, engrossed in their work, paving
scant attention to anything outside their task. And rushing up to
Bonbright was a wave of composite sounds, a roar, a bellow, a shriek, a
rattle, a whir, a grind.... It seemed the ultimate possibility of
confusion.

But as he walked down the aisle, dodging from time to time men or
trucks that regarded him not at all, but depended on him to clear the
way and to look out for himself, he was able to perceive something of
the miraculous orderliness and system of it. He was given a hint of the
plan--how a certain process would start--a bit of rough metal; how it
would undergo its first process and move on by gradual steps from one
machine to the next, to the next, in orderly, systematic way. No time
was lost in carrying a thing hither and thither. When one man was
through with it, the next man was at that exact point, to take it and
contribute his bit to its transformation.... Something very like a
thrill of pride passed over Bonbright. He was a part of this marvel....

Through this room they walked--the room would have sufficed in extent
for a good-sized farm--and into another, not smaller, and into another
and another. His destination, Shop One, was smaller, but huge enough.
The boy led Bonbright to a short, fat man. in unbelievably grimy
overalls and black, visored cap.

"Mr. Maguire," he shouted, "here's a man and a note from the boss."
Then he scurried away.

Maguire looked at the note first, and shoved it into his pocket; then
he squinted at Bonbright--at his face first; then, with a quizzical
glint, at his clothes. Bonbright flushed. For the first time in his
life he was ashamed of his clothes, and for a reason that causes few
men to be ashamed of their clothes. He wished they were of cheaper
cloth, of less expensive tailoring. He wished, most of all, that the
bright new overalls in the bundle under his arm were concealing them
from view.

"You're a hell of a looking machinist," said Maguire.

Bonbright felt it to be a remarkably true saying.

"The boss takes this for a darn kindergarten," Maguire complained.
"Ever run a lathe or a shaper or a planer?"

"No."

"He said to stick you on a lathe.... Huh! What's he know about it?...
How's he expect this room to make a showing if it's goin' to be charged
with guys like you that hain't nothin' but an expense?"

Bonbright got the idea back of that. Maguire was personally interested
in results; Maguire wanted his room to beat other rooms in the weekly
reports; Maguire was working for something more than wages--he was
playing the game of manufacturing to win.

"You go on a planer," Maguire snapped, "and Gawd help you if you spoil
more castings than I figger you ought to.... The boys here'll make it
hot for you if you pull down their average."

So the boys were interested, too. The thing extended downward from the
bosses!

"Goin' to work in them clothes?" asked Maguire, with a grin.

"Overalls," said Bonbright, tapping his parcel.

Maguire went to his desk and took a key from a box. "I'll show you your
locker," he said; and presently Bonbright, minus his coat, was incased
in the uniform of a laborer. Spick and span and new it was, and gave
him a singularly uncomfortable feeling because of this fact. He wanted
it grimed and daubed like the overalls of the men he saw about him. A
boyish impulse to smear it moved him--but he was ashamed to do it
openly.

Maguire led him to a big contrivance which was called a shaper. A boy
of eighteen was operating it. On its bed, which moved back and forth
automatically, was bolted a great cake of iron--a casting in the rough.
The machine was smoothing its surfaces.

"Show him," Maguire said to the boy, "then report to me."

The boy showed Bonbright efficiently--telling him what must be done to
that iron cake, explaining how the machine was to be stopped and
started, and other necessary technical matters. Then he hurried off.
Bonbright gazed at the casting ruefully, afflicted with stage fright.
... He was actually about to perform real labor--a labor requiring a
certain measure of intellect. He was afraid he would make a mistake,
would do something wrong, and possibly spoil the casting. He started
the planer gingerly. It had not seemed to move rapidly when the boy was
operating it, but now the bed seemed fairly to fly forward and snap
back. He bent forward to look at the cutting he had made; it was right.
So far he was all right.... Surreptitiously he laid his palm in a mass
of grease and metal particles and wiped it across his breast.... It was
an operation which he repeated more than once that morning.

Gradually his trepidation passed and he began to enjoy himself. He
enjoyed watching that casting move resistlessly under the tool; watched
the metal curl up in glittering little curlicues as the tool ate its
way across. He looked with pleasure at the surface already planed and
with anticipation of the surface still in the rough.... It was
interesting; it was fun. He wondered vaguely if all men who worked at
tasks of this kind found pleasure in them, not appreciating that years
of doing the same thing over and over might make it frightfully
monotonous. The truth was the thing had not yet become work to him. It
was a new experience, and all new experiences bring their thrill.

Until the noon whistle blew he hardly took his eyes off his work. He
did not know that Maguire passed him a dozen times, not stopping, but
watching him closely as he passed.... With the stopping of work about
him he realized that he was tired. He had lifted weights; he had used
unaccustomed muscles. He was hot, sweaty, aching. He was hungry.

"Where do we eat?" he asked the man who stood at the next machine.

"Didn't you bring no lunch?"

"No."

"Some doesn't," said the man, as if he disapproved exceedingly of that
class. "They feed at the hash house across the street.... Hain't broke,
be you?"

Bonbright understood the kindly offer implied. "Thank you--no," he
said, and followed to the big wash room.

He ate his lunch from the top of a tall stool. It was not the sort of
food he was accustomed to, and the coffee was far from being the sort
that had been served to him in his home or in his club--but he hardly
noticed it. When he was through he walked back across the street and
stood awkwardly among his mates. He knew none of them.

An oldish, smallish man looked at him and at his overalls, and grinned.

"New man?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Thought them overalls wasn't long off the shelf. You done a good job,
though, considerin'."

Bonbright blushed.

"Where you been workin'?"

How was Bonbright to answer? He couldn't tell the truth without shaming
himself in this man's eyes, and all at once he found he greatly desired
the good opinion of this workingman and of the other workingmen about
him.

"I--The last place I worked was Bonbright Foote, Incorporated," he
said, giving his father's institution its full name.

"Urn.... Strikin', eh?"

Bonbright nodded. He had struck. Not with a union, but as an individual.

"'Bout over, hain't it, from all I hear tell?"

"I think so," said Bonbright.

"Bad business.... Strikes is always bad--especially if the men git
licked. Unions hain't no business to call strikes without some show of
winnin'..... The boys talk that this strike never had no chance from
the beginnin'.... I don't think a heap of that Foote outfit."

"Why?"

"Rotten place to work, I hear. A good machinist can't take no pleasure
there, what with one thing and another. Out-of-date machines, and what
not.... That young Foote, the cub, is a hell winder, they say. Ever see
him?"

"I've seen him."

"His father was bad enough, by all accounts. But this kid goes him one
better. Wonder some of them strikers didn't git excited and make him
acquainted with a brick. I've heard of fightin' strikes hard--but never
nothin' like this one. Seems like this kid's a hard one. Wants to smash
hell out of the men just to see them smash.... How'd he strike you?"

"I was sorry for him," said Bonbright, simply.

"Sorry?... What's the idea?"

"I--I don't believe he did what people believe. He didn't really have
anything to do with the business, you know. He didn't count.... All the
things that he was said to do--he didn't do at all. His father did them
and let the men think it was his son."

"Sounds fishy--but if it's so somebody ought to lambaste the old man.
He sure got his son in bad.... What's this I hear about him marryin'
some girl and gettin' kicked out?"

"That's true," said Bonbright.

"Huh!... Wonder what he'll do without his pa. Them kind hain't much
good, I notice.... Maybe he's well fixed himself, though."

"He hasn't a cent," said Bonbright.

"Appears like you know a heap about him.... Maybe you know what he's
doin' now?"

"Working."

"Friends give him a soft job?"

"He's working in a--machine shop," said Bonbright.

"G'wan," said the man, incredulously. Then he looked sharply at
Bonbright, at his new overalls, back again at his face.

"What's your name?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Foote," said Bonbright.

"HIM?"

"Yes," said Bonbright.

The man paused before he spoke, and there was something not kindly that
came into his eyes. "Speakin' perty well of yourself, wasn't you?" he
said, caustically, and, turning his back, he walked away. ... That
action cut Bonbright more deeply than any of the few affronts that had
been put upon him in his life had cut. He wanted to call the man back
and demand that he listen to the truth. He wanted to explain, to set
himself right. He wanted that man and all men to know he was not the
Bonbright Foote who had brought on the strike and fought it with such
vindictive ruthlessness. He wanted to prove that he was innocent, and
to wring from them the right to meet and to be received by his fellow
laborers as one of themselves....

He saw the man stop beside a group, say something, turn, and point to
him. Other men turned and stared. Some snickered. Bonbright could not
bear it. He jostled his way through the crowd and sought refuge in the
shop.

The morning had been a happy one; the afternoon was dismal. He knew he
was marked. He saw men pointing at him, whispering about him, and could
imagine what they were saying. In the morning he had been received
casually as an equal. Nobody had welcomed him, nobody had paid
particular attention to him. That was as it should be. He was simply
accepted as another workman.... The attitude of the men was quite the
opposite now. He was a sort of museum freak to them. From a distance
they regarded him with curiosity, but their manner set him apart from
them. He did not belong. He felt their hostility.... If they had lined
up and jeered him Bonbright would not have felt the hurt so much, for
there would have been something to arouse his fighting spirit.

One remark he overheard, which stood aptly for the attitude of all.
"Well, he's gettin' what's comin' to him," was the sentence. It showed
him that the reputation his father had given him was his to wear, and
that here he would find no friends, scant toleration, probably open
hostility.... He got no pleasure that afternoon from watching his cake
of metal move backward and forward with the planer-bed.

When the whistle blew again he hurried out, looking into no man's face,
avoiding contacts. He sneaked away.... And in his heart burned a hot
resentment against the father that had done this thing....



CHAPTER XXIII


Such pretense as Bonbright's and Ruth's is possible only to the morbid,
the eccentric, or the unhealthy. Neither of them was morbid, neither
eccentric, both abundantly well. Ruth saw the failure of it days before
Bonbright had even a hint. After Dulac burst in upon her she perceived
the game must be brought to an end; that their life of make-believe was
weighted with danger for her. She determined to end it--but, ironically
enough, to end it meant to enter upon another make-believe existence
far harder to live successfully than the first. One can make believe to
love on the stage, uttering skillfully the words of an author and
carrying out the instructions of a stage director. An audience may be
taken in.... A play is brief. But to begin a spurious love scene which
is to last, not twenty minutes, but for a lifetime, is a matter of
quite different color. She determined to begin it....

But with the sound of Bonbright's footfall on the stairs her resolution
vanished. "To-morrow," she whispered to herself, with sudden dread.
"To-morrow...." And so she put it off from day to day.

In the beginning Bonbright had been optimistic. He had seen her
reluctance, her reserves, vanishing in a few days. But they did not
vanish. He found himself no nearer his wife than he had been at the
beginning. Optimism became hope, hope dwindled, became doubt, uneasy
wonder. He could not understand, and it was natural he should not
understand. At first he had believed his experience was the experience
of all bridegrooms. Days taught him his experience was unique,
unnatural. Ruth saw him often now, sitting moodily, eyes on the
floor--and she could read his thoughts. Yet he tried to bolster up the
pretense. He had given his promise, and he loved Ruth. He could not,
would not do as most men would have done.... What neither of them saw
was that pretense had made a sudden change to reality impossible....

Bonbright was unhappy at home, unhappy at work. Just as he was outside
his wife's real life, so he was excluded from the lives of the men he
worked with. He was not, to them, a fellow laborer; he was Bonbright
Foote VII. But he made no complaint or appeal to Malcolm Lightener....
He did not know how unnecessary an appeal to Lightener would be, for
Lightener kept himself well acquainted with the facts, watched and
waited, and the satisfaction of the automobile king grew and increased.

"He's no squealer," he said to his daughter. "He's taking his medicine
without making a face."

"What's the good, dad? It's mean.... Why don't you take him into the
office?"

"We have a testing department," he said. "Every scrap of metal that
goes into a car is tested before we use it.... Bonbright's in the
testing department."

"Isn't it possible to keep on testing a piece of metal till it's all
used up?" she said.

"H'm!... Suppose you mind your own business," he said, in his gruff,
granite way--not rudely nor offensively. "How's his wife? How are they
getting along?"

Hilda shook her head. "They're queer, dad. Somehow I don't believe
things are working out the way they should. I can't understand HER."

"Squabbling?"

"Never.... Bonbright's so gentle with her. He has a sort of wistful way
with him as soon as she comes near. It makes me want to cry. Somehow he
reminds me of a fine, affectionate dog watching a master who doesn't
give back any affection. You know."

"Doesn't she?"

"Give back affection?... That's just it. I don't know. I've been there
and seen him come home. She acts queerly. As soon as she hears him
coming up the stairs she seems to shut up. It's as if she turned out
the lights.... Where the ordinary girl would be running to kiss him and
make a fuss over him she--doesn't do anything.... And she keeps
watching him. And there's something in her eyes like--well, like she
was blaming herself for something, and was sorry for him. ... She
seems, when she's with him, as if she were trying to make up to him for
something--and didn't know how."

"Readjustment," Lightener grunted. "They jumped into the thing
kerplunk. Queer start-off."

"I don't know.... She's a dear--and he's a dear.... It isn't like
anything I've ever seen. It's something peculiar."

"Must be his fault. I told him--"

"It isn't his fault." Hilda spoke with certainty. "If you could see him
you'd know it. His manner toward her--why, dad, I never saw a man so
sweet and gentle and patient."

"Maybe that's the trouble. Too much patience is as bad as too much
raising the devil."

"No.... It's something."

She turned to leave the room, when her father called after her:
"Bonbright quit chawing castings to-night. He doesn't know it, but
to-morrow he gets a new job.... Has all of that he needs. Knows how it
feels."

"What's he going to do now?"

"Nice, light, pleasant job.... He'll be passing rear axles--made by his
father--down a chute to the assembling track. Bet he'll need Saint
Jacob's oil on his back to-morrow night. Give his wife a job."

"Why," she scolded, for she was on intimate terms with the factory,
"that's common labor. He'll be working with Wops and Guineas and
Polacks."

He nodded. "If he stands the gaff I'll ease up on him."

"If he doesn't?"

Lightener shrugged his shoulders.

"Dad," said Hilda, "sometimes you make me MAD...."

When the factory heard what had become of Bonbright it laughed.
Bonbright was aware it laughed, and he set his teeth and labored.
Beside what he was doing now the machine shop had been play. Rear axles
are not straws to be tossed about lightly. Nor are Wops, Guineas,
Polacks, smelling of garlic, looking at one with unintelligent eyes,
and clattering to one another in strange tongues, such workfellows as
make the day pass more quickly....

Bonbright had to pass down a certain number of axles an hour. At
definite, brief intervals a fragment of an automobile would move along
the assembling track and pause beneath his spout--and his axle must be
ready. There was a constant procession of fragments, and a second's
delay brought up to his ears pointed commentary from below. ... The
more pointed that those below knew who was above them.

He worked feverishly. After a while it became acute torture. He felt as
if every axle he handled was the last he could manage--but he forced
himself to just one more and then just one more--and another. He worked
in a daze. Thought-processes seemed to stop. He was just a mechanism
for performing certain set acts. The pain was gone--everything was gone
but the stabbing necessity for getting another axle on that chute in
time. He wanted to stop at a certain stage, but there was something in
him which would not allow it. After that he didn't care. "Another....
Another.... Another..." his brain sang over and over endlessly. He was
wet with perspiration; he staggered under the weights; he was
exhausted, but he could not stop. It was as if he were on a treadmill
where he had to keep stepping on and on and on whether he could take
another step or not.... After a century the noon whistle blew.

Bonbright did not leave his place. He simply sagged down in his tracks
and lay there, eyes shut, panting. Gradually his brain cleared, but he
was too weary to move. Then thirst drove him to motion and he dragged
himself to the wash room, cramped, aching, and there he drank and
sopped himself with cold water.... So this was what men did to live! No
wonder men were dissatisfied; no wonder men formed unions and struck
and rioted!... Bonbright was getting in an efficient school the point
of view of the laborer.

In the afternoon Malcolm Lightener stood and watched Bonbright, though
Bonbright did not see, for he was working in a red haze again,
unconscious of everything but that insistent demand in his brain for
"another.... Another.... Another...." Lightener watched, granite face
expressionless, and then walked away.

Bonbright did not hear the evening whistle. He placed another axle on
the chute, but no one was below to take it. He wondered dimly what was
the matter.... A Guinea from the next chute regarded him curiously,
then walked over and touched his shoulder with dirty hand, and wafted
garlic in his face. "Time for quit," said the man.

Bonbright sat down where he was. It was over. That day was over. Not
another axle, not another, not another. He laid his head against the
chute and shut his eyes.... Presently he staggered to his feet and
walked blindly to the stairway. At the bottom stood Malcolm Lightener,
not there by accident, but with design to test Bonbright's metal to the
utmost. He placed himself there for Bonbright to see, to give Bonbright
opportunity to beg off, to SQUEAL.

Bonbright, shoulders drooping, legs dragging, face drawn, eyes burning,
would have passed him without recognition, without caring who it was he
passed, but that did not suit Lightener's purpose.

"Well, Bonbright?" he said.

Sudden fire flashed in Bonbright's brain. He stopped, and with the
knuckles of a hand that was torn and blistered and trembling, he
knocked on Lightener's broad chest as he would have knocked on a door
that refused to open. "Damn your axles," he said, thickly. "I can get
them there--another--and another--and another--and another.... They're
too slow below.... Make 'em come faster. I can keep up...." And all the
time he was rapping on Lightener's chest.

He was conscious of what he did and said, but he did not do and say it
of his own volition. He was like a man who dimly sees and hears another
man. Subconsciously he was repeating: "Not another one till
to-morrow.... Not another one till to-morrow...."

Abruptly he turned away from Lightener and, setting down each foot
heavily with a clump, he plodded toward the wash room. He was going to
rest. He was going to feel cool water on his head and his neck; he was
going to revel in cool water... and then he would sleep. SLEEP! He made
toward sleep as one lost in the desert would make toward a spring of
sweet water....

Lightener stood and looked after Bonbright. His granite face did not
alter; no light or shade passed over it. Not even in his gray eyes
could a hint of his thoughts be read. Simply he stood and looked after
Bonbright, outwardly as emotionless as a block of the rock that he
resembled. Then he walked to his office, sat down at his desk, selected
and lighted a cigar, and tilted back in his chair.

"There's something to that Bonbright Foote formula," he said to
himself. "It's all wrong, but it could produce THAT."

Then, after a few moments of puffing and of studying the thing, he
said: "We'll see if he comes back to-morrow.... If he DOES come back--"

At home that evening Hilda asked him about Bonbright. He was ashamed to
confess to her what he had done to the boy--yet he was proud of having
done it. To his own granite soul it was right to subject men to such
tests, but women would not understand. He knew his daughter would think
him a brute, and he did not want his daughter to think any such thing.
"If he comes back in the morning--" he promised.

Bonbright came back in the morning, though he had been hardly able to
drag himself out of bed. It was not strength of body that brought him,
but pure will. He came, looking forward to the day as a man might look
down into hell--but he came. "I'll show THEM," he said, aloud, at the
breakfast table, as he forced himself to drink a cup of coffee. Ruth
did not understand. She did not understand what was wrong with him;
feared he was on the verge of an illness. He had come home the night
before, scarcely speaking to her, and had gone directly to bed. She
supposed he was in his room preparing for dinner, but when she went to
call him she found him fast asleep, moaning and muttering uneasily.

"What did you say?" she asked, uneasily.

"Didn't know I spoke," he said, and winced as he moved his shoulders.
But he knew what he had said---that he would show THEM. It wasn't
Malcolm Lightener he was going to show, but the men--his fellow
laborers. The thing that lay in his mind was that he must prove himself
to be their equal, capable of doing what they could do. He wanted their
respect--wanted it pitifully.

Ruth watched him anxiously as he left the apartment. She knew things
were not well with him and that he needed something a true wife should
give. First, he needed to tell some one about it. He had not told me.
If she had been inside his life, where she belonged, he must have told
her. Second, he needed her sympathy, her mothering.... She might have
been able to give him that--after a fashion.... She felt how it should
be done, knew how she would have done it if only she loved him. "I
could be the right kind of a wife," she said, wistfully. "I know I
could...."

Bonbright went doggedly to his place at the mouth of the chute and was
ready with the whistle, an axle poised to slide downward to the
assembling car below. He was afraid--afraid he would not be able to get
through the day--absurdly afraid and ashamed of his physical weakness.
If he should play out!...

A boy tapped him on the shoulder. "You're wanted in the office," he
heard.

"I've got to--keep up," he said, dully. "Cars are coming along below,"
he explained, carefully, "and I've got to get the axles to them."

"Here's a man to take your place," said the boy--and so strange is man
created in God's image!--he did not want to go. He wanted to see it
through till he dropped.

"If you keep the boss waiting--" said the boy, ominously.

Bonbright walked painfully to Lightener's office.

"Well?" said Lightener.

"I can do it--I'll harden to it," Bonbright said.

"Huh!... Take off those overalls.... Boy, go to Mr. Foote's locker and
fetch his things...."

"Am--am I discharged?"

"No," said Lightener, bestowing no word of commendation. Men had little
commendation from him by word of mouth. He let actions speak for him.
When he gave a man a task to perform that man knew he was being
complimented.... But he knew it in no other way.

"That's the way a laborer feels," said Lightener.... "You got it
multiplied. That's because you had to jam his whole life's experience
into a day...."

"Poor devils!" said Bonbright.

"I'm going to put you in the purchasing department--after that, if you
make good--into the sales end.... Able to go ahead to-day?"

"Yes."

"Before you amount to a darn as a business man you've got to know how
to buy.... That's the foundation. You've got to be able to buy right.
Then you've got to learn how to make. Selling is easiest of all--and
there are darn few real salesmen. If you can buy, you can do anything."

"I--I would rather stay out of the shops, Mr. Lightener. The men--found
out who I was...I'd like to stay there till they--forget it."

"You'll go where I put you. Men enough in the purchasing department.
Got a tame anarchist there, I hear, and a Mormon, and a Hindu, and a
single-taxer. All kinds. After hours. From whistle to whistle they BUY."

Lightener took Bonbright personally to his new employment and left him.
But Bonbright was not satisfied. Once before he had sought contact with
men who labored, and he had landed in a cell in police headquarters.
That had been mere boyish curiosity to find what it was all about. Now
his desire to know was real. He had been--very briefly, it is true--one
of them. Now he wanted to know. He wanted to know how they thought, and
why they thought that way. He wanted to understand their attitude
toward themselves, toward one another, toward the class they largely
denominated as Capital. He had caught snatches of
conversation--interesting to him, but none had talked to him. He wanted
to get on a footing with them which would permit him to listen, and to
talk. He wanted to hear arguments. He wanted to go into their homes and
see their wives and find out what their wives thought.... All this had
been brought to him by a few days in overalls. He had no idea that
Lightener had intended it should be brought to him....

However, that must lie in the future; his present business was to do as
he was told and to earn his wages. He must earn his wages, for he had a
family to support.... It was his first experience with the ever-present
fear of the wage earner--the fear of losing his job.

But he determined to know the men, and planned accordingly. With that
end in view, instead of lunching with men in his department, he went to
the little hash house across the road to drink vile coffee and rub
elbows with laborers in greasy overalls. He would go there every day;
he would seek other opportunities of contact.... Now that he felt the
genuine, sympathetic hunger for an understanding of them and their
problems, he would not rest until it was his....



CHAPTER XXIV


Bonbright found himself a layman in a department of specialists. On all
sides of him were men who knew all about something, a few who knew a
great deal about several things, and a man or two who appeared to have
some knowledge of every element and article that went into a motor car.
There was a man who knew leather from cow to upholstery, and who talked
about it lovingly. This man had the ability to make leather as
interesting as the art of Benvenuto Cellini. Another was a specialist
in hickory, and thought and talked spokes; another was a reservoir of
dependable facts about rubber; another about gray iron castings;
another about paints and enamels, and so on. In that department it
would not have been impossible to compile an encyclopedia.

It was impossible that Bonbright should not have been interested. It
was not business, it was a fascinating, enthralling debating society,
where the debates were not of the "Resolved that the world would be
better" sort, but were as to the essential qualities of concrete
things. It was practical debate which saved money and elevated the
standards of excellence.

The department had its own laboratories, its own chemists, its own
engineers. Everything was tested. Two articles might appear to the
layman equal in virtue; careful examination by experts might not
disclose a difference between them, but the skill of the chemist would
show that this article was a tenth of one per cent, less guilty of
alloy than that, or that the breaking strength of this was a minute
fraction greater than that.... So decisions were reached.

Bonbright was to learn that price did not always rule. He saw orders
given for carloads of certain supplies which tested but a point or two
higher than its rival--and sold for dollars more a ton. Thousands of
dollars were paid cheerfully for those few points of excellence. ...
Here was business functioning as he did not know business could
function. Here business was an art, and he applied himself to it like
an artist. Here he could lay aside that growing discontent, that
dissatisfaction, that was growing upon him. Here, in the excitement of
distinguishing the better from the worse, he could forget Ruth and the
increasingly impracticable condition of his relations with her.

He had come to a realization that his game of make-believe would not
march. He realized that Ruth either was his wife or she was not.... But
he did not know what to do about it. It seemed a problem without a
solution, and it was--for him. Its solution did not lie in himself, but
in his wife. Bonbright could not set the thing right; his potentiality
lay only for its destruction. Three courses lay open to him; to assert
his husbandship; to send Ruth home to her mother; or to put off till
to-morrow and to-morrow and still another to-morrow. Only in the last
did hope reside, and he clung to hope....

He tried to conceal his unrest, his discontent, his rebellion against
the thing that was, from Ruth. He continued to be patient, gentle. ...
He did not know how she wept and accused herself because of that
gentleness and patience. He did not know how she tried to compel love
by impact of will--and how she failed. But he did come to doubt her
love. He could not do otherwise. Then he wondered why she had married
him, and, reviewing the facts of his hurried marriage, he wondered the
more with bitterness and heartache. Against his will his affairs were
traveling toward a climax. The approaching footsteps of the day when
something must happen were audible on the path.

The day after his installation in the purchasing department he lunched
at the little hash house across the street. Sitting on his high stool,
he tried to imagine he was a part of that sweating, gulping crowd of
men, that he was one of them, and not an outsider, suspected, regarded
with unfriendly looks.

Behind him a man began to make conversation for Bonbright's ears. It
had happened before.

"The strike up to the Foote plant's on its last legs," said the man,
loudly.

"So I hear," answered another.

"Infernal shame. If it was only the closed-shop question I dunno's I'd
feel so. We're open shop here--but we git treated like human bein's....
Over there--" The man shrugged his shoulders. "Look at the way they've
fought the strike. Don't blame 'em for fightin' it. Calc'late they had
to fight it, but there's fightin' and fightin'. ... Seems like this
Foote bunch set out to do the worst that could be done--and they done
it."

"Wonder when it 'll peter out--the strike?"

"Back's busted now. Nothin's holding it up but that man Dulac. There's
a man for you! I've knowed labor leaders I didn't cotton to nor have
much confidence in---fellers that jest wagged their tongues and took
what they could get out of it. But this Dulac--he's a reg'lar man. I've
listened to him, and I tell you he means what he says. He's in it to
git somethin' for the other feller.... But he can't hold out much
longer."

It was true; Dulac could not hold out much longer. That very noon he
was fighting with his back against the wall. In Workingman's Hall he
was making his last fierce fight to hold from crumbling the resolution
of the strikers who still stood by their guns.... He threw the fire of
his soul into their dull, phlegmatic faces. It struck no answering
spark. Never before had he spoken to men without a consciousness of his
powers, without pose, without dramatics. Now he was himself, and more
dramatic, more compelling than ever before. ... He pleaded, begged,
flayed his audience, but it did not respond to his pleadings nor writhe
under the whip of his words. It was apathetic, stolid. In its weary
heart it knew what it was there to do, and it would do it in spite of
Dulac.... He would not admit it. He would not submit to defeat. He
talked on and on, not daring to stop, for with the stoppage of his
harangue he heard the death of the strike. It lived only with his voice.

In the body of the hall a man, haggard of face, arose.

"'Tain't no use, Mr. Dulac," he said, dully. "We've stuck by you--"

"You've stuck by yourselves," Dulac cried.

"Whatever you say.... But'tain't no use. We're licked. Hain't no use
keepin' up and stretchin' out the sufferin'.... I hain't the least of
the sufferers, Mr. Dulac--my wife hain't with me no more." The dull
voice wabbled queerly. "There's hunger and grief and
sufferin'--willin'ly endured when there was a chance--but there hain't
no chance.... 'Tain't human to ask any more of our wimmin and
children.... It's them I'm a-thinkin' of, Mr. Dulac... and on account
of them I say this strike ought to quit. It's got to quit, and I demand
a vote on it, Mr. Dulac."

"Vote!... Vote!... Vote!..." roared up to Dulac from all over the
hall.... It was the end. He was powerless to stay the rush of the
desire of those weary men for peace.

Dulac turned slowly around, his back to the crowd, walked to a chair,
and, with elbows on knees, he covered his face with his hands. There
was a silence, as men looked at him and appreciated his suffering. They
appreciated his suffering because they appreciated the man, his honesty
to their cause, and to his work. He had been true to them. For himself
he would gain nothing by the success of the strike--for them he would
have gained much.... It was not his loss that bowed his head, but their
loss--and they knew it. He was a Messiah whose mission had failed.

The vote was put. There was no dissenting voice. The strike was done,
and Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, was victor.

Men clustered about Dulac, wringing his hands, speaking words of
comfort with voices that broke, and the number of those who turned away
with tears was greater than of those whose eyes could remain dry.

Dulac spoke. "We'll try again--men.... We'll start to get
ready--to-day--for another--fight."

Then, hurriedly, blindly, he forced his way through them and made his
way out of the hall. Grief, the heaviness of defeat, was all that he
could feel now. Bitterness would come in its time.

Dulac was a soul without restraints, a soul in eternal uproar. His life
had been one constant kicking against the pricks, and when they hurt
his feet he was not schooled to stifle the cry of pain. He could not
endure patiently and in silence; the tumult of his suffering must have
an outlet.

Now was the time for an overwrought, overtired man, clothed in no
restraint, to try what surcease was to be found in the bottom of a
glass. But Dulac was not a drinking man. So he walked. As he walked
bitterness awoke, and he cursed under his breath. Bitterness increased
until it was rage, and, as man is so constituted that rage must have a
definite object, Dulac unconsciously sought a man who would symbolize
all the forces that had defeated him--and he chose Bonbright Foote. He
chose Bonbright the more readily because he hated the boy for personal
reasons. If Dulae and Bonbright had met at this moment there would have
happened events which would have delighted the yellower press. But they
did not meet. Bonbright was safe in Lightener's purchasing department,
learning certain facts about brass castings.

So Dulac walked and walked, and lashed himself into rage. Rage abated
and became biting disappointment and unspeakable heaviness of heart.
Again rage would be conjured up only to ebb again and to flood again as
the hours went by.

There is an instinct in man which, when his troubles become too weighty
to bear alone, sends him to a woman. Perhaps this is the survival of an
idea implanted in childhood when baby runs to mother for sure comfort
with broken doll or bruised thumb. It persists and never dies, so that
one great duty, one great privilege, one great burden of womankind is
to give ear to man's outpourings of his woes, and to offer such comfort
as she may....

Dulac was drawn to Ruth.

This time she did not try to close the door against him. His first
words made that impossible.

"I'm--beaten," he said, dully.

His flamboyance, his threatricality, was gone. He was no longer
flashily masterful, no longer exotically fascinating. He sagged.... He
was just a soul-weary, disappointed man, looking at her out of hollow,
burning eyes. He had spent himself magnificently into bankruptcy. His
face was the face of a man who must rest, who must find peace.... Yet
he was not consciously seeking rest or peace. He was seeking her....
Seeking her because he craved her, and seeking her to strike at her
husband, who had become a symbol of all the antagonists he had been
fighting.

His appearance disarmed her; her fear of him and herself was lured away
by the appearance of him. She felt nothing but sympathy and tenderness
and something of wonder that he--Dulac the magnificent--should be
brought to this pass. So she admitted him, regardless even of the
lateness of the afternoon hour.

He followed her heavily and sank into a chair.

"You're sick," she said, anxiously.

He shook his head. "I'm--beaten," he repeated, and in truth beaten was
what he looked, beaten and crushed.... "But I'll--try again," he said,
with a trace of the old gleam in his eyes.

She clasped and unclasped her hands, standing before him, white with
the emotions that swayed her.... Here was the man she loved in his
bitterest, darkest moment--and she was barred away from him by
unwelcome barriers. She could not soothe him, she could not lighten his
suffering with the tale of her love for him, but she must remain mute,
holding out no hand to ease his pain.

"I came for you," he said, dully.

"No," she said.

"Ruth--I need you--now...." This man, who had wooed her boldly, had
demanded her masterfully, now was brought to pleading. He needed her.
It was plain that he did need her, and, realizing it, she saw the
danger of it. It was a new, a subtle attack, and it had taken her
unawares.

"I can't.... I can't.... I mustn't..." she said, breathlessly.

"I must have you," he said, with dead simplicity, as one states a bare,
essential fact. Then Bonbright was visualized before him, and rage
flooded once more. "He sha'n't keep you!... You're mine--you were mine
first.... What is he to you? I'm going to take you away from him.... I
can do THAT...."

He was less dangerous so. Perhaps instinct told him, for his passion
stilled itself, and he became tired, pitiful again.

"We've got a right to be happy," he said, in his tired voice. "You're
not happy--and I'm--beaten.... I want you--I need you.... You'll come
with me. You've got to come with me."

She was moved, swayed. He needed her.... She had cheated Bonbright in
the beginning. She was not his wife.... He had none of her love, and
she believed this man had it wholly.... She had wronged Bonbright all
she could wrong him--what would this matter? It was not this that was
wrong, but the other--the marrying without love.... And she, too, was
beaten. She had played her game and lost, not going down to defeat
fighting as Dulac had gone down, but futilely, helplessly. She had
given herself for the Cause--to no profit.... And her heart yearned for
peace, for release.

"I'm his wife," she said, still struggling flutteringly.

"You're MY wife." He lifted his arms toward her, and she swayed, took a
step toward him--a step toward the precipice. Suddenly she stopped,
eyes startled, a deeper pallor blighting her face--for she heard
Bonbright's step on the stairs.... She had forgotten the lateness of
the hour.

"Oh'." she said.

"What is it?"

"HE is--here."

She was awakened by the shock of it, and saw, saw clearly. She had
stood upon the brink--and HE had come in time.... And then she was
afraid.

Neither of them spoke. Dulac got to his feet, his breath coming
audibly, and so they waited.

Bonbright opened the door. "Ruth," he called, putting what pretense of
gayety he could into his voice. "You've got company. The chronic
visitor is here." He was playing his game bravely.

She did not answer.

"Ruth," he called again, and then stood in the door. She could not see
him, but she felt his presence, felt his silence, felt the look of
surprise changing to suspicion that she knew must be in his eyes.

For a moment he stood motionless, not comprehending. Then the attitude
of his wife and of Dulac spoke eloquently, and he whitened.

"I don't understand," he said. The words were meaningless, pointless,
perhaps, but they stabbed Ruth to the heart. She turned to him, saw him
step forward slowly, looking very tall, older than she had ever known
him. He had drawn within himself, and there manifested itself his
inheritance from his ancestors. He was like his father, but with an
even more repressed dignity than was his father's.

"You don't understand," snarled Dulac. "Then I'll tell you. I'm glad
you came.... I'm after your wife. She's going away with me."

"No.... No..." Ruth whispered.

"Be still.... She's mine, Foote--and always was. You thought she was
yours--well, she's one thing you can't have. I'm going to tell you why
she married you...."

Ruth cried out in incoherent fright, protesting.

"She married you to use you.... Not even for your money. She married
you because her heart was with the men your kind is grinding down. ...
She saw you were the kind of man a woman could twist around her
finger--and you owned five thousand men.... Get the idea?... She was
going to do things for them--with you. You were nothing but a button
she would push. So she married you--and you cheated her.... So she's
done with you. You can't give what she paid for, and she's going away
with me.... She LOVES me. She was promised to marry me--when she saw
what she could do with you--and I let her go.... If she could give, so
could I.... But I loved her and she loved me--and we're going away."

It was true. Bonbright knew it was true, but he would not admit his
belief until he had confirmation from his wife's lips.

"Is this true?" he asked, quietly.

She was shaking with sobs, crouching against the wall.

"Don't be afraid," Bonbright said again, in a strange, quiet, courteous
voice. "Is it true?"

"Yes," she whispered, for she could not lie with his eyes upon her.

"I knew there was--something," he said, with a little halt in his
voice.... That was all. He did not look at Dulac, but stood looking at
her for a moment steadily, almost with grave inquiry.... She looked
from him to Dulac. Subconsciously she compared them.... Bonbright did
not speak again, but turned slowly and walked steadily out of the
room.... Ruth heard the outer door close behind him and knew he was
gone.... Gone!

Dulac laughed shortly. "That settled HIM," he said. "Now you'll come."

She stood regarding him as she might have regarded some strangely
endowed person she had never seen before. Then with a sudden,
passionate vehemence she burst out upon him:

"Never.... Never.... I'll never go with you. I'm his wife--his wife....
Oh, what have you done?... I hate you--I hate you! Don't ever
dare--come near me again.... I hate you...."

She turned and fled to her room and locked the door. Though he knocked
and called, though he pleaded and threatened, she made no reply, but
sat dry-eyed, on her bed, until she heard him go away raging....



CHAPTER XXV


Hilda Lightener's electric stopped before the apartment house where
Bonbright Foote lived, and Hilda alighted. She ignored bell and
speaking tube and ran upstairs to Bonbright's door, on which she
knocked as a warning. Then she opened the door and called: "It's me.
Anybody home?"

Nobody replied. She called again, and walked into the little living
room where Ruth and Bonbright and Dulac had faced one another an hour
before.... She called again. This time she heard a sound, muffled,
indistinct, but recognizable as a sob.

"Ruth!" she called, and went to the bedroom door. Now she could hear
Ruth within, sobbing alarmingly.

"Ruth Foote," said Hilda, "what's the matter?... Where's Bonbright?...
I'm coming in."

She opened the door, saw Ruth outstretched on the bed, face buried in
her pillow, sobbing with a queer, startling dryness. It was not the sob
of a woman in an attack of nerves, not the sob of a woman merely crying
to rest herself, nor the sob of a bride who has had a petty quarrel
with her husband. It was different, alarmingly different. There was
despair in it. It told of something seriously awry, of stark tragedy.

Hilda's years were not many, but her intuition was sure. She did not
demand explanations, did not command Ruth to stop crying and tell what
ailed her, but sat down quietly on the bed and stroked the sobbing
girl's hair, crooning over her softly. "There!... There!..."

Gradually the tenseness, the dry, racking, tearing quality of Ruth's
sobs, softened, ameliorated. Presently she was crying, quietly,
pitifully.... Hilda breathed with relief. She did not know that for an
hour Ruth had sat on the edge of her bed, still, tearless, staring
blindly before her--her soul drying up and burning within her for lack
of tears. She had been unable to cry. She had uttered no sound until
Hilda's voice came in to her. Then she had thrown herself prone in that
paroxysm of wrenching sobs....

"There!... There!..." Hilda crooned.

Ruth's hand crept out fumblingly, found Hilda's dress, and clutched it.
Hilda laid her warm hand over Ruth's cold fingers--and waited.

"He's--gone," Ruth sobbed, presently.

"Never mind, honey.... Never mind, now."

Ruth mumbled incoherently. After a time she raised herself on her arms
and crouched beside Hilda, who put her arms around her and held her
close, as she would have held a troubled child.

"You'll--despise me," Ruth whispered.

"I guess not." Hilda pressed Ruth's slenderness against her more robust
body reassuringly. "I don't despise folks, as a rule.... Want to talk
now?"

She saw that the time for speech had come.

"He won't come back.... I saw it in his eyes."

"Who won't come back, dear?"

"Bonbright." Ruth drew a shuddering breath. Then haltingly,
whimperingly, sobs interrupting, she talked. She could not tell it fast
enough. It must be told, her mind must be relieved, and the story, pent
up so long within her, rushed forth in a flood of despairing,
self-accusing words. It came in snatches, fragments, as high lights of
suffering flashed upon her mind. She did not start at the beginning
logically and carry through--but the thing as a whole was there. Hilda
had only to sort it and reassemble it to get the pitiful tale complete.

"You--you don't mean you married Bonbright like some of those Russian
nihilist persons one hears about--just to use him and your
position--for some socialist or anarchist thing? You're not serious,
Ruth?... Such things aren't."

"I--I'd do THAT again," she said. "It was right--to do that--for the
good of all those men.... It's not that--but the rest--not keeping to
my bargain--and--Dulac. I would have--gone with him."

Hilda shook her head. "Not farther than the door," she said. "You
couldn't--not after Bonbright has been such--such an idiotic angel
about you."

"I would have--THEN."

"But you wouldn't now?"

"I--I can't bear to THINK of him...."

"Um!..." Hilda's expressive syllable was very like her father's. It was
her way of saying, "I see, and I'll bet you don't see, and I'm not
surprised particularly, but you'll be surprised when you find it out."
It said all that--to Hilda's satisfaction.

"He's been gone hours," Ruth said, plaintively, and Hilda understood
her to refer to Bonbright.

"Time he was coming back, then," she said.

"He--won't come back--ever.... You don't know him the way I do." There
was something very like jealousy in Ruth's tone. "He's good--and
gentle--but if he makes up his mind--If he hadn't been that way do you
think he could have lived with me the way he HAS?"

"He must have loved you a heap," Hilda said, enviously.

"He did.... Oh, Hilda, it wasn't wrong to marry him for what I did. ...
I hadn't any right to consider him--or me. I hadn't, had I?"

"I don't belong," said Hilda. "If I wasn't a wicked capitalist I might
agree with you--MAYBE. I'm not going to scold you for it--because you
THOUGHT it was right, and that always makes the big difference.... You
thought you were doing something splendid, didn't you--and then it
fizzled. It must have been tough--I can get that part of it.... To find
you'd married him and couldn't get out of it--and that he didn't have
any thousands of men to--tinker with.... Especially when you loved Mr.
Dulac." Hilda added the last sentence with shrewd intent.

"I don't love him--I don't.... If you'd seen him--and Bonbright..."

"But you did love him," Hilda said, severely Ruth nodded dumbly.

"You're sure Bonbright won't come back?"

"Never," said Ruth.

"Then you'd better go after him."

Ruth did not answer. She was calmer now, more capable of rational
thought. What SHOULD she do? What was to be done with this
situation?... Her brief married life had been a nightmare with a
nightmare's climax; she could not bear a return to that. Her husband
was gone. She was free of him, free of her dread of the day when she
must face realities with him.... And Bonbright--she felt certain he
would not want her to run after him, that, somehow, it would lower her
even farther in his eyes if she did so. There was a certain dignity
attaching to him that she dared not violate, and to run after him would
violate it. There would, of necessity, be a scene. She would have to
explain, beg, promise--lie. She did not believe she could lie to him
again--nor that she could make him believe a lie. ... Pretense between
them had become an impossibility.... She wanted him to know she had not
gone with Dulac, would not go with Dulac. It seemed to her she could
not bear to have him think THAT of her. She had made his love
impossible, but she craved his respect. That was all.... She was freed
from him--and it was better so. The phase of it that she did not
analyze was why her heart ached so. She did not study into that.

"I don't want him--back," she said to Hilda. "It would be just like it
was--before."

"What ARE you going to do, then? You've got to do something."

"I don't know.... Why must I do something? Why can't I just wait--and
let him do what--whatever is done?"

"Because--if I know anything about Bonbright--he won't do a thing. ...
He'll just step aside quietly and make no fuss. I'm afraid he's--hurt.
And he's been hurt so much before."

"I'm--sorry." The words sounded weak, ineffectual. They did not express
her feelings, her remorse, her self-accusation.

"Sorry?... You haven't cut a dance with him, you know, or kept him
waiting while you did your hair.... You've more or less messed up his
life. Yes, you have. There isn't any use mincing words. Your motives
may have been lofty and noble and all that sort of thing--from your
point of view. But HIS point of view is what I'm thinking about now....
Sorry!"

"Don't scold. I can't--bear it. I can't bear anything more.... Please
go away. I know you despise me. Leave me alone. Go away..."

"I'll do nothing of the kind. You're all upset, and you deserve a heap
more than scolding.... But I like you." Hilda was always direct.
"You're more or less of a little idiot, with your insane notions and
your Joan of Arc silliness, but I like you. You're not fit to be left
alone. I'm in charge.... So go and dabble cold water on your eyes, so
you don't look like Nazimova in the last act, and come along with. me.
We'll take a drive, and then I'm coming back to stay all night with
you.... Yes, I am," she said, with decision, as Ruth started to object.
"You do what I say."

Hilda drove Ruth to her own house. "I've got to tell mother I'm going
to stay with you," she said. "Will you come in?"

"No--please," Ruth answered.

"I won't be but a jiffy, then." And Hilda left Ruth alone in the
electric. Alone! Suddenly Ruth was afraid of being alone. She was
thankful for Hilda, thankful Hilda was going to see her through.

Hilda's father and mother were in the library.

"Thought you were going some place with Bonbright and his wife," said
Malcolm Lightener.

"Dad," said Hilda, with characteristic bluntness and lack of preface,
"they're in a dickens of a mess."

"Bonbright?"

"And Ruth."

"Huh!..." Lightener's grunt seemed to say that it was nothing but what
he expected. "Well--go ahead."

Hilda went ahead. Her father punctuated her story with sundry grunts,
her mother with exclamations of astonishment and sorrow. Hilda told the
whole story from the beginning, and when she was done she said: "There
it is. You wouldn't believe it. And, dad, Bonbright Foote's an angel. A
regular angel with wings."

"Sometimes it's mighty hard to tell the difference between an angel and
a damn fool," said Lightener. "I suppose you want me to mix into it.
Well, I won't."

"You haven't been asked," said Hilda. "I'm doing the mixing for this
family. I just came to tell you I am going to stay all night with
Ruth--and to warn you not to mix in. You'd do it with a sledge hammer.
I don't suppose it's any use telling you to keep your hands off--for
you won't. But I wish you would."

"You'll get your wish," he said.

"I won't," she answered.

"Poor Bonbright," Mrs. Lightener said, "it does seem as if about every
misfortune had happened to him that can happen.... And he can't go to
his mother for sympathy."

"He isn't the kind to go to anybody for sympathy," said Lightener.

"Then don't you go to him with any," said Hilda.

"I told you I wasn't going to have anything to do with it."

"I haven't any patience with that girl," said Mrs. Lightener. "Such
notions! Wherever did she get them?... It's all a result of this Votes
for Women and clubs studying sociology and that. When I was a girl--"

"You wore hoop skirts, mammy," said Hilda, "and if you weren't careful
when you sat down folks saw too much stocking.... Don't go blaming Ruth
too much. She thought she was doing something tremendous."

"I calc'late she was," said Malcolm Lightener, "when you come to think
of it.... Too bad all cranks can't put the backbone they use in flub
dub to some decent use. I sort of admire 'em."

"Father!" expostulated Mrs. Lightener.

"You've got to. They back their game to the limit.... This little girl
did.... Tough on Bonbright, though."

Hilda walked to the door; there she stopped, and said over her
shoulder: "Tell you what I think. I think she's mighty hard in love
with him--and doesn't know it."

"Rats!" said her father, elegantly.

At that moment Bonbright was writing a letter to his wife. It was a
difficult letter, which he had started many times, but had been unable
to begin as it should be begun.... He did not want to hurt her; he did
not want her to misunderstand; so he had to be very clear, and write
very carefully what was in his heart. It was a sore heart, but,
strangely, there was no bitterness in it toward Ruth. He found that
strange himself, and marveled at it. He did not want to betray his
misery to her--for that would hurt her, he knew. He did not want to
accuse. All he wanted to do was to do what he could to set matters
right for her. For him matters could never be set right again. It was
the end.... The way of its coming had been a shock, but that the end
had come was not such a shock. He perceived now that he had been
gradually preparing himself for it. He saw that the life they had been
living could have ended in nothing but a crash of happiness.... He
admitted now that he had been afraid of it almost since the
beginning....

"My Dear Ruth," he wrote. Then he stopped again, unable to find a
beginning.

"I am writing because that will be easier for both of us," he
wrote--and then scratched it out, for it seemed to strike a personal
note. He did not want to be personal, to allow any emotion to creep in.

"It is necessary to make some arrangements," he began once more. That
was better. Then, "I know you will not have gone away yet." That meant
away with Dulac, and she would so understand it. "I hope you will
consent to stay in the apartment. Everything there, of course, is
yours. It is not necessary for us to discuss money. I will attend to
that carefully. In this state a husband must be absent from his wife
for a year before she can be released from him. I ask you to be patient
for that time." That was all of it. There was nothing more to say. He
read it, and it sounded bald, cold, but he could not better it.

At the end he wrote, "Yours sincerely," scratched it out, and wrote,
"Yours truly," scratched that out, and contented himself by affixing
merely his name. Then he copied the whole and dispatched it to his wife
by messenger.

It arrived just after Ruth and Hilda returned.

"It's from him," said Ruth.

"Open it, silly, and see what he says."

"I'm afraid...."

Hilda stamped her foot. "Give it to me, then," she said.

Ruth held the note to her jealously. She opened it slowly, fearfully,
and read the few words it contained.

"Oh..." she said, and held it out to Hilda. She had seen nothing but
the bareness, the coldness of it.

"It's perfect," said Hilda. "It's BONBRIGHT. He didn't slop over--he
was trying not to slop over, but there's love in every letter, and
heartache in every word of it.... And you couldn't love him. Wish _I_
had the chance."

"You--you will have," said Ruth, faintly.

"If I do," said Hilda, shortly, "you bet I WON'T WASTE it."



CHAPTER XXVI


Hilda knew her father. He could not keep his hands off any matter that
interested him, and most matters did interest him. He had grown to have
an idea that he could take hold of almost any sort of tangle or
enterprise or concern and straighten it out. Probably it was because he
was so exceedingly human.... Therefore he was drawn irresistibly to his
purchasing department and to Bonbright Foote.

"Young man," he said, gruffly, "what's this I hear?"

Bonbright looked up inquiringly.

"Come over here." Lightener jerked his head toward a private spot for
conversation. "About you and that little girl," he said.

"I would rather not talk about it," said Bonbright, slowly.

"But I'm going to talk about it. It's nonsense...."

Bonbright looked very much like his father; tall, patrician, coldly
dignified. "Mr. Lightener," he said, "it is a thing we will not
mention--now or later." Seven generations contributed to that answer
and to the manner of it. It was final. It erected a barrier past which
even Malcolm Lightener could not force his way, and Lightener
recognized it.

"Huh!..." he grunted, nonplused, made suddenly ill at ease by this boy.
For a moment he looked at Bonbright, curiously, appraisingly, then
turned on his heel and walked away.

"Young spriggins put me in my place," he said to Mrs. Lightener that
evening. "I wish I knew how to do it--valuable. Made me feel like he
was a total stranger and I'd been caught in his hen house.... That
Bonbright Foote business isn't all bad by a darn sight."

From that day Bonbright tried to work himself into forgetfulness. Work
was the only object and refuge of his life, and he gave himself to it
wholly. It was interesting work, and it kept him from too much thinking
about himself.... If a man has ability and applies himself as Bonbright
did, he will attract notice. In spite of his identity Bonbright did
attract notice from his immediate superiors. It was more difficult for
him, being who he was, to win commendation than it would have been for
an unmarked young man in the organization. That was because even the
fairest-minded man is afraid he will be tempted into showing
favoritism--and so withholds justice.... But he forced it from his
laborers--not caring in the least if he had it or not. And word of his
progress mounted to Malcolm Lightener.

His craving for occupation was not satisfied with eight hours a day
spent in the purchasing department. It was his evenings that he feared,
so he filled them with study--study of the manufacture of the
automobile. Also he studied men. Every noon saw him in the little hash
house; every evening, when he could arrange it so, saw him with some
interested employee, boss, department boss, or somebody connected with
Malcolm Lightener's huge plant, pumping them for information and
cataloguing and storing it away in his mind. He tried to crowd Ruth out
of his mind by filling it so full of automobile there would be no room
for her.... But she hid in unexpected crannies, and stepped forth to
confront him disconcertingly.

Gradually the laboring men changed their attitude toward him and
tolerated him. Some of them even liked him. He listened to their talk,
and tried to digest it. Much he saw to call for his sympathy, much that
they considered vital he could not agree with; he could not, even in a
majority of things, adapt his point of view to theirs. For he was
developing a point of view.

On that evening when he had gone down to see what a mob was like he had
no point of view, only curiosity. He had leaned neither toward his
father's striking employees nor against them.... His attitude was much
the same now--with a better understanding of the problems involved. He
was not an ultracapitalist, like his father, nor a radical like
Dulac.... One thing he believed, and that was in the possibility of
capital and labor being brought to see through the same eyes. He
believed the strife between them, which had waged from time immemorial,
was not necessary, and could be eliminated.... But as yet he had no
cure for the trouble.

He did not lean to socialism. He was farther away from that theory than
he was from his father's beliefs. He belonged by training and by
inheritance to the group of employers of labor and utilizers of
capital.... Against radicalism he had a bitter grievance. Radicalism
had given him his wife--for reasons which he heard expressed by
laboring men every day. He had no patience with fanaticism; on the
other hand, he had little patience with bigotry and intolerance. His
contact with the other side was bringing no danger of his conversion.
... But he was doing what he never could have done as heir apparent to
the Foote dynasty--he was asserting in thought his individuality and
forming individual opinions.... His education was being effectively
rounded out.

News of the wrecking of Bonbright's domestic craft came to his father
quickly, carried, as might have been anticipated, by Hangar.

"Your son is not living with his wife, Mr. Foote," Rangar announced.

"Indeed!" said Mr. Foote, concealing both surprise and gratification
under his habitual mask of suave dignity. "That, I fear, was to have
been anticipated.... Have you the particulars?"

"Only that she is living in their apartment, and he is boarding with
one of the men in his department at Lightener's."

"Keep your eye on him, Rangar--keep your eye on him. And report."

"Yes, sir," said Rangar, not himself pleased by the turn affairs had
taken, but resolved to have what benefit might lie thereabouts. His
resentment was still keen to keep him snapping at Bonbright's heels.

The breach between himself and his son had been no light blow to Mr.
Foote. It threatened his line. What was to become of Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, with no heir to hand the business over to when his hands
could drop it? He wanted his son, not as a father wants his son, but
because a Bonbright Foote VII was requisite. He had hoped for this
thing that had happened; indeed, had felt confident it would happen,
and that he would have Bonbright back unencumbered, purged of nonsense.

He spoke of it with satisfaction to his wife when he returned to his
home that afternoon to take up the important matter of adding to the
manuscript of his philosophical biography of the Marquis Lafayette.

"Perhaps I should see Bonbright," he suggested.

"No," said Mrs. Foote. "He must come to you. He's got to have all his
wildness crushed out of him. He'll come. He must have had enough of it
before this."

But Bonbright did not come, showed no signs of coming, and Mr. Foote
grew impatient, so impatient that he disregarded his wife's advice. He
could not bring his pride to allow him to seek out Bonbright in person,
but sent Rangar as his ambassador.

Rangar found Bonbright in his room, reading a book devoted to the
ailments of the internal-combustion engine, and acquitted himself of
his mission with that degree of diplomacy which his desire for success
dictated.

"Well?" said Bonbright, as the door opened to admit the ambassador.

"Your father sent me, Mr. Foote."

"Yes."

"He has heard that--er--the marriage which caused
your--er--estrangement has ended as he feared."

Bonbright arose slowly and walked toward Rangar, who appeared in two
minds whether to remain or to depart to other places.

"Tell my father," Bonbright said, "that I can appreciate his
satisfaction. Tell him also that if he has anything to say to me to say
it in person.... That is all."

"Your father--"

"That is all," repeated Bonbright, and Rangar made up his mind. He
slammed the door after him.

In the morning he reported to Mr. Foote, who compressed his lips at the
recitation of his son's words. Let his son come to him, then, when he
had eaten his fill of husks.

But Bonbright did not come. After several days had elapsed Mr. Foote
considered his duty, and interpreted it to impel him to call in person
upon his son--clothed in dignity and with the demeanor of outraged
parenthood. Mrs. Foote was not privy to the project.

He met his son descending the steps of the house where he boarded.
Bonbright could not have evaded his father if he would. He stopped and
waited for his father to speak.

"I have come to talk to you, Bonbright," he said, severely.

"Very well, sir," Bonbright said.

"I have come, not from inclination or delight in an interview which
must be distasteful to both of us, but because I believe it my duty to
point out the thanklessness of your conduct and to see if you cannot be
brought to a proper sense of your obligations."

"Our ideas of my obligations are rather far apart, sir."

"They shouldn't be. You're a mere boy--my son. You should derive your
ideas from me until you are capable of formulating correct ideas
yourself."

"I'm afraid we can never agree on that," said Bonbright, patiently.

"Your marriage has ended the way such marriages are fated to end," said
Mr. Foote.

"We will not discuss that, please," said Bonbright.

"You made your own bed--"

"And am not complaining about the discomfort of it."

"It is essential that you return to your duty. Your unpleasant
experience is over. You are old enough to understand your position as
my son, and the responsibilities and duties of it. You are Bonbright
Foote VII and the future head of our family. I am being very patient
and lenient with you.... You have defied me openly, but I am willing to
overlook that, and I am sure your mother will overlook your conduct
toward her, providing you return to your place in a frame of mind
proper for my son. I think you understand what that is."

"Perfectly, sir. It means to be jammed back in a mold that will turn me
out to the family pattern. It means a willingness to give up thinking
for myself and accept YOUR thoughts and shape my life by them. It means
being a figurehead as long as you live and a replica of yourself when
you are gone. That's it, isn't it?"

"That is it," said Mr. Foote, shortly. "You are rid of that woman. ...
I am willing to give you another chance."

Bonbright's hold upon himself was firm. "If you wish to continue this
conversation you will not speak in that way of my wife. Let me make
that very clear.... As to coming back to the office--there is nothing
under heaven that would bring me back to what I escaped from.
Nothing.... If I were ever to come it would have to be on terms of my
own making, and you would never agree to them. And whatever terms you
agreed to I should not come until you and mother--both of you--went to
my wife and made the most complete apology for the thing you did to her
in the theater that night.... I am not thinking of myself. I am
thinking of her. My mother and father passed my wife and myself on our
wedding night, in a public place, and refused to recognize us.... It
was barbarous." Bonbright's voice quivered a trifle, but he held
himself well in hand. "That apology must come before anything else.
After you have made it, we will discuss terms."

"You--you--" Mr. Foote was perilously close to losing his dignity.

"No," said Bonbright; "on second thought, we will not discuss terms.
You can have my final reply now.... You have nothing to give me that
will take the place of what I have now. I will not come back to you.
Please understand that this is final."

Mr. Foote was speechless. It was moments before he could speak; then it
was to say, in a voice that trembled with rage: "In the morning I shall
make my will--and your name will not appear in it except as a renegade
son whom I have disowned..., Probably you regarded the property as
under entail and that it would come to you after me.... For six
generations it has gone from father to son. You shall never touch a
penny of it."

"I prefer it that way, sir."

Mr. Foote glared at his son in quite unrestrained, uncultured rage,
and, whirling on his heel, strode furiously away. Bonbright looked
after him curiously.

"I wonder how the thing missed out with me," he thought. "It worked
perfectly six generations--and then went all to smash with me....
Probably I'd have been a lot happier...."

It had been a month since he saw Ruth. He had not wanted to see her;
the thought of seeing her had been unbearable. But suddenly he felt as
if he must see her--have a glimpse of her. He must see how she looked,
if she had changed, if she were well.... He knew it would bring
refreshed suffering. It would let back all he had rigidly schooled
himself to shut out--but he must see her.

He set his will against it and resolutely walked away from the
direction in which her apartment lay, but the thing was too strong for
him. As a man surrenders to a craving which he knows will destroy him,
yet feels a relief at the surrender, he turned abruptly and walked the
other way.

The apartment in which they had lived was on the second floor of a
small apartment house. He passed it on the opposite side of the street,
looking covertly upward at the windows. There was a light within. She
was there, but invisible. Only if she should step near the window could
he see her.... Again and again he passed, but she did not appear.
Finally he settled himself guiltily in the shadows, where he could
watch those windows, and waited--just for that distant sight of her.
There was a lamp on the table before the window. Before she retired she
would have to come to shut it off.... He waited for that. He would then
see her for a second, perhaps.

At last she came, and stood an instant in the window--just a blur, with
the light behind her, no feature distinguishable, yet it was her--her.
"Ruth..." he whispered, "Ruth...." Then she drew down the shade and
extinguished the light.

For a moment he stood there, hands opened as if he would have stretched
them out toward her. Then he turned and walked heavily away. He had
seen her, but It had not added to his happiness. He had seen her
because he must see her.... And by that he knew he must see her again
and again and again. He knew it. He knew he would stand there in the
shadows on innumerable nights, watching for that one brief second of
her presence.... And she loved another man. In a year she would be free
to marry Dulac!

He returned to his room and to his book on the ailments of
internal-combustion engines; but it was not their diagrams his eyes
saw, but only a featureless blur that represented a girl standing in an
upper window---forever beyond his reach....



CHAPTER XXVII


Malcolm Lightener's plant, huge as it was, could not meet the demands
of the public for the car he manufactured. Orders outran production.
New buildings had been under construction, but before they were
completed and equipped their added production was eaten up and the
factory was no nearer to keeping supply abreast with demand than it had
been in the beginning.

Lightener was forced to make contracts with other firms for parts of
his cars. From one plant he contracted for bodies, from another for
wheels. He urged Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, to increase their
production of axles by ten thousand a year--and still dealers in all
parts of the country wrote and telephoned and telegraphed for more
cars--more cars.

Hitherto Lightener had made his own engines complete. From outside
manufactories he could obtain the other essential parts, but his own
production of engines held him back. The only solution for the present
was to find some one to make engines to his specifications, and he
turned to Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. Whatever might be said of the
Foote methods, their antiquity, their lack of modern efficiency, they
turned out work whose quality none might challenge--and Malcolm
Lightener looked first to quality.

He reached his determination at noon, while he was eating his luncheon,
and to Mrs. Lightener's amazement sprang up from the table and lunged
out of the room without so much as a glance at her or a word of
good-by. In some men of affairs this might not be remarkable, but in
Malcolm Lightener it was remarkable. Granite he might be; crude in his
manner, perhaps, more dynamic than comfortable, but in all the years of
his married life he had never left the house without kissing his wife
good-by.

He drove his runabout recklessly to his office, rushed into the
engineering department, and snatched certain blue prints and
specifications from the files. He knew costs down to the last bolt or
washer on the machine he made, and it was the work of minutes only to
determine what price he could afford to pay for the engines he wanted.

His runabout carried him to the entrance to Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, and he hurried up the stairs to the office.

"Mr. Foote in?" he snapped.

"Just returned, Mr. Lightener."

"Want to see him--right off--quick."

"Yes, sir."

The girl at the switchboard called Mr. Foote and informed him.

"He says to step right in, sir," she said, and before she was done
speaking Lightener was on his way down the corridor.

Mr. Foote sat coldly behind his desk. He held no kindness for Malcolm
Lightener, for Lightener had befriended Bonbright in his recalcitrancy.
Lightener had made it possible for the boy to defy his father.
Lightener's wife and daughter had openly waged society war against his
wife in behalf of his son's wife.... But Mr. Foote was not the man to
throw away an enormous and profitable business because of a personal
grudge.

Lightener paused for no preliminaries.

"Foote," he said, "I want ten thousand engines complete. You can make
'em. You've got room to expand, and I can give you approximate figures
on the costs. You make good axles and you can make good engines. What
d'you think about it?"

Mr. Foote shrugged his shoulders. "It doesn't attract me."

"Huh!... You can have that plant up in six months. I'll give you a
contract for five years. Two years' profits will pay for the plant.
Don't know what your profits are now, but this ought to double them.
... Doesn't half a million a year extra profit make you think of
anything?"

"Mr. Lightener, this business was originally a machine shop. It has
grown and developed since the first Bonbright Foote founded it. I am
the first to deviate in any measure from the original plan, and I have
done so with doubt and reluctancy. I have seen with some regret the
manufacturing of axles overshadow the original business--though it has
been profitable, I admit. But I shall go no farther. I am not sure my
father and my grandfather would approve of what I have done. I know
they would not approve of other changes.... More money does not attract
me. This plant is making enough for me. What I want is more leisure. I
wish more time to devote to a certain literary labor upon which I have
been engaged..."

"Literary flub-dub," said Lightener. "I'm offering you half a million a
year on a silver platter."

"I don't want it, sir.... I am not a young man. I have not been in the
best of health--owing, perhaps, to worries which I should not have been
compelled to bear.... I am childless. With me Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, comes to an end. Upon my death these mills close, the
business is to be liquidated and discontinued. Do I make myself
clear?... I am not interested in your engines."

"What's that you said?" Lightener asked. "Childless? Wind up this
business? You're crazy, man."

"I had a son, but I have one no longer.... In some measure I hold you
responsible for that. You have taken sides with a disobedient son
against his father..."

"And you've treated a mighty fine son like a dog," said Lightener,
harshly.

"I have done my duty.... I do not care to discuss it with you. The fact
I want to impress is that my family becomes extinct upon my death. My
wife will be more than amply provided for. I may live ten years or
twenty years--but I shall live them in such comfort as I can obtain....
Is there anything else you wish to talk to me about?"

It was a dismissal, and Malcolm Lightener was not used to being
dismissed like a troublesome book agent.

"Yes," he said, getting to his feet. "There is something, and I'll be
short and sweet about it. You have a son, and if I'm any judge, he's
about four times the man his father is. You don't want him!... Well, I
do. I want him in my business, and he won't lose such a lot by the
change. It's your ledger that shows the loss, and don't you forget it.
You did what you could to warp him out of shape--and because he
wouldn't be warped you kicked him out. Maybe the family ends with you,
but a new Foote family begins with him, and it won't be any
cut-and-dried, ancestor-ridden outfit, either. One generation of his
kind will be worth more to this country than the whole six of yours....
I hope you live to see it."

Lightener stuffed his blue prints and specifications into his pocket
and left the office truculently. Once more in his own office he
summoned a boy.

"Fetch Mr. Foote from the purchasing department," he said.

Malcolm Lightener was acting on impulse again. He had no clear idea why
he had sent for Bonbright, nor just what he should say when the boy
came--but he wanted to talk to him. Lightener was angry--angry because
Bonbright's father had rejected his proposition to manufacture engines;
more angry at the way Mr. Foote had spoken concerning his son. In the
back of Lightener's mind was the thought that he would show a Foote....
Just what he would show him was not determined.

Bonbright came in. He was not the Bonbright of six months before. The
boy in him was gone, never to return. He had lost none of his old look
of breeding, of refinement, of blood--but he had lost that air which
rich young men bear about with them. It is an air, not of carelessness,
precisely, but of absence of care; a sort of nonchalance, bred of lack
of responsibilities and of definite ambitions. It is an air that makes
one think of them that they would fit better into the scenery of a
country club or a game of golf than into an office where men strain
their intelligence and their bodies to attain important aims. This was
gone with his boyishness. In its place was an alertness, an awakeness,
born of an interest in affairs. His eyes were the eyes of a man who
concentrated much, and was keenly interested in the object of his
concentration. His movements were quicker. He seemed to see and
catalogue more of what was going on about him. If one had seen him then
for the first time, the impression received would have been that here
was a very busy young man who was worth watching. There was something
aggressive about him. He looked competent.

One could not question that his new life had improved him, but it had
not made him happy. It would be absurd to say that he looked sad. A boy
of his age cannot look sad continually, unless sadness is a pose with
him, which he is enjoying very much indeed. But Bonbright was no
poser.... And he did not look happy. There were even times when there
was a worn, haggard look about his eyes when he came down in the
morning. This was when he had allowed himself to think too much.

"Just came from your father's office," said Lightener. "I offered him a
chance to clean up half a million a year--and he turned it down...
because his great-grandfather might not like it."

Bonbright understood perfectly. He knew how his father would do such a
thing. Lightener's statement seemed to call for no reply, so he made
none.

"I wanted to look at you," said Lightener, "to make sure you aren't
anything like him.... But you ARE like him. You stand like him and you
look like him--only you don't. If I thought you'd grow to think the way
he does I'd send you to the cashier for your pay, in a second. But I
don't believe it." He scowled at Bonbright. "No, by Jove! you don't
LOOK it."

"I don't think father and I are much alike," said Bonbright, slowly.

Lightener switched the subject. "You ought to know considerable about
this business. Been here six months. From what I hear you've picked up
quite a lot outside of office hours."

"I've been studying hard. It gave me something to do."

"Darn it all, why couldn't you and Hilda have taken to each other!..."
Lightener stopped, and stared at his desk. Perhaps it was not too late
yet. Bonbright's marriage had been no success; Bonbright was young; and
it was not thinkable that he would not recover from that wound in time
to marry again. Of course he would.... Then why should he not marry
Hilda? Not the least reason in the world. In the affair Bonbright was
guiltless--merely unfortunate. The thing was worth bearing in mind.
Perhaps something might be done; at any rate, he would talk it over
with his wife.

"I want you to put in another six months learning this business," he
said. "If you pan out I'll have a job for you.... I haven't heard of
your falling down any place yet.... Know what I told your father? He
said the Foote family ended with him--became extinct. Well, I said the
family just started with you, and that one generation of your kind was
worth the whole six of his. And I hoped he lived to see it."

"Somehow I can't feel very hard toward father, Mr. Lightener. Sometimes
I'm--sorry for him. To him it's as bad as if I'd been born with a
hunchback. Worse, maybe, because, hunchback and all, I might have been
the sort he wanted.... He doesn't understand, that's it. I can
understand him--so I don't have any hard feelings-except on HER
account.... He said the family was extinct?"

"Yes."

"I guess it is," said Bonbright. "The family, as he thought of it,
meant something that went on and on as he and his ancestors went....
Yes, it's extinct. I don't know why I was different from them, but I
was. Always. I'm glad."

"He must be worth five millions, anyhow, maybe more."

"I don't know," said Bonbright.

"You won't get a cent of it, from what he says."

"I suppose not.... No, I won't get a cent."

"You don't make much fuss about it."

"I had that out with myself six months ago. It was hard to give it
up.... Nobody wants to be poor when he can be rich. If it hadn't been
for Ruth I suppose I should have been there yet--pretty well made over
to fit by this time."

As Bonbright and Malcolm Lightener talked, Mr. Foote sat in his office,
his head upon his desk, one arm stretched out across the blotter, the
other shielding his face. He did not move....

After Malcolm Lightener left the room he had sat for a time staring at
the door. He did not feel well. He was troubled. None but himself knew
how deep was his disappointment, his bitterness, because of his son's
failure to stand true to his type. It was not the grief of a father at
the loss of a son; it was the suffering of a man whose supreme motive
is the carrying on of family and of family traditions. He had just told
Lightener the family became extinct with his passing. Now he reaffirmed
it, and, reaffirming it, he felt the agony of ultimate affliction.

Six generations the family and the family's business had endured
honorably according to its beliefs and tenets; with the sixth
generation it ended because of the way-wardness of a boy--his boy!

Mr. Foote felt a trifle dizzy, a bit oppressed. He leaned back in his
chair and shut his eyes. He would go home for the day as soon as the
dizziness passed, he said to himself.... It passed. He opened his eyes
and leaned toward his desk, but he stopped suddenly, his right hand
flying to his breast. There was a sudden pain there; such a pain as he
had never experienced before. It was near his heart. With each
heartbeat there came a twisting stab of agony. Presently the spasm
passed, and he sank back, pale, shaking, his forehead damp with clammy
moisture.... He tried to pull himself together. Perhaps it would be
best to summon some one, but he did not want to do that. To have an
employee find him so would be an invasion of his dignity. Nobody must
see him. Nobody must know about this....

The spasm returned-departed again, leaving him gasping for breath. ...
It would come again. Something told him it would come again-once more.
He KNEW.... A third time it would come, but never again.

He forced himself to rise. He would meet it standing. For the honor of
the Foote family he would meet it on his feet, looking into its eyes.
He would not shrink and cringe from it, but would face it with dignity
as a Foote should face it, uttering no cry of pain or fear. It was a
dignified moment, the most dignified and awful of his life. ... Five
generations were looking on to see how he met it, and he was conscious
of their eyes. He stared before him with level eyes, forcing a smile,
and waited the seconds there remained to wait.

It was coming. He could feel its first approach, and drew himself up to
the fullness of his slender height. Never had he looked so much a Foote
as in that instant, never had he so nearly approached the ideal he had
set for himself--for he knew.

The spasm came, but it tore no cry from him. He stood erect, with eyes
that stared straight before him fearlessly until they became sightless.
He held his head erect proudly.... Then he sighed, relaxed into his
chair, and lay across his desk, one arm outstretched, the other
protecting his face....

The telephone on Malcolm Lightener's desk rang.

"Hello!" said Lightener. "What is it? Who?... Yes, he's right here." He
looked up to Bonbright. "Somebody wants to speak to you."

Bonbright stepped to the instrument. "Yes," he said, "this is Bonbright
Foote.... Who is it? Rangar?..." Suddenly he turned about and faced
Malcolm Lightener blankly. He fumbled with the receiver for its hook.
"My father is dead," he said, in a hushed voice. "They just found
him--at his desk...."



CHAPTER XXVIII


Ruth had continued to live in the apartment. It had not been her
intention to do so. From the moment of reading Bonbright's succinct
note she was determined to go back to the little cottage and to her
mother. But she put it off for a day, then for another day, and days
grew into weeks and months. "To-morrow I'll move," she told herself
each night, but next day she was no nearer to uprooting herself than
she had been the day before.

She gave herself no reasons for remaining. If she had been asked for a
reason she might have said it was because Dulac still boarded with her
mother. He had not left the city with the breaking of the strike, but
had remained. He had remained because he had asked the union he
represented to let him remain and had been able to show them reasons
for granting his request. He wanted to stay on the ground to work
quietly underground, undoing the harm that had been done by the strike;
quietly proselyting, preaching his gospel, gaining strength day by day,
until he should have reared an organization capable of striking again.
The courage of the man was unquenchable.... And he wanted to be near
Ruth. Just as he had set his will to force Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, to bow to the will of the men, so he had set his will to
force Ruth to bow to his will.... So he remained and labored.

But his presence at her mother's was not the real reason that impelled
Ruth to continue in the home Bonbright had made for her. It was
something more intangible. She found the thought of leaving that spot
unendurable, but she did not, dared not, seek in her heart for what
made it unendurable.

For a week she scarcely ventured outside the door; then the loneliness,
the lack of occupation, drove her out. She must be busy, for when she
sat idly in a room her thoughts became torture. There were many sides
to her affliction. First in her mind she placed the failure of her
great project. She had wrecked her life for it without accomplishment.
Second in the rank of her griefs stood the fact that she had been on
the point of giving herself to Dulac. She would have gone with him,
disregarding convention, breaking her vows of marriage. For that she
despised herself... despised herself the more because she knew now that
she did not love Dulac, that she had never loved Dulac. That discovery
had shocked and shaken her, and when she thought of what might have
happened if she had gone with him a numbness of horror crept over her,
leaving her cold and trembling. ... She would have gone, and she did
not love him. She would not have known she did not love him until it
was too late to draw back... and then she would have lived, but her
soul would have died!

She accused herself bitterly for mistaking glamour for love. She knew
now that Dulac had called from her nothing deeper than a foolish,
girlish fascination. His personality, his work, his enthusiasm had
enmeshed her, blinded her--and she had mistaken her feelings for love!
Of this she was certain.... There were moments when she felt she must
tell Bonbright. Once she actually took writing materials to do so, but
she did not tell him.... She wanted him to know, because, she thought,
it would be a sort of vindication in his eyes. But she was wrong. She
wanted him to know for quite another reason than that.

Third in the order of her griefs was the consciousness that she had
caused Bonbright grief. She dealt ungently with herself because of it,
for Bonbright had not deserved it at her hands. She could appreciate
how good he had been to her, how solicitous, how patient, how tender.
If a man ever deserved well of a woman, he deserved it. She told
herself that a hundred times daily. She remembered small
thoughtfulnesses which had been a part of his daily conduct to her. She
recalled small forbearances. She pictured to herself the life they had
lived together, and saw how it was only the character of her husband
that had made it possible at all.... And in the end he had not uttered
one word of censure; had not even looked at her with just anger....
There had been no pretense about him, no labored effort to be kind. He
had simply been himself.

These were her thoughts; this is how she remembered him....

The house was unbearably lonely. As evening approached she found
herself more than once listening for Bonbright's step on the stairs and
his hand on the door.... At such times she cried. She puzzled herself.
She did not understand why she should be so lonely, nor why the
expectation of Bonbright's step--with quick awakening to the knowledge
that no foot of his would ever sound at her door again--should bring
her tears.... She knew she should have been glad, relieved. With
Bonbright she had lived in daily dread. She had not loved him, and the
fear that his restraint would break, that he would force his love upon
her, had made her days a ghastly dream.... She should be crying out
with the joy and relief of his removal. But she felt no relief, felt no
joy.... She could not understand it.

If Hilda Lightener, who came often and stayed long, had asked her if
she missed Bonbright or were lonely without him, she would have denied
it hotly. But Hilda did not ask.... Ruth did not ask that question of
herself. She knew she was lonely, miserable, and she thought she knew
why--but Bonbright's absence had nothing to do with it.

Hilda watched, she did not talk about Bonbright, for she saw her task
was to help Ruth over these first few days. Her suspicions were her
own, but, being a woman, she understood the baffling psychology of
another woman and what harm a premature word might work.... If the
thing she believed were true, then time would bring its realization to
Ruth. Ruth must discover the truth for herself....

"I can't stand this," Ruth said one evening. "I can't bear to stay here
alone in these rooms. If there were work enough to keep me busy--but
there's nothing."

"If you'd only go the places I ask you to," said Hilda.

"I don't want to meet people--your sort of people. They must know what
has happened.... I couldn't have them looking at me with their catty,
curious eyes."

"Most of them would be very kind," Hilda said.

"No.... I'm going to work. I'm going to find a place and work...."

"But--" Hilda wondered what Bonbright would think of that. She imagined
he would not like it.

"I know what you were going to say. He wouldn't want me to. Maybe he
wouldn't--but if he knew he'd let me do it. I tell you I've got to,
Hilda."

"You've got to decide for yourself," Hilda admitted, so Ruth became a
job hunter, and because intelligent stenographers are by no means as
plentiful as daisies in a July field, she was not long in finding
employment.... From that day life was easier. She found her wages were
ample to support herself and pay the rent of her apartment. Ample, in
that they sufficed. There was no surplus. So she folded and put away
the weekly checks she received from Bonbright. She did not send them
back to him because, to her mind, that would have been a weekly slap in
his face. But she would not cash them. There was a difference to her;
probably there was a real difference.

Of a Sunday Ruth often went driving with Hilda, and Hilda noticed how
closely her companion watched the sidewalks, how she scrutinized the
passing crowds. It was as though Ruth were trying to catch sight of
somebody.... While daylight lasted Hilda saw that Ruth was drawn to her
windows to sit looking down at the street. Once Hilda ventured
dangerously.

"Why do you always sit there watching folks go by?" she asked.

Ruth turned and looked at her strangely. "I--why, I don't know," she
said.

Of herself Ruth rarely mentioned Bonbright; never unless in some
recollection of him, or if Hilda meddled with some portion of the
household that had been peculiarly Bonbright's. As, for instance:

"Why don't you move that leather chair out of the other bedroom?" Hilda
asked. "It's doing no good there and it looks mighty comfortable."

"That was HIS chair," Ruth said, quickly. "He used to sit there and
read after--after I had gone to bed."

Once Ruth asked for news of Bonbright. After that Hilda brought her
news voluntarily. Not too frequently, but often enough according to her
notion. Betweentimes she gave Ruth plenty of time to wonder what was
happening to her husband. Ruth knew Hilda saw him often. She wondered
if they talked about her, and what they said, but that she never asked,
nor did Hilda refer to such conversations. Indeed, these were few and
sparing, for Bonbright could not be made to talk about his wife--even
to her. But she gave Bonbright news of Ruth just as she gave Ruth news
of Bonbright.

Sometimes Hilda tormented Ruth with set purpose.

"Bonbright looks mighty thin," she said. "I think he's working too
hard. If he keeps it up he'll make himself sick."

"Oh..." said Ruth--nothing more, but for the rest of that Sunday she
was quiet--very quiet.

Once Hilda found Ruth in a passion of tears, and when she sought the
reason she learned that Ruth had met Dulac on the street, face to face,
and that he had spoken to her. He had told Ruth that he was staying in
the city because of her; that he would not go without her. ... He had
been careless of listening ears, not concealing his emotions.

"Well, he didn't hurt you, did he?"

"No," said Ruth.

"You weren't afraid of him?"

"No."

"You--didn't want to go away with him?"

"No.... No...."

"Then what are you making all the fuss about? He can't carry you off"

'HE might have seen us together," said Ruth. "And--and it made
me--remember--that horrid afternoon."

"What if Bonbright did see you together? Don't you suppose Bonbright
thinks you are seeing him? Of course he does. What else would he think?
Naturally he supposes you are going to have your divorce when the year
is up, and marry Mr. Dulac." Hilda was merciless.

"Does he think that? Are you sure?"

Hilda shrugged her shoulders.

"He mustn't think it," Ruth said, affrightedly. "Why, he--If he thought
that--"

"If he thought that--what?"

Ruth bit her lips and turned away. "Nothing," she said. Then: "Can't
you let him know?... Not tell him, you know, but--sort of let him
understand."

"If I can see a good chance," Hilda said; but in her mind was the
resolution that she would never see the chance.

"Does he--seem cheerful?" Ruth asked. "It's been quite a long time
now--months.... He--must have gotten over--caring for me now. Do you
think so?" Her voice was anxious, pleading.

Hilda could not hold out against that appeal. "No, silly, he hasn't. He
isn't that sort.... It's too bad."

"Yes--it's too bad," said Ruth, but it was not sympathy that put the
tiny thrill into her voice.

"He's just a boy.... He can't go on all his life loving a girl that
doesn't want him. Some day he's going to fall in love again. It's
natural he should."

"Has he--Do you think--"

"No, I haven't seen any signs of it yet.... And I'd be jealous if he
did. I think I could manage to fall in love with him myself if--"

"--he wasn't tied to me," interrupted Ruth, with a little whimper.
"I--I wish he knew--about Mr. Dulac.... He wouldn't think so--hard of
me, maybe... if he knew I didn't--never did--love Mr. Dulac...."

"The only thing that would make any difference to him would be to know
that you loved him," said Hilda.

Ruth had no answer, but she was saying to herself, with a sort of
secret surprise: "If I loved him.... If I loved him...." Presently she
spoke aloud: "You won't be angry with me, Hilda?... You won't
misunderstand, but--but won't you please--go away?... Please.... I--I
don't want to see anybody. I want to be alone."

"Well, of all things!" said Hilda. But she was not offended. Her
resemblance to her father was very faint indeed, at that moment. She
looked more like her mother, softer, more motherly. She put on her hat
and went away quietly. "Poor Bonbright!" she was thinking. Then: "It's
come to her.... She's got a hint of it. It will come now with a
rush...."

Ruth sat in her chair without movement. "If I loved him..." she said,
aloud, and then repeated it, "... loved him...." She was questioning
herself now, asking herself the meaning of things, of why she had been
lonely, of why she had sat in her window peering down into the
street--and she found the answer. As Hilda had said in her thoughts, it
was coming with a rush.... She was frightened by it, dared not admit
it.... She dared not admit that the biggest, weightiest of her woes was
that she no longer had Bonbright with her; that she was lonesome for
him; that her heart had been crying out for him; that she loved him!
She dared not admit that. It would be too bitter, too ironically
bitter.... If she loved him now she had loved him then! Was her life to
be filled with such ironies--? Was she forever to eat of Dead Sea fruit?

Did she love Bonbright? At last she dared to put the question
squarely.... Her answer came quickly. "Oh, I do... I do!" she cried,
aloud. "I love him...." A surge of happiness welled up from her heart
at the words. "I love him," she repeated, to hear the sound of them
again.

The happiness was of short life. "I love him--but it's too late....
It's always too late," she sobbed. "I've lost him.... He's gone. ..."

The girl who could give herself to a man she did not love for the Cause
was not weak; she did not lack resolution, nor did she lack the
sublimity of soul which is the heritage of women. She had lost her
happiness; she had wrecked her life, and until this moment there seemed
no possibility of recovering anything from the wreckage.... But she
loved.... There was a foundation to build from. If she had been weak, a
waverer, no structure could have risen on the foundation; it must have
lain futile, accusing. But there was strength in her, humility, a will
that would dare much, suffer much, to fight its way to peace.

"If he loves me still," she thought; and there hope was born.

"If I go to him.... If I tell him--everything?" she asked herself, and
in asking made her resolution. She would venture, she would dare, for
her happiness and for his. She would go, and she would say: "Bonbright,
I love you.... I have never loved anybody but you.... You must believe
me." He would believe her, she knew. There was no reason why he should
not believe her. There was nothing for her to gain now by another lie.
"I'll make him believe," she said, and smiled and cried and smiled
again. "Hilda will tell me where he lives and I'll go to him--now...."

At that instant Hilda was coming to her, was on the stairs, and Hilda
looked grave, troubled. She walked slowly up the stairs and rapped on
the door. "Ruth," she called, "it's Hilda.... May I come in now?"

Ruth ran to the door and threw it open. "Come in.... Come in." Her
voice was a song. "Oh, Hilda..."

"Honey," said Hilda, holding her at arm's length, '-his father is dead.
They found him dead just after noon...."

"Oh!..." said Ruth. It was an instant before the full significance of
this news was shown to her. Then she clutched Hilda with
terror-stricken fingers. "No.... No!..." she cried. "It can't be.... It
mustn't be...."

"Why--what is it? I--I didn't think you'd take it like this...."

"I love him.... I love Bonbright," Ruth said, in a blank, dead voice.
"I was going to him.... I was going to tell him... and he would have
believed. But now---he wouldn't believe. He would think I came--because
his father was dead--because he--he was what I thought he was when I
married him.... Don't you see? He'd think I was coming to him for the
same reason.... He'd think I was willing to give myself to him--for
that...."

Hilda took the slight form in her arms and rocked her to and fro, while
she thought.... "Yes," she said, sorrowfully, "you can't go to him
now.... It would look--oh, why couldn't his father have made a will, as
he was going to?... If he'd left his old money to charity or
something.... We thought he had.... But there has been no will.
Everything is Bonbright's...."

"I'm always--too--late..." Ruth said, quietly.



CHAPTER XXIX


Bonbright was in his own home again--in the house that had been his
father's, and that was now his. He stood in the room that had been his
since babyhood. He had not thought to stand there again, nor did he
know that the room and the house were his own. He had come from the
shops but a half hour before; had come from that room where his father
lay across his desk, one arm outstretched, the other shielding his
face. There had been no time to think then; no time to realize. ...
What thought had come to him was one of wonder that the death of his
father could mean so little to him. Shock he felt, but not grief. He
had not loved his father. Yet a father is a vital thing in a son's
life. Bonbright felt this. He knew that the departing of a father
should stand as one of the milestones of life, marking a great change.
It marked no change for him. Everything would go on as it had
gone--even on the material side. It was inevitable that he should
remember his father's threat to disinherit him. Now the thing had
come--and it made little difference, for Bonbright had laid out his
life along lines of his own.... His father would be carried to the
grave, would disappear from the scene--that was all.

He saw that the things were done which had to be done, and went home to
his mother, dreading the meeting. He need not have dreaded it, for she
met him with no signs of grief. If she felt grief she hid it well. She
was calm, stately, grave--but her eyes were not red with weeping nor
was her face drawn with woe. He wondered if his father meant as little
to his father's wife as it did to his father's son. It seemed so. There
had been no affectionate passage between Bonbright and his mother. She
had not unbent to him. He had hardly expected her to, though he had
been prepared to respond....

Now he was in his room with time to think--and there was strangely
little to think of. He had covered the ground already. His father was
dead. When Bonbright uttered that sentence he had covered the episode
completely. That was it--it was an EPISODE.

A servant came to the door.

"Mr. Richmond wishes to speak with you on the phone, Mr. Bonbright,"
the man said, and Bonbright walked to the instrument. Richmond had been
his father's counsel for many years.

"Bonbright?" asked Mr. Richmond.

"Yes."

"I have just had the news. I am shocked. It is a terrible thing."

"Yes," said Bonbright.

"I will come up at once--if you can see me. The death of a man like
your father entails certain consequences which cannot be considered too
soon. May I come?"

"If you think it is necessary," said Bonbright.

"It is necessary," said Mr. Richmond.

In twenty minutes Richmond was announced and Bonbright went to meet him
in the library. Richmond extended his hand with the appropriate bearing
for such an occasion. His handshake was a perfect thing, studied,
rehearsed, just as all his life was studied and rehearsed. He had in
stock a manner and a handshake and a demeanor which could be instantly
taken off the shelf and used for any situation which might arise.
Richmond was a ready man, an able man. On the whole, he was a good man,
as men go, but cut and dried.

"Your father was a notable man," he declared. "He will be missed."

Bonbright bowed.

"There will be a great deal for you to look after," said the lawyer,
"so I will be brief. The mass of detail can wait--until
after--er--until you have more leisure."

"I think, Mr. Richmond, it is my mother you wish to see, not myself. I
thought you would understand my position. I am surprised that you do
not, since you have been so close to my father.... My father and I did
not agree on matters which both of us considered vital. There were
differences which could not be abridged. So I am here merely as his
son, not as his successor in any way."

"I don't understand."

"My father," said Bonbright, with a trace of impatience, "disowned me,
and--disinherited, I believe, is the word--disinherited me."

"Oh no! No!... Indeed no! You are laboring under a misapprehension. ...
You are mistaken. I am glad to be able to relieve your mind on that
point. Nothing of the sort was done. I am in a position to know. ... I
will admit your father discussed such action, but the matter went no
farther. Perhaps it was his intention to do as you say, but he put it
off.... He seemed to have a prejudice against making a will. As a
matter of fact, he died intestate..."

"You mean--"

"I mean that your father's wealth--and it was considerable, sir--will
be disposed of according to the statutes of Descent and Distribution.
In other words, having failed to dispose of his property by testament,
the law directs its disposition. With the exception of certain dower
rights the whole vests in yourself."

Here was something to think of. Here was a new and astounding set of
circumstances to which he must adapt himself.... He experienced no leap
of exultation. The news left him cold. Queerly, his thoughts in that
moment were of Ruth and of her great plan.

"If she had waited..." he thought.

No, he was glad she had not waited. He did not want her that way.... It
was not her he wanted, but her love. He thought bitterly that he would
willingly exchange all that had become his for that one possession. He
could have anything--everything--he wanted now but that....

"I am glad to be able to give you such news," said Mr. Richmond.

"I was thinking of something else," said Bonbright.

Richmond looked at the young man obliquely. He had heard that Bonbright
was queer. This rumor seemed not without foundation. Richmond could not
comprehend how a young man could think of anything else when he had
just learned that he was several tunes a millionaire.

"Sit down," said Bonbright. "This, of course, makes a difference."

Richmond seated himself, and drew documents from his green bag. For
half an hour he discussed the legal aspects of the situation and
explained to Bonbright what steps must be taken at once.

"I think that is all that will be necessary to-day," he said, finally.

"Very well.... There is no reason why affairs may not go on for a
couple of days as they are--as if father were alive?"

"No, I see no reason why they should not."

"Very well, then.... Will you see to it? The--the funeral will be on
Saturday. Monday I shall be in the office."

"I hope you will call upon me for any assistance or advice you find
necessary.... Or for any service of whatsoever nature.... Good
afternoon.... Will you convey my sympathy to Mrs. Foote?"

The rest of that day, and of the days that followed it, Bonbright was
trying to find the answer to the question, What does this mean to me?
and to its companion question, What shall I do with it?

One paper Richmond had left in Bonbright's hands, as Richmond's
predecessors had left it in the hands of preceding Bonbright Footes. It
was a copy of the will of the first Bonbright Foote, and the basic law,
a sort of Salic law, a family pragmatic sanction for his descendants,
through time and eternity. It laid upon his descendants the weight of
his will with respect to the conduct of the business of Bonbright
Foote, Incorporated. Five generations had followed it faithfully,
deviating only as new conditions made deviation necessary. It was all
there, all set forth minutely. Bonbright could visualize that first of
his line from the reading of it--and he could visualize his father. His
father was the sort of man that will would create.... He considered
himself. He was not off that piece....

His father had tried to press him in the family mold, and he remembered
those unbearable days. Now, from his remote grave the first Bonbright
Foote reached out with the same mold and laid his hands on the hope of
the line.... Bonbright read the words many times. His was the choice to
obey or to disobey, to remain an individual, distinct and separate from
all other individuals since the world began, or to become the sixth
reincarnation of Bonbright Foote I.... The day following his father's
burial he chose, not rashly in haste, nor without studied reason. To
others the decision might not have seemed momentous; to Bonbright it
was epoch-marking. It did mark an epoch in the history of the Foote
family. It was the Family's French Revolution. It was Martin Luther
throwing his inkpot at the devil--and overturning the ages.

Bonbright's decision required physical expression. Most human decisions
require physical expression to give them effect. He had a feeling as
though six disembodied Bonbright Footes stood about in an agony of
anxiety, watching to see what he would do as he took the emblematical
paper in his hands. He tore it very slowly, tore it again and again
into ribbons and into squares, and let them flutter into his
wastebasket.... If others had been present to assert that they heard a
groan he would not have denied it, for the ancestors were very real to
him then... their presence was a definite fact.

"There..." he said. The king was dead. Long live the king!

It was after that he had his talk with his mother. Perhaps he was
abrupt, but he dreaded that talk. Perhaps his diplomacy was faulty or
lacking. Perhaps he made mistakes and failed to rise to the
requirements of the conditions and of his relationship with her. He did
his best.

"Mother," he said, "we must talk things over."

She sat silently, waiting for him to speak.

"Whatever you wish," he said, "I shall do... if I can."

"There is a qualification?" she said.

"Suppose you tell me what you want done," he said.

"I want you to come to your senses and realize your position," she
said, coldly. "I want you to get rid of that woman and, after a decent
interval, marry some suitable girl...."

"I was discussing your affairs, mother, not mine. We will not refer to
my wife."

"All I want," she said, "is what I am entitled to as your father's
widow."

"This house, of course," he said. "You will want to stay here. I want
you to stay here."

"And you?"

"I prefer to live as I am."

"You mean you do not care to come back here?"

"Yes."

"You must. I insist upon it. You have caused scandal enough now....
People would talk."

"Mother, we might as well understand each other at once. I am not
Bonbright Foote VII. Let that be clear. I am Bonbright Foote. I am
myself, an individual. The old way of doing things is gone.... Perhaps
you have heard of the family law--the first Bonbright's will. ... I
have just torn it up."

She compressed her lips and regarded him with hostility. Then she
shrugged her shoulders.

"I suppose I must make the best of it. I realize I am powerless." She
realized it fully in that moment; realized that her son was a man, a
man with force and a will, and that it would be hopeless to try to
bring him to submit to her influence. "There is nothing for us to
discuss. I shall ask for what I need...."

"Very well," he said, not coldly, not sharply, but sorrowfully. There
was no need to try to approach nearer to his mother. She did not desire
it. In her the motherly instinct did not appear. She had never given
birth to a son; what she had done was to provide her husband with an
heir, and, that being done, she was finished with the affair. ...

He went from his mother to his own room, where he sat down at his desk
and wrote a brief letter to his wife. It was not so difficult to
compose as the other one had been, but it was equally succinct, equally
barren of emotion. Yet he was not barren of emotion as he wrote it.

MY DEAR RUTH [he said],-My father is dead. This makes a very material
change in my financial condition, and the weekly sum I have been
sending you becomes inadequate. Hereafter a suitable check will be
mailed you each week until the year expires. At that time I shall make
a settlement upon you which will be perfectly satisfactory. In the
meantime, should you require anything, you have but to notify me, or,
if you prefer, notify Mr. Manley Richmond, who will attend to it
immediately.

This letter he mailed himself.... Not many days later it was returned
to him with "Not Found" stamped upon it in red ink. Bonbright fancied
there must be some error, so he sent it again by messenger. The boy
returned to report that the apartment was vacant and that no one could
furnish the present address of the lady who had occupied it. Bonbright
sent to Ruth's mother, who could only inform him that Ruth had gone
away, she did not know where, and such goings-on she never saw, and why
she should be asked to bear more than she had borne was a mystery..--

There was but one conclusion for Bonbright. Ruth had been too impatient
to wait for the year to expire and had gone away with Dulac....

Hilda could have corrected that belief, but he did not see Hilda, had
not seen her, for his new duties and new problems and responsibilities
occupied him many more hours a day than any labor union or legislature
would have permitted an employee to be required to work. His hours of
labor did not stop with the eighth nor with the tenth.... There were
days when they began with daylight and continued almost to daylight
again.

Ruth had gone with Dulac.... She was hidden away. Not even Hilda
Lightener knew where she was, but Hilda knew why she had gone.... There
is an instinct in most animals and some humans which compels them to
hide away when they suffer wounds. Hilda knew Ruth had crept away
because she had suffered the hardest to bear of all wounds--and
crushing of hope....

She had gone the morning after Bonbright's father died, leaving no word
but that she was going, and she had not gone far. It is simple to lose
oneself in a city. One may merely move to the next ward and be lost to
one's friends. Only chance will cause a meeting, and Ruth was
determined to guard against that chance.

She found a cheap, decent boarding house, among laboring people; she
found a new position... that was all. She had to live; to continue was
required of her, but it must be among strangers. She could face
existence where there were no pitying eyes; where there was none to
remind her of her husband.... She hid away with her love, and coddled
it and held it up for herself to see. She lived for it. It was her
life.... Even at her darkest moment she was glad she loved. She devoted
herself wholly to that love which had been discovered just too
late--which was not the wise nor the healthful thing to do, as any
physician could have informed her.



CHAPTER XXX


For a few days after the commencement of his reign Bonbright remained
quiescent. It was not through uncertainty, nor because he did not know
what he was going to do. It was because he wanted to be sure of the
best way of doing it. Very little of his time was spent in the room
that had been his father's and was now his own; he walked about the
plant, studying, scrutinizing, appraising, comparing. He did not go
about now as he had done with Rangar on the day his father inducted him
into the dignity of heir apparent and put a paper crown on his head and
a wooden scepter in his hand.

He was aware that the men eyed him morosely. Bitterness was still alive
in their hearts, and the recollection of suffering fresh in their
minds. They still looked at him as a sort of person his father had made
him appear, and viewed his succession as a calamity. The old regime had
been bad enough, they told one another, but this young man, with his
ruthlessness, his heartlessness, with what seemed to be a savage desire
to trample workingmen into unresisting, unprotesting submission--this
would be intolerable. So they scowled at him, and in their homes talked
to their wives with apprehension of dark days ahead.

He felt their attitude. It could not be helped--yet. His work could not
be started with the men, it must start elsewhere. He would come to the
men later, in good time, in their proper order.

His third morning in the office he had called Malcolm Lightener on the
telephone.

"Is your proposition to manufacture ten thousand engines still open?"

"Yes."

"I'll take the contract--providing we can arrive at terms."

"I'll send over blue prints and specifications--and my cost figures.
Probably our costs will be lower than yours...."

"They won't be," said Bonbright, with a tightening of his jaw. "Can you
lend me Mershon for a while?" Mershon was Lightener's engineer, the man
who had designed and built his great plant.

"I can't, but I will."

"As soon as he can arrange it, please. I want to get started."

"He'll be there in half an hour."

Mershon came, a gray, beefy, heavy-faced man--with clear, keen, seeing
eyes.

"Mr. Lightener has loaned you to me, Mr. Mershon. It was a tremendous
favor, for I know what you can do."

Mershon nodded. He was a man who treasured up words. He must have had a
great store of them laid by, for in his fifty years he had used up
surprisingly few.

"This is what I want," Bonbright said. "First, I want a plant designed
with a capacity of twenty thousand Lightener engines. You designed
Lightener's engine plant--so you're about the one man to give me one
that will turn out more engines with less labor and at lower cost than
his. That's what I want."

Mershon's eyes lighted. "It will cost money," he said.

"I'll find the money; you give me the plant," Bonbright said. "And
second, I want a survey made of this present plant. I know a lot of it
is junk, but I'm not competent to say how much. You will know what to
do. If I have to junk the whole outfit I'll do it. I don't want to
waste money, but I want these mills to be the equal of any mills in the
country.... Not only in efficiency, but as a place to work. I want them
safe. You will understand. I want the men considered. Give them light
and air. Wait till you see our wash rooms!" He shrugged his shoulders.
"It isn't enough to have the best machines," he said. "I want the men
to be able to do the best that's in them.... You understand?"

Mershon nodded.

"The next room is yours." Bonbright pointed toward his old office, the
one it had been the family custom to close on the accession of the heir
apparent, and never to reopen until a new heir was ready to take up his
duties. He felt a sort of pleasure in this profanation. "You'll find it
large enough. If you need more room, ask for it.... Get what assistants
you need."

"No more interruption of production than necessary," said Mershon.

"Exactly.... And we need that new plant in a hurry. I've taken a
contract to make ten thousand engines for Mr. Lightener this year."

It was that day that he called Rangar into the room. Rangar had been
uneasy, fearful, since his old employer had died. He had been an
important figure under the old order; a sort of shadow behind the
throne. He wondered what would happen to him now. More especially if
Bonbright had a notion of some of his duties under Bonbright's father.
He was not kept in suspense.

"Mr. Rangar," said Bonbright, "I have been looking through the files.
Some of your duties have become clear to me. I was familiar with
others.... Perhaps my father required a man like yourself. I do not.
The old way of doing things here is gone, and you and I could not be
happy together. I shall direct the cashier to give you a check for six
months' salary..."

"You mean--"

"Exactly what I say."

"But--you don't understand the business. Who is going to run it while
you learn?"

"I don't want to know how this business was run. It's not going to be
run that way.... There's nothing you could teach me, Mr. Hangar....
Good afternoon."

Rangar went white with rage. Animosity toward this young man he had
harbored since the beginning; it flowered into hatred. But he dared not
voice it. It was not in Hangar's nature to be open, to fight without
cover. If he spoke, the check for six months' salary might be
withdrawn, so, uttering none of the venom that flooded to his lips, he
went away.... Rangar was the sort of man who vows to get even. ...

That evening Bonbright sat in his window and watched the army of his
employees surge out of the big gate and fill the street. Five thousand
of them.... It was a sight that always fascinated him, as it had that
first evening when he saw them, and came to a realization of what it
meant to be overlord to such a multitude. More than ever he realized it
now--for he was their overlord. They were his men. It was he who gave
them the work that kept them alive; he who held their happiness, their
comfort, their very existence in the hollow of his hand.... And he knew
that in every one of those five thousand breasts burned resentment
toward him. He knew that their most friendly feeling toward him was
suspicion.

It was easy to rebuild a plant; it was simple to construct new mills
with every device that would make for efficiency. That was not a
problem to awe him. It needed but the free expenditure of money, and
there was money in plenty.... But here was a task and a problem whose
difficulty and vastness filled him with misgiving. He must turn that
five thousand into one smooth-running, willing whole. He must turn
their resentment, their bitterness, their suspicion, into trust and
confidence. He must solve the problem of capital and labor.... An
older, more experienced man might have smiled at Bonbright--at his
daring to conceive such a possibility. But Bonbright dared to conceive
it; dared to set himself the task of bringing it about.

That would be his work, peculiarly. No one could help him with it, for
it was personal, appertaining to him. It was between Bonbright Foote
and the five thousand.

It was inevitable that he should feel bitterness toward his father,
for, but for his father, his work would now be enormously more simple.
If these men knew him as he was--knew of his interest in them, of his
willingness to be fair--he would have had their confidence from the
start. His father had made him appear a tyrant, without consideration
for labor; had made him a capitalist of the most detestable type. It
was a deep-seated impression. It had been proven. The men had
experienced it; had felt the weight of Bonbright's ruthless hand....
How could he make them believe it was not his hand? How could he make
them believe that the measures taken to crush the strike had not been
his measures; that they had been carried out under his name but against
his will? It sounded absurd even to himself. Nobody would believe it.

Therefore he must begin, not at the beginning, but deeper than the
beginning. He could not start fairly, but under a handicap so great as
to make his chances of winning all but negligible.... It would be
useless to tell his men that he had been but a figurehead. For him the
only course was to blot out what had gone--to forget it--and to start
against odds to win their confidence. It would be better to let them
slowly come to believe he was a convert--that there had been a
revolution in his heart and mind. Indeed, there was no other way. He
must show them by daily studied conduct that he was not what they
feared he was....

He did not know what he was himself. His contact with Malcolm
Lightener's workingmen had given him certain sympathies with the
theories and hopes of labor; but they had made him certain of fallacies
and unsoundness in other theories and ambitions. He was not the
romantic type of wealthy young man who, in stories, meets the under dog
and loves him, and is suddenly converted from being an out-and-out
capitalist to the most radical of socialists. It was not in him to be
radical, for he was steadied by a quietly running balance wheel.... He
was stubborn, too. What he wanted was to be fair, to give what was
due--and to receive what was HIS due.... He could not be swayed by
mawkish sentimental sympathy, nor could he be bullied. Perhaps he was
stiff-necked, but he was a man who must judge of the right or wrong of
a condition himself. Perhaps he was too much that way, but his
experiences had made him so.

If his men tried to bulldoze him they would find him immovable. What he
believed was right and just he would do; but he had his own set notions
of right and justice. He was sympathetic. His attitude toward the five
thousand was one of friendliness. He regarded them as a charge and a
responsibility. He was oppressed by the magnitude of the
responsibility.... But, on the other hand, he recognized that the five
thousand were under certain responsibilities and obligations to him. He
would do his part, but he would demand their part of them.

His father had been against unions. Bonbright was against unions. His
reason for this attitude was not the reason of his father. It was
simply this: That he would not be dictated to by individuals who he
felt were meddling in his affairs. He had arrived at a definite
decision on this point: his mills should never be unionized.... If his
men had grievances he would meet with them individually, or committees
sent by them--committees of themselves. He would not treat with
so-called professional labor men. He regarded them as an impertinence.
Whatever differences should arise must be settled between his men and
himself--with no outside interference. This was a position from which
nothing would move him.... It will be seen he was separated by vast
spaces from socialism.

He called together his superintendents and department foremen and took
them into his confidence regarding his plans for improving and
enlarging the plant. They came, if not with an air of hostility, at
least with reserve, for they were nearer to the men than they were to
Bonbright. They shared the prejudices of the men. Some of them went
away from the meeting with all of their old prejudices and with a new
belief that Bonbright added hypocrisy to his other vices; some withheld
judgment, some were hopeful. Few gave him implicit belief.

When he was done describing the plans for the factory, he said: "There
is one more thing I want to speak about. It is as vital as the
other.... We have recently gone through a strike which has caused
bitterness toward this institution on the part of the men. There has
been especial bitterness toward myself. I have no defense of myself to
make. It is too late to do that. If any of you men know the facts--you
know them. On that point I have nothing to say.... This is what I want
to impress on you men who are in authority. I want to be fair to every
man in this plant. I am going to give them a fit place to work. Many
parts of this plant are not now fit places. From every man I shall
demand a day's work for a day's pay, but no more. You are in direct
authority. I want each of you to treat his men with consideration, and
to have an eye for their welfare. Perhaps I shall not be able to make
the men feel toward me as I want them to feel, but if it can be brought
about, I want them to know that their interests are my interests....
That is all, except that to-morrow notices will be posted in every
department stating that my office door is open to any man who works for
me--any man may come to me with complaint or with suggestion at any
time. The notices will state that I want suggestions, and that any man
who can bring me an idea that will improve his work or the work in his
department or in the plant will be paid for it according to its value.
In short, I want the co-operation of every man who draws wages from
this concern...."

As they went back to their departments the men who left the meeting
discussed Bonbright, as he knew they would and hoped they would.

"It's a four flush," declared one old fellow, hotly.

"I don't know.... Wait and see," said another. "He looked like he meant
it."

Wait and see! That was the general attitude. They took nothing on
trust, but put it squarely up to Bonbright to prove himself by his
actions.

Mershon came into the office. "How about this construction work?" he
asked. "Need an army of bricklayers. What about the unions?"

Was this question coming up so quickly? Bonbright frowned. His attitude
toward the unions must become public and would inevitably raise another
obstacle between himself and the men, but he was determined on the
point.

"A man has a right to join the Masons or the Knights of Columbus, or
the Bricklayers' Union," he said, presently. "That's for him to say,
but when he comes to work here he comes as an individual."

"Open shop?"

"Yes."

"You won't recognize any union? I want to know how I stand with them at
the beginning."

"I'll recognize no union," said Bonbright.

The card of a young man from Richmond's office was brought in.
Bonbright sent word for him to be admitted.

"I came about that Hammil accident case," said the young man. "Hammil
was hurt yesterday, pretty badly, and the report makes it look as if
we'd be stuck if the thing goes to a jury."

"I know nothing about it," said Bonbright, with a little shock. It was
possible, then, for a man to be maimed or killed in his own plant and
news of it to reach him after days or perhaps never. He made a note to
rectify THAT state of affairs. "You mean that this man Hammil was hurt
through our fault?"

"I'm afraid a jury would say so." The young man explained the accident
in detail. "He complained about the condition of his machine, and his
foreman told him he could stick to his job there or quit."

"Forced him to work on an unsafe machine or quit?"

"Yes."

Bonbright stared at his blotter a moment. "What did you want to see me
about?"

"We'd better settle. Right now I can probably run up and put a wad of
bills under Hammil's nose and his wife's, and it'll look pretty big.
Before some ambulance-chaser gets hold of him. He hasn't been able to
talk until awhile ago, so nobody's seen him."

"Your idea is that we could settle for less than a jury would give him?"

The young man laughed. "A jury'd give him four or five thousand, maybe
more. Doctor says the injury is permanent. I've settled more than one
like it for three or four hundred."

"The man won't be able to work again?"

"Won't be good for much."

"And we're responsible!" Bonbright said it to himself, not to the young
man. "Is this thing done often--settling these things for--what we can
squeeze them down to?"

"Of course." The young man was calloused. His job was to settle claims
and save money. His value increased as his settlements were small.

"Where's Hammil?"

"At the General Hospital."

Bonbright got up and went to the closet for his hat. "Come on," he said.

"You're not going up there, are you?"

"Yes."

"But--but I can handle it all right, Mr. Foote. There's no need to
bother you."

"I've no doubt you can handle it--maybe too well," said Bonbright.

They were driven to the hospital and shown up to Jim Hammil's room. His
wife was there, pale, tearless, by his bedside. Jim was bandaged,
groaning, in agony. Bonbright's lips lost their color. He felt guilty.
It was HE who had put this man where he was, had smashed him. It was
HIS fault.

He walked to the bedside. "Jim," he said, "I am Mr. Foote."

"I--know--you," said the man between teeth set to hold back his groans.

"And I know you," said his wife. "I know you.... What do you want here?"

"I came to see Jim," said Bonbright. "I didn't know he was hurt until a
few minutes ago.... It's useless to say I'm sorry."

"They made him work on that machine. He knowed it wasn't safe.... He
had to work on it or lose his job...."

"I know that NOW, Mrs. Hammil.... What was he earning?"

"Two-seventy-five a day.... And now.... How'll we live, with him in the
hospital and maybe never able to work again?"

"Here..." protested Hammil, weakly, glaring at Bonbright. "We'll come
out all right. He'll pay.... You'll pay, that's what you will. A
jury'll make you pay. Wait till I kin see my lawyer...."

"You won't need any lawyer, Jim," said Bonbright. It was hard for him
to talk. He could not speak to these people as he wanted to, nor say
the words that would make their way through their despair and rage to
their hearts. "You won't need any lawyer," he repeated.

"If you think I'm--goin'--to sign--one of them--releases--you're
damn--mistaken," moaned the man.

"Jim," said Bonbright, "you needn't sign anything.... What's done can't
be mended.... It was bad. It was criminal..."

"Mr. Foote," protested the young lawyer.

"I'll attend to this," said Bonbright, shortly. "It's between Jim and
me.... I'll make it as nearly right as it can be made.... First we'll
have you out of this ward into a room.... As long as you are laid up
your wife shall have your full pay every week, and then you and I will
have a talk to see what can be done. Only don't worry.... Don't worry,
Mrs. Hammil...."

Hammil uttered a sound that was intended for a laugh. "You can't catch
me," he said, in a dreadful voice. "I'm--up to--them sharp tricks....
You're lyin'.... Git out of here, both of you.... You're--jest here--to
cheat me."

"You're wrong, Jim."

"I know--you and--your kind," Jim said, trying to lift himself on his
elbow. "I know--what you--done durin'--the strike.... I had a baby--and
she--DIED.... You killed her!" His voice rose almost to a scream.

"Better go, sir," said a nurse. "He's hurting himself."

Bonbright gazed at her blankly. "How can I go?" he asked. "He won't
believe me. He's got to believe me...."

"You lie!... you lie!..." Hammil cried. "I won't talk to you.... My
lawyer'll--do my talkin'."

Bonbright paused a moment. Then he saw it would do no good to remain.
The man's mind was poisoned against him; was unable to conceive of a
man in Bonbright's place meaning him otherwise than treachery.... It
went deeper than suspicion of an individual; it was suspicion of a
class.

"I'll do what I promised, Jim.... That'll prove it to you."

"You--lie.... You lie..." the man called after him, and Bonbright heard
the words repeated again and again as he walked down the long corridor.



CHAPTER XXXI


Bonbright worked feverishly. These were the best days he had known
since he left college, but they were not happy days. He could not
forget Ruth--the best he could do was to prevent himself from
remembering too much, and so he worked. He demanded of himself more
than it is in a single man to give, but he accomplished an
astonishingly large part of it. Day and night he drove himself without
relaxation and without pause. If he stopped, the old feeling of
emptiness, of the futility of his existence, and the bitterness of his
fortune returned. His nature might have become warped, but for the
labor.

The building of the new shops he left to Mershon, knowing himself
incompetent. He knew what sort of shops he wanted; Mershon knew how to
produce them, and Mershon was dependable. Bonbright had implicit
confidence in the engineer's ability and integrity, and it was
justified. The new mills were rising....

Bonbright's part in that was enough to keep one man occupied, for,
however much he might leave to Mershon, there were countless details
that he must decide; innumerable points to be referred to him and
discussed. But his chief interest was not in producing a plant to
manufacture engines, but in producing a crew of men to operate the
plant; not merely hiring capable workingmen, but producing a condition
where himself and those working-men would be in accord; where the men
would be satisfied, happy in their work; a condition millennial in that
the known as labor unrest should be eliminated. He had set himself to
find a solution to the age-old problem of capital and labor....

He had not realized how many elements entered into the matter, and what
a high degree of specialized knowledge must be brought to the task. In
the beginning he had fancied himself as capable of working out the
basis for ideal relations between him and his employees as any other.
He soon discovered himself to be all but unequipped for the effort....
It was a saving quality of Bonbright's that he would admit his own
futilities. Therefore he called to conference the country's greatest
sociologist, Professor Witzer.

The professor, a short, wabbling individual, with watery eyes that
could read print splendidly if it were held within six inches of them,
and who, when he did read, moved book or paper back and forth in front
of his spectacles in a droll, owlish, improbable way, instead of
letting his eyes travel across the lines of print, was skeptical at
first. He suspected Bonbright of being a youth scratching the itch of a
sudden and transient enthusiasm. But he became interested. Bonbright
compelled his interest, for he was earnest, intense, not enthusiastic,
not effervescing with underdone theories.

"What you want to do, as I understand it," said the professor, "is
merely to revolutionize the world and bring on the millennium."

"What I want to do," said Bonbright, "is to formulate a plan that will
be fair to labor and fair to me. I want a condition where both of us
will be satisfied--and where both will know we are satisfied. It can be
done."

"Um!..." said the professor. "Are you, by chance, a socialist?"

"Far from it."

"What are your theories?"

"I haven't any theories. I want facts, working facts. There's no use
palavering to the men. What they want and what I want is something
concrete. I want to know what they want, and how much of it will be
good for them. I want something that will work in dollars and cents, in
days' work, in making life more comfortable for the women and children
at home. If merely paying wages will do it, then I'll pay the wages...."

"It won't," said the professor. "But it 'll go quite some distance."

"It isn't a matter of sentiment with me," Bonbright said. "It's a
matter of business, and peace of mind, and all-around efficiency. I
don't mean efficiency in this plant, but efficiency in LIVING.... For
the men and their families."

"It can't be done by giving them rest rooms with Turkish rugs nor
porcelain bathtubs, nor by installing a moving-picture show for them to
watch while they eat lunch," said the professor. "It can't be done with
money alone. It would work in isolated cases. Give some men a
sufficient wage and they would correct their ways of living; they would
learn to live decently, and they would save for the rainy day and for
old age. I don't venture an estimate of the proportion.... But there
would be the fellows whose increased pay meant only that much more to
spend. Mighty little would filter through to improve the conditions of
their actual living.... In any scheme there will have to be some way of
regulating the use of the money they earn--and that's paternalism."

"Can it be made to work? It's your honest opinion I'm after."

"I don't believe it, but, young man, it will be the most interesting
experiment I ever engaged in. Have you any ideas?"

"My basic idea is to pay them enough so they can live in comfort. ..."

"And then you've got to find some machinery to compel them to live in
comfort."

"I'd like to see every employee of this concern the owner of his home.
I'd like to feel that no man's wife is a drudge. An astonishingly large
number of wives do washing, or work out by the day.... And boarders.
The boarder is a problem."

"You HAVE been thinking," said the professor. "Do I understand that you
are offering me the chance to work with you on this experiment?"

"Yes."

"I accept.... I never dreamed I'd have a chance to meddle with human
lives the way you seem to want to meddle with them...."

So they went to work, and day after day, week after week, their plan
grew and expanded and embraced unforeseen intricacies. Bonbright
approached it from the practical side always. The professor came to
view him with amazement--and with respect.

"I'm sticking my finger into the lives of twenty thousand human
beings!" the professor said to himself many times a day, with the joy
of the scientist. "I'm being first assistant to the world's greatest
meddler. That young man is headed for a place as one of the world's
leaders, or for a lamp-post and a rope.... I wonder which...."

The thing that Bonbright asked himself many, many times was a different
sort of question. "Is this the sort of thing she meant? Would she
approve of doing this?"

He was not embarked on the project for Ruth's sake. It was not Ruth who
had driven him to it, but himself, and the events of his life. But her
presence was there.... He was doing his best. He was doing the thing he
thought would bring about the condition he desired, and he hoped she
would approve if she knew.... But whether she approved or not, he would
have persisted along his own way.... If he had never known her, never
married her, he would have done the same thing. Some day she would know
this, and understand it. It would be another irony for her to bear. The
man she had married that she might influence him to ameliorate the
conditions of his workingmen was doing far more than she had dreamed of
accomplishing herself--and would have done it if she had never been
born....

Neither she nor Bonbright realized, perhaps would never realize, that
it is not the individual who brings about changes in the social fabric.
It is not fanatics, not reformers, not inspired leaders. It is the
labored working of the mass, and the working of the mass brings forth
and casts up fanatics, reformers, leaders, when it has gestated them
and prepared the way for their birth. The individual is futile; his
aims and plans are futile save as they are the outcome of the trend of
the mass....

Ruth was not so fortunate as Bonbright. Her work did not fill her time
nor draw her interest. It was merely the thing she did to earn the
necessities of life. She was living now in a boarding house on the
lower side of the city, where a room might be had for a sum within her
means. It was not a comfortable room. It was not a room that could be
made comfortable by any arrangement of its occupant. But it was in a
clean house, presided over by a woman of years and respectable
garrulity.

Six days of the week Ruth worked, and the work became daily more
exhausting, demanding more of her nervous organism as her physical
organism had less to give. She was not taking care of herself. It is
only those who cling to life, who are interested in life and in
themselves, who take care of their bodies as they should be taken care
of. She had been slight; now she was thin. No one now would have
dreamed of calling her the Girl with the Grin. She looked older,
lifeless, almost haggard at times. Her condition was not wholly the
result of unhappiness. It was due to lack of fresh air and exercise,
for she went seldom abroad. It was fear of meeting acquaintances that
shut her in her room--fear of meeting Bonbright, fear of encountering
Dulac. It was loneliness, too. She made no new acquaintances, and went
her way in solitude. She had not so much as a nodding acquaintance with
most of her fellow lodgers. Not one of them could boast of conversation
with her beyond the briefest passing of the day.... At first they
gossiped about her, speculated about her, wove crude stories about her.
Some chose to think her exclusive, and endeavored to show her by their
bearing that they thought themselves as good as she--and maybe better.
They might have saved themselves their trouble, for she never noticed.
Lack of proper nourishment did its part. Women seem prone to neglect
their food. The housewife, if her husband does not come home to the
midday meal, contents herself with a snack, hastily picked up, and
eaten without interest. Ruth had no appetite. She went to the table
three times a day because a certain quantity of food was a necessity.
She did not eat at Mrs. Moody's table, but "went out to her meals...."
She ate anywhere and everywhere.

Mrs. Moody alone had tried to approach Ruth. Ruth had been courteous,
but distant. She wanted no prying into her affairs; no seekers after
confidences; no discoverers of her identity. For gossip spreads, and
one does not know what spot it may reach....

"It hain't healthy for her to set in her room all the time," Mrs. Moody
said to the mercenary who helped with the cooking. "And it hain't
natural for a girl like her never to have comp'ny. Since she's been
here there hain't been a call at the door for her--nor a letter."

"I hain't seen her but once or twict," said the mercenary. "If I was to
meet her face to face on the street, I hain't sure I'd know it was her."

"She didn't look good when she come, and she's lookin' worse every day.
First we know we'll have her down on her back.... And then what?...
S'pose she was to be took sudden? Who'd we notify?"

"The horspittle," said the mercenary, callously.

"She's sich a mite of a thing, with them big eyes lookin' sorry all the
while. I feel sort of drawed to her. But she won't have no truck with
me... nor nobody.... She hain't never left nothin' layin' around her
room that a body could git any idee about her from. Secretive, I call
it."

"Maybe," said the mercenary, "she's got a past."

"One thing's certain, if she don't look better 'fore she looks worse,
she won't have a long future."

That seemed to be a true saying. Ruth felt something of it. It was
harder for her to get up of mornings, more difficult to drag herself to
work and hold up during the day. Sometimes she skipped the evening meal
now and went straight home to bed. All she wanted was to rest, to lie
down.... One day she fainted in the office....

Her burden was harder to support because it included not grief alone,
but remorse, and if one excepts hatred, remorse is the most wearing of
the emotions.... As she became weaker, less normal, it preyed on her.

Then, one morning, she fainted as she tried to get out of bed, and lay
on the floor until consciousness returned. She dragged herself back
into bed and lay there, gazing dully up at the ceiling, suffering no
pain... only so tired. She did not speculate about it. Somehow it did
not interest her very much. Even not going to work didn't bother
her--she had reached that point.

Mrs. Moody had watched her going and coming for several days with
growing uneasiness. This morning she knew Ruth had not gone out, and
presently the woman slap-slapped up the stairs in her heelless slippers
to see about it. She rapped on Ruth's door. There was no response. She
rapped again....

"I know you're in there," she said, querulously. "Why don't you answer?"

Inside, Ruth merely moved her head from side to side on the pillow. She
heard--but what did it matter?

Mrs. Moody opened the door and stepped inside. She was prepared for
what she saw.

"There you be," she said, with a sort of triumphant air, as of one
whose prophecy had been fulfilled to the letter, "flat on your back."

Ruth paid no attention.

"What ails you?"

No answer.

"Here now"--she spoke sharply--"you know who I be, don't you?"

"Yes," said Ruth.

"Why didn't you answer?"

"I am--so--tired," Ruth said, faintly.

"You can't be sick here. Don't you go doin' it. I hain't got no time to
look after sick folks." She might as well have spoken to the pillow.
Ruth didn't care. She had simply reached the end of her will, and had
given up. It was over. She was absolutely without emotion.

Mrs. Moody approached the bed and felt of Ruth's hand. She had expected
to find it hot. It was cold, bloodless. It gave the woman a start. She
looked down at Ruth's face, from which the big eyes stared up at her
without seeming to see her.

"You poor mite of a thing," said Mrs. Moody, softly. Then she seemed to
jack herself up to a realization that softness would not do and that
she could not allow such goings-on in her house. "You're sick, and if
I'm a judge you're mighty sick," she said, sharply. "Who's goin' to
look after you. Say?"

The tone stirred Ruth.... "Nobody..." she said, after a pause.

"I got to notify somebody," said Mrs. Moody. "Any relatives or friends?"

Ruth seemed to think it over as if the idea were hard to comprehend.

"Once I--had a--husband..." she said.

"But you hain't got him now, apparently. Have you got anybody?"

"... Husband..." said Ruth. "... husband.... But he--went away.... No,
_I_--went away... because it was--too late then.... It was too
late--THEN, wasn't it?" Her voice was pleading.

"You know more about it than me," said Mrs. Moody. "I want you should
tell me somebody I can notify."

"I--loved him... and I didn't know it.... That was--queer--wasn't
it?... He NEVER knew it...."

"She's clean out of her head," said Mrs. Moody, irritably, "and what'll
I do? Tell me that. What'll I do, and her most likely without a cent
and all that?... Why didn't you go and git sick somewheres else? You
could of...."

She wrung her hands and called Providence to witness that all the
arrows of misfortune were aimed at her, and always had been.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself--a growd woman like you--makin' me
all this nuisance. I sha'n't put up with it. You'll go packin' to the
horspittle, that's what you'll do. Mark my word."

Mrs. Moody's method of packing Ruth off to the hospital was unique. It
consisted of running herself for the doctor. It consisted of listening
with bated breath to his directions; it consisted of giving up almost
wholly the duties--A conducting her boarding house, and in making
gruels and heating water and sitting in Ruth's room wielding a fan over
Ruth's ungrateful face. It consisted in spending of her scant supply of
money for medicines, in constant attendance and patient, faithful
nursing--accompanied by sharp scoldings and recriminations uttered in a
monotone guaranteed not to disturb the sick girl. Perhaps she really
fancied she was being hard and unsympathetic and calloused. She talked
as if she were, but no single act was in tune with her words.... She
grumbled--and served. She complained--and hovered over Ruth with
clumsy, gentle hands. She was afraid somebody might think her tender.
She was afraid she might think so herself.... The world is full of Mrs.
Moodys.

Ruth lay day after day with no change, half conscious, wholly
listless.... It seemed to Mrs. Moody to be nothing but a waiting for
the end. But she waited for the end as though the sick girl were flesh
of her flesh, protesting to heaven against the imposition, ceaselessly.



CHAPTER XXXII


If Bonbright's handling of the Hammil casualty created a good
impression among the men, his stand against the unions more than
counterbalanced it. He was able to get no nearer to the men. Perhaps,
as individuals became acquainted with him, there was less open
hostility manifested, but there remained suspicion, resentment, which
Bonbright was unable to convert into friendship and co-operation.

The professor of sociology peered frequently at Bonbright through his
thick spectacles with keen interest. He found as much enjoyment in
studying his employer as he did in working over his employer's plan.
Frequently he discussed Bonbright with Mershon.

"He's a strange young man," he said, "an instructive psychological
study. Indeed he is. One cannot catalogue him. He is made up of
opposites. Look you, Mershon, at his eagerness to better the conditions
of his men--that's why I'm abandoning classes of boys who ought to be
interested in what I teach them, but aren't--and then place beside it
his antagonism to unionism...."

Mershon was interested at that instant more in the practical aspects of
the situation. "The unions are snapping at our heels. Bricklayers,
masons, structural steel, the whole lot. I've been palavering with
them--but I'm about to the end of my rope. We've needed men and we've
got a big sprinkling of union men. Wages have attracted them. I'm
afraid we've got too many, so many the unions feel cocky. They think
they're strong enough to take a hand and try to force recognition on
us.... He won't have it." Mershon shrugged his shoulders. "I've got to
the end of my rope. Yesterday I told him the responsibility was one I
didn't hanker for, and put it up to him. He's going to meet with the
labor fellows to-day.... And we can look for fireworks."

"If I were labor," said the professor, "I think I should leave that
young man alone--until I saw where he headed. They're going to get more
out of him than organization could compel or even hope for. If they
prod him too hard they may upset things. He's fine capacity for
stubbornness."

The labor representatives were on their way to the office. When they
arrived they asked first for Mershon, who received them and notified
Bonbright.

"Show them in," he said. "We may as well have it over." There were four
of the men whom Mershon led through the door into Bonbright's office,
but Bonbright saw but one of them-Dulac!

The young man half rose from his chair, then sat down with his eyes
fixed upon the man into whose hands, he believed, his wife had given
herself. It was curious that he felt little resentment toward Dulac,
and none of that murderous rage which some men might have felt....

"Mr. Dulac," he said, "I want to--talk with you. Will you ask
these--other gentlemen if they will step outside for--a few moments....
I have a personal matter to discuss with--Mr. Dulac."

Dulac was not at his ease. He had come in something like a spirit of
bravado to face Bonbright, and this turn to the event nonplused him.
However, if he would save his face he must rise to the situation.

"Just a minute, boys," he said to his companions, and with Mershon they
filed into the next room.

"Dulac," said Bonbright, in a voice that was low but steady, "is she
well and--happy?"

"Eh?..." Dulac was startled indeed.

"I haven't kept you to--quarrel," said Bonbright. "I hoped she
would--wait the year before she went--to you, but it was hers to
choose. ... Now that she has chosen--I want to know if it has--made her
happy. I want her to be happy, Dulac."

Dulac came a step nearer the desk. Something in Bonbright's voice and
manner compelled, if not his sympathy, at least something which
resembled respect.

"Do you mean you don't know where Ruth is?" he asked.

"No."

"You thought she was with me?"

"Yes."

"Mr. Foote, she isn't with me.... I wish to God she was. I've seen her
only once since--that evening. It was by accident, on the street. ... I
tried to see her. I found the place empty, and nobody knew where she'd
gone. Even her mother didn't know. I thought you had sent her away."

"Dulac," said Bonbright, leaning forward as though drawn by spasmodic
contraction of tense muscles, "is this true?"

For once Dulac did not become theatrical, did not pose, did not reply
to this doubt, as became labor flouting capital. Perhaps it was because
the matter lay as close to his stormy heart as it did to Bonbright's.
"Yes," he said.

"Then where..."

"I don't--know."

"She's out there alone," said Bonbright, dully. "She's been out there
alone--all these months. She's so little.... What made her go away?...
Something has happened to her...."

"Haven't you had any word--anything?" Dulac was becoming frightened
himself.

"Nothing--nothing."

Bonbright leaped to his feet and took two steps forward and two back.
"I've got to know," he said. "She must be found.... Anything could have
happened...."

"It's up to us to find her," said Dulac, unconsciously, intuitively
coupling himself with Bonbright. They were comrades in this thing. The
anxiety was equally theirs.

"Yes.... Yes."

"She wasn't the kind of a girl to--"

"No," said Bonbright, quickly, as if afraid to hear Dulac say the
words, "she wouldn't do THAT.... Maybe she's just hiding away--or
hurt--or sick. I've got to know."

"Call back the boys.... Let's get this conference over so we can get at
it."

Bonbright nodded, and Dulac stepped to the door. The men re-entered.

"Now, gentlemen," said Bonbright.

"We just came to put the question to you squarely, Mr. Foote. We
represent all the trades working on the new buildings. Are you going to
recognize the unions?"

"No," said Bonbright.

"More than half the men on the job are union."

"They're welcome to stay," said Bonbright.

"Well, they won't stay," said the spokesman. "We've fiddled along with
this thing, and the boys are mighty impatient. This is our last word,
Mr. Foote. Recognize the unions or we'll call off our men."

Bonbright stood up. "Good afternoon, gentlemen," said he.

With angry faces they tramped out, all but Dulac, who stopped in the
door. "I'm going to look for her," he said.

"If you find anything--hear anything--"

Dulac nodded. "I'll let you know," he said.

"I'll be--searching, too," said Bonbright. Mershon came in. "Here's a
letter--" he began.

Bonbright shook his head. "Attend to it--whatever it is. I'm going out.
I don't know when I shall be back.... You have full authority. ..."

He all but rushed from the room, and Mershon stared after him in
amazement. Bonbright did not know where he was going, what he was going
to do. There was no plan, but his need was action. He must be doing
something, searching.... But as he got into his machine he recognized
the futility of aimlessness. There was a way of going about such
things.... He must be calm. He must enlist aid.

Suddenly he thought of Hilda Lightener. He had not seen her for weeks.
She had been close to Ruth; perhaps she knew something. He drove to the
Lightener residence and asked for her. Hilda was at home.

"She's LOST," said Bonbright, as Hilda came into the room.

"What? Who are you talking about?"

"'Ruth.... She's not with Dulac. He doesn't know where she is; she was
never with him."

"Did you think she was?" Hilda said, accusingly. "You--you're so--Oh,
the pair of you!"

"Do you know where she is?"

"I haven't seen nor heard of her since the day--your father died."

"Something must have happened.... She wouldn't have gone away like
that--without telling anybody, even her mother...."

"She would," said Hilda. "She--she was hurt. She couldn't bear to stay.
She didn't tell me that, but I know.... And it's your fault for--for
being blind."

"I don't understand."

"She loved you," said Hilda, simply. "No.... She told me. She
never--loved--me. It was him. She married me to--"

"I know what she married you for. I know all about it.... And she
thought she loved him. She found out she didn't. But I knew it for a
long time," Hilda said, womanlike, unable to resist the temptation to
boast of her intuition. "It all came to her that day--and she was going
to tell you.... She was going to do that--going to go to you and tell
you and ask you to take her back.... She said she'd make you believe
her...."

"No," said Bonbright, "you're--mistaken, Hilda. She was my wife.... I
know how she felt. She couldn't bear to have me pass close to her. ..."

"It IS true," Hilda said. "She was going to you.... And then I came and
told her your father was dead.... That made it all impossible, don't
you see?... Because you knew why she had married you, and you would
believe she came back to you because--you owned the mills and employed
all those men.... That's what you WOULD have believed, too. ..."

"Yes," said Bonbright.

"And then--it was more than she could bear. To know she loved you and
had loved you a long time--and that you loved her. You do, don't you?"

"I can't--help it."

"So that made it worse than anything that had gone before--and she went
away. She didn't tell even me, but I ought to have known...."

"And you haven't even a trace?"

"Bonbright, if you find her--what?"

"I don't know.... I've just got to find her. I've got to know what's
happened...."

"Are you going to tell her you love her--and take her back?"

"She wouldn't want me.... Oh, you think you are right, Hilda. But I
know. I lived with her for weeks and I saw how she felt. You're
wrong.... No, I'll just FIND her...."

"And leave her as bad off as she was before."

"I'll do anything for her--you know that."

"Except the one thing she can't do without...."

"You don't understand," he said, wearily.

"And you're dense and blind--and that's what makes half the cruelty in
the world."

"Let's not--talk about that part of it, Hilda. Will you help me find
her?"

"No," said Hilda. "She's where she wants to be. I'm not going to
torture her by finding her for you--and then letting her slip back
again--into hopelessness. If you'll promise to love her and believe she
loves you--I'll try to find her."

Bonbright shook his head.

"Then let her be. No matter where she is, she's better off than she
would be if you found her--and she tried to tell you and you wouldn't
believe.... You let her be."

"She may be hurt, or sick...."

"If she were she'd let somebody know," said Hilda, but in her own mind
was a doubt of this. She knew Ruth, she knew to what heights of
fanaticism Ruth's determination could rise, and that the girl was quite
capable, more especially in her state of overwrought nerves, of dying
in silence.

"I won't help you," she said, firmly.

Bonbright got up slowly, wearily. "I'm sorry," he said. "I thought
you--would help.... I'll have to hunt alone, then...." And before she
could make up her mind to speak, to tell him she didn't mean what she
said, and that she would search with him and help him, he was gone.

The only thing he could think of to do was to go once more to their
apartment and see if any trace of her could be picked up there.
Somebody must have seen her go. Somebody must have seen the furniture
going or heard where it was going.... Perhaps somebody might remember
the name on the van.

He did not content himself with asking the janitor and his wife, who
could tell him nothing. He went from tenant to tenant. Few of them
remembered even that such a girl had lived there, for tenants in
apartment houses change with the months. But one woman, a spinster of
the sort who pass their days in their windows and fill their lives
meagerly by watching what they can see of their neighbors' activities,
gave a hint. She was sure she remembered that particular removal on
account of the young woman who moved looking so pale and anxious. Yes,
she was sure she did, because she told herself that something must have
happened, and it excited her to know that something had happened so
close to her. Evidently she had itched with curiosity for days.

"It was a green van--I'm sure it was a green van," she said, "because I
was working a centerpiece with green leaves, and the van was almost the
same shade.... Not quite the same shade, but almost. I held my work up
to the window to see, and the van was a little darker...."

"Wasn't there a name on it? Didn't you notice the name?"

The spinster concentrated on that. "Yes, there was a name. Seems to me
it began with an 'S,' or maybe it was a 'W.' Now, wasn't that name
Walters? No, seems more as if it was Rogers, or maybe Smith. It was one
of those, or something like it. Anyhow, I'm sure it began with a
'B.'..."

That was the nearest Bonbright came to gleaning a fact. A green van.
And it might not have been a green van. The spinster's memory seemed
uncertain. Probably she had worked more than one centerpiece, not all
with green leaves. She was as likely to have worked yellow flowers or a
pink design.... But Bonbright had no recourse but to look for a green
van.

He drove to the office of a trucking and moving concern and asked if
there were green vans. The proprietor said HIS vans were always yellow.
Folks could see them farther and the paint wore better; but all men
didn't follow his judgment. Yes, there WERE green vans, though not so
good as his, and not so careful of the furniture. He told Bonbright who
owned the green vans. It was a storage house.

Bonbright went to the huge brick storage building, and persuaded a
clerk to search the records. A bill from Bonbright's pocketbook added
to the persuasion.... An hour's wait developed that a green van
belonging to the company had moved goods from that address--and the
spinster was vindicated.

"Brought 'em here and stored 'em," said the young man. "Here's the
name--Frazer. Ruth Frazer."

"That's it," said Bonbright. "That's it."

"Storage hain't been paid.... No word from the party. Maybe she'll show
up some day to claim 'em. If not, we'll sell 'em for the charges."

"Didn't she leave any address?"

"Nope."

It had been only a cul de sac. Bonbright had come to the end of it, and
had only to retrace his steps. It had led him no nearer to his wife.
What to do now? He didn't see what he could do, or that anybody could
do better than he had done.... He thought of going to the police, but
rejected that plan. It was repulsive to him and would be repulsive to
Ruth.... He might insert a personal in the paper. Such things were
done. But if Ruth were ill she would not see it. If she wanted to hide
from him she would not reply.

He went to Mrs. Frazer, but Mrs. Frazer only sobbed and bewailed her
fate, and stated her opinion of Bonbright in many confused words. It
seemed to be her idea that her daughter was dead or kidnapped, and
sometimes she appeared to hold both notions simultaneously....
Bonbright got nothing there.

Discouraged, he went back to his office, but not to his work. He could
not work. His mind would hold no thought but of Ruth.... He must find
her. He MUST.... Nothing mattered unless he could find her, and until
he found her he would be good for nothing else.

He tried to pull himself together. "I've got to work," he said. "I've
got to think about something else...." But his will was unequal to the
performance.... "Where is she?... Where is she?.." The question, the
DEMAND, repeated itself over and over and over.



CHAPTER XXXIII


There was a chance that a specialist, a professional, might find traces
of Ruth where Bonbright's untrained eyes missed them altogether. So,
convinced that he could do nothing, that he did not in the least know
how to go about the search, he retained a firm of discreet,
well-recommended searchers for missing persons. With that he had to be
content. He still searched, but it was because he had to search; he had
to feel that he was trying, doing something, but no one realized the
uselessness of it more than himself. He was always looking for her,
scanned every face in the crowd, looked up at every window.

In a day or two he was able to force himself to work steadily,
unremittingly again. The formula of his patent medicine, with which he
was to cure the ills of capital-labor, was taking definite shape, and
the professor was enthusiastic. Not that the professor felt any
certainty of effecting a permanent cure; he was enthusiastic over it as
a huge, splendid experiment. He wanted to see it working and how men
would react to it. He had even planned to write a book about it when it
should have been in operation long enough to show what its results
would be.

Bonbright was sure. He felt that it would bridge the gulf between him
and his employees--that gulf which seemed now to be growing wider and
deeper instead of disappearing. Mershon's talk was full of labor
troubles, of threatened strikes, of consequent delays.

"We can finish thirty days ahead of schedule," he said to Bonbright,
"if the unions leave us alone."

"You think I ought to recognize them," Bonbright said. "Well, Mr.
Mershon, if labor wants to cut its own throat by striking--let it
strike. I'm giving it work. I'm giving it wages that equal or are
higher than union scale. They've no excuse for a strike. I'm willing to
do anything within reason, but I'm going to run my own concern. Before
I'll let this plant be unionized I'll shut it down. If I can't finish
the new shops without recognizing the unions, then they'll stand as
they are."

"You're the boss," said Mershon, with a shrug. "Do you know there's to
be a mass meeting in the armory to-night? I think the agitator people
are going to try to work the men up to starting trouble."

"You think they'll strike?"

"I KNOW they will."

"All the men, or just the steel workers and bricklayers and temporary
employees on the new buildings?"

"I don't know.... But if any of them go out it's going to make things
mighty bad."

"I'll see what can be done," said Bonbright.

The strike must be headed off if possible. It would mean a monstrously
costly delay; it might mean a forfeiture of his contract with
Lightener. It might mean that he had gone into this new project and
expended hundreds of thousands of dollars to equip for the manufacture
of engines in vain.... The men must not strike.

There seemed no way to avert it but to surrender, and that Bonbright
did not even consider.... He called in the professor.

"The plan is practically complete, isn't it?" he asked.

"I'd call it so. The skeleton is there and it's covered with flesh.
Some of the joints creak a little and maybe there's an ear or an
eyebrow missing.... But those are details."

Bonbright nodded. "We'll try it out," he said. "To-night there's a mass
meeting--to stir our men up to strike. They mustn't strike, and I'm
going to stop them--with the plan."

"Eh?" said the professor.

"I'm going to the meeting," said Bonbright.

"You're--young man, you're crazy."

"I'm going to head off that strike. I'm going there and I'm going to
announce the plan."

"They won't let you speak."

"I think they will.... Curiosity will make them."

The young man did understand something of human nature, thought the
professor. Curiosity would, most likely, get a hearing for him.

"It's dangerous," said he. "The men aren't in a good humor. There might
be some fanatic there--"

"It's a chance," said Bonbright, "but I've got to take it."

"I'll go with you," said the professor.

"No. I want to be there alone. This thing is between my men and me.
It's personal. We've got to settle it between ourselves."

The professor argued, pleaded; but Bonbright was stubborn, and the
professor had previous acquaintance with Bonbright's stubbornness. Its
quality was that of tool steel. Bonbright had made up his mind to go
and to go alone. Nobody could argue him out of it.

Bonbright did go alone. He went early in order to obtain a good
position in the hall, a mammoth gathering place capable of seating
three thousand people. He entered quietly, unostentatiously, and walked
to a place well toward the front, and he entered unobserved. The street
before the hall was full of arguing, gesticulating men. Inside were
other loudly talking knots, sweltering in the closeness of the place.
In corners, small impromptu meetings were listening to harangues not on
the evening's program. Already half the seats were taken by the less
emotional, more stolid men, who were content to wait in silence for the
real business of the meeting. There was an air of suspense, of
tenseness, of excitement. Bonbright could feel it. It made him tingle;
it gave him a sensation of vibrating emptiness resembling that of a man
descending in a swift elevator.

Bonbright was not accustomed to public speaking, but, somehow, he did
not regard what he was about to say as a public speech. He did not
think of it as being kindred to oratory. He was there to talk business
with a gathering of his men, that was all. He knew what he was going to
say, and he was going to say it clearly, succinctly, as briefly as
possible.

In half an hour the chairs on the platform were occupied by chairman,
speakers, union officials. The great hall was jammed, and hundreds
packed about the doors in the street without, unable to gain
admission.... The chairman opened the meeting briefly. Behind him
Bonbright saw Dulac, saw the members of the committee that had waited
on him, saw other men known to him only because he had seen their
pictures from time to time in the press. It was an imposing gathering
of labor thought.

Bonbright had planned what he would do. It was best, he believed, to
catch the meeting before it had been excited by oratory, before it had
been lashed to anger. It was calmer, more reasonable now than it would
be again. He arose to his feet.

"Mr. Chairman," he said, distinctly.

The chairman paused; Bonbright's neighbors turned to stare; men all
over the hall rose and craned their necks to have a view of the
interrupter.

"Sit down!...Shut up!" came cries from here and there. Then other
cries, angry cries. "It's Foote!... It's the boss! Out with him!... Out
with him!"

"Mr. Chairman," said Bonbright, "I realize this is unusual, but I hope
you will allow me to be heard. Every man here must admit that I am
vitally interested in what takes place here to-night.... I come in a
friendly spirit, and I have something to say which is important to me
and to you. I ask you to hear me. I will be brief..."

"Out with him!... No!... Throw him out!" came yells from the floor. The
house was on its feet, jostling, surging. Men near to Bonbright
hesitated. One man reached over the shoulders of his fellows and struck
at Bonbright. Another shoved him back.

"Let him talk.... Let's hear him," arose counter-cries. The meeting
threatened to get beyond control, to become a mob.

The chairman, familiar with the men he dealt with, acted quickly. He
turned to Dulac and whispered, then faced the hall with hands upheld.

"Mr. Foote is here uninvited," he said. "He requests to be heard. Let
us show him that we are reasonable, that we are patient.... Mr. Dulac
agrees to surrender a portion of his time to Mr. Foote. Let us hear
what he has to say."

Bonbright pushed his way toward the aisle and moved forward. Once he
stumbled, and almost fell, as a man thrust out a foot to trip him--and
the hall laughed.

"Speak your piece. Speak it nice," somebody called, and there was
another laugh. This was healthier, safer.

Bonbright mounted the platform and advanced to its edge.

"Every man here," he said, "is an employee of mine. I have tried to
make you feel that your interests are my interests, but I seem to have
failed--or you would not be here. I have tried to prove that I want to
be something more than merely your employer, but you would not believe
me."

"Your record's bad," shouted a man, and there was another laugh.

"My record is bad," said Bonbright. "I could discuss that, but it
wouldn't change things. Since I have owned the mills my record has not
been bad. There are men here who could testify for me. All of you can
testify that conditions have been improved.... But I am not here to
discuss that. I am here to lay before you a plan I have been working
on. It is not perfect, but as it stands it is complete enough, so that
you can see what I am aiming at. This plan goes into effect the day the
new plant starts to operate."

"Does it recognize the unions?" came from the floor.

"No," said Bonbright. "Please listen carefully.... First it establishes
a minimum wage of five dollars a day. No man or woman in the plant, in
any capacity, shall be paid less than five dollars a day. Labor helps
to earn our profits and labor should share in them. That is fair. I
have set an arbitrary minimum of five dollars because there must be
some basis to work from...."

The meeting was silent. It was nonplused. It was listening to the
impossible. Every man, every employee, should be paid five dollars a
day!

"Does that mean common labor?"

"It means everyone," said Bonbright. "It means the man who sweeps out
the office, the man who runs the elevator, the man who digs a ditch.
Every man does his share and every man shall have his share.

"I want every man to live in decent comfort, and I want his wife and
babies to live in comfort. With these wages no man's wife need take in
washing nor work out by the day to help support the family. No man will
need to ask his wife to keep a boarder to add to the family's
earnings...."

The men listened now. Bonbright's voice carried to every corner and
cranny of the hall. Even the men on the platform listened breathlessly
as he went on detailing the plan and its workings. Nothing like this
had ever happened before in the world's history. No such offer had ever
been made to workingmen by an employer capable of carrying out his
promises.... He told them what he wanted to do, and how he wanted to do
it. He told them what he wanted them to do to co-operate with him--of
an advisory board to be elected by the men, sharing in deliberations
that affected the employees, of means to be instituted to help the men
to save and to take care of their savings, of a strict eight-hour
day.... No union had ever dreamed of asking such terms of an employer.

"How do we know you'll do it?" yelled a man.

"You have my word," said Bonbright.

"Rats!"

"Shut up... shut up!" the objector was admonished.

"That's all, men," Bonbright said. "Think it over. This plan is going
into effect. If you want to share in it you can do so, every one of
you.... Thank you for listening."

Bonbright turned and sat down in a chair on the platform, anxious,
watching that sea of faces, waiting to see what would happen.

Dulac leaped to his feet. "It's a bribe," he shouted. "It's nothing but
an attempt to buy your manhood for five dollars a day. We're righting
for a principle--not for money.... We're--"

But his voice was drowned out. The meeting had taken charge of itself.
It wanted to listen to no oratory, but to talk over this thing that had
happened, to realize it, to weigh it, to determine what it meant to
them. Abstract principle must always give way to concrete fact. The men
who fight for principle are few. The fight is to live, to earn, to
continue to exist. Men who had never hoped to earn a hundred dollars a
month; men who had for a score of years wielded pick and shovel for two
dollars a day or less, saw, with eyes that could hardly believe, thirty
dollars a week. It was wealth! It was that thirty dollars that gripped
them now, not the other things. Appreciation of them would come later,
but now it was the voice of money that was in their ears. What could a
man do with five dollars a day? He could live--not merely exist.... The
thing that could not be had come to pass.

Dulac shouted, demanded their attention. He might as well have tried to
still the breakers that roared upon a rocky shore. Dulac did not care
for money. He was a revolutionist, a thinker, a man whose work lay with
conditions, not with individuals. Here every man was thinking as an
individual; applying that five dollars a day to his own peculiar,
personal affairs.... Already men were hurrying out of the hall to carry
the amazing tidings home to their wives.

Dulac stormed on.

One thing was apparent to Bonbright. The men believed him. They
believed he had spoken the truth. He had known they would believe him;
somehow he had known that. The thing had swept them off their feet. In
all that multitude was not a man whose life was not to be made easier,
whose wife and children were not to be happier, more comfortable,
removed from worry. It was a moving sight to see those thousands react.
They were drunk with it.

An old man detached himself from the mass and rushed upon the platform.
"It's true?... It's true?" he said, with tears running down his face.

"It's true," said Bonbright, standing up and offering his hand.

That was the first of hundreds. Some one shouted, hoarsely, "Hurrah for
Foote!" and the armory trembled with the shout.

The thing was done. The thing he had come to do was accomplished. There
would be no strike.

Dulac had fallen silent, was sitting in his chair with his face hidden.
For him this was a defeat, a bitter blow.

Bonbright made his way to him.

"Mr. Dulac," he said, "have you found her?"

"You've bribed them.... You've bought them," Dulac said, bitterly.

"I've given them what is theirs fairly.... Have you found any trace of
her?" Even in this moment, which would have thrilled, exalted another,
which would have made another man drunk with achievement, Bonbright
could think of Ruth. Even now Ruth was uppermost in his mind. All this
mattered nothing beside her. "Have you got any trace?" he asked.

"No," said Dulac.



CHAPTER XXXIV


Next morning the whole city breakfasted with Bonbright Foote. His name
was on the tongue of every man who took in a newspaper, and of
thousands to whom the news of his revolutionary profit-sharing or
minimum-wage plan was carried by word of mouth. It was the matter of
wages that excited everyone. In those first hours they skipped the
details of the plan, those details which had taken months of labor and
thought to devise. It was only the fact that a wealthy manufacturer was
going to pay a minimum wage of five dollars a day.

The division between capital and labor showed plainly in the reception
of the news. Capital berated Bonbright; labor was inclined to
fulsomeness. Capital called him on the telephone to remonstrate and to
state its opinion of him as a half-baked idiot of a young idealist who
was upsetting business. Labor put on its hat and stormed the gates of
Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, seeking for five-dollar jobs. Not
hundreds of them came, but thousands. The streets were blocked with
applicants, every one eager for that minimum wage. The police could not
handle the mob. It was there for a purpose and it intended to stay....
When it was rebuked, or if some one tried to tell them there were no
jobs for it, it threw playful stones through the windows. It was there
at dawn; it still remained at dark.

A man who had an actual job at Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, was a
hero, an object of admiring interest to his friends and neighbors. The
thing touched him. There had been a miraculous laying on of hands,
under which had passed away poverty. So must the friends and
acquaintances of a certain blind man whose sight was restored by a bit
of divine spittle have regarded him.

Malcolm Lightener did not content himself with telephoning. He came in
person to say his say to Bonbright, and he said it with point and
emphasis.

"I thought I taught you some sense in my shop," he said, as he burst
into Bonbright's office. "What's this I hear now? What idiocy are you
up to? Is this infernal newspaper story true?"

"Substantially," said Bonbright.

"You're crazy. What are you trying to do? Upset labor conditions in
this town so that business will go to smash? I thought you had a level
head. I had confidence in you--and here you go, shooting off a
half-cocked, wild-eyed, socialistic thing! Did you stop to think what
effect this thing would have on other manufacturers?"

"Yes," said Bonbright.

"It'll pull labor down on us. They'll say we can afford to pay such
wages if you can."

"Well," said Bonbright, "can't you?"

"You've sowed a fine crop of discontent. It's damned unfair. You'll
have every workingman in town flocking to you. You'll get the pick of
labor."

"That's good business, isn't it?" Bonbright asked, with a smile. "Now,
Mr. Lightener, there isn't any use thrashing me. The plan is going into
effect. It isn't half baked. I haven't gone off half cocked. It is
carefully planned and thought out--and it will work. There'll be
flurries for a few days, and then things will come back to the normal
for you fellows.... I wish it wouldn't. You're a lot better able than I
am to do what I'm doing, and you know it. If you can, you ought to."

"No man has a right to go ahead deliberately and upset business."

"I'm not upsetting it. I'm merely being fair, and that's what business
should have been years ago. I'm able to pay a five-dollar minimum, and
labor earns it. Then it ought to have it. If you can pay only a
four-dollar minimum, then you should pay it. Labor earns it for you....
If there's a man whose labor earns for him only a dollar and
seventy-five cents a day, and that man pays it, he's doing as much at I
am..."

"Bonbright," said Malcolm Lightener, getting to his feet, "I'm damn
disappointed in you."

"Come in a year and tell me so, then I'll listen to you," said
Bonbright.

"This nonsense won't last a year. It won't pan out. You'll have to give
it up, and then what? You'll be in a devil of a pickle, won't you?"

"All you see is that five dollars. In a day or two the whole plan will
be ready. I'm having it printed in a pamphlet, and I'll send you one.
If you read it carefully and can come back and tell me it's nonsense,
then I don't know you. You might let me go under suspended sentence at
least."

Lightener shrugged his heavy shoulders. "Take one chunk of advice," he
said. "Keep away from the club for a few days. If the boys feel the way
I do they're apt to take you upstairs and drown you in a bathtub."

That was the side of the affair that Bonbright saw most during the day.
Telephone messages, letters, telegrams, poured in and cluttered his
desk. After a while he ceased to open them, for they were all alike;
all sent to say the same thing that Malcolm Lightener had said. Capital
looked upon him as a Judas and flayed him with the sharpest words they
could choose.

He read all the papers, but the papers reflected the estimated thought
of their subscribers. But to all of them the news was the big news of
the day. No headline was too large to announce it... But the papers,
even those with capitalistic leanings, were afraid to be too outspoken.
Gatherers of news come to have some knowledge of human nature, and
these men saw deeper and farther and quicker than the Malcolm
Lighteners. They did not commit themselves so far but that a drawing
back and realignment would be possible... No little part of Bonbright's
day was spent with reporters.

The news came to every house in the city. It came even to Mrs. Moody's
obscure boarding house, and the table buzzed with it. It mounted the
stairs with Mrs. Moody to the room where Ruth lay apathetically in her
bed, not stronger, not weaker, taking no interest in life.

Mrs. Moody sat daily beside Ruth's bed and talked or read. She read
papers aloud and books aloud, and grumbled. Ruth paid slight attention,
but lay gazing up at the ceiling, or closed her eyes and pretended she
was asleep. She didn't care what was going on in the world. What did it
matter, for she believed she was going to leave the world shortly. The
prospect did not frighten her, nor did it gladden her. She was
indifferent to it.

Mrs. Moody sat down in her rocker and looked at Ruth triumphantly.
"I'll bet this'll interest you," she said. "I'll bet when I read this
you won't lay there and pertend you don't hear. If you do it's because
somethin's wrong with your brains, that's all I got to say. Sick or
well, it's news to stir up a corpse."

She began to read. The first words caught Ruth's attention. The words
were Bonbright Foote. She closed her eyes, but listened. Her thoughts
were not clear; her mental processes were foggy, but the words Mrs.
Moody was reading were important to her. She realized that. It was
something she had once been interested in--terribly interested in...
She tried to concentrate on them; tried to comprehend. Presently she
interrupted, weakly:

"Who--who is it--about?" she asked.

"Bonbright Foote, the manufacturer. I read it out plain."

"Yes... What is it?... I didn't--understand very well. What did he--do?"

Mrs. Moody began again, impatiently. This time it was clearer to Ruth
... Once she had tried to do something like this thing she was hearing
about--and that was why she was here... It had something to do with her
being sick... And with Bonbright... It was hard to remember.

"Even the floor sweepers git it," said Mrs. Moody, interpreting the
news story. "Everybody gits five dollars a day at least, and some gits
more."

"Everybody?..." said Ruth. "HE'S--giving it to--them?"

"This Mr. Foote is. Yes."

Suddenly Ruth began to cry, weakly, feebly. "I didn't help," she
wailed, like an infant. Her voice was no stronger. "He did it
alone--all alone... I wasn't there..."

"No, you was right here. Where would you be?"

"I wonder--if he did--it--for me?" Her voice was piteous, pleading.

"For you? What in goodness name have YOU got to do with it? He did it
for all them men--thousands of 'em.... And jest think what it'll mean
to 'em!... It'll be like heaven comin' to pass."

"What--have I--got to do--with it?" Ruth repeated, and then cried out
with grief. "Nothing... Nothing.... NOTHING. If I'd never been born--he
would have done it--just the same."

"To be sure," said Mrs. Moody, wondering. "I guess your head hain't
jest right to-day."

"Read... Please read... Every word. Don't miss a word."

"Well, I swan! You be int'rested. I never see the like." And the good
woman read on, not skipping a word.

Ruth followed as best she could, seeing dimly, but, seeing that the
thing that was surpassed was the thing she had once sacrificed herself
in a futile effort to bring about... It was rather vague, that past
time in which she had striven and suffered... But she had hoped to do
something... What was it she had done? It was something about
Bonbright... What was it? It had been hard, and she had suffered. She
tried to remember.... And then remembrance came. She had MARRIED him!

"He's good--so good," she said, tearfully. "I shouldn't have--done it
... I should have--trusted him... because I knew he was good--all the
tune."

"Who was good?" asked Mrs. Moody.

"My husband," said Ruth.

"For the land sakes, WHAT'S HE got to do with this? Hain't you
listenin' at all?"

"I'm listening... I'm listening. Don't stop."

Memory was becoming clearer, the fog was being blown away, and the past
was showing in sharper outline. Events were emerging into distinctness.
She stared at the ceiling with widening eyes, listening to Mrs. Moody
as the woman stumbled on; losing account of the reading as her mind
wandered off into the past, searching, finding, identifying... She had
been at peace. She had not suffered. She had lain in a lethargy which
held away sharp sorrow and bitter thoughts. They were now working their
way through to her, piercing her heart.

"Oh!..." she cried. "Oh!..."

"What ails you now? You're enough to drive a body wild. What you
cryin'about? Say!"

"I--I love him... That's why I hid away--because I--loved him--and--and
his father died. That was it. I remember now. I couldn't bear it..."

"Was it him or his father you was in love with?" asked Mrs. Moody,
acidly.

"I--hated his father... But when he died I couldn't tell HIM--I loved
him... He wouldn't have believed me."

"Say," said Mrs. Moody, suddenly awakening to the possibilities of
Ruth's mood, "who was your husband, anyhow?"

Ruth shook her head. "I--can't tell you... You'd tell him... He mustn't
find me--because I--couldn't bear it."

The mercenary came to the door. "Young woman at the door wants to see
you," she said.

"Always somebody. Always trottin' up and down stairs. Seems like a body
never gits a chance to rest her bones.... I'm comin'. Say I'll be right
downstairs."

In the parlor Mrs. Moody found a young woman of a world with which
boarding houses have little acquaintance. She glanced through the
window, and saw beside the curb a big car with a liveried chauffeur. "I
vum!" she said to herself.

"I'm Mrs. Moody, miss," she said. "What's wanted?"

"I'm looking for a friend... I'm just inquiring here because you're on
my list of boarding houses. I guess I've asked at two hundred if I've
asked at one."

"What's your friend's name? Man or woman?"

"Her name is Foote. Ruth Foote."

"No such person here... We got Richards and Brown and Judson, and a lot
of 'em, but no Foote."

The young woman sighed. "I'm getting discouraged.... I am afraid she's
ill somewhere. It's been months, and I can't find a trace. She's such a
little thing, too.... Maybe she's changed her name. Quite likely."

"Is she hidin' away?" asked Mrs. Moody.

"Yes--you might say that. Not hiding because she DID anything, but
because--her heart was broken."

"Um!... Little, was she? Sort of peaked and thin?"

"Yes."

"Ever hear the name of Frazer?"

"Why, Mrs. Moody--do you--That was her name before she was married ..."

"You come along with me," ordered Mrs. Moody, and led the way up the
stairs. "Be sort of quietlike. She's sick..."

Mrs. Moody opened Ruth's door and pointed in. "Is it her?" she asked.

Hilda did not answer. She was across the room in an instant and on her
knees beside the bed.

"Ruth!... Ruth!... how could you?..." she cried.

Ruth turned her head slowly and looked at Hilda. There was no light of
gladness in her eyes; instead they were veiled with trouble. "Hilda..."
she said. "I didn't--want to be found. Go away and--and unfind me."

"You poor baby!... You poor, absurd, silly baby!" said Hilda, passing
her arm under Ruth's shoulders and drawing the wasted little body to
her closely. "I've looked for you, and looked. You've no idea the
trouble you've made for me... And now I'm going to take you home. I'm
going to snatch you up and bundle you off."

"No," said Ruth, weakly. "Nobody must know... HE--mustn't know."

"Fiddlesticks!" "Do you know?... He's done something--but it wasn't for
me... I didn't have ANYTHING to do with it... Do you know what he's
done?"

"I know," said Hilda. "It was splendid. Dad's all worked up over it,
but I think it is splendid just the same." "Splendid," said Ruth,
slowly, thoughtfully--"splendid... Yes, that's it--SPLENDID." She
seemed childishly pleased to discover the word, and repeated it again
and again.

Presently she turned her eyes up to Hilda's face, lifted a white,
blue-veined, almost transparent hand, and touched Hilda's face.
"I"--she seemed to have difficulty to find a word, but she smiled like
a tiny little girl--"I--LIKE you," she said, triumphantly. "I'm--sorry
you came--but I--like you."

"Yes, dear," said Hilda. "You'd BETTER like me."

"But," said Ruth, evidently striving to express a differentiation,
"I--LOVE him."

Hilda said nothing; there was nothing she could say, but her eyes
brimmed at the pitifulness of it. She abhorred tears.

"I'm going now, dear," she said. "I'll fix things for you and be back
in no time to take you home with me.... So be all ready."

"No..." said Ruth.

"Yes," Hilda laughed. "You'll help, won't you, Mrs. Moody?"

"Hain't no way out of it, I calc'late," said the woman.

"I won't be half an hour, Ruth... Good-by."

But Ruth had turned away her face and would not answer.

"Say," said Mrs. Moody, in a fever of curiosity which could not be held
in check after they had passed outside of Ruth's room, "who is she,
anyhow?... SOMEBODY, I'll perdict. Hain't she somebody?"

"She's Mrs. Foote... Mrs. Bonbright Foote."

"I SWAN to man!... And me settin' there readin' to her about him. If it
don't beat all... Him with all them millions, and her without so much
as a nest like them beasts and birds of the air, in Scripture. I never
expected nothin' like this would ever happen to me..." Hilda saw that
Mrs. Moody was glorifying God in her heart that this amazing adventure,
this bit out of a romance, had come into her drab life.

"Is that there your auto?" Mrs. Moody asked, peering out with awe at
the liveried chauffeur.

Hilda nodded. "And who be you, if I might ask?" Mrs. Moody said.

"My name is Hilda Lightener, Mrs. Moody."

"Not that automobile man's daughter--the one they call the automobile
king?"

"They call dad lots of things," said Hilda, with a sympathetic laugh.
She liked Mrs. Moody. "I'll be back directly," she said, and left the
good woman standing in an attitude suggestive of mental prostration,
actually, literally, gasping at this marvel that had blossomed under
her very eyes.

As Hilda's car moved away she turned, picked up her skirts, and ran
toward the kitchen. The news was bursting out of her. She was leaking
it along the way as she sought the mercenary to pour it into her ears.

Hilda was driving, not to her home, but to Bonbright Foote's office.



CHAPTER XXXV


Dulac was on his way to Bonbright's office, too. He had started before
Hilda, and arrived before she did. If he had been asked why he was
going, it is doubtful if he could have told. He was going because he
had to go... with fresh, burning hatred of Bonbright in his heart.
Bonbright was always the obstacle he encountered. Bonbright upset every
calculation, brought his every plan to nothing. He believed it was
Bonbright who had broken the first strike, that strike upon which he
had pinned such high hopes and which meant so much to labor. It had
been labor's entering wedge into the automobile world. Then Bonbright
had married the girl he loved. Some men can hate sufficiently for that
cause alone... Ruth had loved him, but she had married Bonbright. He
had gone to take her away, had seen her yielding to him--and Bonbright
had come. Again he had intervened. And now, better equipped than for
the first strike, with chances of success multiplied, Bonbright had
intervened again--with his plan.

Dulac did not consider the plan; did not perceive virtues in it, not
the intent that was behind it. He did not see that labor was getting
without effort benefits that no strike could bring. He did not see the
happiness that it brought to thousands... All he saw was that it had
killed the new strike before birth. He regarded it as sharp practice,
as a scheme for his undoing. The thing he fought for was the principle
of unionization. Nothing else mattered; not money, not comforts, not
benefits multiplied could weigh against it... He was true to his creed,
honest in its prosecution, sincere in his beliefs and in his efforts to
uplift the conditions of his fellow men. He was a fanatic, let it be
admitted, but a fanatic who suffered and labored for his cause. He was
stigmatized as a demagogue, and many of the attributes of the demagogue
adhered to him. But he was not a demagogue, for he sought nothing for
himself... His great shortcoming was singleness of vision. He fixed his
eyes upon one height and was unable to see surrounding peaks.

So he was going to see the man who had come between him and every
object he had striven for... And he did not know why. He followed
impulse, as he was prone to follow impulse. Restraints were not for
him; he was a thinker, he believed, and after his fashion he WAS a
thinker.... But his mind was equipped with no stabilizer.

The impulse to see Bonbright was conceived in hatred and born in
bitterness. It was such an impulse as might, in its turn, breed
children capable of causing a calloused world to pause an instant on
its way and gasp with horror.

He brushed aside the boy who asked his business with Mr. Foote, and
flung open Bonbright's door. On the threshold he stood speechless,
tense with hatred, eyes that smoldered with jealousy, with rage,
burning in hollows dug by weariness and labor and privation. He closed
the door behind him slowly.

Bonbright looked up and nodded. Dulac did not reply, but stared,
crouching a little, his lips drawn a trifle back so that a glint of
white showed between.

"You wanted to see me?" said Bonbright.

"Yes," said Dulac. The word was spoken so low, so tensely, that it
hardly reached Bonbright's ears. That was all. He said no more, but
stood, haggard and menacing.

Bonbright eyed him, saw his drawn face, saw the hatred in his eyes.
Neither spoke, but eye held eye. Bonbright's hand moved toward a button
on his desk, but did not touch it. Somehow he was not surprised, not
startled, not afraid--yet he knew there was danger. A word, a movement,
might unleash the passions that seethed within Dulac....

Dulac stepped one step toward Bonbright, and paused. The movement was
catlike, graceful. It had not been willed by Dulac. He had been drawn
that step as iron is drawn to magnet. His eyes did not leave
Bonbright's. Bonbright's eyes did not leave Dulac's.

It seemed minutes before Dulac made another forward movement, slowly,
not lifting his foot, but sliding it along the rug to its new
position.... Then immovability.... Then another feline approach. Step
after step, with that tense pause between--and silence!

It seemed to Bonbright that Dulac had been in the room for hours, had
taken hours to cross it to his desk. Now only the desk separated them,
and Dulac bent forward, rested his clenched fists on the desk, and held
Bonbright's eyes with the fire of his own.... His body moved now,
bending from the waist. Not jerkily, not pausing, but slowly, slowly,
as if he were being forced downward by a giant hand. ... His face
approached Bonbright's face. And still no word, no sound.

Now his right hand moved, lifted. He supported his weight on his left
arm. The right moved toward Bonbright, opening as it moved. There was
something inexorable about its movement, something that seemed to say
it did not move by Dulac's will, but that it had been ordained so to
move since the beginning of time.... It approached and opened, fingers
bent clawlike.

Bonbright remained motionless. It seemed to him that all the conflict
of the ages had centered itself in this man and himself; as if they
were the chosen champions, and the struggle had been left to them... He
was ready. He did not seek to avoid it, because it seemed inevitable.
There could never be peace between him and Dulac, and, strangely
enough, the thought was present in his brain that the thing was
symbolical. He was the champion of his class, Dulac the champion of HIS
class--between which there could never be peace and agreement so long
as the classes existed. He wondered if himself and Dulac had been
appointed to abolish each other... In those vibrating seconds Bonbright
saw and comprehended much.

The hand still approached.

Bonbright saw a change in the fire of Dulac's eyes, a sudden upleaping
blaze, and braced himself for the surge of resistance, the shock of
combat.

The door opened unheeded by either, and Hilda stood in the opening.

"I've found her..." she said.

Dulac uttered a gulping gasp and closed his eyes, that had been
unwinking, closed his eyes a moment, and with their closing the
tenseness went out of him and he sagged downward so that his body
rested on the desk. Bonbright shoved himself back and leaped to his
feet.

"Hilda..." he said, and his voice was tired; the voice of a man who has
undergone the ultimate strain.

"I've found her. She's ill--terribly ill. You must go to her."

Dulac raised himself and looked at her.

"You've found--HER?" he said.

"We must go to her," said Bonbright. He was not speaking to Hilda, but
to Dulac. It seemed natural, inevitable, that Dulac should go with him.
Dulac was IN this, a part of it. Ruth and Dulac and he were the three
actors in this thing, and it was their lives that pivoted about it.

They went down to the car silently, Dulac breathing deeply, like a man
who had labored to weariness. In silence they drove to Mrs. Moody's
boarding house, and in silence they climbed the stairs to Ruth's little
room. Mrs. Moody hovered about behind them, and the mercenary sheltered
her body behind the kitchen door, her head through the narrow opening,
looking as if she were ready to pop it back at the least startling
movement.

The three entered softly. Ruth seemed to be sleeping, for her eyes were
closed and she was very still. Bonbright stood at one side of her bed,
Dulac stood across from him, but they were unconscious of each other.
Both were looking downward upon Ruth. She opened her eyes, saw
Bonbright standing over her; shut them again and moved her head
impatiently. Again she opened her eyes, and looked from Bonbright to
Dulac. Her lips parted, her eyes widened... She pointed a trembling
finger at Dulac.

"Not you..." she whispered. "Not you... HIM." She moved her finger
until it indicated Bonbright.

"I don't--believe you're--really there... either of you," she said,
"but I--like to have--YOU here.... You're my husband.... I LOVE my
husband," she said, and nodded her head.

"BONBRIGHT!" whispered Hilda.

He did not need the admonition, but was on his knees beside her,
drawing her to him. He could not speak. Ruth sighed as she felt his
touch. "You're REAL," she whispered. "Is he real, too?"

"We're all real, dear," said Hilda.

"Ask HIM--please to go away, then," Ruth said, pointing to Dulac. "I
don't want to--hurt him... but he knows I--don't want him...."

"Ruth!" Dulac's utterance was a groan.

"YOU know--don't you, Hilda?... I told you--a long time ago... I never
loved--HIM at all. Isn't that--queer?... I thought I did--but--I didn't
know... It was something else... You won't feel too bad ... will you?"

Ruth looked up at Dulac. "I think you--better--go," she said, gently.
He looked at Ruth, looked at Bonbright. Then he turned and, stumbling a
little as he went, fumbling, to open the door, he obeyed. They listened
in silence to the slow descent of his footsteps; to the opening and
closing of the door, as Dulac passed out into the street.

"Poor--man!" said Ruth.

"Bonbright," said Hilda, "do you believe me now?"

He nodded. Hilda moved toward the door. "If you want her--cure her ...
Nobody else can. You've got the only medicine." And she left them alone.

"I--loved you all the time, but... I didn't know... I was going... to
tell you... and then HE died. Hilda knows. You'll... believe me, won't
you?"

"Yes," was all he could say.

"And you... want me back? You... want me to be your... wife?"

"Yes."

She sighed happily. "I'll get... well, then... It wasn't worth the--the
BOTHER before."

Neither of them spoke for a time; then she said: "I saw about it... in
the papers. It was... splendid." She used proudly the word Hilda had
found for her. "I was... proud."

Then: "You haven't... said anything. Isn't there... something you ...
ought to say?"

He bent over closer and whispered it in her ear, not once, but many
times. She shut her eyes, but her lips smiled and her fragile arms drew
his head even closer, her white hand stroked his cheek.

"If it's all... REAL," she said, "why don't you... KISS me?"

Words were not for him. Here was a moment when those symbols for
thoughts which we have agreed upon and called words, could not express
what must be expressed. As there are tones too high or too low to be
sounded on any instrument, so too there are thoughts too tender to be
expressed by words.

"Do you really... WANT me?" She wanted to be told and told again and
again. "I'll be a... nice wife," she said. "I promise... I think we'll
be... very happy."

"Yes," he said.

"I'll never... run away any more... will I?"

"No."

"You'll--keep me CLOSE?"

"Yes."

"Always?"

"Always."

"And you won't... remember ANYTHING?"

"Nothing you don't want me to."

"Tell me again... Put your... lips close to my ear... like that ... now
tell me...

"I think I'll... sleep a little now... You won't run away--while my
eyes are shut?"

"Never," he said.

"Let me put my head... on your arm... like that." She closed her eyes,
and then opened them to smile up at him. "This is... so nice," she said.

When she opened her eyes again Bonbright was still there. He had not
moved... Her smile blossomed for him again, and it was something like
her old, famous smile, but sweeter, more tender.

"I didn't... dream a bit of it," she said to herself.

Hilda came in. "We're going to take her to our house, Bonbright, till
she gets well. That's best, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"You'll come, won't you, Ruth--now?"

"If my... husband comes, too," she said.



CHAPTER XXXVI


Ruth's strength returned miraculously, for it had not been her body
that was ill, but her soul, and her soul was well now and at peace.
Once she had thought that just to be at peace would be perfect bliss.
She knew better now, for she was at peace, and happiness was hers,
besides.... It was pitiful how she clung to Bonbright, how she held him
back when he would be leaving in the morning, and how she watched the
door for his return.

Bonbright knew peace, too. Sometimes it seemed that the conflict was
over for him and that he had sailed into a sure and quiet haven where
no storm could reach him again. All that he had lacked was his;
independence was his and the possibility of developing his own
individualism. The ghosts of the ancestors were laid; Bonbright Foote,
Incorporated, was no longer a mold that sought to grasp him and turn
him into something he was not and did not wish to be. The plan was
proving itself, demonstrating its right to be. Even Malcolm Lightener
was silenced, for the thing marched. It possessed vitals. Nor had it
upset business, as Lightener once predicted. After the first tumult and
flurry labor had settled back into its old ways. The man who worked for
Bonbright Foote was envied, and that man and his family prospered and
knew a better, bigger life. The old antagonism of his employees had
vanished and he had become a figure to call out their enthusiasm. He
believed every man of them was his friend, and, more than that, he
believed he had found the solution to the great problem. He believed he
had found a way of bringing together capital and labor so that they
would lie down together like the millennial lion and lamb... All these
things made for peace. But in addition he had Ruth's love, and that
brought back his old boyishness, gave him something he had never had
before, even in his youth--a love of life, a love of living, a gladness
that awoke with him and accompanied him through his days.

When Ruth was able to sit up they began to lay out their future and to
plan plans. Already Bonbright was building a home, and the delight they
had from studying architect's drawings and changing the position of
baths and doors and closets and porches was unbelievable. Then came the
furnishing of it, and at last the moving into it.

"I'm almost glad it all happened," Ruth said.

"Yes," said Bonbright.

"We'd have been just ordinarily happy if we'd started like other
folks... But to have gone through that--and come into all this!..."

"Let's not remember it," he said. Then: "Ruth, you never make any
suggestions--about the men. You know lots more about them than I do.
You were born among them. But you just listen to me when I talk to you,
and never offer a word."

"I--I've been afraid to," she said.

"Afraid?"

"Yes... Don't you remember? It might look as if..."

He silenced her, knowing what was her thought. "I'll never think
anything about you that isn't so," he said.

"Then I'll suggest--when I think of anything. But I couldn't have
suggested any of it. I couldn't have dreamed it or hoped it. Nothing I
could have asked for them would have been as--as splendid as this."

"You believe in it?"

"More than that. I've been into their homes. They were glad to see me.
It was wonderful... Enough to eat, cleanliness, mothers at home with
their babies instead of out washing, no boarders... And no worries.
That was best. They showed me their bank accounts, or how they were
buying homes, and how quickly they were paying for them... And I was
proud when I thought it was my husband that did it."

"Lightener says it looks all right now, but it won't last. He says it's
impractical."

"He doesn't know. How could he know as well as you do? Aren't you the
greatest man in the world?" She said it half laughingly, but in her
heart she meant it.

She loved to talk business with him; to hear about the new mills and
how they were turning out engines. She discussed his project of
enlarging further, perhaps of manufacturing automobiles himself, and
urged him on. "It will give work to more men, and bring more men under
the plan," she said. That was her way of looking at it.

Hilda came often, and laughed at them, but she loved them.

"Just kids," she jeered, but she envied them and told them so. And
then, because she deserved it, there came a man into her own life, and
he loved her and she loved him. Whereupon Bonbright and Ruth returned
her jeers with interest.

More than a year went by, a year of perfection. Then came a cloud on
the horizon. Even five dollars a day and the plan did not seem to
content labor, and Bonbright became aware of it. Dulac was active
again, or, rather, he had always been active. Discontent manifested
itself.... It grew, and had to be repressed. In spite of the plan--in
spite of everything, a strike threatened, became imminent.

Ruth was thunderstruck, Bonbright bewildered. His panacea was not a
panacea, then. He studied the plan to better it, and did make minor
improvements, but in its elements it was just, fair. Bonbright could
not understand, but Malcolm Lightener understood and the professor of
sociology understood.

"I can't understand it," Bonbright said to them.

"Huh!" grunted Lightener. "It's just this: You're capital, and they're
labor. That's it in a nutshell."

"But it's fair."

"To be sure it's fair--as fair as a thing can be. But the fact remains.
Capital and labor can't get together as long as they remain capital and
labor."

The professor nodded. "You've said the thing that is, Mr. Lightener.
But it's deeper than that. It's the inevitable surge upward of
humanity. You rich men try to become richer. That is natural. You are
reaching up. Labor has a long way to climb to reach you, but it wants
to reach you. Perhaps it doesn't know it, but it does. As long as a
height remains to be climbed to, man will try to climb... Class exists.
The employer class and the employed. So long as one man can boss
another; so long as one man can say to another, 'Do this or do that,'
there will be conflict. Everybody, whether he knows it or not, wants to
be his own boss, and by as much as he is bossed he is galled ... It can
never be otherwise..."

"You knew from the beginning I would fail," said Bonbright.

"You haven't failed, my boy. You've done a fine thing; but you haven't
solved a problem that has no solution... You are upset by it now, but
after a while you'll see it and the disappointment will go. But you
haven't failed... I don't believe you will ever understand all you have
accomplished."

But Bonbright was unhappy, and he carried his unhappiness to his wife.
"It's all been futile," he said.

She was wiser than he. "No," she said, hotly, "it's been wonderful ...
Nothing was ever more wonderful. I've told you how I've visited them
and seen the new happiness--seen women happy who had never been happy
before; seen comfort where there had been nothing but misery ... It's
anything but futile, dear. You've done your best--and it was a splendid
best... If it doesn't do all you hoped, that's no sign of failure. I'm
satisfied, dear."

"They want something I can't give them."

"Nobody can give it to them... It's the way things are. I think I
understand what the professor said. It's true. You've given all you can
and done all you can.... You'd have to be God and create a new world...
Don't you see?"

"I see..." he said. "I see..."

"And you won't be unhappy about it?"

He smiled. "I'm like the men, I guess. I want more than the world has
to give me... I don't blame them. They're right."

"Yes," she said, "they're right."

It was not many weeks after this that Bonbright sat, frightened and
anxious, in the library--waiting. A nurse appeared in the door and
motioned. She smiled, and a weight passed from his heart.

Bonbright followed into Ruth's room, pausing timidly at the door.

"Come in, come in, young man. I have the pleasure to announce the safe
arrival of Bonbright Foote VIII."

Bonbright looked at Ruth, who smiled up at him and shook her head.

"Not Bonbright Foote VIII, doctor," said Bonbright, as he moved toward
his wife and son. "Plain Bonbright Foote. There are no numerals in this
family. Everyone who is born into it stands by himself... I'll have no
ancestors hanging around my boy's neck..."

"I know it," Ruth whispered in his ear, "but I was a--a teeny
bit--afraid. He's OURS--but he's more than that. He's HIS OWN... as God
wants every man to be."

THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Youth Challenges" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home