“That’s all right, Bubbles,” said the legless man after a pause. “It hits hard, but it’s all right. And whether you said it or not, it was coming to me, and I knew it. Do you mind if I send you books and things now and then? There was a book I had when I was a boy. I’d like you to have it. Don’t know what reminds me of it—unless it’s you. It’s the story of a Frenchman, Bayard—they called him the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. That’s French. The book tells what it means. You better go now. I’m talking against time. I haven’t got the same control of my nerves I used to have. I’m all broken up, my boy. But you’re dead right—dead right. I say so, and I think so. You’re to go to boarding-school. That’s good. They won’t teach you any evil.”
He did not offer his hand, and the boy was glad.
“Well, good-by,” he said uneasily, reached the door, turned, and came back a little way. “Wish you good luck,” he said.
Blizzard lowered his formidable head almost reverently. “Thank you,” he said.
Poor Bubbles, he began to whistle before he was out of the building; it wasn’t from heartlessness, it was from pure discomfort and remorse. Anyway, his father heard the shrill piping—and he sat and looked straight ahead of him, and his face was as that of Satan fallen—fallen, and hell fires licked into the marrow of his bones.
So Rose found him, and flung herself upon his breast with a cry of yearning, and his heavy sorrowed head nestled closer and closer to hers, and he burst suddenly into a great storm of weeping.
But the legless man was not one who easily or often gave way to grief. He retained all of that will-power which had made him so potent for evil, and he used it now to force cheerfulness out of discouragement and sorrow. Just what he proposed to do with his life is difficult to expose, for his plans kept changing, as almost all plans do, in the working out.
His remodelled factory will serve for an example. It began as a place in which the East Side maiden could earn enough money to keep body and soul together without scotching either. Still keeping to this idea, Blizzard kept brightening conditions, and letting in light—figuratively and actually. And he proved that short hours, high pay, and worth-while profits may be made to keep company. It all depends on how much willingness and efficiency are crowded into the short hours. Employment in Blizzard’s factory became a distinction, like membership in an exclusive club, and carried with it so many privileges of comfort and self-respect that the employees couldn’t very well help being efficient.