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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 297 pages of information about Youth Challenges.

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.

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