“I haven’t the least idea in the world,” she said, “whether I’ll ever want to marry you or not—and you can’t have a notion whether you’ll want me. Suppose we just don’t bother about it? We can’t avoid each other—they’ll see to that. We might as well be comfortably friendly, and not go shying off from each other. If it should happen we do want to marry each other—why, all right. But let’s just forget it. I’m sure I sha’n’t marry you just because a lot of your ancestors want me to. ... Folks don’t fall in love to order—and you can put this away carefully in your mind—when I marry it will be because I’ve fallen in love.”
“You’re very like your father,” he said.
“Rushing in where angels fear to tread, you mean? Yes, dad’s more direct than diplomatic, and I inherit it. ... Is it a bargain?”
“To be friends, and not let our mammas worry us. ... I like you.”
“Really?” he asked, diffidently.
“Really,” she said.
“I like you, too,” he said, boyishly.
“We’ll take in our Keep Off the Grass signs, then,” she said. “Mother and father seem to be going.” She stood up and extended her hand. “Good night, chum,” she said. To herself she was saying what she was too wise to say aloud: “Poor kid! A chum is what he needs.”
Bonbright’s first day in the plant had carried no suggestion from his father as to what his work was actually to be. He had merely walked about, listening to Hangar’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.