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.”