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.”