“You’re welcome, Mr. Lightener. Glad I kin accommodate you.”
Lightener pushed Bonbright into his limousine. “You don’t want to go home, I guess. We’ll go to my house. Mother’ll see you get breakfast. ... Then we’ll have a talk. ... Here’s a paper boy; let’s see what’s doing.”
It was the morning penny paper that Lightener bought, the paper with leanings toward the proletariat, the veiled champion of labor. He bought it daily.
“Huh!” he grunted, as he scanned the first page. “They kind of allude to you.”
Bonbright looked. He saw a two-column head:
The next pyramid contained his name; the story related how he had rushed frantically to the police after they had barbarously charged a harmless gathering of workingmen, trampling and maiming half a dozen, and had demanded that they charge again. It was a long story, with infinite detail, crucifying him with cheap ink; making him appear a ruthless, heartless monster, lusting for the spilled blood of the innocent.
Bonbright looked up to meet Lightener’s eyes.
“It—it isn’t fair,” he said, chokingly.
“Fairness,” said Lightener, almost with gentleness, “is expected only when we are young.”
“But I didn’t. ... I tried to stop them.”
“Don’t try to tell anybody so—you won’t be believed.”
“I’m going to tell somebody,” said Bonbright, his mind flashing to Ruth Frazer, “and I’m going to be believed. I’ve got to be believed.”
After a while he said: “I wasn’t taking sides. I just went there to see. If I’ve got to hire men all my life I want to understand them.”
“You’ve got to take sides, son. There’s no straddling the fence in this world. ... And as soon as you’ve taken sides your own side is all you’ll understand. Nobody ever understood the other side.”
“But can’t there ever be an understanding? Won’t capital ever understand labor, or labor capital?”
“I suppose a philosopher would say there is no difference upon which agreement can’t be reached; that there must somewhere be a common meeting ground. ... The Bible says the lion shall lie down with the lamb, but I don’t expect to live to see him do it without worrying some about the lion’s teeth.”
“It’s one man holding power over other men,” said Bonbright.
As the car stopped at Malcolm Lightener’s door, sudden panic seized Bonbright.
“I ought not to come here,” he said, “after last night. Mrs. Lightener... your daughter.”
“I’ll bet Hilda’s worrying you more than her mother. Nonsense! They both got sense.”
Certainly Mrs. Lightener had.
“Just got him out of the police station,” her husband said as he led the uncomfortable Bonbright into her presence. “Been shut up all night. ... Rioting—that’s what he’s been doing. Throwing stones at the cops.”