“I don’t know.”
“Will your father raise the devil? Maybe you’d like to have me go along when you interview him.”
“I think I’d rather not.”
Lightener nodded with satisfaction.
“Well, then—I’ve kind of taken a shine to you. You’re a young idiot, all right, but there’s something about you. ... Let’s start off with this: You’ve got something that’s apt to get you into hot water. Either it’s fool curiosity or genuine interest in folks. I don’t know which. Neither fits into the Bonbright Foote formula. Six generations of ’em seem to have been whittled off the same chip—and then the knife slipped and you came off some other chip altogether. But the Foote chip don’t know it, and won’t recognize it if it does. ... I’m not going to criticize your father or your ancestors, whatever kind of darn fools I may personally think they are. What I want to say is, if you ever kick over the traces, drop in and tell me about it. I’ll see you on your road.”
“Thanks,” said Bonbright, not half comprehending.
“You can’t keep on pressing men out of the same mold forever. Maybe you can get two or three or a dozen to be as like as peas—and then nature plays a joke on you. You’re the joke on the Foote mold, I reckon. Maybe they can squeeze you into the form and maybe they can’t. ... But whatever happens is going to be darn unpleasant for you.”
Bonbright nodded. That he knew well.
“You’ve got a choice. You can start in by kicking over the traces— with the mischief to pay; or you can let the vanished Footes take a crack at you to see what that can make of you. I advise no boy to run against his father’s wishes. But everybody starts out with something in him that’s his own—individual—peculiar to him. Maybe it’s what the preachers call his soul. Anyhow, it’s his. Whatever they do to you, try to hang on to it. Don’t let anybody pump it out of you and fill its room with a standardized solution. Get me?”
“I think so.”
“I guess that’s about, all from me. Now run along to your dad. Got any idea what will happen?”
Bonbright studied the rug more than a minute before he answered.
“I think I was right last night. Maybe I didn’t go about it the way I should, but I intended right. At least I didn’t intend wrong. Father will be—displeased. I don’t think I can explain it to him ... "
“Uh!” grunted Lightener.
“So I—I guess I sha’n’t try,” Bonbright ended. “I think I’ll go along and have it over with.”
When he was gone Malcolm Lightener made the following remark to his wife, who seemed to understand it perfectly:
“Some sons get born into the wrong families.”
Bonbright entered his office with the sensations of a detected juvenile culprit approaching an unavoidable reckoning. If there was a ray of brightness in the whole episode it was that the newspapers had miraculously been denied the meatiest bit of his night’s adventure— his detention in a cell. If that had been flaunted before the eyes of the public Bonbright felt he would never have been able to face his father.