“If you would own up to it, you’re unhappy. You’re being made miserable. ... Why, you’re being treated worse than the strikers—and by your own father! ... Everybody has a right to be himself.”
“You say that, but father and the generations of Footes before him say the exact opposite. ... However, I’m not the question. All I wanted to do was to explain to you about last night. You believe me?”
“Of course. And I shall tell—”
He shook his head. “I’d rather you didn’t. Indeed, you mustn’t. As long as I am here I must stick by my family. Don’t you see? I wanted you to know. My explanation was for you alone.”
Rangar appeared in the door—quietly as it was his wont to move. “Pardon,” he said. “Your father wishes to speak to you, Mr. Foote.”
“One moment, Miss Frazer. I have some letters,” Bonbright said, and stepped into his father’s office.
“Bonbright,” said his father, “Rangar has just discovered that your secretary—this Miss Frazer—lives in the same house with Dulac the strike leader. ... She comes of a family of disturbers herself. Probably she is very useful to Dulac where she is. Therefore you will dismiss her at once.”
“You will dismiss her at once—personally.”
A second time that day the eyes of father and son locked.
Bonbright’s face was colorless; he felt his lips tremble.
“At once,” said his father, tapping his desk with his finger.
Bonbright’s sensation was akin to that of falling through space— there seemed nothing to cling to, nothing by which to sustain himself. How utterly futile he was was borne in upon him! He could not resist. Protestation would only humiliate him. He turned slowly and walked into his own room, where he stood erect before his desk.
“Miss Frazer,” he said in a level, timbreless voice, “the labor leader Dulac lives in your house. You come of a family of labor agitators. Therefore you are discharged.”
“What?” she exclaimed, the unexpectedness of it upsetting her poise.
“You are discharged,” he repeated; and then, turning his back on her, he walked to the window, where he stood tense, tortured by humiliation, gazing down upon a street which he could not see.
Ruth gathered her book and pencils and stood up. She moved slowly to the door without speaking, but there she stopped, turned, and looked at Bonbright. There was neither dismay nor anger in her eyes—only sympathy. But she did not speak it aloud. “Poor boy!” she whispered to herself, and stepped out into the corridor.