“Yes, indeed—but a girl! It has been the custom for the members of the firm to employ only men.”
Bonbright looked steadily at Rangar a moment, then said:
“Please have that girl notified at once that she is to be my secretary.”
“Yes, sir,” said Rangar. The boy was going to prove difficult. He owned a will. Well, thought the man, others may have had it in the family before—but it has not remained long.
“Anything more, Mr. Foote?”
“Thank you, no,” said Bonbright, and Rangar said good evening and disappeared.
The boy rested his chin on his hand again, and reflected gloomily. He hunched up his shoulders and sighed. “Anyhow,” he said to himself, “I’ll have somebody around me who is human.”
Bonbright’s father had left the office an hour before he and Rangar had finished their tour of the works. It was always his custom to leave his business early and to retire to the library in his home, where daily he devoted two hours to adding to the manuscript of The Philosophical Biography of Marquis Lafayette. This work was ultimately to appear in several severe volumes and was being written, not so much to enlighten the world upon the details of the career of the marquis as it was to utilize the marquis as a clotheshorse to be dressed in Bonbright Foote VI’s mature reflections on men, events, and humanity at large.
Bonbright VII sat at his desk motionless, studying his career as it lay circumscribed before him. He did not study it rebelliously, for as yet rebellion had not occurred to him. The idea that he might assert his individuality and depart from the family pattern had not ventured to show its face. For too many years had his ancestors been impressing him with his duty to the family traditions. He merely studied it, as one who has no fancy for geometry will study geometry, because it cannot be helped. The path was there, carefully staked out and bordered; to-day his feet had been placed on it, and now he must walk. As he sat he looked ahead for bypaths—none were visible.
The shutting-down whistle aroused him. He walked out through the rapidly emptying office to the street, and there he stood, interested by the spectacle of the army that poured out of the employees’ entrances. It was an inundation of men, flooding street from sidewalk to sidewalk. It jostled and joked and scuffled, sweating, grimy, each unit of it eager to board waiting, overcrowded street cars, where acute discomfort would be suffered until distant destinations were reached. Somehow the sight of that surging, tossing stream of humanity impressed Bonbright with the magnitude of Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, even more than the circuit of the immense plant had done.
Five thousand men, in a newspaper paragraph, do not affect the imagination. Five thousand men in the concrete are quite another matter, especially if you suddenly realize that each of them has a wife, probably children, and that the whole are dependent upon the dynasty of which you are a member for their daily bread.