As for Bonbright Foote VI, he was frightened. No other word can describe his sensations. The idea that his son might marry—actually marry—this girl, was appalling. If the boy should actually take such an unthinkable step before he could be prevented, what a situation would arise!
“Of course it wouldn’t last,” he said to himself. “Such marriages never do. ... But while it did last—And there might be a child—a son!” A Bonbright Foote VIII come of such a mother, with base blood in his veins! He drew his aristocratic shoulders together as though he felt a chill.
“When he comes back,” Mr. Foote said, “we’ll have this thing out.”
But Bonbright did not come back that day, nor was he visible at home that night. ... The next day dragged by and still he did not appear. ...
Ruth Frazer had been working nearly two months for Malcolm Lightener, and she liked the place. It had been a revelation to her following her experience with Bonbright Foote, Incorporated. It interested her, fascinated her. There was an atmosphere in the tremendous offices—a tension, a snappiness, an alertness, an efficiency that made Bonbright Foote, Incorporated, seem an anachronism; as belonging in an earlier, more leisurely, less capable century. There was a spirit among the workers totally lacking in her former place of employment; there was an attitude in superiors, and most notable in Malcolm Lightener himself, which was so different from that of Mr. Foote that it seemed impossible. Foote held himself aloof from contacts with his help and his business. Malcolm Lightener was everywhere, interested in everything, mixing into everything. And though she perceived his granite qualities, experienced his brusqueness, his gruffness, she, in common with the office, felt for him something that was akin to affection. He was the sort to draw forth loyalty.
Her first encounter with him occurred a couple of days after her arrival in the office. She was interrupted in the transcription of a letter by a stern voice behind her, saying:
“You’re young Foote’s anarchist, aren’t you?”
She looked up frightened into the unsmiling eyes of Malcolm Lightener.
“Mr. Foote—got me my place here,” she said, hesitatingly.
“Here—take this letter.” And almost before she could snatch book and pencil he was dictating, rapidly, dynamically. When Malcolm Lightener dictated a letter he did it as though he were making a public speech, with emphasis and gesture. “There,” he said, “read it back to me.”
She did, her voice unsteady.
“Spell isosceles,” he demanded.
She managed the feat accurately.
“Uh! ... That usually gets ’em. ... Needn’t transcribe that letter. Like it here?”
She looked up at him, considering the matter. Why did she like it there? “Because,” she said, slowly, “it doesn’t seem like just a—a— big, grinding machine, and the people working here like wheels and pulleys and little machines. It all feels alive, and—and—we feel like human beings.”