As Bonbright walked away from his father’s house he came into possession for the first time of the word responsibility. It was defined for him as no dictionary could define it. Every young man meets a day when responsibility becomes to him something more than a combination of letters, and when it comes he can never be the same again. It marks definitely the arrival of manhood, the dropping behind of youth. He can never look upon life through the same eyes. Forever, now, he must peer round and beyond each pleasure to see what burden it entails and conceals. He must weigh each act with reference to the responsibility that rests upon him. Hitherto he had been swimming in life’s pleasant, safe, shaded pools; now he finds himself struggling in the great river, tossed by currents, twirled by eddies, and with no bottom upon which to rest his feet. Forever now it will be swim—or sink. ...
To-morrow Bonbright was to undertake the responsibilities of family headship and provider; to-night he had sundered himself from his means of support. He was jobless. He belonged to the unemployed. ... In the office he had heard without concern of this man or that man being discharged. Now he knew how those men felt and what they faced.
Realization of his condition threw him into panic. In his panic he allowed his feet to carry him to the man whose help had come readily and willingly in another moment of need—to Malcolm Lightener.
The hour was still early. Lights shone in the Lightener home and Bonbright approached the door. Mr. Lightener was in and would see him in the office. It was characteristic of Lightener that the room in the house which was peculiarly his own was called by him his office, not his den, not the library. ... There were two interests in Lightener’s life—his family and his business, and he stirred them together in a quaintly granite sort of way.
For the second time that evening Bonbright stood hesitating in a doorway.
“Well, young fellow?” said Lightener. Then seeing the boy’s hesitation: “Come in. Come in. What’s happened now?”
“Mr. Lightener,” said Bonbright, “I want a job. I’ve got to have a job.”
“Um!... Job! What’s the matter with the job you’ve got?”
“I haven’t any job. ... I—I’m through with Bonbright Foote, Incorporated—forever.”
“That’s a darn long time. Sit down. Waiting for it to pass will be easier that way. ... Now spit it out.” He was studying the boy with his bright gray eyes, wondering if this was the row he had been expecting. He more than half hoped, as he would have expressed it, “that the kid had got his back up.” Bonbright’s face, his bearing, made Lightener believe his back was up.
“I’ve got to have a job—”
“You said that once. Why?”
“I’m going to be married to-morrow—”