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- Youth Challenges - 50/62 -
they heard a groan he would not have denied it, for the ancestors were very real to him then... their presence was a definite fact.
"There..." he said. The king was dead. Long live the king!
It was after that he had his talk with his mother. Perhaps he was abrupt, but he dreaded that talk. Perhaps his diplomacy was faulty or lacking. Perhaps he made mistakes and failed to rise to the requirements of the conditions and of his relationship with her. He did his best.
"Mother," he said, "we must talk things over."
She sat silently, waiting for him to speak.
"Whatever you wish," he said, "I shall do... if I can."
"There is a qualification?" she said.
"Suppose you tell me what you want done," he said.
"I want you to come to your senses and realize your position," she said, coldly. "I want you to get rid of that woman and, after a decent interval, marry some suitable girl. ..."
"I was discussing your affairs, mother, not mine. We will not refer to my wife."
"All I want," she said, "is what I am entitled to as your father's widow."
"This house, of course," he said. "You will want to stay here. I want you to stay here."
"I prefer to live as I am."
"You mean you do not care to come back here?"
"You must. I insist upon it. You have caused scandal enough now. ... People would talk."
"Mother, we might as well understand each other at once. I am not Bonbright Foote VII. Let that be clear. I am Bonbright Foote. I am myself, an individual. The old way of doing things is gone. ... Perhaps you have heard of the family law--the first Bonbright's will. ... I have just torn it up."
She compressed her lips and regarded him with hostility. Then she shrugged her shoulders.
"I suppose I must make the best of it. I realize I am powerless." She realized it fully in that moment; realized that her son was a man, a man with force and a will, and that it would be hopeless to try to bring him to submit to her influence. "There is nothing for us to discuss. I shall ask for what I need. ..."
"Very well," he said, not coldly, not sharply, but sorrowfully. There was no need to try to approach nearer to his mother. She did not desire it. In her the motherly instinct did not appear. She had never given birth to a son; what she had done was to provide her husband with an heir, and, that being done, she was finished with the affair. ...
He went from his mother to his own room, where he sat down at his desk and wrote a brief letter to his wife. It was not so difficult to compose as the other one had been, but it was equally succinct, equally barren of emotion. Yet he was not barren of emotion as he wrote it.
MY DEAR RUTH [he said],-My father is dead. This makes a very material change in my financial condition, and the weekly sum I have been sending you becomes inadequate. Hereafter a suitable check will be mailed you each week until the year expires. At that time I shall make a settlement upon you which will be perfectly satisfactory. In the meantime, should you require anything, you have but to notify me, or, if you prefer, notify Mr. Manley Richmond, who will attend to it immediately.
This letter he mailed himself. ... Not many days later it was returned to him with "Not Found" stamped upon it in red ink. Bonbright fancied there must be some error, so he sent it again by messenger. The boy returned to report that the apartment was vacant and that no one could furnish the present address of the lady who had occupied it. Bonbright sent to Ruth's mother, who could only inform him that Ruth had gone away, she did not know where, and such goings- on she never saw, and why she should be asked to bear more than she had borne was a mystery..--
There was but one conclusion for Bonbright. Ruth had been too impatient to wait for the year to expire and had gone away with Dulac. ...
Hilda could have corrected that belief, but he did not see Hilda, had not seen her, for his new duties and new problems and responsibilities occupied him many more hours a day than any labor union or legislature would have permitted an employee to be required to work. His hours of labor did not stop with the eighth nor with the tenth. ... There were days when they began with daylight and continued almost to daylight again.
Ruth had gone with Dulac. ... She was hidden away. Not even Hilda Lightener knew where she was, but Hilda knew why she had gone. ... There is an instinct in most animals and some humans which compels them to hide away when they suffer wounds. Hilda knew Ruth had crept away because she had suffered the hardest to bear of all wounds--and crushing of hope. ...
She had gone the morning after Bonbright's father died, leaving no word but that she was going, and she had not gone far. It is simple to lose oneself in a city. One may merely move to the next ward and be lost to one's friends. Only chance will cause a meeting, and Ruth was determined to guard against that chance.
She found a cheap, decent boarding house, among laboring people; she found a new position... that was all. She had to live; to continue was required of her, but it must be among strangers. She could face existence where there were no pitying eyes; where there was none to remind her of her husband. ... She hid away with her love, and coddled it and held it up for herself to see. She lived for it. It was her life. ... Even at her darkest moment she was glad she loved. She devoted herself wholly to that love which had been discovered just too late--which was not the wise nor the healthful thing to do, as any physician could have informed her.
For a few days after the commencement of his reign Bonbright remained quiescent. It was not through uncertainty, nor because he did not know what he was going to do. It was because he wanted to be sure of the best way of doing it. Very little of his time was spent in the room that had been his father's and was now his own; he walked about the plant, studying, scrutinizing, appraising, comparing. He did not go about now as he had done with Rangar on the day his father inducted him into the dignity of heir apparent and put a paper crown on his head and a wooden scepter in his hand.
He was aware that the men eyed him morosely. Bitterness was still alive in their hearts, and the recollection of suffering fresh in their minds. They still looked at him as a sort of person his father had made him appear, and viewed his succession as a calamity. The old regime had been bad enough, they told one another, but this young man, with his ruthlessness, his heartlessness, with what seemed to be a savage desire to trample workingmen into unresisting, unprotesting submission--this would be intolerable. So they scowled at him, and in their homes talked to their wives with apprehension of dark days ahead.
He felt their attitude. It could not be helped--yet. His work could not be started with the men, it must start elsewhere. He would come to the men later, in good time, in their proper order.
His third morning in the office he had called Malcolm Lightener on the telephone.
"Is your proposition to manufacture ten thousand engines still open?"
"I'll take the contract--providing we can arrive at terms."
"I'll send over blue prints and specifications--and my cost figures. Probably our costs will be lower than yours. ..."
"They won't be," said Bonbright, with a tightening of his jaw. "Can you lend me Mershon for a while?" Mershon was Lightener's engineer, the man who had designed and built his great plant.
"I can't, but I will."
"As soon as he can arrange it, please. I want to get started."
"He'll be there in half an hour."
Mershon came, a gray, beefy, heavy-faced man--with clear, keen, seeing eyes.
"Mr. Lightener has loaned you to me, Mr. Mershon. It was a tremendous favor, for I know what you can do."
Mershon nodded. He was a man who treasured up words. He must have had a great store of them laid by, for in his fifty years he had used up surprisingly few.
"This is what I want," Bonbright said. "First, I want a plant designed with a capacity of twenty thousand Lightener engines. You designed Lightener's engine plant--so you're about the one man to give me one that will turn out more engines with less labor and at lower cost than his. That's what I want."
Mershon's eyes lighted. "It will cost money," he said.
"I'll find the money; you give me the plant," Bonbright said. "And
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