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Publié le 08 décembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 191
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Youth Challenges, by Clarence B Kelland
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Title: Youth Challenges
Author: Clarence B Kelland
Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5797][Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule][This file was first posted on September 2, 2002]
Edition: 10
Language: English
Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
Youth Challenges
"The Little Moment of Happiness," "The High Flyers," "Sudden Jim," "The Source," "The Hidden Spring," etc.
Bonbright Foote VI arose and stood behind the long table which servedhim as a desk and extended his hand across it. His bearing was thatof a man taking a leading part in an event of historic importance.
"My son," said he, "it gratifies me to welcome you to your place inthis firm." Then he smiled. When Bonbright Foote VI smiled it was asthough he said to himself, "To smile one must do thus and so with thefeatures," and then systematically put into practice hisinstructions. It was a cultured smile, one that could have beensmiled only by a gentleman conscious of generations of correctantecedents; it was an aristocratic smile. On the whole it was notunpleasant, though so excellently and formally done.
"Thank you, father," replied Bonbright Foote VII. "I hope I shall beof some use to you."
"Your office is ready for you," said his father, stepping to a doorwhich he unlocked with the gravity of a man laying a corner stone."This door," said he, "has not been opened since I took my place atthe head of the business—since I moved from the desk you are tooccupy to the one in this room. It will not be closed again until thetime arrives for you to assume command. We have—we Footes—alwaysregarded this open door as a patent token of partnership betweenfather and son."
Young Foote was well acquainted with this—as a piece of his family'sregalia. He knew he was about to enter and to labor in the office ofthe heir apparent, a room which had been tenantless since the deathof his grandfather and the consequent coronation of his father. Suchwas the custom. For twelve years that office had been closed andwaiting. None had ventured into it, except for a janitor whose weeklydustings and cleanings had been performed with scrupulous care. Heknew that Bonbright Foote VI had occupied the room for seventeenyears. Before that it had stood vacant eleven years awaiting forBonbright Foote VI to reach such age and attainments as wereessential. Young Foote realized that upon the death of his father theoffice would be closed again until his son, Bonbright Foote VIII,should be equipped, by time and the university founded by JohnHarvard, to enter as he was entering to-day. So the thing had beendone since the first Bonbright Foote invested Bonbright Foote II withdignities and powers.
Father and son entered the long-closed office, a large, indeed astately room. It contained the same mahogany table at which BonbrightFoote II had worked; the same chairs, the same fittings, the samepictures hung on the walls, that had been the property of the firstcrown prince of the Foote dynasty. It was not a bright place,suggestive of liveliness or gayety, but it was decorously inviting—aplace in which one could work with comfort and satisfaction.
"Let me see you at your desk," said the father, smiling again. "Ihave looked forward to seeing you there, just as you will lookforward to seeing YOUR son there."
Bonbright sat down, wondering if his father had felt oppressed as HEfelt oppressed at this moment. He had a feeling of stepping from oneexistence into another, almost of stepping from one body, oneidentity, to another. When he sat at that desk he would be taking up,not his own career, but the career of the entity who had occupiedthis office through generations, and would occupy it in perpetualsuccession. Vaguely he began to miss something. The sensation waslike that of one who has long worn a ring on his finger, but omits toput it on one morning. For that person there is a vague sense ofsomething missing throughout the day. Bonbright did not know what hefelt the lack of—it was his identity.
"For the next month or so," said his father, "about all you can hopeto do is to become acquainted with the plant and with our methods.Rangar will always be at your disposal to explain or to give youdesired information. I think it would be well if he were to conductyou through the plant. It will give you a basis to work from."
"The plant is still growing, I see," said Bonbright. "It seems as ifa new building were being put up every time I come home."
"Yes, growing past the prophecy of any of our predecessors," said hisfather. He paused. "I am not certain," he said, as one who asks aquestion of his inner self, "but I would have preferred a slower,more conservative growth."
"The automobile has done it, of course."
"Axles," said his father, with a hint of distaste. "The manufacturingof rear axles has overshadowed everything else. We retain as much ofthe old business—the manufacturing of machinery—as ever. Indeed,THAT branch has shown a healthy growth. But axles! A mushroom thathas overgrown us in a night."
It was apparent that Bonbright Foote VI did not approve of axles, asit was a known fact that he frowned upon automobiles. He would notown one of them. They were too new, too blatant. His stables werestill stables. His coachman had not been transmuted into a chauffeur.When he drove it was in a carriage drawn by horses—as his ancestorshad driven.
"Yes… yes…" he said, slowly, with satisfaction, "it is good tohave you in the business, son. It's a satisfaction to see you sittingthere…. Now we must look about to find a suitable girl for you tomarry. We must begin to think about Bonbright Foote VIII." There wasno smile as he said this; the observation was made in sober earnest.Bonbright saw that, just as his ancestors looked to him to carry onthe business, so they looked to him to produce with all convenientdispatch a male successor to himself. It was, so to speak, animportant feature of his job.
"I'll send in Rangar," said his father, not waiting for Bonbright toreply to the last suggestion, and walked with long-legged dignity outof the room.
Bonbright rested his chin on his palm and stared gloomily at thewall. He felt bound and helpless; he saw himself surrounded by firmand dignified shades of departed Bonbright Footes whose collectivewills compelled him to this or prohibited that course of action.
Adventure, chance, were eliminated from his life. He was to be noerrant musician, improvising according to his mood; the score he wasto play was before him, and he must play it note for note, payingstrict attention to rests, keys, andantes, fortissimos, pianissimos.He had been born to this, had been made conscious of his destiny frombabyhood, but never had he comprehended it as he did on this day ofhis investiture.
Even the selection and courting of a mate, that greatest of alladventures (to the young), was made humdrum. Doubtless his motheralready had selected the girl, and presently would marry him to her.… Somehow this was the one phase of the situation that galled himmost.
"I'll see about that," he muttered, rebelliously, "I'll see aboutthat."
Not that marriage was of importance to him yet, except as a thing tobe avoided until some dim future. Women had not assumed consequenceto him; his relations with them had been scant surface relations.They were creatures who did or did not please the eye, who did or didnot dance well, who did or did not amuse one. That was all. He wasonly twenty-three.
Rangar, his father's secretary, and the man who stood as shieldbetween Bonbright Foote VI and unpleasant contacts with his businessand the world's business, entered. Rangar was a capable man whoseplace as secretary to the head of the business did not measure hisimportance in the organization. Another man of his abilities andopportunity and position would have carried the title of generalmanager or vice president—something respect-carrying. As for Rangar,he was content. He drew the salary that would have accompanied thoseother titles, possessed in an indirect sort of way the authority, andyet managed to remain disentangled from the responsibilities. Had hesuddenly vanished the elder Foote would have been left suspended inrarefied heights between heaven and his business, lacking directcontact with the mills a

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