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Youth Challenges

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Bonbright Foote VI arose and stood behind the long table which served him as a desk and extended his hand across it. His bearing was that of 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 in this firm." Then he smiled. When Bonbright Foote VI smiled it was as though he said to himself, "To smile one must do thus and so with the features," and then systematically put into practice his instructions. It was a cultured smile, one that could have been smiled only by a gentleman conscious of generations of correct antecedents; it was an aristocratic smile. On the whole it was not unpleasant, though so excellently and formally done.

"Thank you, father," replied Bonbright Foote VII. "I hope I shall be of some use to you."

"Your office is ready for you," said his father, stepping to a door which 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 at the head of the business—since I moved from the desk you are to occupy to the one in this room. It will not be closed again until the time arrives for you to assume command. We have—we Footes—always regarded this open door as a patent token of partnership between father and son."

Young Foote was well acquainted with this—as a piece of his family's regalia. He knew he was about to enter and to labor in the office of the heir apparent, a room which had been tenantless since the death of his grandfather and the consequent coronation of his father. Such was the custom. For twelve years that office had been closed and waiting. None had ventured into it, except for a janitor whose weekly dustings and cleanings had been performed with scrupulous care. He knew that Bonbright Foote VI had occupied the room for seventeen years. Before that it had stood vacant eleven years awaiting for Bonbright Foote VI to reach such age and attainments as were essential. Young Foote realized that upon the death of his father the office would be closed again until his son, Bonbright Foote VIII, should be equipped, by time and the university founded by John Harvard, to enter as he was entering to-day. So the thing had been done since the first Bonbright Foote invested Bonbright Foote II with dignities and powers.

Father and son entered the long-closed office, a large, indeed a stately room. It contained the same mahogany table at which Bonbright Foote II had worked; the same chairs, the same fittings, the same pictures hung on the walls, that had been the property of the first crown prince of the Foote dynasty. It was not a bright place, suggestive of liveliness or gayety, but it was decorously inviting—a place in which one could work with comfort and satisfaction.

"Let me see you at your desk," said the father, smiling again. "I have looked forward to seeing you there, just as you will look forward to seeing YOUR son there."

Bonbright sat down, wondering if his father had felt oppressed as HE felt oppressed at this moment....