The Rules of the Game by Stewart Edward White
To Bob's father Welton expressed himself in somewhat different terms. The two men met at the Auditorium Annex, where they promptly adjourned to the Palm Room and a little table.
"Now, Jack," the lumberman replied to his friend's expostulation, "I know just as well as you do that the kid isn't capable yet of handling a proposition on his own hook. It's just for that reason that I put him in charge."
"And Welton isn't an Irish name, either," murmured Jack Orde.
"What? Oh, I see. No; and that isn't an Irish bull, either. I put him in charge so he'd have to learn something. He's a good kid, and he'll take himself dead serious. He'll be deciding everything that comes up all for himself, and he'll lie awake nights doing it. And all the time things will be going on almost like he wasn't there!"
Welton paused to chuckle in his hearty manner.
"You see, I've brought that crew up in the business. Mason is as good a mill man as they make; and Tally's all right in the woods and on the river; and I reckon it would be difficult to take a nick out of Collins in office work."
"In other words, Bob is to hold the ends of the reins while these other men drive," said his father, vastly amused. "That's more like it. I'd hate to bury a green man under too much responsibility."
"No," denied Welton, "it isn't that exactly. Somebody's got to boss the rest of 'em. And Bob certainly is a wonder at getting the men to like him and to work for him. That's his strong point. He gets on with them, and he isn't afraid to tell 'em when he thinks they're 'sojering' on him. That makes me think: I wonder what kind of ornaments these waiters are supposed to be." He rapped sharply on the little table with his pocket-knife.
"It's up to him," he went on, after the waiter had departed. "If he's too touchy to acknowledge his ignorance on different points that come up, and if he's too proud to ask questions when he's stumped, why, he's going to get in a lot of trouble. If he's willing to rely on his men for knowledge, and will just see that everybody keeps busy and sees that they bunch their hits, why, he'll get on well enough."
"It takes a pretty wise head to make them bunch their hits," Orde pointed out, "and a heap of figuring."
"It'll keep him mighty busy, even at best," acknowledged Welton, "and he's going to make some bad breaks. I know that."
"Bad breaks cost money," Orde reminded him.
"So does any education. Even at its worst this can't cost much money. He can't wreck things--the organization is too good--he'll just make 'em wobble a little. And this is a mighty small and incidental proposition, while this California lay-out is a big project. No, by my figuring Bob won't actually do much, but he'll lie awake nights to do a hell of a lot of deciding, and----."
"Oh, I know," broke in Orde with a laugh; "you haven't changed an inch in twenty years--and 'it's not doing but deciding that makes a man,'" he quoted.
"Well, isn't it?" demanded Welton insistently.
"Of course," agreed Orde with another laugh. "I was just tickled to see you hadn't changed a hair. Now if you'd only moralize on square pegs in round holes, I'd hear again the birds singing in the elms by the dear old churchyard."
Welton grinned, a trifle shamefacedly. Nevertheless he went on with the development of his philosophy.
"Well," he asserted stoutly, "that's just what Bob was when I got there. He can't handle figures any better than I can, and Collins had been putting him through a course of sprouts." He paused and sipped at his glass. "Of course, if I wasn't absolutely certain of the men under him, it would be a fool proposition. Bob isn't the kind to get onto treachery or double-dealing very quick. He likes people too well. But as it is, he'll get a lot of training cheap."
Orde ruminated over this for some time, sipping slowly between puffs at his cigar.
"Why wouldn't it be better to take him out to California now?" he asked at length. "You'll be building your roads and flumes and railroad, getting your mill up, buying your machinery and all the rest of it. That ought to be good experience for him--to see the thing right from the beginning."
"Bob is going to be a lumberman, and that isn't lumbering; it's construction. Once it's up, it will never have to be done again. The California timber will last out Bob's lifetime, and you know it. He'd better learn lumbering, which he'll do for the next fifty years, than to build a mill, which he'll never have to do again--unless it burns up," he added as a half-humorous afterthought.
"Correct," Orde agreed promptly to this. "You're a wonder. When I found a university with my ill-gotten gains, I'll give you a job as professor of--well, of Common Sense, by jiminy!"