The Walking Delegate – Calumet “K”, Chapter 5
It was nearly five o’clock when Bannon appeared at the elevator on Thursday. He at once sought Peterson.
“Well, what luck did you have?” he asked. “Did you get my message?”
“Your message? Oh, sure. You said the cribbing was coming down by boat. I don’t see how, though. Ledyard ain’t on the lake.”
“Well, it’s coming just the same, two hundred thousand feet of it. What have you done about it?”
“Oh, we’ll be ready for it, soon’s it gets here.”
They were standing at the north side of the elevator near the paling fence which bounded the C. & S. C. right of way. Bannon looked across the tracks to the wharf; the pile of timber was still there.
“Did you have any trouble with the railroad when you took your stuff across for the spouting house?” he asked.
“Not much of any. The section boss came around and talked a little, but we only opened the fence in one place, and that seemed to suit him.”
Bannon was looking about, calculating with his eye the space that was available for the incoming lumber.
“How’d you manage that business, anyway?” asked Peterson.
“The cribbing. How’d you get it to the lake?”
“Oh, that was easy. I just carried it off.”
“Yes, you did!”
“Look here, Pete, that timber hasn’t got any business out there on the wharf. We’ve got to have that room for the cribbing.”
“That’s all right. The steamer won’t get in much before to-morrow night, will it?”
“We aren’t doing any banking on that. I’ve got a notion that the Pages aren’t sending out any six-mile-an-hour scow to do their quick work. That timber’s got to come over here to-night. May as well put it where the carpenters can get right at it. We’ll be on the cupola before long, anyhow.”
“But it’s five o’clock already. There’s the whistle.”
Bannon waited while the long blast sounded through the crisp air. Then he said:—
“Offer the men double pay, and tell them that any man can go home that wants to, right now, but if they say they’ll stay, they’ve got to see it through.”
Already the laborers were hurrying toward the tool house in a long, irregular line. Peterson started toward the office, to give the word to the men before they could hand in their time checks.
The foreman turned; Vogel was approaching.
“I wanted to see about that cribbing bill. How much of it’s coming down by boat?”
“Two hundred thousand. You’d better help Peterson get that timber out of the way. We’re holding the men.”
“Yes, I’ve been waiting for directions about that. We can put a big gang on it, and snake it across in no time.”
“You’ll have to open up the fence in half a dozen places, and put on every man you’ve got. There’s no use in making an all-night job of it.”
“I’m afraid we’ll have trouble with the railroad.”
“No, we won’t. If they kick, you send them to me. Are your arc lights in?”
“Yes, all but one or two. They were going to finish it to-day, but they ain’t very spry about it.”
“Tell you what you do, Max; you call them up and tell them we want a man to come out here and stay for a while. I may want to move the lights around a little. And, anyhow, they may as well clean up their job and have it done with.”
He was starting back after the returning laborers when Max said:—
“I heard you speaking about a stenographer the other day.”
“Yes—what about it? Haven’t you got one yet?”
“No, but I know of one that could do the work first-rate.”
“I want a good one—he’s got to keep time besides doing the office work.”
“Yes, I thought of that. I don’t suppose she——”
“She? We can’t have any shes on this job.”
“Well, it’s like this, Mr. Bannon; she’s an A1 stenographer and bookkeeper; and as for keeping the time, why, I’m out on the job all day anyhow, and I reckon I could take care of it without cutting into my work.”
Bannon looked quizzically down at him.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said slowly. “Just look around at this gang of men—you know the likes of them as well as I do—and then talk to me about bringing a girl on the job.” He his head. “I reckon it’s some one you’re interested in.”
“Yes,” said Max, “it’s my sister.”
Max evidently did not intend to be turned off. As he stood awaiting a reply—his broad, flat features, his long arms and bow legs with their huge hands and feet, his fringe of brick-red hair cropping out behind his cap, each contributing to the general appearance of utter homeliness—a faint smile came over Bannon’s face. The half-formed thought was in his mind, “If she looks anything like that, I guess she’s safe.” He was silent for a moment, then he said abruptly:—
“When can she start?”
“All right. We’ll try it for a day or so and see how it goes. Tell that boy in the office that he can charge his time up to Saturday night, but he needn’t stay around any longer.”
Max hurried away. Group after group of laborers, peavies or cant-hooks on shoulders, were moving slowly past him toward the wharf. It was already nearly dark, and the arc lights on the elevator structure, and on the spouting house, beyond the tracks, were flaring. He started toward the wharf, walking behind a score of the laborers.
From the east, over the flats and marshes through which the narrow, sluggish river wanders to Lake Michigan, came the hoarse whistle of a steamer. Bannon turned and looked. His view was blocked by some freight cars that were standing on the C. & S. C tracks at some distance to the east. He ran across the tracks and out on the wharf, climbing on the timber pile, where Peterson and his gang were rolling down the big sticks with cant-hooks. Not a quarter of a mile away was a big steamer, ploughing slowly up the river; the cough of her engines and the swash of the churning water at her bow and stern could be plainly heard. Peterson stopped work for a moment, and joined him.
“Well,” Bannon said, “we’re in for it now. I never thought they’d make such time as this.”
“She can lay up here all night till morning, I guess.”
Bannon was thinking hard.
“No,” he finally said, “she can’t. There ain’t any use of wasting all day to-morrow unloading that cribbing and getting it across.”
Peterson, too, was thinking; and his eye-brows were coming together in a puzzled scowl.
“Oh,” he said, “you mean to do it to-night?”
“Yes, sir. We don’t get any sleep till every piece of that cribbing is over at the annex, ready for business in the morning. Your sills are laid—there’s nothing in the way of starting those bins right up. This ain’t an all-night job if we hustle it.”
The steamer was a big lake barge, with high bow and stern, and a long, low, cargo deck amidships that was piled squarely and high with yellow two-inch plank. Her crew had clearly been impressed with the need of hurry, for long before she could be worked into the wharf they had rigged the two hoists and got the donkey engines into running order. The captain stood by the rail on the bridge, smoking a cigar, his hand on the bell-pull.
“Where do you want it?” he called to Bannon.
“Right here, where I’m standing. You can swing your bow in just below the bridge there.”
The captain pulled the bell, and the snub-nosed craft, stirring up a whirl of mud from the bottom of the river, was brought alongside the wharf.
“Where are you going to put it?” the captain called.
“Here. We’ll clean this up as fast as we can. I want that cribbing all unloaded to-night, sure.”
“That suits me,” said the captain. “I don’t want to be held up here—ought to pull out the first thing in the morning.”
“All right, you can do it.” Bannon turned to Peterson and Vogel (who had just reached the wharf). “You want to rush this, boys. I’ll go over and see to the piling.”
He hurried away, pausing at the office long enough to find the man sent by the electric light company, and to set him at work. The arc lamps had been placed, for the most part, where they would best illuminate the annex and the cupola of the elevator, and there was none too much light on the tracks, where the men were stumbling along, hindered rather than helped by the bright light before them. On the wharf it was less dark, for the lights of the steamer were aided by two on the spouting house. Before seven o’clock Bannon had succeeded in getting two more lights up on poles, one on each side of the track.
It was just at seven that the timbers suddenly stopped coming in. Bannon looked around impatiently. The six men that had brought in the last stick were disappearing around the corner of the great, shadowy structure that shut off Bannon’s view of the wharf. He waited for a moment, but no more gangs appeared, and then he ran around the elevator over the path the men had already trampled. Within the circle of light between him and the C. & S. C. tracks stood scattered groups of the laborers, and others wandered about with their hooks over their shoulders. There was a larger, less distinct crowd out on the tracks. Bannon ran through an opening in the fence, and pushed into the largest group. Here Peterson and Vogel were talking to a stupid-looking man with a sandy mustache.
“What does this mean, Pete?” he said shortly. “We can’t be held up this way. Get your men back on the work.”
“No, he won’t,” said the third man. “You can’t go on with this work.”
Bannon sharply looked the man over. There was in his manner a dogged authority.
“Who are you?” Bannon asked. “Who do you represent?”
“I represent the C. & S. C. railroad, and I tell you this work stops right here.”
The man waved his arm toward the fence.
“You can’t do that sort of business.”
“You look at that fence and then talk to me about what sort.”
“What’s the matter with the fence?”
“What’s the matter with it! There ain’t more’n a rod of it left, that’s what.”
Bannon’s scowl relaxed.
“Oh,” he said, “I see. You’re the section boss, ain’t you?”
“That’s all right then. Come over here and I’ll show you how we’ve got things fixed.”
He walked across the track, followed by the section boss and Pete, and pointed out the displaced sections of the fence, each of which had been carefully placed at one side.
“We’ll have it all up all right before morning,” he said.
The man was running his fingers up under his cap.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he replied sullenly. “I’ve got my orders. We didn’t make any kick when you opened up in one place, but we can’t stand for all this.”
He was not speaking firmly, and Bannon, watching him closely, jumped at the conclusion that his orders were not very definite. Probably his superintendent had instructed him to keep a close eye on the work, and perhaps to grant no privileges. Bannon wished he knew more about the understanding between the railroad and MacBride & Company. He felt sure, however, that an understanding did exist or he would not have been told to go ahead.
“That’s all right,” he said, with an air of easy authority. “We’ve got to be working over your tracks for the next two months. It’s as much to our interest as it is to yours to be careful, and I guess we can pull together. We’ve got an agreement with your general manager, and that’s what goes.” He turned away, but paused and added, “I’ll see that you don’t have any reason to complain.”
The section boss looked about with an uncertain air at the crowd of waiting men.
“Don’t go too fast there——” he began.
“Look here,” said Bannon, abruptly. “We’ll sit right down here and send a message to the general manager. That’s the quickest way to settle it—tell him that we’re carrying out timber across the tracks and you’ve stopped us.”
It was a bluff, but Bannon knew his man.
“Now, how about this?” was the reply. “How long will it take you?”
“Till some time before daylight.” Bannon was feeling for his pencil.
“You see that the fence goes back, will you? We ain’t taking any chances, you understand.”
“All right, Max,” he shouted. “Get to work there. And look here, Max,” in a stern voice, “I expect you to see that the road is not blocked or delayed in any way. That’s your business now, mind.” He turned to the boss as the men hurried past to the wharf. “I used to be a railroad man myself—chief wrecker on the Grand Trunk—and I guess we won’t have any trouble understanding each other.”
Again the six long lines of men were creeping from the brightly lighted wharf across the shadowy tracks and around the end of the elevator. Bannon had held the electric light man within call, and now set him at work moving two other arc lamps to a position where they made the ground about the growing piles of timber nearly as light as day. Through the night air he could hear the thumping of the planks on the wharf. Faintly over this sound came the shouting of men and the tramp and shuffle of feet. And at intervals a train would rumble in the distance, slowly coming nearer, until with a roar that swallowed all the other noises it was past. The arc lamps glowed and buzzed over the heads of the sweating, grunting men, as they came along the path, gang after gang, lifting an end of a heavy stick to the level of the steadily rising pile, and sliding it home.
Bannon knew from long experience how to pile the different sizes so that each would be ready at the hands of the carpenters when the morning whistle should blow. He was all about the work, giving a hand here, an order there, always good-humored, though brusque, and always inspiring the men with the sight of his own activity.
Toward the middle of the evening Vogel came up from the wharf with a question. As he was about to return, Bannon, who had been turning over in his mind the incident of the section boss, said:—
“Wait a minute, Max. What about this railroad business—have they bothered you much before now?”
“Not very much, only in little ways. I guess it’s just this section boss that does it on his own hook. He’s a sort of a fool, you know, and he’s got it into his head that we’re trying to do him some way.”
Bannon put his hands into his pockets, and studied the checkered pattern in the ground shadow of the nearest arc lamp. Then he slowly shook his head.
“No,” he said, “that ain’t it. He’s too big a fool to do much on his own hook. He’s acting on orders of some sort, and that’s just what I don’t understand. As a general thing a railroad’s mighty white to an elevator. Come to think of it, they said something about it up at the office,”—he was apparently speaking to himself, and Max quietly waited,—”Brown said something about the C. & S. C. having got in the way a little down here, but I didn’t think much about it at the time.”
“What could they do?” Max asked.
“A lot, if they wanted to. But that ain’t what’s bothering me. They haven’t any connection with the G. & M., have they?”
“No”—Max shook his head—”no, not that I know of.”
“Well, it’s funny, that’s all. The man behind those orders that the section boss talks about is the general manager; and it’s my notion that we’re likely to hear from him again. I’ll tell you what it is. Somebody—I don’t know who, but somebody—is mighty eager to keep this house from being finished by the first of January. After this I wish you’d keep your eyes open for this section boss. Have you had any trouble with the men?”
“No, only that clerk that we laid off to-day, he ‘lowed he was going to make trouble. I didn’t say anything about it, because they always talk like that.”
“Yes, I know. What’s his name?”
“I guess he can’t hurt us any.”
Bannon turned back to his work; and Vogel disappeared in the shadows along the path.
Nine o’clock came, and the timber was still coming in. The men were growing tired and surly from the merciless strain of carrying the long, heavy sticks. The night was raw and chill. Bannon felt it as he stood directing the work, and he kept his hands in his pockets, and wished he had worn his overcoat; but the laborers, barearmed and bare-headed, clad only in overalls or in thin trousers and cotton shirts, were shaking sweat from their eyes, and stealing moments between trips to stand where the keen lake breeze could cool them. Another half-hour or so should see the last stick on the piles, and Bannon had about decided to go over to the office when he saw Vogel moving among the men, marking their time in his book.
“Here, Max,” he called, adding, when Vogel had reached his side: “Just keep an eye on this, will you? I’ll be at the office. Keep things going just as they are.”
There was a light in the office. Bannon stepped into the doorway, and, with a suppressed word of impatience, stood looking at the scene within. The desk that Peterson had supplied for the use of his clerk was breast-high from the floor, built against the wall, with a high stool before it. The wall lamp had been taken down; now it stood with its reflector on the top of the desk, which was covered with books and papers. A girl was sitting on the stool, bending over a ledger and rapidly footing up columns. Bannon could not see her face, for a young fellow stood leaning over the railing by the desk, his back to the door. He had just said something, and now he was laughing in a conscious manner.
Bannon quietly stepped to one side. The girl looked up for a moment and brushed her hair back from her face. The fellow spoke again in a low tone, but beyond a slight compressing of her lips she did not seem to hear him. Without a word, Bannon came forward, took him by the arm, and led him out of the door. Still holding his arm, he took a step back, and (they stood in the outer circle of the electric light) looked him over.
“Let’s see,” he said, “you’re the man that was clerking here.”
There was no reply.
“And your name’s—what?”
“Well, Mr. Briggs, did you get a message from me?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said the young man, his eyes on the ground. “Max, he come around, but I wanted to wait and see you. He’s a mean cuss——”
“You see me now, don’t you?”
“Yes.” The reply was indistinct.
“You keep out of the office after this. If I catch you in there again, I won’t stop to talk. Now, clear out.”
Briggs walked a little way, then turned.
“Maybe you think you can lay me off without notice—but you’ll wish——”
Bannon turned back to the office, giving no heed to Briggs’ last words: “I’ve got you fixed already.” He was thinking of the girl there on the stool. She did not look like the girl he had expected to see. To be sure her hair was red, but it was not of the red that outcropped from Max’s big head; it was of a dark, rich color, and it had caught the light from the lamp with such a shine as there is in new red gold. When he entered, she was again footing columns. She was slender, and her hand, where it supported her forehead was white. Again Bannon stood motionless, slowly shaking his head. Then he came forward. She heard his step and looked up, as if to answer a question, letting her eyes rest on his face. He hesitated, and she quietly asked:—
“What is it, please?”
“I’m Mr. Bannon. There wasn’t any need of your working to-night. I’m just keeping the men on so we can get in this cribbing. When did you come?”
“My brother telephoned to me. I wanted to look things over before starting in to-morrow.”
“How do you find it?”
She hesitated, glancing over the jumble of papers on the desk.
“It hasn’t been kept up very well,” she presently said. “But it won’t be hard, I think, to straighten it out.”
Bannon leaned on the rail and glanced at the paper on which she had been setting down totals.
“I guess you’d better go home, Miss Vogel. It’s after nine o’clock.”
“I can finish in an hour.”
“You’d better go. There’ll be chances enough for night work without your making them.”
She smiled, cleared up the desk, and reached for her jacket, which hung from the nail behind her. Then she paused.
“I thought I would wait for my brother, Mr. Bannon.”
“That’s all right. I guess we can spare him. I’ll speak to him. Do you live far?”
“No; Max and I are boarding at the same place.”
He had got to the door when she asked:—
“Shall I put out the light?”
He turned and nodded. She was drawing on her gloves. She perhaps was not a very pretty girl, but there was something in her manner, as she stood there in the dim light, her hair straying out from beneath her white “sombrero” hat, that for the moment took Bannon far away from this environment of railroad tracks and lumber piles. He waited till she came out, then he locked the door.
“I’ll walk along with you myself, if you don’t mind,” he said. And after they had crossed the Belt Line tracks, and he had helped her, with a little laugh from each of them, to pick her way over the switches and between the freight cars, he said: “You don’t look much like your brother.”
It was not a long walk to the boarding house but before they had reached it Bannon was nervous. It was not a custom with him to leave his work on such an errand. He bade her a brusque good-night, and hurried back, pausing only after he had crossed the tracks, to cast his eye over the timber. There was no sign of activity, though the two arc lamps were still in place. “All in, eh,” he said.
He followed the path beside the elevator and on around the end, and then, with an exclamation, he hurried forward; for there was the same idle crowd about the tracks that had been there during the trouble with the section boss—the same buzz of talk, and the idle laughter and shouting. As he ran, his foot struck a timber-end, and he sprawled forward for nearly a rod before recovering his balance; then he stopped and looked along the ground. A long line of timbers lay end to end, the timber hooks across them or near by on the ground, where they had been dropped by the laborers. On along the path, through the fence openings, and out on the tracks, lay the lines of timber. Here and there Bannon passed gangs of men lounging on the ground, waiting for the order to move on. As he passed through the fence, walking on the timbers, and hurried through the crowd, which had been pushed back close to the fence, he heard a low laugh that came along like a wave from man to man. In a moment he was in front of them all.
The middle tracks were clear, excepting a group of three or four men, who stood a little to one side. Bannon could not make them out. Another crowd of laborers was pressed back against the opposite fence. These had moved apart at one of the fence openings, and as Bannon looked, two men came through, stumbling and staggering under a long ten-by-twelve timber, which they were carrying on their shoulders. Bannon looked sharply; the first, a big, deep-chested man, bare-headed and in his shirt sleeves, was Peterson.
Bannon started forward, when Max, who had been hurrying over to him, touched his arm.
“What’s all this, Max?”
“I’m glad you’ve come. It’s Grady, the walking delegate—that’s him over there where those men are standing, the little fellow with his hat on one side—he’s been here for ten minutes.”
“Speak quick. What’s the trouble?”
“First he wanted to know how much we were paying the men for night work, and I told him. Thought I might as well be civil to him. Then he said we’d got to take Briggs back, and I told him Briggs wasn’t a union man, and he hadn’t anything to say about it. He and Briggs seemed to know each other. Finally he came out here on the job and said we were working the men too hard—said we’d have to put ten men on the heavy sticks and eight on the others. I was going to do it, but Peterson came up and said he wouldn’t do it, and Grady called the men off, just where they were. He wouldn’t let ’em lift a finger. You see there’s timber all over the tracks. Then Pete got mad, and said him and Donnelly could bring a twenty-foot stick over alone, and it was all rot about putting on more men. Here they come—just look at Pete’s arms! He could lift a house.”
Some of the men were laughing, others growling, but all had their eyes fixed on Peterson and Donnelly as they came across the tracks, slowly picking their way, and shifting the weight a little, at every few seconds, on their shoulders. Bannon was glancing swiftly about, taking in the situation. He would not imperil his discipline by reproving Peterson before the men, so he stood for a moment, thinking, until the task should be accomplished.
“It’s Briggs that did the whole business,” Max was saying. “He brought the delegate around—he was blowing about it among the men when I found him.”
“Is he on the job now?” Bannon asked.
“No, and I don’t think he’ll be around again very soon. There were some loafers with him, and they took him away.”
Peterson and Donnelly had disappeared through the fence, and a few of the crowd were following, to see them get the timber clear around the building to the pile.
“Have you sent out flagmen, Max?” Bannon asked.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Get at it quick—send a man each way with a lantern—put something red over them, their shirts if necessary.”
“None of the men will dare do it while the delegate’s here.”
“Find some one—take one side yourself, if you have to.”
Max hurried away for the lanterns, Bannon walked out to the group of men on the middle tracks.
“Where’s Mr. Grady?” he said.
One of the men pointed, but the delegate gave no attention.
“You’re Mr. Grady, are you?” said Bannon. “I’m Mr. Bannon, of MacBride & Company. What’s the trouble here?”
The delegate was revelling in his authority: his manner was not what it was to be when he should know Bannon better. He waved his hand toward the wharf.
“You ought to know better than that,” he said curtly.
“Than what?—than running a job the way this is run.”
“I think I can run this job,” said Bannon, quietly. “You haven’t told me what’s the trouble yet.”
“It’s right here—you’re trying to make money by putting on one man to do the work of two.”
Bannon’s quiet manner exasperated the delegate.
“Use your eyes, man—you can’t make eight men carry a twelve-by-fourteen stick.”
“How many shall I put on?”
“And you’d better put eight men on the other sticks.”
The delegate looked up, nettled that Bannon should yield so easily.
“That’s all right,” said Bannon. “We aren’t fighting the union. After this, if you’ve got anything to say, I wish you’d come to me with it before you call off the men. Is there anything else before I start up?”
Grady was chewing the stub of a cigar. He stood looking about with an ugly air, then he said:—
“You ain’t starting up just yet.”
The delegate’s reply was lost in the shout that suddenly went up from the western end of the line of laborers. Then came the sound of a locomotive bell and exhaust. Bannon started down the track, jumping the timbers as he ran, toward Vogel’s lantern, that was bobbing along toward him. The train had stopped, but now it was puffing slowly forward, throwing a bright light along the rails.
“It’s a C. & S. C. local,” Max shouted. “Can’t we clear up the right track?”
Bannon stopped and looked around. About half of the men had followed him, and were strung out in irregular groups between him and the timbers. Walking up between the groups came the delegate, with two men, chewing his cigar in silence as he walked. The train was creeping along, the fireman leaning far out of the cab window, closely scanning the track for signs of an obstruction. On the steps between the cars a few passengers were trying to get a view up the track; and others were running along beside the train.
“This has gone too far,” Bannon muttered. He turned and shouted to the men: “Clear up that track. Quick, now!”
Some of the men started, but stopped, and all looked at the delegate. He stepped to one side and coolly looked over the train; then he raised his hand.
“Don’t touch the timbers,” he said. “It ain’t a mail train.”
His voice was not loud, but those near at hand passed the word along, and the long line of men stood motionless. By that time the train had stopped, and three of the crew had come forward. They saw the timbers on the track and hurried toward them, but the delegate called out:—
“Watch those sticks, boys! Don’t let a man touch them!”
There was no hesitation when the delegate spoke in that tone. A score of men blocked the way of the train crew.
Bannon was angry. He stood looking at Grady with snapping eyes, and his hands closed into knotted fists. But Bannon knew the power of the unions, and he knew that a rash step now might destroy all hope of completing the elevator in time. He crossed over to the delegate.
“What do you want?” he said gruffly.
“Nothing from you.”
“What do you want?” Bannon repeated, and there was something in his voice that caused the delegate to check a second retort.
“You’ll kill these men if you work them like this. They’ve been on the job all day.”
Bannon was beginning to see that Grady was more eager to make trouble than to uphold the cause of the men he was supposed to represent. In his experience with walking delegates he had not met this type before. He was proud of the fact that he had never had any serious trouble in dealing with his workmen or their representatives. Mr. MacBride was fond of saying that Bannon’s tact in handling men was unequalled; but Bannon himself did not think of it in this way—to him, trouble with the laborers or the carpenters or the millwrights meant loss of time and loss of money, the two things he was putting in his time to avoid; and until now he had found the maligned walking delegate a fair man when he was fairly dealt with. So he said:—
“Well, what are you asking?”
“These gangs ought to be relieved every two hours.”
“I’ll do it. Now clear up those timbers.”
The delegate turned with a scowl, and waved the men back to their work. In a moment the track was clear, and the train was moving slowly onward between the long lines of men.
Bannon started the gangs at work. When the timbers were again coming across from the wharf in six slowly moving streams that converged at the end of the elevator, he stood looking after the triangle of red lights on the last car of the train until they had grown small and close together in the distance. Then he went over to the wharf to see how much timber remained, and to tell Peterson to hurry the work; for he did not look for any further accommodation on the part of the C. & S. C. railroad, now that a train had been stopped. The steamer lay quietly at the dock, the long pile of cribbing on her deck shadowed by the high bow deckhouse from the lights on the spouting house. Her crew were bustling about, rigging the two hoisting engines, and making all ready for unloading when the order should be given.
Peterson had been working through the timber pile from the shore side, so that now only a thin wall remained at the outer edge of the wharf. Bannon found him standing on the pile, rolling down the sticks with a peavey to where the carrying gangs could pick them up.
“Better bring all your men up here, Pete, and clean it all away by the steamer. She may as well begin unloading now.”
Bannon walked back to the tracks, in time to see a handcar and trailer, packed with men, come up the track and stop near at hand. The men at once scattered, and brushing aside Bannon’s laborers, they began replacing the sections of fence. Bannon crossed to the section boss, who recognized him and without comment handed him a telegraphed order.
“There’s no getting around that,” he said, when Bannon had read it. “That’s straight from the old man.”
Bannon returned it, called Peterson, and hurried with him around the elevator to find Max, who was overseeing the piling.
“What’ll we do?” Peterson asked, as they ran; but Bannon made no reply until the three were together. Then he said, speaking shortly:—
“Get the wire cable off one of your hoisting engines, Pete, and make one end fast as high as you can on the spouting house. We’ll run it across the tracks, on a slope, down to this side. Max, you get a light rope and a running block, and hang a hook on it.”
“I see,” said Max, eagerly. “You’re going to run it over on a trolley.”
“Yes. The engineers have gone, haven’t they?”
“Went at five,” said Peterson.
“That’s all right. We’ll only need the hoist at the spouting house. The rest of it’s just plain sliding down hill.”
“But who’ll run it?”
“I will. Pete, you get up on the spouting house and see that they’re started down. Max will stay over here and watch the piling. Now rush it.”
Half an hour had gone before the cable could be stretched from the spouting house, high over the tracks, down to the elevator structure, and before the hoisting engine could be got under steam. Meanwhile, for the third time since five o’clock, the laborers stood about, grumbling and growing more impatient. But at last it was all under way. The timbers were hoisted lightly up the side of the spouting house, hooked to the travelling block, and sent whirling down to Max’s waiting hands, to be snatched away and piled by the men. But compared with the other method, it was slow work, and Bannon found that, for lack of employment, it was necessary to let half of the men go for the night.
Soon, to the rattle of blocks and the tramping of feet and the calling and shouting of men, was added the creak of the steamer’s hoists, and the groan of her donkey engines as her crew began the work of dumping out the cribbing by hand and steam, on the cleared space on the wharf. And then, when the last big stick had gone over, Peterson began sending bundles of two-inch cribbing. Before the work was finished, and the last plank from the steamer’s cargo had been tossed on the pile by the annex, the first faint color was spreading over the eastern sky, and the damp of a low-country morning was in the air.
Bannon stopped the engine and drew the fire; Peterson and his crew clambered to the ground, and Max put on his coat and waited for the two foremen to come across the tracks. When they joined him, Bannon looked sharply at him in the growing light.
“Hello, Max,” he said; “where did you get that black eye?”
“That ain’t much,” Max replied. “You ought to see Briggs.”
“This talk offers an introduction to the background, spirit and craft of the novel Ayn Rand called her favorite. Calumet ‘K,’ she wrote, features a ‘portrait of an efficacious man’; it reflects the sense of life of ‘a time when people were capable of admiring productive achievement.’ Dr. Milgram, associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, specializes in narrative fiction and film. She has lectured on Ayn Rand at Objectivist and academic conferences, and has published on Ayn Rand, Hugo and Dostoevsky. She is editing the draft of her book-length study of Ayn Rand’s life (to 1957).
Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster
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