The Marine Leg – Calumet “K”, Chapter 12

The Marine Leg – Calumet “K”, Chapter 12


On the twenty-second of November Bannon received this telegram:—

Mr. Charles Bannon, care of MacBride & Company, South Chicago:

We send to-day complete drawings for marine tower which you will build in the middle of spouting house. Harahan Company are building the Leg.

MacBride & Co.

Bannon read it carefully, folded it, opened it and read it again, then tossed it on the desk.

“We’re off now, for sure,” he said to Miss Vogel. “I’ve known that was coming sure as Christmas.”

Hilda picked it up.

“Is there an answer, Mr. Bannon?”

“No, just file it. Do you make it out?”

She read it and shook her head. Bannon ignored her cool manner.

“It means that your friends on MacBride & Company’s Calumet house are going to have the time of their lives for the next few weeks. I’m going to carry compressed food in my pockets, and when meal time comes around, just take a capsule.”

“I think I know,” she said slowly; “a marine leg is the thing that takes grain up out of ships.”

“That’s right. You’d better move up head.”

“And we’ve been building a spouting house instead to load it into ships.”

“We’ll have to build both now. You see, it’s getting around to the time when the Pages’ll be having a fit every day until the machinery’s running, and every bin is full. And every time they have a fit, the people up at the office’ll have another, and they’ll pass it on to us.”

“But why do they want the marine leg?” she asked, “any more now than they did at first?”

“They’ve got to get the wheat down by boat instead of rail, that’s all. Or likely it’ll be coming both ways. There’s no telling now what’s behind it. Both sides have got big men fighting. You’ve seen it in the papers, haven’t you?”

She nodded.

“Of course, what the papers say isn’t all true, but it’s lively doings all right.”

The next morning’s mail brought the drawings and instructions; and with them came a letter from Brown to Bannon. “I suppose there’s not much good in telling you to hurry,” it ran; “but if there is another minute a day you can crowd in, I guess you know what to do with it. Page told me to-day that this elevator will make or break them. Mr. MacBride says that you can have all January for a vacation if you get it through. We owe you two weeks off, anyhow, that you didn’t take last summer. We’re running down that C. & S. C. business, though I don’t believe, myself, that they’ll give you any more trouble.”

Bannon read it to Hilda, saying as he laid it down:—

“That’s something like. I don’t know where’ll I go, though. Winter ain’t exactly the time for a vacation, unless you go shooting, and I’m no hand for that.”

“Couldn’t you put it off till summer?” she asked, smiling a little.

“Not much. You don’t know those people. By the time summer’d come around, they’d have forgotten I ever worked here. I’d strike for a month and Brown would grin and say: ‘That’s all right, Bannon, you deserve it if anybody does. It’ll take a week or so to get your pass arranged, and you might just run out to San Francisco and see if things are going the way they ought to,’ And then the first thing I knew I’d be working three shifts somewhere over in China, and Brown would be writing me I was putting in too much time at my meals. No, if MacBride & Company offer you a holiday, the best thing you can do is to grab it, and run, and saw off the telegraph poles behind you. And you couldn’t be sure of yourself then.”

He turned the letter over in his hand.

“I might go up on the St. Lawrence,” he went on. “That’s the only place for spending the winter that ever struck me.”

“Isn’t it pretty cold?”

“It ain’t so bad. I was up there last winter. We put up at a house at Coteau, you know. When I got there the foundation wasn’t even begun, and we had a bad time getting laborers. I put in the first day sitting on the ice sawing off spiles.”

Hilda laughed.

“I shouldn’t think you’d care much about going back.”

“Were you ever there?” he asked.

“No, I’ve never been anywhere but home and here, in Chicago.”

“Where is your home?”

“It was up in Michigan. That’s where Max learned the lumber business. But he and I have been here for nearly two years.”

“Well,” said Bannon, “some folks may think it’s cold up there, but there ain’t anywhere else to touch it. It’s high ground, you know—nothing like this”—he swept his arm about to indicate the flats outside—”and the scenery beats anything this side of the Rockies. It ain’t that there’s mountains there, you understand, but it’s all big and open, and they’ve got forests there that would make your Michigan pine woods look like weeds on a sandhill. And the river’s great. You haven’t seen anything really fine till you’ve seen the rapids in winter. The people there have a good time too. They know how to enjoy life—it isn’t all grime and sweat and making money.”

“Well,” said Hilda, looking down at her pencil and drawing aimless designs as she talked, “I suppose it is a good place to go. I’ve seen the pictures, of course, in the time-tables; and one of the railroad offices on Clark Street used to have some big photographs of the St. Lawrence in the window. I looked at them sometimes, but I never thought of really seeing anything like that. I’ve had some pretty good times on the lake and over at St. Joe. Max used to take me over to Berrien Springs last summer, when he could get off. My aunt lives there.”

Bannon was buttoning his coat, and looking at her. He felt the different tone that had got into their talk. It had been impersonal a few minutes before.

“Oh, St. Joe isn’t bad,” he was saying; “it’s quiet and restful and all that, but it’s not the same sort of thing at all. You go over there and ride up the river on the May Graham, and it makes you feel lazy and comfortable, but it doesn’t stir you up inside like the St. Lawrence does.”

She looked up. Her eyes were sparkling as they had sparkled that afternoon on the elevator when she first looked out into the sunset.

“Yes,” she replied. “I think I know what you mean. But I never really felt that way; I’ve only thought about it.”

Bannon turned half away, as if to go.

“You’ll have to go down there, that’s all,” he said abruptly. He looked back at her over his shoulder, and added, “That’s all there is about it.”

Her eyes were half startled, half mischievous, for his voice had been still less impersonal than before. Then she turned back to her work, her face sober, but an amused twinkle lingering in her eyes.

“I should like to go,” she said, her pencil poised at the top of a long column. “Max would like it, too.”

After supper that evening Max returned early from a visit to the injured man, and told Hilda of a new trouble.

“Do you know that little delegate that’s been hanging around?” he asked.

“Grady,” she said, and nodded.

“Yes, he’s been working the man. I never saw such a change in my life. He just sat up there in bed and swore at me, and said I needn’t think I could buy him off with this stuff”—he looked down and Hilda saw that the bowl in his hand was not empty—”and raised a row generally.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Give it up. From what he said, I’m sure Grady’s behind it.”

“Did he give his name?”

“No, but he did a lot of talking about justice to the down-trodden and the power of the unions, and that kind of stuff. I couldn’t understand all he said—he’s got a funny lingo, you know; I guess it’s Polack—but I got enough to know what he meant, and more, too.”

“Can he do anything?”

“I don’t think so. If we get after him, it’ll just set him worse’n pig’s bristles. A man like that’ll lose his head over nothing. He may be all right in the morning.”

But Hilda, after Max had given her the whole conversation as nearly as he could remember it, thought differently. She did not speak her mind out to Max, because she was not yet certain what was the best course to take. The man could easily make trouble, she saw that. But if Max were to lay the matter before Bannon, he would be likely to glide over some of the details that she had got only by close questioning. And a blunder in handling it might be fatal to the elevator, so far as getting it done in December was concerned. Perhaps she took it too seriously; for she was beginning, in spite of herself, to give a great deal of thought to the work and to Bannon. At any rate, she lay awake later than usual that night, going over the problem, and she brought it up, the next morning, the first time that Bannon came into the office after Max had gone out.

“Mr. Bannon,” she said, when he had finished dictating a letter to the office, “I want to tell you about that man that was hurt.”

Bannon tried not to smile at the nervous, almost breathless way in which she opened the conversation. He saw that, whatever it was, it seemed to her very important, and he settled comfortably on the table, leaning back against the wall with his legs stretched out before him. She had turned on her stool.

“You mean the hoist man?” he asked.

She nodded. “Max goes over to see him sometimes. We’ve been trying to help make him comfortable——”

“Oh,” said Bannon; “it’s you that’s been sending those things around to him.”

She looked at him with surprise.

“Why, how did you know?”

“I heard about it.”

Hilda hesitated. She did not know exactly how to begin. It occurred to her that perhaps Bannon was smiling at her eager manner.

“Max was there last night and he said the man had changed all around. He’s been friendly, you know, and grateful”—she had forgotten herself again, in thinking of her talk with Max—”and he’s said all the time that he wasn’t going to make trouble——” She paused.

“Yes, I know something about that,” said Bannon. “The lawyers always get after a man that’s hurt, you know.”

“But last night he had changed all around. He said he was going to have you arrested. He thinks Max has been trying to buy him off with the things we’ve sent him.”

Bannon whistled.

“So our Mr. Grady’s got his hands on him!”

“That’s what Max and I thought, but he didn’t give any names. He wouldn’t take the jelly.”

“I’m glad you told me,” said Bannon, swinging his legs around and sitting up. “It’s just as well to know about these things. Grady’s made him think he can make a good haul by going after me, poor fool—he isn’t the man that’ll get it.”

“Can he really stop the work?” Hilda asked anxiously.

“Not likely. He’ll probably try to make out a case of criminal carelessness against me, and get me jerked up. He ought to have more sense, though. I know how many sticks were on that hoist when it broke. I’ll drop around there to-night after dinner and have a talk with him. I’d like to find Grady there—but that’s too good to expect.”

Hilda had stepped down from the stool, and was looking out through the half-cleaned window at a long train of freight cars that was clanking in on the Belt Line.

“That’s what I wanted to see you about most,” she said slowly. “Max says he’s been warned that you’ll come around and try to buy him off, and it won’t go, because he can make more by standing out.”

“Well,” said Bannon, easily, amused at her unconscious drop into Max’s language, “there’s usually a way of getting after these fellows. We’ll do anything within reason, but we won’t be robbed. I’ll throw Mr. Grady into the river first, and hang him up on the hoist to dry.”

“But if he really means to stand out,” she said, “wouldn’t it hurt us for you to go around there?”

“Why?” He was openly smiling now. Then, of a sudden, he looked at her with a shrewd, close gaze, and repeated, “Why?”

“Maybe I don’t understand it.” she said nervously. “Max doesn’t think I see things very clearly. But I thought perhaps you would be willing for me to see him this evening. I could go with Max, and——”

She faltered, when she saw how closely he was watching her, but he nodded, and said, “Go on.”

“Why, I don’t know that I could do much, but—no”—she tossed her head back and looked at him—”I won’t say that. If you’ll let me go, I’ll fix it. I know I can.”

Bannon was thinking partly of her—of her slight, graceful figure that leaned against the window frame, and of her eyes, usually quiet, but now snapping with determination—and partly of certain other jobs that had been imperiled by the efforts of injured workingmen to get heavy damages. One of the things his experience in railroad and engineering work had taught him was that men will take every opportunity to bleed a corporation. No matter how slight the accident, or how temporary in its effects, the stupidest workman has it in his power to make trouble. It was frankly not a matter of sentiment to Bannon. He would do all that he could, would gladly make the man’s sickness actually profit him, so far as money would go; but he did not see justice in the great sums which the average jury will grant. As he sat there, he recognized what Hilda had seen at a flash, that this was a case for delicate handling.

She was looking at him, tremendously in earnest, yet all the while wondering at her own boldness. He slowly nodded.

“You’re right,” he said. “You’re the one to do the talking. I won’t ask you what you’re going to say. I guess you understand it as well as anybody.”

“I don’t know yet, myself,” she answered. “It isn’t that, it isn’t that there’s something particular to say, but he’s a poor man, and they’ve been telling him that the company is cheating him and stealing from him—I wouldn’t like it myself, if I were in his place and didn’t know any more than he does. And maybe I can show him that we’ll be a good deal fairer to him before we get through than Mr. Grady will.”

“Yes,” said Bannon, “I think you can. And if you can keep this out of the courts I’ll write Brown that there’s a young lady down here that’s come nearer to earning a big salary than I ever did to deserving a silk hat.”

“Oh,” she said, the earnest expression skipping abruptly out of her eyes; “did your hat come?”

“Not a sign of it. I’d clean forgotten. I’ll give Brown one more warning—a long ‘collect’ telegram, about forty words—and then if he doesn’t toe up, I’ll get one and send him the bill.

“There was a man that looked some like Grady worked for me on the Galveston house. He was a carpenter, and thought he stood for the whole Federation of Labor. He got gay one day. I warned him once, and then I threw him off the distributing floor.”

Hilda thought he was joking until she looked up and saw his face.

“Didn’t it—didn’t it kill him?” she asked.

“I don’t remember exactly. I think there were some shavings there.” He stood looking at her for a moment. “Do you know,” he said, “if Grady comes up on the job again, I believe I’ll tell him that story? I wonder if he’d know what I meant.”

The spouting house, or “river house,” was a long, narrow structure, one hundred feet by thirty-six, built on piles at the edge of the wharf. It would form, with the connecting belt gallery that was to reach out over the tracks, a T-shaped addition to the elevator. The river house was no higher than was necessary for the spouts that would drop the grain through the hatchways of the big lake steamers, twenty thousand bushels an hour—it reached between sixty and seventy feet above the water. The marine tower that was to be built, twenty-four feet square, up through the centre of the house, would be more than twice as high. A careful examination convinced Bannon that the pile foundations would prove strong enough to support this heavier structure, and that the only changes necessary would be in the frame of the spouting house. On the same day that the plans arrived, work on the tower commenced.

Peterson had about got to the point where startling developments no longer alarmed him. He had seen the telegram the day before, but his first information that a marine tower was actually under way came when Bannon called off a group of laborers late in the afternoon to rig the “trolley” for carrying timber across the track.

“What are you going to do, Charlie?” he called. “Got to slide them timbers back again?”

“Some of ’em,” Bannon replied.

“Don’t you think we could carry ’em over?” said Peterson. “If we was quiet about it, they needn’t be any trouble?”

Bannon shook his head.

“We’re not taking any more chances on this railroad. We haven’t time.”

Once more the heavy timbers went swinging through the air, high over the tracks, but this time back to the wharf. Before long the section boss of the C. & S. C. appeared, and though he soon went away, one of his men remained, lounging about the tracks, keeping a close eye on the sagging ropes and the timbers. Bannon, when he met Peterson a few minutes later, pointed out the man.

“What’d I tell you, Pete? They’re watching us like cats. If you want to know what the C. & S. C. think about us, you just drop one timber and you’ll find out.”

But nothing dropped, and when Peterson, who had been on hand all the latter part of the afternoon, took hold, at seven o’clock, the first timbers of the tower had been set in place, somewhere down inside the rough shed of a spouting house, and more would go in during the night, and during other days and nights, until the narrow framework should go reaching high into the air. Another thing was recognized by the men at work on that night shift, even by the laborers who carried timbers, and grunted and swore in strange tongues; this was that the night shift men had suddenly begun to feel a most restless energy crowding them on, and they worked nearly as well as Bannon’s day shifts. For Peterson’s spirits had risen with a leap, once the misunderstanding that had been weighing on him had been removed, and now he was working as he had never worked before. The directions he gave showed that his head was clearer; and there was confidence in his manner.

Hilda was so serious all day after her talk with Bannon that once, in the afternoon, when he came into the office for a glance at the new pile of blue prints, he smiled, and asked if she were laying out a campaign. It was the first work of the kind that she had ever undertaken, and she was a little worried over the need for tact and delicacy. After she had closed her desk at supper time, she saw Bannon come into the circle of the electric light in front of the office, and, asking Max to wait, she went to meet him.

“Well,” he said, “are you loaded up to fight the ‘power of the union’?”

She smiled, and then said, with a trace of nervousness:—

“I don’t believe I’m quite so sure about it as I was this morning.”

“It won’t bother you much. When you’ve made him see that we’re square and Grady isn’t, you’ve done the whole business. We won’t pay fancy damages, that’s all.”

“Yes,” she said, “I think I know. What I wanted to see you about was—was—Max and I are going over right after supper, and——”

She stopped abruptly; and Bannon, looking down at her, saw a look of embarrassment come into her face; and then she blushed, and lowering her eyes, fumbled with her glove. Bannon was a little puzzled. His eyes rested on her for a moment, and then, without understanding why, he suddenly knew that she had meant to ask him to see her after the visit, and that the new personal something in their acquaintance had flashed a warning. He spoke quickly, as if he were the first to think of it.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll come around to-night and hear the report of the committee of adjusters. That’s you, you know. Something might come up that I ought to know right away.”

“Yes,” she replied rapidly, without looking up, “perhaps that would be the best thing to do.”

He walked along with her toward the office, where Max was waiting, but she did not say anything, and he turned in with: “I won’t say good-night, then. Good luck to you.”

It was soon after eight that Bannon went to the boarding-house where Hilda and Max lived, and sat down to wait in the parlor. When a quarter of an hour had gone, and they had not returned, he buttoned up his coat and went out, walking slowly along the uneven sidewalk toward the river. The night was clear, and he could see, across the flats and over the tracks, where tiny signal lanterns were waving and circling, and freight trains were bumping and rumbling, the glow of the arc lamps on the elevator, and its square outline against the sky. Now and then, when the noise of the switching trains let down, he could hear the hoisting engines. Once he stopped and looked eastward at the clouds of illuminated smoke above the factories and at the red blast of the rolling mill. He went nearly to the river and had to turn back and walk slowly. Finally he heard Max’s laugh, and then he saw them coming down a side street.

“Well,” he said, “you don’t sound like bad news.”

“I don’t believe we are very bad,” replied Hilda.

“Should say not,” put in Max. “It’s finer’n silk.”

Hilda said, “Max,” in a low voice, but he went on:—

“The best thing, Mr. Bannon, was when I told him it was Hilda that had been sending things around. He thought it was you, you see, and Grady’d told him it was all a part of the game to bamboozle him out of the money that was rightfully his. It’s funny to hear him sling that Grady talk around. I don’t think he more’n half knows what it means. I’d promised not to tell, you know, but I just saw there wasn’t no use trying to make him understand things without talking pretty plain. There ain’t a thing he wouldn’t do for Hilda now——”

“Max,” said Hilda again, “please don’t.”

When they reached the house, Max at once started in. Hilda hesitated, and then said:—

“I’ll come in a minute, Max.”

“Oh,” he replied, “all right” But he waited a moment longer, evidently puzzled.

“Well,” said Bannon, “was it so hard?”

“No—not hard exactly. I didn’t know he was so poor. Somehow you don’t think about it that way when you see them working. I don’t know that I ever thought about it at all before.”

“You think he won’t give us any trouble?”

“I’m sure he won’t. I—I had to promise I’d go again pretty soon.”

“Maybe you’ll let me go along.”

“Why—why, yes, of course.”

She had been hesitating, looking down and picking at the splinters on the gate post. Neither was Bannon quick to speak. He did not want to question her about the visit, for he saw that it was hard for her to talk about it. Finally she straightened up and looked at him.

“I want to tell you,” she said, “I haven’t understood exactly until to-night—what they said about the accident and the way you’ve talked about it—well, some people think you don’t think very much about the men, and that if anybody’s hurt, or anything happens, you don’t care as long as the work goes on.” She was looking straight at him. “I thought so, too. And to-night I found out some things you’ve been doing for him—how you’ve been giving him tobacco, and the things he likes best that I’d never have thought of, and I knew it was you that did it, and not the Company—and I—I beg your pardon.”

Bannon did not know what to reply. They stood for a moment without speaking, and then she smiled, and said “Good night,” and ran up the steps without looking around.


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17

LIVE TALK: Calumet “K”: Ayn Rand’s Favorite Novel by Shoshana Milgram Ph.D.

“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).

Talk will be presented at OCON 2017 in Pittsburg, PA and is FREE for all students to attend!


A Brief Council of War – Calumet “K”, Chapter 11

A Brief Council of War – Calumet “K”, Chapter 11


The organization of labor unions is generally democratic. The local lodge is self-governing; it elects its delegate, who attends a council of fellow-delegates, and this council may send representatives to a still more powerful body. But however high their titles, or their salaries, these dignitaries have power only to suggest action, except in a very limited variety of cases. There must always be a reference back to the rank and file. The real decision lies with them.

That is the theory. The laborers on Calumet K, with some others at work in the neighborhood, had organized into a lodge and had affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Grady, who had appeared out of nowhere, who had urged upon them the need of combining against the forces of oppression, and had induced them to organize, had been, without dissent, elected delegate. He was nothing more in theory than this: simply their concentrated voice. And this theory had the fond support of the laborers. “He’s not our boss; he’s our servant,” was a sentiment they never tired of uttering when the delegate was out of earshot.

They met every Friday night, debated, passed portentous resolutions, and listened to Grady’s oratory. After the meeting was over they liked to hear their delegate, their servant, talk mysteriously of the doings of the council, and so well did Grady manage this air of mystery that each man thought it assumed because of the presence of others, but that he himself was of the inner circle. They would not have dreamed of questioning his acts in meeting or after, as they stood about the dingy, reeking hall over Barry’s saloon. It was only as they went to their lodgings in groups of two and three that they told how much better they could manage things themselves.

Bannon enjoyed his last conversation with Grady, though it left him a good deal to think out afterward. He had acted quite deliberately, had said nothing that afterward he wished unsaid; but as yet he had not decided what to do next. After he heard the door slam behind the little delegate, he walked back into his room, paced the length of it two or three times, then put on his ulster and went out. He started off aimlessly, paying no attention to whither he was going, and consequently he walked straight to the elevator. He picked his way across the C. & S. C. tracks, out to the wharf, and seated himself upon an empty nail keg not far from the end of the spouting house.

He sat there for a long while, heedless of all that was doing about him, turning the situation over and over in his mind. Like a good strategist, he was planning Grady’s campaign as carefully as his own. Finally he was recalled to his material surroundings by a rough voice which commanded, “Get off that keg and clear out. We don’t allow no loafers around here.”

Turning, Bannon recognized one of the under-foremen. “That’s a good idea,” he said. “Are you making a regular patrol, or did you just happen to see me?”

“I didn’t know it was you. No, I’m tending to some work here in the spouting house.”

“Do you know where Mr. Peterson is?”

“He was right up here a bit ago. Do you want to see him?”

“Yes, if he isn’t busy. I’m not the only loafer here, it seems,” added Bannon, nodding toward where the indistinct figures of a man and a woman could be seen coming slowly toward them along the narrow strip of wharf between the building and the water. “Never mind,” he added, as the foreman made a step in their direction, “I’ll look after them myself.”

The moment after he had called the foreman’s attention to them he had recognized them as Hilda and Max. He walked over to meet them. “We can’t get enough of it in the daytime, can we.”

“It’s a great place for a girl, isn’t it, Mr. Bannon,” said Max. “I was coming over here and Hilda made me bring her along. She said she thought it must look pretty at night.”

“Doesn’t it?” she asked. “Don’t you think it does, Mr. Bannon?”

He had been staring at it for half an hour. Now for the first time he looked at it. For ninety feet up into the air the large mass was one unrelieved, unbroken shadow, barely distinguishable from the night sky that enveloped it. Above was the skeleton of the cupola, made brilliant, fairly dazzling, in contrast, by scores of arc lamps. At that distance and in that confused tangle of light and shadow the great timbers of the frame looked spidery. The effect was that of a luminous crown upon a gigantic, sphinx-like head.

“I guess you are right,” he said slowly. “But I never thought of it that way before. And I’ve done more or less night work, too.”

A moment later Peterson came up. “Having a tea party out here?” he asked; then turning to Bannon: “Was there something special you wanted, Charlie? I’ve got to go over to the main house pretty soon.”

“It’s our friend Grady. He’s come down to business at last. He wants money.”

Hilda was quietly signalling Max to come away, and Bannon, observing it, broke off to speak to them. “Don’t go,” he said. “We’ll have a brief council of war right here.” So Hilda was seated on the nail keg, while Bannon, resting his elbows on the top of a spile which projected waist high through the floor of the wharf, expounded the situation.

“You understand his proposition,” he said, addressing Hilda, rather than either of the men. “It’s just plain blackmail. He says, ‘If you don’t want your laborers to strike, you’ll have to pay my price.'”

“Not much,” Pete broke in. “I’d let the elevator rot before I’d pay a cent of blackmail.”

“Page wouldn’t,” said Bannon, shortly, “or MacBride, neither. They’d be glad to pay five thousand or so for protection. But they’d want protection that would protect. Grady’s trying to sell us a gold brick. He hated us to begin with, and when he’d struck us for about all he thought we’d stand, he’d call the men off just the same, and leave us to waltz the timbers around all by ourselves.”

“How much did he want?”

“All he could get. I think he’d have been satisfied with a thousand, but he’d come ’round next week for a thousand more.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him that a five-cent cigar was a bigger investment than I cared to make on him and that when we paid blackmail it would be to some fellow who’d deliver the goods. I said he could begin to make trouble just as soon as he pleased.”

“Seems to me you might have asked for a few days’ time to decide. Then we could have got something ready to come at him with. He’s liable to call our men out to-night, ain’t he?”

“I don’t think so. I thought of trying to stave him off for a few days, but then I thought, ‘Why, he’ll see through that game and he’ll go on with his scheme for sewing us up just the same.’ You see, there’s no good saying we’re afraid. So I told him that we didn’t mind him a bit; said he could go out and have all the fun he liked with us. If he thinks we’ve got something up our sleeve he may be a little cautious. Anyway, he knows that our biggest rush is coming a little later, and he’s likely to wait for it.”

Then Hilda spoke for the first time. “Has he so much power as that? Will they strike just because he orders them to?”

“Why, not exactly,” said Bannon. “They decide that for themselves, or at least they think they do. They vote on it.”

“Well, then,” she asked hesitatingly, “why can’t you just tell the men what Mr. Grady wants you to do and show them that he’s dishonest? They know they’ve been treated all right, don’t they?”

Bannon shook his head. “No use,” he said. “You see, these fellows don’t know much. They aren’t like skilled laborers who need some sense in their business. They’re just common roustabouts, and most of ’em have gunpowder in place of brains. They don’t want facts or reason either; what they like is Grady’s oratory. They think that’s the finest thing they ever heard. They might all be perfectly satisfied and anxious to work, but if Grady was to sing out to know if they wanted to be slaves, they’d all strike like a freight train rolling down grade.

“No,” he went on, “there’s nothing to be done with the men. Do you know what would happen if I was to go up to their lodge and tell right out that Grady was a blackmailer? Why, after they’d got through with me, personally, they’d pass a resolution vindicating Grady. They’d resolve that I was a thief and a liar and a murderer and an oppressor of the poor and a traitor, and if they could think of anything more than that, they’d put it in, too. And after vindicating Grady to their satisfaction, they’d take his word for law and the gospel more than ever. In this sort of a scrape you want to hit as high as you can, strike the biggest man who will let you in his office. It’s the small fry that make the trouble. I guess that’s true ‘most everywhere. I know the general manager of a railroad is always an easier chap to get on with than the division superintendent.”

“Well,” said Pete, after waiting a moment to see if Bannon had any definite suggestion to make as to the best way to deal with Grady, “I’m glad you don’t think he’ll try to tie us up to-night. Maybe we’ll think of something to-morrow. I’ve got to get back on the job.”

“I’ll go up with you,” said Max, promptly. Then, in answer to Hilda’s gesture of protest, “You don’t want to climb away up there to-night. I’ll be back in ten minutes,” and he was gone before she could reply. “I guess I can take care of you till he comes back,” said Bannon. Hilda made no answer. She seemed to think that silence would conceal her annoyance better than anything she could say. So, after waiting a moment, Bannon went on talking.

“I suppose that’s the reason why I get ugly sometimes and call names; because I ain’t a big enough man not to. If I was getting twenty-five thousand a year maybe I’d be as smooth as anybody. I’d like to be a general manager for a while, just to see how it would work.”

“I don’t see how anybody could ever know enough to run a railroad.” Hilda was looking up at the C. & S. C. right of way, where red and white semaphore lights were winking.

“I was offered that job once myself, though, and turned it down,” said Bannon. “I was superintendent of the electric light plant at Yawger. Yawger’s quite a place, on a branch of the G. T. There was another road ran through the town, called the Bemis, Yawger and Pacific. It went from Bemis to Stiles Corners, a place about six miles west of Yawger. It didn’t get any nearer the Pacific than that. Nobody in Yawger ever went to Bemis or Stiles, and there wasn’t anybody in Bemis and Stiles to come to Yawger, or if they did come they never went back, so the road didn’t do a great deal of business. They assessed the stock every year to pay the officers’ salaries—and they had a full line of officers, too—but the rest of the road had to scrub along the best it could.

“When they elected me alderman from the first ward up at Yawger, I found out that the B. Y. & P. owed the city four hundred and thirty dollars, so I tried to find out why they wasn’t made to pay. It seemed that the city had had a judgment against them for years, but they couldn’t get hold of anything that was worth seizing. They all laughed at me when I said I meant to get that money out of ’em.

“The railroad had one train; there was an engine and three box cars and a couple of flats and a combination—that’s baggage and passenger. It made the round trip from Bemis every day, fifty-two miles over all, and considering the roadbed and the engine, that was a good day’s work.

“Well, that train was worth four hundred and thirty dollars all right enough, if they could have got their hands on it, but the engineer was such a peppery chap that nobody ever wanted to bother him. But I just bided my time, and one hot day after watering up the engine him and the conductor went off to get a drink. I had a few lengths of log chain handy, and some laborers with picks and shovels, and we made a neat, clean little job of it. Then I climbed up into the cab. When the engineer came back and wanted to know what I was doing there, I told him we’d attached his train. ‘Don’t you try to serve no papers on me,’ he sung out, ‘or I’ll split your head.’ ‘There’s no papers about this job,’ said I. ‘We’ve attached it to the track,’ At that he dropped the fire shovel and pulled open the throttle. The drivers spun around all right, but the train never moved an inch.

“He calmed right down after that and said he hadn’t four hundred and thirty dollars with him, but if I’d let the train go, he’d pay me in a week. I couldn’t quite do that, so him and the conductor had to walk ‘way to Bemis, where the general offices was. They was pretty mad. We had that train chained up there for ‘most a month, and at last they paid the claim.”

“Was that the railroad that offered to make you general manager?” Hilda asked.

“Yes, provided I’d let the train go. I’m glad I didn’t take it up, though. You see, the farmers along the road who held the stock in it made up their minds that the train had quit running for good, so they took up the rails where it ran across their farms, and used the ties for firewood. That’s all they ever got out of their investment.”

A few moments later Max came back and Bannon straightened up to go. “I wish you’d tell Pete when you see him to-morrow,” he said to the boy, “that I won’t be on the job till noon.”

“Going to take a holiday?”

“Yes. Tell him I’m taking the rest cure up at a sanitarium.”

At half-past eight next morning Bannon entered the outer office of R. S. Carver, president of the Central District of the American Federation of Labor, and seated himself on one of the long row of wood-bottomed chairs that stood against the wall. Most of them were already occupied by poorly dressed men who seemed also to be waiting for the president. One man, in dilapidated, dirty finery, was leaning over the stenographer’s desk, talking about the last big strike and guessing at the chance of there being any fun ahead in the immediate future. But the rest of them waited in stolid, silent patience, sitting quite still in unbroken rank along the wall, their overcoats, if they had them, buttoned tight around their chins, though the office was stifling hot. The dirty man who was talking to the stenographer filled a pipe with some very bad tobacco and ostentatiously began smoking it, but not a man followed his example.

Bannon sat in that silent company for more than an hour before the great man came. Even then there was no movement among those who sat along the wall, save as they followed him almost furtively with their eyes. The president never so much as glanced at one of them; for all he seemed to see the rank of chairs might have been empty. He marched across to his private office, and, leaving the door open behind him, sat down before his desk. Bannon sat still a moment, waiting for those who had come before him to make the first move, but not a man of them stirred, so, somewhat out of patience with this mysteriously solemn way of doing business, he arose and walked into the president’s office with as much assurance as though it had been his own. He shut the door after him. The president did not look up, but went on cutting open his mail.

“I’m from MacBride & Company, of Minneapolis,” said Bannon.

“Guess I don’t know the parties.”

“Yes, you do. We’re building a grain elevator at Calumet.”

The president looked up quickly. “Sit down,” he said. “Are you superintending the work?”

“Yes. My name’s Bannon—Charles Bannon.”

“Didn’t you have some sort of an accident out there? An overloaded hoist? And you hurt a man, I believe.”


“And I think one of your foremen drew a revolver on a man.”

“I did, myself.”

The president let a significant pause intervene before his next question. “What do you want with me?”

“I want you to help me out. It looks as though we might get into trouble with our laborers.”

“You’ve come to the wrong man. Mr. Grady is the man for you to talk with. He’s their representative.”

“We haven’t got on very well with Mr. Grady. The first time he came on the job he didn’t know our rule that visitors must apply at the office, and we weren’t very polite to him. He’s been down on us ever since. We can’t make any satisfactory agreement with him.”

Carver turned away impatiently. “You’ll have to,” he said, “if you want to avoid trouble with your men. It’s no business of mine. He’s acting on their instructions.”

“No, he isn’t,” said Bannon, sharply. “What they want, I guess, is to be treated square and paid a fair price. What he wants is blackmail.”

“I’ve heard that kind of talk before. It’s the same howl that an employer always makes when he’s tried to bribe an agent who’s active in the interest of the men, and got left at it. What have you got to show for it? Anything but just your say so?”

Bannon drew out Grady’s letter of warning and handed it to him. Carver read it through, then tossed it on his desk. “You certainly don’t offer that as proof that he wants blackmail, Mr. Bannon.”

“There’s never any proof of blackmail. When a man can see me alone, he isn’t going to talk before witnesses, and he won’t commit himself in writing. Grady told me that unless we paid his price he’d tie us up. No one else was around when he said it.”

“Then you haven’t anything but your say so. But I know him, and I don’t know you. Do you think I’d take your word against his?”

“That letter doesn’t prove blackmail,” said Bannon, “but it smells of it. And there’s the same smell about everything Grady has done. When he came to my office a day or two after that hoist accident, I tried to find out what he wanted, and he gave me nothing but oratory. I tried to pin him down to something definite, but my stenographer was there and Grady didn’t have a suggestion to make. Then by straining his neck and asking questions, he found out we were in a hurry, that the elevator was no good unless it was done by January first, and that we had all the money we needed.

“Two days after he sent me that letter. Look at it again. Why does he want to take both of us to Chicago on Sunday morning, when he can see me any time at my office on the job?” Bannon spread the letter open before Carver’s face. “Why doesn’t he say right here what it is he wants, if it’s anything he dares to put in black and white? I didn’t pay any attention to that letter; it didn’t deserve any. And then will you tell me why he came to my room at night to see me instead of to my office in the daytime? I can prove that he did. Does all that look as if I tried to bribe him? Forget that we’re talking about Grady, and tell me what you think it looks like.”

Carver was silent for a moment. “That wouldn’t do any good,” he said at last. “If you had proof that I could act on, I might be able to help you. I haven’t any jurisdiction in the internal affairs of that lodge; but if you could offer proof that he is what you say he is, I could tell them that if they continued to support him, the federation withdraws its support. But I don’t see that I can help you as it is. I don’t see any reason why I should.”

“I’ll tell you why you should. Because if there’s any chance that what I’ve said is true, it will be a lot better for your credit to have the thing settled quietly. And it won’t be settled quietly if we have to fight. It isn’t very much you have to do; just satisfy yourself as to how things are going down there. See whether we’re square, or Grady is. Then when the scrap comes on you’ll know how to act. That’s all. Do your investigating in advance.”

“That’s just what I haven’t any right to do. I can’t mix up in the business till it comes before me in the regular way.”

“Well,” said Bannon, with a smile, “if you can’t do it yourself, maybe some man you have confidence in would do it for you.”

Carver drummed thoughtfully on his desk for a few minutes. Then he carefully folded Grady’s letter and put it in his pocket. “I’m glad to have met you, Mr. Bannon,” he said, holding out his hand. “Good morning.”

Next morning while Bannon was opening his mail, a man came to the timekeeper’s window and asked for a job as a laborer. “Guess we’ve got men enough,” said Max. “Haven’t we, Mr. Bannon?”

The man put his head in the window. “A fellow down in Chicago told me if I’d come out here to Calumet K and ask Mr. Bannon for a job, he’d give me one.”

“Are you good up high?” Bannon asked.

The man smiled ruefully, and said he was afraid not.

“Well, then,” returned Bannon, “we’ll have to let you in on the ground floor. What’s your name?”


“Go over to the tool house and get a broom. Give him a check, Max.”

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17

LIVE TALK: Calumet “K”: Ayn Rand’s Favorite Novel by Shoshana Milgram Ph.D.

“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).

Talk will be presented at OCON 2017 in Pittsburg, PA and is FREE for all students to attend!


Five Thousand Dollars as a Fair Sum – Calumet “K”, Chapter 10

Five Thousand Dollars as a Fair Sum – Calumet “K”, Chapter 10


Grady’s affairs were prospering beyond his expectations, confident though he had been. Away back in the summer, when the work was in its early stages, his eye had been upon it; he had bided his time in the somewhat indefinite hope that something would turn up. But he went away jubilant from his conversation with Peterson, for it seemed that all the cards were in his hands.

Just as a man running for a car is the safest mark for a gamin’s snowball, so Calumet K, through being a rush job as well as a rich one, offered a particularly advantageous field for Grady’s endeavors. Men who were trying to accomplish the impossible feat of completing, at any cost, the great hulk on the river front before the first of January, would not be likely to stop to quibble at paying the five thousand dollars or so that Grady, who, as the business agent of his union was simply in masquerade, would like to extort.

He had heard that Peterson was somewhat disaffected to Bannon’s authority, but had not expected him to make so frank an avowal of it. That was almost as much in his favor as the necessity for hurry. These, with the hoist accident to give a color of respectability to the operation, ought to make it simple enough. He had wit enough to see that Bannon was a much harder man to handle than Peterson, and that with Peterson restored to full authority, the only element of uncertainty would be removed. And he thought that if he could get Peterson to help him it might be possible to secure Bannon’s recall. If the scheme failed, he had still another shot in his locker, but this one was worth a trial, anyway.

One afternoon in the next week he went around to Peterson’s boarding-house and sent up his card with as much ceremony as though the night boss had been a railway president.

“I hope you can spare me half an hour, Mr. Peterson. There’s a little matter of business I’d like to talk over with you.”

The word affected Peterson unpleasantly. That was a little farther than he could go without a qualm. “Sure,” he said uneasily, looking at his watch.

“I don’t know as I should call it business, either,” Grady went on. “When you come right down to it, it’s a matter of friendship, for surely it’s no business of mine. Maybe you think it’s queer—I think it’s queer myself, that I should be coming ’round tendering my friendly services to a man who’s had his hands on my throat threatening my life. That ain’t my way, but somehow I like you, Mr. Peterson, and there’s an end of it. And when I like a man, I like him, too. How’s the elevator? Everything going to please you?”

“I guess it’s going all right. It ain’t——” Pete hesitated, and then gave up the broken sentence. “It’s all right,” he repeated.

Grady smiled. “There’s the good soldier. Won’t talk against his general. But, Mr. Peterson, let me ask you a question; answer me as a man of sense. Which makes the best general—the man who leads the charge straight up to the intrenchments, yellin’: ‘Come on, boys!’—or the one who says, very likely shaking a revolver in their faces: ‘Get in there, ye damn low-down privates, and take that fort, and report to me when I’ve finished my breakfast’? Which one of those two men will the soldiers do the most for? For the one they like best, Mr. Peterson, and don’t forget it. And which one of these are they going to like best, do you suppose—the brave leader who scorns to ask his men to go where he wouldn’t go himself, who isn’t ashamed to do honest work with honest hands, whose fists are good enough to defend him against his enemies; or the man who is afraid to go out among the men without a revolver in his hip pocket? Answer me as a man of sense, Mr. Peterson.”

Peterson was manifestly disturbed by the last part of the harangue. Now he said: “Oh, I guess Bannon wasn’t scared when he drawed that gun on Reilly. He ain’t that kind.”

“Would you draw a gun on an unarmed, defenceless man?” Grady asked earnestly.

“No, I wouldn’t. I don’t like that way of doing.”

“The men don’t like it either, Mr. Peterson. No more than you do. They like you. They’ll do anything you ask them to. They know that you can do anything that they can. But, Mr. Peterson, I’ll be frank with you. They don’t like the man who crowded you out. That’s putting it mild. I won’t say they hate him for an uncivil, hard-tongued, sneaking weasel of a spy——”

“I never knew Bannon to do anything like that,” said Peterson, slowly.

“I did. Didn’t he come sneaking up and hear what I was saying—up on top of the elevator the other day? I guess he won’t try that again. I told him that when I was ready to talk to him, I’d come down to the office to do it.”

Grady was going almost too far; Pete would not stand very much more; already he was trying to get on his feet to put an end to the conversation. “I ask your pardon, Mr. Peterson. I forgot he was a friend of yours. But the point is right here. The men don’t like him. They’ve been wanting to strike these three days, just because they don’t want to work for that ruffian. I soothed them all I can, but they won’t hold in much longer. Mark my words, there’ll be a strike on your hands before the week’s out unless you do something pretty soon.”

“What have they got to strike about? Don’t we treat them all right? What do they kick about?”

“A good many things, big and little. But the real reason is the one I’ve been giving you—Bannon. Neither more nor less.”

“Do you mean they’d be all right if another man was in charge?”

Grady could not be sure from Peterson’s expression whether the ice were firm enough to step out boldly upon, or not. He tested it cautiously.

“Mr. Peterson, I know you’re a good man. I know you’re a generous man. I know you wouldn’t want to crowd Bannon out of his shoes the way he crowded you out of yours; not even after the way he’s treated you. But look here, Mr. Peterson. Who’s your duty to? The men up in Minneapolis who pay your salary, or the man who has come down here and is giving orders over your head?

“—No, just let me finish, Mr. Peterson. I know what you’re going to say. But do your employers want to get the job done by New Year’s? They do. Do they pay you to help get it done? They do. Will it be done if that would-be murderer of a Bannon is allowed to stay here? It will not, you can bet on that. Then it’s your duty to get him out of here, and I’m going to help you do it.”

Grady was on his feet when he declaimed the last sentence. He flung out his hand toward Pete. “Shake on it!” he cried.

Peterson had also got to his feet, but more slowly. He did not take the hand. “I’m much obliged, Mr. Grady,” he said. “It’s very kind in you. If that’s so as you say, I suppose he’ll have to go. And he’ll go all right without any shoving when he sees that it is so. You go and tell just what you’ve told me to Charlie Bannon. He’s boss on this job.”

Grady would have fared better with a man of quicker intelligence. Peterson was so slow at catching the blackmailer’s drift that he spoke in perfectly good faith when he made the suggestion that he tell Bannon, and Grady went away a good deal perplexed as to the best course to pursue,—whether to go directly to Bannon, or to try the night boss again.

As for Peterson, four or five times during his half-hour talk with Bannon at the office that evening, he braced himself to tell the boss what Grady had said, but it was not till just as Bannon was going home that it finally came out. “Have you seen Grady lately?” Pete asked, as calmly as he could.

“He was around here something more than a week ago; gave me a little bombthrowers’ anniversary oratory about oppressors and a watchful eye. There’s no use paying any attention to him yet. He thinks he’s got some trouble cooking for us on the stove, but we’ll have to wait till he turns it into the dish. He ain’t as dangerous as he thinks he is.”

“He’s been around to see me lately—twice.”

“He has! What did he want with you? When was it he came?”

“The first time about a week ago. That was nothing but a little friendly talk, but——”

“Friendly! Him! What did he have to say?”

“Why, it was nothing. I don’t remember. He wanted to know if I was laid off, and I told him I was on the night shift.”

“Was that all?”

“Pretty near. He wanted to know what we was in such a hurry about, working nights, and I said we had to be through by January first. Then he said he supposed it must be for some rich man who didn’t care how much it cost him; and I said yes, it was. That was all. He didn’t mean nothing. We were just passing the time of day. I don’t see any harm in that.”

Bannon was leaning on the rail, his face away from Peterson. After a while he spoke thoughtfully. “Well, that cinches it. I guess he meant to hold us up, anyway, but now he knows we’re a good thing.”

“How’s that? I don’t see,” said Peterson; but Bannon made no reply.

“What did he have to offer the next time he came around? More in the same friendly way? When was it?”

“Just this afternoon. Why, he said he was afraid we’d have a strike on our hands.”

“He ought to know,” said Bannon. “Did he give any reason?”

“Yes, he did. You won’t mind my speaking it right out, I guess. He said the men didn’t like you, and if you wasn’t recalled they’d likely strike. He said they’d work under me if you was recalled, but he didn’t think he could keep ’em from going out if you stayed. That ain’t what I think, mind you; I’m just telling you what he said. Then he kind of insinuated that I ought to do something about it myself. That made me tired, and I told him to come to you about it. I said you was the boss here now, and I was only the foreman of the night shift.”

Until that last sentence Bannon had been only half listening. He made no sign, indeed, of having heard anything, but stood hacking at the pine railing with his pocket-knife. He was silent so long that at last Peterson arose to go. Bannon shut his knife and wheeled around to face him.

“Hold on, Pete,” he said. “We’d better talk this business out right here.”

“Talk out what?”

“Oh, I guess you know. Why don’t we pull together better? What is it you’re sore about?”

“Nothing. You don’t need to worry about it.”

“Look here, Pete. You’ve known me a good many years. Do you think I’m square?”

“I never said you wasn’t square.”

“You might have given me the benefit of the doubt, anyway. I know you didn’t like my coming down here to take charge. Do you suppose I did? You were unlucky, and a man working for MacBride can’t afford to be unlucky; so he told me to come and finish the job. And once I was down here he held me responsible for getting it done. I’ve got to go ahead just the best I can. I thought you saw that at first, and that we’d get on all right together, but lately it’s been different.”

“I thought I’d been working hard enough to satisfy anybody.”

“It ain’t that, and you know it ain’t. It’s just the spirit of the thing. Now, I don’t ask you to tell me why it is you feel this way. If you want to talk it out now, all right. If you don’t, all right again. But if you ever think I’m not using you right, come to me and say so. Just look at what we’ve got to do here, Pete, before the first of January. Sometimes I think we can do it, and sometimes I think we can’t, but we’ve got to anyway. If we don’t, MacBride will just make up his mind we’re no good. And unless we pull together, we’re stuck for sure. It ain’t a matter of work entirely. I want to feel that I’ve got you with me. Come around in the afternoon if you happen to be awake, and fuss around and tell me what I’m doing wrong. I want to consult you about a good many things in the course of a day.”

Pete’s face was simply a lens through which one could see the feelings at work beneath, and Bannon knew that he had struck the right chord at last. “How is it? Does that go?”

“Sure,” said Pete. “I never knew you wanted to consult me about anything, or I’d have been around before.”

Friday afternoon Bannon received a note from Grady saying that if he had any regard for his own interests or for those of his employers, he would do well to meet the writer at ten o’clock Sunday morning at a certain downtown hotel. It closed with a postscript containing the disinterested suggestion that delays were dangerous, and a hint that the writer’s time was valuable and he wished to be informed whether the appointment would be kept or not.

Bannon ignored the note, and all day Monday expected Grady’s appearance at the office. He did not come, but when Bannon reached his boarding-house about eight o’clock that evening, he found Grady in his room waiting for him.

“I can’t talk on an empty stomach,” said the boss, cheerfully, as he was washing up. “Just wait till I get some supper.”

“I’ll wait,” said Grady, grimly.

When Bannon came back to talk, he took off his coat and sat down astride a chair. “Well, Mr. Grady, when you came here before you said it was to warn me, but the next time you came you were going to begin to act. I’m all ready.”

“All right,” said Grady, with a vicious grin. “Be as smart as you like. I’ll be paid well for every word of it and for every minute you’ve kept me waiting yesterday and to-night That was the most expensive supper you ever ate. I thought you had sense enough to come, Mr. Bannon. That’s why I wasted a stamp on you. You made the biggest mistake of your life——”

During the speech Bannon had sat like a man hesitating between two courses of action. At this point he interrupted:—

“Let’s get to business, Mr. Grady.”

“I’ll get to it fast enough. And when I do you’ll see if you can safely insult the representative of the mighty power of the honest workingman of this vast land.”


“I hear you folks are in a hurry, Mr. Bannon?”


“And that you’ll spend anything it costs to get through on time. How’d it suit you to have all your laborers strike about now? Don’t that idea make you sick?”

“Pretty near.”

“Well, they will strike inside two days.”

“What for? Suppose we settle with them direct.”

“Just try that,” said Grady, with withering sarcasm. “Just try that and see how it works.”

“I don’t want to. I only wanted to hear you confess that you are a rascal.”

“You’ll pay dear for giving me that name. But we come to that later. Do you think it would be worth something to the men who hire you for a dirty slave-driver to be protected against a strike? Wouldn’t they be willing to pay a round sum to get this work done on time? Take a minute to think about it. Be careful how you tell me they wouldn’t. You’re not liked here, Mr. Bannon, by anybody——”

“You’re threatening to have me recalled, according to your suggestions to Mr. Peterson the other night. Well, that’s all right if you can do it. But I think that sooner than recall me or have a strike they would be willing to pay for protection.”

“You do. I didn’t look for that much sense in you. If you’d shown it sooner it might have saved your employers a large wad of bills. If you’d taken the trouble to be decent when I went to you in a friendly way a very little would have been enough. But now I’ve got to be paid. What do you say to five thousand as a fair sum?”

“They’d be willing to pay fully that to save delay,” said Bannon, cheerfully.

“They would!” To save his life Grady could not help looking crestfallen. It seemed then that he might have got fifty. “All right,” he went on, “five thousand it is; and I want it in hundred-dollar bills.”

“You do!” cried Bannon, jumping to his feet. “Do you think you’re going to get a cent of it? I might pay blackmail to an honest rascal who delivered the goods paid for. But I had your size the first time you came around. Don’t you think I knew what you wanted? If I’d thought you were worth buying, I’d have settled it up for three hundred dollars and a box of cigars right at the start. That’s about your market price. But as long as I knew you’d sell us out again if you could, I didn’t think you were even worth the cigars. No; don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Go out and do it if you can. And get out of here.”

For the second time Bannon took the little delegate by the arm. He marched him to the head of the long, straight flight of stairs. Then he hesitated a moment. “I wish you were three sizes larger,” he said.


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17

LIVE TALK: Calumet “K”: Ayn Rand’s Favorite Novel by Shoshana Milgram Ph.D.

“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).

Talk will be presented at OCON 2017 in Pittsburg, PA and is FREE for all students to attend!


He Don’t Care What It Costs Him – Calumet “K”, Chapter 9

He Don’t Care What It Costs Him – Calumet “K”, Chapter 9


The direct result of the episode with the carpenter Reilly was insignificant. He did not attempt to make good his boast that he would be back at work next day, and when he did appear, on Wednesday of the next week, his bleared eyes and dilapidated air made the reason plain enough. A business agent of his union was with him; Bannon found them in the office.

He nodded to the delegate. “Sit down,” he said. Then he turned to Reilly. “I don’t ask you to do the same. You’re not wanted on the premises. I told you once before that I was through talking.”

Reilly started to reply, but his companion checked him. “That’s all right,” he said. “I know your side of it. Wait for me up by the car line.”

When Reilly had gone Bannon repeated his invitation to sit down.

“You probably know why I’ve come,” the delegate began. “Mr. Reilly has charged you with treating him unjustly and with drawing a revolver on him. Of course, in a case like this, we try to get at both sides before we take any action. Would you give me your account of it?”

Bannon told in twenty words just how it had happened. The agent said cautiously: “Reilly told another story.”

“I suppose so. Now, I don’t ask you to take my word against his. If you’d like to investigate the business, I’ll give you all the opportunity you want.”

“If we find that he did drop the hammer by accident, would you be willing to take him back?”

Bannon smiled. “There’s no use in my telling you what I’ll do till you tell me what you want me to do, is there?”

Bannon held out his hand when the man rose to go.

“Any time you think there’s something wrong out here, or anything you don’t understand, come out and we’ll talk it over. I treat a man as well as I can, if he’s square with me.”

He walked to the door with the agent and closed it after him. As he turned back to the draughting table, he found Hilda’s eyes on him.

“They’re very clean chaps, mostly, those walking delegates,” he said. “If you treat ’em half as well as you’d treat a yellow dog, they’re likely to be very reasonable. If one of ’em does happen to be a rascal, though, he’s meaner to handle than frozen dynamite. I expect to be white-headed before I’m through with that man Grady.”

“Is he a rascal?” she asked.

“He’s as bad as you find ’em. Even if he’d been handled right——”

Bannon broke off abruptly and began turning over the blue prints. “Suppose I’d better see how this next story looks,” he said. Hilda had heard how Pete had dealt with Grady at their first meeting, and she could complete the broken sentence.

Bannon never heard whether the agent from the carpenters’ union had looked further into Reilly’s case, but he was not asked to take him back on the pay roll. But that was not the end of the incident. Coming out on the distributing floor just before noon on Thursday, he found Grady in the act of delivering an impassioned oration to the group of laborers about the hoist. Before Grady saw him, Bannon had come near enough to hear something about being “driven at the point of a pistol.”

The speech came suddenly to an end when Grady, following the glances of his auditors, turned and saw who was coming. Bannon noted with satisfaction the scared look of appeal which he turned, for a second, toward the men. It was good to know that Grady was something of a coward.

Bannon nodded to him pleasantly enough. “How are you, Grady?” he said.

Seeing that he was in no danger, the delegate threw back his shoulders, held up his head, and, frowning in an important manner, he returned Bannon’s greeting with the scantest civility.

Bannon walked up and stood beside him. “If you can spare the time,” he said politely, “I’d like to see you at the office for a while.”

Convinced now that Bannon was doing everything in his power to conciliate him, Grady grew more important “Very well,” he said; “when I’ve got through up here, ye can see me if ye like.”

“All right,” said Bannon, patiently; “no hurry.”

During the full torrent of Grady’s eloquence the work had not actually been interrupted. The big boom bearing its load of timber swept in over the distributing floor with unbroken regularity; but the men had worked with only half their minds and had given as close attention as they dared to the delegate’s fervid utterances. But from the moment Bannon appeared there had been a marked change in the attitude of the little audience; they steered the hoist and canted the timbers about with a sudden enthusiasm which made Bannon smile a little as he stood watching them.

Grady could not pump up a word to say. He cleared his throat loudly once or twice, but the men ignored him utterly. He kept casting his shifty little sidewise glances at the boss, wondering why he didn’t go away, but Bannon continued to stand there, giving an occasional direction, and watching the progress of the work with much satisfaction. The little delegate shifted his weight from one foot to the other and cleared his throat again. Then he saw that two or three of the men were grinning. That was too much.

“Well, I’ll go with you,” he snapped.

Bannon could not be sure how much of an impression Grady’s big words and his ridiculous assumption of importance had made upon the men, but he determined to counteract it as thoroughly as possible, then and there. It was a sort of gallery play that he had decided on, but he felt sure it would prove effective.

Grady turned to go down as he had come up, by the ladders, but Bannon caught him by the shoulder, saying with a laugh: “Oh, don’t waste your time walking. Take the elevator.” His tone was friendly but his grip was like a man-trap, and he was propelling Grady straight toward the edge of the building. Four big timbers had just come up and Bannon caught the released rope as it came trailing by. “Here,” he said; “put your foot in the hook and hang on, and you’ll come down in no time.”

Grady laughed nervously. “No you don’t. I suppose you’d be glad to get rid of me that way. You don’t come that on me.”

The men were watching with interest; Bannon raised his voice a little. “All right,” he said, thrusting his foot into the great hook, “if you feel that way about it. We’ll have a regular passenger elevator in here by and by, with an electric bell and sliding door, for the capitalist crowd that are going to own the place. But we workingmen get along all right on this. Swing off, boys.”

He waited for Grady down below. It mattered very little to him now whether the walking delegate chose to follow him down the hoist or to walk down on the ladders, for every one had seen that Grady was afraid. Bannon had seen all the men grinning broadly as he began his descent, and that was all he wanted.

Evidently Grady’s fear of the rope was less than his dread of the ridicule of the men, for Bannon saw him preparing to come down after the next load. He took a long time getting ready, but at last they started him. He was the color of a handful of waste when he reached the ground, and he staggered as he walked with Bannon over to the office. He dropped into a chair and rubbed his forehead with his coat-sleeve.

“Well,” said Bannon, “do you like the look of things? I hope you didn’t find anything out of the way?”

“Do you dare ask me that?” Grady began. His voice was weak at first, but as his giddiness passed away it arose again to its own inimitable oratorical level. “Do you dare pretend that you are treating these men right? Who gave you the right to decide that this man shall live and this man shall die, and that this poor fellow who asks no more than to be allowed to earn his honest living with his honest sweat shall be stricken down with two broken ribs?”

“I don’t know,” said Bannon. “You’re speaking of the hoist accident, I suppose. Well, go and ask that man if he has any complaint to make. If he has, come and let me know about it.”

“They call this a free country, and yet you oppressors can compel men to risk their lives——”

“Have you any changes to suggest in the way that hoist is rigged?” Bannon cut in quietly. “You’ve been inspecting it. What did you think was unsafe about it?”

Grady was getting ready for his next outburst, but Bannon prevented him. “There ain’t many jobs, if you leave out tacking down carpets, where a man don’t risk his life more or less. MacBride don’t compel men to risk their lives; he pays ’em for doing it, and you can bet he’s done it himself. We don’t like it, but it’s necessary. Now, if you saw men out there taking risks that you think are unnecessary, why, say so, and we’ll talk it over.”

“There’s another thing you’ve got to answer for, Mr. Bannon. These are free men that are devoting their honest labor to you. You may think you’re a slave driver, but you aren’t. You may flourish your revolver in the faces of slaves, but free American citizens will resent it——”

“Mr. Grady, the man I drew a gun on was a carpenter. His own union is looking after him. He had thrown a hammer down into a bin where some of your laborers were at work, so I acted in their defence.”

Grady stood up. “I come here to give you warning to-day, Mr. Bannon. There is a watchful eye on you. The next time I come it will not be to warn, but to act. That’s all I’ve got to say to you now.”

Bannon, too, was on his feet. “Mr. Grady, we try to be fair to our men. It’s your business to see that we are fair, so we ought to get on all right together. After this, if the men lodge any complaint with you, come to me; don’t go out on the job and make speeches. If you’re looking for fair play, you’ll get it. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ll get it. Good-morning.”

The new régime in operation at the elevator was more of a hardship to Peterson than to any one else, because it compelled him to be much alone. Not only was he quite cut off from the society of Max and Hilda, but it happened that the two or three under-foremen whom he liked best were on the day shift. The night’s work with none of those pleasant little momentary interruptions that used to occur in the daytime was mere unrelieved drudgery, but the afternoons, when he had given up trying to sleep any longer, were tedious enough to make him long for six o’clock.

Naturally, his disposition was easy and generous, but he had never been in the habit of thinking much, and thinking, especially as it led to brooding, was not good for him. From the first, of course, he had been hurt that the office should have thought it necessary to send Bannon to supersede him, but so long as he had plenty to do and was in Bannon’s company every hour of the day, he had not taken time to think about it much. But now he thought of little else, and as time went on he succeeded in twisting nearly everything the new boss had said or done to fit his theory that Bannon was jealous of him and was trying to take from him the credit which rightfully belonged to him. And Bannon had put him in charge of the night shift, so Peterson came to think, simply because he had seen that Hilda was beginning to like him.

About four o’clock one afternoon, not many days after Grady’s talk with Bannon, Peterson sat on the steps of his boarding-house, trying to make up his mind what to do, and wishing it were six o’clock. He wanted to stroll down to the job to have a chat with his friends, but he had somewhat childishly decided he wasn’t wanted there while Miss Vogel was in the office, so he sat still and whittled, and took another view of his grievances. Glancing up, he saw Grady, the walking delegate, coming along the sidewalk. Now that the responsibility of the elevator was off his shoulders he no longer cherished any particular animosity toward the little Irishman, but he remembered their last encounter and wondered whether he should speak to him or not.

But Grady solved his doubt by calling out cheerfully to know how he was and turning in toward the steps. “I suppose I ought to lick you after what’s passed between us,” he added with a broad smile, “but if you’re willing we’ll call it bygones.”

“Sure,” said Peterson.

“It’s fine seasonable weather we’re having, and just the thing for you on the elevator. It’s coming right along.”


“It’s as interesting a bit of work as I ever saw. I was there the other day looking at it. And, by the way, I had a long talk with Mr. Bannon. He’s a fine man.”

Grady had seated himself on the step below Peterson. Now for the first time he looked at him.

“He’s a good hustler,” said Peterson.

“Well, that’s what passes for a fine man, these days, though mistakes are sometimes made that way. But how does it happen that you’re not down there superintending? I hope some carpenter hasn’t taken it into his head to fire the boss.”

“I’m not boss there any longer. The office sent Bannon down to take it over my head.”

“You don’t tell me that? It’s a pity.” Grady was shaking his head solemnly. “It’s a pity. The men like you first-rate, Mr. Peterson. I’m not saying they don’t like anybody else, but they like you. But people in an office a thousand miles away can’t know everything, and that’s a fact. And so he laid you off.”

“Oh, no, I ain’t quite laid off—yet. He’s put me in charge of the night shift.”

“So you’re working nights, then? It seemed to me you was working fast enough in the daytime to satisfy anybody. But I suppose some rich man is in a hurry for it and you must do your best to accommodate him.”

“You bet, he’s in a hurry for it. He won’t listen to reason at all. Says the bins have got to be chock full of grain before January first, no matter what happens to us. He don’t care how much it costs, either.”

“I must be going along,” said Grady, getting to his feet. “That man must be in a hurry. January first! That’s quick work, and he don’t care how much it costs him. Oh, these rich devils! They’re hustlers, too, Mr. Peterson. Well, good-night to you.”

Peterson saw Bannon twice every day,—for a half hour at night when he took charge of the job, and for another half hour in the morning when he relinquished it. That was all except when they chanced to meet during Bannon’s irregular nightly wanderings about the elevator. As the days had gone by these conversations had been confined more and more rigidly to necessary business, and though this result was Peterson’s own bringing about, still he charged it up as another of his grievances against Bannon.

When, about an hour after his conversation with Grady, he started down to the elevator to take command, he knew he ought to tell Bannon of his conversation with Grady, and he fully intended doing so. But his determination oozed away as he neared the office, and when he finally saw Bannon he decided to say nothing about it whatever. He decided thus partly because he wished to make his conversation with Bannon as short as possible, partly because he had not made up his mind what significance, if any, the incident had, and (more than either of these reasons) because ever since Grady had repeated the phrase: “He don’t care what it costs him,” Peterson had been uneasily aware that he had talked too much.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17

LIVE TALK: Calumet “K”: Ayn Rand’s Favorite Novel by Shoshana Milgram Ph.D.

“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).

Talk will be presented at OCON 2017 in Pittsburg, PA and is FREE for all students to attend!


The Elevator – Calumet “K”, Chapter 8

The Elevator – Calumet “K”, Chapter 8


Five minutes after the noon whistle blew, on Saturday, every carpenter and laborer knew that Bannon had “pulled a gun” on Reilly. Those who heard it last heard more than that, for when the story had passed through a few hands it was bigger and it took longer to tell. And every man, during the afternoon, kept his eyes more closely on his work. Some were angry, but these dropped from muttering into sullenness; the majority were relieved, for a good workman is surer of himself under a firm than under a slack hand; but all were cowed. And Bannon, when after dinner he looked over the work, knew more about all of them and their feelings, perhaps, than they knew themselves. He knew, too, that the incident might in the long run make trouble. But trouble was likely in any case, and it was better to meet it after he had established his authority than while discipline was at loose ends.

But Hilda and Max were disappointed. They were in the habit of talking over the incidents and problems of the day every night after supper. And while Hilda, as Max used to say, had a mind of her own, she had fallen into the habit of seeing things much as Max saw them. Max had from the start admired, in his boyish way, Peterson’s big muscles and his easy good nature. He had been the first to catch the new spirit that Bannon had got into the work, but it was more the outward activity that he could understand and admire than Bannon’s finer achievements in organization. Like Hilda, he did not see the difference between dropping a hammer down a bin and overloading a hoist. Bannon’s distinction between running risks in order to push the work and using caution in minor matters was not recognized in their talks. And as Bannon was not in the habit of giving his reasons, the misunderstanding grew. But more than all Max felt, and in a way Hilda felt, too, that Peterson would never have found it necessary to use a revolver; his fists would have been enough for a dozen Reillys. Max did not tell Hilda about all the conversations he and Peterson had had during the last week, for they were confidential. Peterson had never been without a confidant, and though he still shared a room with Bannon, he could not talk his mind out with him. Max, who to Bannon was merely an unusually capable lumber-checker, was to Peterson a friend and adviser. And though Max tried to defend Bannon when Peterson fell into criticism of the way the work was going, he was influenced by it.

During the few days after the accident Hilda was so deeply distressed about the injured man that Max finally went to see him.

“He’s pretty well taken care of,” he said when he returned. “There’s some ribs broken, he says, and a little fever, but it ain’t serious. He’s got a couple of sneaking little lawyers around trying to get him to sue for damages, but I don’t think he’ll do it. The Company’s giving him full pay and all his doctor’s bills.”

Nearly every evening after that Max took him some little delicacy. Hilda made him promise that he would not tell who sent them.

Bannon had quickly caught the changed attitude toward him, and for several days kept his own counsel. But one morning, after dictating some letters to Hilda, he lingered.

“How’s our fund getting on?” he said, smiling. “Have you looked lately?”

“No,” she said, “I haven’t.”

He leaned over the railing and opened the box.

“It’s coming slow,” he said, shaking his head. “Are you sure nobody’s been getting away from us?”

Hilda was seated before the typewriter. She turned partly around, without taking her fingers from the keys.

“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “I haven’t been watching it.”

“We’ll have to be stricter about it,” said Bannon. “These fellows have got to understand that rules are rules.”

He spoke with a little laugh, but the remark was unfortunate. The only men who came within the railing were Max and Peterson.

“I may have forgotten it, myself,” she said.

“That won’t do, you know. I don’t know but what I can let you off this time—I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Miss Vogel: I’ll make a new rule that you can come in without wiping your feet if you’ll hand in a written excuse. That’s the way they did things when I went to school.” He turned to go, then hesitated again. “You haven’t been out on the job yet, have you?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“I rather think you’d like it. It’s pretty work, now that we’re framing the cupola. If you say so, I’ll fix it for you to go up to the distributing floor this afternoon.”

She looked back at the machine.

“The view ain’t bad,” he went on, “when you get up there. You can see down into Indiana, and all around. You could see all Chicago, too, if it wasn’t for the smoke.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“Why, yes, Mr. Bannon,” she said; “I’d like to go very much.”

“All right,” he replied, his smile returning. “I’ll guarantee to get you up there somehow, if I have to build a stairway. Ninety feet’s pretty high, you know.”

When Bannon reached the elevator he stood for a moment in the well at the west end of the structure. This well, or “stairway bin,” sixteen by thirty-two feet, and open from the ground to the distributing floor, occupied the space of two bins. It was here that the stairway would be, and the passenger elevator, and the rope-drive for the transmission of power from the working to the distributing floor. The stairway was barely indicated by rude landings. For the present a series of eight ladders zigzagged up from landing to landing. Bannon began climbing; halfway up he met Max, who was coming down, time book in hand.

“Look here, Max,” he said, “we’re going to have visitors this afternoon. If you’ve got a little extra time I’d like to have you help get things ready.”

“All right,” Max replied. “I’m not crowded very hard to-day.”

“I’ve asked your sister to come up and see the framing.”

Max glanced down between the loose boards on the landing.

“I don’t know,” he said slowly; “I don’t believe she could climb up here very well.”

“She won’t have to. I’m going to put in a passenger elevator, and carry her up as grand as the Palmer House. You put in your odd minutes between now and three o’clock making a box that’s big and strong enough.”

Max grinned.

“Say, that’s all right. She’ll like that. I can do most of it at noon.”

Bannon nodded and went on up the ladders. At the distributing floor he looked about for a long timber, and had the laborers lay it across the well opening. The ladders and landings occupied only about a third of the space; the rest was open, a clear drop of eighty feet.

At noon he found Max in an open space behind the office, screwing iron rings into the corners of a stout box. Max glanced up and laughed.

“I made Hilda promise not to come out here,” he said. He waved his hand toward the back wall of the office. Bannon saw that he had nailed strips over the larger cracks and knot holes. “She was peeking, but I shut that off before I’d got very far along. I don’t think she saw what it was. I only had part of the frame done.”

“She’ll be coming out in a minute,” said Bannon.

“I know. I thought of that.” Max threw an armful of burlap sacking over the box. “That’ll cover it up enough. I guess it’s time to quit, anyway, if I’m going to get any dinner. There’s a little square of carpet up to the house that I’m going to get for the bottom, and we can run pieces of half-inch rope from the rings up to a hook, and sling it right on the hoist.”

“It’s not going on the hoist,” said Bannon. “I wouldn’t stop the timbers for Mr. MacBride himself. When you go back, you’ll see a timber on the top of the well. I’d like you to sling a block under it and run an inch-and-a-quarter rope through. We’ll haul it up from below.”

“What power?”

“Man power.”

“All right, Mr. Bannon. I’ll see to it. There’s Hilda now.”

He called to her to wait while he got his coat, and then the two disappeared across the tracks. Hilda had bowed to Bannon, but without the smile and the nod that he liked. He looked after her as if he would follow; but he changed his mind, and waited a few minutes.

The “elevator” was ready soon after the afternoon’s work had commenced. Bannon found time between two and three o’clock to inspect the tackle. He picked up an end of rope and lashed the cross timber down securely. Then he went down the ladders and found Max, who had brought the carpet for the box and was looking over his work. The rope led up to the top of the well through a pulley and then back to the working floor and through another pulley, so that the box could be hoisted from below.

“It’s all ready,” said Max. “It’ll run up as smooth as you want.”

“You’d better go for your sister, then,” Bannon replied.

Max hesitated.

“You meant for me to bring her?”

“Yes, I guess you might as well.”

Bannon stood looking after Max as he walked along the railroad track out into the open air. Then he glanced up between the smooth walls of cribbing that seemed to draw closer and closer together until they ended, far overhead, in a rectangle of blue sky. The beam across the top was a black line against the light. The rope, hanging from it, swayed lazily. He walked around the box, examining the rings and the four corner ropes, and testing them.

Hilda was laughing when she came with Max along the track. Bannon could not see her at first for the intervening rows of timbers that supported the bins. Then she came into view through an opening between two “bents” of timber, beyond a heap of rubbish that had been thrown at one side of the track. She was trying to walk on the rail, one arm thrown out to balance, the other resting across Max’s shoulders. Her jacket was buttoned snugly up to the chin, and there was a fresh color in her face.

Bannon had called in three laborers to man the rope; they stood at one side, awaiting the order to haul away. He found a block of wood, and set it against the box for a step.

“This way, Miss Vogel,” he called. “The elevator starts in a minute. You came pretty near being late.”

“Am I going to get in that?” she asked; and she looked up, with a little gasp, along the dwindling rope.

“Here,” said Max, “don’t you say nothing against that elevator. I call it pretty grand.”

She stood on the block, holding to one of the ropes, and looking alternately into the box and up to the narrow sky above them.

“It’s awfully high,” she said. “Is that little stick up there all that’s going to hold me up?”

“That little stick is ten-by-twelve,” Max replied. “It would hold more’n a dozen of you.”

She laughed, but still hesitated. She lowered her eyes and looked about the great dim space of the working story with its long aisles and its solid masses of timber. Suddenly she turned to Bannon, who was standing at her side, waiting to give her a hand.

“Oh, Mr. Bannon,” she said, “are you sure it’s strong enough? It doesn’t look safe.”

“I think it’s safe,” he replied quietly. He vaulted into the box and signalled to the laborers. Hilda stepped back off the block as he went up perhaps a third of the way, and then came down. She said nothing, but stepped on the block.

“How shall I get in?” she asked, laughing a little, but not looking at Bannon.

“Here,” said Bannon, “give us each a hand. A little jump’ll do it. Max here’ll go along the ladders and steady you if you swing too much. Wait a minute, though.” He hurried out of doors, and returned with a light line, one end of which he made fast to the box, the other he gave to Max.

“Now,” he said, “you can guide it as nice as walking upstairs.”

They started up, Hilda sitting in the box and holding tightly to the sides, Max climbing the ladders with the end of the line about his wrist. Bannon joined the laborers, and kept a hand on the hoisting rope.

“You’d better not look down,” he called after her.

She laughed and shook her head. Bannon waited until they had reached the top, and Max had lifted her out on the last landing; then, at Max’s shout, he made the rope fast and followed up the ladders.

He found them waiting for him near the top of the well.

“We might as well sit down,” he said. He led the way to a timber a few steps away. “Well, Miss Vogel, how do you like it?”

She was looking eagerly about; at the frame, a great skeleton of new timber, some of it still holding so much of the water of river and mill-yard that it glistened in the sunlight; at the moving groups of men, the figure of Peterson standing out above the others on a high girder, his arms knotted, and his neck bare, though the day was not warm; at the straining hoist, trembling with each new load that came swinging from somewhere below, to be hustled off to its place, stick by stick; and then out into the west, where the November sun was dropping, and around at the hazy flats and the strip of a river. She drew in her breath quickly, and looked up at Bannon with a nervous little gesture.

“I like it,” she finally said, after a long silence, during which they had watched a big stick go up on one of the small hoists, to be swung into place and driven home on the dowel pins by Peterson’s sledge.

“Isn’t Pete a hummer?” said Max. “I never yet saw him take hold of a thing that was too much for him.”

Neither Hilda nor Bannon replied to this, and there was another silence.

“Would you like to walk around and see things closer to?” Bannon asked, turning to Miss Vogel.

“I wouldn’t mind. It’s rather cold, sitting still.”

He led the way along one side of the structure, guiding her carefully in places where the flooring was not yet secure.

“I’m glad you came up,” he said. “A good many people think there’s nothing in this kind of work but just sawing wood and making money for somebody up in Minneapolis. But it isn’t that way. It’s pretty, and sometimes it’s exciting; and things happen every little while that are interesting enough to tell to anybody, if people only knew it. I’ll have you come up a little later, when we get the house built and the machinery coming in. That’s when we’ll have things really moving. There’ll be some fun putting up the belt gallery, too. That’ll be over here on the other side.”

He turned to lead the way across the floor to the north side of the building. They had stopped a little way from the boom hoist, and she was standing motionless, watching as the boom swung out and the rope rattled to the ground. There was the puffing of the engine far below, the straining of the rope, and the creaking of the blocks as the heavy load came slowly up. Gangs of men were waiting to take the timbers the moment they reached the floor. The foreman of the hoist gang was leaning out over the edge, looking down and shouting orders.

Hilda turned with a little start and saw that Bannon was waiting for her. Following him, she picked her way between piles of planks and timber, and between groups of laborers and carpenters, to the other side. Now they could look down at the four tracks of the C. & S. C., the unfinished spouting house on the wharf, and the river.

“Here’s where the belt gallery will go,” he said, pointing downward: “right over the tracks to the spouting house. They carry the grain on endless belts, you know.”

“Doesn’t it ever fall off?”

“Not a kernel. It’s pretty to watch. When she gets to running we’ll come up some day and look at it.”

They walked slowly back toward the well. Before they reached it Peterson and Max joined them. Peterson had rolled down his sleeves and put on his coat.

“You ain’t going down now, are you?” he said. “We’ll be starting in pretty soon on some of the heavy framing. This is just putting in girders.”

He was speaking directly to Miss Vogel, but he made an effort to include Bannon in the conversation by an awkward movement of his head. This stiffness in Peterson’s manner when Bannon was within hearing had been growing more noticeable during the past few days.

“Don’t you think of going yet,” he continued, with a nervous laugh, for Hilda was moving on. “She needn’t be in such a rush to get to work, eh, Charlie?”

Hilda did not give Bannon a chance to reply.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Peterson,” she said, smiling, “but I must go back, really. Maybe you’ll tell me some day when you’re going to do something special, so I can come up again.”

Peterson’s disappointment was so frankly shown in his face that she smiled again. “I’ve enjoyed it very much,” she said. She was still looking at Peterson, but at the last word she turned to include Bannon, as if she had suddenly remembered that he was in the party. There was an uncomfortable feeling, shown by all in their silence and in their groping about for something to say.

“I’ll go ahead and clear the track,” said Bannon. “I’ll holler up to you, Max, when we’re ready down below.”

“Here,” said Max, “let me go down.”

But Bannon had already started down the first ladder.

“The next time you come to visit us, Miss Vogel,” he called back, “I guess we’ll have our real elevator in, and we can run you up so fast it’ll take your breath away. We’ll be real swells here yet.”

When he reached the working floor, he called in the laborers and shouted to Max. But when the box, slowly descending, appeared below the bin walls, it was Peterson who held the line and chatted with Hilda as he steadied her.

The next day a lot of cribbing came from Ledyard, and Bannon at once set about reorganizing his forces so that work could go on night and day. He and Peterson would divide the time equally into twelve-hour days; but three divisions were necessary for the men, the morning shift working from midnight until eight o’clock, the day shift from eight to four, and the night shift from four to midnight.

Finally, when the whistle blew, at noon, Bannon tipped back his chair and pushed his hat back on his head.

“Well,” he said, “that’s fixed.”

“When will we begin on it?” Peterson asked.

“To-day. Have the whistle blow at four. It’ll make some of the men work overtime to-day, but we’ll pay them for it.”

Miss Vogel was putting on her jacket. Before joining Max, who was waiting at the door, she asked:—

“Do you want me to make any change in my work, Mr. Bannon?”

“No, you’d better go ahead just as you are. We won’t try to cut you up into three shifts yet awhile. We can do what letters and accounts we have in the daytime.”

She nodded and left the office.

All through the morning’s work Peterson had worn a heavy, puzzled expression, and now that they had finished, he seemed unable to throw it off. Bannon, who had risen and was reaching for his ulster, which he had thrown over the railing, looked around at him.

“You and I’ll have to make twelve-hour days of it, you know,” he said. He knew, from his quick glance and the expression almost of relief that came over his face, that this was what Peterson had been waiting for. “You’d better come on in the evening, if it’s all the same to you—at seven. I’ll take it in the morning and keep an eye on it during the day.”

Peterson’s eyes had lowered at the first words. He swung one leg over the other and picked up the list of carpenters that Max had made out, pretending to examine it. Bannon was not watching him closely, but he could have read the thoughts behind that sullen face. If their misunderstanding had arisen from business conditions alone, Bannon would have talked out plainly. But now that Hilda had come between them, and particularly that it was all so vague—a matter of feeling, and not at all of reason—he had decided to say nothing. It was important that he should control the work during the day, and coming on at seven in the morning, he would have a hand on the work of all three shifts. He knew that Peterson would not see it reasonably; that he would think it was done to keep him away from Hilda. He stood leaning against the gate to keep it open, buttoning his ulster.

“Coming on up to the house, Pete?”

Peterson got down off the railing.

“So you’re going to put me on the night shift,” he said, almost as a child would have said it.

“I guess that’s the way it’s got to work out,” Bannon replied. “Coming up?”

“No—not yet. I’ll be along pretty soon.”

Bannon started toward the door, but turned with a snap of his finger.

“Oh, while we’re at it, Pete—you’d better tell Max to get those men to keep time for the night shifts.”

“You mean you want him to go on with you in the daytime?”

“That’s just as he likes. But I guess he’ll want to be around while his sister is here. You see about that after lunch, will you?”

Peterson came in while Bannon was eating his dinner and stayed after he had gone. In the evening, when he returned to the house for his supper, after arranging with Peterson to share the first night’s work, Bannon found that the foreman’s clothes and grip had been taken from the room. On the stairs he met the landlady, and asked her if Mr. Peterson had moved.

“Yes,” she replied; “he took his things away this noon. I’m sorry he’s gone, for he was a good young man. He never give me any trouble like some of the men do that’s been here. The trouble with most of them is that they get drunk on pay-days and come home simply disgusting.”

Bannon passed on without comment. During the evening he saw Peterson on the distributing floor, helping the man from the electric light company rig up a new arc light. His expression when he caught sight of Bannon, sullen and defiant, yet showing a great effort to appear natural, was the only explanation needed of how matters stood between them.

It took a few days to get the new system to running smoothly—new carpenters and laborers had to be taken on, and new foremen worked into their duties—but it proved to be less difficult than Max and Hilda had supposed from what Peterson had to say about the conduct of the work. The men all worked better than before; each new move of Bannon’s seemed to infuse more vigor and energy into the work; and the cupola and annex began rapidly, as Max said, “to look like something.” Bannon was on hand all day, and frequently during a large part of the night. He had a way of appearing at any hour to look at the work and keep it moving. Max, after hearing the day men repeat what the night men had to tell of the boss and his work, said to his sister: “Honest, Hilda, I don’t see how he does it. I don’t believe he ever takes his clothes off.”

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17

LIVE TALK: Calumet “K”: Ayn Rand’s Favorite Novel by Shoshana Milgram Ph.D.

“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).

Talk will be presented at OCON 2017 in Pittsburg, PA and is FREE for all students to attend!