“Say,” Max said abruptly, “I can’t make this thing look anyhow. I guess it’s up to you.”
Bannon stepped back and looked up at the wall.
“Why don’t you just hang them from the ceiling and then catch them up from pretty near the bottom—so they’ll drape down on both sides of the windows?”
“I know,” said Max, “but there’s ways of making ’em look just right—if Hilda was here; she’d know—” He paused and looked down at the red, white, and blue heap on the floor.
During the last week they had not spoken of Hilda, and Bannon did not know whether she had told Max. He glanced at him, but got no sign, for Max was gazing moodily downward.
“Do you think,” Bannon said, “do you think she’d care to come around?”
He tried to speak easily, as he might have spoken of her at any time before Christmas Day, but he could not check a second glance at Max. At that moment Max looked up, and as their eyes met, with an awkward pause, Bannon knew that he understood; and for a moment the impatience that he had been fighting for a week threatened to get away with him. He had seen nothing of Hilda, except for the daily “Good morning,” and a word now and then. The office had been besieged by reporters waiting for a chance at him; under-foremen had been rushing in and out; Page’s representatives and the railroad and steamboat men had made it their headquarters. It may be that he would not have spoken in any case, for he had said all that he could say, and he knew that she would give him an answer when she could.
Max’s eyes had dropped again.
“You mean for her to help fix things up?” he asked.
Bannon nodded; and then, as Max did not look up, he said, “Yes.”
“Why—why, yes, I guess she’d just as soon.” He hesitated, then began coming down the ladder, adding, “I’ll go for her.”
Bannon looked over his shoulder—Pete was clattering about among the dishes. “Max,” he said, “hold on a minute.” Max turned and came slowly back. Bannon had seated himself on the end of a table, and now he waited, looking down at the two rows of plates, and slowly turning a caster that stood at his elbow. What he finally said was not what Max was awaiting.
“What are you going to do now, Max—when you’re through on this job?”
“Why—I don’t know—”
“Have you got anything ahead?”
“Nothing sure. I was working for a firm of contractors up on the North Side, and I’ve been thinking maybe they’d take me back.”
“You’ve had some experience in building before now, haven’t you?” Bannon was speaking deliberately, as if he were saying what he had thought out before.
“Yes, a good deal. It’s what I’ve mostly done since I quit the lumber business.”
“When Mr. MacBride was here,” said Bannon, “he told me that we’ve got a contract for a new house at Indianapolis. It’s going to be concrete, from the spiles up—there ain’t anything like it in the country. I’m going down next week to take charge of the job, and if you’d like to go along as my assistant, I’ll take you.”