The occupant of the office, a clerk, looked up impatiently, and spoke in a tone reserved to discourage seekers for work.
“He ain’t here. Out on the job somewhere.”
“Palatial office you’ve got,” Bannon commented. “It would help those windows to have ’em ploughed.” He brought his bag into the office and kicked it under a desk, then began turning over a stack of blue prints that lay, weighted down with a coupling pin, on the table.
“I guess I can find Peterson for you if you want to see him,” said the clerk.
“Don’t worry about my finding him,” came from Bannon, deep in his study of the plans. A moment later he went out.
A gang of laborers was engaged in moving the timbers back from the railroad siding. Superintending the work was a squat little man— Bannon could not see until near by that he was not a boy—big-headed, big-handed, big-footed. He stood there in his shirt-sleeves, his back to Bannon, swearing good-humoredly at the men. When he turned toward him Bannon saw that he had that morning played an unconscious joke upon his bright red hair by putting on a crimson necktie.
Bannon asked for Peterson. “He’s up on the framing of the spouting house, over on the wharf there.”
“What are you carrying that stuff around for?” asked Bannon.
“Moving it back to make room by the siding. We’re expecting a big bill of cribbing. You’re Mr. Bannon, ain’t you?” Bannon nodded. “Peterson had a telegram from the office saying to expect you.”
“You’re still expecting that cribbing, eh?”
“Harder than ever. That’s most all we’ve been doing for ten days. There’s Peterson, now; up there with the sledge.”
Bannon looked in time to see the boss spring out on a timber that was still balancing and swaying upon the hoisting rope. It was a good forty feet above the dock. Clinging to the rope with one hand, with the other Peterson drove his sledge against the side of the timber which swung almost to its exact position in the framing.
“Slack away!” he called to the engineers, and he cast off the rope sling. Then cautiously he stepped out to the end of the timber. It tottered, but the lithe figure moved on to within striking distance. He swung the twenty-four pound sledge in a circle against the butt of the timber. Every muscle in his body from the ankles up had helped to deal the blow, and the big stick bucked. The boss sprang erect, flinging his arms wide and using the sledge to recover his balance. He struck hard once more and again lightly. Then he hammered the timber down on the iron dowel pins. “All right,” he shouted to the engineer; “send up the next one.”
A few minutes later Bannon climbed out on the framing beside him.
“Hello, Charlie!” said the boss, “I’ve been looking for you. They wired me you was coming.”
“Well, I’m here,” said Bannon, “though I ’most met my death climbing up just now. Where do you keep your ladders?”