She had faced about on the stool and was looking at him with a twinkle in her eye.
“Yes,” she said, evidently trying not to laugh; “we’ll try to.”
He was not looking at her as she spoke, but when, a moment later, the laugh broke away from her, he turned. She was looking at his feet. He glanced down and saw a row of black footprints leading from the door to where he stood, one of them squarely in the centre of the new mat. He gazed ruefully, then he reached into his pocket and drew out a quarter, dropping it in the box.
“Well—” he said, wiping his feet; but the whistle just then gave a long blast, and he did not finish the sentence.
After supper Bannon and Peterson sat in the room they occupied together. In the walk home and during supper there had been the same sullen manner about the younger man that Bannon had observed at noon. Half a day was a long time for Peterson to keep to himself something that bothered him, and before the close of dinner he had begun working the talk around. Now, after a long silence, that Bannon filled with sharpening pencils, he said:
“Some people think a lot of themselves, don’t they, Charlie?”
Bannon looked up from his pencils; he was sitting on the edge of the bed.
“She seems to think she’s better’n Max and you and me, and everybody. I thought she looked pretty civil, and I didn’t say a word she need to have got stuck-up about.”
Bannon asked no questions. After waiting to give him an opportunity, Peterson went on:—
“There’s going to be a picnic Sunday of the Iron Workers up at Sharpshooters’ Park. I know a fellow that has tickets. It’d be just as quiet as anywhere—and speeches, you know. I don’t see that she’s any better than a lot of the girls that’ll be there.”
“Do you mean to say you asked her to go?” Bannon asked.
“Yes, and she—”
Bannon had turned away to strop his razor on his hand, and Peterson, after one or two attempts to begin the story, let the subject drop.
Bannon had the knack of commanding men. He knew the difference between an isolated—or better, perhaps, an insulated—man and the same man in a crowd. Without knowing how he did it, he could, nevertheless, distinguish between the signs of temporary ill feeling among the men and the perhaps less apparent danger signal that meant serious mischief.
Since his first day on the job the attitude of the men had worried him a little. There was something in the air he did not like. Peterson, accustomed to handling smaller bodies of men, had made the natural mistake of driving the very large force employed on the elevator with much too loose a rein. The men were still further demoralized by the episode with the walking delegate, Grady, on Thursday night. Bannon knew too much to attempt halfway measures, so he waited for a case of insubordination serious enough to call for severe treatment.