“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 fringing 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.
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.