Bannon had hardly paused. He drew a typewritten copy of Grady’s letter from his pocket, and read it aloud, then handed it over to Murphy. “That’s the way he came at me. I want you to read it.”
The man took it awkwardly, glanced at it, and passed it on.
“Tonight he’s ordered a strike. He calls himself your representative, but he has acted on his own responsibility. Now, I am going to talk plain to you. I came here to build this elevator, and I’m going to do it. I propose to treat you men fair and square. If you think you ain’t treated right, you send an honest man to this office, and I’ll talk with him. But I’m through with Grady. I won’t have him here at all. If you send him around again, I’ll throw him off the job.”
The men were a little startled. They looked at one another, and the man on Murphy’s left whispered something. Bannon sat still, watching them.
Then Grady came to himself. He wheeled around to face the committee, and threw out one arm in a wide gesture.
“I demand to know what this means! I demand to know if there is a law in this land! Is an honest man, the representative of the hand of labor, to be attacked by hired ruffians? Is he to be slandered by the tyrant who drives you at the point of the pistol? And you not men enough to defend your rights—the rights held by every American—the rights granted by the Constitution! But it ain’t for myself I would talk. It ain’t my own injuries that I suffer for. Your liberty hangs in the balance. This man has dared to interfere in the integrity of your lodge. Have you no words—”
Bannon arose, caught Grady’s arm, and whirled him around.
“Grady,” he said, “shut up.” The delegate tried to jerk away, but he could not shake off that grip. He looked toward the committeemen, but they were silent. He looked everywhere but up into the eyes that were blazing down at him. And finally Bannon felt the muscles within his grip relax.
“I’ll tell you what I want you to do,” said Bannon to the committeemen. “I want you to elect a new delegate. Don’t talk about interference—I don’t care how you elect him, or who he is, if he comes to me squarely.”
Grady was wriggling again.
“This means a strike!” he shouted. “This means the biggest strike the West has ever seen! You won’t get men for love or money—”
Bannon gave the arm a wrench, and broke in:—
“I’m sick of this. I laid this matter before President Carver. I have his word that if you hang on to this man after he’s been proved a blackmailer, your lodge can be dropped from the Federation. If you try to strike, you won’t hurt anybody but yourselves. That’s all. You can go.”
“Wait—” Grady began, but they filed out without looking at him. James, as he followed them, nodded, and said, “Good night, Mr. Bannon.”
Then for the last time Bannon led Grady away. Peterson started forward, but the boss shook his head, and went out, marching the delegate between the lumber piles to the point where the path crossed the Belt Line tracks.