“Christmas!” he exclaimed, in perfectly honest astonishment. “Is tomorrow Christmas?” He ran his hand through his stubby hair. “Boys,” he said, “I’m sorry to have to ask it of you. But can’t we put it off a week? Look here. We need this day. Now, if you’ll say Christmas is a week from tomorrow, I’ll give every man on the job a Christmas dinner that you’ll never forget; all you can eat and as much again, and you bring your friends, if we work tomorrow and we have her full of wheat a week from today. Does that go?”
It went, with a ripping cheer to boot; a cheer that was repeated here and there all over the place as Bannon’s offer was passed along.
So for another twenty-four hours they strained and tugged and tusselled up in the big swing, for it was nothing else, above the railroad tracks. There was a northeast gale raging down off the lake, with squalls of rain and sleet mixed up in it, and it took the crazy, swaying box in its teeth and shook it and tossed it up in the air in its eagerness to strip it off the cable. But somewhere there was an unconquerable tenacity that held fast, and in the teeth of the wind the long box grew rigid, as the trusses were pounded into place by men so spent with fatigue that one might say it was sheer good will that drove the hammers.
At four o’clock Christmas afternoon the last bolt was drawn taut. The gallery, was done. Bannon had been on the work since midnight—sixteen consecutive hours. He had eaten nothing except two sandwiches that he had stowed in his pockets. His only pause had been about nine o’clock that morning when he had put his head in the office door to wish Hilda a Merry Christmas.
When the evening shift came on—that was just after four—one of the under-foremen tried to get him to talking, but Bannon was too tired to talk. “Get your tracks and rollers in,” he said. “Take down the cable.”
“Don’t you want to stay and see if she’ll hold when the cable comes down?” called the foreman after him as he started away.
“She’ll hold,” said Bannon.
Before December was half gone—and while the mild autumn weather serenely held, in spite of weather predictions and of storm signs about the sun and days of blue haze and motionless trees—the newspaper-reading public knew all the outside facts about the fight in wheat, and they knew it to be the biggest fight since the days of “Old Hutch” and the two-dollar-a-bushel record. Indeed, there were men who predicted that the two-dollar mark would be reached before Christmas, for the Clique of speculators who held the floor were buying, buying, buying—millions upon millions of dollars were slipping through their ready hands, and still there was no hesitation, no weakening. Until the small fry had dropped out the deal had been confused; it was too big, there were too many interests involved, to make possible