On that particular morning in April, the trading around the Wheat Pit on the floor
of the Chicago Board of Trade began practically a full five minutes ahead of the
stroke of the gong; and the throng of brokers and clerks that surged in and about
the Pit itself was so great that it overflowed and spread out over the floor
between the wheat and corn pits, ousting the traders in oats from their traditional
ground. The market had closed the day before with May wheat at ninety-eight
and five-eighths, and the Bulls had prophesied and promised that the magic
legend "Dollar wheat" would be on the Western Union wires before another
The indications pointed to a lively morning's work. Never for an instant during the
past six weeks had the trading sagged or languished. The air of the Pit was
surcharged with a veritable electricity; it had the effervescence of champagne, or
of a mountain-top at sunrise. It was buoyant, thrilling.
The "Unknown Bull" was to all appearance still in control; the whole market hung
upon his horns; and from time to time, one felt the sudden upward thrust,
powerful, tremendous, as he flung the wheat up another notch. The "tailers"--the
little Bulls--were radiant. In the dark, they hung hard by their unseen and
mysterious friend who daily, weekly, was making them richer. The Bears were
scarcely visible. The Great Bull in a single superb rush had driven them nearly
out of the Pit. Growling, grumbling they had retreated, and only at distance dared
so much as to bare a claw. Just the formidable lowering of the Great Bull's
frontlet sufficed, so it seemed, to check their every move of aggression or
resistance. And all the while, Liverpool, Paris, Odessa, and Buda-Pesth
clamoured ever louder and louder for the grain that meant food to the crowded
streets and barren farms of Europe.
A few moments before the opening Charles Cressler was in the public room, in
the southeast corner of the building, where smoking was allowed, finishing his
morning's cigar. But as he heard the distant striking of the gong, and the roar of
the Pit as it began to get under way, with a prolonged rumbling trepidation like
the advancing of a great flood, he threw his cigar away and stepped out from the
public room to the main floor, going on towards the front windows. At the sample
tables he filled his pockets with wheat, and once at the windows raised the sash
and spread the pigeons' breakfast on the granite ledge.
While he was watching the confused fluttering of flashing wings, that on the
instant filled the air in front of the window, he was all at once surprised to hear a
voice at his elbow, wishing him good morning.
"Seem to know you, don't they?"