“By all means. Usually I ride in the cab with the engineer and fireman; but if you’re coming, I’ll have them hook on the caboose. Step lively, my dear, or they’ll be holding the train for us and upsetting our schedule.”
By virtue of their logging-contract with Pennington, the Cardigans and their employees were transported free over Pennington’s logging railroad; hence, when Bryce Cardigan resolved to wait upon Jules Rondeau in the matter of that murdered Giant, it was characteristic of him to choose the shortest and most direct route to his quarry, and as the long string of empty logging-trucks came crawling off the Laguna Grande Lumber Company’s log-dump, he swung over the side, quite ignorant of the fact that Shirley and her precious relative were riding in the little caboose in the rear.
At twelve-ten the train slid in on the log landing of the Laguna Grande Lumber Company’s main camp, and Bryce dropped off and approached the engineer of the little donkey-engine used for loading the logs.
“Where’s Rondeau?” he asked.
The engineer pointed to a huge, swarthy man approaching across the clearing in which the camp was situated. “That’s him,” he replied. And without further ado, Bryce strode to meet his man.
“Are you Jules Rondeau?” he demanded as he came up to the woods-boss. The latter nodded. “I’m Bryce Cardigan,” his interrogator announced, “and I’m here to thrash you for chopping that big redwood tree over in that little valley where my mother is buried.”
“Oh!” Rondeau smiled. “Wiz pleasure, M’sieur.” And without a moment’s hesitation he rushed. Bryce backed away from him warily, and they circled.
“When I get through with you, Rondeau,” Bryce said distinctly, “it’ll take a good man to lead you to your meals. This country isn’t big enough for both of us, and since you came here last, you’ve got to go first.”
Bryce stepped in, feinted for Rondeau’s jaw with his right, and when the woods-boss quickly covered, ripped a sizzling left into the latter’s midriff. Rondeau grunted and dropped his guard, with the result that Bryce’s great fists played a devil’s tattoo on his countenance before he could crouch and cover.
“This is a tough one,” thought Bryce. His blows had not, apparently, had the slightest effect on the woods-boss. Crouched low and with his arms wrapped around his head, Rondeau still came on unfalteringly, and Bryce was forced to give way before him; to save his hands, he avoided the risk of battering Rondeau’s hard head and sinewy arms.