Already word that the woods-boss was battling with a stranger had been shouted into the camp dining room, and the entire crew of that camp, abandoning their half-finished meal, came pouring forth to view the contest. Out of the tail of his eye Bryce saw them coming, but he was not apprehensive, for he knew the code of the woodsman: “Let every man roll his own hoop.” It would be a fight to a finish, for no man would interfere; striking, kicking, gouging, biting, or choking would not be looked upon as unsportsmanlike; and as Bryce backed cautiously away from the huge, lithe, active, and powerful man before him, he realized that Jules Rondeau was, as his father had stated, “top dog among the lumberjacks.”
Rondeau, it was apparent, had no stomach for Bryce’s style of combat. He wanted a rough-and-tumble fight and kept rushing, hoping to clinch; if he could but get his great hands on Bryce, he would wrestle him down, climb him, and finish the fight in jig-time. But a rough-and-tumble was exactly what Bryce was striving to avoid; hence when Rondeau rushed, Bryce side-stepped and peppered the woodsman’s ribs. But the woods-crew, which by now was ringed around them, began to voice disapproval of this style of battle.
“Clinch with him, dancing-master,” a voice roared.
“Tie into him, Rondeau,” another shouted.
“It’s a fair match,” cried another, “and the red one picked on the main push. He was looking for a fight, an’ he ought to get it; but these fancy fights don’t suit me. Flop him, stranger, flop him.”
“Rondeau can’t catch him,” a fourth man jeered. “He’s a foot-racer, not a fighter.”
Suddenly two powerful hands were placed between Bryce’s shoulders, effectually halting his backward progress; then he was propelled violently forward until he collided with Rondeau. With a bellow of triumph, the woods-boss’s gorilla-like arms were around Bryce, swinging him until he faced the man who had forced him into that terrible grip. This was no less a personage than Colonel Seth Pennington, and it was obvious he had taken charge of what he considered the obsequies.
“Stand back, you men, and give them room,” he shouted. “Rondeau will take care of him now. Stand back, I say. I’ll discharge the man that interferes.”
With a heave and a grunt Rondeau lifted his antagonist, and the pair went crashing to the earth together, Bryce underneath. And then something happened. With a howl of pain, Rondeau rolled over on his back and lay clasping his left wrist in his right hand, while Bryce scrambled to his feet.
“The good old wrist-lock does the trick,” he announced; and stooping, he grasped the woods-boss by the collar with his left hand, lifted him, and struck him a terrible blow in the face with his right. But for the arm that upheld him, Rondeau would have fallen. To have him fall, however, was not part of Bryce’s plan. Jerking the fellow toward him, he passed his arm around Rondeau’s neck, holding the latter’s head as in a vise with the crook of his elbow. And then the battering started. When it was finished, Bryce let his man go, and Rondeau, bloody, sobbing, and semi-conscious, sprawled on the ground.