“Just like his old father,” the Colonel purred benevolently. “When he can’t get what he wants, he sulks. I’ll tell you what got on his confounded nerves. I’ve been freighting logs for the senior Cardigan over my railroad; the contract for hauling them was a heritage from old Bill Henderson, from whom I bought the mill and timber-lands; and of course as his assignee it was incumbent upon me to fulfill Henderson’s contract with Cardigan, even though the freight-rate was ruinous.
“Well, this morning young Cardigan came to my office, reminded me that the contract would expire by limitation next year and asked me to renew it, and at the same freight-rate. I offered to renew the contract but at a higher freight-rate, and explained to him that I could not possibly continue to haul his logs at a loss. Well, right away he flew into a rage and called me a robber; whereupon I informed him that since he thought me a robber, perhaps we had better not attempt to have any business dealings with each other—that I really didn’t want his contract at any price, having scarcely sufficient rolling-stock to handle my own logs. That made him calm down, but in a little while he lost his head again and grew snarly and abusive—to such an extent, indeed, that finally I was forced to ask him to leave my office.”
“Nevertheless, Uncle Seth, I cannot understand why he should make such a furious attack upon your employee.”
The Colonel laughed with a fair imitation of sincerity and tolerant amusement. “My dear, that is no mystery to me. There are men who, finding it impossible or inadvisable to make a physical attack upon their enemy, find ample satisfaction in poisoning his favourite dog, burning his house, or beating up one of his faithful employees. Cardigan picked on Rondeau for the reason that a few days ago he tried to hire Rondeau away from me—offered him twenty-five dollars a month more than I was paying him, by George! Of course when Rondeau came to me with Cardigan’s proposition, I promptly met Cardigan’s bid and retained Rondeau; consequently Cardigan hates us both and took the earliest opportunity to vent his spite on us.”
The Colonel sighed and brushed the dirt and leaves from his tweeds. “Thunder,” he continued philosophically, “it’s all in the game, so why worry over it? And why continue to discuss an unpleasant topic, my dear?”
A groan from the Black Minorca challenged her attention. “I think that man is badly hurt, Uncle,” she suggested.
“Serves him right,” he returned coldly. “He tackled that cyclone full twenty feet in advance of the others; if they’d all closed in together, they would have pulled him down. I’ll have that cholo and Rondeau sent down with the next trainload of logs to the company hospital. They’re a poor lot and deserve manhandling—”
They paused, facing toward the timber, from which came a voice, powerful, sweetly resonant, raised in song. Shirley knew that half-trained baritone, for she had heard it the night before when Bryce Cardigan, faking his own accompaniment at the piano, had sung for her a number of carefully expurgated lumberjack ballads, the lunatic humour of which had delighted her exceedingly. She marvelled now at his choice of minstrelsy, for the melody was hauntingly plaintive— the words Eugene Field’s poem of childhood, “Little Boy Blue.”