Chapter XXXV
 

Events followed each other with refreshing rapidity. While the crew of the big locomotive on the crossing busied themselves getting up steam, Sexton and Jules Rondeau toiled at the loading of the discarded boiler and heavy castings aboard two flat-cars. By utilizing the steel derrick on the company's wrecking-car, this task was completed by noon, and after luncheon the mogul backed up the main line past the switch into the Laguna Grande yards; whereupon the switch-engine kicked the two flat-cars and the wrecking-car out of the yard and down to the crossing, where the obstructions were promptly unloaded. The police watched the operation with alert interest but forebore to interfere in this high-handed closing of a public thoroughfare.

To Sexton's annoyance and secret apprehension, Bryce Cardigan and Buck Ogilvy promptly appeared on the scene, both very cheerful and lavish with expert advice as to the best method of expediting the job in hand. To Bryce's surprise Jules Rondeau appeared to take secret enjoyment of this good-natured chaffing of the Laguna Grande manager. Occasionally he eyed Bryce curiously but without animus, and presently he flashed the latter a lightning wink, as if to say: "What a fool Sexton is to oppose you!"

"Well, Rondeau," Bryce hailed the woods-boss cheerfully, "I see you have quite recovered from that working over I gave you some time ago. No hard feelings, I trust. I shouldn't care to have that job to do over again. You're a tough one."

"By gar, she don' pay for have hard feelings wiz you, M'sieur," Rondeau answered bluntly. "We have one fine fight, but"--he shrugged --"I don' want some more."

"Yes, by gar, an' she don' pay for cut other people's trees, M'sieur," Bryce mimicked him. "I shouldn't wonder if I took the value of that tree out of your hide."

"I t'enk so, M'sieur." He approached Bryce and lowered his voice. "For one month I am no good all ze tam. We don' fight some more, M'sieur. And I have feel ashame' for dose Black Minorca feller. Always wiz him eet is ze knife or ze club--and now eet is ze rifle. Cochon! W'en I fight, I fight wiz what le bon Dieu give me."

"You appear to have a certain code, after all," Bryce laughed. "I am inclined to like you for it. You're sporty in your way, you tremendous scoundrel!"

"Mebbeso," Rondeau suggested hopefully, "M'sieur likes me for woods- boss?"

"Why, what's the matter with Pennington? Is he tired of you?"

The colour mounted slowly to the woods bully's swarthy cheek. "Mademoiselle Sumnair, he's tell me pretty soon he's goin' be boss of Laguna Grande an' stop all thees fight. An' w'en Mademoiselle, he is in the saddle, good-bye Jules Rondeau. Thees country--I like him. I feel sad, M'sieur, to leave dose beeg trees." He paused, looking rather wistfully at Bryce. "I am fine woods-boss for somebody," he suggested hopefully.

"You think Miss Sumner dislikes you then, Rondeau?"

"I don' theenk. I know." He sighed; his huge body seemed to droop. "I am out of zee good luck now," he murmured bitterly. "Everybody, she hate Jules Rondeau. Colonel--she hate because I don' keel M'sieur Cardigan; Mademoiselle, he hate because I try to keel M'sieur Cardigan; M'sieur Sexton, she hate because I tell her thees mornin' she is one fool for fight M'sieur Cardigan."

Again he sighed. "Dose beeg trees! In Quebec we have none. In zee woods, M'sieur, I feel--here!" And he laid his great calloused, hairy hand over his heart. "W'en I cut your beeg trees, M'sieur, I feel like hell."

"That infernal gorilla of a man is a poet," Buck Ogilvy declared. "I'd think twice before I let him get out of the country, Bryce."

"'Whose salt he eats, his song he sings,'" quoth Bryce. "I forgive you, Rondeau, and when I need a woods-boss like you, I'll send for you."