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The Valley of the Giants (Chapter36)

2006-08-22 20:04

  Chapter XXXVI

  At eleven o'clock Saturday night the deputy United States marshal arrived in Sequoia. Upon the advice of Buck Ogilvy, however, he made no attempt at service that night, notwithstanding the fact that Jules Rondeau and his bullies still guarded the crossing. At eight o'clock Sunday morning, however, Bryce Cardigan drove him down to the crossing. Buck Ogilvy was already there with his men, superintending the erection of a huge derrick close to the heap of obstructions placed on the crossing. Sexton was watching him uneasily, and flushed as Ogilvy pointed him out to the marshal.

  “There's your meat, Marshal,” he announced. The marshal approached and extended toward Sexton a copy of the restraining order. The latter struck it aside and refused to accept it——whereupon the deputy marshal tapped him on the shoulder with it. “Tag! You're out of the game, my friend,” he said pleasantly.

  As the document fluttered to Sexton's feet, the latter turned to Jules Rondeau. “I can no longer take charge here, Rondeau,” he explained. “I am forbidden to interfere.”

  “Jules Rondeau can do ze job,” the woods-boss replied easily. “Ze law, she have not restrain' me. I guess mebbeso you don' take dose theengs away, eh, M'sieur Cardigan. Myself, I lak see.”

  The deputy marshal handed Rondeau a paper, at the same time showing his badge. “You're out, too, my friend,” he laughed. “Don't be foolish and try to buck the law. If you do, I shall have to place a nice little pair of handcuffs on you and throw you in jail——and if you resist arrest, I shall have to shoot you. I have one of these little restraining orders for every able-bodied man in the Laguna Grande Lumber Company's employ——thanks to Mr. Ogilvy's foresight; so it is useless to try to beat this game on a technicality.”

  Sexton, who still lingered, made a gesture of surrender. “Dismiss your crew, Rondeau,” he ordered. “We're whipped to a frazzle.”

  A gleam of pleasure, not unmixed with triumph, lighted the dark eyes of the French-Canadian. “I tol' M'sieur Sexton she cannot fight M'sieur Cardigan and win,” he said simply, “Now mebbe he believe that Jules Rondeau know somet'ing.”

  “Shut up,” Sexton roared petulantly. Rondeau shrugged contemptuously, turned, and with a sweep of his great arm indicated to his men that they were to go; then, without a backward glance to see that they followed, the woods-boss strode away in the direction of the Laguna Grande mill. Arrived at the mill-office, he entered, took down the telephone, and called up Shirley Sumner.

  “Mademoiselle,” he said, “Jules Rondeau speaks to you. I have for you zee good news. Bryce Cardigan, she puts in the crossing to-day. One man of the law she comes from San Francisco with papers, and M'sieur Sexton say to me: 'Rondeau, we are whip'. Deesmess your men.' So I have deesmess doze men, and now I deesmess myself. Mebbeso bimeby I go to work for M'sieur Cardigan. For Mademoiselle I have no weesh to make trouble to fire me. I queet. I will not fight dose dirty fight some more. Au revoir, mademoiselle. I go.”

  And without further ado he hung up.

  “What's this, what's this?” Sexton demanded. “You re going to quit? Nonsense, Rondeau, nonsense!”

  “I will have my time, M'sieur,” said Jules Rondeau. “I go to work for a man. Mebbeso I am not woods-boss for heem, but——I work.”

  “You'll have to wait until the Colonel returns, Rondeau.”

  “I will have my time,” said Jules Rondeau patiently.

  “Then you'll wait till pay-day for it, Rondeau. You know our rules. Any man who quits without notice waits until the regular pay-day for his money.”

  Jules advanced until he towered directly over the manager. “I tol' M'sieur I would have my time,” he repeated once more. “Is M'sieur deaf in zee ears?” He raised his right hand, much as a bear raises its paw; his blunt fingers worked a little and there was a smoldering fire in his dark eyes.

  Without further protest Sexton opened the safe, counted out the wages due, and took Rondeau's receipt.

  “Thank you, M'sieur,” the woods-boss growled as he swept the coin into his pocket. “Now I work for M'sieur Cardigan; so, M'sieur, I will have zee switchengine weeth two flat-cars and zee wrecking-car. Doze dam trash on zee crossing——M'sieur Cardigan does not like, and by gar, I take heem away. You onderstand, M'sieur? I am Jules Rondeau, and I work for M'sieur Cardigan. La la, M'sieur!” The great hand closed over Sexton's collar. “Not zee pistol——no, not for Jules Rondeau.”

  Quite as easily as a woman dresses a baby, he gagged Sexton with Sexton's own handkerchief, laid him gently on the floor and departed, locking the door behind him and taking the key. At the corner of the building, where the telephone-line entered the office, he paused, jerked once at the wire, and passed on, leaving the broken ends on the ground.

  In the round-house he found the switch-engine crew on duty, waiting for steam in the boiler. The withdrawal of both locomotives, brief as had been their absence, had caused a glut of logs at the Laguna Grande landings, and Sexton was catching up with the traffic by sending the switch-engine crew out for one train-load, even though it was Sunday. The crew had been used to receiving orders from Rondeau, and moreover they were not aware of his recent action; hence at his command they ran the switch-engine out of the roundhouse, coupled up the two flat-cars and the wrecking-car, and backed down to the crossing. Upon arrival, Jules Rondeau leaned out of the cab window and hailed Bryce. “M'sieur,” he said, “do not bozzer to make zee derrick. I have here zee wrecking-car——all you need; pretty soon we lift him off zee crossing, I tell you, eh, M'sieur Cardigan?”

  Bryce stepped over to the switch-engine and looked up at his late enemy. “By whose orders is this train here?” he queried.

  “Mine,” Rondeau answered. “M'sieur Sexton I have tie like one leetle pig and lock her in her office. I work now for M'sieur.”

  And he did. He waited not for a confirmation from his new master but proceeded to direct operations like the born driver and leader of men that he was. With his late employer's gear he fastened to the old castings and the boiler, lifted them with the derrick on the wrecking-car, and swung them up and around onto the flat-cars. By the middle of the afternoon the crossing was once more clear. Then the Cardigan crew fell upon it while Jules Rondeau ran the train back to the Laguna Grande yards, dismissed his crew, returned to the mill- office, and released the manager.

  “You'll pay through the nose for this, you scoundrel,” Sexton whimpered. “I'll fix you, you traitor.”

  “You feex nothing, M'sieur Sexton,” Rondeau replied imperturbably. “Who is witness Jules Rondeau tie you up? Somebody see you, no? I guess you don' feex me. Sacre! I guess you don' try.”

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