The Young Wireless Operator--As a Fire Patrol
Lewis E. Theiss
Part 3 out of 5
"I can't tell you where our camp is," rapped out Lew, "because that is a
secret that we are not supposed to tell. The forester does not want
anybody to know that Charley is employed by the forestry department. We
are posing as fishermen. Tell the fellows not to talk about Charley and
tell Charley's father the forester does not want it known for a time that
Charley is a fire patrol. He thinks that we have a better chance to find
things out if it is not known that we are connected with the forestry
Willie said that he would caution the boys and tell Mr. Russell. Also he
said he would be in his workshop until supper time and would listen in
most of the time. The club members would be at their instruments as usual
to catch the time from Arlington and pick up some of the news. Lew
replied that he would call Willie then, if he needed him.
For some time after Lew laid down the receivers, the two boys worked
silently. They finished setting the hemlock branches in the earth, placed
the stuffed ticking above them, and laid their blankets in position. They
brought the wireless outfit into the tent and set the instruments in a
corner. The grub was stacked in another corner. A little pool was dug in
the stream just below the spring, to make a place for washing dishes.
Their extra clothes were hung on the ridge-rope. The first-aid kit was
fastened to the tent wall where it would be handy, and Charley put the
permanganate and the hypodermic syringe in his pocket.
They had almost completed their task, when a low whistle was heard outside
the thicket. The pup pricked up his ears and was about to bark. Lew
grabbed him and held his jaws together. Then both boys sat silent,
listening and looking questioningly at each other. Soon the whistle was
"We've got to find out who's whistling," said Charley. "Keep the pup quiet
and I'll slip out and take a look."
He left the tent, but had hardly gone ten feet before a voice cried,
"Hello, Russell! Are you in the thicket? This is Morton, the ranger."
"Sure we're here," replied Charley, an expression of relief coming on his
face. "We didn't know who it was and kept quiet until we could take a
look. I'm coming out now."
He hurried from the thicket and shook hands warmly with the newcomer.
Instinctively he knew that he was going to like his ranger. Big,
broad-shouldered, quite evidently powerful, with a kindly expression, a
winning smile, and a deep voice that instantly created confidence, the
ranger was a picture of honest manhood. No one could look into his deep
blue eyes, set far apart, or examine the lines on his face, at once
betokening strength of character with gentleness, and not feel that here
was a man in very truth. One knew instinctively that he would never
hesitate a second to risk his life to save another's, and that he would be
as gentle as a woman in his dealings with all creatures. But the great,
strong jaw and the straight mouth and long nose all foretold fearless
courage, and were ample warning that the man would be terrible if stirred
"Come in and see our camp," said Charley, after the two had conversed for
a moment. And he led the way into the thicket.
The ranger followed, his practiced eye noting everything. "You've made a
good job of it," he said with commendation, when he was at last seated in
the tent. "Nobody will ever find you here, unless you do something to
betray your position. You'll have to be a little careful about fires. I
wouldn't make any during the daytime."
"We aren't going to make any at all," explained Charley. "Mr. Marlin gave
us an alcohol stove to cook with."
"I don't believe you need go so far as that. Use your alcohol stove
during the day. At night nobody can see smoke, and if you screen the
blaze, nobody will ever discover you. It would be pretty dismal here at
night without any light. Let's see if we can't fix up a little fireplace
that will help you out."
He got a number of large, flat stones, which he set on edge, fashioning a
high, square fireplace that opened toward the front.
"The stones will screen the flames on three sides, if you don't build too
big a fire," he said, "and your tent will shut off the view on the fourth
"Thank you," said Charley. "It will be a whole lot more cheerful with a
fire. We have a candle lantern that we intended to use, but a fellow just
ought to have a fire when he's in camp."
As they began to discuss the work ahead of them, the ranger inquired,
"What instructions did Mr. Marlin give you?"
"He said that we should keep our connection with the department secret,"
said Charley, "and if possible, avoid meeting any one. If we do bump into
anybody, we are to pose as fishermen. He said you would give us detailed
"Very well. First, about your outfit. Have you any firearms?"
"A light, high-powered rifle and a pistol."
"You can't carry a rifle in the forest at this season without exciting
suspicion. Leave your rifle here. Let me see your pistol? Have you
Charley handed him his pistol and said that he had no other.
"Then take this," he said as he handed Charley his automatic. "Let your
chum carry your pistol. I'll get another at the office. It isn't likely
that you will ever need to use a weapon in the forest. I have been a
ranger for years and have never yet drawn one, but I never travel without
one. You'll meet some pretty tough characters in the forest and sometime
your life may depend on having your pistol. My advice is never to patrol
without it. But keep it out of sight. Keep your badge out of sight, too.
And since you are supposed to be nothing more than fishermen, you'll have
to play the parts. Carry your rods and catch a few fish each day during
"Where are we to patrol, and what hours are we to observe?"
"You are especially employed to guard this virgin timber, though, of
course, you must protect any part of the forest you happen to be in. Take
some good hikes over the region right away and get acquainted with it. Use
your map and, if possible, learn the region by heart. Then your map will
mean something to you. Learn where the virgin timber lies. Keep a close
watch on it, and on any fishermen or campers. I'll spend at least two days
a week out here and you must report to me each time I am here. Meantime,
you must report to the office every night the last thing before you turn
in. The chief said you had a wireless and could do it. Maybe you can, but
it beats me to know how."
"We'll show you in a little while," smiled Charley as he glanced at his
watch. "Willie will surely be listening in within twenty minutes and we'll
"I'll have to take your word for it," said the ranger. "I can't wait a
minute. It will be long after dark before I get out of the mountains. I
telephoned my wife I'd be late, but she always worries when I'm out after
dark. You know snakes are bad up here, and they're all out at night. And
by the way, you'd better carry some of this permanganate. Do you know
anything about it, and what to do with it if you're bitten?" The ranger
started to pull a bottle from his pocket.
"Thanks," said Charley. "It's mighty good of you to offer to share with
us. But we have permanganate and a syringe both, and we know what to do
"Good. But be careful where you step. What do you wear on your feet?"
He examined the boys' shoes and canvas leggings. "They're all right. I
don't believe any snake will bite through them. But high leather boots
would be safer. Bear it in mind when you buy new shoes. Now I must go."
"When and where am I to report to you?" asked Charley.
They agreed upon a place of meeting, half-way between the highway and
Charley's camp, whereupon the ranger, holding out his hand, said,
"Good-bye and good luck to you."
"Do you have to go?" asked Charley. "Couldn't you stay overnight with us?"
"I'd like to, but the wife would worry herself sick."
"Suppose she knew that you were going to stay here. Would that make it all
"I'm often away overnight during the fire season," smiled the ranger.
"It's the snakes that she's afraid of. She'd rather have me stay here all
night than come through these mountains after dark. You see her father was
bitten by a snake when she was a girl and she is mortally afraid of them."
"Then you're going to stay here all night," said Charley, with decision.
"I'll get word to her right away."
The ranger smiled incredulously. "I wish you could," he said. "It would
relieve her mind."
Charley threw aside the pack cover that had been placed over the wireless
instruments. The ranger looked at the outfit with wondering interest.
Charley glanced at his watch and threw over the switch.
"Willie might be listening in," he explained, as the sparks began to leap
between the points of his spark-gap. Twice he called, then a bright smile
came over his face. "Got him," he said.
For some moments he alternately worked his key and listened to the return
buzzing in his receiver. Then he turned to the ranger. "Willie has the
forester on the telephone," he said. "What shall I tell him?"
"Ask him to tell Katharine that I shall stay here with you in your camp
overnight, as I could not get home until long after dark."
With fascinated gaze the ranger watched the sparks fly under Charley's
manipulation of the key. Then there was a long silence as the three sat
waiting for the reply.
"Katharine says to tell Jimmie she's awful glad," said Charley, relaying
the forester's message literally, "and to thank the new patrol for taking
care of him."
Then and there Charley knew that he was going to like not only the ranger,
but also the ranger's little wife. As for the ranger, he was almost
"I know you talked to the chief," he said, "but what gets me is how you
did it. Why, if I knew how and had an outfit like that, I could talk to
Katharine any time and anywhere."
"We'll make you an outfit and teach you how to use it," cried the two boys
together. "You shall have your first lesson to-night."
Twilight drew near. Lew brought out the grub bag, and Charley began
cooking some food over the little alcohol stove.
"I think that you can safely take a chance on a wood-fire at this hour,"
said the ranger. "I'll build it myself."
He placed a few dried leaves within the fireplace and stacked some twigs,
broken into short lengths, in a cone-shaped heap above the leaves. At once
he had a bright little fire that made almost no smoke but gave lots of
heat, though the flames did not reach as high as the stone sides of the
fireplace. Quickly a little bed of coals formed, and Charley put his
frying-pan directly over them. In no time the air was savory with the odor
of sizzling bacon and hot coffee.
Squatted about the little fire, the three guardians of the forest ate
their evening meal. From time to time the ranger thrust a stick into the
fire, and so kept the flames alive. But it was a dim little blaze at best.
Yet it was mighty cheering and comforting as the darkness wrapped the
forest, and the gloom beneath the rhododendron thicket became inky and
For a long time after supper was eaten and the dishes cleaned, the three
sat before their little fire. Spellbound, the recruits listened to this
veteran guardian of the forest as he told them of his work in the woods,
of his encounters with beasts, of birds and reptiles, harmful and
otherwise, and of the rocks, and flowers, and trees. For the ranger loved
the forest even as Charley did.
When the evening was farther advanced, and the air was vibrant with the
voices of the wireless, Lew and Charley took turns reading the news, while
the ranger's expression of amazement and admiration grew deeper and
deeper, and his liking and respect for his young subordinate increased
rapidly. Finally the ranger was given his first lesson in
radio-telegraphy. While Lew was writing down for him the wireless
alphabet, Charley was showing him how to make the letters on the
spark-gap. Before they turned in for the night, the ranger had learned to
distinguish the difference between the sound of a dot and of a dash as the
signals buzzed in the receiver.
On the Trail of the Timber Thieves
Very early the next morning the ranger was afoot. Before ever the faintest
streaks of light penetrated the thicket, he had started the coffee to
boiling on the little stove, and breakfast was almost ready before he
wakened his young comrades.
"Why didn't you call us sooner?" asked Charley indignantly, as he leaped
out of his blanket. "It's our place to do the work here, not yours."
The ranger smiled. "It would have been cruel to waken you earlier. It's
easy to see that you aren't accustomed to such stiff work as your hike
here yesterday must have been. You slept like logs."
"We intend to do our full share of the work," said Charley.
"I'm sure of it," replied the ranger. "If I had thought you were trying to
shirk, I'd have had you out of bed long ago."
Many a time afterward Charley thought of that statement and pondered over
it. He was learning a good deal about life these days.
Grateful indeed was the warm coffee, for the April morn was chill.
Quickly the food was eaten, and the ranger prepared to depart.
"I don't want to burden you with rules," he said in parting. "Your
business is to protect the forest. Every day you will meet some new
situation. You must do your best to protect the harmless creatures of the
forest, as well as the timber. That means you may have to deal with
gunners who are violating the law. Such men, with firearms in their hands,
are dangerous. You may come across timber thieves. Get acquainted with
your territory so that you can tell whether a felled tree is on state land
or on private property. Your maps show you where the lines run, and you
will find the trees along these lines blazed. If you find lumbering
operations going on within the state forest, do your best to stop the
cutting and report the matter at once. You may find traps set out of
season. And it is practically certain you will have to deal with fires and
perhaps the men who start them. Being a fire patrol involves a whole lot
more than merely walking about through the woods. I can't give you rules
that will cover all the situations you will find yourself in. Common sense
is the best rule. The chief has given you a very important post here. It's
an unusual responsibility for one so young. But we both expect you to make
good. I'll be disappointed if you don't. You know if you fail, I'll have
to take part of the blame." He shook hands with both boys and was gone.
"He's a prince," said Charley, after the ranger had left the thicket. "He
knows just how to treat a fellow. Why, I've simply got to make good now.
I'd get my ranger in bad if I didn't."
Quickly they put their camp to rights, then slipped their pistols into
their pockets and got their fishing-rods.
"What is the first thing on the programme?" asked Lew.
"We'll go up to the top of the hill and have a good look over the
country," replied Charley. "It's just about time for campers to be cooking
their breakfasts. If there are any of them near us, we might see the smoke
from their fires and locate them. You know the ranger wants us to keep tab
on everything that's going on in our district."
They ascended the mountain and climbed the tree from which they had viewed
the country on the preceding day. The sun was just coming over the eastern
summits, sending long, level rays of light flashing among the dark pines,
making beautiful patterns of sun and shade. In the bottoms the night mist
had gathered in little pools, in places completely blotting out the
landscape. The tree tops, upthrusting through these banks of fog, looked
like wooded islets in tiny gray lakes. In every direction the two boys
scanned the country, looking sharply for slender spirals of smoke. But
they saw only mist curling upward.
"It looks to me," said Lew, "as though mighty few people ever get into
this valley. It's such a hard journey to get here that I suppose the
fishermen will stop at the streams in the valleys nearer the highway, and
nobody else would want to come here at this time of year. Unless this
timber is set afire purposely, I believe there is not much danger of its
"There's just the rub," replied Charley. "It would naturally be safe,
being so hard to get to, and for that reason it wouldn't be watched as
well as more accessible regions, particularly when it is difficult to get
fire patrols. But because some one is evidently trying to burn this
particular stand of timber, it is especially necessary to guard it. Mr.
Marlin wants it watched continually, but so secretly that no one will
realize that it is being guarded. That might make the incendiary
careless--providing he comes again--and so lead to his detection. We must
do nothing to betray ourselves. We'll have to be careful not to mark this
tree in any way, so that a passer-by would guess it was used as a
watch-tower. And we shall have to be sure that we don't wear a path
leading from it to our camp."
For many minutes the boys sat in the tree, well screened from observation
by the spreading limbs, yet themselves able to see perfectly. In every
direction they searched again and again for telltale columns of smoke, but
"It looks to me," remarked Charley, "as though there isn't a soul in this
region except ourselves. If that is so, it is the best possible time to do
a little exploring. Suppose we take a look at the valley above our camp.
We can cover a lot of ground between now and noon and yet get back here
for another observation during the dinner hour. We ought to be in this
watch-tower or at some other point equally good every time men would
naturally be having fires, and that means morning, noon, and night.
Between times we can explore the forest. It means some pretty stiff
hiking, but I guess we can stand it."
They drew their map and compared it with the country as it actually
"We aren't so far from the end of the state land in this direction,"
commented Lew. "That's the very place you suggested exploring. We might
look up the line, as Mr. Morton suggested. You notice the stand of pines
ends a long distance this side of the line. That's all hardwood forest up
"The sooner we get at it, the better," agreed Charley.
Carefully they descended the tree, picked up their fishing-rods, and
hastened down the mountainside as fast as it was safe to travel. The
nearer they came to the centre of the valley, the larger the trees grew.
Evidently the rich soil had worked down into the bottom, during the
centuries, and the tree growth was enormous. Under these huge trees there
was no underbrush, and the two boys could make fast time. They approached
the stream, which flowed swiftly along under the tall pines, where they
had no doubt trout innumerable lurked in the shadowy depths. The
temptation to stop and fish was strong, but they put it aside and pushed
on up the valley.
For a long time they passed like ghosts among the pines. The earth was
springy with the accumulated needles of many years, into which their feet
sank silently. Under the huge trees everything seemed to be hushed. There
was no wind to set the pines awhispering, and the music of the brook stole
through the forest like the low singing of a muted violin string.
For a long distance they passed through a pure stand of pines. Then the
character of the forest began to change. Soon they were in a mixed growth,
and not long afterward they found practically nothing but deciduous trees
"We're not far from the line now," suggested Lew. "This must be the stand
of hardwoods we saw from the lookout tree. I doubt if it is more than half
a mile to the line."
"Keep your eyes open for blazed trees," said Charley. "We ought to see
some before many minutes."
They had gone on, perhaps a quarter of a mile, when Lew said, "It looks
pretty thin ahead. Either there is a natural opening in the forest or else
the timber has been cut out."
Charley thought of what Mr. Morton had told him about timber thieves
operating along the boundary lines. He was glad that he had decided to
explore this particular section of his district. A moment later he was
still more glad, for the stillness of the morning air was suddenly broken
by a splitting, rending sound, which was followed by the crash of a great
tree as it came thundering to earth. There could be no mistaking the
sound. A tree had been felled. Both boys stopped dead in their tracks and
looked questioningly at each other.
"Timber thieves!" said Charley in a low voice. His cheeks paled a trifle.
Then a look of determination came into his eyes.
"What shall we do?" asked Lew in a loud whisper.
"I don't know," replied Charley. "But we'll find out what they are doing.
Then we can decide what to do ourselves."
He drew his automatic but as quickly thrust it into his coat pocket, as he
remembered what the ranger had told him. But though the pistol was in his
pocket, he still grasped it in his hand. The tense look on his face showed
plainly enough that he was ready to shoot right through his coat. Lew,
observing his companion's movements, followed his example.
Minute after minute the two young forest guards stood silent, listening
for the sound of axes or other customary noises that ordinarily accompany
lumbering operations. But the morning stillness was undisturbed. A puzzled
expression crept over their faces.
"Maybe that tree wasn't cut at all," whispered Lew. "Maybe it just fell
"We'll find out," replied Charley, and cautiously they began to make their
way toward the point whence the sound had come. Sheltering themselves
behind trees, they advanced rod after rod. The stillness remained
unbroken. The stand of trees grew thinner, with more and more underbrush.
Presently they saw before them an unmistakable clearing in the forest.
Rapidly they advanced, screened by the bushes, until they stood close to
the edge of the clearing. Beyond question somebody had been cutting trees.
Over a considerable area the timber had been felled, and whoever had
felled it had cut ruthlessly. Hardly a sapling remained in all the cleared
area. On every hand trees lay prone. Some had been trimmed and cut into
pieces. Some remained exactly as they fell. Everywhere freshly cut stumps
told plainly enough what had occurred.
"Somebody's cutting timber all right enough," whispered Charley, "and it's
on state land. I wonder where they are. They certainly cut that tree we
heard fall, but I haven't heard an axe or a human voice and I don't see
any signs of lumbermen."
"Maybe they're at camp eating breakfast. It's still early, you know."
"If they are," said Charley, "then this is the very time to investigate.
We'll look around before anybody gets back."
Glancing once more about the opening to make sure that nobody was in
sight, they stepped from behind their concealing bushes and started across
the open space. But immediately they came to a dead stop. Like
rifle-shots, a succession of sharp sounds rang out, accompanied by
splashing noises. The two boys were at first alarmed, then puzzled. They
looked at each other in amazement.
"What was that?" asked Lew.
"I don't know," replied Charley. "At first I thought somebody was shooting
at us. But I didn't hear any bullets hum. And the noise didn't sound
exactly like a gun, either. It was like the noise a fellow makes when he
hits the water real hard with a board."
In every direction they scanned the clearing. They saw no living things
but the trees. "It's queer," commented Charley. "Let's look at that
nearest tree that's down. Maybe we can learn something from it."
They walked over to the tree, then studied it in amazement. "I never saw
anything like that before," cried Lew. "I don't believe that was ever cut
with an axe. It looks as though it had been gnawed off."
"It has," cried Charley with sudden excitement. "I understand the whole
thing now. We've found a colony of beavers. I never saw a live beaver, but
I've read about them and seen pictures of their huts and their work, and
that looks exactly like the pictures. And those noises like rifle-shots
were their alarm signals. They slap the water with their tails when they
are frightened and dive under water. I suppose they're all in their lodges
now, and we'll never get a peep at them. Gee whiz! Just think of finding
beavers, Lew, real beavers. I didn't know there were any in Pennsylvania."
"It seems to me that I read something about the game commission stocking
the state with them a few years ago. I think they put a number of them in
the state forests. Doubtless they have multiplied in numbers and started
"That explains it," said Charley. "Gee! I'm glad we found these fellows.
And I'm just as glad that they aren't timber thieves. You know, Lew, it
made me feel kind of queer to think of facing real timber thieves. I
didn't like the idea a bit. But I kept thinking about Mr. Morton and what
he said about his being blamed if I fell down, and I made up my mind I'd
do it, no matter what happened."
They now turned their attention to the felled tree once more, studying the
innumerable teeth marks, like so many tiny chisel cuts, on stump and butt.
Then they noticed the great chips lying about the stump, some of them half
as big as dinner plates.
"It gets me to understand how they can bite out such huge chunks," said
Lew, "when their teeth are evidently so small. Why, you'd think an animal
would have to have a mouth as big as a hippopotamus to take bites like
Charley laughed. "Looks that way, doesn't it?" he said. "But as I remember
it, what I read said that the beaver gnaws out parallel rings around the
trunk and wrenches out the wood between. It's like sawing two cuts in a
board and chiseling out the board between them."
"I see," said Lew. "But I should think they'd break their teeth all to
"So should I. But they have very strong teeth that grow out as fast as
they wear away, and that are as sharp as a chisel. I wouldn't want a
beaver to bite me. I'll bet he could bite right through a bone."
"I suppose," said Lew, "they cut these trees to use in making their dam;
but what gets me is how they are going to get the trees over to the dam.
It would take a team of horses to drag this trunk. It's fifteen inches in
"The article I read," said Charley, "stated that as the beaver dams became
higher, the land adjacent was flooded and that the beavers made little
canals through the flooded area and floated their logs where they wanted
them. You notice that they have gnawed the limbs off of a number of these
trees and cut several of the trunks into lengths. I was sure they were
sawlogs when I first saw them."
"Well, there isn't enough water here to float a log," said Lew, "though
it's mighty wet and it looks as though the water was several inches deep
a little farther on. Let's see if we can find a canal."
They stripped off their shoes and stockings, and, rolling up their
trousers, began to wade. Very soon they found the water nearly knee-deep.
"There's more water here than there seems to be," admitted Lew. "There's
so much marsh-grass and so many water-plants it fooled me."
Cautiously they waded about. Suddenly Lew plunged forward, and only by
grasping a bush did he save himself from getting completely wet. As it
was, he found himself standing upright in three feet of water. After he
recovered from his surprise, he felt about with his feet.
"This is their canal all right enough," he said. "It's very narrow, but it
will float anything that grows in this forest."
He scrambled out and the two boys made their way back to dry ground. "How
are you going to get dry?" asked Charley. "I don't want to make a fire
unless it is absolutely necessary."
"Never mind about me. I'll dry off soon enough. Let's find their dam."
They made their way toward the run and soon discovered the dam. It was a
great pile of branches, stones, moss, grass, mud, bark, etc., that had
been built across the stream and extended for rods on either side. It
looked very solid, yet the water did not pour over it, but filtered
"Think of all the work it took to make that," cried Lew. "Why, every
stick in it had to be gnawed down and floated here, and all the bark and
grass and roots had to be pulled and brought here and the stones
collected. And say! How in the world do you suppose they ever handled
those stones? And how do you suppose they ever anchored the stuff when
they began building? I should think the current would have swept
everything away at first. That's a pretty swift stream."
"I read that they start their dams with saplings, which they anchor across
the current with stones. They are much like squirrels, you know, and can
use their fore paws about as well as we can use our hands. I suppose the
stones lose weight by displacing water, but if I hadn't seen these rocks,
I'd never have believed that such big stones could be handled by animals
no larger than beavers."
"See here," said Lew. "These willow branches must have taken root, for
they seem to be growing right up out of the top of the dam. And there's a
birch that's surely growing. You know the branches of some trees will root
if you put them in water, especially willows. Why, if they continue to
grow and take more root, there'll be a hedge of living trees right across
this brook. The dam will become so dense that it will back up a great
quantity of water. I reckon this bottom will just naturally turn into a
swamp after a time."
"Now that's interesting," suggested Charley. "You know the Bible tells us
the world was made in six days; but it seems to me it isn't finished yet.
Every rain washes down soil from the hills and helps to fill up the
valleys and the river-bottoms, and the floods scour out the watercourses
and carry earth and stones down to the ocean. And here we see a piece of
land that used to be fine, dry bottom, now becoming a swamp. It looks to
me as though the earth is changing every day."
They examined the dam more critically. "It's two hundred feet wide if it's
an inch," said Lew, "though the brook isn't more than fifteen or twenty.
You see, it extends on each side of the brook to land that is a little
higher than the level of the stream bank. That's what makes this big head
of water. At the least there are several acres of it."
"There's one thing that we haven't seen yet," added Charley, "and that's
their houses. They ought to be some distance above the dam."
"I wonder if those are beaver lodges," said Lew, pointing to some bulky
heaps of brush at a little distance up-stream.
"That's exactly what they are. They don't look much like houses, do they?
But I guess they're pretty snug inside. The entrances are deep under
water, you know, so that the ice can't clog them in winter, and so that
the beavers can get to their food all right."
"What do they eat, Charley? Do you know?"
"Sure. They eat roots, and tender plants, but mostly bark from certain
trees. I believe these are willow, poplar, birch, and some others. They
cut down the wood in summer and pile it under water in front of their
huts and hold it down with stones."
"Well, what do you think of that!" cried Lew.
"They eat a pile of it, too. I don't remember how many trees that article
said a colony of beavers would eat in a winter, but I'm sure it was up in
the hundreds. I remember how astonished I was when I read about it."
"No wonder they clear the forest so fast. I wonder if we ought to tell Mr.
Marlin. Maybe he doesn't know about these beavers. They might begin to cut
down his virgin pines. I'm sure he wouldn't want that to happen."
Charley laughed. "I'd bet my last dollar that Mr. Marlin knows all about
these beavers. You can bank on it that he knows all there is to know about
the territory he has charge of. And as for the beavers eating the pines,
it seems to me that I read that they never touch evergreens."
A ray of sun slipped through the leaves above them and fell directly upon
Charley's face. He glanced up and was surprised to note how high the sun
had climbed. Then he looked at his watch.
"Gee whiz!" he cried. "We must have been fooling around this beaver dam
for more than an hour. We must be about our business. We'll go on and
locate the boundary line."
"I wish we could get a glimpse of a beaver," sighed Lew.
"Not much use to wish it," said Charley. "They're furtive, and I suppose
they will stay in their lodges for hours. It seems to me I read that they
work at their dams mostly at night. We'll go on now, but maybe we could
come up here some moonlight evening and see them at work."
They made their way around the beaver dam and continued on up the valley.
Within a few hundred yards they came upon a blazed tree. Speedily they
discovered a second. Then, following the line indicated by these two
trees, they rapidly passed tree after tree blazed and painted white,
tracing the line entirely across the valley. They picked out some
landmarks by which they could readily locate the line again.
"If anybody except those beavers starts any timber cutting," said Charley,
"we'll know in a second whether he's cutting the state's wood or not. Now
I guess we'd better hustle back to camp."
Lew got their noonday meal while Charley ascended once more to the watch
tree at the top of the mountain and made a careful survey of the country.
Not a sign of smoke could he see in any direction. No fire was discovered
during the afternoon hike. The evening inspection from their tower was
equally reassuring. After a brief chat by wireless with their friends at
Central City, and through them sending their nightly message to the
forester, telling him that all was well, the two tired young fire patrols
rolled up in their blankets and were quickly asleep, serene in the
knowledge that the forest they guarded was safe.
Spying Out the Land
All too rapidly the days passed. Occasionally a shower moistened the
surface of the ground, but for the most part the dry weather continued,
with every hour increasing the fire hazard. During the first few days
Charley was never free from a feeling of dread. Every time he awoke he
expected to smell fire. Every trip to the watch tree was made in the fear
that somewhere within his vision there would be telltale clouds of smoke
arising. A nervous apprehension seized upon him, and a mortal fear of
fire; and a growing disbelief in his own power kept him in a state of
All these were sensations new to Charley, though they were normal enough.
The natural result of responsibility, they were coupled with Charley's
keen realization of the insignificance of his own or any one else's powers
as opposed to the vast forces of nature. Had Charley never seen a forest
fire, had he never done battle with the raging flames, he could not have
had this sharp realization of the insignificance of his own strength. But
the recent struggle with the forest fire and that far more desperate
battle with the same enemy years before, when the Wireless Patrol was in
camp at Fort Brady, had given Charley a true estimate of the well-nigh
irresistible fury of a fire in the forest, should conditions be favorable
to the flames.
Only luck, Charley realized, and the best of luck, had brought him and Lew
out victorious in their recent contest. The next time fire started--and he
knew well enough that there would be a next time--there might be a strong
wind, or to reach the blaze might take him hours, or he might not be able
to summon help with his wireless, or other unfavorable conditions might
arise to render his efforts useless. Then the forest would go roaring up
in flame. And even though he might not have been unfaithful to his trust,
the result would be the same. The timber would be destroyed. This great
forest would be consumed. And he, especially selected to guard and protect
it, would have failed. The thought was overwhelming.
More and more Charley turned to his wireless as a drowning man clutches at
a straw. He saw that when Lew had gone and he had nothing but his own
powers to depend upon, the wireless was going to be like a life-line to
him. He realized that to have the powerful battery he wanted was
imperative, if he was to have even a chance to make good in his efforts to
protect the forest. And as he and Lew patrolled the timber, he made it
evident to his chum what a vital part that battery would play in his
success. But neither of them saw any way for Charley to come into
immediate possession of it.
As the days passed and the forest still slumbered in safety, the sharp
edge of Charley's anxiety wore off. That, too, was normal, for he could
not naturally remain at such a pitch of emotion. So his interest in the
life about him gradually returned. And indeed there were innumerable
objects to interest a nature lover like Charley.
The country itself was enough to make a nature lover happy. When Charley
climbed his watch tree and looked about, he could see nothing but forest.
East, west, north, south, league upon league, far as the eye could see and
much farther, stretched the forest, like a huge green sea. The mountains
rose like great waves; and from his lofty perch Charley could see several
parallel ridges rearing their crests aloft on either side of him.
Distinctly he could see the two bottoms at the foot of the mountain on
which stood his watch tree. Splendid stands of timber filled these valleys
with swelling streams of water that flashed in the sunlight here and there
through little openings in the trees. But what lay in the farther valleys
he could only guess, though he knew that each must have its stream and
some timber. What else there might be Charley did not know.
It was part of his work as a patrol to find out. And eagerly he looked
forward to the daily hikes that would take him here or there or elsewhere
in the great forest. Already he loved it; and he wanted to share all its
secrets. Had Charley but known it, that very attitude of mind made him
more valuable both to his ranger and to the forester. It meant that his
work would not be done in a perfunctory manner, but with that genuine
interest born of love that alone leads to perfect service.
The two chums made themselves familiar with their own valley from the
border line of the state lands above the beaver dam, to a point many miles
below their own camp. They found that they were in the heart of the stand
of virgin timber, and that the location of their camp was by far the best
that could have been chosen for the purpose of guarding the stand.
Charley thought it wonderful that the forester could offhand select such a
strategic point. He felt more certain than ever that Mr. Marlin must have
an intimate knowledge of the territory over which he had jurisdiction.
Could Charley have known how intimate that knowledge was, he would have
been amazed. And what he did not even guess was the fact that the forester
had planned just such a secret watch on the big timber as Charley was now
keeping, and that he had selected the camp site only after days of
Nor did Charley so much as dream that for some time Mr. Marlin had been
looking about for some one he could trust to do the work. The native
mountaineers did not command Mr. Marlin's entire confidence, nor did many
of them possess the intelligence or education he desired in the man he
Yet his sudden choice of Charley was characteristic of the forester. He
always acted quickly when he thought the time for action had come.
Charley's grit and pluck in voluntarily fighting the fire, coupled with
his membership in the Wireless Patrol, were the factors that led Mr.
Marlin to engage him at once. Had Charley known these facts, he might have
felt a bit conceited or at least elated over the situation. But his belief
was, as Mr. Marlin wished it to be, that the forester had taken him only
as a last resort. And Charley was working hard to make good. He could
hardly have taken a better way than the road he had chosen--to make
himself familiar with all the territory he was to guard, and so to prepare
himself for the emergencies that lay ahead of him.
Every day, and every hour of each day, the two boys found much that
excited their wonder, for now they were studying nature at first-hand.
Taking their dog, they one day climbed the mountain beyond the one on
which their watch-tower stood, and came down into a lovely valley. But
what instantly arrested their attention was the face of the mountain on
the far side of this valley.
Instead of being a timbered slope, this mountain was a sheer precipice of
rock that rose abruptly a thousand feet in air. Its rugged sides were
seamed and scarred. Here and there a projecting ledge offered a scant
foothold, but mostly the face of the cliff was one vast, frowning rock
that rose almost perpendicularly. On tiny ledges and in crevices of the
rock little ferns grew in masses, hanging down the face of the cliff like
green fringes. Wild flowers had taken possession of the crannies. In
precarious footholds, where it seemed impossible for them to exist, a few
trees had sprung up, their roots crawling fantastically over the rocks in
search of bits of earth to grow in, while the tops of the trees stood up
slantingly against the face of the cliff. Mostly they were evergreens, and
their scraggly branches made irregular dark masses on the face of the
As the two boys made their way toward the foot of this cliff, a great bird
came soaring over the top of it, and sailed in lofty circles over the
"Look at that hawk!" cried Lew. "Isn't he a whopper? Look at the spread of
his wings. And see how he soars, without ever moving a muscle. I wonder if
he can see us."
Evidently the bird saw something, for suddenly it tilted downward, shot
toward the earth like a flash, and was lost to sight behind the trees.
"Whew!" cried Charley. "Did you see that drop? It almost took my breath
away to watch him."
A moment later the bird rose into sight again, bearing in its talons a
dark-colored animal of some sort. Though the animal was not large, it must
have weighed many pounds. Yet the bird flew upward swiftly, lifting
himself rapidly with strong strokes of its wings.
"Gee whiz!" exclaimed Charley, after watching the bird a moment. "That's
no hawk! That's an eagle. It's a bald eagle, too. See his white tail and
head and the bare shanks?"
"Are you sure?" demanded Lew. "I've always wanted to see a bald eagle.
It's our national emblem, you know."
"I'm pretty sure that's one," replied Charley. "I've read about them and
seen pictures of them, and that bird's exactly like the pictures. We can
see his legs well because he's holding them straight down. They're bare.
The golden eagle has feathers all the way to his toes."
"Gee! I'm glad we saw him," exclaimed Lew. "Look where he's going."
The bird flew straight toward the cliff, climbing upward with tremendous
speed. He flew directly to a ledge far up the precipice, where he vanished
"That's where the nest is. I'll bet anything on it," said Charley. "We'll
keep an eye on this place and see if there are any little eagles later in
For some time they watched the ledge to which the eagle had flown, but the
bird did not again come into sight. Evidently the ledge was much wider
than it appeared to be from the bottom of the valley, and perhaps the face
of the cliff was worn away, cave like, at that point, affording a secure
retreat. At any rate, the eagle was seen no more.
"Well," said Lew, after a time, "if we can't see the eagle again, perhaps
we can find out what sort of an animal it was he got. I think I can pretty
nearly point out the spot where he landed."
They started toward the point at which the eagle had come to earth. When
they thought they were near the place they began to search the ground
carefully for some signs of the tragedy that had occurred. They looked in
vain. Nowhere could they find any telltale marks.
"I suspect it must have been a coon," suggested Charley. "It looked like
it to me. We know there are lots of them in this forest."
Just then the excited chattering of squirrels attracted them. They began
to examine the trees about them. Presently they came to one around which
were scattered innumerable shells of nuts that had been gnawed into and
"There must be squirrels in that tree," said Lew.
Now muffled squeaks of fear or pain were audible. The two boys looked at
each other questioningly.
"There are squirrels up there all right," agreed Charley, "and something's
wrong. That's exactly the way a squirrel sounds when it's in trouble. Yes;
there are some squirrels in the tree top. They're terribly excited over
The boys began to examine the tree. It was an old oak. Well up its trunk a
limb had broken or rotted away, and the resulting decay of the stub had
made a hole in the tree itself. What instantly riveted the attention of
the two boys was something black and tapering that projected from the
hole and that slowly waved in the air.
"A blacksnake!" cried Charley. "He's probably eaten the little squirrels."
In a second Charley was shinning up the tree. Not far below the squirrel
hole the stub of another old limb projected. Charley pulled himself up and
got a footing on it. He drew his little axe from his hip, and, yanking the
snake half-way out of the hole, broke its back with a sharp blow of the
axe, and then threw the reptile to the ground. Lew was on it like a flash
with his feet, tramping it to death. In the snake's mouth was a small
squirrel still kicking and making muffled noises.
Charley slid to the ground, drew his knife and slit the snake's head,
releasing the young squirrel. It was hurt and terribly frightened, but was
apparently not really injured. Charley kept it in his hand, feeling for
"I don't believe this squirrel is really harmed a bit," he said finally,
"but it was a pretty close call. I'm going to put it back in the nest
He put the little creature in his pocket, then again shinned up the tree,
and placed the squirrel in its nest. Meantime, the old squirrels in the
tree top chattered incessantly.
"Nobody's going to hurt you," said Charley, looking upward through the
branches. "We're only trying to help you."
When he came to earth once more he examined the snake. "He's a big
fellow," he said, stretching the reptile out straight. "He's a good deal
more than six feet long. I guess we'll take his skin and make a belt of
As he drew out his knife again and proceeded to skin the snake, he
continued, "I don't believe in killing snakes as a general rule, but
blacksnakes do more harm than good, I believe. It's true they kill rats
and mice, but they also eat birds' eggs and young birds and squirrels, and
no end of other useful creatures. And they are so active that one snake
will kill a great number in the course of a year."
"I don't understand how they can eat anything so big as that young
squirrel," said Lew, "but I know they do."
"Really they don't," laughed Charley. "They drag themselves outside of
their prey. You know their jaws are loose so they can spread them, and
their teeth point backward. What they do is to work the upper jaw and then
the lower, hooking their teeth into their food, pulling back with each
half of the jaw in turn. You see they literally pull themselves over their
prey. Well, I'm glad we got that fellow. I suppose it's my business to
kill all the blacksnakes I can. Whatever harms the squirrels, hurts the
"What do you mean?" asked Lew.
"Why, you know that squirrels help to plant the nut trees in a forest.
Some tree seeds, like pine and maple seeds, are so small or light that
they are carried easily by birds and winds, and so scattered about. But
acorns and nuts are so heavy that they fall straight down to the earth. If
the squirrels didn't carry them away and bury them in such quantities, how
could we ever have had these great stands of nut and oak trees?"
"I never thought of that," said Lew.
"It looks as though what Mr. Marlin said was right--walking about through
the forest is only a small part of a forest guard's work. He's got to know
an awful lot about things before he can be sure just what he ought to do."
"I never had any idea how big a job it is, Lew. And think what a forester
must have to know. I tell you it takes a man to fill a job like that."
Noon came. The boys grew hungry. "I could eat all the sandwiches we have
myself," smiled Charley. "I wonder if we couldn't catch some trout to help
out. It would be all right to make a fire over here, I'm sure. And we'll
keep it so small it won't make any smoke. And even if it did, it couldn't
possibly betray the location of our camp."
They made their way to the stream in the middle of the valley, baited
their hooks, and dropped them into the water. In no time they had half a
dozen fine trout.
"You clean 'em, Lew," suggested Charley, "and I'll make a little
He selected a little shoulder of earth close to the run and began to dig
into it with a stick. In a moment he had uncovered a deposit of solid
clay. The clay was hard to dig, but he could shape his fireplace in it
exactly as he wanted it. When the task was completed, he started a very
small fire with leaves and small branches. By careful feeding, he kept the
flames burning clear, with almost no smoke. Presently he had a bed of
glowing coals that almost filled the little fireplace.
Lew, meantime, had cleaned the fish and cut some black birch branches
which he thrust through the fish lengthwise. Squatting beside the little
fire, the two boys now held the fish over the coals, turning them slowly,
and roasting them thoroughly. With the addition of the trout, their meal
They ate slowly, and after their meal sat for a time beside their fire in
the warm sun, watching the forest life about them, and listening to the
song of the brook and the myriad other sounds of the woods. Finally they
prepared to leave. The fire had shrunken to a white bed of ashes.
"We'll make sure that it is out," commented Charley. And he stepped to the
run and got a hatful of water, which he poured on the ashes. To his
astonishment the ashes were washed away, leaving the fireplace bare. The
fireplace had changed color and looked as though made of brick. He touched
it and found it as hard as stone.
"Fire-clay," he said. "That's probably worth something. I'll take a sample
He dug away more top-soil and scooped out a big ball of clay. Then he
filled in the holes he had made, covering up all traces of the clay
deposit, and blazed a tree near by to identify the spot.
The journey back to the camp was made by a route different from the one
taken in the morning, the boys following the stream down the valley for a
distance before crossing back to their own valley. The first fishermen
they had encountered were seen on the return trip. The men were wading in
the stream below the boys and so did not observe the young fire guards
behind them. Charley and Lew instantly slipped behind trees, and after
watching the men until they were lost to sight, struck off toward their
camp. They got there shortly before sunset. While Lew prepared supper,
Charley once more made his way up to the watch tree, where he remained
Early in the evening they got into touch with their friends at Central
City, and through them sent a reassuring good-night to the forester. Then,
too tired to listen to the night's news, they wrapped themselves in their
blankets and were soon sound asleep.
The Trail in the Forest
The following day the two young patrols were to report to their ranger at
the appointed place in the forest. Although the ranger had much farther to
travel than they did, the boys knew from experience that he was afoot
early during the fire season, and they felt certain he would be at the
meeting-place before the appointed hour. Charley wanted to be as prompt as
his ranger, and so the two boys were astir by the time the first streaks
of light tinged the eastern skies.
It was still dark enough to risk a little blaze in their fireplace and the
warmth was grateful, for the early morning air was chill enough. Breakfast
was soon cooked and their camp put to rights. Then, taking their
fishing-rods again, they set forth to patrol the forest. The pup was tied
in the tent, lest he should get into trouble with a porcupine or some
other creature of the forest, and so make them tardy for their
Their plan was to travel down their own valley for a distance, then pass
through a gap to a fire trail in the next bottom, which would lead to
other trails that would take them close to their destination. They had
studied out their route carefully on the map, and they made their way
with both speed and certainty.
For a long time nothing of moment happened to them. The sun came up bright
and clear, flirting with the fleecy clouds in the sky, that now plunged
the land in deep shadow and again drew aside so that the forest was bathed
in golden sunlight. The earth sent forth fragrant exhalations. A gentle
breeze lent a tonic quality to the atmosphere. The leaves sparkled with
dew, and the stream in the bottom flashed in the sunlight, filling the
woods with its sonorous babble. So inviting was the scene that despite
their haste, the boys could not resist the temptation to drop their hooks
in promising pools as they moved along. Without half trying, they
accumulated a dozen fine trout. The smaller ones they carefully unhooked
and threw back into the stream.
They passed through the gap in the mountain and started to cross the
bottom to the fire trail. At the brook in the middle of the valley they
paused to make one last cast in an especially inviting pool. At that
moment two men came out of a near-by thicket. Both were smoking. They were
equipped like fishermen, though they had no fish. They were rough looking,
with hard faces. One of them had an ugly scar above his right eye and
showed a mouthful of gold teeth when he took his cigar from his mouth, as
he asked, "What luck?"
"We've got a few," replied Charley, extending his creel for their
The man looked at the fish and swore savagely. "These kids have fished
the brook out," he growled. "There's no use trying this stream. We'll have
to go on to the next valley."
Charley was in a quandary. These men, with their cigars, were a menace to
the forest. It made him nervous merely to look at the glowing tobacco and
the careless way the men flicked the ashes about. He was almost
panic-stricken at the idea of their passing into his own valley while he
was absent. He did not know whether to tell them the truth about his fish
or remain silent. But he remembered that his watch in that valley was
supposed to be a secret one, and he said nothing. Afterward he was glad
that he had remained silent.
"Come on," said the man with the gold teeth. "These kids have queered us
here. We'll be moving."
As he started away he gave Charley such a savage look that it almost
frightened Charley. It did worry and alarm him, for he could not help
asking himself what he should do if he had to deal sternly with such a
man. Even with Lew at his side, he felt fearful. Alone in the forest with
such desperate-looking men, he knew that he would be helpless.
Then he remembered the automatic stowed in his hip pocket and felt
relieved. Now he understood much better why the ranger had given it to
him. The remembrance that he had this weapon stiffened his courage
wonderfully. He determined that if gun-play ever became necessary, he
would not be caught napping. At once he shifted the automatic to his coat
pocket, where he could shoot without drawing the weapon, and where he
could carry his hand without exciting suspicion.
"Gee!" whispered Lew, after the two men had passed out of hearing. "I
wouldn't care to meet that pair after dark."
"What I am afraid of," said Charley, "is that they will set the forest
afire. They were mighty careless with their cigars. Will they be any more
careful with the butts when they have finished their smoke? I don't know
but what we ought to trail them. Yet we've got to meet Mr. Morton and I
don't want to be tardy. I can't make up my mind what we ought to do."
After a moment's consideration, he unjointed his rod, and started off in
the direction from which the men had come. "We'll find Mr. Morton just as
quick as we can," he said with decision, "and tell him the situation.
Meantime, we'll make sure those men didn't start any fires up to this
Charley's anxiety lent wings to his heels and he started at a rate of
speed that would soon have winded both boys. At a protest from Lew, he
dropped to a fast walk. With open fire trails before them, the chums
advanced rapidly. Soon they were well up the slope of the next mountain.
They turned and studied the country behind them with anxious eyes. But no
smoke columns showed against the green of the forest and they went on with
"I'm certainly going to get a pair of good field-glasses," said Charley,
"though I don't know where the money's to come from any more than I know
how I'll get my battery. But I just have to have both."
Their meeting-place with Mr. Morton was in the next valley. Charley
glanced at his watch and saw that they were early for the appointment. Yet
he kept on at good speed in the hope that Mr. Morton might also be early.
He wanted to talk to him as soon as he possibly could. The two boys never
reached the meeting-place, however, for shortly they met Mr. Morton
himself coming up the fire trail. He had reached the meeting-place, and,
being early, had decided to climb to the top of the hill. He knew that his
subordinate would almost certainly travel by way of this fire trail, and
he planned to keep watch on the mountain top while he waited for him.
Charley was so relieved to see his ranger that he scarcely knew what to
say. He suddenly felt so different that he was almost ashamed of having
been alarmed. As he looked at it now, it seemed foolish to have been so
disturbed because a stranger had been provoked at what he chose to regard
as interference with his fishing.
The ranger shook hands warmly with his young friends. "I see you have kept
the forest safe so far," he said with a smile. "How have things been
"All right," replied Charley, "but we met a couple of men an hour or so
ago, whose looks we didn't like."
"How's that? What did they do that you didn't like?"
"Well, they were smoking and they were careless with their cigars. Since
we met them I've been expecting to see a smoke column rising every time I
turned around; and I'd hate to tell you how many times I've looked back in
the last hour."
"It never hurts a man in the forest to look back," said Mr. Morton with
another smile. "Lot's wife is the only person on record who came to grief
that way. But seriously, you mustn't get nervous just because you see a
smoker. You'll meet hundreds of them, and they're all pretty careless."
Charley flushed a little. "You don't understand, Mr. Morton," he went on.
"I wasn't nervous--that is, I didn't--I mean, it wasn't the mere fact that
the men were smoking that made me feel anxious. I didn't like the looks of
the men or their actions."
"What did they do?"
"Well, they swore at us."
The ranger laughed. "That's a habit of these mountaineers," he said. "You
mustn't pay any attention to it. They don't mean anything by it."
"Do they look at you as though they'd like to kill you, too?" demanded
Charley. "Is that a habit of these mountaineers?"
Instantly the ranger's face was sober. "See here," he said seriously.
"What have you been doing? What did you do or say to the men that made
them curse you? A little authority hasn't made you toplofty, has it? You
know you are not supposed to let anybody know that you're a fire patrol."
"I didn't," replied Charley, stung by the implied criticism. "We caught a
few fish in our own valley, then cut through to the valley just below us,
on our way to this trail. Just as we reached the run, two men came out of
the bushes. They asked what we had caught, and when I showed them, one of
them swore at us terribly and said we had fished the stream out so that
they would have to go on to the next valley."
"Is that all?" laughed the ranger, looking much relieved.
"No, sir, it isn't," continued Charley. "They looked as though they wanted
to kill us."
The ranger was inclined to smile, but he forbore, seeing that Charley was
sensitive. "You'll soon get used to meeting tough-looking customers in the
forest," he said.
"I hope that I don't meet many like that fellow," sighed Charley. "When he
scowled at me, he looked as fierce as a chimpanzee. And he had an ugly
scar over his eye that actually seemed to turn red."
Instantly the ranger's face became sober. "A scar over his eye," he
repeated. "Which eye?"
"His right one."
"Did you notice his mouth?"
"Sure. I couldn't help noticing it. It was full of gold teeth."
The ranger gave a low whistle. His face became still more serious. "Tell
me exactly what was said and done," he continued. "Repeat your
conversation just as accurately as you can."
When Charley had rehearsed the entire affair in detail, the ranger asked,
"And you are sure you gave him no hint that you had come from the next
"Absolutely none. I thought right away that I mustn't do that."
"You're a lad of discretion," smiled the ranger. "You have done well. But
be awful careful of that old scoundrel. That's Bill Collins. He's a bad
egg if there ever was one. He never came into these mountains to catch
fish. That's merely a blind. And he was headed for your valley, too.
That's absolutely certain. Otherwise he wouldn't have gone there."
The ranger paused in thought. "Did he go there?" he continued. "That's
the problem. If he said he was going there, it's more than likely he was
headed for some other place and wanted to throw you off the track."
Again the ranger paused and studied Charley's face keenly. Evidently the
wide-set eyes, with their indication of intelligence, the strong nose and
good chin, and especially Charley's straight mouth with its thin lips,
reassured him. "My boy," he said kindly, "I don't want to alarm you
unnecessarily, but be careful of that man. He's up to something, or he
wouldn't be in this forest; but what it can be, I've not the remotest
idea. The only thing I can think of that would bring him here is the
virgin timber. He's been mixed up in several crooked lumber deals. He
wouldn't hesitate for an instant to steal timber or to set the forest
afire. And it's my personal belief that he wouldn't stop at"--he paused
and studied Charley's face again--"at murder."
The two boys were sober. For a moment they looked at the ranger in
silence. Then, "What had I better do?" asked Charley.
"Keep out of Collins' road," answered Mr. Morton instantly. "If you can
get track of him, watch him; but don't let him see you or know he is
Again the ranger paused to ponder the matter. "It isn't a square deal to
let you kids go up against that old crook," he said suddenly. "Come on.
We'll see if we can find him. And if we do, I know how to deal with him."
The ranger strode forward at a terrific pace. The two boys had almost to
run to keep up with him. Over his face came a grim expression that boded
no good for Bill Collins. On and on he went, saying never a word.
Evidently he was revolving the situation in his own mind. Not until they
reached the brook did he utter a syllable. Then he said, "Show me exactly
where you boys were and where the two men came out of the bushes."
Charley pointed out the respective positions. Mr. Morton searched the
bushes but found nothing enlightening.
"Which way did they go after they left you?" he asked.
Lew pointed out the route they had taken. Along the margin of the brook
both men had left clear footprints. Mr. Morton sank to his knees and the
three studied these prints closely. Then, "Come on," he said, rising.
"We'll see if we can trail them."
Lew led the way to the point at which they had last seen the men. The
disturbed condition of the leaves showed plainly that some one had passed.
Very slowly and painstakingly the ranger followed the trail. In many
places the forest mold still retained the imprint of a foot distinctly. So
they followed the trail for several rods. Then they were unable to find
any more footprints, nor did the leaves appear disturbed in any way.
"They've turned off to one side or the other," said the ranger, when he
was sure they had overrun the trail. "Let's see if we can find which way
The three investigators turned and spread out, advancing a foot at a time,
and examined the ground minutely. Not a leaf nor a stick, nor yet the
bushes or tree trunks escaped observation. At last Charley gave a little
cry. He had found a footprint that corresponded exactly with one they had
studied by the brook. A little farther on a second imprint was visible,
and the leaves again had the appearance of having been disturbed. For some
distance they continued to search for and to find footprints and other
unmistakable signs of the passage of the two men.
"It is useless to look for any more tracks," said the ranger,
straightening up. "Collins and his companion quite evidently went up this
valley instead of the one they told you they were heading for. They were
merely trying to mislead you, which makes me all the more certain they are
here for no good purpose. They certainly had no reason to suspect your
connection with the Forest Service, and I presume that Collins was so
annoyed at being seen by anybody that he just couldn't keep his temper. So
he swore at you. He's a violent chap. It's certain that he's somewhere
ahead of us, with at least two hours' start. We'll try to overtake him,
though we don't want him to see us. What we'll do if we find him will
depend upon circumstances. Now let's hustle. But be quiet and keep your
Not until near sundown was the search discontinued. Then, finding
themselves almost directly below the watch-tower, the ranger and his two
helpers struck directly up the slope, took a long, careful look for smoke,
and descended toward Charley's camp.
"I'm going to spend the night with you," explained the ranger. "I wish
that you would try to call up Katharine and tell her how it is. I don't
like to leave the forest until I find out what those scamps are up to."
They came to the camp. The pup was still in the tent, and everything
seemed to be as it was when the two young patrols left in the morning.
"Things seem to be all right," said Charley. "We'll be a bit cautious and
cook on the alcohol stove to-night."
But when he went to the spring for water, he gave a cry of dismay. In the
soft ground by the spring basin was a footprint exactly like that they had
traced so painfully in the other valley.
The Telltale Thumb-Print
More serious than ever was the ranger's face when Charley showed him the
"It's bad!" he said. "Altogether bad! He's as cunning as a rat, that Bill
Collins. But how he could ever discover a camp so well concealed as this
one is, I don't know."
And with that the ranger fell into a brown study. Lew and Charley went on
rapidly with their preparations for supper.
"Here," called the ranger, noticing what they were about. "Mr. Marlin sent
this to you. I almost forgot about it." He reached into the capacious
inner pocket of the hunting-coat he wore and drew forth a bulky package.
"Beefsteak!" cried Charley, opening the package. "Oh boy! And enough for
two meals. We're certainly obliged to you and Mr. Marlin both."
Meantime, the pup, neglected, fawned upon them and began to whine, when
suddenly the ranger cried out, "I've got it. It was the pup."
"The pup?" echoed Charley. "What about the pup?"
"Why, it was the pup that betrayed the camp. In some way those men got
within hearing or smelling distance of this place, and the pup must have
barked or whined. You know how a lonely dog will howl and carry on. I'm
sorry, but I guess that pup will have to go, Charley."
Charley's face expressed almost as much mental agony as the pup's whine
had shown, though he said nothing. The ranger, looking up, caught the
expression, however, and understood. He knew how lonely it would be for
Charley after Lew returned to Central City. "The harm's already done," he
continued, "and I suppose it never does any good to lock the stable after
the horse is gone. You may keep your pup, Charley; but I do wish he was a
dumb brute in fact as well as in name."
"I can train him to be quiet," said Charley eagerly. "I trained Judge
Gordon's dogs to hunt and I can train this little fellow not to make a
noise. If I could keep him, sir, I'd be mighty glad. He'll be a lot of
"Keep your dog, noise or no noise," said the kindly ranger with
determination. "If you can really train him well, he'll do us a thousand
times more good than he does harm. Now that I know Bill Collins is in
these woods, I don't like the idea of leaving you here alone. You train
that dog as fast as you can. Train him to warn you of the approach of
strangers, and train him to fight, too--and to fight hard."
Again the ranger lapsed into silence. After a while he said, "What
puzzles me now is this: Should we move your camp to another place or leave
it where it is? Bill Collins knows there is a camp here. He saw you two
boys in the forest and he has probably seen no one else. He will likely
infer that it is your camp. But he has no way of knowing that you are
connected with the Forest Service, unless, unless--By George! Why didn't I
think of that sooner? Ten to one he hid close by and watched for you to
come back. If he did, he saw us when we came down from the top of the
hill. And if he saw me with you boys, he knows as well as I do why this
camp is hidden and what you boys really are doing. I'll bet it made him
swear some when he saw me." And the ranger chuckled.
"But maybe he didn't see us," suggested Charley.
"I'd just as soon believe that the sun didn't set. That fellow's a fox for
cleverness and a bulldog for persistence. Yet I don't see that we need
feel bad, even if he does know where your camp is. We've learned more than
he has. We know he's back in these parts and that he is making a secret
visit to this timber; for you may be very sure he intended it to be a
"But he can't be certain we know who he is," argued Charley. "He is as
much a stranger to Lew and me as we are to him."
"True enough, Charley, true enough. It was really a great piece of luck
that you boys happened to bump into him. It would have been better, of
course, if you could have seen him without being noticed yourself, but in
that case we should never have guessed who he was. No; it's a game of
checkers between us now, and we've each lost a man to the other. But in my
opinion we got a king in exchange for an ordinary checker. What I'd like
to know is, who the man is that's with him."
"Supper is ready," announced Lew.
The three entered the tent, where Lew had hung the lighted candle lantern,
and in the growing darkness ate their meal.
"It seems to me," suggested Lew, "that it would be best to leave the camp
right where it is. If we move it, that will indicate that we know its
location has been discovered. If we let it remain where it is, these men
won't know whether we are aware if their visit here or not."
"You've a good head on you, young man," said the ranger approvingly.
"That's exactly the thing to do. Besides, if we moved it and Bill Collins
wanted to find it, he'd stick right to the job until he succeeded. But I
don't believe he has any interest in watching this camp or in staying in
this forest. It isn't a healthful place for him and he knows it. You see,
Bill and I are old acquaintances. It's my opinion that he came in here for
some particular purpose and that he'll get right out the instant that
purpose is accomplished. Those men didn't have any packs, did they?"
"Not a sign of a pack," replied Charley. "Their coat pockets bulged out
as though they had sandwiches or something in them, but they hadn't a
thing in their hands or on their backs except fishing-rods and creels."
"That settles it," said the ranger. "They can't stay here more than
forty-eight hours at the most. And there's no danger of their telling
anybody else about your camp because they won't want anybody to know they
were here. We'll just consider the camp situation settled."
They finished their supper and had begun clear up the dishes when suddenly
Charley thought of the fire-clay. "Oh! I have something to show you," he
cried, and went to the corner of the tent to get the clay ball. It was
just where Charley had left it, but the instant he picked it up he was
somehow conscious that it was different. He held the ball up and looked at
it critically. Then he hefted it in his hand.
"Lew," he exclaimed, "how big was that ball of clay we took for a sample?"
"Four or five inches in diameter," rejoined Lew. "Why?"
"Look at that. It isn't a bit more than three inches thick. I was sure we
had more clay than that. I meant to make a little pot of it."
"We did have more. I'm sure of it. You don't suppose those men could have
taken any of it, do you?"
"Let me see," said the ranger.
He took the ball and examined it critically. "That looks like fire-clay.
If it is, and the deposit is of any size, you have found something of
value. You know the state sells things like that on a royalty basis. We
might be able to develop a good clay business. We like to work up all the
business we can, because the revenues go toward the purchase of the
equipment we need. You know the legislature won't give us all we need to
buy implements for fighting fires, and for fire-towers, and other
"If we could make a fire," said Charley, "you could soon tell whether it
is good fire-clay or not."
"Make a fire," said the ranger. "Collins already knows where our camp is
and nobody else will be prowling around here at this hour."
In a minute the boys had a fire going. When they had a deep bed of coals,
they dropped the ball of clay in it and made more fire on top of the bed.
While they were waiting for the clay to bake, Charley sat down at his
wireless key. As it was still early in the evening he did not feel certain
that any of the Camp Brady boys would be listening in. He called several
times with no response, so he threw over his switch and resumed his
conversation with his fellows. When he flashed out his signals a quarter
of an hour later, however, he got a prompt reply.
"I've got 'em," said Charley quietly to his comrades. "And it's Henry
talking." He was silent a while, listening to Henry's message. Then he
said, "Henry wants to know when Lew is coming home. Vacation is about
"Tell him that I think I'll go back with the ranger to-morrow. I've stayed
as long as I possibly can."
Again there was a pause. "Henry wants to know what we are doing and
whether or not we've had any adventures. I wish I could tell him the real
situation. But that would never do."
Charley turned to his key and began to tick off a message: "Everything as
quiet as--" He stopped abruptly. A cry that fairly made him shiver sounded
in the forest. He turned to the ranger. "What in the world was that?"
"A wildcat," replied the ranger. "He smells the meat you hung up. You'll
just have to be a bit watchful. He may hang around here for days, and
sometimes those fellows get nasty."
Another piercing cry startled the night. Again Charley shivered. Lew got
up and by putting more wood on the fire lighted up the interior of the
Charley turned to his wireless key and sent a call signal flashing.
"What's the matter?" came back Henry's reply. "Why did you cut off?"
"Wildcat," flashed back Charley. "Just outside our camp. Smells our meat.
Scares a fellow half to death when he cries out. Ranger says it may hang
around for days. Wish you would send us some traps."
"You'll bring them out on your next visit, won't you?" said Charley,
turning to Mr. Morton.
"Bring what out?" demanded the perplexed ranger.
"Why, traps. I forgot that you couldn't read the message I was sending.
I'm asking Henry for traps."
"Tell him to send them along. Trapping will be better than shooting under
the circumstances, but don't hesitate to use your gun if you need to."
Charley turned back to his instrument and asked Henry to rush the traps.
He inquired about his fellows of the Wireless Patrol. Henry had nothing
out of the ordinary to report. Then Charley asked Henry to get the
forester at Oakdale on the telephone.
After a long wait, Charley's receiver began to buzz. "Henry has the
forester on the telephone," Charley explained to the ranger. "What shall I
"Nothing. I'll tell him about Bill Collins myself. Just say that
everything is all right and ask him to get Katharine on the telephone."
Again there was a pause. "He's got her," said Charley.
"Please tell Katharine," said the ranger, "that it was necessary to stay
in camp with you to-night. Ask how she and the little girl are."
While his friends sat in silence before the crackling fire, Charley took
the message. "Katharine says that everything is all right and they are
well. She thanks the fire patrols for taking care of her husband."
Charley said good-night and laid down his receivers. "Your wife is a
pippin," he said with a smile as he turned toward the ranger. "I don't
wonder you like her. Think of her thanking us for taking care of you. Why,
we'd be scared to death if we were here alone, with that confounded hyena
howling out there in the bushes. She must be a brave little woman. She
didn't seem a bit worried because you hadn't come home."
"I guess she had an idea I wouldn't get back to-night," said the ranger.
"You know it's a pretty good hike for one day."
Charley knew well enough that Mr. Morton was trying to mislead him. He saw
at once that the kind-hearted ranger had intended to spend the night in
camp. But not knowing what to say, he turned in silence to the pup, which
evidently smelled the wildcat, and tried to quiet him.
"You can be glad that you've got that dog," said the ranger. "I don't
think that cat will come any closer, for it can smell the dog as well as
the meat. Take care of him and make him useful. Now we'd better turn in,
for we must pull foot early in the morning."
"Let's first see if our clay is baked," suggested Charley.
Charley scattered the embers and rolled the clay ball out of the ashes
with a stick. It was baked as hard as a brick. The ranger folded up the
newspaper which he had used as an outer wrapper for the meat, and picked
up the ball with the paper. Lew held the candle lantern close while the
ranger examined the clay. Slowly he turned the ball around, picking at it
with his knife blade.
"Who made this ball?" he asked suddenly.
"I did," said Charley.
"Did Lew touch it at all?"
"I can't recall that he did."
"No; I never laid a finger on it," said Lew. "Charley rolled it and
carried it here himself."
"Let me see your thumbs, Charley," said the ranger.
Charley, puzzled, held them up for inspection. The ranger examined them
closely. "Now let me have that little microscope of yours," he continued.
Charley handed it to the ranger, who studied the clay ball intently
through the glass, then as carefully looked at Charley's thumb. Then he
chuckled. "We've taken another king in this little checker game," he said.
"Look at that."
While Mr. Morton held the lantern for them, the two boys studied the
burned ball of clay. On it were a number of distinct thumb-prints, now
turned into solid brick by the action of the fire. The boys looked at each
other questioningly and then at Mr. Morton.
"It's a clever rogue who doesn't trip himself up somewhere," chuckled the
ranger. "What happened is as clear as daylight. Collins and his companion
found this clay while they were inspecting your camp. They must have
suspected that it was fire-clay and that you had found a deposit of value.
They took some along to test, and rolled what was left into a ball again,
thinking you would never notice the difference. But they forgot that clay
would take finger-prints so readily, and they have left their calling
cards behind them."
The ranger carefully wrapped the clay ball in his handkerchief, and then
in a newspaper. "Let me have this," he said. "The police may have some
duplicate prints somewhere. We don't know what Collins and his pal are up
to, but we have something here that we may find very useful. It isn't
every crook that is so considerate as to leave his thumb-prints behind
Good News For the Fire Patrol
As the ranger had foretold, the forest guards did indeed pull foot early
in the morning. Black darkness still enfolded the camp when the ranger
awoke his young companions. Fire was speedily kindled and breakfast gotten
"Better eat your meat, boys," suggested the ranger. "Otherwise it will
keep that cat hanging around here. We'll hardly dare to leave the pup
behind again, and that beast might get in here and tear your tent to
pieces. These cats play hob with things sometimes."
Lew decided that he would carry nothing back with him, as he contemplated
visiting his chum at intervals.
"Just take your rifle," said the ranger to Charley. "You'll be all alone
on your return trip and with two such animals as we've seen hereabout, it
will be just as well to have it. If I were you, I believe I'd make a
pretty close companion of it and always keep it within reach."
When they left the camp, they were burdened only with Charley's rifle and
food for the noon meal, which they stowed in their pockets. The instant
there was light enough to guide their footsteps, the trio set forth.
For hours they trudged through the forest, for the most part in silence.
Although they traveled by a circuitous route, and with eyes and ears
alert, they neither saw nor heard anything that pointed to the presence of
other human beings in the forest. The ground bore no telltale footprints.
No incriminating marks were discernible on the trees. Smoke was nowhere
visible. No firearm disturbed the silence of the wilderness. No birds flew
upward with cries of alarm, save at their own approach. And the only
voices that were audible were the voices of the brooks.
Under other circumstances Charley would have been supremely happy. The sun
came up bright and clear. No veil of mist floated before the face of the
sky. But woolly, white cloud banks sailed lazily aloft, intensifying by
contrast the blue of the sky. A gentle wind blew fitfully. The earth
steamed fragrantly, sending up an odor joyful to the nostrils. And the
little brooks babbled wildly in their joy at the spring-time.
But Charley was not in a responsive mood. The thought of the man Collins
and his evil-favored companion weighed upon him heavily. Nor was the
knowledge that a wildcat was prowling about his camp reassuring; though
Charley was far from being afraid of the beast. And always the dread of
fire was in the background of his consciousness. What troubled him more
than anything else just now was the approaching loss of his chum. Could
Charley have diagnosed correctly the feelings that oppressed him now, he
would have known that it was the fear of loneliness more than any fear of
Bill Collins or wildcats or forest fires, that made him sad. To read about
Robinson Crusoe was all right, but to be Robinson Crusoe was quite a
different matter--at least a Crusoe without a good man Friday. And Charley
was too downcast at present to realize that the pup at his heels could be
to him all that Friday was to his master, and perhaps more.
Again and again Charley turned over in his mind the problem of how he
could get the battery he needed. More than ever he felt that he absolutely
must have it. Such a battery would cost many, many dollars. To be sure,
Charley's salary would soon bring him in enough money to pay for such a
battery; but all of his income, or practically all of it, Charley knew, he
must give to his father. How he should get around the difficulty, Charley
could not see.
As they trudged on, he talked the matter over with Lew again. Lew seemed
unduly light-hearted over the matter, and even smiled about it. Instead of
sympathizing with his chum, he counseled him not to worry about it, as the
way would likely open. That seemed so heartless that Charley was hurt. He
thought that his chum, about to leave the forest himself, no longer was
concerned. So he fell silent, and walked along in greater dejection than
Long before the sun had touched the zenith, the three forest guards had
reached the last ridge that lay between them and the highway.
"You've come far enough, Charley," said the ranger, "and perhaps it would
have been better if you had stopped short of this. If anything should
happen in that big timber, you are a long distance from it. There's a good
spring part way up this ridge, and it's high enough so that we can get a
good view. We'll stop there and eat our dinner. We can watch as we eat.
After you've had a good rest, you had better hike for camp. You're a good
ten miles away from your tent."
They climbed to the spring, took each a good drink, and sat down to eat
their food. The panorama that spread before them was wondrously beautiful,
but Charley had no heart for scenery. He ate in silence, his eyes for the
most part bent on the ground.
After the meal was finished, the three friends sat silent, looking out
over the vast range of territory before them, each busy with his own
thoughts. If one could have judged by the expressions on their faces, Lew
was little short of jubilant. Again and again he smiled and looked
meaningly at his chum. But Charley still sat with downcast eyes, heedless
of his chum's glances. But why Lew smiled it would have been hard to
guess. If he had any scheme in mind, he dropped no hint concerning it.
Finally the ranger rose. "We've got to shake a leg," he said. "And you had
better start back to camp."
Charley got up mechanically. His face showed all too clearly what was in
his heart. The ranger looked at him searchingly, and a kindly expression
came into his eyes.
"Never mind, Charley," he said. "You won't be alone long. Lew, here, or
some of your other friends will be slipping out to spend the week-end with
you, and I shall see you regularly twice a week. It may be, in view of
Bill Collins' visit, that Mr. Marlin will think I ought to come oftener."
"Have you learned your alphabet yet?" replied Charley, a sudden gleam of
interest crossing his face. "Just as soon as you learn to use the
wireless, we can talk at almost any time. I'm sure that one of the fellows
will lend you his outfit."
"I'll make Mr. Morton an outfit myself," said Lew. "I'll make it exactly
like yours. Then you two can talk without tuning."
"That will be bully," said Charley, beginning to brighten up. Then he
turned to the ranger. "Did you learn your alphabet?" he repeated.
"I've been working at it a little," said the ranger. "To tell the truth, I
don't care much about it. I'd just as soon stick to the telephone. But the
wife is crazy over it. She says if we knew how to do it and had the
instruments, we could talk at any time. She's learned the alphabet
"She has! Bully for her!" cried Charley. "Hurry up with that outfit, Lew,
so we can teach her to send and read. I'll be glad to talk to her, even if
her husband doesn't want to."
"I'll be home by sunset," said Lew, "and you can call me at eight
o'clock. I shall have had a chance to talk to the fellows by that time and
I hope that I shall have something good to report to you. I'm coming out
the first Friday I can, to spend Saturday and Sunday with you. Good-bye."
Charley shook hands heartily with his two friends and turned back into the
forest. Although he was still somewhat cast down, the intense depression
that had weighed upon him during the morning was lightened. The events of
the past twenty-four hours had made him forget temporarily the plan to
teach Mr. Morton how to operate the wireless. But the news that the
ranger's wife was also to become a radio operator pleased him more and
more as he turned the matter over in his mind.
The pup, rubbing against his heels, recalled another matter to his mind.
He had to train the dog to be useful to him.
"No time like the present," muttered Charley to himself. And the training
of the pup began then and there. All the way home, through the wide
valleys, over the mountain tops, and across the little streams, Charley
worked with the pup, trying to teach him to be silent and to walk quietly
at his heels. And though many, many subsequent lessons were necessary
before the pup was even half trained, the work with the dog made Charley
forget his loneliness. He arrived at his camp, which he found
undisturbed, once more in his normal frame of mind.
What shortly followed was to send him to bed soon afterward as happy as
the traditional lark. For when Charley got into touch with Lew by wireless
at the appointed time, Lew told him that the Wireless Patrol had met him,
Lew, at the station in a body, with the news that funds for the battery
had all been earned and the battery ordered; and that when he had told
them of Charley's situation, the club had voted unanimously and
enthusiastically to send the battery to Charley for him to use as long as
he needed it in the forest.
Furthermore, Lew informed him, Henry had been talking to the wireless men
at the Frankfort station, and not only were they willing to work with him
to protect the forest, but they were also sending an amplifier to Oakdale
so that Charley would be sure to get their messages with the greatest
distinctness. The battery would be forwarded as soon as it reached the
Wireless Club and had been inspected, and the amplifier would go with it.
No wonder that Charley rolled up in his blankets, with shining eyes,
careless alike of cats and Collinses. With the pup and the new battery he
felt that he should indeed be in position to render efficient service to
his forester and his ranger, both of whom he was coming to love, and to
the grand old forest around him.
An Accident in the Wilderness
As though she also were pleased at Charley's good fortune, Dame Nature
smiled her best in the days that immediately followed. The sun rose warm
and grateful. The forest was instinct with the spirit of spring, of
new-born life, of hope eternal. Wilderness birds sang in the branches. The
brook babbled and gurgled and ran madly down the slope. The leaves
overhead whispered of the new life that had come. All the forest animals
seemed filled with the joy of living. And Charley was not a whit behind
them. His whole being thrilled with happiness.
Now he could see matters in their true light; or if his vision were a
trifle clouded, the clouds were tinged with rose instead of black, as they
had been previously.
Charley thanked Providence that he was just where he was. In some respects
an unusual boy, he was mentally no abler than many of his fellows. He
possessed a trueness of vision and an understanding of things that were,
however, unusual in a lad of his age. Always he had had to earn the
things that he wanted. And always he had been able, within reason, to get
what he desired. Early in life, therefore, he had come to understand that
everything has its price, and that he who is willing to pay the price can
get almost anything he wishes. So now, instead of bewailing the fact that
he was where he was, as many another lad would have done under the
circumstances, he rejoiced. He rejoiced because he had sense enough to
understand that his opportunity was at hand, here in the forest, and now.
In another respect Charley was mature for his years. He had come to
understand, at least in a measure, that real success is always won by long
and persistent effort in a given direction. Like other boys, Charley had
his dreams and cherished lofty ambitions. But the stern necessities of
life, as he had lived it, had taught him that dreams seldom come true as
the result of luck, but are realized most certainly through consistent
effort. He did not want to go to work in the factory because he hated the
dirt and the noise and the odors and the sense of being cooped up, like an
animal in a pen. Now he had all the freedom in the world, and the
opportunity had come to become well acquainted with the things that he
loved--trees, flowers, ferns, birds, animals, and all the other gifts of
When Charley looked abroad and realized that his opportunity had come, and
come in such a delightful way, he could hardly keep from shouting in his
happiness. Like the sensible lad he was, he immediately asked himself this
question, "What is the best thing for me to do first?" He decided that he
would go on with the training of his pup. All day, as he walked through
the forest, he labored to teach the young dog to trot quietly at his
heels, or to walk silently in front of him.
Charley's purpose, of course, was to have the dog always at hand, to give
him warning of the approach of man or beast, and to fight for him, if
necessary. That the pup should learn not to betray himself or his master,
was equally needful. So Charley had the additional task of teaching the
dog to be silent, excepting for a very low growl, upon the approach of
other creatures. Charley thought of the Leatherstocking and his dog, and
wondered how that dog had been trained so wonderfully.
Day after day the lessons continued. Charley had abundant opportunity to
work with the pup, for the forest was full of creatures that constantly
excited the young animal. The training required no end of patience: but
Charley loved the dog and never wearied in his efforts. By the time he had
completed his labors with the pup, his own shadow was hardly more constant
and quiet than the dog.
Charley was elated one day when the dog signaled the approach of a
fisherman by no more than the faintest sort of a bark, and then at
command, came promptly to heel and remained there, silent and watchful. It
was the pup's first test with human beings. The fisherman proved to be
one of two who were making their way along the margin of the run. Charley
and the dog remained quietly behind some bushes until the fishermen were
out of sight and hearing. Then Charley praised his little pup and went on.
His efforts with the dog, however, did not prevent him from thinking of
other matters. Day after day his mind returned to the problem of the
forest fire and the piece of green pasteboard. Ever since he had found the
telltale pile of ashes and the charred pasteboard beneath it, Charley had
been turning the problem over in his mind. How he was to solve the puzzle
he did not see. Somewhere, he felt sure, he had seen pasteboard like the
charred piece now in possession of Mr. Morton; but when or where he had
seen it, he had not the slightest recollection. How he was ever to find
another piece like it, he could not imagine; for as a fire patrol he had
neither time nor opportunity to mingle with people.
He could see just one possibility of success. Undoubtedly there was a
great deal more of the green pasteboard in the world than had been
contained in the burned box. Hence persons other than the incendiary must
have some of that same pasteboard. Perhaps some of those persons might
bring a bit of it into the forest. Campers and fishermen often brought
food and other things into the woods in pasteboard boxes. So Charley
resolved to examine carefully every camp he came to, and even to
scrutinize the remains of camp fires. But day followed day and Charley
found nothing to enlighten him.
One day when Charley was on his way to meet the ranger, he suddenly
realized that he was away behind time. Charley hated the idea of being
tardy, especially when he had no reason for being late. He had been
training his dog, and his work with the pup had delayed him more than he
realized. But with haste he could still reach the meeting-place on time.
At the fastest pace that he thought he could hold Charley set off. His
daily hikes through the forest had rapidly made a good walker of him, and
now he went along at a rate that would speedily have tired out most
travelers. Sometimes, to rest himself by changing his gait, he went scout
pace, walking fifty steps, then jogging fifty. He allowed nothing to
hinder him or take his attention. When he reached the meeting-place it
still lacked a few minutes of the appointed hour. Charley was pleased to
find that he had arrived before the ranger.
When the time of meeting came and the ranger was not there, Charley began
to scan the fire trail carefully and to look about for smoke clouds. He
knew that something of moment must be afoot to make the ranger tardy for
his appointment. The ranger was not visible, however, though Charley could
see straight down the fire trail for a long distance.
"I'll go meet him," said Charley. "He's sure to come this way."
In the sand of the trail he printed a message for the ranger, in case the
latter should be coming by an unaccustomed route, and continued along the
trail. He had gone a full mile before he met Mr. Morton.
"Sorry I am late, Charley," said the ranger. "A lot of stuff came to the
office for you last night and the chief asked me to fetch it out this
morning. I think your new battery has come."
"It's about time," said Charley. "I had about given up hope of ever seeing
it." Then he added, "But you couldn't pack that way out here. It must
weigh sixty pounds."
"Is that all?" laughed the ranger. "I had come to believe that it weighed
in the neighborhood of half a ton."
"Did you really try to carry it?" asked Charley.
"Sure. The chief sent all your stuff as far as he could in the truck, and
I packed it in as far as I could carry it. That's why I'm late. But I had
to drop it a distance back. I brought these along, however, and thought
we'd go back and get the battery, for I'm sure that's what it is." He
paused and handed to Charley two pasteboard boxes he had strapped to his
back. The larger one was bulky, but weighed comparatively little. The
other was small.
"I wonder what it is," said Charley, as he untied the string and opened
the smaller box. "The amplifier," he said. Then he opened the larger box.
"Your wireless!" he cried in delight. "Everything is here, even to the
aerial. Only the spreaders are lacking. We could make them and have this
outfit set up in no time if we had to. Isn't it bully? Now we can talk
directly with each other as soon as you learn to send and read. Won't that
be dandy?" With practiced eye he once more glanced over the outfit to make
sure everything was there. Then he tied the box up again.
"I'll just take it back with me," he added. "This goes to your house, you
know, and you can pick it up on your way home. We'll take it as far as the
battery and leave it there."
They strode rapidly along the trail, and in half an hour reached the
battery where the ranger had set it down. Some traps lay on top of the
"I forgot to bring them sooner," said the ranger.
Charley lifted the box. "How in the world," he said, "did you ever pack
that thing over these mountains on your back? Why, you've carried that
more than four miles."
"We'll cut a couple of saplings and tie them to the box for handles," said
the ranger. "Then we can carry it easily. Give me your axe."
Charley handed his little axe to the ranger, and began to fumble in his
pocket for the cord which he had used as a leash for his dog. The ranger
looked around him for suitable poles. Close by the trail lay the rotting
trunk of a large tree that had fallen years before. On the far side of
this log and close to it some fine saplings had grown up, probably made
thrifty by the rotting wood of the great tree. The ranger reached over the
log to chop a sapling. At the same instant the pup, ranging in the bushes,
growled savagely. Momentarily the ranger lifted his eyes, letting his axe
head sink to the ground. Something moved under it, and at the same instant
a hideous head reared itself above the leaves and struck with
lightning-like rapidity, hitting the ranger just above the wrist-bone.
With a startled exclamation the ranger drew up his arm. As he did so, a
huge rattler glided away through the brush.
Charley turned at the ranger's cry. He comprehended the situation at a
glance. "Quick!" he cried, springing to the ranger's side. "Give me your
He jerked back the ranger's sleeve, disclosing two dark spots on the back
of the wrist where the fangs had punctured the skin. Drops of blood were
oozing from them. Charley whipped out his knife and without hesitation
drew the keen blade several times across the ranger's wrist. Blood began
to flow down the hand. Putting his lips to the wound, Charley sucked out
mouthful after mouthful of blood, which he spat on the ground.
"Now squeeze your wrist tight just above the bite," said Charley. "Stop
the circulation of blood if you can."
Like a flash Charley picked up the dog leash and tied an end of it around
the ranger's arm, close to the shoulder, drawing it so tight that the
ranger winced. He cut the dangling end and took a second turn just above
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