Part 7 out of 12
She arose and saluted, military fashion. The two disappeared in the tiny
box-office, whence presently came the sound of Thorne's voice in
California John knocked the ashes from his pipe.
"Get your apron on, sonny," said he.
He tested the water on the stove and slammed out a commodious dish-pan.
"Glasses first; then silver; and if you break anything, I'll bash in
your fool head. There's going to be some style to this dishwashing. I
used to slide 'em all in together and let her go. But that ain't the way
here. She knows four aces and the jolly joker better than that. Glasses
They washed and wiped the dishes, and laid them carefully away.
"She's a little wonder," said California John, nodding at the office,
"and there ain't none of the boys but helps all they can."
Thorne called the old man by name, and he disappeared into the office. A
moment later the girl emerged, smoothing back her hair with both hands.
She stepped immediately to the little kitchen.
"Thank you," said she. "That helps."
"It was old John," disclaimed Bob. "I'm ashamed to say I should never
have thought of it."
The girl nodded carelessly.
"Where did you learn stenography?" asked Bob.
"Oh, I got that out of a ten-cent magazine too." She sat on a bench,
looked up at the sky through the trees, and drew a deep breath.
"You're tired," said Bob.
"Not a bit," she denied. "But I don't often get a chance to just look
"You seem to do the gardening, the cooking, the housework, the clerical
work--you don't do the laundry, too, do you?" demanded Bob ironically.
"You noticed those miserable khakis!" cried Amy with a gesture of
dismay. "Ashley," she called, "change those khakis before you go out,"
"Yes, mama," came back a mock childish voice.
"What's your salary?" demanded Bob bluntly, nodding toward the office.
"What?" she asked, as though puzzled.
"Didn't you say you were the clerk?"
"Oh, I see. I just help Ashley out. He could _never_ get through the
field work and the office work both."
"Doesn't the Service allow him a clerk?"
"Not yet; but it will in time."
"What is Mr. Thorne's salary?"
"Oh, I beg pardon," cried Bob flushing; "I just meant supervisors'
salaries, of course. I wasn't prying, really. It's all a matter of
public record, isn't it?"
"Of course." The girl checked herself. "Well, it's eighteen hundred--and
something for expenses."
"Eighteen hundred!" cried Bob. "Do you mean to say that the _two_ of you
give all your time for that! Why, we pay a good woods foreman pretty
"And that's all you do pay him," said the girl quietly. "Money wage
isn't the whole pay for any job that is worth doing."
"Don't understand," said Bob briefly.
"We belong to the Service," she stated with a little movement of pride.
"Those tasks in life which give a high moneyed wage, generally give only
that. Part of our compensation is that we belong to the Service; we are
doing something for the whole people, not just for ourselves." She
caught Bob's half-smile, more at her earnestness than at her sentiment,
and took fire. "You needn't laugh!" she cried. "It's small now, but
that's because it's the beginning, because we have the privilege of
being the forerunners, the pioneers! The time will come when in this
country there will be three great Services--the Army, the Navy, the
Forest; and an officer in the one will be as much respected and looked
up to as the others! Perhaps more! In the long times of peace, while
they are occupied with their eternal Preparation, we shall be labouring
She broke off abruptly.
"If you don't want to get me started, don't be superior," she ended,
half apologetic, half resentful.
"But I do want to get you started," said Bob.
"It's amusing, I don't doubt."
"Not quite that: it's interesting, and I am no longer bewildered at the
eighteen hundred a year--that is," he quoted a popular song, "'if there
are any more at home like you.'"
She looked at him humorously despairing.
"That's just like an outsider. There are plenty who feel as I do, but
they don't say so. Look at old California John, at Ross Fletcher, at a
half-dozen others under your very nose. Have you ever stopped to think
why they have so long been loyal? I don't suppose you have, for I doubt
if they have. But you mark my words!"
"All right, Field Marshal--or is it 'General'?" said Bob.
"Just camp cook," she replied good-humouredly.
The sun was slanting low through the tall, straight trunks of the trees.
Amy Thorne arose, gathered a handful of kindling, and began to rattle
"I am contemplating a real pudding," she said over her shoulder.
Bob arose reluctantly.
"I must be getting on," said he.
They said farewell. At the hitching rail Thorne joined him.
"I'm afraid I'm not very hospitable," said the Supervisor, "but that
mustn't discourage you from coming often. We'll be better organized in
"It's mighty pleasant over here; I've enjoyed myself," said Bob,
Thorne laid his hand on the young man's knee.
"I wish we could induce you old-timers to come to our way of thinking,"
said he pleasantly.
"How's that?" asked Bob.
"Your slash is in horrible shape."
"Our slash!" repeated Bob in a surprised tone. "How?"
"It's a regular fire-trap, the way you leave it tangled up. It wouldn't
cost you much to pile the tops and leave the ground in good shape."
"Why, it's just like any other slash!" protested Bob. "We're logging
just as everybody always logs!"
"That's just what I object to. And when you fell a tree or pull a log to
the skids, I do wish we could induce you to pay a little attention to
the young growth. It's a little more trouble, sometimes, to go around
instead of through, but it's worth it to the forest."
Bob's brows were bent on the Supervisor in puzzled surprise. Thorne
laughed, and slapped the young man's horse on the flanks to start him.
"You think it over!" he called.
A half-hour's ride took Bob to the clearing where the logging crews had
worked the year before. Here, although the hour was now late, he reined
in his horse and looked. It was the first time he had ever really done
so. Heretofore a slashing had been as much a part of the ordinary
woodland landscape as the forest itself.
He saw then the abattis of splintered old trunks, of lopped limbs, and
entangled branches, piled up like jackstraws to the height of even six
or eight feet from the ground; the unsightly mat of sodden old masses of
pine needles and cedar fans; the hundreds of young saplings bent double
by the weight of debris, broken square off, or twisted out of all chance
of becoming straight trees in their age; the long, deep, ruthless
furrows where the logs had been dragged through everything that could
stand in their way; the few trees left standing, weak specimens,
undesirable species, the culls of the forest, further scarred where the
cruel steel cables had rasped or bitten them. He knew by experience the
difficulty of making a way, even afoot, through this tangle. Now, under
the influence of Thorne's suggestion, he saw them as great piles of so
much fuel, laid as though by purpose for the time when the evil genius
of the forest should desire to warm himself.
Bob was finally late for supper, which he ate hastily and without much
appetite. After finishing the meal, he hunted up Welton. He found the
lumberman tilted back in a wooden armchair, his feet comfortably
elevated to the low rail about the stove, his pipe in mouth, his coat
off, and his waistcoat unbuttoned. At the sight of his homely, jolly
countenance, Bob experienced a pleasant sensation of slipping back from
an environment slightly off-focus to the normal, accustomed and real.
Nevertheless, at the first opportunity, he tested his new doubts by
Welton's common sense.
"I rode through our slash on 18," he remarked. "That's an awful mess."
"Slashes are," replied Welton succinctly.
"If the thing gets afire it will make a hot blaze."
"Sure thing," agreed Welton. "But we've never had one go yet--at least,
while we were working. There's men enough to corral anything like that."
"But we've always worked in a wet country," Bob pointed out. "Here it's
dry from April till October."
"Have to take chances, then; and jump on a fire quick if it starts,"
said Welton philosophically.
"These forest men advise certain methods of obviating the danger," Bob
"Pure theory," returned Welton. "The theory's a good one, too," he
added. "That's where these college men are strong--only it isn't
practical. They mean well enough, but they haven't the knowledge. When
you look at anything broad enough, it looks easy. That's what busts so
many people in the lumber business." He rolled out one of his jolly
chuckles. "Lumber barons!" he chortled. "Oh, it's easy enough! Any
mossback can make money lumbering! Here's your stumpage at a dollar a
thousand, and there's your lumber at twenty! Simplest thing in the
world. Just the same there are more failures in the lumber business than
in any other I know anything about. Why is it?"
"Economic waste," put in Merker, who was leaning across the counter.
"Lack of experience," said Bob.
"A little of both," admitted Welton; "but it's more because the business
is made up of ten thousand little businesses. You have to conduct a
cruising business, and a full-fledged real estate and mortgage business;
you have to build houses and factories, make roads, build railroads; you
have to do a livery trade, and be on the market for a thousand little
things. Between the one dollar you pay for stumpage and the twenty
dollars you get for lumber lies all these things. Along comes your
hardware man and says, Here, why don't you put in my new kind of spark
arrestor; think how little it costs; what's fifty dollars to a
half-million-dollar business? The spark arrester's a good thing all
right, so you put it in. And then there's maybe a chance to use a little
paint and make the shanties look like something besides shanties; that
don't cost much, either, to a half-million-dollar business. And so on
through a thousand things. And by and by it's costing twenty dollars and
one cent to get your lumber to market; and it's B-U-S-T, bust!"
"That's economic waste," put in Merker.
"Or lack of experience," added Bob.
"No," said Welton, emphasizing his point with his pipe; _"it's not
sticking to business!_ It's not stripping her down to the bare
necessities! It's going in for frills! When you get to be as old as I
am, you learn not to monkey with the band wagon."
His round, red face relaxed into one of his good-humoured grins, and he
relit his pipe.
"That's the trouble with this forestry monkey business. It's all right
to fool with, if you want fooling. So's fancy farming. But it don't pay.
If you are playing, why, it's all right to experiment. If you ain't,
why, it's a good plan to stick to the methods of lumbering. The present
system of doing things has been worked out pretty thorough by a lot of
pretty shrewd business men. And it _works!"_
"Didn't know you could orate to that extent," he gibed. "Sic'em!"
Welton grinned a trifle abashed. "You don't want to get me started,
then," said he.
"Oh, but I do!" Bob objected, for the second time that day.
"Now this slashing business," went on the old lumberman in a more
moderate tone. "When the millennium comes, it would be a fine thing to
clear up the old slashings." He turned suddenly to Bob. "How long do you
think it would take you with a crew of a dozen men to cut and pile the
waste stuff in 18?" he inquired.
Bob cast back the eye of his recollection to the hopeless tangle that
cumbered the ground.
"Oh, Lord!" he ejaculated; "don't ask me!"
"If you were running a business would you feel like stopping work and
sending your men--whom you are feeding and paying--back there to pile up
that old truck?"
Bob's mind, trained to the eager hurry of the logging season, recoiled
from this idea in dismay.
"I should say not!" he cried. Then as a second thought he added: "But
what they want is to pile the tops while the work is going on."
"It takes just so much time to do so much work," stated Welton
succinctly, "and it don't matter whether you do it all at once, or try
to fool yourself by spraddling it out."
He pulled strongly at his pipe.
"Forest Reserves are all right enough," he acknowledged, "and maybe some
day their theories will work out. But not now; not while taxes go on!"
One day, not over a week later, Bob working in the woods, noticed
California John picking his way through the new slashing. This was a
difficult matter, for the fresh-peeled logs and the debris of the tops
afforded few openings for the passage of a horse. The old man made it,
however, and finally emerged on solid ground, much in the fashion of one
climbing a bank after an uncertain ford. He caught sight of Bob.
"You fellows can change the face of the country beyant all belief,"
announced the old man, pushing back his hat. "You're worse than snow
that way. I ought to know this country pretty well, but when I get down
into one of your pesky slashings, I'm lost for a way out!"
Bob laughed, and exchanged a few commonplace remarks.
"If you can get off, you better come over our way," said California
John, as he gathered up his reins. "We're holding ranger
examinations--something new. You got to tell what you know these days
before you can work for Uncle Sam."
"What do you have to know?" asked Bob.
"Come over and find out."
"I believe I will," he decided. "There's nothing to keep me here."
Accordingly, early next morning he rode over to the Upper Camp. Outside,
near the creek, he came upon the deserted evidences of a gathering of
men. Bed rolls lay scattered under the trees, saddles had been thrown
over fallen trunks, bags of provisions hung from saplings, cooking
utensils flanked the smouldering remains of a fire which was, however,
surrounded by a scraped circle of earth after the careful fashion of the
mountains. Bob's eye, by now practised in the refinements of such
matters, ran over the various accoutrements thus spread abroad. He
estimated the number of their owners at about a score. The bedroll of
the cowman, the "turkey" of the lumber jack, the quilts of the
mountaineer, were all in evidence; as well as bedding plainly makeshift
in character, belonging to those who must have come from a distance. A
half-dozen horses dozed in an improvised fence-corner corral. As many
more were tied to trees. Saddles, buckboards, two-wheeled carts, and
even one top buggy represented the means of transportation.
Bob rode on through the gate to headquarters.. This he found deserted,
except for Amy Thorne. She was engaged in wiping the breakfast dishes,
and she excitedly waved a towel at the young man as he rode up.
"A godsend!" she cried. "I'm just dancing with impatience! They've been
gone five minutes! Come help me finish!"
Bob fastened his horse, rolled back his sleeves, and took hold with a
"Where's your examining board, and your candidates?" he inquired. "I
thought I was going to see an examination."
"Up the Meadow Trail," panted the girl. "Don't stop to talk. Hurry!"
They hurried, to such good purpose, that shortly they were clambering,
rather breathless, up the steeps of the Meadow Trail. This led to a
flat, upper shelf or bench in which, as the name implied, was situated a
small meadow. At the upper end were grouped twenty-five men, closely
gathered about some object.
Amy and Bob plunged into the dew-heavy grasses. The men proved to be
watching Thorne, who was engaged in tacking a small target on the stub
of a dead sugar pine. This accomplished, he led the way back some
seventy-five or eighty paces.
"Three shots each," said he, consulting his note-book. "Off-hand.
The man so named stepped forward to the designated mark, sighted his
piece carefully, and fired.
"Do I get each shot called?" he inquired; but Thorne shook his head.
"You ought to know where your guns shoot," said he.
After the third shot, the whole group went forward to examine the
target. Thorne marked the results in his note-book, and called upon the
While the shooting went on, Bob had leisure to examine the men. They
numbered, as he had guessed, about twenty. Three were plainly from the
towns, for they wore thin shoes, white shirts, and clothes of a sort ill
adapted to out-of-door work in the mountains. Two others, while more
appropriately dressed in khakis and high boots, were as evidently
foreign to the hills. Bob guessed them recent college graduates, perhaps
even of some one of the forestry schools. In this he was correct. The
rest were professional out-of-door men. Bob recognized two of his own
woods-crew--good men they were, too. He nodded to them. A half-dozen
lithe, slender youths, handsome and browned, drew apart by themselves.
He remembered having noticed one of them as a particularly daring rider
after Pollock's cattle the fall before; and guessed his companions to be
of the same breed. Among the remainder, two picturesque, lean, slow and
quizzical prospectors attracted his particular attention.
Most of these men were well practised in the use of the rifle, but
evidently not to exhibiting their skill in company. What seemed to Bob a
rather _exaggerated_ earnestness oppressed them. The shooting, with two
exceptions, was not good. Several, whom Bob strongly suspected had many
a time brought down their deer on the run, even missed the target
entirely! It was to be remarked that each contestant, though he might
turn red beneath his tan, took the announcement of the result in
The two notable exceptions referred to were strangely contrasted. The
elder was one of the prospectors. He was armed with an ancient 45-70
Winchester, worn smooth and shiny by long carrying in a saddle holster.
This arm was fitted with buckhorn sights of the old mountain type. When
it exploded, its black powder blew forth a stunning detonation and
volume of smoke. Nevertheless, of the three bullets, two were within the
tiny black Thorne had seen fit to mark as bullseye, and the other
clipped close to its edge. A murmur of admiration went up from the
bystanders. Even eliminating the unaccountable nervousness that had
thrown so many shots wild, it seemed improbable that any of the other
contestants felt themselves qualified to equal this score.
"Good shooting," whispered Bob to Amy. "I doubt if I could make out that
bullseye through sights."
The other exception, whose turn came somewhat later, was one of the
Easterners mentioned as a graduate of the forestry school. This young
man, not over twenty-two years of age, was an attractive youngster, with
refined features, and engaging dark-blue eyes. His arm was the then
latest model, a 33-calibre high power, fitted with aperture sights. This
he manipulated with great care, adjusting it again and again; and fired
with such deliberation that some of the spectators moved impatiently.
Nevertheless, the target, on examination, showed that he had duplicated
the prospector's score. To be sure, the worst shot had not cut quite as
close to the bull as had that of the older man, but on the other hand,
those in the black were slightly nearer the centre. It was generally
adjudged a good tie.
"Well, youngster!" cried the prospector, heartily, "we're the cocks of
the walk! If you can handle the other weep'n as well, I'll give you my
hand for a good shot."
The young man smiled shyly, but said nothing.
The distance was now shortened to something under twenty paces, and a
new target substituted for the old. The black in this was fully six
inches in diameter.
"Five shots with six-shooter," announced Thorne briefly.
"A man should hit a dollar twice in five at that distance," muttered the
prospector. Thorne caught the remark.
"You hit that five out of five, and I'll forgive you," said he curtly.
"Hicks, you begin."
The contest went forward with varying success. Not over half of the men
were practised with the smaller arm. Some very wild work was done. On
the other hand, eight or ten performed very creditably, placing their
bullets in or near the black. Indeed, two succeeded in hitting the
bullseye four times out of five. Every man took the utmost pains with
"Now, Ware," said Thorne, at last, "step up. You've got to make good
that five out of five to win."
The prospector stood forward, at the same time producing from an open
holster blackened by time one of the long-barrelled single-action Colt's
45's, so universally in use on the frontier. He glanced carelessly
toward the mark, grinned back at the crowd, turned, and instantly began
firing. He shot the five shots without appreciable sighting before each,
as fast as his thumb could pull back the long-shanked hammer. The muzzle
of the weapon rose and fell with a regularity positively mechanical, and
the five shots had been delivered in half that number of seconds.
"There's your five," said he, carelessly dropping his gun back into its
The five bullets were found to be scattered within the six-inch black.
The concourse withdrew to give space for the next contestant. Silence
fell as the man was taking his aim. Amy touched Bob's arm. He looked
down. Her eyes were shining, and her cheeks red with excitement.
"Doesn't it remind you of anything?" she whispered eagerly.
"What?" he asked, not guessing her meaning.
"This: all of it!" she waved her hand abroad at the fair oval meadow
with its fringe of tall trees and the blue sky above it; at the
close-gathered knot of spectators, and the single contestant advanced
before them. He shook his head. "Wait," she breathed, laying her fingers
across her lips.
The contest wore along until it again came the turn of the younger man.
He stepped to the front, unbuckled a covered holster of the sort never
carried in the West, and produced one of those beautifully balanced,
beautifully finished revolvers known as the Officer's Model. Taking the
firm yet easy position of the practised target shot, he sighted with
great deliberation, firing only when he considered his aim assured.
Indeed, once he lowered his weapon until a puff of wind had passed. The
five shots were found to be not only within the black, but grouped
inside a three-inch diameter.
"'_A Hubert! A Hubert_!'" breathed the girl in Bob's ear. "_In the
"I thought his name was Elliott," said Bob. "Is it Hubert?"
The girl eyed him reproachfully, but said nothing.
"You're a _good_ shot, youngster!" cried Ware, in the heartiest
congratulation; "but if Mr. Thorne don't mind, I'd like to shoot off
this tie. Down in our country we don't shoot quite that way, or at that
kind of a mark. Will you take a try my way?"
Amy leaned again toward Bob, her face aflame.
"_'And now,'_" she shot at him, "'_I will crave your Grace's permission
to plant such a mark as is used in the north country; and welcome every
brave yeoman who shall try a shot at it_--'Don't dare tell me you don't
"'_A man can but do his best_,'" Bob took up the tale. "Of course, I
remember; you're right."
"All right," Thorne was agreeing, "but make it short. We've got a lot to
Ware selected another target--one intended for the six-shooters--that
had not been used. This he tacked up in place of the one already
disfigured by many shots. Then he paced off twelve yards.
"That looks easier than the other," Thorne commented.
"Mebbe," agreed Ware, non-committally, "but you may change your mind. As
for that sort of monkey-work," he indicated the discarded target, "down
our way we'd as soon shoot at a barn."
The girl softly clapped her hands.
"'_For his own part_,'" she quoted in a breath, and so rapidly that the
words fairly tumbled over one another, "'_in the land where he was bred,
men would as soon take for their mark King Arthur's round table, which
held sixty knights around it. A child of seven might hit yonder target
with a headless shaft_.' Oh, this is perfect."
"Now," said Ware to young Elliott, "if you'll hit that mark in my
fashion of shooting, you're all right."
Bob turned to the girl, his eyes dancing with delight.
"'--_he that hits yon mark at I-forget-how-many yards_,'" he declaimed,
"'_I will call him an archer fit to bear bow before a king_'--or
something to that effect; I'm afraid I'm not letter perfect."
He laughed amusedly, and the girl laughed with him. "Just the same, I'm
glad you remember," she told him.
Ware had by now taken his place at the new mark he had established.
"Fifteen shots," he announced. At the word his hand dropped to the butt
of his gun, his right shoulder hunched forward, and with one lightning
smooth motion the weapon glided from the holster. Hardly had it left the
leather when it was exploded. The hammer had been cocked during the
upward flip of the muzzle. The first discharge was followed immediately
by the five others in a succession so rapid that Bob believed the man
had substituted a self-cocking arm until he caught the rapid play of the
marksman's thumb. The weapon was at no time raised above the level of
the man's waist.
"Hold on!" commanded Ware, as the bystanders started forward to examine
the result of the shots. "Let's finish the string first."
He had been deliberately pushing out the exploded cartridges one by one.
Now he as deliberately reloaded. Taking a position somewhat to the left
of the target, he folded his arms so that the revolver lay across his
breast with its muzzle resting over his left elbow. Then he strode
rapidly but evenly across the face of the target, discharging the five
bullets as he walked.
Again he reloaded. This time he stood with the revolver hanging in his
right hand gazing intently for some moments at the target, measuring
carefully with his eye its direction and height. He turned his back;
and, flipping his gun over his left shoulder, fired without looking
"The first ten ought to be in the black," announced Ware, "The last five
ought to be somewheres on the paper. A fellow can't expect more than to
generally wing a man over his shoulder."
But on examination the black proved to hold but eight bullet holes. The
other seven, however, all showed on the paper.
"Comes of not wiping out the dirt once in a while when you're shooting
black powder," said Ware philosophically.
The crowd gazed upon him with admiration.
"That's a remarkable group of shots to be literally _thrown_ out at that
speed," muttered Thorne to Bob. "Why, you could cover them with your
hat! Well, young man," he addressed Elliott, "step up!"
But Elliott shook his head.
"Couldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole," said he pleasantly. "Mr.
Ware has given me a new idea of what can be done with a revolver. His
work is especially good with that heavily charged arm. I wish he would
give us a little exhibition of how close he can shoot with my gun. It's
supposed to be a more accurate weapon."
"No, thank you," spoke up Ware. "I couldn't hit a flock of feather
pillers with your gun. You see, I shoot by _throw_, and I'm used to the
balance of my gun."
Thorne finished making some notes.
"All right, boys," he said, snapping shut his book. "We'll go down to
On the way down the narrow trail Bob found himself near the two men from
his own camp. He chaffed them good-humouredly over their lack of skill
in the contests, to which they replied in the same spirit.
Arrived at camp, Thorne turned to face his followers, who gathered in a
group to listen.
"Let's have a little riding, boys," said he. "Bring out a horse or two
and some saddles. Each man must saddle his horse, circle that tree down
the road, return, unsaddle and throw up both hands to show he's done."
Bob was amused to see how the aspect of the men changed at this
announcement. The lithe young fellows, who had been looking pretty sober
over the records they had made at shooting, brightened visibly and ran
with some eagerness to fetch out their own horses and saddles. Some of
the others were not so pleased, notably two of the young fellows from
the valley towns. Still others remained stolidly indifferent to a trial
in which they could not hope to compete with the professional riders,
but in which neither would they fail.
The results proved the accuracy of this reasoning. A new set of stars
rose to the ascendant, while the heroes of the upper meadow dropped into
obscurity. Most of the mountain men saddled expeditiously but soberly
their strong and capable mountain horses, rode the required distance,
and unsaddled deftly. It was part of their everyday life to be able to
do such things well. The two town boys, and, to Bob's surprise, one of
his lumberjacks, furnished the comic relief. They frightened the horses
allotted them, to begin with; threw the saddles aboard in a mess which
it was necessary to untangle; finally clambered on awkwardly and rode
precariously amid the yells and laughter of the spectators.
"How you expect to be a ranger, if you can't ride?" shouted some one at
"If horses don't plumb _detest_ me, I reckon I can learn!" retorted the
shanty boy, stoutly. "This ain't my game!"
But when young Pollock, whom Bob recognized as Jim's oldest, was called
out, the situation was altered. He appeared leading a beautiful,
half-broken bay, that snorted and planted its feet and danced away from
the unaccustomed crowd. Nevertheless the lad, as impassive as an image,
held him well in hand, awaiting Thorne's signal.
"Go!" called the Supervisor, his eyes on his watch.
The boy, still grasping the hackamore in his left hand, with his right
threw the saddle blanket over the animal's back. Stooping again, he
seized the heavy stock saddle by the horn, flipped it high in the air,
and brought it across the horse with so skilful a jerk that not only did
the skirts, the heavy stirrup and the horsehair cinch fall properly, but
the cinch itself swung so far under the horse's belly that young Pollock
was able to catch it deftly before it swung back. To thrust the broad
latigo through the rings, jerk it tight, and fasten it securely was the
work of an instant. With a yell to his horse the boy sprang into the
saddle. The animal bounded forward, snorting and buck-plunging, his eye
wild, his nostril wide. Flung with apparent carelessness in the saddle,
the rider, his body swaying and bending and giving gracefully to every
bound, waved his broad hat, uttering shrill _yips_ of encouragement and
admonition to his mount. The horse straightened out and thundered swift
as an arrow toward the tree that marked the turning point. With
unslackened gait, with loosened rein, he swept fairly to the tree. It
seemed to Bob that surely the lad must overshoot the mark by many yards.
But at the last instant the rider swayed backward and sidewise; the
horse set his feet, plunged mightily thrice, threw up a great cloud of
dust, and was racing back almost before the spectators could adjust
their eyes to the change of movement. Straight to the group horse and
rider raced at top speed, until the more inexperienced instinctively
ducked aside. But in time the horse sat back, slid and plunged ten feet
in a spray of dust and pine needles, to come to a quivering halt. Even
before that young Pollock had thrown himself from the saddle. Three
jerks ripped that article of furniture from its place to the earth. The
boy, with an engaging gleam of teeth, threw up both hands.
It was flash-riding, of course; but flash-riding at its best. And how
the boys enjoyed it! Now the little group of "buckeroos," heretofore
rather shyly in the background, shone forth in full glory.
"Now let's see how good you are at packing," said Thorne, when the last
man had done his best or worst. "Jack," he told young Pollock, "you go
up in the pasture and catch me up that old white pack mare. She's
warranted to stand like a rock."
While the boy was gone on this errand, Thorne rummaged the camp. Finally
he laid out on the ground about a peck of loose potatoes, miscellaneous
provisions, a kettle, frying-pan, coffee-pot, tin plates, cutlery, a
single sack of barley, a pick and shovel, and a coil of rope.
"That looks like a reasonable camp outfit," remarked Thorne. "Just throw
one of those pack saddles on her," he told Jack Pollock, who led up the
white mare. "Now you boys all retire; you mustn't have a chance to learn
from the other fellow. Hicks, you stay. Now pack that stuff on that
horse. I'll time you."
Hicks looked about him.
"Where's the kyacks?" he demanded. [Footnote: Kyacks--pack sacks slung
either side the pack saddle.]
"You don't get any kyacks," stated Thorne crisply.
"Got to pack all that stuff without 'em?"
Hicks set methodically to work, gathering up the loose articles,
thrusting them into sacks, lashing the sacks on the crossbuck saddle. At
the end of a half-hour, he stepped back.
"That might ride--for a while," said Thorne.
"I never pack without kyacks," said Hicks.
"So I see. Well, sit down and watch the rest of them. Ware!" Thorne
The prospector disengaged himself from the sprawling and distant group.
"Throw those things off, and empty out those bags," ordered Thorne.
"Now, there's your camp outfit. Pack it, as fast as you can."
Ware set to work, also deliberately, it seemed. He threw a sling, packed
on his articles, and over it all drew the diamond hitch.
"Reckon that'll travel," he observed, stepping back.
"Good pack," commended Thorne briefly, as he glanced at his watch.
"Eleven minutes!" echoed Bob to California John, who sat near, "and the
other man took thirty-five! Impossible! Ware didn't hurry any; he moved,
if anything, slower than the other man."
"He didn't make no moves twice," pointed out California John. "He knows
how. This no-kyack business is going to puzzle plenty of those boys who
can do good, ordinary packing."
"It's near noon," Thorne was saying; "we haven't time for another of
those duffers. I'll just call up your partner, Ware, and we'll knock off
The partner did as well, or even a little better, for the watch credited
him with ten and one-half minutes, whereupon he chaffed Ware hugely.
Then the pack horse was led to a patiently earned feed, while the little
group of rangers, with Thorne, his sister and Bob, moved slowly toward
"That's all this morning, boys," he told the waiting group as they
passed it. "This afternoon we'll double up a bit. The rest of you can
all take a try at the packing, but at the same time we'll see who can
cut down a tree quickest and best."
"Stop and eat lunch with us," Amy was urging Bob. "It's only a cold
one--not even tea. I didn't want to miss the show. So it's no bother."
They all turned to and set the table under the open.
"This is great fun," said Bob gratefully, as they sat down. "Good as a
field day. When do you expect to begin your examinations? That's what
these fellows are here for, isn't it?"
He looked up to catch both Thorne and Amy looking on him with a
comically hopeless air.
"You don't mean to say!" cried Bob, a light breaking in on him. "--of
course! I never thought----"
"What do you suppose we would examine candidates for Forest Ranger
in--higher mathematics?" demanded Amy.
"Now that's practical--that's got some sense!" cried Bob
Thorne, with a whimsical smile, held up his finger for silence. Through
the thin screen of azalea bushes that fringed this open-air dining room
Bob saw two men approaching down the forest. They were evidently unaware
of observation. With considerable circumspection they drew near and
disappeared within the little tool house. Bob recognized the two
lumberjacks from his own camp.
"What are those fellows after?" he demanded indignantly.
But Thorne again motioned for caution.
"I suspect," said Thorne in a low voice. "Go on eating your lunch. We'll
The men were inside the tool house for some time. When they reappeared,
each carried an axe. They looked about them cautiously. No one was in
sight. Then they thrust the axes underneath a log, and disappeared in
the direction of their own camp.
Thorne laughed aloud.
"The old foxes!" said he. "I'll bet anything you please that we'll find
the two best-balanced axes the Government owns under that log."
Such proved to be the case. Furthermore, the implements had been ground
to a razor edge.
"When I mentioned tree cutting, I saw their eyes light up," said Thorne.
"It's always interesting in a crowd of candidates like this to see every
man cheer up when his specialty comes along." He chuckled. "Wait till I
spring the written examinations on them. Then you'll see them droop."
"What else is there?" asked Bob.
"Well, I'll organize regular survey groups--compass-man, axe-man,
rod-man, chain-men--and let them run lines; and I'll make them estimate
timber, and make a sketch map or so. It's all practical."
"I should think so!" cried Bob. "I wonder if I could pass it myself." He
laughed. "I should hate to tackle tying those things on that horse--even
after seeing those prospectors do it!"
"Most of them will go a little slow. They're used to kyacks. But you'd
have your specialty."
"What would it be?" asked Amy curiously of Bob.
The young man shook his head.
"You haven't got some nice scrappy little job, have you?" he asked,
"where I can tell people to hop high? That's about all I'm good for."
"We might even have that," said Thorne, eyeing the young man's
Bob saw that afternoon the chopping contest. Thorne assigned to each a
tree some eighteen or twenty inches in diameter, selecting those whose
loss would aid rather than deplete the timber stand, and also, it must
be confessed, those whose close proximity to others might make axe
swinging awkward. About twenty feet from the base of each tree he placed
upright in the earth a sharpened stake. This, he informed the axe-man,
must be driven by the fall of the tree.
As in the previous contests, three classes of performers quickly
manifested themselves--the expert, the man of workmanlike skill, and the
absolute duffer. The lumberjacks produced the implements they had that
noon so carefully ground to an edge. It was beautiful to see them at
work. To all appearance they struck easily, yet each stroke buried half
the blade. The less experienced were inclined to put a great deal of
swift power in the back swing, to throw too much strength into the
beginning of the down stroke. The lumberjacks drew back quite
deliberately, swung forward almost lazily. But the power constantly
increased, until the axe met the wood in a mighty swish and whack. And
each stroke fell in the gash of the one previous. Methodically they
opened the "kerf," each face almost as smooth as though it had been
sawn. At the finish they left the last fibres on one side or another,
according as they wanted to twist the direction of the tree's fall. Then
the trunk crashed down across the stake driven in the ground.
The mountaineers, accustomed to the use of the axe in their backwoods
work, did a workmanlike but not expert job on their respective trees.
They felled their trees accurately over the mark, and their axe work was
fairly clean, but it took them some time to finish the job.
But some of the others made heavy weather. Young Elliott was the worst.
It was soon evident that he had probably never had any but a possible
and casual wood-pile axe in his hand before. The axe rarely hit twice in
the same place; its edge had apparently no cutting power; the handle
seemed to be animated with a most diabolical tendency to twist in
mid-air. Bob, with the wisdom of the woods, withdrew to a safe distance.
The others followed.
Long after the others had finished, poor Elliott hacked away. He seemed
to have no definite idea of possible system. All he seemed to be trying
to do was to accomplish some kind of a hole in that tree. The chips he
cut away were small and ragged; the gash in the side of the tree was
long and irregular.
"Looks like somethin' had set out to _chaw_ that tree down!" drawled a
mountain man to his neighbour.
But when the tree finally tottered and crashed to the ground it fairly
centred the direction stake!
The bystanders stared; then catching the expression of ludicrous
astonishment on Elliott's face, broke into appreciative laughter.
"I'm as much surprised as you are, boys," said Elliott, showing the
palms of his hands, on which were two blisters.
"The little cuss is game, anyhow," muttered California John to Thorne.
"It was an awful job," confided the other; "but I marked him something
on it because he stayed with it so well."
Toward sunset Bob said farewell, expressing many regrets that he could
not return on the morrow to see the rest of the examinations. He rode
back through the forest, thoughtfully inclined. The first taste of the
Western joy of mere existence was passing with him. He was beginning to
look upon his life, and ask of it the why. To be sure, he could tell
himself that his day's work was well done, and that this should suffice
any man; that he was an integral part of the economic machine; that in
comparison with the average young man of his age he had made his way
with extraordinary success; that his responsibilities were sufficient to
keep him busy and happy; that men depended on him--all the reasons that
philosophy or acquiescence in the plan of life ultimately bring to a
man. But these did not satisfy the uneasiness of his spirit. He was too
young to settle down to a routine; he was too intellectually restless to
be contented with reiterations, however varied, of that which he had
seen through and around. It was the old defect--or glory--of his
character; the quality that had caused him more anxiety, more
self-reproach, more bitterness of soul than any other, the Rolling Stone
spirit that--though now he could not see it--even if it gathered no moss
of respectable achievement, might carry him far.
So as he rode he peered into the scheme of things for the final
satisfaction. In what did it lie? Not for him in mere activity, nor in
the accomplishment of the world's work, no matter how variedly
picturesque his particular share of it might be. He felt his interest
ebbing, his spirit restless at its moorings. The days passed. He arose
in the morning: and it was night! Four years ago he had come to
California. It seemed but yesterday. The days were past, gone, used. Of
it all what had he retained? The years had run like sea sands between
his fingers, and not a grain of them remained in his grasp. A little
money was there, a little knowledge, a little experience--but what
toward the final satisfaction, the justification of a man's life? Bob
was still too young, too individualistic to consider the doctrine of the
day's work well done as the explanation and justification of all. The
coming years would pass as quickly, leaving as little behind. Never so
poignantly had he felt the insistence of the _carpe diem_. It was
necessary that he find a reality, something he could winnow from the
years as fine gold from sand, so that he could lay his hand on the
treasure and say to his soul: "This much have I accomplished." Bob had
learned well the American lesson: that the idler is to be scorned; that
a true man must use his powers, must work; that he must _succeed_. Now
he was taking the next step spiritually. How does a man really use his
powers? What is success?
Troubled by this spiritual unrest, the analysis of which, even the
nature of which was still beyond him, he arrived at camp. The familiar
objects fretted on his mood. For the moment all the grateful feeling of
power over understanding and manipulating this complicated machinery of
industry had left him. He saw only the wheel in which these activities
turned, and himself bound to it. In this truly Buddhistic frame of mind
he returned to his quarters.
There, to his vague annoyance, he found Baker. Usually the liveliness of
that able young citizen was welcome, but to-night it grated.
"Well, Gentle Stranger," sang out the power man, "what jungle have you
been lurking in? I laboured in about three and went all over the works
looking for you."
"I've been over watching the ranger examinations at their headquarters,"
said Bob. "It's pretty good fun."
Baker leaned forward.
"Have you heard the latest dope?" he demanded.
"They're trying to soak us, now. Want to charge us so much per horse
power! Now _what_ do you think of that!"
"Can't you pay it?" asked Bob.
"Great guns! Why _should_ we pay it?" demanded Baker. "It's the public
domain, isn't it? First they take away the settler's right to take up
public land in his own state, and now they want to _charge_, actually
_charge_ the public for what's its own."
But Bob, a new light shining in his eyes, refused to become heated.
"Well," he asked deliberately, "who _is_ the public, anyhow?"
Baker stared at him, one chubby hand on each fat knee.
"Why, everybody," said he; "the people who can make use of it. You and I
and the other fellow."
"Especially the other fellow," put in Bob drily.
"It's like any business," said he. "First-come collect at the ticket
office for his business foresight. But we'll try out this hold-up before
we lie down and roll over."
"Why shouldn't you pay?" demanded Bob again. "You get your value, don't
you? The Forest Service protects your watershed, and that's where you
get your water. Why shouldn't you pay for that service, just the same as
you pay for a night watchman at your works?"
"Watershed!" snorted Baker. "Rot! If every stick of timber was cleaned
off these mountains, I'd get the water just the same."[A]
"Baker," said Bob to this. "You go and take a long, long look at your
bathroom sponge in action, and then come back and I'll talk to you."
Baker contemplated his friend for a full ten seconds. Then his fat,
pugnacious face wrinkled into a grin.
"Stung on the ear by a wasp!" he cried, with a great shout of
appreciation. "You merry, merry little josher! You had me going for
about five minutes."
Bob let it go at that.
"I suppose you won't be able to pay over twenty per cent. this next
year, then?" he inquired, with an amused expression.
"Twenty per cent.!" cried Baker rolling his eyes up. "It's as much as I
can do to dig up for improvements and bond interest and the preferred."
"Not to mention the president's salary," amended Bob.
"But I've got 'em where they live," went on Baker, complacently, without
attention to this. "You don't catch Little Willie scattering shekels
when he can just as well keep kopecks. They've left a little joker in
the pack." He produced a paper-covered copy of the new regulations,
later called the Use Book. "They've swiped about everything in sight for
these pestiferous reserves, but they encourage the honest prospector.
'Let us develop the mineral wealth,' says they. So these forests are
still open for taking up under the mineral act. All you have to do is to
make a 'discovery,' and stake out your claim; and there you are!"
"All the mineral's been taken up long ago," Bob pointed out.
"All the valuable mineral," corrected Baker. "But it's sufficient, so
Erbe tells me, to discover a ledge. Ledges? Hell! They're easier to find
than an old maid at a sewing circle! That's what the country is made
of--ledges! You can dig one out every ten feet. Well, I've got people
out finding ledges, and filing on them."
"Can you do that?" asked Bob.
"I am doing it."
"I mean legally."
"Oh, this bunch of prospectors files on the claims, and gets them
patented. Then it's nobody's business what they do with their own
property. So they just sell it to me."
"That's colonizing," objected Bob. "You'll get nailed."
"Not on your tintype, it isn't. I don't furnish a cent. They do it all
on their own money. Oldham's got the whole matter in hand. When we get
the deal through, we'll have about two hundred thousand acres all around
the head-waters; and then these blood-sucking, red-tape, autocratic
slobs can go to thunder."
Baker leaned forward impressively.
"Got to spring it all at once," said he, "otherwise there'll be
outsiders in, thinking there's a strike been made--also they'll get
inquisitive. It's a great chance. And, Orde, my son, there's a few
claims up there that will assay about sixty thousand board feet to the
acre. What do you think of it for a young and active lumberman? I'm
going to talk it over with Welton. It's a grand little scheme. Wonder
how that will hit our old friend, Thorne?"
Bob rose yawning.
"I'm tired. Going to turn in," said he. "Thorne isn't a bad sort."
"He's one of these damn theorists, that's what he is," said Baker; "and
he's got a little authority, and he's doing just as much as he can to
unsettle business and hinder the legitimate development of the country."
He relaxed his earnestness with another grin. "Stung again. That's two
rises you got out of me," he remarked. "Say, Orde, don't get persuaded
to turn ranger. I hear they've boosted their salaries to ninety a month.
Must be a temptation!"
[Footnote A: Extraordinary as it may seem to the modern reader, this
sentiment--or this ignorance--was at that time sincerely entertained by
men as influential, as powerful, and as closely interested in water
power as Baker is here depicted.]
Bob arose rather early the following Sunday, snatched a hasty breakfast
and departed. Baker had been in camp three days. All at once Bob had
taken the young man in strong distaste. Baker amused him, commanded his
admiration for undoubted executive ability and a force of character so
dynamic as to be almost brutal. In a more social environment Bob would
still have found him a mighty pleasant fellow, generous, open-hearted,
and loyal to his personal friends. But just now his methods chafed on
the sensitiveness of Bob's new unrest. Baker was worth probably a couple
of million dollars, and controlled ten times that. He had now a fine
house in Fremont, where he had chosen to live, a pretty wife, two
attractive children and a wide circle of friends. Life was very good to
And yet, in the perversity and the clairvoyance of his mood, Bob thought
to see in Baker's life something of that same emptiness of final
achievement he faced in his own. This was absurd, but the feeling of it
persisted. Thorne, with his miserable eighteen hundred a year, and his
glowing enthusiasm and quick interest seemed to him more worth while.
Why? It was absurd; but this feeling, too, persisted.
Bob was a healthy young fellow, a man of action rather than of
introspection, but now the hereditary twist of his character drove him
to attempt analysis. He arrived at nothing. Both Baker and Thorne seemed
to stand on one ground--each was satisfied, neither felt that lack of
the fulfilling content Bob was so keenly experiencing. But the streak of
feminine divination Bob had inherited from his mother made him
understand--or made him think to understand--that Baker's satisfaction
was taken because he did not see, while Thorne was working with his eyes
open and a full sense of values. This vague glimpse Bob gained only
partially and at length. It rather opened to him new vistas of spiritual
perplexity than offered to him any solution.
He paced rapidly down the length of the lake--whereon the battered but
efficient towing launch lay idle for Sunday--to the Lake Meadow. This
was, as usual, surrounded by hundreds of campers of all classes. Bob was
known to all of them, of course; and he, in turn, had at least such a
nodding acquaintance with them that he could recognize any accretions to
their members. Near the lower end of the meadow, beneath a group of a
dozen noble firs, he caught sight of newcomers, and so strolled down
that way to see what they could be like.
He found pomp and circumstance. An enclosure had been roped off to
exclude the stock grazing at large in the meadow. Three tents had been
erected. They were made of a very light, shiny, expensive-looking
material with fringes along the walls, flies overhead and stretched in
front, sod cloths before the entrances. Three gaily painted wooden
rocking chairs, an equally gaudy hammock, a table flanked with benches,
a big cooking stove in the rear, canvas pockets hung from the trees--a
dozen and one other conveniences and luxuries bespoke the occupants as
well-to-do and determined to be comfortable. Two Japanese servants
dressed all in white moved silently and mysteriously in the background,
a final touch of incongruity in a rough country.
Before Bob had moved on, two men stepped into view from the interior of
one of the tents. They paced slowly to the gaudy rocking chairs and sat
down. In their progress they exhibited that peculiar, careless but
conscious deliberation of gait affected everywhere by those accustomed
to appearing in public. In their seating of themselves, their producing
of cigars, their puffings thereon, was the same studied ignoring of
observation; a manner which, it must be acknowledged, becomes second
nature to those forced to its adoption. It was a certain blown
impressiveness, a significance in the smallest movements, a
self-importance, in short, too large for the affairs of any private
citizen. It is to be seen in those who sit in high places, in clergy,
actors off the boards, magistrates, and people behind shop windows
demonstrating things to street crowds. Bob's first thought was of
amusement that this elaborate unconsciousness of his lone presence
should be worth while; his second a realization that his presence or the
presence of any one else had nothing to do with it. He wondered, as we
all wonder at times, whether these men acted any differently when alone
and in utter privacy, whether they brushed their teeth and bathed with
all the dignity of the public man.
The smaller, but evidently more important of these men, wore a complete
camping costume. His hat was very wide and stiff of brim and had a woven
band of horsehair; his neckerchief was very red and worn bib fashion in
the way Bob had come to believe that no one ever wore a neckerchief save
in Western plays and the illustrations of Western stories; his shirt was
of thick blue flannel, thrown wide open at the throat; his belt was very
wide and of carved leather; his breeches were of khaki, but bagged above
and fitted close below the knee into the most marvellous laced boots,
with leather flaps, belt lacings, and rows of hobnails with which to
make tracks. Bob estimated these must weigh at least three pounds
apiece. The man wore a little pointed beard and eyeglasses. About him
Bob recognized a puzzling familiarity. He could not place it, however,
but finally decided he must have carried over a recollection from a
tailor's fashion plate of the Correct Thing for Camping.
The other man was taller, heavier, but not near so impressive. His form
was awkward, his face homely, his ears stuck out like wings, and his
expression was that of the always-appreciated buffoon.
Bob was about to pass on, when he noticed that he was not the only
spectator of all this ease of manner. A dozen of the campers had
gathered, and were staring across the ropes with quite frank and
unabashed curiosity. More were coming from all directions. In a short
time a crowd of several hundred had collected, and stood, evidently in
expectation. Then, and only then, did the small man with the pointed
beard seem to become aware of the presence of any one besides his
companion. He leaned across to exchange a few words with the latter,
after which he laid aside his hat, arose and advanced to the rope
barrier on which he rested the tips of his fingers.
"My friends," he began in a nasal but penetrating voice, that carried
without effort to every hearer. "I am not a regularly ordained minister
of the gospel. I find, however, that there is none such among us, so I
have gathered you here together this morning to hear a few words
appropriate to the day. It has pleased Providence to call me to a public
position wherein my person has become well known to you all; but that is
an accident of the great profession to which I have been called, and I
bow my heart in humility with the least and most lowly. I am going to
tell you about myself this morning, not because I consider myself of
importance, but because it seems to me from my case a great lesson may
He paused to let his eye run over the concourse. Bob felt the gaze,
impersonal, impassive, scrutinizing, cold, rest on him the barest
appreciable flicker of a moment, and then pass on. He experienced a
faint shock, as though his defences had been tapped against.
"My father," went on the nasal voice, "came to this country in the
'sixties. It was a new country in the hands of a lazy people. It needed
development, so my father was happy felling the trees, damming the
streams, building the roads, getting possession of the land. That was
his job in life, and he did it well, because the country needed it. He
didn't bother his head with why he was doing it; he just thought he was
making money. As a matter of fact, he didn't make money; he died nearly
The orator bowed his head for a moment.
"I might have done the same thing. It's all legitimate business. But I
couldn't. The country is being developed by its inhabitants: work of
that kind couldn't satisfy me. Why, friends? _Because now it would be
selfish work_. My father didn't know it, but the reason he was happy was
because the work he was doing for himself was also work for other
people. You can see that. He didn't know it, but he was helping develop
the country. But it wouldn't have been quite so with me. The country is
developed in that way. If I did that kind of work, I'd be working for
myself and nobody else at all. That turns out all right for most people,
because they don't see it: they do their duty as citizens and good
business men and fathers and husbands, and that ends it. But I saw it. I
felt I had to do a work that would support me in the world--but it must
be a work that helped humanity too. That is why, friends, I am what I
am. That a certain prominence is inevitable to my position is incidental
rather than gratifying.
"So, I think, the lesson to be drawn is that each of us should make his
life help humanity, should conduct his business in such a way as to help
humanity. Then he'll be happy."
He stood for a moment, then turned away. The tall, ungainly man with the
outstanding ears and the buffoon's face stepped forward and whispered
eagerly in his ear. He listened gravely, but shook his head. The tall
man whispered yet more vehemently, at great length. Finally the orator
stepped back to his place.
"We are here for a complete rest after exhausting labours," he stated.
"We have looked forward for months to undisturbed repose amongst these
giant pines. No thought of care was to intrude. But my colleague's great
and tender heart has smitten him, and, I am ashamed to say against my
first inclination, he urges me to a course which I'd have liked to
avoid; but which, when he shows me the way, I realize is the only decent
thing. We find ourselves in the midst of a community of some hundreds of
people. It may be some of these people are suffering, far from medical
or surgical help. If there are any such, and the case is really
pressing, you understand, we will be willing, just for common humanity,
to do our best to relieve them. And friends," the speaker stepped
forward until his body touched the rope, and he was leaning
confidentially forth, "it would be poor humanity that would cause you
pain or give you inferior treatments. I am happy to say we came to this
great virgin wilderness direct with our baggage from White Oaks where we
had been giving a two weeks' course of treatments--mainly charitable. We
have our instruments and our medicines with us in their packin' cases.
If need arises--which I trust it will not--we will not hesitate to go to
any trouble for you. It is against our principles to give anything but
our best. You will suffer no pain. But it must be understood," he warned
impressively. "This is just for you, our neighbours! We don't want this
news spread to the lumber camps and over the countryside. We are here
for a rest. But we cannot be true to our high calling and neglect the
relieving of pain."
The man bowed slightly, and rejoined his companion to whom he conversed
low-voiced with absolute unconsciousness of the audience he had just
been addressing so intimately. The latter hesitated, then slowly
dispersed. Bob stood, his brows knit, trying to recall. There was
something hauntingly familiar about the whole performance. Especially a
strange nasal emphasis on the word "pain" struck sharply a chord in his
recollection. He looked up in sudden enlightenment.
"Painless Porter!" he cried aloud.
The man looked up at the mention of his name.
"That's my name," said he. "What can I do for you?"
"I just remembered where I'd seen you," explained Bob.
"I'm fairly well known."
Bob approached eagerly. The discourse, hollow, insincere,
half-blasphemous, a buncombe bit of advertising as it was, nevertheless
contained the germ of an essential truth for which Bob had been
searching. He wanted to know how, through what experience, the man had
come to this insight.
But his attempts at conversation met with a cold reception. Painless
Porter was too old a bird ever to lower his guard. He met the youth on
the high plane of professionalism, refused to utter other than the
platitudinous counters demanded by the occasion. He held the young man
at spear's length, and showed plainly by the ominous glitter of his eye
that he did not intend to be trifled with.
Then Baker's jolly voice broke in.
"Well! well! well!" he cried. "If here aren't my old friends, Painless
Porter and the Wiz! Simple life for yours, eh? Back to beans! What's the
general outline of _this_ graft?"
"We have come camping for a complete rest," stated Waller gravely, his
comical face cast in lines of reprobation and warning.
"Whatever it is, you'll get it," jibed Baker. "But I'll bet you a
toothpick it isn't a rest. What's exhausted you fellows, anyway?
Counting the easy money?"
"Our professional labours have been very heavy lately," spoke up the
"What's biting you fellows?" demanded Baker. "There's nobody here."
Waller indicated Bob by a barely perceptible jerk of the head. Baker
threw back his head and laughed.
"Thought you knew him," said he. "You were all having such a love feast
gab-fest when I blew in. This is Mr. Orde, who bosses this place--and
most of the country around here. If you want to do good to humanity on
this meadow you'd better begin by being good to him. He controls it.
He's humanity with a capital H."
Ten minutes later the four men, cigars alight, a bottle within reach,
were sprawling about the interior of one of the larger tents. Bob was
enjoying himself hugely. It was the first time he had ever been behind
the scenes at this sort of game.
"But that was a good talk, just the same," he interrupted a cynical bit
"Say, wasn't it!" cried Porter. "I got that out of a shoutin'
evangelist. The minute I heard it I saw where it was hot stuff for my
spiel. I'm that way: I got that kind of good eye. I'll be going along
the street and some little thing'll happen that won't amount to nothin'
at all really. Another man wouldn't think twice about it. But like a
flash it comes to me how it would fit in to a spiel. It's like an artist
that way finding things to put in a picture. You'd never spot a dago
apple peddler as good for nothing but to work a little graft on mebbe;
but an artist comes along and slaps him in a picture and he's the
fanciest-looking dope in the art collection. That's me. I got some of my
best spiels from the funniest places! That one this morning is a wonder,
because it don't _listen_ like a spiel. I followed that evangelist yap
around for a week getting his dope down fine. You got to get the
language just right on these things, or they don't carry over."
"Which one is it, Painful?" asked Baker.
"You know; the make-your-work-a-good-to-humanity bluff."
"And all about papa in the 'sixties?"
"'And just don't you _dare_ tell the neighbours?'"
"The whole mountains will know all about it by to-morrow," Baker told
Bob, "and they'll flock up here in droves. It's easy money."
"Half these country yaps have bum teeth, anyway," said Porter.
"And the rest of them think they're sick," stated Wizard Waller.
"It beats a free show for results and expense," said Painless Porter.
"All you got to have is the tents and the Japs and the
Willie-off-the-yacht togs." He sighed. "There ought to be _some_
advantages," he concluded, "to drag a man so far from the street
"Then this isn't much of a pleasure trip?" asked Bob with some
"Pleasure, hell!" snorted Painless, helping himself to a drink. "Say,
honest, how do you fellows that have business up here stick it out? It
gives me the willies!"
One of the Japanese peered into the tent and made a sign.
Painless Porter dropped his voice.
"A dope already," said he. He put on his air, and went out. As Bob and
Baker crossed the enclosed space, they saw him in conversation with a
gawky farm lad from the plains.
"I shore do hate to trouble you, doctor," the boy was saying, "and hit
Sunday, too. But I got a tooth back here--"
Painless Porter was listening with an air of the deepest and gravest
The charlatan had babbled; but without knowing it he had given Bob what
he sought. He saw all the reasons for what had heretofore been obscure.
Why had he been dissatisfied with business opportunities and successes
beyond the hopes of most young men?
How could he dare criticize the ultimate value of such successes without
criticizing the life work of such men as Welton, as his own father?
What right had he to condemn as insufficient nine-tenths of those in the
industrial world; and yet what else but condemnation did his attitude of
All these doubts and questionings were dissipated like fog. Quite simply
it all resolved itself. He was dissatisfied because this was not his
work. The other honest and sincere men--such as his father and
Welton--had been satisfied because this was their work. The old
generation, the one that was passing, needed just that kind of service
but the need too was passing. Bob belonged to the new generation. He saw
that new things were to be demanded. The old order was changing. The
modern young men of energy and force and strong ability had a different
task from that which their fathers had accomplished. The wilderness was
subdued; the pioneer work of industry was finished; the hard brute
struggle to shape things to efficiency was over. It had been necessary
to get things done. Now it was becoming necessary to perfect the means
and methods of doing. Lumber must still be cut, streams must still be
dammed, railroads must still be built; but now that the pioneers, the
men of fire, had blazed the way others could follow. Methods were
established. It was all a business, like the selling of groceries. The
industrial rank and file could attend to details. The men who thought
and struggled and carried the torch--they must go beyond what their
fathers had accomplished.
Now Bob understood Amy Thorne's pride in the Service. He saw the true
basis of his feeling toward the Supervisor as opposed to his feeling
toward Baker. Thorne was in the current. With his pitiful eighteen
hundred a year he was nevertheless swimming strongly in new waters. His
business went that little necessary step beyond. It not only earned him
his living in the world, but it helped the race movement of his people.
At present the living was small, just as at first the pioneer opening
the country had wrested but a scanty livelihood from the stubborn
wilderness; nevertheless, he could feel--whether he stopped to think it
out or not--that his efforts had that coordination with the trend of
humanity which makes subtly for satisfaction and happiness. Bob looked
about the mill yard with an understanding eye. This work was necessary;
but it was not his work.
Something of this he tried to explain to his new friends at headquarters
when next he found an opportunity to ride over. His explanations were
not very lucid, for Bob was no great hand at analysis. To any other
audience they might have been absolutely incoherent. But Thorne had long
since reasoned all this out for himself; so he understood; while to
California John the matter had always been one to take for granted. Bob
leaned forward, his earnest, sun-browned young face flushed with the
sincerity--and the embarrassment--of his exposition. Amy nodded from
time to time, her eyes shining, her glance every few moments seeking in
triumph that of her brother. California John smoked.
Finally Bob put it squarely to Thorne.
"So you'd like to join the Service," said Thorne slowly. "I suppose
you've thought of the chance you're giving up? Welton will take you into
partnership in time, of course."
"I know. It seems foolish. Can't make it seem anything else," Bob
"You'd have to take your chances," Thorne persisted. "I couldn't help
you. A ranger's salary is ninety a month now, and find yourself and
horses. Have you any private means?"
"Not enough to say so."
"There's another thing," Thorne went on. "This forestry of our
government is destined to be a tremendous affair; but what we need more
just now is better logging methods among the private loggers. It would
count more than anything else if you'd stay just where you are and give
us model operations in your own work."
Bob shook his head.
"Perhaps you don't know men like Mr. Welton as well as I do," said he;
"I couldn't change his methods. That's absolutely out of the question.
And," he went on with a sudden flash of loyalty to what the old-timers
had meant, "I don't believe I'd want to."
"Not want to!" cried Amy.
"No," pursued Bob doggedly, "not unless he could see the point himself
and of his own accord. He's done a great work in his time, and he's
grown old at it. I wouldn't for anything in the world do anything to
shake his faith in what he's done, even if he's doing it wrong now."
"He and his kind have always slaughtered the forests shamefully!" broke
in Amy with some heat.
"They opened a new country for a new people," said Bob gently. "Perhaps
they did it wastefully; perhaps not. I notice you've got to use lots of
lubricating oil on a new machine. But there was nobody else to do it any
"Then you'd let them go on wasting and destroying?" demanded Amy
"I don't know," hesitated Bob; "I haven't thought all this out. Perhaps
I'm not very much on the think. It seems to me rather this way: We've
got to have lumber, haven't we? And somebody has to cut it and supply
it. Men like Mr. Welton are doing it, by the methods they've found
effective. They are working for the Present; we of the new generation
want to work for the Future. It's a fair division. Somebody's got to
attend to them both."
"Well, that's what I say!" cried Amy. "If they wouldn't waste and slash
and leave good material in the woods--"
Bob smiled whimsically.
"A lumberman doesn't like to leave things in the woods," said he. "If
somebody will pay for the tops and the needles, he'll sell them; if
there's a market for cull lumber, he'll supply it; and if somebody will
create a demand for knotholes, _he'll invent some way of getting them
out_! You see I'm a lumberman myself."
"Why don't you log with some reference to the future, then?" demanded
"Because it doesn't pay," stated Bob deliberately.
"Pay!" cried Amy.
"Yes," said Bob mildly. "Why not? The lumberman fulfills a commercial
function, like any one else; why shouldn't he be allowed freely a
commercial reward? You can't lead a commercial class by ideals that
absolutely conflict with commercial motives. If you want to introduce
your ideals among lumbermen, you want to educate them; and in order to
educate them you must fix it so your ideals don't actually spell _loss!_
Rearrange the scheme of taxation, for one thing. Get your ideas of fire
protection and conservation on a practical basis. It's all very well to
talk about how nice it would be to chop up all the waste tops and pile
them like cordwood, and to scrape together the twigs and needles and
burn them. It would certainly be neat and effective. But can't you get
some scheme that would be just as effective, but not so neat? It's the
difference between a yacht and a lumber schooner. We can't expect
everybody to turn right in and sacrifice themselves to be
philanthropists because the spirit of the age tells them they ought to
be. We've got to make it so easy to do things right that anybody at all
decent will be ashamed not to. Then we've got to wait for the spirit of
the people to grow to new things. It's coming, but it's not here yet."
California John, who had listened with the closest attention, slapped
"Good sense," said he.
"But you can educate people, can't you?" asked Amy, a trifle subdued and
puzzled by these practical considerations.
"Some people can," agreed Thorne, speaking up, "and they're doing it.
But Mr. Orde is right; it's only the spirit of the people that can bring
about new things. We think we have leaders, but we have only
interpreters. When the time is ripe to change things, then the spirit of
the people rises to forbid old practices."
"That's it," said Bob; "I just couldn't get at it. Well, the way I feel
about it is that when all these new methods and principles have become
well known, then we can call a halt with some authority. You can't
condemn a man for doing his best, can you?"
The girl, at a loss, flushed, and almost crying, looked at them all
"But----" she cried.
"I believe it will all come about in time," said Thorne. "There's sure
to come a time when it will not be too much off balance to _require_
private firms to do things according to our methods. Then it will pay to
log the government forests on an extensive scale; and private forests
will have to come to our way of doing things."
"What's the use of all our fights and strivings?" asked Amy; "what's the
use of our preaching decent woods work if it can't be carried out?"
"It's educational," explained Thorne. "It starts people thinking, so
that when the time comes they'll be ready."
"Furthermore," put in Bob, "it fixes it so these young fellows who will
then be in charge of private operations will have no earthly excuse to
look at it wrong, or do it wrong."
"It will then be the difference between their acting according to
general ideas or against them," agreed Thorne.
"Never lick a pup for chasin' rabbits until yore ready to teach him to
chase deer," put in California John.
Bob found it much more difficult to approach Welton. When he did, he had
to contend with the older man's absolute disbelief in what he was
saying. Welton sat down on a stump and considered Bob with a humorous
"Want to quit the lumber business!" he echoed Bob's first statement.
"I don't think I'm cut out for it."
"No? Well, then, I never saw anybody that was. You don't happen to need
no more money?"
"Of course, you know you'll have pretty good prospects here----" stated
"I understand that; but the work doesn't satisfy me, somehow: I'm
through with it."
"Getting restless," surmised Welton. "What you need is a vacation. I
forgot we kept you at it pretty close all last winter. Take a couple
weeks off and make a trip in back somewheres."
Bob shook his head.
"It isn't that; I'm sorry. I'm just through with this. I couldn't keep
on at it and do good work. I know that."
"It's a vacation you need," insisted Welton chuckling, "--or else you're
in love. Isn't that, is it?"
"No," Bob laughed quite wholeheartedly. "It isn't that."
"You haven't got a better job, have you?" Welton joked.
Bob considered. "Yes; I believe I have," he said at last; "at least I'm
hoping to get it."
Welton looked at him closely; saw that he was in earnest.
"What is it?" he asked curtly.
Bob, suddenly smitten with a sense of the futility of trying to argue
out his point of view here in the woods, drew back.
"Can't tell just yet," said he.
Welton climbed down from the stump; stood firmly for a moment, his
sturdy legs apart; then moved forward down the trail.
"I'll raise his ante, whatever it is," he said abruptly at length. "I
don't believe in it, but I'll do it. I need you."
"You've always treated me better than I ever deserved," said Bob
earnestly, "and I'll stay all summer, or all next winter--until you feel
that you do not need me longer; but I'm sure that I must go."
For two days Welton disbelieved the reality of his intention. For two
days further he clung to a notion that in some way Bob must be
dissatisfied with something tangible in his treatment. Then, convinced
at last, he took alarm, and dropped his facetious attitude.
"Look here, Bob," said he, "this isn't quite fair, is it? This is a big
piece of timber. It needs a man with a longer life in front of him than
I can hope for. I wanted to be able to think that in a few years, when I
get tired I could count on you for the heavy work. It's too big a
business for an old man."
"I'll stay with you until you find that young man," said Bob. "There are
a good many, trained to the business, capable of handling this
"But nobody like you, Bobby. I've brought you up to my methods. We've
grown up together at this. You're just like a son to me." Welton's
round, red face was puckered to a wistful and comically pathetic twist,
as he looked across at the serious manly young fellow.
Bob looked away. "That's just what makes it hard," he managed to say at
last; "I'd like to go on with you. We've gotten on famously. But I
can't. This isn't my work."
Welton laboured in vain to induce him to change his mind. Several times
he considered telling Bob the truth--that all this timber belonged
really to Jack Orde, Bob's father, and that his, Welton's interest in it
was merely that of the active partner in the industry. But this his
friend had expressly forbidden. Welton ended by saying nothing about it.
He resolved first to write Orde.
"You might tell me what this new job is, though," he said at last, in
Bob hesitated. "You won't understand; and I won't be able to make you
understand," he said. "I'm going to enter the Forest Service!"
"What!" cried Welton, in blank astonishment. "What's that?"
"I've about decided to take service as a ranger," stated Bob, his face
From that moment all Welton's anxiety seemed to vanish. It became
unbearably evident that he looked on all this as the romance of youth.
Bob felt himself suddenly reduced, in the lumberman's eyes, to the
status of the small boy who wants to be a cowboy, or a sailor, or an
Indian fighter. Welton looked on him with an indulgent eye as on one who
would soon get enough of it. The glamour--whatever it was--would soon
wear off; and then Bob, his fling over, would return to sober, real
business once more. All Welton's joviality returned. From time to time
he would throw a facetious remark in Bob's direction, when, in the
course of the day's work, he happened to pass.
"It's sure going to be fine to wear a real tin star and be an officer!"
"Bob, it sure will seem scrumptious to ride out and boss the whole
country--on ninety a month. Guess I'll join you."
"You going to make me sweep up my slashings, or will a rake do, Mr.
To these feeble jests Bob always replied good-naturedly. He did not
attempt to improve Welton's conception of his purposes. That must come
with time. To his father, however, he wrote at great length; trying his
best to explain the situation. Mr. Orde replied that a government
position was always honourable; but confessed himself disappointed that
his son had not more steadfastness of purpose. Welton received a reply
to his own letter by the same mail.
"I shouldn't tell him anything," it read. "Let him go be a ranger, or a
cowboy, or anything else he wants. He's still young. I didn't get my
start until I was thirty; and the business is big enough to wait for
him. You keep pegging along, and when he gets enough, he'll come back.
He's apparently got some notions of serving the public, and doing good
in the world, and all that. We all get it at his age. By and by he'll
find out that tending to his business honestly is about one man's job."
So, without active opposition, and with only tacit disapproval, Bob made
his change. Nor was he received at headquarters with any blare of
"I'll put you on as 'temporary' until the fall examinations," said
Thorne, "and you can try it out. Rangering is hard work--all kinds of
hard work. It isn't just riding around, you know. You'll have to make
good. You can bunk up with Pollock at the upper cabin. Report to-morrow
morning with him."
Amy smiled at him brightly.
"Don't let him scare you," said she. "He thinks it looks official to be
an awful bear!"
California John met him as he rode out the gate. He reached out his
gnarled old hand.
"Son, we'll get him to send us sometime to Jack Main's Canon," said he.
Bob, who had been feeling the least shade depressed, rode on, his head
high. Before him lay the great mysterious country where had penetrated
only the Pioneers! Another century would build therein the structures
of its institutions. Now, like Jack Main's Canon, the far country of new
things was to be the field of his enterprise. In the future, when the
new generations had come, these things would all be ordered and secure,
would be systematized, their value conceded, their acceptance a matter
of course. All problems would be regulated; all difficulties smoothed
away; all opposition overcome. Then the officers and rangers of that
peaceful and organized service, then the public--accepting such things
as they accept all self-evident truths--would look back on these
beginnings as men look back on romance. They would recall the time when,
like knights errant, armed men rode abroad on horses through a
wilderness, lying down under the stars, living hard, dwelling lowly in
poverty, accomplishing with small means, striving mightily, combating
the great elemental nature and the powers of darkness in men, enduring
patiently, suffering contempt and misunderstanding and enmity in order
that the inheritance of the people yet to come might be assured. He was
one of them; he had the privilege. Suddenly his spirit felt freed. His
old life receded swiftly. A new glory and uplift of soul swept him from
his old moorings.
Next morning Bob was set to work with young Jack Pollock stringing
barbed wire fence. He had never done this before. The spools of wire
weighed on him heavily. A crowbar thrust through the core made them a
sort of axle with which to carry it. Thus they walked forward, revolving
the heavy spool with the greatest care while the strand of wire unwound
behind them. Every once in a while a coil would kink, or buckle back, or
strike as swiftly and as viciously as a snake. The sharp barbs caught at
their clothing, and tore Bob's hands. Jack Pollock seemed familiar with
the idiosyncrasies of the stuff, for he suffered little damage. Indeed,
he even found leisure, as Bob soon discovered, to scrutinize his
companion with a covert curiosity. In the eyes of the countryside, Bob
had been "fired," and had been forced to take a job rangering. When the
entangling strand had been laid along the ground by the newly planted
cedar posts, it became necessary to stretch and fasten it. Here, too,
young Jack proved himself a competent teacher. He showed Bob how to get
a tremendous leverage with the curve on the back of an ordinary hammer
by means of which the wire was held taut until the staples could be
driven home. It was aggravating, nervous, painful work for one not
accustomed to it. Bob's hands were soon cut and bleeding, no matter how
gingerly he took hold of the treacherous wire. To all his comments,
heated and otherwise, Jack Pollock opposed the mountaineer's determined
inscrutability. He watched Bob's efforts always in silence until that
young man had made all his mistakes. Then he spat carefully, and, with
quiet patience, did it right.
Bob's sense of humour was tickled. With all his education and his
subsequent wide experience and training, he stood in the position of a
very awkward subordinate to this mountain boy. The joke of it was that
the matter was so entirely his own choice. In the normal relations of
industry Bob would have been the boss of a hundred activities and twice
that number of men; while Jack Pollock, at best, would be water-boy or
fuel-purveyor to a donkey engine. Along in the middle of the morning
young Elliott passed carrying a crowbar and a spade.
"How'll you trade jobs?" he called.
"What's yours?" asked Bob.
"I'm going to make two cedar posts grow where none grew before," said
At noon they knocked off and went back to the ranger camp where they
cooked their own meal. Most of the older rangers were afield. A
half-dozen of the newcomers and probationers only were there. Elliott,
Jack Pollock, two other young mountaineers, Ware and one of the youths
from the valley towns had apparently passed the examinations and filled
vacancies. All, with the exception of Elliott and this latter
youth--Curtis by name--were old hands at taking care of themselves in
the woods, so matters of their own accord fell into a rough system. Some
built the fire, one mixed bread, others busied themselves with the rest
of the provisions. Elliott rummaged about, and set the rough table with
the battered service. Only Curtis, seated with his back against a tree,
appeared too utterly exhausted or ignorant to take hold at anything.
Indeed, he hardly spoke to his companions, ate hastily, and disappeared
into his own quarters without offering to help wash the dishes.
This task accomplished, the little group scattered to its afternoon
work. In the necessity of stringing wire without cutting himself to
ribbons, Bob forgot everything, even the flight of time.
"I reckon it's about quittin' time," Jack observed to him at last.
Bob looked up in surprise. The sun was indeed dropping low.
"We must be about half done," he remarked, measuring the extent of the
meadow with his eye.
"Two more wires to string," Pollock reminded him.
The mountaineer threw the grain sack of staples against the last post,
tossed his hammer and the hatchet with them.
"Hold on," said Bob. "You aren't going to leave them there?"
"Shore," said Pollock. "We'll have to begin there to-morrow."
But Bob's long training in handling large bodies of men with tools had
developed in him an instinct of tool-orderliness.
"Won't do," he stated with something of his old-time authority in his
tones. "Suppose for some reason we shouldn't get back here to-morrow?
That's the way such things get mislaid; and they're valuable."
He picked up the hatchet and the axe. Grumbling something under his
breath, Pollock shouldered the staples and thrust the hammer in his
"It isn't as if these things were ours," said Bob, realizing that he had
spoken in an unduly minatory tone.
"That's right," agreed Jack more cheerfully.
In addition to the new men, they found Ross Fletcher and Charley Morton
at the camp. The evening meal was prepared cheerfully and roughly, eaten
under a rather dim lamp. Pipes were lit, and they all began leisurely to
clean up. The smoke hung low in the air. One by one the men dropped back
into their rough, homemade chairs, or sprawled out on the floor. Some
one lit the fire in the stone chimney, for the mountain air nipped
shrewdly after the sun had set. A general relaxing after the day's work,
a general cheerfulness, a general dry, chaffing wit took possession of
them. Two played cribbage under the lamp. One wrote a letter. The rest
gossiped of the affairs of the service. Only in the corner by himself
young Curtis sat. As at noon, he had had nothing to say to any one, and
had not attempted to offer assistance in the communal work. Bob
concluded he must be tired from the unaccustomed labour of the day.
Bob's own shoulders ached; and he was in pretty good shape, too.
"What makes me mad," Ross Fletcher's voice suddenly clove the murmur,
"is the things we have to do. I was breaking rock on a trail all day
to-day. Think of that! Day labourer's work! State prison work!"
Bob looked up in amazement, as did every one else.
"When a man hires out to be a ranger," Ross went on, "he don't expect to
be a carpenter, or a stone mason; he expects to be a _ranger_!"
Immediately Charley Morton chimed in to the same purpose. Bob listened
with a rising indignation. This sort of talk was old, but he had not
expected to meet it here; it is the talk of incompetence against
authority everywhere, of the sea lawyer, the lumberjack, the soldier,
the spoiled subordinate in all walks of life. He had taken for granted a
finer sort of loyalty here; especially from such men as Ross and Charley
Morton. His face flushed, and he leaned forward to say something. Jack
Pollock jogged his elbow fiercely.
"Hush up!" the young mountaineer whispered; "cain't you see they're
tryin' for a rise?"
Bob laughed softly to himself, and relaxed. He should have been
experienced enough, he told himself, to have recognized so obvious and
usual a trick of all campers.
But it was not for Bob, nor his like, that Ross was angling. In fact, he
caught his bite almost immediately. For the first time that day Curtis
woke up and displayed some interest.
"That's what I say!" he cried.
The older man turned to him.
"What they been making you do to-day, son?" asked Ross.
"I've been digging post holes up in those rocks," said Curtis
"You don't mean to tell me they put you at that?" demanded Ross; "why,
they're supposed to get _Injins_, just cheap dollar-a-day Digger Injins,
for that job. And they put you at it!"
"Yes," said Curtis, "they did. I didn't hire out for any such work. My
father's county clerk down below."
"You don't say!" said Ross.
"Yes, and my hands are all blistered and my back is lame, and----"
But the expectant youngsters could hold in no longer. A roar of laughter
cut the speaker short. Curtis stared, bewildered. Ross and Charley
Morton were laughing harder than anybody else. He started to his feet.
"Hold on, son," Ross commanded him, wiping his eyes. "Don't get hostile
at a little joke. You'll get used to the work. Of course we all like to