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The Rules of the Game by Stewart Edward White

Part 9 out of 12

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meadow. It proved to be a beautiful spot, surrounded by cedars, warm
with the sun, bright with colour, alive with birds. A fringe of azaleas,
cottonwoods and quaking asps screened it completely from all that lay
outside its charmed circle. A cheerful blue sky spread its canopy
overhead. Here Bob and Elliott turned loose their horses and made their
camp. After lunch they lay on their backs and smoked. Through a notch in
the trees showed a very white mountain against a very blue sky. The sun
warmed them gratefully. Birds sang. Squirrels scampered. Their horses
stood dozing, ears and head down-drooped, eyes half-closed, one hind leg
tucked up.

"Confound it!" cried Elliott suddenly, following his unspoken thought.
"I feel like a bad little boy stealing jam! By night I'll be scared. If
those woods over behind that screen aren't full of large, dignified gods
that disapprove of me being so cheerful and contented and light-minded
and frivolous, I miss my guess!"

"Same here!" said Bob with, a short laugh. "Let's get busy."

They started out that very afternoon from the corner California John had
showed them. It took all that day and most of the following to define
and blaze the boundaries of the first tract they intended to estimate.
In the accomplishment of this they found nothing out of the ordinary;
but when they began to move forward across the forty, they were soon
brought to a halt by the unexpected.

"Look here!" Bob shouted to his companion; "here's a brand new corner
away off the line."

Elliott came over. Bob showed him a stake set neatly in a pile of rocks.

"It's not a very old one, either," said Bob. "Now what do you make of

Elliott had been spying about him.

"There's another just like it over on the hill," said he. "I should call
it the stakes of a mining claim. There ought to be a notice somewhere."

They looked about and soon came across the notice in question. It was
made out in the name of a man neither Bob nor Elliott had ever heard of

"I suppose that's his ledge," remarked Elliott, kicking a little
outcrop, "but it looks like mighty slim mining to me!"

They proceeded with their estimating. In due time they came upon another
mining claim, and then a third.

"This is getting funny!" remarked Elliott. "Looks as though somebody
expected to make a strike for fair. More timber than mineral here, I
should say."

"That's it!" cried Bob, slapping his leg; "I'd just about forgotten!
This must be what Baker was talking about one evening over at camp. He
had some scheme for getting some timber and water rights somewhere under
the mineral act. I didn't pay so very much attention to it at the time,
and it had slipped my mind. But this must be it!"

"Do you mean to say that any man was going to take this beautiful timber
away from us on that kind of a technicality?"

"I believe that's just what he did."

Two days later Elliott straightened his back after a squint through the
compass sights to exclaim:

"I wish we had a dog!"

"Why?" laughed Bob. "Can't you eat your share?"

"I've a feeling that somebody's hanging around these woods; I've had it
ever since we got here. And just now while I was looking through the
sights I thought I saw something--you know how the sights will
concentrate your gaze."

"It's these big woods," said Bob; "I've had the same hunch before.
Besides, you can easily look for tracks along your line of sights."

They did so, but found nothing.

"But among these rocks a man needn't leave any tracks if he didn't want
to," Elliott pointed out.

"The bogy-man's after you," said Bob.

Elliott laughed. Nevertheless, as the work progressed, from time to time
he would freeze to an attitude of listening.

"It's like feeling that there's somebody else in a dark room with you,"
he told Bob.

"You'll end by giving me the willy-willies, too," complained Bob. "I'm
beginning to feel the same way. Quit it!"

By the end of the week it became necessary to go to town after more
supplies. Bob volunteered. He saddled his riding horse and the pack
animal, and set forth. Following California John's directions he traced
the length of the river through the basin to the bald rock where the old
trail was said to begin. Here he anticipated some difficulty in picking
up the trail, and more in following it. To his surprise he ran
immediately into a well-defined path.

"Why, this is as plain as a strip of carpet!" muttered

Bob to himself. "If this is his idea of a dim trail, I'd like to see a
good one!"

He had not ridden far, however, before, in crossing a tiny trickle of
water, he could not fail to notice a clear-cut, recent hoof print. The
mark was that of a barefoot horse. Bob stared at it.

"Now if I were real _good_," he reflected, "like old
what-you-may-call-him--the Arabian Sherlock Holmes--I'd be able to tell
whether this horse was loose and climbing for pasture, or carrying a
rider, and if so, whether the rider had ever had his teeth filled.
There's been a lot of travel on this trail, anyway. I wonder where it
all went to?" He paused irresolutely. "It isn't more than two jumps back
to the rock," he decided; "I'll just find out what direction they take

Accordingly he retraced his steps to the bald rock, and commenced an
examination of its circumference to determine where the trail led away.
He found no such exit. Save from the direction of his own camp the way
was closed either by precipitous sides or dense brush. The conclusion
was unavoidable that those who had travelled the trail, had either ended
their journeys at the bald rock or actually taken to the bed of the

"Well," concluded Bob, "I'm enough of a sleuth to see that that barefoot
horse had a rider and wasn't just looking pasture. No animal in its
senses would hike uphill and then hike down again, or wade belly deep up
a stream."

Puzzling over this mystery, he again took his way down the trail. He
found it easy to follow, for it had been considerably travelled. In some
places the brush had been cut back to open easier passage. Examining
these cuttings, Bob found their raw ends only slightly weathered. All
this might have been done by the men who had staked the mineral claims,
to be sure, but even then Bob found it difficult to reconcile all the
facts. In the first place, the trail had indubitably been much used
since the time the claims were staked. In the second place, if the
prospector had wished to conceal anything, it should have been the fact
of his going to the Basin at all, not his whereabouts after arriving
there. In other words, if desiring to keep his presence secret, he would
have blinded the _beginning_ of the trail rather than its end.

He kept a sharp lookout. Near the entrance to the canon he managed to
discover another clear print of the barefoot horse, but headed the other
way. Clearly the rider had returned. Bob had hunted deer enough to
recognize that the track had been made within the last twenty-four

At Sycamore Flats he was treated to further surprises. Martin, of whom
he bought his supplies, at first greeted him with customary joviality.

"Hullo! hullo!" he cried; "quite a stranger! Out in camp, eh?"

"Yes," said Bob, "they've got us working for a change."

"Where you located?"

"We're estimating timber up in the Basin," replied Bob.

The silence that followed was so intense that Bob looked up from the bag
he was tying. He met Martin's eyes fixed on him.

"The Basin," repeated Martin slowly, at last. "Since when?"

"About ten days."

"We! Who's we?"

"Elliott and I," answered Bob, surprised. "Why?"

Martin's gaze shifted. He plainly hesitated for a next remark.

"How'd you like it there?" he asked lamely, at length. "I thought none
of you fellows ever went there."

"Fine timber," answered Bob, cheerfully. "We don't usually. Somebody
does though. California John told me that trail was old and out of use;
but it's been used a lot. Who gets up there?"

"The boys drive in some cattle occasionally," replied Martin, with an

Bob stared in surprise. He knew this was not so, and started to speak,
but thought better of it. After he had left the store, he looked back.
Martin was gazing after him, a frown between his brows.

Before he left town a half-dozen of the mountain men had asked him, with
an obvious attempt to make the question casual, how he liked the Basin,
how long he thought his work would keep him there. Each, as he turned
away, followed him with that long, speculative, brooding look. Always,
heretofore, his relations with these mountain people had been easy,
sympathetic and cordial. Now all at once, without reason, they held him
at arm's length and regarded him with suspicious if not hostile eyes.

Puzzling over this he rode back up the road past the Power House. Thence
issued Oldham to hail him. He pulled up.

"I hear you're estimating the timber in the Basin," said the gray man,
with more appearance of disturbance than Bob had ever seen him display.

Bob acknowledged the accuracy of his statement.

"Indeed!" said Oldham, pulling at his clipped moustache, and after a
little, "Indeed!" he repeated.

So the news had run ahead of him. Bob began to think the news important,
but for some reason at which he could not as yet guess. This conviction
was strengthened by the fact that from the two mountain cabins he passed
on his way to the beginning of the trail, men lounged out to talk with
him, and in each case the question, craftily rendered casual, was put to
him as to his business in the Basin. Before one of these cabins stood a
sweating horse.

"Look here," he demanded of the Carrolls, "why all this interest about
our being in the Basin? Every man-jack asks me. What's the point?"

Old man Carroll stroked his long beard.

"Do they so?" he drawled comfortably. "Well, I reckon little things make
news, as they say, when you're in a wild country. They ain't been no
work done in the Basin for so long that we're all just nat'rally
interested; that's all."

He looked Bob tranquilly in the eye with the limpid gaze of innocence
before which Bob's scrutiny fell abashed. For a while his suspicions of
anything unusual were almost lulled; the countryside _was_ proverbially
curious of anything out of the course of events. Then, from a point
midway up the steep trail, he just happened to look back, and just
happened through an extraordinary combination of openings to catch a
glimpse of a rider on the trail. The man was far below. Bob watched a
long time, his eye fixed on another opening. Nothing appeared. From
somewhere in the canon a coyote shrilled. Another answered him from up
the mountain. A moment later Bob again saw the rider through the same
opening as before, but this time descending.

"A signal!" he exclaimed, in reference to the coyote howls.

On arriving at the bare rock, he dismounted and hastily looked it over
on all sides. Near the stream it had been splashed. A tiny eddy out of
reach of the current still held mud in suspension.


On his arrival at camp he found Elliott much interested over discoveries
of his own. It seemed that the Easterner had spent the afternoon
fishing. At one point, happening to look up, he caught sight of a man
surveying him intently from a thicket. As he stared, the man drew back
and disappeared.

"I couldn't see him very plainly," said Elliott. "He had a beard and an
old gray hat; but that doesn't mean much of course. When I got my nerve
up, and had concluded to investigate, I could hardly find a trace of
him. He must wear moccasins, I think."

In return Bob detailed his own experiences. The two could make nothing
of it all.

"If we were down South I'd say 'moonshiners,'" said Elliott, "but the
beautiful objection to that is, that we aren't!"

"It's some mystery to do with the Basin," said Bob, "and the whole
countryside is 'on'--except our boys. I don't believe California John
knew a thing about it."

"Didn't act so. Question: what possibly could everybody in the mountains
be interested in that the Forest Service would object to?"

"Lots of things," replied Bob promptly, "but I don't believe the
mountains are unfriendly to us--as a unit. I know Martin isn't, and he
was the first one I noticed as particularly worried."

Elliott reflected.

"If he's so friendly, perhaps he was a little uneasy about _us_," he
suggested at length. "If somebody doesn't want the Forest Service in
this neck of the woods--if that somebody is relying on the fact that we
never come down in here farther than the lookout, why then it may not be
very healthy here."

"Hadn't thought of that," said Bob. "That looks cheerful. But what's the
point? Nine-tenths of this timber is private property anyway. There's
certainly no trespass--sheep, timber or otherwise--on the government
land. What in blazes is the point?"

"Give it up; but we'd better wear our guns."

Bob laughed.

"I'd have a healthy show against a man who really wanted to get me with
a gun. Presumably he'd be an expert, or he wouldn't be sent."

It was agreed, however, "in view of the unsettled state of the country,"
as Bob gravely characterized the situation, that the young men should
stick together in their work.

"There's no use taking chances, of course," Bob summed up, "but there's
no sense in making fools of ourselves, either. Lord love you, I don't
mind being _haunted_! They can spring as many mysterious apparitions as
they please, so long as said apparitions don't take to heaving bricks.
We'd look sweet and lovely, wouldn't we, to go back to headquarters and
tell them we'd decided to come in because a bad man with whiskers who'd
never been introduced came and looked at us out of the trees."

In pursuance of this determination Bob and Elliott combined forces
closely in their next day's work. That this was not a useless precaution
early became apparent. As, momentarily separated by a few feet, they
passed a dense thicket, Bob was startled by a low whistle. He looked up.
Within fifty feet of him, but so far in the shadow as to be
indistinguishable, a man peered at him. As he caught Bob's eyes he made
a violent gesture whose purport Bob could not guess.

"Did you whistle?" asked Elliott at his elbow. "What's up?"

Bob pointed; but the man had vanished. Where he had stood they found the
print of moccasins.

Thrice during the day they were interrupted by this mysterious presence.
On each occasion Bob saw him first. Always he gestured, but whether in
warning or threat Bob could not tell. Each time be vanished as though
the earth had swallowed him the instant Elliott turned at Bob's

"I believe he's crazy!" exclaimed Elliott impatiently.

"I'd think so, too," replied Bob, "if it weren't for the way everybody
acted down below. Do you suppose he's trying to warn us out or scare us

"I'm going to take a crack at him next time he shows up," threatened
Elliott. "I'm getting sick of this."

"No, you can't do that," warned Bob.

"I'm going to tell him so anyway."

"That's all right."

For this experiment they had not long to await the opportunity.

"Hi, there!" shouted Elliott at the place from which the mysterious
apparition had disappeared; "I give you fair warning! Step out and
declare yourself peaceably or accept the consequences. If you show
yourself again after five minutes are up, I'll open fire!"

The empty forest gave no sign. For an hour nothing happened. Then all at
once, when Elliott was entangled in a tiny thicket close at Bob's elbow,
the latter was startled by the appearance of the man not ten feet away.
He leaped apparently from below a rounded rock, and now stood in full
view of its crown. Bob had time only to catch cognizance of a blue eye
and a long beard, to realize that the man was saying something rapidly
and in a low voice, when Elliott's six-shooter exploded so near his ear
as almost to deafen him. At the report the man toppled backward off the

"Good Lord! You've killed him!" cried Bob.

"I did not; I fired straight up!" panted Elliott, dashing past him.
"Quick! We'll catch him!"

But catch him nor see him again they did not.

Ten minutes later while working in a wide open stretch of forest, they
were brought to a stand by the report of a rifle. At the same instant
the shock of a bullet threw a shower of dead pine needles and humus over
Elliott. Another and another followed, until six had thudded into the
soft earth at the young man's feet. He stood quite motionless, and
though he went a little pale, his coolness did not desert him. After the
sixth shot silence fell abruptly. Elliott stood still for some moments,
then moved forward a single step.

"Guess the show's over," he remarked with a curt laugh. He stooped to
examine the excavation the bullets had made. "Quaint cuss," he remarked
a trifle bitterly. "Just wanted to show me how easy it would be. All
right, my friend, I'm obliged to you. We'll quit the gun racket; but
next time you show your pretty face I'll give you a run for it."

"And get shot," interposed Bob.

"If it's shoot, we'll get ours any minute. Say," went on the young man
in absolutely conversational tones, "don't you see I'm mad?"

Bob looked and saw.

"Maybe you think shooting at me is one of my little niece's favourite
summer-day stunts?" went on Elliott. "Well, uncle isn't used to it yet."

His tone was quiet, but his eyes burned and the muscles around his mouth
were white.

"He's probably crazy, and he's armed," Bob pointed out. "For heaven's
sake, go slow."

"I'm going to paddle his pantalettes, if he commands a gatling," stated

But the mysterious visitor appeared no more that afternoon, and
Elliott's resolutions had time to settle.

That night the young men turned in rather earlier than usual, as they
were very tired. Bob immediately dropped into a black sleep. So deep was
his slumber that it seemed to him he had just dropped off, when he was
awakened by a cool hand placed across his forehead. He opened his eyes
quietly, without alarm, to look full into the waning moon sailing high
above. His first drowsy motion was one of astonishment, for the luminary
had not arisen when he had turned in. The camp fire had fallen to a few
faintly glowing coals. These perceptions came to him so gently that he
would probably have dropped asleep again had not the touch on his
forehead been repeated. Then he started broad awake to find himself
staring at a silhouetted man leaning over him.

With a gesture of caution, the stranger motioned him to arise. Bob
obeyed mechanically. The man bent toward him.

"Put on your pants and sweater and come along," he whispered guardedly.

Bob peered at him through the moonlight and recognized, vaguely, the man
who had been so mysteriously pursuing them all day. He drew back.

"For the Lord's sake do what I tell you!" whispered the man. "Here!"

His hand sought the shadow of his side, and instantly gleamed with a
weapon. Bob started back; but the man was holding the revolver's butt to

"Now come on!" besought the stranger with a strange note of pleading.
"Don't wake your pardner!"

Yielding, with a pleasant thrill, to the adventure of the situation, and
it must be confessed, to a strong curiosity, Bob hastily assumed his
outer clothing. Then, with the muzzle of the revolver, he motioned the
stranger to proceed.

Stepping cautiously they gained the open forest beyond the screen of
brush. Here the man led the way more rapidly. Bob followed close at his
heels. They threaded the forest aisles without hesitation, crossed a
deep ravine where the man paused to drink, and began to clamber the
precipitous and rocky sides of Baldy.

"That'll do for that!" growled Bob suddenly.

The man looked around as though for information.

"You needn't go so fast. Keep about three feet in front of me. And when
we strike your gang, you keep close to me. _Sabe_?"

"I'm alone," expostulated the man.

Nevertheless he slackened pace.

After five minutes' climb they entered a narrow ravine gashed almost
perpendicularly in the side of the mountain. At this point, however, it
flattened for perhaps fifty paces, so that there existed a tiny
foothold. It was concealed from every point, and nevertheless, directly
to the west, Bob, pausing for breath, looked out over California
slumbering in the moon. On this ledge flowed a tiny stream, and over it
grew a score of cedar and fir trees. A fire smouldered near an open
camp. On this the man tossed a handful of pitch pine. Immediately the
flames started up.

"Here we are!" he remarked aloud.

"Yes, I see we are," replied Bob, looking suspiciously about him, "but
what does all this mean?"

"I couldn't get to talk with you no other way, could I?" said the man in
tones of complaint; "I sure tried hard enough! But you and your pardner
stick closer than brothers."

"If you wanted to speak to me, why didn't you say so?" demanded Bob, his
temper rising.

"Well, I don't know who your pardner is, or whether he's reliable, nor
nothin'. A man can't be too careful. I thought mebbe you'd make a chance
yourself, so I kept giving you a show to. 'Course I didn't want to be
seen by him."

"Not seen by him!" broke in Bob impatiently. "What in blazes are you
driving at! Explain yourself!"

"I showed myself plain only to you--except when he cut loose that time
with his fool six-shooter. I thought he was further in the brush. Why
didn't you make a chance to talk?"

"Why should I?" burst out Bob. "Will you kindly explain to me why I
should make a chance to talk to you; and why I've been dragged out here
in the dead of night?"

"No call to get mad," expostulated the man in rather discouraged tones;
"I just thought as how mebbe you was still feeling friendly-like. My
mistake. But I reckon you won't be giving me away anyhow?"

During this speech he had slowly produced from his hip pocket a frayed
bandana handkerchief; as slowly taken off his hat and mopped his brow.

The removal of the floppy and shady old sombrero exposed to the mingled
rays of the fire and the moon the man's full features. Heretofore, Bob
had been able to see indistinctly only the meagre facts of a heavy beard
and clear eyes.

"George Pollock!" he cried, dropping the revolver and leaping forward
with both hands outstretched.


Pollock took his hands, but stared at him puzzled. "Surely!" he said at
last. His clear blue eyes slowly widened and became bigger. "Honest!
Didn't you know me! Is that what ailed you, Bobby? I thought you'd done
clean gone back on me; and I sure always remembered you for a friend!"

"Know you!" shouted Bob. "Why, you eternal old fool, how should I know

"You might have made a plumb good guess."

"Oh, sure!" said Bob; "easiest thing in the world. Guess that the first
shadow you see in the woods is a man you thought was in Mexico."

"Didn't you know I was here?" demanded Pollock earnestly. "Sure pop?"

"How should I know?" asked Bob again.

George Pollock's blue eyes smouldered with anger.

"I'll sure tan that promising nephew of mine!" he threatened; "I've done
sent you fifty messages by him. Didn't he never give you none of them?"

"Who; Jack?"

"That's the whelp."

Bob laughed.

"That's a joke," said he; "I've been bunking with him for a year. Nary

"I told Carroll and Martin and one or two more to tell you."

"I guess they're suspicious of any but the mountain people," said Bob.
"They're right. How could they know?"

"That's right, they couldn't," agreed George reluctantly. "But I done
told them you was my friend. And I thought you'd gone back on me sure."

"Not an inch!" cried Bob, heartily.

George kicked the logs of the fire together, filled the coffee pot at
the creek, hung it over the blaze, and squatted on his heels. Bob tossed
him a sack of tobacco which he caught.

"Thought you were bound for Mexico," hazarded Bob at length.

"I went," said Pollock shortly, "and I came back."

"Yes," said Bob after a time.

"Homesick," said Pollock; "plain homesick. Wasn't so bad that-a-way at
first. I was desp'rit. Took a job punching with a cow outfit near
Nogales. Worked myself plumb out every day, and slept hard all night,
and woke up in the morning to work myself plumb out again."

He fished a coal from the fire and deftly flipped it atop his pipe bowl.
After a dozen deep puffs, he continued:

"Never noticed the country; had nothing to do with the people. All I
knew was brands and my bosses. Did good enough cow work, I reckon. For a
fact, it was mebbe half a year before I begun to look around. That
country is worse than over Panamit way. There's no trees; there's no
water; there's no green grass; there's no folks; there's no nothin'! The
mountains look like they're made of paper. After about a half year, as I
said, I took note of all this, but I didn't care. What the hell
difference did it make to me what the country was like? I hadn't no
theories to that. I'd left all that back here."

He looked at Bob questioningly, unwilling to approach nearer his tragedy
unless it was necessary. Bob nodded.

"Then I begun to dream. Things come to me. I'd see places plain--like
the falls at Cascadell--and smell things. For a fact, I smelt azaleas
plain and sweet once; and woke up in the damndest alkali desert you ever
see. I thought I'd never want to see this country again; the farther I
got away, the more things I'd forget. You understand."

Again Bob nodded.

"It wasn't that way. The farther off I got, the more I remembered. So
one day I cashed in and come back."

He paused for some time, gazing meditatively on the coffee pot bubbling
over the fire.

"It's good to get back!" he resumed at last. "It smells good; it tastes
good. For a while that did me well enough.... I used to sneak down
nights and look at my old place.... In summer I go back to Jim and the
cattle, but it's dangerous these days. The towerists is getting thicker,
and you can't trust everybody, even among the mountain folks."

"How many know you are back here?" asked Bob.

"Mighty few; Jim and his family knows, of course, and Tom Carroll and
Martin and a few others. They ride up trail to the flat rock sometimes
bringing me grub and papers. But it's plumb lonesome. I can't go on
livin' this way forever, and I can't leave this yere place. Since I have
been living here it seems like--well, I ain't no call as I can see it to
desert my wife dead or alive!" he declared stoutly.

"You needn't explain," said Bob.

George Pollock turned to him with sudden relief.

"Well, you know about such things. What am I to do?"

"There are only two courses that I can see," answered Bob, after
reflection, "outside the one you're following now. You can give yourself
up to the authorities and plead guilty. There's a chance that mitigating
circumstances will influence the judge to give you a light sentence; and
there's always a possibility of a pardon. When all the details are made
known there ought to be a good show for getting off easy."

"What's the other?" demanded Pollock, who had listened with the closest

"The other is simply to go back home."

"They'd arrest me."

"Let them," said Bob. "Plead not guilty, and take your chances on the
trial. Their evidence is circumstantial; you don't have to incriminate
yourself; I doubt if a jury would agree on convicting you. Have you ever
talked with anybody about--about that morning?"

"About me killing Plant?" supplied Pollock tranquilly. "No. A man don't
ask about those things."

"Not even to Jim?"

"No. We just sort of took all that for granted."

"Well, that would be all right. Then if they're called on the stand,
they can tell nothing. There are at least no witnesses to the deed

"There's you----" suggested George.

Bob brought up short in his train of reasoning.

"But you won't testify agin me?"

"There's no reason why I should be called. Nobody even knows I was out
of bed at that time. If my name happens to be mentioned--which isn't at
all likely--Auntie Belle or a dozen others will volunteer that I was in
bed, like the rest of the town. There's no earthly reason to connect me
with it."

"But if you are called?" persisted the mountaineer.

"Then I'll have to tell the truth, of course," said Bob soberly; "it'll
be under oath, you know."

Pollock looked at him strangely askant.

"I didn't much look to hear you talk that-a-way," said he.

"George," said Bob, "this will take money. Have you any?"

"I've some," replied the mountaineer sulkily.

"How much?"

"A hundred dollars or so."

"Not enough by a long patch. You must let me help you on this."

"I don't need no help," said Pollock.

"You let me help you once before," Bob reminded him gently, "if it was
only to hold a horse."

"By God, that's right!" burst out George Pollock, "and I'm a fool! If
they call you on the stand, don't you lie under oath for me! I don't
believe you'd do it for yourself; and that's what I'm going to do for
myself. I reckon I'll just plead guilty!"

"Don't be in a hurry," Bob warned him. "It isn't a matter to go off
half-cock on. Any man would have done what you did. I'd have done it
myself. That's why I stood by you. I'm not sure you aren't right to take
advantage of what the law can do for you. Plenty do just that with only
the object of acquiring other people's dollars. I don't say it's right
in theory; but in this case it may be eternally right in practice. Go
slow on deciding."

"You're sure a good friend, Bobby," said Pollock simply.

"Whatever you decide, don't even mention my name to any one," warned
Bob. "We don't want to get me connected with the case in any man's mind.
Hardly let on you remember to have known me. Don't overdo it though.
You'll want a real good lawyer. I'll find out about that. And the
money--how'll we fix it?"

George thought for a moment.

"Fix it with Jack," said he at length. "He'll stay put. Tell him not to
tell his own father. He won't. He's reliable."


"Well, I'm risking my neck on it."

"I'll simply tell him the name of the lawyer," decided Bob, "and get him
actual cash."

"I'll pay that back--the other I can't," said Pollock with sudden
feeling. "Here, have a cup of coffee."

Bob swallowed the hot coffee gratefully. Without speaking further,
Pollock arose and led the way. When finally they had reached the open
forest above the camp, the mountaineer squeezed Bob's fingers hard.

"Good-bye," said the younger man in a guarded voice. "I won't see you
again. Remember, even at best it's a long wait in jail. Think it over
before you decide!"

"I'm in jail here," replied Pollock.

Bob walked thoughtfully to camp. He found a fire burning and Elliott

"Thank God, you're here!" cried that young man; "I was getting scared
for you. What's up?"

"You are and I am," replied Bob. "Couldn't sleep, so I went for a walk.
Think that bogy-man of yours had got me?"

"I surely began to."

"Nothing doing. I guess I can snooze a little now."

"I can't," complained Elliott. "You've got me good and waked up,
confound you!"

Bob kicked off his boots, and without further disrobing rolled himself
into his gray blanket. As he was dropping asleep two phrases flashed
across his brain. They were: "compounding a felony," and "accessory
after the fact."

"Don't feel much like a criminal either," murmured Bob to himself; and
after a moment: "Poor devil!"


Two days later, from the advantage of the rock designated by California
John, Elliott reported the agreed signal for their recall. Accordingly,
they packed together their belongings and returned to headquarters.

"We're getting short-handed, and several things have come up," said
Thorne. "I have work for both of you."

Having dispatched Elliott, Thorne turned to Bob.

"Orde," said he, "I'm going to try you out on a very delicate matter. At
the north end lives an old fellow named Samuels. He and his family are
living on a place inside the National forests. He took it up years ago,
mainly for the timber, but he's one of these hard-headed old coons
that's 'agin the Government,' on general principles. He never proved up,
and when his attention was called to the fact, he refused to do
anything. No reason why not, except that 'he'd always lived there and
always would.' You know the kind."

"Ought to--put in two years in the Michigan woods," said Bob.

"Well, as a matter of fact, he gave up the claim to all intents and
purposes, but now that the Yellow Pine people are cutting up toward him,
he's suddenly come to the notion that the place is worth while. So he's
patched up his cabin, and moved in his whole family. We've got to get a
relinquishment out of him."

"If he has no right there, why not put him off?" asked Bob.

"Well, in the first place, this Samuels is a hard old citizen with a
shotgun; in the second place, he has some shadow of right on which he
could make a fight; in the third place, the country up that way doesn't
care much for us anyway, and we want to minimize opposition."

"I see," said Bob.

"You'll have to go up and look the ground over, that's all. Do what you
think best. Here are all the papers in the matter. You can look them
over at your leisure."

Bob tucked the bundle of papers in his _cantinas_, or pommel bags, and
left the office. Amy was rattling the stove in her open-air kitchen,
shaking down the ashes preparatory to the fire. Bob stopped to look
across at her trim, full figure in its starched blue, immaculate as

"Hullo, Colonel!" he called. "How are the legions of darkness and
ignorance standing the cannonading these days? Funny paper any new

This last was in reference to Amy's habit of reading the Congressional
Record in search of speeches or legislation affecting the forests. Bob
stoutly maintained, and nobody but Amy disputed him, that she was the
only living woman, in or out of captivity, known to read that series of

Amy shook her head, without looking up.

"What's the matter?" asked Bob solicitously. "Nothing wrong with the
Hero, nor any of the Assistant Heroes?"

Thus in their banter were designated the President, and such senators as
stood behind his policies of conservation.

"Then the villains must have been saying a few triumphant ha! has!"
pursued Bob, referring to Fulton, Clark, Heyburn and the rest of the
senatorial representatives of the anti-conservationists. "Or is it
merely the stove? Let me help."

Amy stood upright, and thrust back her hair.

"Please don't," said she. "I don't feel like joking to-day."

"It _is_ something!" cried Bob. "I do beg your pardon; I didn't realize
... you know I'd like to help, if it's anything I can do."

"It is nothing to do with any of us," said Amy, seating herself for a
moment, and letting her hands fall in her lap. "It's just some news that
made me feel sorry. Ware came up with the mail a little while ago, and
he tells us that George Pollock has suddenly reappeared and is living
down at his own place."

"They've arrested him!" cried Bob.

"Not yet; but they will. The sheriff has been notified. Of course, his
friends warned him in time; but he won't go. Says he intends to stay."

"Then he'll go to jail."

"And to prison. What chance has a poor fellow like that without money or
influence? All he has is his denial."

"Then he denies?" asked Bob eagerly.

"Says he knows nothing about Plant's killing. His wife died that same
morning, and he went away because he could not stand it. That's his
story; but the evidence is strong against him, poor fellow."

"Do you believe him?" asked Bob.

Amy swung her foot, pondering.

"No," she said at last. "I believe he killed Plant; and I believe he did
right! Plant killed his wife and child, and took away all his property.
That's what it amounted to."

"There are hardships worked in any administration," Bob pointed out.

Amy looked at him slowly.

"You don't believe that in this case," she pronounced at last.

"Then Pollock will perjure himself," suggested Bob, to try her.

"And if he has friends worth the name, they'll perjure themselves, too!"
cried Amy boldly. "They'll establish an alibi, they'll invent a murderer
for Plant, they'll do anything for a man as persecuted and hunted as
poor George Pollock!"

"Heavens!" returned Bob, genuinely aghast at this wholesale programme.
"What would become of morals and honour and law and all the rest of it,
if that sort of thing obtained?"

"Law?" Amy caught him up. "Law? It's become foolish. No man lives
capable of mastering it so completely that another man cannot find flaws
in his best efforts. Reuf and Schmitz are guilty--everybody says so,
even themselves. Why aren't they in jail? Because of the law. Don't talk
to me of law!"

"But how about ordinary mortals? You can't surely permit a man to lie in
a court of justice just because he thinks his friend's cause is just!"

"I don't know anything about it," sighed Amy, as though weary all at
once, "except that it isn't right. The law should be a great and wise
judge, humane and sympathetic. George Pollock should be able to go to
that judge and say: 'I killed Plant, because he had done me an injury
for which the perpetrator should suffer death. He was permitted to do
this because of the deficiency of the law.' And he should be able to say
it in all confidence that he would be given justice, eternal justice,
and not a thing so warped by obscure and forgotten precedents that it
fits nothing but some lawyer's warped notion of logic!"

"Whew!" whistled Bob, "what a lady of theory and erudition it is!"

Amy eyed him doubtfully, then smiled.

"I'm glad you happened along," said she. "I feel better. Now I believe
I'll be able to do something with my biscuits."

"I could do justice to some of them," remarked Bob, "and it would be the
real thing without any precedents in that line whatever."

"Come around later and you'll have the chance," invited Amy, again
addressing herself to the stove.

Still smiling at this wholesale and feminine way of leaping directly to
a despotically desired ideal result, Bob took the trail to his own camp.
Here he found Jack Pollock poring over an old illustrated paper.

"Hullo, Jack!" he called cheerfully. "Not out on duty, eh?"

"I come in," said Jack, rising to his feet and folding the old paper
carefully. He said nothing more, but stood eyeing his colleague gravely.

"You want something of me?" asked Bob.

"No," denied Jack, "I don't know nothing I want of you. But I was told
to come and get a piece of paper and maybe some money that a stranger
was goin' to leave by our chimbley. It ain't there. You ain't seen it,
by any chance?"

"It may have got shoved among some of my things by mistake," replied Bob
gravely. "I haven't had a chance of looking. I'm just in from the
Basin." At these last words he looked at Jack keenly, but that young
man's expression remained inscrutable. "I'll look when I get back," he
continued after a moment; "just now I've got to ride over to the mill to
see Mr. Welton."

Jack nodded gravely.

"If you find them, leave them by the chimbley," said he. "I'm going to

Bob rode to the mill. By the exercise of some diplomacy he brought the
conversation to good lawyers without arousing Welton's suspicions that
he could have any personal interest in the matter.

"Erbe's head and shoulders above the rest," said Welton. "He has half
the business. He's for Baker's interests, and our own; and he's shrewd.
Maybe you'll get into trouble yourself some day, Bob. Better send for
him. He's the greatest criminal lawyer in the business."

Bob laughed heartily with his old employer. From Poole he easily
obtained currency for his personal check of two hundred dollars. This
would do to go on with for the time being. He wrote Erbe's name and
address--in a disguised hand--on a piece of rough brown paper. This he
wrapped around the money, and deposited by the alarm clock on the rough
log mantelpiece of his cabin. The place was empty. When he had returned
from his invited supper with the Thornes, the package had disappeared.
He did not again catch sight of Jack Pollock, for next morning he
started out on his errand to the north end.


At noon of the second day of a journey that led him up the winding
watered valleys of the lower ranges, Bob surmounted a ridge higher than
the rest and rode down a long, wide slope. Here the character of the
country changed completely. Scrub oaks, young pines and chaparral
covered the ground. Among this growth Bob made out the ancient stumps of
great trees. The ranch houses were built of sawn lumber, and possessed
brick chimneys. In appearance they seemed midway between the farm houses
of the older settled plains and the rougher cabins of the mountaineers.

Bob continued on a dusty road until he rode into a little town which he
knew must be Durham. Its main street contained three stores, two
saloons, a shady tree, a windmill and watering trough and a dozen
chair-tilted loafers. A wooden sidewalk shaded by a wooden awning ran
the entire length of this collection of commercial enterprises. A
redwood hitching rail, much chewed, flanked it. Three saddle horses, and
as many rigs, dozed in the sun.

Bob tied his saddle horse to the rail, leaving the pack animal to its
own devices. Without attention to the curious stares of the loafers, he
pushed into the first store, and asked directions of the proprietor. The
man, a type of the transplanted Yankee, pushed the spectacles up over
his forehead, and coolly surveyed his questioner from head to foot
before answering.

"I see you're a ranger," he remarked drily. "Well, I wouldn't go to
Samuels's if I was you. He's give it out that he'll kill the next ranger
that sets foot on his place."

"I've heard that sort of talk before," replied Bob impatiently.

"Samuels means what he says," stated the storekeeper. "He drove off the
last of you fellows with a shotgun--and he went too."

"You haven't told me how to get there," Bob pointed out.

"All you have to do is to turn to the right at the white church and
follow your nose," replied the man curtly.

"How far is it?"

"About four mile."

"Thank you," said Bob, and started out.

The man let him get to the door.

"Say, you!" he called.

Bob stopped.

"You might be in better business than to turn a poor man out of his
house and home."

Bob did not wait to hear the rest. As he untied his saddle horse, a man
brushed by him with what was evidently intentional rudeness, for he
actually jostled Bob's shoulder. The man jerked loose the tie rein of
his own mount, leaped to the saddle, and clattered away. Bob noticed
that he turned to the right at the white church.

The four-mile ride, Bob discovered, was almost straight up. At the end
of it he found himself well elevated above the valley, and once more in
the sugar-pine belt. The road wound among shades of great trees. Piles
of shakes, gleaming and fragrant, awaited the wagon. Rude signs, daubed
on the riven shingles, instructed the wayfarer that this or that dim
track through the forest led to So-and-so's shake camp.

It was by now after four of the afternoon. Bob met nobody on the road,
but he saw in the dust fresh tracks which he shrewdly surmised to be
those of the man who had jostled him. Samuels had his warning. The
mountaineer would be ready. Bob had no intention of delivering a frontal

He rode circumspectly, therefore, until he discerned an opening in the
forest. Here he dismounted. The opening, of course, might be only that
of a natural meadow, but in fact proved to be the homestead claim of
which Bob was in search.

The improvements consisted of a small log cabin with a stone and mud
chimney; a log stable slightly larger in size; a rickety fence made
partly of riven pickets, partly of split rails, but long since weathered
and rotted; and what had been a tiny orchard of a score of apple trees.
At some remote period this orchard had evidently been cultivated, but
now the weeds and grasses grew rank and matted around neglected trees.
The whole place was down at the heels. Tin cans and rusty baling wire
strewed the back yard; an ill-cared-for wagon stood squarely in front;
broken panes of glass in the windows had been replaced respectively by
an old straw hat and the dirty remains of overalls. The supports of the
little verandah roof sagged crazily. Over it clambered a vine. Close
about drew the forest. That was it: the forest! The "homestead" was a
mere hovel; the cultivation a patch; the improvements sketchy and
ancient; but the forest, become valuable for lumber where long it had
been considered available only for shakes, furnished the real motive for
this desperate attempt to rehabilitate old and lapsed rights.

The place was populous enough, for all its squalor. A half-dozen small
children, scantily clothed, swarmed amongst the tin cans; two women, one
with a baby in her arms, appeared and disappeared through the low
doorway of the cabin; a horse or two dozed among the trees of the
neglected orchard; chickens scratched everywhere. Square in the middle
of the verandah, in a wooden chair, sat an old man whom Bob guessed to
be Samuels. He sat bolt upright, facing the front, his knees spread
apart, his feet planted solidly. A patriarchal beard swept his great
chest; thick, white hair crowned his head; bushy white brows, like
thatch, overshadowed his eyes. Even at the distance, Bob could imagine
the deep-set, flashing, vigorous eyes of the old man. For everything
about him, save the colour of his hair and beard, bespoke great vigour.
His solidly planted attitude in his chair, the straight carriage of his
back, the set of his shoulders, the very poise of his head told of the
power and energy of an autocrat. Across his knees rested a shotgun.

As Bob watched, a tall youth sauntered around the corner of the cabin.
He spoke to the old man. Samuels did not look around, but nodded his
massive head. The young man disappeared in the cabin to return after a
moment, accompanied by the individual Bob had seen in Durham. The two
spoke again to the old man; then sauntered off in the direction of the

Bob returned, untied his horse; and, leading that animal, approached the
cabin afoot. No sooner had he emerged into view when the old man arose
and came squarely and uncompromisingly to meet him. The two encountered
perhaps fifty yards from the cabin door.

Bob found that a closer inspection of his antagonist rather strengthened
than diminished the impression of force. The old man's eyes were
flashing fire, and his great chest rose and fell rapidly. He held his
weapon across the hollow of his left arm, but the muscles of his right
hand were white with the power of his grip.

"Get out of here!" he fairly panted at Bob. "I warned you fellows!"

Bob replied calmly.

"I came in to see if I could get to stay for supper, and to feed my

At this the old man exploded in a violent rage. He ordered Bob off the
place instantly, and menaced him with his shotgun. Had Bob been mounted,
Samuels would probably have shot him; but the mere position of a
horseman afoot conveys subtly an impression of defencelessness that is
difficult to overcome. He is, as it were, anchored to the spot, and at
the other man's mercy. Samuels raged, but he did not shoot.

At the sounds of altercation, however, the whole hive swarmed. The
numerous children scuttled for cover like quail, but immediately peered
forth again. The two women thrust their heads from the doorway. From the
direction of the stable the younger men came running. One of them held a
revolver in his hand.

During all this turmoil and furore Bob had stood perfectly still, saying
no word. Provided he did nothing to invite it, he was now safe from
personal violence. To be sure, a very slight mistake would invite it.
Bob waited patiently.

He remembered, and was acting upon, a conversation he had once held with
Ware. The talk had fallen on gunfighting, and Bob, as usual, was trying
to draw Ware out. The latter was, also, as usual, exceedingly reticent
and disinclined to open up.

"What would you do if a man got your hands up?" chaffed Bob.

Ware turned on him quick as a flash.

"No man ever got my hands up!"

"No?" said Bob, hugely delighted at the success of his stratagem. "What
do you do, then, when a man gets the cold drop on you?"

But now Ware saw the trap into which his feet were leading him, and drew
back into his shell.

"Oh, shoot out, or bluff out," said he briefly.

"But look here, Ware," insisted Bob, "it's all very well to talk like
that. But suppose a man actually has his gun down on you. How can you
'shoot out or bluff out'?"

Ware suddenly became serious.

"No man," said he, "can hold a gun on you for over ten seconds without
his eyes flickering. It's too big a strain. He don't let go for mor'n
about the hundredth part of a second. After that he has holt again for
another ten seconds, and will pull trigger if you bat an eyelash. _But
if you take it when his eyes flicker, and are quick, you'll get him!_"

"What about the other way around?" asked Bob.

"I never pulled a gun unless I meant to shoot," said Ware grimly.

The practical philosophy of this Bob was now utilizing. If he had ridden
up boldly, Samuels would probably have shot him from the saddle. Having
gained the respite, Bob now awaited the inevitable momentary relaxing
from this top pitch of excitement. It came.

"I have not the slightest intention of tacking up any notices or serving
any papers," he said quietly, referring to the errand of the man whom
Samuels had driven off at the point of his weapon. "I am travelling on
business; and I asked for shelter and supper."

"No ranger sets foot on my premises," growled Samuels.

"Very well," said Bob, unpinning and pocketing his pine tree badge.
(_"Oh, I'd have died rather than do that!" cried Amy when she heard.
"I'd have stuck to my guns!" "Heroic, but useless," replied her brother
drily._) "I don't care whether the ranger is fed or not. But I'm a lot
interested in me. I ask you as a man, not as an official."

"Your sort ain't welcome here; and if you ain't got sense enough to see
it, you got to be shown!" the youngest man broke in roughly.

Bob turned to him calmly.

"I am not asking your sufferance," said he, "nor would I eat where I am
not welcome. I am asking Mr. Samuels to bid me welcome. If he will not
do so, I will ride on." He turned to the old man again. "Do you mean to
tell me that the North End is so far behind the South End in common
hospitality? We've fed enough men at the Wolverine Company in our time."

Bob let fly this shaft at a venture. He knew how many passing
mountaineers paused for a meal at the cook house, and surmised it
probable that at least one of his three opponents might at some time
have stopped there. This proved to be the case.

"Are you with the Wolverine Company?" demanded the man who had jostled

"I was for some years in charge of the woods."

"I've et there. You can stay to supper," said Samuels ungraciously.

He turned sharp on his heel and marched back to the cabin, leaving Bob
to follow with his horse. The two younger men likewise went about their
business. Bob found himself quite alone, with only this ungracious
permission to act on.

Nevertheless, quite imperturbably, Bob unsaddled, led his animal into
the dark stable, threw it some of the wild hay stacked therein, washed
himself in the nearby creek, and took his station on the deserted
verandah. The twilight fell. Some of the children ventured into sight,
but remained utterly unmoved by the young man's tentative advances. He
heard people moving about inside, but no one came near him. Finally,
just at dusk, the youngest man protruded his head from the doorway.

"Come to supper," said he surlily.

Bob ducked his head to enter a long, low room. Its walls were of the
rough logs; its floor of hewn timbers; its ceiling of round beams on
which had been thrown untrimmed slabs as a floor to the loft above. A
board table stood in the centre of this, flanked by homemade chairs and
stools of all varieties of construction. A huge iron cooking stove
occupied all of one end--an extraordinary piece of ordnance. The light
from a single glass lamp cast its feeble illumination over coarse dishes
steaming with food.

Bob bowed politely to the two women, who stood, their arms crossed on
their stomachs, without deigning his salutation the slightest attention.
The children, of all sizes and ages, stared at him unblinking. The two
men shuffled to their seats, without looking up at the visitor. Only the
old man vouchsafed him the least notice....

"Set thar!" he growled, indicating a stool.

Bob found on the board that abundance and variety which always so much
surprises the stranger to a Sierra mountaineer's cabin. Besides the
usual bacon, beans, and bread, there were dishes of canned string-beans
and corn, potatoes, boiled beef, tomatoes and pressed glass dishes of
preserves. Coffee, hot as fire, and strong as lye, came in thick china
cups without handles.

The meal went forward in absolute silence, which Bob knew better than to
interrupt. It ended for each as he or she finished eating. The two women
were left at the last quite alone. Bob followed his host to the veranda.
There he silently offered the old man a cigar; the younger men had

Samuels took the cigar with a grunt of thanks, smelled it carefully, bit
an inch off the end, and lit it with a slow-burning sulphur match. Bob
also lit up.

For one hour and a half--two cigars apiece--the two sat side by side
without uttering a syllable. The velvet dark drew close. The heavens
sparkled as though frosted with light. Bob, sitting tight on what he
knew was the one and only plan to accomplish his purpose, began to
despair of his chance. Of his companion he could make out dimly only the
white of his hair and beard, the glowing fire of his cigar. Inside the
house the noises made by the inhabitants thereof increased and died
away; evidently the household was seeking its slumber. A tree-toad
chirped, loudest in all the world of stillness.

Suddenly, without warning, the old man scraped back his chair. Bob's
heart leaped. Was his one chance escaping him? Then to his relief
Samuels spoke. The long duel of silence was at an end.


"What might your name be?" inquired Samuels.


"I heerd of you ... what might you be doing up here?"

"I'm just riding through."

"Best thing any of you can do," commented the old man grimly.

"I wish you'd tell me now why you jumped on me so this evening," said

"If you don't know, you're a fool," growled Samuels.

"I've knocked around a good deal," persisted Bob, "and I've discovered
that one side always sounds good until you hear the other man's story.
I've only heard one side of this one."

"And that's all you're like to hear," Samuels told him. "You don't get
no evidence out of me against myself."

Bob laughed.

"You're mighty suspicious--and I don't know as I blame you. Bless your
soul, what evidence do you suppose I could get from you in a case like
this? You've already made it clear enough with that old blunderbuss of
yours what you think of the merits of the case. I asked you out of
personal interest. I know the Government claims you don't own this
place; and I was curious to know why you think you do. The Government
reasoning looks pretty conclusive to a man who doesn't know all the

"Oh, it is, is it!" cried Samuels, stung to anger. "Well, what claim do
you think the Government has?"

But Bob was too wily to be put in the aggressive.

"I'm not thinking; I'm asking," said he. "They say you're holding this
for the timber, and never proved up."

"I took it up bony-fidy," fairly shouted Samuels. "Do you think a man
plants an orchard and such like on a timber claim. The timber is worth
something, of course. Well, don't every man take up timber? What about
that Wolverine Company of yours? What about the Yellow Pine people? What
about everybody, everywhere? Ain't I got a right to it, same as
everybody else?"

He leaned forward, pounding his knee. A querulous and sleepy voice spoke
up from the interior of the cabin:

"Oh, pa, for heaven's sake don't holler so!"

The old man paused in mid-career. Over the treetops the moon was rising
slowly. Its light struck across the lower part of the verandah, showing
clearly the gnarled hand of the mountaineer suspended above his sturdy
knee; casting into dimness the silver of his massive head. The hand
descended noiselessly.

"Ain't I got my rights, same as another man?" he asked, more reasonably.
"Just because I left out some little piece of their cussed red-tape am I
a-goin' to be turned out bag and baggage, child, kit, and kaboodle,
while fifty big men steal, just plain steal, a thousand acres apiece and
there ain't nothing said? Not if I know it!"

He talked on. Slowly Bob came to an understanding of the man's position.
His argument, stripped of its verbiage and self-illusion, was simplicity
itself. The public domain was for the people. Men selected therefrom
what they needed. All about him, for fifty years, homesteads had been
taken up quite frankly for the sake of timber. Nobody made any
objections. Nobody even pretended that these claims were ever intended
to be lived on. The barest letter of the law had been complied with.

"I've seen a house, made out'n willow branches, and out'n coal-oil cans,
called resident buildin's under the act," said Samuels, "and _they_ was
so lost in the woods that it needed a compass to find 'em."

He, Samuels, on the other hand, had actually planted an orchard and made
improvements, and even lived on the place for a time. Then he had let
the claim lapse, and only recently had decided to resume what he
sincerely believed to be his rights in the matter.

Bob did not at any point suggest any of the counter arguments he might
very well have used. He listened, leaning back against the rail,
watching the moonlight drop log by log as the luminary rose above the
verandah roof.

"And so there come along last week a ranger and started to tack up a
sign bold as brass that read: 'Property of the United States.' Property
of hell!"

He ceased talking. Bob said nothing.

"Now you got it; what you think?" asked the old man at last.

"It's tough luck," said Bob. "There's more to be said for your side of
the case than I had thought."

"There's a lot more goin' to be said yet," stated Samuels, truculently.

"But I'm afraid when it comes right down to the law of it, they'll
decide against your claim. The law reads pretty plain on how to go about
it; and as I understand it, you never did prove up."

"My lawyer says if I hang on here, they never can get me out," said
Samuels, "and I'm a-goin' to hang on."

"Well, of course, that's for the courts to decide," agreed Bob, "and I
don't claim to know much about law--nor want to."

"Me neither!" agreed the mountaineer fervently.

"But I've known of a dozen cases just like yours that went against the
claimant. There was the Brown case in Idaho, for instance, that was
exactly like yours. Brown had some money, and he fought it through up to
the Supreme Court, but they decided against him."

"How was that?" asked Samuels.

Bob explained at length, dispassionately, avoiding even the colour of
argument, but drawing strongly the parallel.

"Even if you could afford it, I'm almighty afraid you'd run up against
exactly the same thing," Bob concluded, "and they'd certainly use the
Brown case as a precedent."

"Well, I've got money!" said Samuels. "Don't you forget it. I don't have
to live in a place like this. I've got a good, sawn-lumber house,
painted, in Durham and a garden of posies."

"I'd like to see it," said Bob.

"Sometime you get to Durham, ask for me," invited Samuels.

"Well, I see how you feel. If I were in your fix, I'd probably fight it
too, but I'm morally certain they'd get you in the courts. And it is a
tremendous expense for nothing."

"Well, they've got to git me off'n here first," threatened Samuels.

Bob averted the impending anger with a soft chuckle.

"I wouldn't want the job!" said he. "But if they had the courts with
them, they'd get you off. You can drive those rangers up a tree quick
enough (_"You know that isn't so!" cried Amy at the subsequent
recital._), but this is a Federal matter, and they'll send troops
against you, if necessary."

"My lawyer----" began Samuels.

"May be dead right, or he _may_ enjoy a legal battle at the other man's
expense," put in Bob. "The previous cases are all dead against him; and
they're the only ammunition."

"It's a-gittin' cold," said Samuels, rising abruptly. "Let's git

Bob followed him to the main room of the cabin where the mountaineer lit
a tallow candle stuck in the neck of a bottle.

"Oh, pa, come to bed!" called a sleepy voice, "and quit your

"Shet up!" commanded Samuels, setting the candle in the middle of the
table, and seating himself by it. "Ain't there no decisions the other

"I'm no lawyer," Bob pointed out, dropping into a stool on the other
side, so that the candle stood between them, "and my opinion is of no
value"--the old man grunted what might have been assent, or a mere
indication of attention--"but as far as I know, there have been none. I
know all the leading cases, I _think_" he added.

"So they can put me off, and leave all these other fellows, who are
worse off than I be in keepin' up with what the law wants!" cried

"I hope they'll begin action against every doubtful claim," said Bob

"It may be the law to take away my homestead, but it ain't justice,"
stated the old man.

Bob ventured his first aggressive movement.

"Did you ever read the Homestead Law?" he asked.


"Well, as you remember, that law states pretty plainly the purpose of
the Homestead Act. It is to provide, out of the public lands, for any
citizen not otherwise provided, with one hundred and sixty acres as a
farm to cultivate or a homestead on which to live. When a man takes that
land for any other purpose whatever, he commits an injustice; and when
that land is recalled to the public domain, that injustice is righted,
not another committed."

"Injustice!" challenged the old man; "against what, for heaven's sake!"

"Against the People," replied Bob firmly.

"I suppose these big lumber dealers need a home and a farm too!" sneered

"Because they did wrong is no reason you should."

"Who dares say I done wrong?" demanded the mountaineer. "Look here! Why
does the Government pick on me and try to drive me off'n my little place
where I'm living, and leave these other fellows be? What right or
justice is there in that?"

"I don't know the ins and out of it all," Bob reminded him. "As I said
before, I'm no lawyer. But they've at least conformed with the forms of
the law, as far as the Government has any evidence. You have not. I
imagine that's the reason your case has been selected first."

"To hell with a law that drives the poor man off his home and leaves the
rich man on his ill-got spoils!" cried Samuels.

The note in this struck Bob's ear as something alien. "I wonder what
that echoes from!" was his unspoken thought. Aloud he merely remarked:

"But you said yourself you have money and a home in Durham."

"That may be," retorted Samuels, "but ain't I got as much right to the
timber, I who have been in the country since '55, as the next man?"

"Why, of course you have, Mr. Samuels," agreed Bob heartily. "I'm with
you there."


"But you've exercised your rights to timber claims already. You took up
your timber claim in '89, and what is more, your wife and her brother
and your oldest son also took up timber claims in '90. As I understand
it, this is an old homestead claim, antedating the others."

Samuels, rather taken aback, stared uncertainly. He had been lured from
his vantage ground of force to that of argument; how he scarcely knew.
It had certainly been without his intention.

Bob, however, had no desire that the old man should again take his stand
behind the impenetrable screen of threat and bluster from which he had
been decoyed.

"We've all got to get together, as citizens, to put a stop to this sort
of thing," he shifted his grounds. "I believe the time is at hand when
graft and grab by the rich and powerful will have to go. It will go only
when we take hold together. Look at San Francisco--" With great skill
he drew the old man into a discussion of the graft cases in that city.

"Graft," he concluded, "is just the price the people are willing to pay
to get their politics done for them while they attend to the pressing
business of development and building. They haven't time nor energy to do
everything, so they're willing to pay to have some things taken off
their hands. The price is graft. When the people have more time, when
the other things are done, then the price will be too high. They'll
decide to attend to their own business."

Samuels listened to this closely. "There's a good deal in what you say,"
he agreed. "I know it's that way with us. If I couldn't build a better
road with less money and less men than our Supervisor, Curtis, does, I'd
lie down and roll over. But I ain't got time to be supervisor, even if
anybody had time to elect me. There's a bunch of reformers down our way,
but they don't seem to change Curtis much."

"Reformers are no good unless the rank and file of the people come to
think the way they do," said Bob. "That's why we've got to start by
being good citizens ourselves, no matter what the next man would do."

Samuels peered at him strangely, around the guttering candle. Bob
allowed him no time to express his thought.

"But to get back to your own case," said he. "What gets me is why you
destroy your homestead right for a practical certainty."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Why, I personally think it's a certainty that you will be dispossessed
here. If you wait for the law to put you off, you'll have no right to
take up another homestead--your right will be destroyed."

"What good would a homestead right do me these days?" demanded Samuels.
"There's nothing left."

"New lands are thrown open constantly," said Bob, "and it's better,
other things being equal, to have a right than to want it. On the other
hand, if you voluntarily relinquish this claim, your right to take up
another homestead is still good."

At the mention of relinquishment the old mountaineer shied like a colt.
With great patience Bob took up the other side of the question. The
elements of the problem were now all laid down--patriotism, the
certainty of ultimate loss, the advisability of striving to save rights,
the desire to do one's part toward bringing the land grabbers in line.
Remained only so to apply the pressure of all these cross-motives that
they should finally bring the old man to the point of definite action.

Bob wrestled with the demons of selfishness, doubt, suspicion, pride,
stubbornness, anger, acquisitiveness that swarmed in the old man's
spirit, as Christian with Apollyon. The labour was as great. At times,
as he retraced once more and yet again ground already covered, his
patience was overcome by a great weariness; almost the elemental
obstinacy of the man wore him down. Then his very soul clamoured within
him with the desire to cut all this short, to cry out impatiently
against the slow stupidity or mulishness, or avariciousness, or whatever
it was, that permitted the old man to agree to every one of the
premises, but to balk finally at the conclusion. The night wore on. Bob
realized that it was now or never; that he must take advantage of this
receptive mood a combination of skill and luck had gained for him. The
old man must be held to the point. The candle burned out. The room grew
chill. Samuels threw an armful of pitch pine on the smouldering logs of
the fireplace that balanced the massive cook stove. By its light the
discussion went on. The red flames reflected strangely from unexpected
places, showing the oddest inconsequences. Bob, at times, found himself
drifting into noticing these things. He stared for a moment hypnotically
on the incongruous juxtaposition of a skillet and an ink bottle. Then he
roused himself with a start; for, although his tongue had continued
saying what his brain had commanded it to say, the dynamics had gone
from his utterance, and the old man was stirring restlessly as though
about to bring the conference to a close. Warned by this incident, he
forced his whole powers to the front. His head was getting tired, but he
must continuously bring to bear against this dead opposition all the
forces of his will.

At last, with many hesitations, the old man signed. The other two men,
rubbing their eyes sleepily, put down their names as witnesses, and,
shivering in the night chill, crawled back to rest, without any very
clear idea of what they had been called on to do. Bob leaned back in his
chair, the precious document clasped tight. The taut cords of his being
had relaxed. For a moment he rested. To his consciousness dully
penetrated the sound of a rooster crowing.

"Don't see how you keep chickens," he found himself saying; "we can't.
Coyotes and cats get 'em. I wish you'd tell me."

Opposite him sat old Samuels, his head forward, motionless as a graven
image. Between them the new candle, brought for the signing of the
relinquishment, flared and sputtered.

Bob stumbled to his feet.

"Good night," said he.

Samuels neither moved nor stirred. He might have been a figure such as
used to be placed before the entrances of wax works exhibitions, so
still he sat, so fixed were his eyes, so pallid the texture of his
weather-tanned flesh after the vigil.

Bob went out to the verandah. The chill air stirred his blood, set in
motion the run-down machinery of his physical being. From the darkness a
bird chirped loudly. Bob looked up. Over the still, pointed tops of the
trees the sky had turned faintly gray. From the window streamed the
candle light. It seemed unwontedly yellow in contrast to a daylight
that, save by this contrast, was not yet visible. Bob stepped from the
verandah. As he passed the window, he looked in. Samuels had risen to
his feet, and stood rigid, his clenched fist on the table.

At the stable Bob spoke quietly to his animals, saddled them, and led
them out. For some instinctive reason which he could not have explained,
he had decided to be immediately about his journey. The cold gray of
dawn had come, and objects were visible dimly. Bob led his horses to the
edge of the wood. There he mounted. When well within the trees he looked
back. Samuels stood on the edge of the verandah, peering out into the
uncertain light of the dawn. From the darkness of the trees Bob made out
distinctly the white of his mane-like hair and the sweep of his
patriarchal beard. Across the hollow of his left arm he carried his

Bob touched spur to his saddle horse and vanished in the depths of the


Bob delivered his relinquishment at headquarters, and received the news.

George Pollock had been arrested for the murder of Plant, and now lay in
jail. Erbe, the White Oaks lawyer, had undertaken charge of his case.
The evidence was as yet purely circumstantial. Erbe had naturally given
out no intimation of what his defence would be.

Then, within a week, events began to stir in Durham County. Samuels
wrote a rather violent letter announcing his change of mind in regard to
the relinquishment. To this a formal answer of regret was sent, together
with an intimation that the matter was now irrevocable. Somebody sent a
copy of the local paper containing a vituperative interview with the old
mountaineer. This was followed by other copies in which other citizens
contributed letters of expostulation and indignation. The matter was
commented on ponderously in a typical country editorial containing such
phrases as "clothed in a little brief authority," "arrogant minions of
the law," and so forth. Tom Carroll, riding through Durham on business,
was treated to ugly looks and uglier words. Ross Fletcher, visiting the
county seat, escaped a physical encounter with belligerent members of an
inflamed populace only by the exercise of the utmost coolness and good
nature. Samuels moved further by petitioning to the proper authorities
for the setting aside of the relinquishment and the reopening of the
whole case, on the ground that his signature had been obtained by
"coercion and undue influence." On the heels of this a mass meeting in
Durham was called and largely attended, at which a number of speakers
uttered very inflammatory doctrines. It culminated in resolutions of
protest against Thorne personally, against his rangers, and his policy,
alleging that one and all acted "arbitrarily, arrogantly, unjustly and
oppressively in the abuse of their rights and duties." Finally, as a
crowning absurdity, the grand jury, at its annual session, overstepping
in its zeal the limits of its powers, returned findings against "one
Ashley Thorne and Robert Orde, in the pay of the United States
Government, for arbitrary exceeding of their rights and authorities; for
illegal interference with the rights of citizens; for oppression," and
so on through a round dozen vague counts.

All this tumult astonished Thorne.

"I had no idea this Samuels case interested them quite so much up there;
nor did I imagine it possible they would raise such a row over that old
long-horn. I haven't been up in that country as much as I should have
liked, but I did not suspect they were so hostile to the Service."

"They always have been," commented California John.

"All this loud mouthing doesn't mean much," said Thorne, "though of
course we'll have to undergo an investigation. Their charges don't mean
anything. Old Samuels must be a good deal of a demagogue."

"He's got a good lawyer," stated California John briefly.

"Lawyer? Who?"

"Erbe of White Oaks."

Thorne stared at him puzzled.

"Erbe? Are you sure of that? Why, the man is a big man; he's generally a
cut or so above cases of this sort--with as little foundation for them.
He's more in the line of fat fees. Here's two mountain cases he's

"I never knew Johnny Erbe to refuse any sort of case he'd get paid for,"
observed California John.

"Well, he's certainly raising a dust up north," said Thorne. "Every
paper all at once is full of the most incendiary stuff. I hate to send a
ranger up there these days."

"I reckon the boys can take care of themselves!" put in Ross Fletcher.

California John turned to look at him.

"Sure thing, Ross," he drawled, "and a first-class row between a brutal
ranger--who could take care of himself--and an inoffensive citizen would
read fine in print."

"That's the idea," approved Thorne. "We can't afford a row right now. It
would bring matters to a head."

"There's the Harris case, and the others," suggested Amy; "what are you
going to do about them, now?"

"Carry them through according to my instructions, unless I get orders to
the contrary," said Thorne. "It is the policy of the Service throughout
to clear up and settle these doubtful land cases. We must get such
things decided. We can't stop because of a little localized popular

"Are there many such cases up in the Durham country?" asked Bob.

"Probably a dozen or so."

"Isn't it likely that those men have got behind Samuels in order to
discourage action on their own cases?"

"I think there's no doubt of it," answered Thorne, "but the point is,
they've been fighting tooth and nail from the start. We had felt out
their strength from the first, and it developed nothing like this."

"That's where Erbe comes in," suggested Bob.


"It don't amount to nothin'," said California John. "In the first place,
it's only the 'nesters,' [A] the saloon crowd, who are after you for
Austin's case; and the usual muck of old-timers and loafers who either
think they own the country and ought to have a free hand in everything
just as they're used to, or who are agin the Government on general
principles. I don't believe the people at Durham are behind this. I bet
a vote would give us a majority right now."

"Well, the majority stays in the house, then," observed Ross Fletcher
drily. "I didn't observe none of them when I walked down the street."

"I believe with John," said Thorne. "This crowd makes an awful noise,
but it doesn't mean much. The Office cannot fail to uphold us. There's
nobody of any influence or importance behind all this."

Nevertheless, so skilfully was the campaign conducted, pressure soon
made itself felt from above. The usual memorials and largely-signed
protests were drawn up and presented to the senators from California,
and the representatives of that and neighbouring districts. Men in the
employ of the saloon element rode actively in all directions obtaining
signatures. A signature to anything that does not carry financial
obligation is the easiest thing in the world to get. Hundreds who had no
grievance, and who listened with the facile indignation of the ignorant
to the representations of these emissaries, subscribed their names as
voters and constituents to a cause whose merits or demerits were quite
uncomprehended by them. The members of Congress receiving these
memorials immediately set themselves in motion. As Thorne could not
officially reply to what had not as yet been officially urged, his hands
were tied. A clamour that had at first been merely noisy and
meaningless, began now to gain an effect.

Thorne confessed himself puzzled.

"If it isn't a case of a snowball growing bigger the farther it rolls, I
can't account for it," said he. "This thing ought to have died down long
ago. It's been fomented very skilfully. Such a campaign as this one
against us takes both ability and money--more of either than I thought
Samuels could possibly possess."

In the meantime, Erbe managed rapidly to tie up the legal aspects of the
situation. The case, as it developed, proved to be open-and-shut against
his client, but apparently unaffected by the certainty of this, he
persisted in the interposition of all sorts of delays. Samuels continued
to live undisturbed on his claim, which, as Thorne pointed out, had a
bad moral effect on the community.

The issue soon took on a national aspect. It began to be commented on by
outside newspapers. Publications close to the administration and
thoroughly in sympathy with its forest policies, began gravely to doubt
the advisability of pushing these debatable claims at present.

"They are of small value," said one, "in comparison with the large
public domain of which they are part. At a time when the Forest Service
is new in the saddle and as yet subjected to the most violent attacks by
the special interests on the floors of Congress, it seems unwise to do
anything that might tend to arouse public opinion against it."

As though to give point to this, there now commenced in Congress that
virulent assault led by some of the Western senators, aimed at the very
life of the Service itself. Allegations of dishonesty, incompetence,
despotism; of depriving the public of its heritage; of the curtailments
of rights and liberties; of folly; of fraud were freely brought forward
and urged with impassioned eloquence. Arguments special to cattlemen, to
sheepmen, to lumbermen, to cordwood men, to pulp men, to power men were
emphasized by all sorts of misstatements, twisted statements, or special
appeals to greed, personal interest and individual policy. To support
their eloquence, senators supposedly respectable did not hesitate boldly
to utter sweeping falsehoods of fact. The Service was fighting for its
very life.

Nevertheless, persistently, the officials proceeded with their
investigations. Bob had conducted his campaign so skilfully against
Samuels that Thorne used him further in similar matters. Little by
little, indeed, the young man was withdrawn from other work. He now
spent many hours with Amy in the little office going over maps and
files, over copies of documents and old records. When he had thoroughly
mastered the ins and outs of a case, he departed with his pack animal
and saddle horse to look the ground over in person.

Since the _eclat_ of the Samuels case, he had little hope of obtaining
relinquishments, nor did he greatly care to do so. A relinquishment
saved trouble in the courts, but as far as avoiding adverse public
notice went, the Samuels affair showed the absolute ineffectiveness of
that method. But by going on the ground he was enabled to see, with his
own eyes, just what sort of a claim was in question, the improvements
that had been made on it, the value both to the claimant and the
Government. Through an interview he was able to gauge the claimant, to
weigh his probable motives and the purity of both his original and
present intentions. A number of cases thus he dropped, and that on no
other than his own responsibility. They were invariably those whose
issue in the courts might very well be in doubt, so that it was
impossible to tell, without trying them, how the decision would jump.
Furthermore, and principally, he was always satisfied that the claimant
had meant well and honestly throughout, and had lapsed through
ignorance, bad advice, or merely that carelessness of the letter of the
legal form so common among mountaineers. Such cases were far more
numerous than he had supposed. The men had, in many instances, come into
the country early in its development. They had built their cabins by the
nearest meadow that appealed to them; for, to all intents and purposes,
the country was a virgin wilderness whose camping sites were many and
open to the first comer. Only after their households had been long
established as squatters did these pioneers awake to an imperfect
understanding that further formality was required before these, their
homes, could be legally their own. Living isolated these men, even then,
blundered in their applications or in the proving up of their claims.
Such might be legally subject to eviction, but Bob in his
recommendations gave them the benefit of the doubt and advised that full
papers be issued. In the hurried days of the Service such
recommendations of field inspectors were often considered as final.

There were other cases, however, for which Bob's sympathies were
strongly enlisted, but which presented such flagrant irregularities of
procedure that he could not consistently recommend anything but a court
test of the rights involved. To this he added a personal note, going
completely into details, and suggesting a way out.

And finally, as a third class, he was able, as in Samuels's case, to
declare war on behalf of the Government. Men who had already taken up
all the timber claims to which they or their families were legally
entitled, nevertheless added an alleged homestead to the lot. Other men
were taking advantage of twists and interpretations of the law to gain
possession of desirable tracts of land still included in the National
Forests. These men knew the letter of the law well enough, and took
pains to conform accurately to it. Their lapses were of intention. The
excuses were many--so-called mineral claims, alleged agricultural land,
all the exceptions to reservation mentioned in the law; the actual ends
aimed at were two--water rights or timber. In these cases Bob reported
uncompromisingly against the granting of the final papers. Thousands of
acres, however, had been already conveyed. Over these, naturally, he had
no jurisdiction, but he kept his eyes open, and accumulated evidence
which might some day prove useful in event of a serious effort to regain
those lands that had been acquired by provable fraud.

But on the borderland between these sharply defined classes lay many in
the twilight zone. Bob, without knowing it, was to a certain extent
exercising a despotic power. He possessed a latitude of choice as to
which of these involved land cases should be pushed to a court decision.
If the law were to be strictly and literally interpreted, there could be
no doubt but that each and every one of these numerous claimants could
be haled to court to answer for his short-comings. But that, in many
instances, could not but work an unwarranted hardship. The expenses
alone, of a journey to the state capital, would strain to the breaking
point the means of some of the more impecunious. Insisting on the
minutest technicalities would indubitably deprive many an honest,
well-meaning homesteader of his entire worldly property. It was all very
well to argue that ignorance of the law was no excuse; that it is a
man's own fault if he does not fulfill the simple requirements of taking
up public land. As a matter of cold fact, in such a situation as this,
ignorance is an excuse. Legalizing apart, the rigid and invariable
enforcement of the law can be tyrannical. Of course, this can never be
officially recognized; that would shake the foundations. But it is not
to be denied that the literal and universal and _invariable_ enforcement
of the minute letter of any law, no matter how trivial, for the space of
three months would bring about a mild revolution. As witness the
sweeping and startling effects always consequent on an order from
headquarters to its police to "enforce rigidly"--for a time--some
particular city ordinance. Whether this is a fault of our system of law,
or a defect inherent in the absolute logic of human affairs, is a matter
for philosophy to determine. Be that as it may, the powers that enforce
law often find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They must take
their choice between tyranny and despotism.

So, in a mild way, Bob had become a despot. That is to say, he had to
decide to whom a broken law was to apply, and to whom not, and this
without being given any touchstone of choice. The matter rested with his
own experience, knowledge and personal judgment. Fortunately he was a
beneficent despot. A man evilly disposed, like Plant, could have worked
incalculable harm for others and great financial benefit to himself.
That this is not only possible but inevitable is another defect of law
or system. No sane man for one single instant believes that literal
enforcement of every law at all times is either possible or desirable.
No sane man for one single instant believes that the law can be excepted
to or annulled for especial occasions without undermining the public
confidence and public morals. Yet where is the middle ground?

In Bob's capacity as beneficent despot, he ran against many problems
that taxed his powers. It was easy to say that Samuels, having full
intention to get what he very well knew he had no right to have, and for
acquiring which he had no excuse save that others were allowed to do
likewise, should be proceeded against vigorously. It was likewise easy
to determine that Ward, who had lived on his mountain farm, and
cultivated what he could, and had himself made shakes of his timber, but
who had blundered his formal processes, should be given a chance to make
good. But what of the doubtful cases? What of the cases wherein
apparently legality and equity took opposite sides?

Bob had adventures in plenty. For lack of a better system, he started at
the north end and worked steadily south, examining with patience the
pedigree of each and every private holding within the confines of the
National Forests. These were at first small and isolated. Only one large
tract drew his attention, that belonging to old Simeon Wright in the big
meadows under Black Peaks. These meadows, occupying a wide plateau grown
sparsely with lodgepole pine, covered perhaps a thousand acres of good
grazing, and were held legally, but without the shadow of equity, by the
old land pirate who owned so much of California. In going over both the
original records, the newer geological survey maps, and the country
itself, Bob came upon a discrepancy. He asked and obtained leave for a
resurvey. This determined that Wright's early-day surveyor had made a
mistake--no extraordinary matter in a wild country so remote from base
lines. Simeon's holdings were actually just one mile farther north,
which brought them to the top of a bald granite ridge. His title to this
was indubitable; but the broad and valuable meadows belonged still to
the Government. As the case was one of fact merely, Wright had no
opportunity to contest, or to exercise his undoubtedly powerful
influence. The affair served, however, to draw Bob's name and activities
into the sphere of his notice.

Among the mountain people Bob was at first held in a distrust that
sometimes became open hostility. He received threats and warnings
innumerable. The Childs boys sent word to him, and spread that word
abroad, that if this government inspector valued his life he would do
well to keep off Iron Mountain. Bob promptly saddled his horse, rode
boldly to the Childs' shake camp, took lunch with them, and rode back,
speaking no word either of business or of threats. Having occasion to
take a meal with some poor, squalid descendants of hog-raising Pike
County Missourians, he detected a queer bitterness to his coffee,
managed unseen to empty the cup into his canteen, and later found, as he
had suspected, that an attempt had been made to poison him. He rode back
at once to the cabin. Instead of taxing the woman with the deed--for he
shrewdly suspected the man knew nothing of it--he reproached her with
condemning him unheard.

"I'm the best friend you people have," said he. "It isn't my fault that
you are in trouble with the regulations. The Government must straighten
these matters out. Don't think for a minute that the work will stop just
because somebody gets away with me. They'll send somebody else. And the
chances are, in that case, they'll send somebody who is instructed to
stick close to the letter of the law: and who will turn you out mighty
sudden. I'm trying to do the best I can for you people."

This family ended by giving him its full confidence in the matter. Bob
was able to save the place for them.

Gradually his refusal to take offence, his refusal to debate any matter
save on the impersonal grounds of the Government servant acting solely
for his masters, coupled with his willingness to take things into
consideration, and his desire to be absolutely fair, won for Bob a
reluctant confidence. At the north end men's minds were as yet too
inflamed. It is a curious matter of flock psychology that if the public
mind ever occupies itself fully with an idea, it thereby becomes for the
time being blind, impervious, to all others. But in other parts of the
mountains Bob was not wholly unwelcome; and in one or two cases--which
pleased him mightily--men came in to him voluntarily for the purpose of
asking his advice.

In the meantime the Samuels case had come rapidly to a crisis. The
resounding agitation had resulted in the sending of inspectors to

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