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The Young Wireless Operator--As a Fire Patrol by Lewis E. Theiss

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the ranger's elbow. Then he made a third turn half-way down the forearm.
With little sticks he twisted the cords still tighter. Then he jerked out
his hypodermic syringe, which he carried already filled with fluid, and
thrusting the needle into the bleeding arm, injected the permanganate into
the wound.

Meantime, the ranger stood silent, his face pale, his jaws set
courageously. "Where did you learn to do all that?" he finally asked
Charley, with evident admiration. "You go about it like a doctor."

"When the Wireless Patrol was in camp at Fort Brady," replied Charley,
"one of the fellows was bitten by a copperhead. Dr. Hardy had already
drilled us in first-aid and we knew just what to do. You bet none of us
will ever forget."

"I shall owe my life to you," said Mr. Morton. "That is, I shall if----"

"There's no if about it," interrupted Charley with determination. "We got
most of the poison out of your arm. I'll bet on that. What's left may make
you sick, but it can't kill you. What we've got to do is to prevent that
poison from reaching your heart, at least in any quantity. You sit down
against this tree and keep quiet so your heart will beat as slow as
possible. In about twenty minutes loosen this bottom cord. Loosen the
middle one after another twenty minutes, and open the third at the end of
an hour. That's all I know how to do. Thank God, we've got a wireless
here! Now I'm going to get it up as quick as possible."

He tore open the pasteboard boxes and took out one instrument after
another, coupling up the wires quickly and skilfully. Then he seized the
little axe, chopped some branches for spreaders, fastened the aerial wires
to them, and added other wires to suspend them by. Quickly he selected two
trees for supports, and climbing up first one and then the other, soon had
his aerial dangling directly above the fire trail. He coupled up his
lead-in wire and ran his eye over the outfit. Everything was complete.
Only the power was lacking. With the axe he pried off the lid of the box
containing the battery, tore away the paper and excelsior wrappings, and
in another moment had his wires around the binding posts. He threw over
his switch, and springing to his key pressed his finger on it. A brilliant
flash shot between the points of his spark-gap. Rapidly he adjusted the
points until his instrument was giving a spark of maximum strength. Then
he settled himself to the task ahead.

"WXY--WXY--WXY--CBC," called Charley. (Frankfort Radio Station--Charley
Russell calling.) Several times he repeated the call. Then he shut off his
switch and sat in silence listening for a reply. None came.

"They may be talking to somebody," he muttered. Again he called.
"WXY--WXY--WXY--CBC," he flashed again and again. Once more he sat quiet
and listened. At first he got no reply. Then, clear as a bell on a frosty
morning, a signal sounded in his ear: "CBC--CBC--CBC--I--I--I." (Charley
Russell--I'm here.)

Charley sighed with relief. "Got 'em," he said to the ranger. Then he
turned intently to his key.

"Please telephone District Forester Marlin at Oakdale instantly," he
rapped out. "Ranger Morton bitten rattlesnake. Send motor-car where
battery was delivered this morning. May need man help ranger. Bring
doctor. Tell wife get ready. Will listen for answer."

As Charley sat waiting for a reply, he studied the face of the ranger. It
was set hard. Courage was written on it plainly.

The ranger started to speak. "Don't talk," interrupted Charley. "Keep as
quiet as you can, and watch your bandages. If you keep them tight too long
it harms your blood somehow."

They sat in silence a while. Then Charley said, "I wish you didn't have to
walk, but I guess there's nothing for it but to hike out to the highway at
the earliest possible moment. We'll start the instant we've heard from Mr.
Marlin."

"What about your instruments?"

"I'll nail the cover on the battery box and put the other things in the
pasteboard box. I don't think anything will touch them. It's all we can
do, anyway."

He felt in his pockets and found a stub of a pencil and a scrap of paper.
"Property of the Pennsylvania Forestry Department. Please do not touch,"
he printed in large letters. With his knife blade he pried out the tacks
that held the address tag on the battery box and tacked his sign on the
box. Then his receiver began to buzz. Charley gave the return signal.

"Forester on wire now," came the message. "Wants to know where you are and
how Morton is."

Charley ticked off the information and waited for a reply. It came very
soon. "Will rush doctor and men. Come as far to meet me as you can."

Chapter XVIII

The First Clue to the Incendiary

Slowly Charley and his friend made their way along the fire trail toward
the highway and safety, Charley assisting the ranger as much as possible.
The latter began to suffer great pain in his arm and the limb started to
swell. Meantime, the forester, with a physician and a helper, was racing
at top speed to reach the ranger. At a pace utterly reckless he drove his
car over the forest road, and the instant the rescue party arrived at the
point where Charley and Mr. Morton would reach the highway, they plunged
into the forest. Faster than he had ever raced to a forest fire, the
forester sped along the trail, his companions striving doggedly to keep up
with him. He was deep in the woods before he met Charley and the ranger.

With hand extended, the forester ran to his ranger. Their hands met in a
tight clasp. "How is it, Jim?" asked the forester, with anxious eyes.

"I'm all right," rejoined the ranger. "I'll pull out of this all O.K. That
snake got me right, though. If it hadn't been for Charley here, I don't
know how I would have made out. He's as good as a doctor."

By this time the doctor himself had come up, puffing too hard for words.
He nodded his head, clasped the ranger's hand, and with a single word of
greeting quickly began an examination of the injured arm. "How long ago
did this happen?" he puffed.

"More than two hours ago," said the ranger.

"You haven't kept these tight all that time, have you?" and the doctor
laid his finger on one of the cords around the ranger's arm.

"No, sir. Charley had me loosen them, one at a time, every twenty minutes
or so."

"That was quite right. What else have you done?"

When the ranger had told him in detail exactly how Charley had treated
him, the doctor grunted, "Confound it! Then what did you hustle me out
here this way for? I thought you were at the point of death."

Charley was amazed and offended at what he considered the heartlessness of
the physician. "You don't understand," he protested. "Mr. Morton was badly
bitten, sir."

Charley was still more astonished when both the ranger and the forester
burst out laughing. He looked from one to the other questioningly. It did
not occur to him that this was merely the doctor's way of saying that
Charley had handled the situation about as well as he could have done it
himself. Evidently the forester did not propose to enlighten Charley, for
all he said was, "Don't let him worry you, Charley. He's just naturally
lazy and a grouch. He doesn't like it because I made him hustle for once,
and he's disappointed not to find Jim at the point of death. These doctors
are strange animals, Charley. But with all their faults we love them
still." And he slapped the physician affectionately on the shoulder.

Charley looked puzzled. But concluding that silence was the best course,
he said no more. All this time the doctor was continuing his labors, and
Charley was amazed at the dexterous way he did things.

For a moment he listened to the beating of the ranger's heart. Then,
seemingly with a single motion of his knife, he slit the sleeve of the
ranger's shirt. Another motion laid open the undershirt sleeve, disclosing
the arm to the shoulder. The physician examined it closely. The arm was
swelling fast. The physician opened his case and gave the ranger some
medicine. "Now we'll get to bed as soon as possible," he said, "and rest
for a few days."

Assisted by a man on either side of him, the ranger started for the
waiting motor-car.

"Mr. Marlin," said Charley, after the party had gone a few rods, "this
morning Mr. Morton brought out a little wireless set that Lew made for
him, as well as my big battery. It's back where Mr. Morton was bitten. May
I get it and set it up in the ranger's house? It will be a good
opportunity for him to practice while he's at home. Mrs. Morton is
learning to operate the wireless, too. It would mean so much to both of
them and to the forest as well, if they could talk to each other by
wireless."

"How long will it take you to put it up, Charley?"

"Not very long, sir. Perhaps an hour or two."

"I don't like to leave the forest unprotected for a single minute at this
season, Charley, but I guess we'll take a chance on it. Get your stuff to
the road as quick as you can. I'll take Jim home and return for you."

The forester hastened after the ranger's party and Charley darted off into
the forest. At the fastest pace he could maintain he jogged along the fire
trail. In a very little time he was back at the instruments. He took down
the aerial, threw away the spreaders, uncoupled the amplifier which he
needed for use himself, and replaced the little outfit in the pasteboard
box. Then he hurried back to the road, where the forester was already
waiting to whirl him away to the ranger's house.

If Charley had had any doubts whatever about his liking the ranger's wife
(though he hadn't), they would have vanished the instant he came in sight
of the ranger's home. It was a small, weather-beaten cottage set in the
shoulder of a hill, with the forest all around it. About the house itself
was a clearing of a few acres, with a little orchard on the slope behind
the house. The home itself was enclosed by an unpainted picket fence.
Lovely old trees shaded it. Vines clambered riotously over its soft, gray
clapboards. Well arranged shrubs and bushes had been planted here and
there. There were flowers about the base of the house and along the
borders. The grass was trimmed as neatly as a city lawn. Even now before
plant growth had started, the yard was attractive. With pleasure Charley
noted that the ranger had set out two European larches, evidently brought
in from a forest plantation, at his gateway. One glance at the inviting
and neatly kept yard told Charley what he would find within the house
itself.

Nor was he disappointed when he entered the door and found the house as
clean as a whistle, plainly but neatly and attractively furnished, and
beautiful with a wealth of flowers and plants that, had quite evidently
received loving and intelligent care. On the wall Charley instantly noted
the telephone, and hanging on a nail beside it was the leather case with
the ranger's portable telephone instrument.

There was not the slightest doubt in Charley's mind that he was going to
like the ranger's wife. And when, a moment later, she came quietly into
the room and took his hand in hers and, with moist eyes, thanked him for
saving her husband's life, she won Charley's heart completely. She was
slight and girlish and good to look at, and made Charley think of some of
his nice girl friends at high school. Yet Mrs. Morton had been married a
good many years, for just behind her stood her daughter, Julia, a girl of
twelve, waiting her turn to thank Charley.

But girlish though the ranger's wife appeared, Charley did not need to be
told that she was not of the weeping, hysterical sort. On every hand were
evidences of efficiency and foresight. A fire was evidently burning
briskly in the stove, and kettles of water, presumably heated in case of
need, were steaming on the range, easily seen through the open kitchen
door. In the sick-room were evidences of the same sort of forethought.
Everything that the house possessed that could possibly be useful in
treating the ranger had been assembled in handy little piles. This must
have been done before the ranger reached home, for most of the piles were
untouched.

The ranger was resting comfortably in bed, though his arm was badly
swollen and his face was distorted with pain. At sight of Charley his
countenance lighted up. He reached out his left arm and wrung Charley's
hand until the lad winced.

"The doctor says I'll pull through this all right, though I'll have a
painful time of it," said the ranger, "and he told the truth, at least as
far as the pain is concerned. But the pain's nothing. The thing that
counts is the fact that I am safe at home. I owe it to you, Charley, and
you may be sure I'll never forget."

That was as much as the ranger, reticent, hating any display of emotion,
quiet like most men of the woods, could bring himself to say. But Charley
knew that it meant volumes. He tried to reply, but found himself also
suffering from a strange embarrassment. So Charley said good-bye to the
ranger, assured him that he would take good care of the forest, and set
about fixing the wireless outfit. The forester helped him. Quickly they
got up the aerial, brought the lead-in wire into the living-room, and set
up the instruments on a board table close beside the telephone instrument.

"Now everything is complete except for the battery," Charley said to the
forester when they had finished wiring up the outfit. "Half a dozen dry
cells will supply all the current needed."

"I'll send them out by the doctor in the morning," said the forester.

Charley showed Mrs. Morton how to wire the cells and couple them to the
instruments. Then he told her how to adjust her spark-gap and tune the
instrument to any given wave-length. He compared his watch with the clock
on the wall.

"At eight o'clock every night," he said, "I will call you up. Suppose you
take Mr. Morton's initials as your call signal. What are they?"

"J. V. M.," replied Mrs. Morton.

"Very well. Then at eight o'clock every night I will call J. V. M. slowly
a number of times. Then I will tick off the alphabet slowly and the
numerals one to ten. You listen in, and if the sounds are blurred or not
sharp, tune your instrument as I have shown you until you can hear
distinctly. If you make the letters with a pencil as you read them, it
may help you. I'm sure you will soon learn to read. I'll repeat the
alphabet and the numbers three times slowly. Then I'll listen in for five
or ten minutes. If you want to try to call me, give my signal and follow
it with your own, thus: 'CBC--CBC--CBC--JVM.' That means 'Charley
Russell--James Morton calling.' If I hear you, I will send the letters
'JVM--JVM--JVM--I--I--I.' That means 'James Morton--I am here.' Then you
can begin to send your message. I hope we'll be able to talk to each other
very soon."

"It won't be my fault if we don't," smiled the ranger's wife.

"Now I must be off," said Charley. "I've no doubt Mr. Marlin is getting
impatient. We'll just clean up this mess and then I'll go."

"I'll clean things up," insisted Mrs. Morton.

"No; I made the mess and I'll clean it up," protested Charley.

He began to pile the torn pieces of pasteboard together so he could thrust
them into the stove. The bottom of the pasteboard box had been built up
with several layers of pasteboard, evidently cut from other boxes. Charley
took them out one at a time, preparatory to crumpling up the box itself.
As he lifted the last layer of pasteboard he stopped in blank amazement.
Then he called excitedly for Mr. Marlin. Before him lay a piece of green
pasteboard exactly like the charred fragment taken from the ash heap in
the burned forest.

Chapter XIX

The Forester's Problem

For a moment the two men looked at each other in astonishment. Then, "Keep
that," said the forester. "We'll talk the matter over on our way back."
Mrs. Morton, not comprehending what had happened, also looked astonished.
But like the wise woman she was, she held her peace. Charley tossed the
other pasteboards in the fire, stuffed the green piece in his pocket, and
said good-bye to his new friend. The forester, after telephoning to his
office, followed Charley, and a moment later the two were spinning up the
road toward the fire trail.

"I can't understand it," said Charley. "Here's a package direct from Lew,
with the very clue we're looking for, and Lew never said a word about it.
I can't understand it. I'm certain Lew sent the box. That was his
handwriting on it. And I'm just as sure he never saw that bit of
pasteboard, for Lew would never slip up that way. I just can't understand
it."

They reached the point where Charley was to leave the car and plunge into
the forest. But Mr. Marlin, instead of stopping his motor, turned into a
natural opening in the woods and drove slowly among the forest trees. In
a moment he ran the car into a stand of pines, where it was protected by
the dense tops above and well hidden from sight of the highway.

"You couldn't get in here with anything but a Henry," laughed the
forester. "This old bus has taken me lots of places you would never have
believed possible."

He took the key from the switch on the dashboard, and the two stepped to
the ground. Charley wondered what the forester intended to do, but by this
time he knew enough not to ask questions. The forester started up the
trail with him. When they came to the big battery Charley understood, for
without a word the forester took Charley's little axe and began to chop
poles to carry the battery with. In a few moments these handles were bound
fast. The forester tossed the traps over his shoulder. Charley tied the
amplifier box to his belt. Then they picked up the battery and started
toward camp.

Suddenly Charley stopped. "By George!" he cried. "I forgot all about the
pup. I wonder where he got to."

He whistled and whistled, but apparently in vain. They went on, and at
intervals Charley whistled for the dog while he and the forester were
resting. Still no dog appeared. Charley's face grew long. "Gee! I'll miss
that pup," he said regretfully. "Why didn't I think of him sooner?"

Night was at hand when the two reached Charley's camp. Nothing had been
disturbed. Charley took advantage of the remaining daylight to couple up
the battery and the amplifier to his wireless. He tested the outfit and
found he had a strong spark that cracked like a whip when he touched the
key.

"Look at that!" he cried. "Now I feel better. I can always get into
communication with somebody now."

"You aren't a bit more pleased than I am, Charley," smiled the forester.
"I'll take back all I ever said about the wireless. If Morton can learn to
talk by wireless, the rest of my crew can also. When the dull season
comes, I'll start a radio school with you as instructor and we'll make
every man in the service learn to operate the wireless. The Department
ought to be glad to supply a good outfit; but if we can't get the money,
we can at least make some outfits like yours. We're going on a wireless
basis or my name is not Marlin."

The forester was interrupted by a joyous bark and in rushed Charley's pup.
"You blessed little fellow," said Charley, fondling the animal. "I suppose
you lost our trail when we got into the motor-car and you probably hung
around the battery all day and followed our trail back here. That's pretty
good. You've got great stuff in you, pup. The next thing I teach you will
be to stand guard over things as you probably did over that battery
to-day."

Darkness fell. Supper was cooked and eaten. "Have you heard that cat
lately, Charley?" asked the forester.

"No," replied Charley, "but I think I'll put the traps out anyway."

"We can attract it even if it isn't near by," said the forester. "Have you
a can of salmon that you can spare?"

"Sure."

"Then give me the traps and bring your can."

Charley got the things asked for. The forester, taking the flash-light,
led the way through the thicket to the open forest. At some distance from
the camp the forester stopped and turned the beam from the search-light
upward. Finally he found what he was looking for--a small branch about
seven feet from the ground. Then he cut the top of the salmon can, and
punching holes in the sides near the top, fastened a string to the can and
suspended the can from the limb. Then he set the traps in a circle under
the can, fastening the chains to convenient saplings, and threw two or
three small pieces of the salmon on the ground within the circle of traps.
Then they made their way back to camp.

Charley lighted a little friendship fire in the fireplace the ranger had
made, and the two sat down beside the flames. It was little more than
three weeks since Charley had first entered the forest. During that time
he had really seen very little of the forester. Yet as he sat beside his
chief, Charley felt as though he had known him always. A common emotion
had drawn them close together this day, and somehow Charley believed that
his feeling of affection for his chief was fully reciprocated. For a time
they sat in silence, each busy with his own thoughts.

"Charley," said the forester, after a time, "this accident to Jim hits me
pretty hard. It not only leaves the finest piece of forest under my care
without a direct overseer at the most dangerous time of the year, but
there were so many things we had planned to do this spring that cannot be
done without a ranger to supervise them. To be sure, I could transfer a
ranger here, but I have work for every man in his particular district.
Besides, nobody knows this territory like Jim. I believe you know it
better than anybody besides Jim. I only wish you were old enough to take
his place for a time.

"We're away behind with our planting, and there are trails to be brushed
out, new ones to be cut, roads to be built, camp sites to be selected,
timber to be cruised, a big lumber operation to be watched and the trees
to be marked for cutting and the lumber scaled, improvement cuttings to be
made, camp sanitation to be enforced, a fire-tower to be built on the
mountain here where your watch tree is. There's a tremendous lot of work
that Jim and I had mapped out for the spring and summer.

"Now it looks as though we should not be able to get any of it done. We
can't do a thing without a ranger to direct operations. Part of the
timber to be cut is in Lumley's district. He joins you here on the north.
He will look after all the lumbering in his territory, and I may have to
let him take charge of it all. It's a big operation and will have to be
watched closely. I just wish I knew where I could find a man capable of
taking Jim's place for a while."

"What will the ranger have to do in looking after this operation?"

"He'll have to mark the trees to be cut and see that only those marked are
cut; and he'll have to make sure the regulations are observed in felling
the trees and disposing of the tops; and finally he'll have to scale the
lumber and make sure that the state gets paid for all that is cut."

"What is there so difficult about that?" demanded Charley. "Tell me what
sort of trees are to be cut, and I can select and mark them as well as the
next man. And if you give me a copy of the regulations, I can tell whether
or not the lumbermen are observing them. If I can't make them live up to
regulations, I can easily report to you. And as for scaling timber, that's
a mere matter of arithmetic. I could learn to do that in five minutes.
Couldn't I help you with the lumbering? And as for the other jobs, Mr.
Marlin, give me some books that tell about them and let me study up on
them. I could put in several hours here every night in study. You don't
know how much I could learn in a week. And then you could give me some
practical lessons after I had studied up the theory of things. I'm sure I
can do lots of the work you were counting on Mr. Morton to do. Won't you
let me help you?"

"Bless your heart, Charley! I know you mean every word you say. But you
don't realize the difficulties you would encounter. Your chief job would
be in handling men, tough men some of them, too. You could never do it,
never. But I certainly wish you were old enough to attempt it. There's
nobody I'd trust sooner than you, Charley. You've got a good education,
and you think quickly and clearly. You've been equal to every emergency
you've faced yet."

"Then why isn't that a pretty good reason to trust me further?"

"Trust you, Charley? I trust you absolutely. But you are too young. You
could never do it."

Charley said no more. The hope that had sprung up in his heart died as
suddenly as it had been born. In his heart he believed that with all the
study and effort he was willing to put into it, he could do a ranger's
work all right. But he saw it was not to be.

"Anyway," he muttered to himself, "I'm going to be a ranger some day, and
I'll show the chief now that I'm the best fire patrol he ever had. That's
the best way to qualify for promotion."

He turned to his wireless, threw over his switch and flashed out the call
signal of the Wireless Patrol. In his delight at the power of his new
battery he almost forgot his disappointment. In a very short time he got
a reply from Henry.

"Don't say anything about that pasteboard," cautioned the chief.

"I don't intend to," answered Charley. "I'm going to write to Lew about it
and let you take the letter out in the morning. You never can tell who
will pick up a wireless message."

For several minutes Charley chatted briskly with Henry, who said the new
battery carried the signals to him as clear as a bell. Charley told Henry
about Mr. Morton's accident, omitting reference to his own part in the
affair, and then through Henry got into touch with both Mrs. Morton and
the assistant forester at headquarters. Mr. Morton was getting along all
right, though he suffered very great pain. The forester's assistant
reported everything quiet in the forest.

Charley turned away from his wireless key, and got out pencil and paper.
By the light of the candle lantern he began his letter to Lew, and had
almost finished it when the pup, his hair bristling, ran to the door of
the tent, growling savagely. An instant later both the forester and
Charley leaped to their feet as the stillness of the forest was broken by
an awful scream that rang through the dark and was thrown back by the
mountain in a magnified echo even more terrifying than the original cry.

Chapter XX

Charley Wins His First Promotion

With startled eyes, Charley looked at the forester, at the same time
reaching for his rifle. To Charley's surprise the forester began to grin.

"I guess you got your cat, Charley," he chuckled. "But it sure did startle
a fellow."

The first piercing scream of the wildcat was succeeded by a variety of
furious screams. The animal could be heard thrashing about in the leaves,
spitting, snarling, growling, rattling the chain, and evidently fighting
furiously to free itself from the trap.

Taking both the candle lantern and the flash-light, as well as rifle and
axe, the two men started for the cat.

"Grab that dog," said the forester, as the pup darted out of the tent
ahead of them.

Charley whistled and called, but the pup was too wild with excitement to
heed the command.

"Hurry up," said the forester, "or you won't have any pup left."

They pushed rapidly through the thicket, then ran toward their traps.
Faintly they could see the wildcat. The pup was worrying it. With arched
back, hair erect, eyes ablaze, and snarling furiously, the wildcat was
waiting its opportunity to strike. The pup circled about it, yelping and
barking, every second growing bolder because the animal did not spring at
it.

"Give me that rifle, quick!" said the forester. "That cat'll kill the pup
in another minute."

He seized the weapon, sank on one knee, quickly sighted along the barrel,
and pulled the trigger. Even as he fired, the cat leaped toward the pup.
For a second there was a terrific scuffling in the leaves. Then the
search-light's beam showed the pup lying motionless, its neck broken and
torn, while the cat was clawing the air wildly, and spitting and snarling
in fury.

"Don't ever let one of those critters get on your back, Charley," said the
forester, as he approached the cat for a final shot. "Sometimes they will
follow a fellow in the forest. It's seldom they really attack a man, but
if a fellow loses his nerve and runs, they will sometimes leap on him. A
single swipe of those claws will cut a fellow to ribbons."

The forester was now close to the cat, which had gotten to its feet and
had crouched, snarling, ready for a leap.

The forester circled so as to get a shot at the animal's shoulder. Quickly
raising his rifle, he fired. The cat screamed, clawed the air desperately
for a few seconds, and lay still.

Charley rushed in and tenderly lifted his motionless pup from the ground.
There were tears in his eyes as he bore the little body to one side. "Poor
fellow," he said, "I'll miss you awfully. I was counting on you a lot to
help me guard this timber. You did the best you knew how. You thought you
were helping me, didn't you?"

He passed his hand across his eyes and faced the forester. "It's some
consolation to know that that beast paid for this, and paid well. I'm sure
glad he's dead. It's a good thing for the forest."

"Yes, that's a good job done," replied the forester, "and a nice skin and
a bounty for you. That ought to be some consolation to you. But I'm mighty
sorry about the pup. Whenever you can, get rid of those fellows. How many
young deer or other harmless animals do you suppose this fellow would have
slaughtered before another spring?"

Making sure that the cat was really dead, the forester opened the trap.

Then he picked up the dead cat and led the way back to the tent. "I'll
show you how to skin this fellow," he said, and, taking out his knife,
began to remove the hide.

"Gee!" exclaimed Charley. "Wouldn't the fellows like to know about this?"
He looked at his watch. "Some of them will surely be listening in," he
said.

Then he sat down beside his key, and while he watched the forester skin
the wildcat, he kept his spark-gap snapping and cracking with the fat
sparks from the new battery. He was calling Lew. He got no answer and
flashed out the signal for the Wireless Patrol. Almost immediately Henry
answered. His workshop was the headquarters of the Wireless Patrol.

"Hello, Henry," rapped out Charley. "Do you know where Lew is?"

"He's right here," came the answer. "So are most of the other fellows."

"Tell them," replied Charley, "that we just caught the wildcat in the
traps you sent, and Mr. Marlin is skinning it. I'm going to get him to
show me how to tan it. When it's done, I'm going to send it to the
Wireless Patrol to help furnish our headquarters. I'm going to add the
eight dollars bounty money to the club fund for wireless equipment."

Then came a long pause. Finally this message came back to Charley. "The
Wireless Patrol thanks you, Charley, but we want you to sell the skin and
use the money and the bounty to pay for the field-glasses you need."

Charley turned away from his instrument with a suspicious moisture in his
eyes. It touched him deeply that his fellows were so solicitous concerning
his welfare and success. He did not realize that he was merely reaping the
reward of his own kindly good nature, that had made him a general favorite
with the boys of the Wireless Patrol.

There were no further alarms that night. Early in the morning the ranger
started back to his office, taking with him the letter to Lew. Charley
accompanied him part of the way. Then he continued on his patrol.

The next time Charley met the forester he received Lew's answer to his
letter. Lew had addressed the box, but several of the boys of the Wireless
Patrol had helped to pack it. The piece of green pasteboard proved to be
from a box in which Henry had gotten shoes by mail. The box came from
Carson and Derby, a big New York mail-order concern. Almost everybody in
the country around Central City bought articles from mail-order houses, so
Lew's letter threw no light on the problem. There might be a green
pasteboard box of that particular pattern in every farmhouse in the
county. Yet as Charley thought the matter over, he recalled that almost
everybody he knew who shopped by mail traded with Slears and Hoebuck, of
Chicago.

The days passed. Little happened to vary the monotony. Yet the sameness of
life in the forest was far from being bothersome to Charley. On the
contrary, he found new delights every day.

Spring was now well advanced. The trees would soon be in leaf, the flowers
were coming along in rotation, and the forest fairly pulsed with life. Now
Charley found a gorgeous bed of blood-root. Again he came on great patches
of arbutus. Here the Dutchman's-breeches grew in rich clumps. There
spring-beauties fairly whitened the earth. Violets, Jacks-in-the-pulpit,
marsh-marigolds, and dozens of other familiar and lovely blooms he found
as he wandered through the forest.

There was nothing Charley liked more than the flowers. He determined to
know every bloom in his section of the forest. So he divided his territory
into definite strips, patrolling a different strip each day. Thus he
became intimately acquainted with every part of his district.

There were more objects than flowers, however, to delight him. The birds
and the animals were a constant source of pleasure. Often he had
opportunity to study their actions and their habits. The mating season
brought a wealth of pleasing experiences. Sometimes he came across a
mother grouse with her brood of little ones. It pleased Charley to see how
the tiny creatures scattered and hid among the leaves, making themselves
invisible at the first warning note from the mother, while she fluttered
along before him, dragging a wing as though it were broken, and drawing
him farther and farther from her little ones. Wild turkeys, too, he saw,
and many other feathered inhabitants of the forest.

Perhaps nothing touched Charley so much as an incident that occurred late
one day when he was fighting a small fire. The fine, spring weather
brought out regiments of fishermen, and numbers of them got deep into the
woods. Whenever he possibly could, Charley avoided meeting them. Sometimes
Charley could not avoid a meeting. Then he always posed as a fisherman.
He never moved abroad these days without his rod. The rifle he had
temporarily laid aside. More than one little fire, started by careless
fishermen, Charley detected and extinguished.

One day he saw smoke at a considerable distance. By the time he could
reach the spot, the fire had a good start and had already burned over
several acres. It was blazing briskly and Charley was at first uncertain
as to whether he should attempt to fight it alone or call help. But night
was at hand, the wind was already falling, and Charley decided that he
could conquer the blaze single-handed. He judged that the best way to do
this was by beating it out with brush.

Quickly chopping a pine bough, Charley attacked the fire. It was not a
fierce blaze, though when the fitful wind blew strong it flamed up
savagely. Even the tiniest of forest fires is hot enough, and Charley
found it trying work. He had many hundreds of yards of flame to beat out.
The smoke and the heat were stifling and exhausting, and every little
while Charley had to turn away from the fire to rest and get his breath.
During such periods, Charley would walk back along the fire-line to make
sure that the blaze was extinguished behind him.

Darkness came quickly in the deep valley, and before Charley had the blaze
half extinguished, he was unable to see distinctly. Indeed he could hardly
have seen anything at all had it not been for the fitful light of the
flames; and this dancing light made objects appear uncertain and unreal.

In one of his trips back along the line, Charley came to a stump that was
ablaze. In beating out the flames just here, he had failed to extinguish
some tiny sparks in a hollow place at the base of the stump. The wind had
fanned these into life after Charley had passed on, and the fire had
communicated to the stump. Now the stump was a pillar of flame. At any
moment sparks might fly from it and rekindle the fire.

Charley beat at the stump with his brush until the flames had entirely
disappeared. But fearing that sparks might yet be smouldering under the
bark or in the dry wood, Charley began scraping the sides of the stump. As
his hand reached the top of the stump, there was a sudden startling whir
of wings and something shot upward into the dark. Charley recoiled as
though shot. His heart beat a tattoo against his ribs. His first thought
was of the sudden blow the rattler had given the ranger. Yet he knew it
was no rattler that had suddenly sprung upward into the night. He drew
forth his flash-light, which he always carried, and turned the beam of
light on the top of the stump. There lay two little turtle-doves, unharmed
despite the fierce flames that had played about them. They had been
protected by the mother dove's body.

"Little turtle-dove," said Charley, "I take off my hat to you. When
anybody tells me about a deed of heroism hereafter, I'll tell them about
you and how you hovered over your young ones while the flames were slowly
roasting you. I'm certainly glad I got here when I did. You would have
been burned in another five minutes and your little ones with you."

Charley started back to the line of flames again. "If a turtle-dove can do
a thing like that," he muttered to himself, "you're a poor thing if you
can't face a little blaze like this."

He cut a new bush, once more fell on the fire, and never ceased his
efforts until not a single blaze lighted the forest. Then he stepped
inside the burned area and made his way completely around the edge of it.
The ashes were hot and Charley knew that they might scorch the leather in
his shoes. But he also knew there would be no rattlesnakes where the fire
had burned. When Charley came to the stump again, he turned his
flash-light on its top. The dove had returned and was once more hovering
over her little ones.

When he was certain that the fire was absolutely extinguished, Charley
made his way through the dark forest to his tent and made his nightly
report. It gave him great happiness to be able to report that the fire was
extinguished and that once more all was well in the forest.

Mr. Marlin had sent out to Charley a package of books that dealt with
various phases of work in the forest. Night after night, by the light of
candles, Charley sat in his tent studying his texts. He found them
fascinating. Here in the forest, where every day he could see illustrated
the truth of what he had read the night before, he learned, with
unbelievable rapidity. Whenever he came to anything in his texts that he
did not understand, he made a note of it. Sometimes at night he got Lew on
the wireless and through him questioned the forester. He did not want to
bother the government wireless men except in case of necessity.

Two or three times a week the forester came out to see Charley and to keep
an eye on this, his finest stand of timber. From time to time he brought
supplies and more books. Indeed Charley's capacity to acquire what was in
the books astonished the forester. He knew that Charley understood because
of his intelligent questions and his increasingly intelligent practices;
for, without orders to do it, Charley was voluntarily doing many of the
tasks that Mr. Morton should have done in the forest. As he grew in
comprehension of the needs of the forest, Charley began to make
suggestions to the forester. More than one of these proved practicable,
and Charley was given permission to go ahead with the proposals. Before he
knew it, Charley found himself working sixteen hours a day and regretting
that the days were not longer. And as always happens to people who are
busy about work they love, Charley was supremely happy.

Not the least part of his happiness came from his wireless talks with the
ranger's wife. With a speed that surprised him, Mrs. Morton learned both
to read and send. On the very first evening after the doctor brought her
dry cells, Mrs. Morton managed to tick out an acknowledgment of Charley's
call. And though it was faltering and uneven, Charley read it and smiled
with delight. As he slowly ticked off the letters of the alphabet and the
first ten numerals, Mrs. Morton listened intently, jotting down the dots
and dashes on a bit of paper.

When Charley had repeated his message according to promise, he flashed out
the call signal for the Wireless Patrol and promptly got a reply from
Henry. Through Henry he made his nightly report to the forester, and
through the forester sent his congratulations to Mrs. Morton on the
success of her initial attempt at radio communication, and inquired after
the sick ranger. So both Charley and his new friend were happy that night.

It was quite evident to Charley, when he called Mrs. Morton on the
following night, that she must have spent much of the day practicing at
her key; for the certainty and assurance with which she transmitted her
brief message this time could have come only from hours of practice. Now,
in addition to acknowledging Charley's call, she added the simple message,
"Jim is improving." Charley did not guess that she had practiced that
short message for an hour. Even if he had, he would have been none the
less pleased; for practice was the very thing needed to make her an
efficient operator. By the time three weeks had elapsed, Mrs. Morton could
communicate with Charley readily. Also her husband was improving every
day, though it would still be weeks before he could resume his duties.
Altogether, Charley's cup of happiness seemed full to overflowing.

There was still more happiness in store for him, however,--a happiness he
had not dared to hope for. One day Mr. Marlin appeared at Charley's camp
just at dusk. Charley was about to cook his supper. At once he doubled the
portions of food to be cooked, and while he worked over his fire, he
reported to his superior on the condition of the forest under his charge.
By this time Charley knew every inch of it intimately. He had just
completed an inspection, lasting several days, of the entire area. He was
enthusiastic about his work and full of plans for the future. Practically
all his suggestions were good, and the forester smiled and smiled with
approval, as he sat back in the shadow, listening.

When Charley had completed his statement, the forester said, "Charley,
your report is very satisfactory, and I am especially pleased with the way
you comprehend the needs of the situation and plan for improvements. I
approve of practically all your suggestions. How would you like to go
ahead and work them out?"

"They ought to be done," said Charley impetuously. Then he stopped. "I
mean," he corrected himself, "that it seems to me they ought to be. But to
do most of them would require a ranger with a crew of men."

"But you haven't answered my question," said the forester with a kindly
smile.

Charley looked puzzled. "I told you I think that they ought to be done."

"Still you haven't answered my question."

Charley stopped a moment to try to recall exactly what the forester had
said. Then he went on. "Of course, I should like to work them out, for
they ought to be done. But I also told you it would need a ranger and a
crew of men. I couldn't do all those things alone."

The forester began to laugh. "Charley," he said fondly, "the Bible tells
us there are none so blind as those who won't see. If you were the ranger
in charge of those men, would you still like to do the work?"

"Oh! Mr. Marlin," cried Charley, "you don't mean----"

"Yes, I do. Your service as a fire patrol ends to-night. To-morrow you
take charge of this section as temporary ranger, pending Jim Morton's
recovery. I just can't get along without a ranger in this district. Work
is being neglected, the big lumber operation has already commenced in
Lumley's district, and things are piling up here too deep. I can't get
along another day without a new ranger."

Charley was too happy for words. "I'll do my best," he said, with
quavering tones. But in a moment he got command of himself. "You told me I
couldn't handle a crew of men," he said.

"Maybe you can't, Charley, but you've handled everything else and handled
it well. It is plain that you love the forest and understand as much about
its needs as any ranger I have. A little experience is all you need to
make a first-class ranger. I'll give the men a talking to. When I get
done, they'll know it won't pay to monkey with you, even if you are only a
high school boy. Now, Ranger Russell, I think we had better turn in and
get some sleep, for we'll have to pull foot early to-morrow."

Chapter XXI

A Trouble Maker

Pull foot early they did, too. Charley himself was no sluggard, but the
forester's capacity for work simply amazed him. He knew the forester was
on the job late every night, for he reported to him each night the last
thing before he went to bed. Yet whenever the forester spent the night
with Charley, Mr. Marlin was up at an early hour; and the present occasion
proved no exception.

Mr. Marlin had never said much about himself to Charley, and no one else
had happened to do so; but Mr. Marlin had worked himself up from the
ranks. He had been a fire patrol and later a ranger, and then had attended
the state forestry school, as the other district foresters had done.

His unusual training, great diligence, intelligence, and untiring energy
had made him one of the ablest men in the service. By sheer ability he had
won for himself the oversight of this district, which was one of the most
important in the entire million acres of state forest lands.

Hardly was the forester afoot this morning before he had a fire going and
breakfast cooking. Before breakfast was ready, the two forest guardians
began to strike camp. Charley took down his wireless and stowed it as
compactly as possible. The tent was lowered and rolled up. Everything was
gotten into portable shape, and as soon as breakfast was over, the dishes
were washed and they, too, were added to the bundles.

"I don't care to let anybody know where your camp was," said the forester.
"I may want to use this site again. So we'll have to pack our stuff out
ourselves, at least part of the way. I am going to put a crew of men in
here to-morrow and they can finish carrying out the duffel if we cave in
before we reach the road. It will be a pretty good load."

Each of them strapped a big pack to his back. The rifle and the
fishing-rod had been fastened to the battery, which in turn was roped to
poles for handles. In this way it was possible for the two to carry all
Charley's outfit. By sun-up the two were already on the trail. They toiled
up the slope and crossed the ridge close to Charley's watch-tower. The way
was rough and the going hard. But once they struck a fire trail, the path
was easy. Yet at best it was a hard and toilsome hike, and several hours
elapsed before they reached the forester's motor-car, which he had
concealed in the pines. Both of them were tired, and Charley felt as
though his arms were about ready to part from his shoulders.

Most of their journey had been made in silence. But now that they were
seated comfortably in a motor-car, they once more began to talk.

"I had to bring you in from the forest, Charley," explained Mr. Marlin,
"because as a ranger it will be necessary for you often to be at
headquarters. I have arranged for you to live with Ranger Lumley. His
district adjoins yours, and his house, right in the forest, is near the
dividing line. So it will be about as convenient for you as it is for him.
He is to be at the office to meet us and look after you. We'll pick him up
and go on to his house with your things."

Ranger Lumley was on hand as the forester had said he would be. Charley
had found Ranger Morton and his wife so likable that he was glad indeed of
the opportunity to become acquainted with this second ranger. But the
minute he laid eyes on him, he felt a chill of disappointment. Yet he
could not have told exactly why. Somewhere, too, he felt sure, he had seen
the man before; though he could not remember when or where.

Lumley was a man small of stature, with a hooked nose, fishy blue eyes, a
thin, hard mouth, and a face seamed and wrinkled. Yet he was quite
evidently not an old man. Charley had noticed that some of the tough
characters in his home town looked like that, and the more he studied
Ranger Lumley's face, the less he liked the man. Particularly did he
dislike his eye. Once he caught the ranger looking at him slyly, and the
gleam in the ranger's eye reminded Charley of the vicious look of a horse
when he shows the white of his eye. It seemed to Charley, too, as though
there was something suggestive of craftiness and cunning in the man's
countenance.

When they reached the Lumley home, Charley felt his dislike for the man
increasing. Unlike the neat and attractive dwelling of the Mortons, the
Lumley house was dirty and disorderly. The children were unclean and
ragged. They had no manners whatever. Yet they obeyed readily enough when
their father spoke to them. But it did not take Charley long to discover
that they obeyed because of fear. When he realized that, he thought of the
vicious look he had noted in the ranger's eye. There were dogs innumerable
about the place, and they all slunk away when their master approached. Yet
all the time, as he showed Charley about, the ranger was almost
obsequious. This evident contradiction between the man's actions and his
looks made Charley distrust him immediately, and it was with heavy heart
that he said good-bye to Mr. Marlin and watched him drive away.

The ranger showed Charley to the room that was to be his. Charley began to
carry his luggage up-stairs. He would much rather have taken it all
himself, but the ranger insisted upon helping him. When Charley saw how
the man eyed every package and scrutinized every article, he understood
quickly enough that Lumley wanted to help him, not because of any wish to
be courteous, but simply because of his burning curiosity. Especially was
the ranger curious about Charley's wireless outfit, but Charley
volunteered no information.

The more Charley considered his situation, the gloomier he felt concerning
it. He had looked forward to his coming, after Mr. Marlin had told him of
the arrangement, with a feeling of pleasant anticipation. Charley was not
the least bit shy and made friends readily. He had a feeling that all the
men in the Forest Service must be pretty fine men and that their interest
in their work would make them, like Mr. Marlin and Mr. Morton, eager to
help a recruit. Thus Charley had believed that Lumley would be very
helpful to him. He had intended to put himself more or less in Lumley's
hands and trust to the ranger for guidance. But a very few minutes spent
with Lumley made Charley feel that he could not take the man into his
confidence. He almost felt as though he dared not, though when he came to
consider the matter fully, that attitude seemed foolish. Lumley was a
guardian of the forest as well as himself, and surely he could trust him
with matters that pertained to the forest.

Charley tried to fight down this feeling of distrust. It seemed to him
very wrong to accept a man's hospitality, even if he was to pay well for
it, and at the same time be suspicious of the man. But hardly had he
decided that he ought to be frank with his fellow ranger when Lumley began
asking questions that caused the feeling of distrust to return with
renewed force. Lumley's questions were intended to seem innocent enough;
but Charley was sharper than he perhaps looked, and he saw the real intent
behind the questions. The man was slyly trying to find out all he could
about Charley's history, and particularly how much Charley had been paid
as a fire patrol and what he was to get as a ranger.

Charley answered most of Lumley's questions openly enough, but could not
tell him what he was to get as a ranger, for he had never once thought
about the matter, nor had Mr. Marlin mentioned it. But when Charley told
Lumley so, he could see that the ranger did not believe him.

When the ranger began to question Charley about his recent work in the
woods, Charley answered him evasively. Lumley knew that Charley had been
acting as fire patrol, because Mr. Marlin had told him so. But Charley
felt very sure he did not know where the secret camp had been pitched, for
Mr. Marlin had distinctly said that matter was a secret between Charley
and himself. So Charley answered him evasively and soon turned the
conversation to other matters.

While Charley was arranging his duffel, two or three dirty youngsters came
bouncing into the room and at once began to drag Charley's wireless
apparatus from the pasteboard box. With a cry Charley sprang toward them
and snatched the instruments out of their hands. The ranger gave a savage
oath and aimed a kick at the lads, but they dodged and ran from the room.

At first Charley was terribly annoyed. But in a second he was glad the
incident had happened. Nothing had been injured and he had had a warning
of what might be expected. It gave him a good opportunity to shut up his
things without seeming to be suspicious of his host. Charley acted at
once.

"I have no need of this wireless outfit at present," he said, "and if you
have a spare box and some nails, I will just nail these things up until I
have time to set up the outfit." So the wireless instruments were safely
boxed up and locked in a closet, along with Charley's rifle and
fishing-rod. There was nothing in his remaining luggage that could be much
harmed, even if the youngsters did get hold of things.

As soon as his belongings were stowed away, Charley decided that he would
go to the forester's office and talk over his work. He had three miles to
walk, and although he had already trudged several times that distance,
heavily loaded, he did not hesitate for a moment. When Lumley suggested
that he use the telephone and avoid the walk, Charley merely smiled.

"I don't mind it," he said.

"I'd like to see myself walk that distance for any such fool errand,"
growled the ranger.

When Charley had said he didn't mind the walk he had told the truth. Yet
he had understated it. The fact was that he hugely enjoyed the walk. He
was rested from his long carry, and with nothing to weight him down, his
feet felt light as feathers. He trudged briskly along the smooth highway,
every sense alive to the delights of the forest. All about him the woods
were vocal with the calls of birds. The wind whispered and sighed in the
pine tops. And sometimes, when the air in the bottom was still as sluggish
water, Charley could hear the wind roaring among the trees far up on the
hillsides. The scent of spring was in the air--that indescribable mixture
of the smell of opening buds and flowers and green things and rank
steaming earth, that together make such an intoxicating odor. And all
about him Charley caught glimpses of the wild life of the forest.

It was late in the day when he reached the forester's office. The forester
seemed greatly surprised to see him.

"I came to talk to you about my work," explained Charley.

The forester frowned. "What is the telephone for?" he asked a bit
brusquely.

"I didn't want to talk over my business before that man," protested
Charley.

The forester looked at him sharply. "What business do you have excepting
the business of the forest?" he asked.

"None," said Charley.

"Then surely you could discuss forest matters in the presence of a
ranger."

"It may be that I am unreasonable," said Charley, "but I don't like that
man. There's something about him that I don't trust."

The forester looked at Charley searchingly. "Sometimes," he said, "I
almost feel that way myself. I realize that Lumley is mouthy and
inquisitive and disagreeable personally, but he has been in the Forest
Service a long time and it hardly seems right not to trust him. He's a
pretty efficient ranger."

"Well, I'm here, anyway," continued Charley. "I came to find out what my
first duties are to be and how to do them."

"There's a little tree planting that simply must be done in your
territory, late though it is," said Mr. Marlin. "To-morrow I shall send
you out with a small crew to do it."

"Please show me just how it ought to be done," said Charley.

The forester smiled with approval. "Come out-of-doors," he said, picking
up a mattock. And he led the way to a bed of seedling spruces that had
been heeled in the ground, and dug up two or three of them.

"These ought to be lifted in small bunches and their roots puddled," he
said, dipping the earth-covered roots in water to show how to puddle them.
"They should be planted thus." He struck his mattock sharply into the
soil, bent it to one side, and in the hole thus opened thrust a tiny tree.
Then he stepped on the ground close to the seedling and pressed the earth
tight about it.

"That's all there is to it," he said. "Your crew will work in pairs, one
man carrying the trees in a pail of water and inserting them in the
ground, while the other man carries the mattock and opens the holes. The
trees should be planted in straight rows and about four feet apart each
way. You will have to go ahead of the crew and set up the line pole. Pick
out some trees or saplings to sight by and you will have no trouble to
keep your line straight."

"Is that all?"

"You'll have to oversee the work, of course. Make sure the planting is
done right, and watch your men. You will have to take whatever steps seem
necessary to keep them working well and cheerfully. Sometimes it is a good
thing to switch a man from one job to another. It rests him to use another
set of muscles."

"What else am I to do?"

"Day after to-morrow I want you to brush out the fire trails leading to
your old camp. That is, you must start brushing them out. It will take
several days. They are so overgrown now that they are a real menace to the
forest. These trails were originally five feet wide. We took out all the
roots and underground growths down to mineral soil. You must cut away all
the brush that has grown in, chop it into short lengths, and pile it in
little piles in the trail itself for burning on windless days. You must
grub out the roots that have grown in, too. Really the entire trail ought
to be grubbed again, but we can't do that now. You will have to assign men
to cut brush, to pile it, and to grub up the roots. That's about all I
can tell you."

"It sounds very easy," said Charley, "but I am willing to confess that
handling these tough looking mountaineers is more than I counted on."

"Are you going to quit so soon?" asked the forester with scorn. "I thought
you had more stuff in you than that, Charley."

Charley turned red. "Who said anything about quitting?" he demanded. "I
only want to know what I am to do if I get into trouble with the men."

"That's more than I can tell you. It's up to you as a ranger to find the
ways to manage your men. But I can tell you this. It is always best to
follow Mr. Roosevelt's plan and speak softly but carry a big stick. Be
kind to the men. Be square with them. Play no favorites. Look after their
interest. But don't let them loaf on the job. They expect to have to work,
and they won't have much respect for a man who doesn't hold them to their
task. After all, they are not very different from horses. They have to be
driven if they are to work."

"I suspect some of them will be hard to drive," said Charley, "if the few
I have seen hereabout are good samples."

"It all depends upon how you get started with them. Don't let them get
away with you. Let them know you are the boss. And remember this: as a
ranger you have power to hire and fire these men. If it comes to a
show-down, don't hesitate to fire a man. We're short-handed, but we can
much better afford to lose a laborer than to have an entire crew spoiled."

"Thank you," said Charley. "I feel better already. If you don't mind, I'm
coming to you before each new job and get you to show me exactly how it
should be done. A fellow can get along so much better if he really knows
what he is talking about."

"Good boy," smiled the forester. "I don't believe I am going to be
disappointed in you, Charley."

Charley shook the forester's hand and started back to his new habitation,
which he reached just as supper was ready.

After supper he and the ranger talked about the forest. Or rather Lumley
did. He was so loquacious that Charley soon stopped talking and let his
companion carry on the conversation alone. Lumley was quite able to do it,
for he was truly, as Mr. Marlin had described him, mouthy. He had
something to say about everything, and what he had to say was usually of a
derogatory character. He was guarded in what he said about Mr. Marlin, yet
Charley saw that he was trying to damn the forester by faint praise.

"You may make a good ranger in time all right," he said bluntly to
Charley, "but it seems mighty funny to me to take a raw high school boy
and put him in charge of the finest stand of timber in the entire forest.
I'm the man that post ought to go to. Besides, I have a greater interest
in that timber than any one else."

Charley choked back his resentment at the statement about himself and
asked, "Why have you a greater interest in that timber than any one else?"

"Because our family used to own that timber," he said, sudden passion
inflaming his eyes. And Charley once more saw in them that savage look he
had detected before. "If my old fool of a grandfather hadn't let himself
be bilked out of the whole holding," he said coarsely, "I'd own that
timber to-day and I'd be a millionaire instead of a poor forest-ranger. By
rights the land is mine, anyway." And again the ranger swore at his dead
ancestor.

Charley listened in disgust but made no comment. The ranger saw that he
had talked too much. He muttered an apology. "When I see somebody else
getting the money that ought to be mine," he said, "it makes me so mad
that I could almost commit murder." Then he quickly changed the
conversation and once more became the smooth, oily individual he was when
Charley first saw him.

But Charley had seen and heard enough to be utterly disgusted with the
man. As early as possible he got away to his room on the pretext of
weariness, but it was a long time before he went to bed.

Early next morning he was at headquarters, where Mr. Marlin introduced him
to the half dozen men who were to serve under him. Ordinarily ten men
would form a unit for planting, but Charley did not know that, and so was
ignorant of the fact that Mr. Marlin had tried to make his first day of
authority easy and successful by giving him only a few selected men to
handle. Mr. Marlin introduced Charley to the men one by one, as they came
in. Charley tried to talk to them, but found it rather difficult. The
mountaineers had little to say.

When the men were all on hand, Mr. Marlin turned to them and said, "By the
way, men, this is the lad who saved Morton's life."

At the mention of the sick ranger, Charley saw the men's faces light up.

"He's a little young yet, but he knows his business. Jim says he handled
the snake-bite as well as any doctor could have done. I want you all to be
good to this lad and help him as much as you can."

Now they had found something in common to talk about. All day long, at
intervals, the crew discussed rattlers; and Charley told them, at their
request, just how the ranger was bitten and what had been done to save
him.

"You see," he said, "the danger from snake-bite comes when the poison
reaches the heart. So it is necessary to suck as much of it out as
possible and to prevent the remainder from reaching the heart except a
little at a time. That's why the bandages were put on the arm so tight.
The old notion of taking a stimulant was all wrong. The thing to do is to
keep the heart beating as slowly as possible until the venom reaches it.
Then if it begins to slow up, give a stimulant."

This suggestion was contrary to all forest practice and Charley could see
that the men were greatly interested in it. How much his recital about the
snake contributed to his success that day he never realized. He kept his
lines straight, switched his men from one task to another, now relieved
this man or that, and did his work in such a highly efficient manner that
he would have had no trouble anyway; but at intervals all through the day
the men reverted to the rattlesnake story. They were so busy thinking
about something else they almost forgot about Charley.

But the next day had a different tale to tell. The forester had increased
Charley's crew by four men, and a tougher looking lot Charley had never
seen. Rough, rugged, reckless mountaineers, there was not one of them who
could not have picked Charley up and broken him in half with ease. And one
of them, a tall, surly fellow, was quite evidently bent on making trouble.

Charley's knees almost shook under him when he faced the crew and realized
that it was up to him to command and control these men. Also he knew that
he was lost if he showed any hesitation. The instant the party reached the
trail, therefore, Charley seized an axe.

"Let's get at it, men," he said, starting work himself.

"What do you want us to do?" asked the tall, surly looking chap. The
others gathered round to see what Charley would say. And Charley realized
that he was on trial with the men.

"You heard what the forester said," he replied pleasantly. "We're to brush
this trail out. I want it made as good as it was when it was first
completed. Mr. Marlin said you were a mighty good crew and knew your
business thoroughly. So you don't need any instructions from me."

Evidently the reply tickled the men. Charley saw one or two of them nudge
their fellows and chuckle; and all of them looked slyly in the direction
of the man who had asked the question. Charley judged that the fellow was
trying to make game of him and that the crew thought Charley had come out
on top. Charley did not mean to lose this slight initial advantage.

With his axe he began briskly chopping away the brush along the sides of
the trail. Here and there he noticed little bushes that had sprung up in
the trail itself.

"I wish you would take a mattock," he said to the man nearest him, "and
grub out all the plants in the trail. Take out all the roots and get
everything clean down to mineral soil." To the others he said: "We'll chop
up the brush fine and pile it right in the trail to burn on windless
days."

The crew fell to with a will and the work went forward briskly. Presently
they reached a place where the trail was badly overgrown. Charley assigned
two more men to grub up roots. He was learning fast. Most of the time he
worked at the head of the gang, so he could see what was ahead, and be
prepared for any new situation that arose. But from time to time he walked
back among the crew to see that the work was being done right.

Evidently the crew liked the way Charley was taking hold. They worked
cheerfully and skilfully. That is, all did with the exception of the tall,
surly fellow. He seemed bent on annoying Charley, but Charley paid no
attention to him. At last, however, a situation arose that he dared not
overlook. The trail had originally been five feet wide, but the bushes,
crowding in on either side, had greatly narrowed it. The main reason for
brushing out this trail at this time was to widen it again to its original
size so as to make it an effective barrier against fire. The tall laborer
was deliberately neglecting to cut bushes that had sprung up within the
original five-foot area.

The instant Charley noticed this, he spoke to the man. The others,
scenting trouble, stopped work to look on. Charley sensed the situation
and set himself for a tussle. "Let them know you're boss," he remembered
Mr. Marlin had said to him. So he stepped toward the man and said quietly,
"I neglected to say that I want this trail cleared to its original width.
Just take out those bushes you have missed."

"The trail's wide enough," said the man, sulkily. "Lots of trails aren't
half as wide as that."

"It isn't a question of how wide other trails are," said Charley
good-naturedly, "or of how wide this ought to be. All I can do is to obey
orders. Mr. Marlin told me to clear the trail just as it was originally."

The man looked angrily at Charley and sudden passion lighted up his eyes.
"If Mr. Marlin wants this trail that wide, he can say so himself. But
nobody's goin' to make me take orders from a high school boy. I know how
this trail ought to be brushed."

Charley saw that it had come to a show-down. Inwardly he was greatly
agitated. His heart beat so fast and the pulse in his temples throbbed so
violently that he was afraid the men would see how excited he was. But he
took a grip on himself and answered slowly, thinking hard all the time,
and trying not to betray his real feelings. Again he recalled what his
chief had said about letting the men know he was boss.

"You are quite right," said Charley slowly. "Nobody can make you take
orders from a high school boy. This is a free country and you do not have
to take orders from anybody if you don't want to. You are free to quit
this job at any time you like and nobody can stop you. But as long as you
stay on the job you will have to obey orders. I'll give you your time and
you can get your pay at the office if you want to quit. If you want to
stay, just brush out that trail as Mr. Marlin wants it brushed."

Without waiting for a reply Charley turned away and returned to his place
at the head of the line. The men about him resumed their work with a will.
In a moment the tall laborer picked up his axe and began clearing out the
bushes he had missed. Charley had won.

Chapter XXII

Charley Finds Another Clue

As he trudged homeward that evening, Charley pondered over the events of
the day. At first he did not know whether to rejoice or be sorry over the
outcome of his encounter with the laborer. He was sure the man would hate
him, and if he did, he might try to make more trouble for him. On the
other hand, he realized that if he had let the man get the better of him,
he could never have hoped to maintain discipline; and Charley was old
enough to know that without discipline he could not succeed in any post of
authority.

Perhaps he was most worried by the fact that he could not talk to Mr.
Marlin about the matter. Of course, he could have used the telephone, but
the idea of discussing his difficulties before the Lumley family was so
repugnant to him that he could not bring himself to attempt it. So he
decided to get up his wireless at once. Then he could talk to Mr. Morton
and Lumley could not understand what was being said. He felt free to tell
the Mortons anything. By this time Mrs. Morton could operate the wireless
readily and her husband was learning fast. So Charley hurried to eat his
supper and get his wireless installed.

He foresaw that Lumley would insist upon helping him. He steeled his mind
to the event and accepted the proffered assistance with the best grace he
could. Afterward he thanked his lucky stars that he had done so.

While there was still light enough out-of-doors, Charley assembled and
hoisted his aerial; and Lumley, who was really dexterous, was of great
help to him. As soon as the aerial dangled aloft, Lumley got tools to bore
a hole in the window-sash for the lead-in wire.

Now Charley got another insight into Lumley's character. It was a little
difficult to make the hole just where it was wanted. Lumley instantly
became impatient and went ahead recklessly. Suddenly his bit snapped. With
a volley of oaths, Lumley threw down his brace and hammered the broken bit
out of the window-frame. In doing so, he broke out a long splinter of
wood, leaving a gaping crack in the sash. He swore until he was out of
breath. Then he got some putty and puttied up the hole, forcing the putty
into the crack with his thumbs. Then the wire was brought in through the
sash and Charley began wiring up his instruments. But it had taken half an
hour to accomplish what five minutes of patience would have done. Charley
was utterly disgusted with the ranger's show of temper.

As he coupled up the instruments, he answered, as politely as he could,
the ranger's numberless questions. Behind every question he saw, or
thought he could see, some ulterior motive. By every means he could,
Lumley was trying to find out all that was possible about Charley and his
relations with the forester. And Charley could see that Lumley was envious
of his intimacy with Mr. Marlin and jealous of him because, though a mere
boy, he was already as high up in the service as Lumley was after years in
the department. Charley realized that this was an unfair way to view the
matter, as he, Charley, was not really a ranger, and did not expect to
continue as a ranger after Mr. Morton was well enough to resume his
duties. But he could see that Lumley took no account of that. He began to
understand that it was the man's nature to be suspicious and jealous.

That was clear enough from Lumley's remarks about himself; for again he
repeated the story of his family's former ownership of the big timber, and
of how he had been robbed of his heritage. Charley felt sure the man had
brooded over the matter until his judgment was warped. He listened,
however, without comment.

Presently Lumley began to make insinuations about the forester, telling
Charley that Mr. Marlin had been as much the child of luck as he had
himself; but Mr. Marlin had had all the good luck, while he had had all
the bad luck. When he spoke of Mr. Marlin's rise from the ranks, Charley
could see plainly enough that Lumley was green with jealousy. He thought
he ought not to listen to such talk, and telling Lumley flatly that Mr.
Marlin's industry, he was sure, was the main reason for his success,
Charley turned the conversation into more agreeable channels. Finally
Charley finished coupling up his instruments and tested his spark.

"It's a slower way to talk," said the ranger as he watched Charley adjust
his spark-gap, "but I can see that it beats the telephone all hollow. Why,
a wind-storm, or a snow, or a thunder-storm can put the telephone out of
business quicker than you can say scat, and it may take hours and hours to
find the trouble and remedy it. I guess you couldn't put the wireless out
of commission, could you?"

"That's where you are wrong," smiled Charley. "A piece of iron laid across
the terminals for half an hour would put this battery completely out of
business."

How easily the telephone could be put out of business was soon shown; for
the very next day a terrific wind-storm came along, uprooting large trees,
wrenching loose great limbs which it hurled for many yards, bending flat
some of the smaller, weaker saplings and ripping its way through the
forest with a roar indescribable. Charley was with his crew brushing out
the fire trail. The wind was accompanied by some rain, and the crew sought
shelter under an overhanging ledge of rock. While they waited for the
storm to blow itself out, Charley turned the situation over in his mind.
Hurricanes were something he had never thought to ask Mr. Marlin about. He
felt sure the storm would mean some new duty for him, but he did not know
exactly what. He hesitated to ask his crew, for he did not want to betray
his ignorance. But a chance remark one of his men dropped about repairing
the telephone-line furnished a clue for Charley. He thought the matter
over, and by the time the storm had ended, Charley had come to a decision.
Right or wrong, he determined to act promptly.

"I want one of you to help me look after the telephone-line," he said,
picking out one of the crew. "The rest of you can go on with the fire
trail."

With this helper, he made his way out to the telephone-line and followed
it the entire length of his territory. In several places saplings had
blown across it. One tree, partly uprooted, was leaning against it. And in
one place the line was actually broken. Charley had no tools for handling
wire, and he decided that he would henceforth carry a pair of nippers in
his clothes. Fortunately for Charley, the wire had stretched so much
before it broke that he and the man were able to get the broken ends
together and give them a twist. The repair was temporary, but it would
answer until a permanent job could be done. When Charley reported to
headquarters that night, the chief commended him for his good judgment in
repairing the telephone-line so promptly.

The few days that Charley had worked in the forest had made his hands very
sore, for he had no gloves. He had cut and scratched and torn his fingers
until it seemed to him there was room for no more bruises. He wanted to
get some gloves, but did not know when he could get to a store to buy any.
He mentioned the matter to Lumley.

"Buy them by mail," said Lumley. "We get most of our goods from mail-order
houses."

Charley had never bought anything by mail, and had not thought of securing
his gloves in that way. "That would be all right," he said, "but I
wouldn't know how to order."

"Here," said the ranger, plunging his hand into a cabinet, "these
catalogues will help you." And he drew forth three catalogues from as many
different mail-order houses. There was one from Slears and Hoebuck, one
from Montgomery Hard, and a third from Carson and Derby.

Instantly Charley thought of the telltale piece of green pasteboard and a
quick suspicion leaped into his mind. As quickly it faded out. He could
not for a single second bring himself to suspect a guardian of the forest
of being a woodland incendiary. Yet he could not refrain from asking,
"Which one of these concerns do you buy from?"

"Whichever one sells cheapest," replied the ranger.

Charley found some cheap working gloves that he thought would suit him and
ordered several pairs.

In the days that followed, he thought often over the problem of the green
pasteboard. It was true he had made another step in unraveling the
problem, but he did not see that it helped him much. He had discovered
that Lumley sometimes bought stuff from Carson and Derby, but doubtless
dozens of other near-by dwellers also did. Furthermore, it did not follow
that any near resident had fired the forest. Some one from a distance
might have done so. The more Charley thought about the matter, the less
importance he placed upon his discovery, and he decided to say nothing
about it to any one. How the guilty party was ever to be traced Charley
could not even imagine. The situation appeared hopeless.

However, Charley had small chance to worry about the matter. As the days
passed, the forester laid more and more duties upon him. Many a lad would
have thought the forester was imposing upon him, but Charley was eager to
do everything he possibly could. He realized that the more he
accomplished, the greater would be his experience; and that the larger his
experience was, the faster he ought to get ahead. He had the good sense to
know that the short way of spelling opportunity is w-o-r-k. And he
realized that he had his chance here and now. So he did everything he
possibly could do and asked for more.

The forester, like any other man in authority, was pleased beyond words at
this spirit. His response was to pile the work on Charley. He was testing
him out, to see whether the desire for work was just a whim or whether
Charley possessed that real ambition, that inward spirit of progress that
drives a man on and on through the years to greater and greater
accomplishments. For the best worker in the world is the man who works
because he wishes to work, and who is always striving to become a better
workman.

Certainly Charley became a better workman, as any one does who works in
the spirit he exhibited. The mere getting of a wage, the mere earning of a
living hardly figured in Charley's calculations. He was working to learn,
to get ahead, to climb up in the Forestry Service. Hence there was nothing
perfunctory in what he did. He strove for perfection; and like all who so
strive, he began to attain it.

Before he had been many weeks a ranger, Charley was as valuable a man in
many ways as the forester had under him. All Charley lacked to make him
perhaps the very best man was wider experience; and this was coming to him
daily. Furthermore, Charley was fortunate enough to have learned, through
his schooling, that although experience is the best teacher, he is a fool
who learns only through his own experience. All the information in all the
books that Charley had ever studied was the result of experience--somebody
else's experience. And he had early grasped the fact that to learn through
the experience of others is to save time and difficulty. So now he
supplemented his own experiences by much reading and study at night and by
the discussion of forest matters with the more intelligent of his workmen.

New experiences came to him frequently. The forester surveyed and laid
out a road through the forest. Charley helped with the surveying and
learned much about levels and grades and the theory of road making. And
after the road was fairly started, the forester left its completion
largely to Charley. This new road was to lead into the big timber
operation which was shortly to begin in Charley's territory.

Already a great crew had been assembled and much timber had been cut in
Lumley's district. Lumley had to oversee this operation and he was kept
far busier than he liked to be. So Charley saw little of him.

In overseeing the operation in his own tract, Charley would have to select
and mark the trees for cutting, see that they were felled so as to save
the young growths, compel the prompt removal of trees that had fallen
across little saplings that had been bent under them, and make sure the
tops were properly lopped off and either burned where possible or piled so
that they would quickly rot. Then he would have to be particular that the
trees were thrown away from the roads and lines, and that a strip at least
one hundred feet wide was kept cleared of brush between the cutting
operations and the remainder of the forest, as a protection against the
spread of fire. Then there would be timber to scale and a hundred other
things to be looked after. To safeguard the state's interests would
require both experience and determination should the timber operators
wish to be tricky. Mr. Marlin intended that Charley, as a reward for the
fine spirit he was showing, should handle the lumber operation in his own
district entirely alone, just as a full-fledged ranger would do. It was
both a high compliment to Charley and a fine reward, for the timber
operation was large, involving great sums of money, and even with the most
careful supervision the state might easily be defrauded of thousands of
dollars.

But Mr. Marlin was far too wise to put Charley in such a position without
adequate training. Personally, therefore, he began to prepare him for the
work. Accompanied by Charley, he went entirely over the operations in
Lumley's territory. He carried a duplicate of the contract under which the
wood was being cut. Together they discussed every phase of the contract,
and the forester showed Charley how each step in the operation should be
carried out; how the trees should be selected and marked, how they should
be felled and trimmed, how the brush should be disposed of, and finally
how the timber should be scaled at the skidways along the highway, whence
the timber was being carted away in huge trucks.

Then he went with Charley into the latter's own district and started him
at the task of selecting and marking the trees for cutting. These had to
be greater than ten inches in diameter, breast-high, and had to be marked.
Crooked trees and wolf trees whose unduly large tops harmed lower growths
were also to be cut. The trees were marked by blazing them at the butt and
breast-high and striking the blazes with a heavy hammer that left the
imprint of the state's marker on the wood. Merely to select and mark all
the trees to be cut was a considerable task, but Charley tried to do this
and carry on his other work as well. It meant that he worked from the
earliest possible moment in the morning until he could no longer see at
night. Day after day he worked at his tasks, content to eat cold meals
that Mrs. Lumley packed for him, and reaching home so weary that he
tumbled into bed and was asleep the instant he had telephoned his daily
report to his chief.

Darkness had already fallen, one night, when Charley drew near the Lumley
habitation. To his surprise he saw a light up-stairs in Lumley's room. As
he drew nearer, he could faintly discern the forms of two men in the
chamber. Involuntarily he stopped to scrutinize the figures. At the same
instant Lumley's dogs began to bark, as they always did when any one
approached. Quick as a flash the curtain of the chamber window was pulled
down. But in that brief instant Charley was sure he recognized the man
with Lumley. It was Bill Collins.

Charley was startled completely out of his weariness. A moment later he
got a second shock. Like a flash it came to him where he had first seen
Lumley. He had been with Collins the day the latter had appeared in the
forest. Collins had attracted Charley's attention so strongly that he had
hardly noticed Collins' companion. Yet now he was certain he was right. He
was certain that he was not mistaken.

From the beginning he had believed that he had seen Lumley somewhere
before the forester introduced Lumley to him. Now it came to him where he
had first seen Lumley. Lumley was the man he and Lew had seen with Bill
Collins.

Still another surprise awaited Charley. When he entered the house Lumley
was seated at the table opposite a stranger, and the stranger was not Bill
Collins. But he resembled Collins so much that Charley did not wonder
that, at such a distance, he had made the mistake of thinking the man was
Collins.

Chapter XXIII

A Startling Discovery

Charley was glad enough that the man was not Collins. Had he been Collins,
Charley would have had another matter to worry about. He was carrying such
a load of responsibility these days that he sometimes felt that he
couldn't stand another thing; and in moments of depression he thought he
could not continue to carry the load he already had.

For Charley was learning the lesson that every man in authority learns:
when the forester laid out a piece of work for him, the forester expected
him to get it done. No matter what the difficulties were, Charley had to
find a way to surmount them. Many and many a day he would gladly have
exchanged places with the humblest laborers in his crew.

All that was required of them was merely to do what they were told to do,
hour after hour or day after day. There was no need for them to lie awake
wrestling with problems that seemed impossible of solution, as Charley had
more than once lain awake.

For it had not all been smooth sailing for Charley, any more than it is
for any man in authority. After his first set-to with the surly laborer,
he had not had any open trouble with his men. But more than one of his
crew did not always do an honest day's work, and any failure on the men's
part put Charley behind with the amount of work he was expected to get
done. This difficulty Charley had finally remedied by asking for Mr.
Morton's help. The latter had sent for several of the laborers and had
shown them that in hindering Charley they were hurting the Forest Service
and thus, in the long run, harming themselves.

Furthermore, as the days passed, and Charley showed that he knew his job,
that he was just to everybody, that he had control of his temper, that he
expected a fair day's work every day, while he himself accomplished more
actual work each day than any man in his gang, the attitude of the men
under him changed. Before the summer ended, Charley had as loyal a crew as
any man could ask for. And to their loyalty they began to add ambition.
For Charley was able gradually to instil into them the spirit which made
them want to do as much as any other crew and a little bit more.

So his road making came on apace. Rapidly the rude highway advanced
through the forest. Every day after his crew had gone home, Charley went
over the area to be made the succeeding day, examining carefully every
inch of the ground and determining how he would meet each little problem
that would come up. Thus prepared, he speedily acquired a reputation for
unusual ability. The result was that his men, when stopped by some
obstacle, at once came to him for assistance, though at first they would
have scorned to ask a "high school boy" for enlightenment about any task
in the forest.

The road under construction was being pushed straight through the heart of
the big timber. It was to lead directly to the foot of the mountain on the
top of which Charley and Lew had had their secret watch tree. Materials
for a real fire-tower, a sixty-foot structure of steel, had been
purchased, and as soon as the road was completed, this material was to be
trucked to the foot of the mountain, and the tower itself erected on the
summit, close to the very tree that Charley and Lew had climbed so often.

The erection of the tower was another task for which Charley would be
responsible. Long before the road was completed, therefore, Charley and
the forester went over every step in the process of construction, and
decided how to do each task, from the making of the concrete foundations
to the stringing of the telephone wires when the tower was complete. The
tower itself was to be a slender steel structure made of angle-iron
supports bolted together, with a little square room at the top for the
watcher. This room would be enclosed on every side with glass windows, and
from this great elevation a watcher could see in every direction over
miles and miles of forest. A telephone would connect with the forester's
office.

At the foot of this tower Mr. Marlin intended to build a snug, little
cabin, so that the tower man could remain at his post twenty-four hours a
day throughout the fire season. The materials for the cabin would be
trucked in along the new road and carried up the mountain, and some of
them would be cut right on the spot; for the forester planned to erect a
neat log cabin.

Before the road was completed, Charley had cement carried in as far as the
trucks could travel. Then the cement was carried up the mountain by
laborers. It had been put in small sacks so that it could be handled
easily. Sand was already at hand, and water could be had at the run coming
from the spring by which Charley had camped. Tools and boards were
brought, the proper excavations made, forms fashioned and fitted into the
excavations, and then cement was mixed and poured into the forms to make
the foundation to which the tower was to be bolted. By the time the road
was finished so that the steel framework could be trucked in, the cement
foundations were hard as stone and ready for the instant erection of the
tower.

At once the steel frame began to ascend. Upright was added to upright,
cross brace bolted to cross brace, and rung after rung added to the steel
ladder that led up to what was to be the watch-tower. In a surprisingly
short time the steel work was completed. Now the forester brought in
skilled carpenters and the wood for the tower room was cut after the
patterns and the cut pieces hoisted up to the top of the steel frame where
the watch-tower itself began to take shape.

While these operations were afoot, Charley and his laborers were back in
the forest, running a telephone-line along the new road. Holes had to be
dug, poles cut, barked, hauled, and set up, and the wires strung. While
his men set the poles, Charley himself, with a helper, strung the wires.
At this job he needed no instruction. His experiences with the wireless
were now of great value to him, for he understood about insulation,
grounding, short circuits, and the like as well as any skilled lineman.

So the telephone-line came on apace, and long before the tower was
finished, Charley had the line complete from the highway, where it joined
the main line, to the summit of the hill where the tower was going up. He
installed an instrument in a waterproof box nailed to a tree, so that he
could now talk from the hilltop to the forester's office. When the tower
was finally completed, he ran the lines up inside the angle-irons to
protect them from the terrific winds, so that the tower man could
instantly communicate with the forester at Oakdale.

Now the cabin went up. Large, flat stones were assembled and a rough but
stable foundation made below the level of the ground. Trees were felled,
barked, squared on two sides, and properly notched at the corners. When a
sufficient number had been prepared, the frame of the cabin was erected,
log being laid upon log, with the corners dovetailing. Wooden pins held
the logs in place. Windows and a door were cut out and framed. Then the
rafters for the roof were fashioned, the sheathing nailed on, and
shingles, made at a former lumber operation in Mr. Marlin's own territory,
completed the job. A fireplace was made of big stones and concrete, and
the cabin was about complete. A telephone extension was run into the
building. At any time now a fire patrol could take up his twenty-four-hour
watch at the fire-tower.

The early rush of fishermen was past; but the fine weather still brought
hosts of them into the woods, and the danger of fire increased rather than
lessened. The scanty rainfall in spring had left the woods still dry, and
now but few showers came. Fire patrols were still difficult to obtain,
however, and Charley decided that he would take up his residence, at least
temporarily, in the new cabin.

There was ample room in it for two men, should a fire patrol be secured,
and by living there, Charley would, of necessity, spend much time at this
observation post. Night and morning and at intervals between, when he was
at home, he could ascend to the tower and view every part of the
neighboring forest. Furthermore, the location was very convenient, for the
tower was close to the heart of his district. By living here he would be
with his work twenty-four hours a day.

Mr. Marlin approved of Charley's decision to move into the cabin. With the
new road completed, the forester could come to the very foot of the
mountain in his motor-car. He was in instant communication with his ranger
by telephone and, when it was necessary, he could get to him by motor-car
with the greatest ease.

The forester himself helped Charley move his belongings from Lumley's
house to the new cabin. While Mr. Marlin was loading Charley's other
luggage on his truck, Charley was dismantling his wireless. When he
removed the lead-in wire from the window-sash, he noticed Lumley's
finger-marks in the puttied crack and told Mr. Marlin about the ranger's
fit of temper. When everything was finally packed, Charley thanked Mrs.
Lumley for her hospitality and then climbed into the waiting truck.

As he sat down beside the forester, he sighed with relief. Merely to get
away from Lumley's house made him feel as though a burden had been lifted
from his shoulders. Mr. Marlin laughed at him, but that did not disturb
Charley. He had never been able to rid himself of his feeling of distrust
for Lumley, and he felt oppressed when he was in the Lumley home.

Charley and the forester carried Charley's possessions from the truck to
the new cabin. A tiny stove had been brought along for Charley to cook on.
Although it was so small, it was heavy enough. Between that and the
battery, the two had all the carrying they wanted before everything was
finally placed in the cabin.

Charley fastened his aerial between the fire-tower and his old watch
tree, which was still standing, but which had been shorn of most of its
branches to allow the watchman in the tower to see past it. Finally,
everything was complete. The wireless was in working condition, Charley's
few furnishings were in place, the stores put away, and the cabin was
fully ready for his occupancy.

Immediately Charley called up Mrs. Morton on the telephone and asked her
to talk to him on the wireless. A moment later their invisible messages
were speeding back and forth over the miles of billowing pine tops that
intervened between the two little forest homes, and no listener in on the
department telephone system could either know that they were talking or
tell what they said. Charley was overjoyed when Mrs. Morton told him that
her husband was about ready to come back to work. His arm was still
painful and he could not use it much, but he could now get around well and
was fast becoming strong again.

When Charley told the forester the news, the latter expressed his
pleasure. He studied Charley's face a moment to see how Charley felt over
the news.

"You realize what it means to you when Jim is able to do his work again,
do you?" asked Mr. Marlin.

"Certainly," said Charley. A feeling of regret passed through his mind and
was mirrored on his face. But there was nothing unkind or unfair about
it. "Maybe some day I'll qualify as a real ranger," sighed Charley, "but
I'm glad I had this opportunity to learn something."

"Charley," continued the forester, "you've earned the right to see this
lumber operation through. It's a big responsibility. You've worked night
and day to get ready for the job. Do you think I'm the kind of man who
would rob you of the reward that you have justly earned?"

"I don't exactly understand," said Charley.

"I mean," replied the forester, "that no matter whether Jim gets well in
time or not, you are going to handle the lumber operation in this
district. Jim can do something else. There's plenty of work for a dozen
rangers. You are to be the boss of this job."

"Do you really mean it?" cried Charley in delight.

"Surely I mean it," said the forester. "It wouldn't be a fair deal not to
let you take charge after the way you've tried to qualify for the work."

Charley held out his hand. "Thanks," was all that he could say, for a lump
came into his throat.

"And while we are talking about the lumber job," the forester went on, "I
want to say that I was never so badly fooled about anything in my life.
The cut isn't coming anywhere near my estimate. It must be five to ten
thousand feet per acre less than I thought it would run. I guess the Big
Chief at Harrisburg will think I'm a pretty poor timber cruiser."

"How's that?" asked Charley.

"Well, you remember the day I first met you in the forest, Charley, I was
cruising with two good timber estimators. They're skilled men. We were
making the estimate on which this sale was based. I sent in my estimate
and the department made its figures on that basis. But the timber that is
actually being taken out doesn't begin to scale what I thought it would.
Of course I was wrong in not cruising a bigger strip. But I just couldn't
spare the time, then. Evidently the stand over in Lumley's district is not
so heavy as it is here. The right way to estimate timber is to cruise
strips entirely across the stand. You can't make a correct estimate by
cruising an acre or two as I did and estimating an entire stand on the
basis of that acre or two. You see the stand in the bottom may be half as
heavy again as the stand on the hillside."

Mr. Marlin paused. After a moment, he went on, "Before the lumbermen get
into your district I want to make another estimate. You and I will cruise
a few strips the entire width of the stand. That will take quite a little
time. We can't start to-day, but we'll get at it at the first opportunity.
Meantime, I want you to get all the practice you can in scaling lumber, so
that you can do it readily. You will have to scale every stick cut in your
district and keep tally on all the lumber that is taken out. It's highly
important work, for the state depends upon your figures to get its just
pay for the lumber cut. If you make mistakes, the state will lose
accordingly. I want you to practice scaling so that you can do it as
readily as you can measure a board with a yardstick."

"Then I'll do some practicing to-day," said Charley. "You sent my crew
into another district and I can put in a whole afternoon practicing."

"Very good. I'll take you out to the skidways where the logs are being
piled by the highway, and you can work there as long as you like. Do you
have that log-rule I gave you?"

"Sure. But what about this? How shall I know if my measurements are
correct?"

"I'll tell you what we'll do. You scale every pile of logs at the highway
and make a record of your measurements. When Lumley turns in his official
record we can compare your figures with his. Then you will know how nearly
right you are." They went down the mountain and climbed into the
motor-car.

"Perhaps you would rather do this some other time," said the forester
suddenly. "You'll have to walk back, for I must go right along to my
office. And it's a great deal farther back here than it would have been to
Lumley's house."

Charley's reply was a good-natured laugh. "Have you ever found me afraid
of a little hike?" he asked. "I may not have another opportunity as good
as this, for I'm going to be mighty busy when my crew gets back."

They drove on, and at the skidways Mr. Marlin dropped his subordinate.
"I'll be out to see you to-morrow," he said, "with some maps and
specifications I must work out to-night. Good-bye."

"He's a prince," muttered Charley, and fell to measuring logs.

Applying his log-rule to the small end of each log, he noted the diameter
of the log and from the scale on the rule read the number of board-feet in
the log. Already Charley had done a little scaling of logs and he went at
the work readily. As he scaled pile after pile of logs, he worked faster
and faster, acquiring greater facility with every measurement. The
contents of each pile he noted down, a log at a time, on a bit of paper.
When he had finished the work, he totaled up the board-feet, and whistled
when he realized what a tremendous quantity of lumber was contained in the
log piles he had been measuring.

"Gee!" he said to himself. "At the price lumber is selling for now, those
logs are worth a small fortune. Gad! It makes a fellow feel pretty sober
when he thinks how easily he could make a mistake that would cost the
state hundreds of dollars."

He tucked his record in his pocket, along with his pencil, and started for
his cabin. Despite the fact that he was soon to lose his place of
authority, he could not help feeling happy. His diploma had been awarded
to him on Commencement day, although he had not been able to be present to
receive it, and that was one cause for happiness. His comrades had never
yet been able to visit him, but he had received a letter that morning
telling him that the entire Wireless Patrol was coming out to spend a
Sunday with him in the new cabin. That was a second cause for happiness.
His friend, Mr. Morton, was almost well, and that was a third cause for
happiness. And finally, he had earned the confidence of his chief so
completely that his chief was entrusting to him the very important task of
overseeing the lumber operation. That made Charley's heart swell with
pride. Even the near approach of his reduction to the ranks again could
not mar his happiness; for in his heart he knew that he had made good and
that it was only a question of time until he should become a ranger in
fact as well as in name.

So he went on his way happy, rejoicing in his accomplishment, enjoying the
new life of the forest, joyous with the strength and hope and confidence
of youth. He came at last to his trail's end, and climbed the tower to
look for fire and to watch the sun go down.

"It's warm enough so that a fellow could sleep up here now," he said to
himself suddenly. "I'll just build a bunk up here and then I can sleep
here whenever I feel like it. If I wake up in the night, I can take a look
around and make sure everything is all right."

He went down to his cabin and got a rope, some boards, foot-rule, saw,
hammer, auger, and nails. He went back to the tower and made some
measurements. Then he came down, cut his boards, bored holes into them,
tied them together, and went up again with his tools and nails and the end
of the rope. He hauled up the boards and drew them into the watch-tower.
Then he nailed them together and had a snug little bunk that stretched
completely across one side of the little structure. He wove the cord back
and forth across the bunk through the auger holes in place of springs.
Then he went down to the ground, made a tick out of one of his sheets,
filled it with leaves and got it up to the tower.

"Now," he said, as he spread it on the rope, "all I need is a pillow and a
blanket and I'm fixed."

He went down and cooked his supper. Then he talked both to Mrs. Morton and
to Lew by wireless. He made a cheerful blaze in his fireplace and studied
until ten o'clock. Then he got a pillow and a pair of blankets, blew out
his lamp, and ascended to the tower. He intended to go to sleep at once,
but the night was so beautiful that for a long time he sat on his bunk,
looking out over the forest, which lay still as a sleeping infant under
the moon's white light. Finally he wrapped himself in his blanket,
stretched out on his bunk, and was quickly asleep.

Charley was up early the next morning. He glanced at his watch and saw
that it lacked three-quarters of an hour of the time he usually had a
brief wireless chat with Mrs. Morton, so he cooked his breakfast at once.
Before he had finished eating, he heard the distant chugging of the
forester's car. Sometime later a cheery voice called up the slope, and
looking out of his door, Charley saw Mr. Marlin climbing up the mountain.
Charley hustled to get a cup of coffee ready for his chief.

"I came early," said the forester, "for it will take us some time to go
over these plans. Also I brought Lumley's figures for you to check up your
estimate by." And he handed Charley some slips of paper.

While Mr. Marlin was drinking his coffee, Charley compared Lumley's
figures with those he had made on a bit of paper. At first he looked
crestfallen. Then he appeared puzzled. Then an expression of great
indignation came into his face. He seemed greatly agitated.

The forester was studying his expression closely. "What's the difficulty,
Charley?" he asked.

"I told you I never trusted Lumley," he burst out. "Just look here."

He laid his figures beside Lumley's. Mr. Marlin ran his eye over them. At
first he, too, seemed puzzled. Then his face grew black as a thundercloud.

"Are you certain that you know how to scale a log right, Charley?" he
asked.

"Absolutely, Mr. Marlin."

"How do you estimate a log?"

Charley got his rule and laid it across the end of an unburned log in his
fireplace. It was ten inches in diameter.

"If that were a twelve-foot log," he said, consulting the scale, "it
would have three board feet in it. If it were sixteen feet long, it would
have six feet."

"Absolutely correct, Charley. Did you measure those logs that way
yesterday?"

"Yes, sir."

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