Young Norcross soon became vitally
engaged with the problems which confronted McFarlane,
and his possible enrolment as a guard filled him with
a sense of proprietorship in the forest, which made
him quite content with Bear Tooth. He set to
work at once to acquire a better knowledge of the
extent and boundaries of the reservation. It was,
indeed, a noble possession. Containing nearly
eight hundred thousand acres of woodland, and reaching
to the summits of the snow-lined peaks to the east,
south, and west, it appealed to him with silent majesty.
It drew upon his patriotism. Remembering how
the timber of his own state had been slashed and burned,
he began to feel a sense of personal responsibility.
He had but to ride into it a few miles in order to
appreciate in some degree its grandeur, considered
merely as the source of a hundred swift streams, whose
waters enriched the valleys lying below.
He bought a horse of his own although
Berrie insisted upon his retaining Pete and
sent for a saddle of the army type, and from sheer
desire to keep entirely clear of the cowboy equipment
procured puttees like those worn by cavalry officers,
and when he presented himself completely uniformed,
he looked not unlike a slender, young lieutenant of
the cavalry on field duty, and in Berrie’s eyes
was wondrous alluring.
He took quarters at the hotel, but
spent a larger part of each day in Berrie’s
company a fact which was duly reported to
Clifford Belden. Hardly a day passed without
his taking at least one meal at the Supervisor’s
As he met the rangers one by one,
he perceived by their outfits, as well as by their
speech, that they were sharply divided upon old lines
and new. The experts, the men of college training,
were quite ready to be known as Uncle Sam’s
men. They held a pride in their duties, a respect
for their superiors, and an understanding of the governmental
policy which gave them dignity and a quiet authority.
They were less policemen than trusted agents of a
federal department. Nevertheless, there was much
to admire in the older men, who possessed a self-reliance,
a knowledge of nature, and a certain rough grace which
made them interesting companions, and rendered them
effective teachers of camping and trailing, and while
they were secretly a little contemptuous of the “schoolboys”;
they were all quite ready to ask for expert aid when
knotty problems arose. It was no longer a question
of grazing, it was a question of lumbering and reforestration.
Nash, who took an almost brotherly
interest in his apprentice, warningly said: “You
want to go well clothed and well shod. You’ll
have to meet all kinds of weather. Every man
in the service, I don’t care what his technical
job is, should be schooled in taking care of himself
in the forest and on the trail. I often meet surveyors
and civil engineers experts who
are helpless as children in camp, and when I want
them to go into the hills and do field work, they are
almost useless. The old-style ranger has his
virtues. Settle is just the kind of instructor
you young fellows need.”
Berrie also had keen eyes for his
outfit and his training, and under her direction he
learned to pack a horse, set a tent, build a fire in
the rain, and other duties.
“You want to remember that you
carry your bed and board with you,” she said,
“and you must be prepared to camp anywhere and
at any time.”
The girl’s skill in these particulars
was marvelous to him, and added to the admiration
he already felt for her. Her hand was as deft,
as sure, as the best of them, and her knowledge of
cayuse psychology more profound than any of the men
excepting her father.
One day, toward the end of his second
week in the village, the Supervisor said: “Well,
now, if you’re ready to experiment I’ll
send you over to Settle, the ranger, on the Horseshoe.
He’s a little lame on his pen-hand side, and
you may be able to help him out. Maybe I’ll
ride over there with you. I want to line out
some timber sales on the west side of Ptarmigan.”
This commission delighted Norcross
greatly. “I’m ready, sir, this moment,”
he answered, saluting soldier-wise.
That night, as he sat in the saddle-littered,
boot-haunted front room of Nash’s little shack,
his host said, quaintly: “Don’t think
you are inheriting a soft snap, son. The ranger’s
job was a man’s job in the old days when it
was a mere matter of patrolling; but it’s worse
and more of it to-day. A ranger must be ready
and willing to build bridges, fight fire, scale logs,
chop a hole through a windfall, use a pick in a ditch,
build his own house, cook, launder, and do any other
old trick that comes along. But you’ll
know more about all this at the end of ten days than
I can tell you in a year.”
“I’m eager for duty,” replied Wayland.
The next morning, as he rode down
to the office to meet the Supervisor, he was surprised
and delighted to find Berea there. “I’m
riding, too,” she announced, delightedly.
“I’ve never been over that new trail, and
father has agreed to let me go along.” Then
she added, earnestly: “I think it’s
fine you’re going in for the Service; but it’s
hard work, and you must be careful till you’re
hardened to it. It’s a long way to a doctor
from Settle’s station.”
He was annoyed as well as touched
by her warning, for it proclaimed that he was still
far from looking the brave forester he felt himself
to be. He replied: “I’m not
going to try anything wild, but I do intend to master
the trailer’s craft.”
“I’ll teach you how to
camp, if you’ll let me,” she continued.
“I’ve been on lots of surveys with father,
and I always take my share of the work. I threw
that hitch alone.” She nodded toward the
pack-horse, whose neat load gave evidence of her skill.
“I told father this was to be a real camping
expedition, and as the grouse season is on we’ll
live on the country. Can you fish?”
“Just about that,” he
laughed. “Good thing you didn’t ask
me if I could catch fish?” He was recovering
his spirits. “It will be great fun to have
you as instructor in camp science. I seem to be
in for all kinds of good luck.”
They both grew uneasy as time passed,
for fear something or some one would intervene to
prevent this trip, which grew in interest each moment;
but at last the Supervisor came out and mounted his
horse, the pack-ponies fell in behind, Berrie followed,
and the student of woodcraft brought up to rear.
“I hope it won’t rain,”
the girl called back at him, “at least not till
we get over the divide. It’s a fine ride
up the hill, and the foliage is at its best.”
It seemed to him the most glorious
morning of his life. A few large white clouds
were drifting like snow-laden war-vessels from west
to east, silent and solemn, and on the highest peaks
a gray vapor was lightly clinging. The near-by
hills, still transcendently beautiful with the flaming
gold of the aspen, burned against the dark green of
the farther forest, and far beyond the deep purple
of the shadowed slopes rose to smoky blue and tawny
yellow. It was a season, an hour, to create raptures
in a poet, so radiant, so wide-reaching, so tumultuous
was the landscape. Nothing sad, nothing discouraging,
showed itself. The wind was brisk, the air cool
and clear, and jewel-like small, frost-painted vines
and ripened shrubberies blazed upward from the ground.
As he rode the youth silently repeated: “Beautiful!
For several miles they rode upward
through golden forests of aspens. On either hand
rose thick walls of snow-white boles, and in the mystic
glow of their gilded leaves the face of the girl shone
with unearthly beauty. It was as if the very
air had become auriferous. Magic coins dangled
from the branches. Filmy shadows fell over her
hair and down her strong young arms like priceless
lace. Gold, gold! Everywhere gold, gold and
Twice she stopped to gaze into Wayland’s
face to say, with hushed intensity: “Isn’t
it wonderful! Don’t you wish it would last
Her words were poor, ineffectual;
but her look, her breathless voice made up for their
lack of originality. Once she said: “I
never saw it so lovely before; it is an enchanted
land!” with no suspicion that the larger part
of her ecstasy arose from the presence of her young
and sympathetic companion. He, too, responded
to the beauty of the day, of the golden forest as
one who had taken new hold on life after long illness.
Meanwhile the Supervisor was calmly
leading the way upward, vaguely conscious of the magical
air and mystic landscape in which his young folk floated
as if on wings, thinking busily of the improvements
which were still necessary in the trail, and weighing
with care the clouds which still lingered upon the
tallest summits, as if debating whether to go or to
stay. He had never been an imaginative soul, and
now that age had somewhat dimmed his eyes and blunted
his senses he was placidly content with his path.
The rapture of the lover, the song of the poet, had
long since abandoned his heart. And yet he was
not completely oblivious. To him it was a nice
day, but a “weather breeder.”
“I wonder if I shall ever ride
through this mountain world as unmoved as he seems
to be?” Norcross asked himself, after some jarring
prosaic remark from his chief. “I am glad
Berrie responds to it.”
At last they left these lower, wondrous
forest aisles and entered the unbroken cloak of firs
whose dark and silent deeps had a stern beauty all
their own; but the young people looked back upon the
glowing world below with wistful hearts. Back
and forth across a long, down-sweeping ridge they
wove their toilsome way toward the clouds, which grew
each hour more formidable, awesome with their weight,
ponderous as continents in their majesty of movement.
The horses began to labor with roaring breath, and
Wayland, dismounting to lighten his pony’s burden,
was dismayed to discover how thin the air had become.
Even to walk unburdened gave him a smothering pain
in his breast.
“Better stay on,” called
the girl. “My rule is to ride the hill going
up and walk it going down. Down hill is harder
on a horse than going up.”
Nevertheless he persisted in clambering
up some of the steepest parts of the trail, and was
increasingly dismayed by the endless upward reaches
of the foot-hills. A dozen times he thought,
“We must be nearly at the top,” and then
other and far higher ridges suddenly developed.
Occasionally the Supervisor was forced to unsling
an ax and chop his way through a fallen tree, and
each time the student hurried to the spot, ready to
aid, but was quite useless. He admired the ease
and skill with which the older man put his shining
blade through the largest bole, and wondered if he
could ever learn to do as well.
“One of the first essentials
of a ranger’s training is to learn to swing
an ax,” remarked McFarlane, “and you never
want to be without a real tool. I won’t
stand for a hatchet ranger.”
Berrie called attention to the marks
on the trees. “This is the government sign a
long blaze with two notches above it. You can
trust these trails; they lead somewhere.”
“As you ride a trail study how
to improve it,” added the Supervisor, sheathing
his ax. “They can all be improved.”
Wayland was sure of this a few steps
farther on, when the Supervisor’s horse went
down in a small bog-hole, and Berrie’s pony escaped
only by the most desperate plunging. The girl
laughed, but Wayland was appalled and stood transfixed
watching McFarlane as he calmly extricated himself
from the saddle of the fallen horse and chirped for
him to rise.
“You act as if this were a regular
part of the journey,” Wayland said to Berrie.
“It’s all in the day’s
work,” she replied; “but I despise a bog
worse than anything else on the trail. I’ll
show you how to go round this one.” Thereupon
she slid from her horse and came tiptoeing back along
the edge of the mud-hole.
McFarlane cut a stake and plunged
it vertically in the mud. “That means ‘no
bottom,’” he explained. “We
must cut a new trail.”
Wayland was dismounting when Berrie
said: “Stay on. Now put your horse
right through where those rocks are. It’s
hard bottom there.”
He felt like a child; but he did as
she bid, and so came safely through, while McFarlane
set to work to blaze a new route which should avoid
the slough which was already a bottomless horror to
the city man.
This mishap delayed them nearly half
an hour, and the air grew dark and chill as they stood
there, and the amateur ranger began to understand how
serious a lone night journey might sometimes be.
“What would I do if when riding in the dark
my horse should go down like that and pin me in the
mud?” he asked himself. “Eternal watchfulness
is certainly one of the forester’s first principles.”
The sky was overshadowed now, and
a thin drizzle of rain filled the air. The novice
hastened to throw his raincoat over his shoulders;
but McFarlane rode steadily on, clad only in his shirtsleeves,
unmindful of the wet. Berrie, however, approved
Wayland’s caution. “That’s right;
keep dry,” she called back. “Don’t
pay attention to father, he’d rather get soaked
any day than unroll his slicker. You mustn’t
take him for model yet awhile.”
He no longer resented her sweet solicitude,
although he considered himself unentitled to it, and
he rejoiced under the shelter of his fine new coat.
He began to perceive that one could be defended against
After passing two depressing marshes,
they came to a hillside so steep, so slippery, so
dark, so forbidding, that one of the pack-horses balked,
shook his head, and reared furiously, as if to say
“I can’t do it, and I won’t try.”
And Wayland sympathized with him. The forest was
gloomy and cold, and apparently endless.
After coaxing him for a time with
admirable gentleness, the Supervisor, at Berrie’s
suggestion, shifted part of the load to her own saddle-horse,
and they went on.
Wayland, though incapable of comment so
great was the demand upon his lungs was
not too tired to admire the power and resolution of
the girl, who seemed not to suffer any special inconvenience
from the rarefied air. The dryness of his open
mouth, the throbbing of his troubled pulse, the roaring
of his breath, brought to him with increasing dismay
the fact that he had overlooked another phase of the
ranger’s job. “I couldn’t chop
a hole through one of these windfalls in a week,”
he admitted, as McFarlane’s blade again liberated
them from a fallen tree. “To do office
work at six thousand feet is quite different from swinging
an ax up here at timber-line,” he said to the
girl. “I guess my chest is too narrow for
“Oh, you’ll get used to
it,” she replied, cheerily. “I always
feel it a little at first; but I really think it’s
good for a body, kind o’ stretches the lungs.”
Nevertheless, she eyed him with furtive anxiety.
He was beginning to be hungry also he
had eaten a very early breakfast and he
fell to wondering just where and when they were to
camp; but he endured in silence. “So long
as Berrie makes no complaint my mouth is shut,”
he told himself. “Surely I can stand it
if she can.” And so struggled on.
Up and up the pathway looped, crossing
minute little boggy meadows, on whose bottomless ooze
the grass shook like a blanket, descending steep ravines
and climbing back to dark and muddy slopes. The
forest was dripping, green, and silent now, a mysterious
menacing jungle. All the warmth and magic of
the golden forest below was lost as though it belonged
to another and sunnier world. Nothing could be
seen of the high, snow-flecked peaks which had allured
them from the valley. All about them drifted
the clouds, and yet through the mist the flushed face
of the girl glowed like a dew-wet rose, and the imperturbable
Supervisor jogged his remorseless, unhesitating way
toward the dense, ascending night.
“I’m glad I’m not
riding this pass alone,” Wayland said, as they
paused again for breath.
“So am I,” she answered;
but her thought was not his. She was happy at
the prospect of teaching him how to camp.
At last they reached the ragged edge
of timber-line, and there, rolling away under the
mist, lay the bare, grassy, upward-climbing, naked
neck of the great peak. The wind had grown keener
moment by moment, and when they left the storm-twisted
pines below, its breath had a wintry nip. The
rain had ceased to fall, but the clouds still hung
densely to the loftiest summits. It was a sinister
yet beautiful world a world as silent as
a dream, and through the short, thick grass the slender
trail ran like a timid serpent. The hour seemed
to have neither daytime nor season. All was obscure,
mysterious, engulfing, and hostile. Had he been
alone the youth would have been appalled by the prospect.
“Now we’re on the divide,”
called Berea; and as she spoke they seemed to enter
upon a boundless Alpine plain of velvet-russet grass.
“This is the Bear Tooth plateau.”
Low monuments of loose rock stood on small ledges,
as though to mark the course, and in the hollows dark
ponds of icy water lay, half surrounded by masses
of compact snow.
“This is a stormy place in winter,”
McFarlane explained. “These piles of stone
are mighty valuable in a blizzard. I’ve
crossed this divide in August in snow so thick I could
not see a rod.”
Half an hour later they began to descend.
Wind-twisted, storm-bleached dwarf pines were first
to show, then the firs, then the blue-green spruces,
and then the sheltering deeps of the undespoiled forest
opened, and the roar of a splendid stream was heard;
but still the Supervisor kept his resolute way, making
no promises as to dinner, though his daughter called:
“We’d better go into camp at Beaver Lake.
I hope you’re not starved,” she called
“But I am,” he replied,
so frankly that she never knew how faint he really
was. His knees were trembling with weakness, and
he stumbled dangerously as he trod the loose rocks
in the path.
They were all afoot now descending
swiftly, and the horses ramped down the trail with
expectant haste, so that in less than an hour from
timber-line they were back into the sunshine of the
lower valley, and at three o’clock or thereabouts
they came out upon the bank of an exquisite lake,
and with a cheery shout McFarlane called out:
“Here we are, out of the wilderness!”
Then to Wayland: “Well, boy, how did you
“Just middling,” replied
Wayland, reticent from weariness and with joy of their
camping-place. The lake, dark as topaz and smooth
as steel, lay in a frame of golden willows as
a jewel is filigreed with gold and above
it the cliffs rose three thousand feet in sheer majesty,
their upper slopes glowing with autumnal grasses.
A swift stream roared down a low ledge and fell into
the pond near their feet. Grassy, pine-shadowed
knolls afforded pasture for the horses, and two giant
firs, at the edge of a little glade, made a natural
shelter for their tent.
With businesslike certitude Berrie
unsaddled her horse, turned him loose, and lent a
skilful hand at removing the panniers from the pack-animals,
while Wayland, willing but a little uncertain, stood
awkwardly about. Under her instruction he collected
dead branches of a standing fir, and from these and
a few cones kindled a blaze, while the Supervisor hobbled
the horses and set the tent.
“If the work of a forester were
all like this it wouldn’t be so bad,” he
remarked, wanly. “I think I know several
fellows who would be glad to do it without a cent
“Wait till you get to heaving
a pick,” she retorted, “or scaling lumber
in a rain, or building a corduroy bridge.”
“I don’t want to think
of anything so dreadful. I want to enjoy this
moment. I never was hungrier or happier in my
“Do ye good,” interjected
McFarlane, who had paused to straighten up the coffee-pot.
“Most people don’t know what hunger means.
There’s nothing finer in the world than good
old-fashioned hunger, provided you’ve got something
to throw into yourself when you come into camp.
This is a great place for fish. I think I’ll
see if I can’t jerk a few out.”
“Better wait till night,”
said his daughter. “Mr. Norcross is starving,
and so am I. Plain bacon will do me.”
The coffee came to a boil, the skillet
gave off a wondrous savor, and when the corn and beans
began to sizzle, the trailers sat down to their feast
in hearty content, with one of the panniers for a table,
and the fir-tree for roof. “This is one
of the most perfectly appointed dining-rooms in the
world,” exclaimed the alien.
The girl met his look with a tender
smile. “I’m glad you like it, for
perhaps we’ll stay a week.”
“It looks stormy,” the
Supervisor announced, after a glance at the crests.
“I’d like to see a soaking rain it
would end all our worry about fires. The country’s
very dry on this side the range, and your duty for
the present will be to help Tony patrol.”
While he talked on, telling the youth
how to beat out a small blaze and how to head off
a large one, Wayland listened, but heard his instructions
only as he sensed the brook, as an accompaniment to
Berea’s voice, for as she busied herself clearing
away the dishes and putting the camp to rights, she
“You’re to have the tent,”
said her father, “and we two huskies will sleep
under the shade of this big fir. If you’re
ever caught out,” he remarked to Wayland, “hunt
for one of these balsam firs; there’s always
a dry spot under them. See here!” And he
showed him the sheltered circle beneath the tree.
“You can always get twigs for kindling from their
inner branches,” he added, “or you can
hew into one of these dead trees and get some pitchy
splinters. There’s material for everything
you want if you know where to find it. Shelter,
food, fire are all here for us as they were for the
Indians. A ranger who needs a roof all the time
is not worth his bacon.”
So, one by one, the principles of
camping were taught by the kindly old rancher; but
the hints which the girl gave were quite as valuable,
for Wayland was eager to show her that he could be,
and intended to be, a forester of the first class
or perish in the attempt.
McFarlane went farther and talked
freely of the forest and what it meant to the government.
“We’re all green at the work,” he
said, “and we old chaps are only holding the
fort against the thieves till you youngsters learn
how to make the best use of the domain.”
“I can see that it takes more
than technical training to enable a man to be Supervisor
of a forest,” conceded Wayland.
McFarlane was pleased with this remark.
“That’s true, too. It’s a big
responsibility. When I first came on, it was mainly
patrolling; but now, with a half dozen sawmills, and
these ‘June Eleventh Homesteads,’ and the
new ways of marking timber, and the grazing and free-use
permits, the office work has doubled. And this
is only the beginning. Wait till Colorado has
two millions of people, and all these lower valleys
are clamoring for water. Then you’ll see
a new party spring up right here in our
Berrie was glowing with happiness.
“Let’s stay here till the end of the week,”
she suggested. “I’ve always wanted
to camp on this lake, and now I’m here I want
time to enjoy it.”
“We’ll stay a day or two,”
said her father; “but I must get over to that
ditch survey which is being made at the head of Poplar,
and then Moore is coming over to look at some timber
The young people cut willow rods and
went angling at the outlet of the lake with prodigious
success. The water rippled with trout, and in
half an hour they had all they could use for supper
and breakfast, and, behold, even as they were returning
with their spoil they met a covey of grouse strolling
leisurely down to the lake’s edge. “Isn’t
it a wonderful place!” exclaimed the happy girl.
“I wish we could stay a month.”
“It’s like being on the
Swiss Family Robinson’s Island. I never
was more content,” he said, fervently.
“I wouldn’t mind staying here all winter.”
“I would!” she laughed.
“The snow falls four feet deep up here.
It’s likely there’s snow on the divide
this minute, and camping in the snow isn’t so
funny. Some people got snowed in over at Deep
Lake last year and nearly all their horses starved
before they could get them out. This is a fierce
old place in winter-time.”
“I can’t imagine it,”
he said, indicating the glowing amphitheater which
inclosed the lake. “See how warmly the sun
falls into that high basin! It’s all as
beautiful as the Tyrol.”
The air at the moment was golden October,
and the dark clouds which lay to the east seemed the
wings of a departing rather than an approaching storm;
and even as they looked, a rainbow sprang into being,
arching the lake as if in assurance of peace and plenty,
and the young people, as they turned to face it, stood
so close together that each felt the glow of the other’s
shoulder. The beauty of the scene seemed to bring
them together in body as in spirit, and they fell
McFarlane seemed quite unconscious
of any necromancy at work upon his daughter.
He smoked his pipe, made notes in his field-book, directing
an occasional remark toward his apprentice, enjoying
in his tranquil, middle-age way the beauty and serenity
of the hour.
“This is the kind of thing that
makes up for a hard day’s ride,” he said,
As the sunset came on, the young people
again loitered down to the water’s edge, and
there, seated side by side, on a rocky knoll, watched
the phantom gold lift from the willows and climb slowly
to the cliffs above, while the water deepened in shadow,
and busy muskrats marked its glossy surface with long
silvery lines. Mischievous camp-birds peered at
the couple from the branches of the pines uttering
satirical comment, while squirrels, frankly insolent,
dropped cones upon their heads and barked in saucy
Wayland forgot all the outside world,
forgot that he was studying to be a forest ranger,
and was alive only to the fact that in this most bewitching
place, in this most entrancing hour, he had the companionship
of a girl whose eyes sought his with every new phase
of the silent and wonderful scene which shifted swiftly
before their eyes like a noiseless yet prodigious
drama. The blood in his thin body warmed.
He forgot his fatigue, his weakness. He was the
poet and the forest lover, and this the heart of the
Lightly the golden glory rose till
only the highest peaks retained its flame; then it
leapt to the clouds behind the peaks, and gorgeously
lit their somber sulphurous masses. The edges
of the pool grew black as night; the voice of the
stream grew stern; and a cold wind began to fall from
the heights, sliding like an invisible but palpable
At last the girl rose. “It
is getting dark. I must go back and get supper.”
“We don’t need any supper,” he protested.
“Father does, and you’ll
be hungry before morning,” she retorted, with
sure knowledge of men.
He turned from the scene reluctantly;
but once at the camp-fire cheerfully gave his best
efforts to the work in hand, seconding Berrie’s
skill as best he could.
The trout, deliciously crisp, and
some potatoes and batter-cakes made a meal that tempted
even his faint appetite, and when the dishes were
washed and the towels hung out to dry, deep night possessed
even the high summit of stately Ptarmigan.
McFarlane then said: “I’ll
just take a little turn to see that the horses are
all right, and then I think we’d better close
in for the night.”
When they were alone in the light
of the fire, Wayland turned to Berrie: “I’m
glad you’re here. It must be awesome to
camp alone in a wilderness; and yet, I suppose, I
must learn to do it.”
“Yes, the ranger often has to
camp alone, ride alone, and work alone for weeks at
a time,” she assured him. “A good
trailer don’t mind a night trip any more than
he does a day trip, or if he does he never admits it.
Rain, snow, darkness, is all the same to him.
Most of the boys are fifteen to forty miles from the
He smiled ruefully. “I
begin to have new doubts about this ranger business.
It’s a little more vigorous than I thought it
was. Suppose a fellow breaks a leg on one of
those high trails?”
“He mustn’t!” she
hastened to say. “He can’t afford
really to take reckless chances; but then father won’t
expect as much of you as he does of the old-stagers.
You’ll have plenty of time to get used to it.”
“I may be like the old man’s
cow and the green shavings, just as I’m getting
used to it I’ll die.”
She didn’t laugh at this.
“You mustn’t be rash; don’t jump
into any hard jobs for the present; let the other
fellow do it.”
“But that’s not very manly.
If I go into the work I ought to be able to take my
share of any task that turns up.”
“You’d better go slow,”
she argued. “Wait till you get hardened
to it. You need something over your shoulders
now,” she added; and rose and laid a blanket
over him. “You’re tired; you’ll
take a chill if you’re not careful.”
“You’re very considerate,”
he said, looking up at her gratefully. “But
it makes me feel like a child to think I need such
care. If honestly trying, if going up against
these hills and winds with Spartan courage will do
me good, I’m for it. I’m resolved
to show to you and your good father that I can learn
to ride and pack and cut trail, and do all the rest
of it there’s some honor in qualifying
as a forester, and I’m going to do it.”
“Of course there isn’t
much in it for you. The pay, even of a full ranger,
isn’t much, after you count out his outlay for
horses and saddles and their feed, and his own feed.
It don’t leave so very much of his ninety dollars
“I’m not thinking of that,”
he retorted. “If you had once seen a doctor
shake his head over you, as I have, you’d think
just being here in this glorious spot, as I am to-night,
would be compensation enough. It’s a joy
to be in the world, and a delight to have you for my
She was silent under the pleasure
of his praise, and he went on: “I know
I’m better, and, I’m perfectly certain
I can regain my strength. The very odor of these
pines and the power of these winds will bring it back
to me. See me now, and think how I looked when
I came here six weeks ago.”
She looked at him with fond agreement.
“You are better. When I saw you
first I surely thought you were ”
“I know what you thought and
forget it, please! Think of me as one who
has touched mother earth again and is on the way to
being made a giant. You can’t imagine how
marvelous, how life-giving all this is to me.
It is poetry, it is prophecy, it is fulfilment.
I am fully alive again.”
McFarlane, upon his return, gave some
advice relating to the care of horses. “All
this stock which is accustomed to a barn or a pasture
will quit you,” he warned. “Watch
your broncos. Put them on the outward side of
your camp when you bed down, and pitch your tent near
the trail, then you will hear the brutes if they start
back. Some men tie their stock all up; but I
usually picket my saddle-horse and hobble the rest.”
It was a delightful hour for schooling,
and Wayland would have been content to sit there till
morning listening; but the air bit, and at last the
Supervisor asked: “Have you made your bed?
If you have, turn in. I shall get you out early
to-morrow.” As he saw the bed, he added:
“I see you’ve laid out a bed of boughs.
That shows how Eastern you are. We don’t
do that out here. It’s too cold in this
climate, and it’s too much work. You want
to hug the ground if it’s dry.”
The weary youth went to his couch
with a sense of timorous elation, for he had never
before slept beneath the open sky. Over him the
giant fir tall as a steeple dropped
protecting shadow, and looking up he could see the
firelight flickering on the wide-spread branches.
His bed seemed to promise all the dreams and restful
drowse which the books on outdoor life had described,
and close by in her tiny little canvas house he could
hear the girl in low-voiced conversation with her sire.
All conditions seemed right for slumber, and yet slumber
refused to come!
After the Supervisor had rolled himself
in the blanket, long after all sounds had ceased in
the tent, there still remained for the youth a score
of manifold excitations to wakefulness. Down on
the lake the muskrats and beavers were at their work.
Nocturnal birds uttered uncanny, disturbing cries.
Some animal with stealthy crackling tread was ranging
the hillside, and the roar of the little fall, so
far from lulling him to sleep as he had
imagined it would stimulated his imagination
till he could discern in it the beat of scurrying
wings and the patter of pernicious padded feet.
“If I am appalled by the wilderness now, what
would it seem to me were I alone!” he whispered.
Then, too, his bed of boughs discovered
unforeseen humps and knobs, and by the time he had
adjusted himself to their discomfort, it became evident
that his blankets were both too thin and too short.
And the gelid air sweeping down from the high places
submerged him as if with a flood of icy water.
In vain he turned and twisted within his robes.
No sooner were his shoulders covered and comfortable
than his hip-bones began to ache. Later on the
blood of his feet congealed, and in the effort to wrap
them more closely, he uncovered his neck and shoulders.
The frost became a wolf, the night an oppressor.
“I must have a different outfit,” he decided.
And then thinking that this was but early autumn, he
added: “What will it be a month later?”
He began to doubt his ability to measure up to the
heroic standard of a forest patrol.
The firelight flickered low, and a
prowling animal daringly sniffed about the camp, pawing
at the castaway fragments of the evening meal.
The youth was rigid with fear. “Is it a
bear? Shall I call the Supervisor?” he
He felt sadly unprotected, and wished
McFarlane nearer at hand. “It may be a
lion, but probably it is only a coyote, or a porcupine,”
he concluded, and lay still for what seemed like hours
waiting for the beast to gorge himself and go away.
He longed for morning with intense
desire, and watched an amazingly luminous star which
hung above the eastern cliff, hoping to see it pale
and die in dawn light, but it did not; and the wind
bit even sharper. His legs ached almost to the
cramping-point, and his hip-bones protruded like knots
on a log. “I didn’t know I had door-knobs
on my hips,” he remarked, with painful humor,
and, looking down at his feet, he saw that a thick
rime was gathering on his blanket. “This
sleeping out at night isn’t what the books crack
it up to be,” he groaned again, drawing his feet
up to the middle of his bed to warm them. “Shall
I resign to-morrow? No, I’ll stay with
it; but I’ll have more clothing. I’ll
have blankets six inches thick. Heaps of blankets the
fleecy kind I’ll have an air-mattress.”
His mind luxuriated in these details till he fell into
an uneasy drowse.