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Storm-bound








From: The Forester's Daughter

Wayland was awakened by the mellow voice of his chief calling: "All out!
All out! Daylight down the creek!" Breathing a prayer of thankfulness,
the boy sat up and looked about him. "The long night is over at last, and
I am alive!" he said, and congratulated himself.

He drew on his shoes and, stiff and shivering, stood about in helpless
misery, while McFarlane kicked the scattered, charred logs together, and
fanned the embers into a blaze with his hat. It was heartening to see the
flames leap up, flinging wide their gorgeous banners of heat and light,
and in their glow the tenderfoot ranger rapidly recovered his courage,
though his teeth still chattered and the forest was dark.

"How did you sleep?" asked the Supervisor.

"First rate--at least during the latter part of the night," Wayland
briskly lied.

"That's good. I was afraid that Adirondack bed of yours might let the
white wolf in."

"My blankets did seem a trifle thin," confessed Norcross.

"It don't pay to sleep cold," the Supervisor went on. "A man wants to
wake up refreshed, not tired out with fighting the night wind and frost.
I always carry a good bed."

It was instructive to see how quietly and methodically the old
mountaineer went about his task of getting the breakfast. First he cut
and laid a couple of eight-inch logs on either side of the fire, so that
the wind drew through them properly, then placing his dutch-oven cover on
the fire, he laid the bottom part where the flames touched it. Next he
filled his coffee-pot with water, and set it on the coals. From his
pannier he took his dishes and the flour and salt and pepper, arranging
them all within reach, and at last laid some slices of bacon in the
skillet.

At this stage of the work a smothered cry, half yawn, half complaint,
came from the tent. "Oh, hum! Is it morning?" inquired Berrie.

"Morning!" replied her father. "It's going toward noon. You get up or
you'll have no breakfast."

Thereupon Wayland called: "Can I get you anything, Miss Berrie? Would you
like some warm water?"

"What for?" interposed McFarlane, before the girl could reply.

"To bathe in," replied the youth.

"To bathe in! If a daughter of mine should ask for warm water to wash
with I'd throw her in the creek."

Berrie chuckled. "Sometimes I think daddy has no feeling for me. I reckon
he thinks I'm a boy."

"Hot water is debilitating, and very bad for the complexion," retorted
her father. "Ice-cold water is what you need. And if you don't get out o'
there in five minutes I'll dowse you with a dipperful."

This reminded Wayland that he had not yet made his own toilet, and,
seizing soap, towel, and brushes, he hurried away down to the beach where
he came face to face with the dawn. The splendor of it smote him full in
the eyes. From the waveless surface of the water a spectral mist was
rising, a light veil, through which the stupendous cliffs loomed three
thousand feet in height, darkly shadowed, dim and far. The willows along
the western marge burned as if dipped in liquid gold, and on the lofty
crags the sun's coming created keen-edged shadows, violet as ink. Truly
this forestry business was not so bad after all. It had its
compensations.

Back at the camp-fire he found Berrie at work, glowing, vigorous,
laughing. Her comradeship with her father was very charming, and at the
moment she was rallying him on his method of bread-mixing. "You should
rub the lard into the flour," she said. "Don't be afraid to get your
hands into it--after they are clean. You can't mix bread with a spoon."

"Sis, I made camp bread for twenty years afore you were born."

"It's a wonder you lived to tell of it," she retorted, and took the pan
away from him. "That's another thing you must learn," she said to
Wayland. "You must know how to make bread. You can't expect to find
bake-shops or ranchers along the way."

In the heat of the fire, in the charm of the girl's presence, the young
man forgot the discomforts of the night, and as they sat at breakfast,
and the sun rising over the high summits flooded them with warmth and
good cheer, and the frost melted like magic from the tent, the experience
had all the satisfying elements of a picnic. It seemed that nothing
remained to do; but McFarlane said: "Well, now, you youngsters wash up
and pack whilst I reconnoiter the stock." And with his saddle and bridle
on his shoulder he went away down the trail.

Under Berrie's direction Wayland worked busily putting the camp equipment
in proper parcels, taking no special thought of time till the tent was
down and folded, the panniers filled and closed, and the fire carefully
covered. Then the girl said: "I hope the horses haven't been stampeded.
There are bears in this valley, and horses are afraid of bears. Father
ought to have been back before this. I hope they haven't quit us."

"Shall I go and see?"

"No, he'll bring 'em--if they're in the land of the living. He picketed
his saddle-horse, so he's not afoot. Nobody can teach him anything about
trailing horses, and, besides, you might get lost. You'd better keep
close to camp."

Thereupon Wayland put aside all responsibility. "Let's see if we can
catch some more fish," he urged.

To this she agreed, and together they went again to the outlet of the
lake--where the trout could be seen darting to and fro on the clear, dark
flood--and there cast their flies till they had secured ten good-sized
fish.

"We'll stop now," declared the girl. "I don't believe in being
wasteful."

Once more at the camp they prepared the fish for the pan. The sun
suddenly burned hot and the lake was still as brass, but great, splendid,
leisurely, gleaming clouds were sailing in from the west, all centering
about Chief Audobon, and the experienced girl looked often at the sky. "I
don't like the feel of the air. See that gray cloud spreading out over
the summits of the range, that means something more than a shower. I do
hope daddy will overtake the horses before they cross the divide. It's
going to pour up there."

"What can I do?"

"Nothing. We'll stay right here and get dinner for him. He'll be hungry
when he gets back."

As they were unpacking the panniers and getting out the dishes, thunder
broke from the high crags above the lake, and the girl called out:

"Quick! It's going to rain! We must reset the tent and get things under
cover."

Once more he was put to shame by the decision, the skill, and the
strength with which she went about re-establishing the camp. She led, he
followed in every action. In ten minutes the canvas was up, the beds
rolled, the panniers protected, the food stored safely; but they were
none too soon, for the thick gray veil of rain, which had clothed the
loftiest crags for half an hour, swung out over the water--leaden-gray
under its folds--and with a roar which began in the tall pines--a roar
which deepened, hushed only when the thunder crashed resoundingly from
crag to crest--the tempest fell upon the camp and the world of sun and
odorous pine vanished almost instantly, and a dark, threatening, and
forbidding world took its place.

But the young people--huddled close together beneath the tent--would have
enjoyed the change had it not been for the thought of the Supervisor. "I
hope he took his slicker," the girl said, between the tearing, ripping
flashes of the lightning. "It's raining hard up there."


"How quickly it came. Who would have thought it could rain like this
after so beautiful a morning?"

"It storms when it storms--in the mountains," she responded, with the
sententious air of her father. "You never can tell what the sky is going
to do up here. It is probably snowing on the high divide. Looks now as
though those cayuses pulled out sometime in the night and have hit the
trail for home. That's the trouble with stall-fed stock. They'll quit you
any time they feel cold and hungry. Here comes the hail!" she shouted, as
a sharper, more spiteful roar sounded far away and approaching. "Now keep
from under!"

"What will your father do?" he called.

"Don't worry about him. He's at home any place there's a tree. He's
probably under a balsam somewhere, waiting for this ice to spill out. The
only point is, they may get over the divide, and if they do it will be
slippery coming back."

For the first time the thought that the Supervisor might not be able to
return entered Wayland's mind; but he said nothing of his fear.

The hail soon changed to snow, great, clinging, drowsy, soft, slow-moving
flakes, and with their coming the roar died away and the forest became as
silent as a grave of bronze. Nothing moved, save the thick-falling,
feathery, frozen vapor, and the world was again very beautiful and very
mysterious.

"We must keep the fire going," warned the girl. "It will be hard to start
after this soaking."

He threw upon the fire all of the wood which lay near, and Berrie, taking
the ax, went to the big fir and began to chop off the dry branches which
hung beneath, working almost as effectively as a man. Wayland insisted on
taking a turn with the tool; but his efforts were so awkward that she
laughed and took it away again. "You'll have to take lessons in swinging
an ax," she said. "That's part of the job."

Gradually the storm lightened, the snow changed back into rain, and
finally to mist; but up on the heights the clouds still rolled wildly,
and through their openings the white drifts bleakly shone.

"It's all in the trip," said Berrie. "You have to take the weather as it
comes on the trail." As the storm lessened she resumed the business of
cooking the midday meal, and at two o'clock they were able to eat in
comparative comfort, though the unmelted snow still covered the trees,
and water dripped from the branches.

"Isn't it beautiful!" exclaimed Wayland, with glowing boyish face. "The
landscape is like a Christmas card. In its way it's quite as beautiful as
that golden forest we rode through."

"It wouldn't be so beautiful if you had to wallow through ten miles of
it," she sagely responded. "Daddy will be wet to the skin, for I found he
didn't take his slicker. However, the sun may be out before night. That's
the way the thing goes in the hills."

To the youth, though the peaks were storm-hid, the afternoon was joyous.
Berrie was a sweet companion. Under her supervision he practised at
chopping wood and took a hand at cooking. At her suggestion he stripped
the tarpaulin from her father's bed and stretched it over a rope before
the tent, thus providing a commodious kitchen and dining-room. Under this
roof they sat and talked of everything except what they should do if the
father did not return, and as they talked they grew to even closer
understanding.

Though quite unlearned of books, she had something which was much more
piquant than anything which theaters and novels could give--she possessed
a marvelous understanding of the natural world in which she lived. As the
companion of her father on many of his trips, she had absorbed from him,
as well as from the forest, a thousand observations of plant and animal
life. Seemingly she had nothing of the woman's fear of the wilderness,
she scarcely acknowledged any awe of it. Of the bears, and other
predatory beasts, she spoke carelessly.

"Bears are harmless if you let 'em alone," she said, "and the
mountain-lion is a great big bluff. He won't fight, you can't make him
fight; but the mother lion will. She's dangerous when she has cubs--most
animals are. I was out hunting grouse one day with a little twenty-two
rifle, when all at once, as I looked up along a rocky point I was
crossing, I saw a mountain-lion looking at me. First I thought I'd let
drive at him; but the chances were against my getting him from there, so
I climbed up above him--or where I thought he was--and while I was
looking for him I happened to glance to my right, and there he was about
fifty feet away looking at me pleasant as you please. Didn't seem to be
mad at all--'peared like he was just wondering what I'd do next. I jerked
my gun into place, but he faded away. I crawled around to get behind him,
and just when I reached the ledge on which he had been standing a few
minutes before, I saw him just where I'd been. He had traded places with
me. I began to have that creepy feeling. He was so silent and so kind of
pleasant-looking I got leery of him. It just seemed like as though I'd
dreamed him. He didn't seem real."

Wayland shuddered. "You foolish girl! Why didn't you run?"

"I did. I began to figure then that this was a mother lion, and that her
cubs were close by, and that she could just as well sneak up and drop on
me from above as not. So I got down and left her alone. It was her
popping up now here and now there like a ghost that locoed me. I was sure
scared."

Wayland did not enjoy this tale. "I never heard of such folly. Did your
father learn of that adventure?"

"Yes, I told him."

"Didn't he forbid your hunting any more?"

"No, indeed! Why should he? He just said it probably was a lioness, and
that it was just as well to let her alone. He knows I'm no chicken."

"How about your mother--does she approve of such expeditions?"

"No, mother worries more or less when I'm away; but then she knows it
don't do any good. I'm taking all kinds of chances every day, anyhow."

He had to admit that she was better able to care for herself in the
wilderness than most men--even Western men--and though he had not yet
witnessed a display of her skill with a rifle, he was ready to believe
that she could shoot as well as her sire. Nevertheless, he liked her
better when engaged in purely feminine duties, and he led the talk back
to subjects concerning which her speech was less blunt and manlike.

He liked her when she was joking, for delicious little curves of laughter
played about her lips. She became very amusing, as she told of her
"visits East," and of her embarrassments in the homes of city friends. "I
just have to own up that about all the schooling I've got is from the
magazines. Sometimes I wish I had pulled out for town when I was about
fourteen; but, you see, I didn't feel like leaving mother, and she didn't
feel like letting me go--and so I just got what I could at Bear Tooth."
She sprang up. "There's a patch of blue sky. Let's go see if we can't get
a grouse."

The snow had nearly all sunk into the ground on their level; but it still
lay deep on the heights above, and the torn masses of vapor still clouded
the range. "Father has surely had to go over the divide," she said, as
they walked down the path along the lake shore. "He'll be late getting
back, and a plate of hot chicken will seem good to him."

Together they strolled along the edge of the willows. "The grouse come
down to feed about this time," she said. "We'll put up a covey soon."

It seemed to him as though he were re-living the experiences of his
ancestors--the pioneers of Michigan--as he walked this wilderness with
this intrepid huntress whose alert eyes took note of every moving thing.
She was delightfully unconscious of self, of sex, of any doubt or fear. A
lovely Diana--strong and true and sweet.

Within a quarter of a mile they found their birds, and she killed four
with five shots. "This is all we need," she said, "and I don't believe in
killing for the sake of killing. Rangers should set good examples in way
of game preservation. They are deputy game-wardens in most states, and
good ones, too."

They stopped for a time on a high bank above the lake, while the sunset
turned the storm-clouds into mountains of brass and iron, with sulphurous
caves and molten glowing ledges. This grandiose picture lasted but a few
minutes, and then the Western gates closed and all was again gray and
forbidding. "Open and shut is a sign of wet," quoted Berrie, cheerily.

The night rose formidably from the valley while they ate their supper;
but Berrie remained tranquil. "Those horses probably went clean back to
the ranch. If they did, daddy can't possibly get back before eight
o'clock, and he may not get back till to-morrow."





Next: The Walk In The Rain

Previous: The Golden Pathway



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