The Golden Pathway
: The Forester's Daughter
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 wood
and, 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
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
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
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
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
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! 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 fire!
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 forever?"
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
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
"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
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 a
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 to Wayland.
"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 stand it?"
"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 of pay."
"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 life."
"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 sang.
"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
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
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 on Porcupine."
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 silent.
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 glee.
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 range.
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 icy cataract.
At last the girl rose. "It is getting dark. I must go back and get
"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 post-office."
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
"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
"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 a month."
"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 teacher."
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
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.