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Title: Scott Burton, Forester
Author: Cheyney, Edward G. (Edward Gheen)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      enclosed by underscores _like this_.



SCOTT BURTON, FORESTER


[Illustration: “Good shot, old man,” he cried to Morgan.]


SCOTT BURTON
FORESTER

by

EDWARD G. CHEYNEY

Illustrated by Norman Rockwell



D. Appleton and Company
New York        London
1917

Copyright, 1917, by
D. Appleton and Company

Printed in the United States of America



                                   TO
                               MY BROTHER
                        Whose broad-minded views
             Have had an ever-present influence on my life
                         THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED



                              ILLUSTRATIONS

        “Good shot, old man,” he cried to Morgan

        By night they had ... camped within sight of the lights
            of Red Wing

        His instinct was to run ... but he stood there too terrified
            to move

        He waved his knife threateningly, and tried to warn Scott off



                         SCOTT BURTON, FORESTER



                               CHAPTER I


“Hello, Scotty, have you decided yet which one it will be?” Dick
Bradshaw called, eagerly, as he ran up the walk to the old Burton home.
He had been away for two weeks, and when he left, the selection of a
forest school for Scott had been the all absorbing question.

“Yes,” Scott answered, “it was decided a week ago. You know there never
has been any doubt in my mind. I picked out the Western college in the
first place, but father and mother did not want me to go so far away
from home. I persuaded them last week that it was the best thing to do,
and they consented.”

Dick’s face fell. “That means I shall not see you for four years,” he
growled.

“Oh no, Dick,” Scott answered quickly, “not over three at the most, and
possibly not over two. That was what persuaded father and mother to let
me go. You see they may give me enough extra credit for that extra high
school work and those three years of summer school we took, to enable me
to squeeze through in two years. I have sent in my credits, and shall
find out when I get there.”

Dick brightened up a little. The boys had grown up together in the
little New England village, the closest of friends, and the idea of a
long separation was pretty hard, especially for the one who was to stay
at home. They had always had the same tastes in books, studies and
pleasures. Both were hard students and both preferred long walks in the
woods and fields to the games that most boys play. These traits had kept
them somewhat apart from the other boys, and thrown them almost
exclusively on each other’s society.

“When do you go?” Dick asked.

“Early tomorrow morning,” Scott answered. “You see it takes two days to
get there. I was afraid you would not get back in time for me to see you
at all.”

“Tomorrow!” Dick exclaimed indignantly. “Why didn’t you pick out Yale?
You could have come home once in a while then, and we could have had a
great time together there next year.” Dick was planning on taking some
special work in biology at Yale the next season.

Scott was stung by the reproach in Dick’s voice. “You know perfectly
well I would have done it if I could. Yale has a graduate school and I
could not get in. Why don’t you come out with me?”

“Maybe I shall if you find out that it is any good. Why do you want to
go to a place that you do not know anything about?” Dick remonstrated.

“But I do know something about it, Dick. I know that it is in a new
country that I have never seen, that it has a good reputation, and that
a large part of the work is given in camp. What more do you want?”

“Well,” Dick answered, “that camp part sounds good to me and if the
biology is taught in a camp I may be out there with you next year. You
find out about that and let me know. I have to be going now. I just came
up on the way from the train to find out what you had decided. Mother is
waiting for me. See you later.” And he hurried down the walk.

“Come over after supper,” Scott called after him and walked slowly into
the house. This thing of leaving Dick when he was taking it so hard was
the toughest pull of all. He knew Dick through and through, and he
suddenly realized that he did not know anything about any of the people
where he was going. His intimate knowledge of boys was limited almost
entirely to Dick, and he felt a certain timidity in meeting so many
strangers.

As he entered the old home where he had always lived he felt that it was
dearer to him than he knew, in spite of the fact that he was so eager to
leave it. His father was a doctor there in the little village of Wabern,
Mass., a man devoted to his profession, which yielded a large amount of
work with a small income. He had always taken it for granted that his
only child would follow in his footsteps, and for many years he had
tried in every way to interest the boy in his work. He had taken him on
many a long drive on the rounds of his work and tried to impress on him
the beauties of healing sickness and alleviating pain. It was not till
Scott was a strapping big fellow of sixteen that the astonished father
realized that his boy had drifted hopelessly away from the medical
profession.

He had noted with pride Scott’s collection of plants, bugs, small
animals and rocks, and the boy’s love for such things pleased him. It
came to him as a shock when he discovered that the boy’s point of view
was entirely different from his own. For him the specimens were all
related in some way to the medical profession; to Scott they represented
only the different phases of nature. It was the make-up of the great
“outdoors” which interested him, and he longed to be a part of it. It
was the opportunity of such a life that first attracted him toward
forestry, and his mind once made up he bent all his energies to
preparing for the work. His father and mother concealed their
disappointment as best they could and helped him along in this unknown
line of work.

At last the time had come when a special course at college was
necessary, and the question of which school had to be decided. Scott’s
lack of a degree barred him from the graduate schools of the East, and
in his heart he was rather glad of it. He knew every plant, animal and
rock in that section of the country and was eager for new fields to
conquer. The greater proportion of actual woods work was a further
incentive. With these things in mind he had studied the catalogs of the
different schools by the hour, and had finally decided on Minnesota. His
parents had objected at first on account of the distance from home but
they had finally yielded to his wish.

And now the question was settled. His application had been accepted,
Dick had given a grudging approval, and he was actually packing up to
go.

In the hall he met his father, a mild-eyed man of fifty, just returning
from his daily round of mercy.

“Well, Scott,” he said cheerfully, “you are leaving the old nest and
taking a pretty long flight for the first one. See that you fly
straight, boy. Your mother and I have done all that we can to develop
your wings, and the rest of it is up to you. Let’s go to dinner.”

Mrs. Burton was waiting for them in the dining-room. She was very tired
from the work of preparing Scott for his journey, and blue at the
thought of losing him, but she smiled her sweetest smile, and did her
best to cheer the boy’s last meal at home. There was nothing unusual
about the dinner, but Scott felt a certain close companionship with his
father and mother, an equality, that he had never felt before. It gave
him a new feeling of confidence and responsibility that no amount of
lecturing could have done.

Before they arose from the table the doctor said: “Here’s something for
you to remember, Scott. You already know that book knowledge is not
everything. You know that a great deal can be learned from nature, but
there is one important source of knowledge that you must not neglect.
You are going where there will be hundreds of young men, men of all
kinds and character. They will be a good sample of the men of the world,
and it is important that you should know them. Do not do there as you
have done here at home, pick one man for your constant companion and be
indifferent to all the others. You must know them all. Study some of
them for the good traits that you ought to have, and others for the bad
traits that you want to avoid. You can learn something from everyone of
them. You must learn from them how to take a man’s measure for yourself
and not have to rely on the judgment of others. If you learn to judge
men truly your success in other things will be pretty certain.

“Just one thing more. You have insisted on taking up work that is
different from the life I had always planned for you. Perhaps you think
that I am hurt and resent it. That is not true. I want you to feel that
I have every confidence in your judgment and ability to make a success
of anything you undertake even when you choose something of which I am
entirely ignorant. This new work should prepare you to make some use of
wild land, as I understand it, and I am going to make you a proposition.

“That ten thousand-acre tract of cut-over forest in New Hampshire that
your grandfather left us should be made to produce something. I am
willing to give you this tract for your own on two conditions. The first
is that you successfully complete your course and pass your Civil
Service examinations as a proof of your training; and second, that you
show your ability to pick responsible men for your companions. Of the
latter I shall have to be the judge. Fill those two conditions and the
land is yours.”

For the life of him Scott could not find anything to say. It was the
first time his father had ever spoken to him in that way, as one man to
another and it choked him up queerly. He could not even thank his father
for the offer. He was relieved when Dick Bradshaw came in and went with
him to his room to help finish packing and look over his equipment.

The two boys talked till almost midnight over the possibilities of the
western country and the new things that would be found there. The
necessity of Scott’s catching an early train finally forced them to
separate with many a promise of a very active correspondence.

Scott slept like a top till his mother called him at four o’clock. The
train was due at five-fifteen, and everything had to be done in a rush.
His mother preferred it so. Almost before he knew it he had eaten a
hurried breakfast, had hastened to the station, and was looking out of
the car window into the hazy morning with the brave tones of his
mother’s voice still ringing in his ears, “Good-bye, Scott. Remember how
you have lived and write me what you do. As long as you can do that you
are safe.”

All day long he sat with his nose almost glued against the windowpane
noting every change in topography and speculating on the geological
formation. Occasionally he thought of his father’s injunction and tore
himself away from the window long enough to notice the people around
him. The country outside was of much greater interest to him, but there
kept ringing through his brain continuously, “I will give you that ten
thousand-acre tract.” Surely no other boy had ever had such a chance as
that. It was as big as many a German national forest.

About noon of the second day he passed through St. Paul, and on to
Minneapolis. A thrill passed through Scott as he realized that he was
actually west of the Mississippi River.

Scott hastened from the train with the rest of the passengers, and
pushed his way through the crowded gate into the station. He was burning
to see the College he had been dreaming about for so long. He had no
idea where it was located but he felt certain that a College which had
attracted him from such a great distance must be a matter of pride to
all the citizens and very easily found.

He walked to the first street corner and asked a passerby. “Can you tell
me the way to the Forest School?”

The stranger stopped abruptly. “The what?”

“The Forest School.”

“To the Forest School,” the man repeated wonderingly. “No, I’m afraid I
can’t. I am a stranger here myself. Never heard of it.”

Scott tried another man with a busy up-to-date air. “Pardon me, can you
tell me the way to the Forest School?”

The man passed on with an indifferent look and paid no further attention
to him.

“Humph,” Scott thought. “City manners seem to be different from ours at
home.”

He watched a few people pass by and selected for his next victim an
elderly gentleman with a kindly face and a leisurely air.

“Pardon me, sir, can you tell me the way to the Forest School?”

The old gentleman stopped courteously and apologized for not quite
catching the question.

Scott repeated it.

The old man shook his head doubtfully. “Never heard of it, my boy. What
sort of a place is it?”

Scott was beginning to think that he must have come to the wrong city.
However, the old gentleman was exceedingly polite, and the boy tried to
explain. “It is a school where they train foresters, sir.”

“Oh,” said the old gentleman in a rather doubtful tone. “Strange I have
never heard of it. Let’s ask the policeman.”

They consulted that dignitary, but he had never heard of it and could
find no clue in his little yellow book.

Suddenly the old man seemed to have an inspiration. “Isn’t part of the
University, is it?” he asked.

“Why, certainly it is,” Scott blurted indignantly. The ignorance of
these people was remarkable.

“Oh well, then,” said the old gentleman, “that’s easy. Take that car
right there and get off at Fourteenth Street. You can see it from
there.”

Scott thanked him and hurried into the car. He felt that his troubles
were over at last and he would soon be a duly registered embryo
forester. The University loomed up big as he left the car at Fourteenth
Street, and the gayly dressed students were wandering everywhere in the
idleness of registration day.

Scott tackled an amiable looking fellow and once more inquired the way
to the Forest School. The amiable student stopped and grinned at him
sympathetically. “Well now, old man, that’s too bad. You are miles off
your course.”

Scott’s face fell. “Why, isn’t this the University?” he asked.

“Certainly this is the University,” answered the wise one, “but the
Forest School is part of the Agricultural Department, and that is miles
away at the end of yonder carline. Take the car back the way you came
clear to the end of the carline, and you’ll find the Agricultural
College half a mile beyond that.”

“Thank you very much,” said Scott gratefully, “you are the first person
I have met in the whole city who seems to really know anything about
it.”

“Don’t mention it, old man,” said his new friend with a bow. “You’ll get
there in the end all right.”

The ride back to the end of the carline seemed almost endless, but the
fact that one of those splendid young fellows had called him “old man,”
and the thought that he would soon be one of them cheered him up
wonderfully. The car came to the end of the track at last and he walked
down the road briskly, eager to be a full-fledged student and swagger
like the fellow with the red shoes and the decorated sweater who had
talked to him. He could see the buildings on the hill ahead, but was
rather surprised to find a high board fence around the grounds; the
gate, too, was locked. A man in uniform answered his knock.

“Is this the Agricultural College?” Scott asked by way of an
introduction, for he felt sure that it was.

“No, sonny,” the man answered with a broad grin, “this is the County
Poor Farm, and you are the fourth man them smart alecks have sent out
here today. Now you get back on that car you just left and tell the
conductor to put you off at the Agricultural College, and don’t let
anybody else steer you.”

Scott thanked him with downcast mien, and trudged dejectedly back to the
car. Visions of that gay young sophomore who had called him “old man,”
and deceived him so cheerfully floated before him in a red haze. He
wondered what his father would think of his judgment. He swore all kinds
of vengeance, and it looked for a while as though the whole sophomore
class was in danger.

He drew back as the car passed the University for fear the sophomore
might be waiting to see him go by. Sure enough there he was on the
corner and Scott had a hard time to restrain himself from going out to
thrash him then and there. He eyed the conductor suspiciously when he
called the Agricultural College to try to detect whether he was in the
general conspiracy against all freshmen. He did not feel nearly so sure
of the real Agricultural College when he saw it as he had of the County
Poor Farm. However, it was the right place at last, and a printed sign
pointed the way to the registrar’s office.

Nearly all the students he met on the long winding path leading up to
the administration building were carrying suitcases, and most of them
gazed nervously about them like strangers in a strange land. Scott
threaded his way through the crowds of students grouped idly around the
halls and stairway to a place in the long line which was crawling slowly
past the registrar’s window. A young man wearing the badge of the Y. M.
C. A. approached him and asked if he was looking for a room, but Scott
remembered the trip to the county poor farm too vividly to take any more
advice from a student, and refused to even discuss the matter with him.
The crowd in the line was certainly a mixed one, and from their
appearance he concluded that his father was right in saying that they
were a good sample of nearly all the different kinds of people in the
world. The large proportion of girls worried him a good deal till he
found that they were registering for domestic science, an entirely
separate course from his own. He had not been accustomed to the idea of
coeducation, so popular in the West.

In due time he reached the window and presented his permit.

“Scott Burton,” the registrar read in kindly tones, “of Wabern, Mass. I
remember your case. You have a number of advanced credits. Let’s see.
Here is the report of your case from the enrollment committee. They have
allowed you credit for one semester of mathematics, four of language,
four of rhetoric, four of botany, two of geology, two of zoology, and
two of chemistry. That leaves you only elementary forestry, dendrology,
mechanical drawing and forest engineering to complete the work of the
first two years.”

That was a little better than Scott had even dared to hope. He asked
eagerly, “Then I can finish in two years?”

“Possibly, you will have to see the Students’ Work Committee tomorrow
about that. They may let you take some extra work on probation but you
will have to drop it if your marks are not up to grade at the end of the
first four weeks. In the meanwhile you will be registered as a freshman.
Here is your registration card. See that it is filled in, and your fees
paid by five P. M. tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” said Scott. “Can you tell me where I can get some
information about a boarding house?”

The registrar gave him one of the printed lists that the student had
tried to give him a little while before, and turned to the next student
in the line.

With his registration card in his pocket Scott felt more certain of
himself again. He was not only a student, he was almost a junior, and if
the other students in the halls had happened to notice him they would
have seen a very different looking boy from the one who had gone in a
half-hour before.



                               CHAPTER II


Armed with the list of rooming houses furnished him by the registrar
Scott set out in search of a room. His stock of money was limited, and
he regretted that his old chum, Dick Bradshaw, was not there to share
his room, and incidentally his room rent. For to Scott, who had always
lived at home, and never associated very closely with many other boys of
his own age, the selection of a roommate was a problem which he
considered would require much thought and a thorough knowledge of his
intended partner. His New England conservatism kept him from even
dreaming of going in with a stranger.

The search proved rather long and tiresome. The upper classmen had
picked all the best rooms before they left in the spring the year
before, and the assortment now available was not very attractive. Single
rooms were hard to find at all and the prices something to inspire awe.

Scott approached a rather attractive little house which stood back in a
pleasing yard something like the one at his home. The usual sign, “Rooms
to Rent,” was not in sight, but he rang the bell and waited patiently
for someone to answer it. Presently the door opened a crack and a
silver-haired old lady eyed him curiously. Her face looked kindly enough
but the sound of her voice made Scott almost jump.

“What do you want?” she snapped.

“I beg your pardon,” said Scott, “but can you tell me where there are
any rooms to rent around here?”

“No.” Like the crack of a pistol.

“They seem to be rather hard to find,” Scott remarked apologetically.

“Yes,” the old lady fired at him as she slammed the door. “I guess the
people in this park want to live in their own houses.”

Scott gazed at the closed door in astonishment. “Well,” he thought,
“there is one thing sure—I should hate to live in yours.”

He was becoming discouraged, and was turning wearily away from the
twelfth house—almost the last one on his list—when he nearly collided
with a young fellow who was bounding up the front steps three at a jump.

The landlady took pity on Scott’s weary look, and addressed herself to
the newcomer. “Mr. Johnson, do you know of any place where this young
man can find a room?”

The young man turned abruptly and ran his eye frankly over Scott.
“What’s your course?” he asked.

“Forestry,” Scott answered, wondering what that had to do with it.

“Sure I do,” said Johnson. “Come on in with me. That’s my course and I
am looking for a bunkie. Come on up and leave your suitcase and then you
can see about your trunk.”

Scott gazed with astonishment at this new species of being who would
take on a second’s notice a roommate whose very name he did not know.
But that confident and carefree young gentleman was already leading the
way up the stairs without a doubt as to the issue. Scott looked at the
landlady to see what effect such a sudden proposition had made on her.
He expected to find her wide-eyed and agape with astonishment; instead
of that she had closed the front door and was disappearing down the
hall. He would certainly have backed out if he had known how, but both
the landlady and the stranger seemed to be so certain the deal was
closed, that Scott, dazed by the swift passage of events and seeing no
possible way out, followed helplessly up the stairs.

“Maybe,” he thought, “it’s one of those dens you read about in the
newspaper where young fellows are roped in in this way and robbed. If it
is they will need more than that red-headed guy to do it. Dick could
lick the shoes off of him and Dick never could box. They would not get
very much if they succeeded,” he grinned, “the railroads already have
most of it.”

When he entered the room indicated he found his new acquaintance already
seated in a revolving chair near the table, reading a large poster.
Without raising his eyes from the paper Johnson said, “You may have the
two lower drawers of the bureau, I already have my stuff in the others,
and the right hand side of the closet. Better go back to the registrar’s
office and tell them where to bring your trunk; they charge you storage
awful quick at the depot.” And he continued to read the poster.

Scott tried to look the room over carelessly as he thought anyone would
who was used to renting a new one every week or so. He found that he was
still holding his suitcase in his hand. He looked at his roommate to see
if he had noticed it, but that indifferent young man was still absorbed
in the poster and oblivious to his surroundings. Scott set the suitcase
quietly in the corner and took another careless look around the room.

“Well, I guess this will do,” he remarked flippantly. “I’ll go see about
the trunk.”

As he was going out the door Johnson called after him, “Hustle back and
I’ll take you to our hash house. They are nearly all foresters there and
a couple of them are seniors, too.”

Scott hurried to the registrar’s office, left word about the trunk and
started back to his newly acquired room and roommate, both of which he
had obtained almost before he knew it and was not yet quite certain
whether he wanted them or not. However, it was a great relief to feel
that he had some place to go, and he rather thought that he liked it. As
he was going down the steps a husky, sunburned fellow with a swinging
gait and the free air of the woods joined him.

“Getting straightened out?” he asked pleasantly.

“Yes,” Scott answered, with a readiness that surprised himself. “I got a
room, a roommate and a boarding house, all this afternoon.” He was
beginning to feel a little proud of it.

“You are lucky,” the other said. “Where are you from?”

“Massachusetts,” said Scott, a little proudly. He felt that it was
rather a distinction to live so far away. He expected to see some show
of astonishment from this stranger, but instead the answer astonished
him.

“I expect we are nearly the Eastern and Western limits of the School,”
he said quietly. “I am from Honolulu. Not much timber left in
Massachusetts, is there?”

Ordinarily Scott would have been very diffident with a stranger who
accosted him in this way, especially after such an experience as he had
had that morning, but there was a personal magnetism about this tall,
dark, gentlemanly fellow that made him open his rather lonesome heart.

“No,” he answered, “nothing much but second growth. How did you know
that I was a forester?”

“Nothing very mysterious about that. Your green registration card is
sticking out of your pocket. Well, here is where I leave you. So long.”

Scott found his new home and walked in with an independent air of
ownership that sent a thrill through him. Johnson was waiting
impatiently for him. As soon as Scott appeared in the door Johnson
grabbed his hat and started out. “Hurry up, man. You’re late. These hash
houses aren’t home. If you are late you get a short ration.”

Scott took a hasty scrub at his car-stained face and hands, and they
hurried away to the boarding house. Most of the men were already seated
when they arrived. Scott waited for an introduction to the landlady to
inquire whether he could stay there, but Johnson jerked out the chair
next to his, looked at him curiously, and ordered him to sit down.

“Don’t you have to see the landlady here?” Scott asked.

“Don’t worry,” Johnson laughed. “She’s probably spotting you now through
a crack in the door, and you’ll see her pretty regularly every Saturday
night at pay time.”

“Humph,” thought Scott, “I’d like to see anyone get into a
boarding-house around home without giving his whole pedigree and paying
a week’s board in advance.” He added aloud to Johnson, “I should think a
good many fellows would skip their board.”

“No,” said Johnson, “there are not many fellows here who try it and most
of them get caught.”

When the rush of passing dishes was over Scott had a chance to look
around the table. He was surprised to see what a husky, sunburned,
independent looking crowd it was. Two of them, especially, seemed to be
almost an Indian red, and directed the conversation with peculiar
abandon. He was agreeably surprised to see that one of them was the
Hawaiian who had walked down the street with him a few minutes before.
He caught Scott’s eye and smiled pleasantly.

Johnson caught the salutation and looked at Scott with an air of
surprise and added respect. “I did not know that you knew him,” he said
in an undertone, but his remarks were cut short by a peremptory command
from another sunburned face at the end of the table.

“Johnson, you haven’t the manners of a goat. Why don’t you introduce
your friend?”

“Oh,” said Johnson, somewhat abashed. “Fellows, this is my roommate.”

“That’s a fine introduction for him. What’s his name, pinhead?”

Johnson looked wonderingly at Scott for a minute, grinned at the
surrounding company, and burst out laughing. “Blamed if I know his name
yet, I just got him this afternoon, and we have not had the time to
explain the short sad histories of our young lives to each other yet.”
Then to Scott, “You’ll have to introduce yourself, I guess.”

“Scott Burton, forester,” he announced with quiet dignity, and the
sunburned senior acknowledged the introduction for the crowd.

After dinner he talked for a little while with the Hawaiian and a few of
the other men and went back to the room with Johnson.

“How did you get to know Ormand?” Johnson asked.

“Who’s he?”

“Why that fellow you spoke to at the table. Didn’t you know him?”
Johnson asked in surprise.

“He walked down the street with me when I was coming from the
registrar’s office,” said Scott. “Who is he?”

“Gee,” said Johnson. “He is president of the senior class and manager of
last summer’s corporation.”

“What do you mean by last summer’s corporation?”

“Why, when the juniors go up to the woods for the summer they form a
corporation and elect one of the class to manage the business for the
bunch. He bosses the whole crowd. He’s the biggest man in the College
and that other fellow who called me down about the introduction is
Morgan, the next biggest. Funny I did not know your name, wasn’t it?”

“Well,” Scott said, “I should not have known yours if I had not heard
other people talking to you. What class are you?”

“Who, me?” said Johnson. “Why, I am a freshman like you.”

“Then how is it that you know all these people so well?” Scott asked.

“Oh, I went to prep school here, and knew them all last year. I have
credit in a couple of courses,” Johnson added proudly, “and I have field
experience to burn. I do not have to take any German this year or
mathematics either.”

“Neither do I,” said Scott. “Our high school is ahead of the ones here,
and I have taken so much work in the summer that I got credit for nearly
all the work of the first two years.”

“Then you’re a junior?” asked Johnson in a more respectful tone. Respect
for the upper classes was about the only weakness that Johnson allowed
himself in that direction.

“I suppose so,” said Scott; “they told me at the registrar’s office that
I was practically a junior, but would be classed as a freshman till I
had completed my elementary forestry, dendrology and forest
engineering.”

“Been around the country much?”

“No,” said Scott, “that’s one reason why I came out here to College.
I’ve seen every rock in the country around home, but I have never been
away from there.”

“Then you have never seen a real forest,” exclaimed Johnson.

“Only the woodlots on the farms.”

“What sort of work did you do in the summer there?”

“Went to summer school and loafed.” Scott, like most of the boys in the
East, had always considered the holidays sacred to recreation, and had
thought himself particularly virtuous for devoting six weeks of it to
summer school each year. “Do you work in vacation time?” he asked.

“You bet,” said Johnson. “I’ve worked every summer since I can remember,
and every winter, too, for that matter. I’ve paid all my expenses at
school for the past ten years.”

Scott gazed at him in open wonder. “What do you do?” he asked.

“What haven’t I done would be easier. I’ve been ‘bull cook’ on a
railroad construction crew in Montana, and driven teams on a slusher in
Arizona; I’ve picked apples in Washington, and been a ‘river pig’ on the
drive here in northern Minnesota; I’ve carried a rod on a survey party
in Colorado, and pushed straw in the harvest fields of North Dakota;
I’ve tended furnaces, carried papers, and weighed mail, billed express
and smashed baggage during Christmas vacation. Some of ’em were tough
and some of ’em were cinches, but they have all netted me a good bunch
of experience.”

During the careless listing of his roommate’s experiences Scott had
slowly settled back in his chair with a feeling of wondering admiration
for Johnson and an overwhelming sense of his own helplessness. He eyed
Johnson’s thin freckled face, and ran his glance over his slight, wiry
frame, and wondered what he himself, with all his strength, would do if
he had to tackle such problems. It had never occurred to him that anyone
but a born laboring man could do such things. The feeling of contempt
which he had at first for Johnson’s roughness gave way to a kind of new
admiration for his ability and self reliance.

“Do you play football?” Johnson asked suddenly.

“No, I never cared anything about it.”

“Baseball?”

“Only a little.”

“Basketball?” Johnson persisted.

“No.”

“Well, where in thunder did you get that build if you have never worked
and don’t do any athletic stunts?” Johnson was searching for something
to account for Scott’s five feet ten and one hundred and seventy-five
pounds, his heavy shoulders and muscular neck. He had the Westerner’s
contempt for the tenderfoot of the East. He was not at all surprised
that he could not do anything, but was puzzled at his fine physique.

“Oh,” said Scott, “I got that wrestling, boxing and walking around the
country. There was an ex-prizefighter who worked for father and he used
to give me lessons in the barn every evening.”

Johnson pricked up his ears. “A boxer,” he thought. “Maybe the man was
not so helpless after all.”

“You’ll have to box Morgan,” he said aloud, “and if you can do him,
you’ll have to fight for the College on rush day. Will you do it?”

“I’ll certainly try,” said Scott, and the East rose a thousand per cent
in Johnson’s estimation.

The two boys talked on till nearly midnight and finally went to sleep
with entirely new ideas of each other. Unconsciously the prejudices of
generations had been broken down and their views broadened across half a
continent.



                              CHAPTER III


Scott was gradually settling down in his new surroundings, getting
accustomed to his new associates, who had struck him as being so totally
different from the men he was used to, and becoming familiar with the
routine of the class work.

He found himself at a great disadvantage in competition with the other
members of the class. He had been taught by good teachers, but their
point of view had been different from that of the foresters who had
taught the men with whom he was now thrown. These fellows had been
looking forward to a definite end for several years and all their
training had been with the ultimate object in view. They had a different
view of the subjects from the one he had obtained from the academic men
who had taught him. He found that they had a grip of the subjects and
could apply them in a way that he could not. Moreover, he had a great
deal of extra work to make up and he had been allowed to take it only on
condition that if he was not up to the scratch at the end of the first
six weeks he would have to drop it all.

Not many men could have carried such a burden, and the chairman of the
Students’ Work Committee had told him that he was foolish to attempt it.
Most men would have either fallen short or have overworked themselves;
but Scott did neither. He had always believed in system in his work. He
allotted so much time to his studies and allowed nothing to interfere
with them; he made it a point not to study for an hour in the evening
after supper, and never looked at a book from Saturday noon to Monday
morning. He knew that he was able to accomplish more in the long run in
this way. As most of the student sports were scheduled for Saturday
afternoon he was able to take in most of them and did not become stale.

He had just closed his book one Saturday morning preparatory to going to
lunch when Johnson bounced into the room in high feather.

“Come on, Scotty, let’s go to the football game this afternoon. It’s
only Lawrence, and won’t be much of a game, but it will give us a chance
to get a line on the team.”

Scott agreed readily, the more readily because he had never seen a big
football game. They ate lunch hastily, for it was already a little late
and the game was scheduled a little earlier than usual. The car was
crowded with people going to the field and when they got off the car
they found the streets full of people flocking in the same direction.

Johnson led the way into two good seats where they did not belong and
succeeded in holding them against all comers. The stands were full, for
though it was not considered one of the big games, it was the first game
of the season, and the students all turned out to see their team in
action. It was the basis for sizing up the chances for the team in the
struggle for the Western supremacy. The stands were a brilliant mass of
color and the cheer leaders were performing all kinds of contortions to
wring the greatest volume of noise from the crowd.

As they took their seats the door of the Armory opened and a squad of
players trotted briskly onto the field. There was a restless movement of
the crowd on the big stand and a few scattering cheers from the smaller
stand opposite, but no organized yells.

“Is that one of the teams?” Scott asked anxiously.

“Yes,” Johnson answered, leaning eagerly forward to size each man up as
he took his place.

“Why don’t they cheer them?” Scott asked in surprise.

“That’s the other team,” Johnson answered carelessly.

“I should think that would be all the more reason for cheering them,”
Scott said.

Johnson turned a wondering look upon him, but was prevented from
answering by a deafening yell from the whole stand in which they both
joined heartily. Their own team had appeared.

“How’s that for yelling?” Johnson asked proudly.

“Rather discouraging for the other fellows,” Scott answered.

“Well, that’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Look there, they are lining
up already.”

The referee had called the captains together, decided the choice of
goal, and the two teams were taking their places.

“Their ball,” Johnson commented, intent on the field.

The referee blew his whistle and there was a moment of intense silence
as the blue line charged forward and the ball sailed far out on the
kick-off. It was a splendid kick, clear to the corner of the field and
high. It dropped neatly into a pair of maroon arms and the crowd cheered
wildly.

“Wasn’t that a dandy kick!” Scott exclaimed.

“Now watch them run it back,” Johnson exulted.

But they did not run it back so fast. One of the swift blue ends was on
the man and downed him in his tracks.

“That man’s some fast,” Scott said.

“Yes,” Johnson said, “too fast. They ought to look out for him. They’ll
carry it back fast enough now; that line can’t hold them.”

The ball was snapped, and an attempt made at an end run, but the same
man who had followed the kick downed the man for a loss. An attempt at
center fared no better and the fullback dropped back for a kick. The
ball went out of bounds almost in the center of the field.

Then the real surprise came. The Lawrence team formed quickly, and by a
series of lightning plays swept down toward the Minnesota goal. Nothing
seemed able to stop them. The stand was as silent as the tomb.

“Why don’t they yell?” Scott asked. “Now is the time the team needs it.”

“Who could cheer such an exhibition as that?” Johnson asked in disgust.

Suddenly the stand went wild. A Lawrence runner, rounding the end, far
out beyond the other team slipped in a puddle and fell. The ball rolled
toward the goal line and a Minnesota player fell on it on the five-yard
line.

“That was hard luck,” Scott remarked when the cheering had subsided.

“Hard luck!” Johnson exclaimed. “Who do you want to win this game?”

“Minnesota, of course,” Scott retorted indignantly, “but to win on a
thing like that does not do them any credit.”

“Kept ’em from scoring, anyway,” Johnson answered doggedly.

The ball was kicked into safety once more and the Lawrence team started
on another rush for the goal. Again they seemed irresistible, and only a
fumble on the ten-yard line saved a score. What had started as a
practice game had developed into a real struggle for victory with
Minnesota continually on the defensive.

At the end of the first quarter neither team had scored. Again and again
in the next period, the fast Lawrence team carried the ball through
their heavier opponents only to lose it near the goal line by some slip
of their own. Not once were they held on downs. But fate seemed to be
against them, for the whistle blew at the end of the second quarter with
the first down on the Minnesota two-yard line.

No sooner had the teams left the field for the ten minutes’ rest between
halves than the big University band formed in front of the grandstand
and marched around the field playing lively airs to try to put some
heart into the crowd. It did not succeed very well; the crowd seemed
utterly beaten and without hope.

“Is Lawrence a big college?” Scott asked when the music ceased.

“No,” Johnson groaned in disgust.

“They seem to have a mighty good team,” Scott continued.

“You mean we have a mighty rotten one,” Johnson retorted. “They ought to
bury Lawrence, and if they can’t they ought to be ashamed of
themselves.”

“They are doing the best they can,” Scott said, “and they ought to be
supported. They can’t help it if the other fellows are better.”

“That won’t stop them from getting licked,” Johnson growled.

“What difference does it make if they do get licked?” Scott argued. “You
ought to give the other people credit—” he began, when there was a half
hearted cheer and the teams trotted out on the field again.

“Now let’s see if the ‘old man’ has put a bug in their ear.” Johnson
said, leaning forward with renewed hope.

The game started out pretty much as before, but not so fast. The ball
was creeping steadily down into Minnesota territory when a poor pass
carried it over the head of the Lawrence fullback, he fumbled in trying
to recover it, and a Minnesota man got it. The crowd cheered the poor
pass wildly.

Scott looked around in astonishment. “What are they yelling for now?” he
asked.

“Didn’t you see that pass?” Johnson asked excitedly.

“Don’t see anything to cheer in that, it was just a poor pass such as
you could see on any corner lot.”

“Meant ten yards and the ball to us,” Johnson answered shortly. He had
made his own way in the world and had usually found the other fellow’s
loss to be his gain.

That seemed to be the turning point in the game. The light Lawrence team
had expended its strength in the early part of the game. Their
substitutes, as in most small colleges, were poor, and the overwhelming
weight of the maroon team began to tell. Following up their advantage
they carried the ball steadily down the field, crushing the lighter team
before them. The crowd went wild with enthusiasm. The yelling was almost
a continuous roar.

But the little Lawrence team was game. On their five-yard line they took
a brace and would not yield an inch. The big machine which had carried
the ball surely, for almost the entire length of the field, lost it on
downs, and saw it kicked far over their heads out to the center of the
field. The crowd was still in an instant and there was even a slight
tendency to hiss, but the better element instantly suppressed it.

The third quarter ended and still there was no score.

The teams changed sides amidst a deathlike silence. The next instant all
was wild excitement again. The captain of the Minnesota team had broken
away with a clean forward pass, and was speeding away down the field
with no one between him and a touchdown but the little Lawrence quarter.

Scott yelled with the loudest of them. “Wasn’t that a corker?” he
screamed in Johnson’s ear.

The yelling ended, as suddenly as it had begun, in a groan. The little
quarterback agily kept in front of the big runner, followed his every
feint, and brought him to the ground with a crash.

“Blame it,” Scott exclaimed. “Wasn’t that a beautiful tackle?”

“Beautiful tackle?” Johnson raged. “I wish he had broken his neck.” This
last remark must not be taken to represent the attitude of the majority
of the crowd, but it fairly represented Johnson’s attitude in everything
but his own actions.

The setback, however, was only temporary. The big team gathered itself
together, and carried the ball over for a touchdown. Goal was kicked
just three minutes before time was called, and the game ended with a
score of seven to nothing in favor of Minnesota.

The big crowd jostled slowly out of the gate and it seemed to Scott that
for people who had been so wildly desirous of winning, they were very
silent about it when it was accomplished.

“That’s what I call a good game,” Scott said.

“That’s what _I_ call a rotten game,” Johnson retorted. “They ought to
have beaten Lawrence thirty to nothing, instead of that they barely
succeeded in making seven, and were nearly scored against three or four
times.”

“What has that got to do with it?” Scott argued. “It would have been
just as good a game if we had not won it at all. The good playing is
what you want to see, no matter who does it.”

“Do you mean to say that you would enjoy seeing a good play if the other
people made it and it counted against you?”

“Certainly,” Scott answered stoutly. “I enjoyed seeing that quarterback
make that tackle though it knocked us out of a touchdown. It would not
have been nearly so pretty if he had missed it.”

“That’s one of your Eastern ideas of sport,” Johnson jeered
contemptuously. “You can watch the pretty plays the other people make;
they look better to me when our own team makes them.”

“If that game had been at home,” Scott continued, “every good play those
Lawrence people made would have been cheered the same as our own.”

“Do you call that being loyal to your team?” Johnson asked.

“Certainly. It’s simply giving the other fellow credit for what he does.
There is no team loyalty in pretending the fellows they beat are no
good, and still less in saying that the team that defeated them was no
good.”

That seemed to put the question up to Johnson in a new light. He
pondered over it for a minute and then looked up cheerfully.

“I’ll tell you what it is, Scotty. We play to win and let the other
fellow look after his credit, but there’s some sense in that last. Can
you really see the beauty of the play that goes against you?”

“Certainly.”

“Well,” Johnson laughed, “wait till I see you praising some fellow’s
skill in blacking your eye in some boxing bout. Then I’ll believe you.
Come on, let’s walk home. We’ll have plenty of time before supper.”

There was a little talk at the supper table of the football game, most
of the men taking the same view as Johnson, that it was a pretty poor
exhibition because Lawrence had not been completely overwhelmed, but
most of the time was taken up with a discussion of the coming campfire.
The upper classmen hinted mysteriously of the sacred rites that had been
prepared for the new members.

“Ormand,” Morgan hissed in a stage whisper which could be plainly heard
by every one at the table, “did you feed the goat tonight?”

“No,” Ormand answered in the same tone, “he’ll be more savage if he is
hungry, and besides, he’ll get plenty of green stuff to eat tonight.

“Johnson,” he continued, “if you and Scotty had taken my advice and
paddled each other every night for half an hour for the past two weeks
you would be better prepared.”

Scott could not help feeling nervous, but it did not seem to worry
Johnson.

“You don’t know that we have not been doing it,” he answered flippantly.
“It won’t be the first goat I have ridden, and I don’t believe he can
out-butt the old ram I tried to herd in Wyoming one summer.”

“You’ll have a good chance for comparison, anyway,” said Ormand rising.
“Come on, Morgan, let’s go prepare the torture chamber at the
clubhouse.”

The new men at the table responded with varying degrees of bravado
according to their natures, but a very apparent feeling of nervous
excitement pervaded everyone except Johnson. Nothing could perturb his
cheerful good humor.

“Cheer up, Tubby,” he cried to a stout freshman who sat opposite him.
“They may sting you a little but there is no chance of their striking a
bone. And look at little Steve over there with a face a mile long. Don’t
you know they dasent touch you for fear of breaking your glasses?”

In two minutes he had broken the spell and had them all at ease. The
self-reliance he had gained through his life of hard knocks was
infectious. He enjoyed the influence that it gave him over the others,
and he lorded it over them on all occasions, but always in a way that
pleased them.

“Now,” he said with a patronizing air, “all of you kids go home, put on
two pairs of trousers apiece, and be at the clubhouse at seven o’clock
sharp. Come on, Scotty, let’s go read up a little on the nocturnal
habits of that sportive goat.”

Scott recognized the subtle influence which Johnson exercised over his
classmates and admired his power. He even smiled at the readiness with
which he himself left his dessert half eaten to obey his orders.

The football game had made them late for supper and all those who wished
to join the forestry club had to be at the clubhouse at seven sharp.
They had little time to spare. Scott was at a loss how to dress to do
the proper honor to the rites at the clubhouse and yet be ready for the
campfire. Johnson suffered from no such perplexity.

“Believe me, Scotty, you can wear your dress suit if you want to, but
the ‘sacred rites’ at the clubhouse can, in my humble opinion, be
observed a good deal more appropriately in sweater and overalls.”

Scott finally decided to accept Johnson’s better judgment, relied on
that gentleman’s knowledge of his surroundings, and donned his sweater.
Johnson was already equipped. He cast a longing glance at a sofa cushion
on the couch. “Sorry I haven’t room for you, old fellow, if I had I’d
sure take you along. Five minutes of seven, Scotty, just time to make
it.”

They hurried to the clubhouse in silence. The front door stood open and
a carefully shielded light cast a dim glow on a notice pinned to the
door jamb. They read the notice eagerly.

                Follow this string.
                Speak only when you are spoken to.
                Be good and you’ll be happy.
                Beware of the Goat.
                                         Farewell.

A thin cord was tied to the door knob and led away up the dark stair.
They laid their hands gingerly on the string and started carefully up
stairs with nerves on edge. At the first turn on the landing a bright
electric light flashed in their eyes for an instant and left them
totally blinded in the utter darkness. They groped their way along
apprehensively holding to that winding string. There was not a sound to
be heard except the noise they themselves made as they stumbled through
the rooms littered with all the obstructions that ingenious minds could
devise. After what seemed like almost interminable scrambling they
mounted another flight of stairs. More winding through obstructed
passageways, and down another flight of stairs, then another and
another. Scott was beginning to have visions of old medieval dungeons
when his wrist bumped into something cold that snapped with a metallic
click, and he found himself brought to a stop by a handcuff. It was too
dark to distinguish anything, but he could hear the hard breathing of
many nervous people. It seemed to him that he had stood there for an
eternity with nothing to break the silence save occasionally a cautious
step on the stairs which always stopped with the same metallic click.

Suddenly there was a shuffling of many feet and the handcuff led him
slowly forward. Much to his surprise he passed through a door directly
onto the ground outside—he had thought that he must be at least one
story below the level of the street—and found himself in the middle of a
long string of men all walking in single file. They were all handcuffed
to one long rope. This chain gang was guarded by a line of scouts on
either side, and led on by six husky fellows who dragged the front end
of the rope.

Slowly the procession marched up the middle of the street, across the
campus, through the auditorium where a popular lecture was in progress,
and out into the open fields. After a half-mile of winding march in the
darkness they entered a black forest. A little farther and the line
stopped.

“Prepare to meet your fate,” came from a deep voice immediately in front
of them.

More than one man in the crowd trembled so that the links of his
handcuffs clinked audibly. Scott, now that the time had really come,
felt perfectly calm.

After a few seconds’ pause a long screen of burlap dropped from in front
of them and they saw the upper classmen of the club standing in a
semi-circle around a small campfire.

Ormand, the president of the club, stepped forward a few paces.
“Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the new members of our club. And for
you, new members, may your enthusiasm for the club and the College never
be less than your surprise at the present moment. Release them.”

The guards quickly unlocked the handcuffs, and the astonished “victims”
looked uneasily about them, not knowing what to expect. But the upper
classmen came forward to welcome them, and they found themselves really
accepted on an equal footing with the rest. Their stunned expression
brought forth shouts of laughter.

Johnson was the first to recover. “Well, fellows,” he admitted with a
grin, “as I was telling you, I have ridden several goats before and some
of them were pretty rough riding, but none of them ever shook me up like
this.”

The tension was broken, and the reaction turned the crowd of half
stunned men into an hilarious bunch of boys. They danced around the
campfire in dizzying circles, and the fantastic shadows flashed weirdly
through the surrounding forest. At last they settled down in a contented
circle, and the entertainment committee rolled out a barrel of apples, a
barrel of cider, a bushel of peanuts and a set of boxing gloves.

They were all hailed with a shout of welcome, but some of the new
members looked rather anxiously at the padded gloves. Sam Hepburn, the
chairman of the entertainment committee, explained the program.

“Pile in, fellows,” he cried, “and help yourselves. Don’t be bashful. I
reckon you all know how to eat, if you don’t, watch Pudge Manning. But
we must have some entertainment while we eat. Since we have no orchestra
to dispense sweet music, we shall try another form of amusement not
unknown to the ancient Gormans. I have here in this hat the names of all
the old members. Each new man must draw a slip. In addition to the name
each slip has a number on it. Each man must box for two minutes with the
man he draws, and the bouts will be pulled off according to the numbers
on the slips. I’ll pass around the hat. Each man must draw one and only
one.”

The hat was passed quickly around the circle and the drawers examined
the slips eagerly to see what sort of opponents they had drawn. There
were sighs of relief from some and groans of despair from others.

“Now, fellows,” called Hepburn, “the first bout will start at once. Let
the man who has number one come forward and call out his opponent. The
ring will be this circle and the bunch the referee. Step lively now.”

A slight youth with a very scared expression stepped timidly forward and
called in a very faint voice for Pudge Manning, the biggest man in the
junior class. There was a great shout of laughter at the ill-matched
pair. Hepburn put the gloves on Manning and Johnson, who had appointed
himself the second for all the new members, equipped the frightened
little freshman, and tried to brace him up with good advice.

“Kick his shins, son; you can’t reach his face. You have the advantage
of him already, you can’t miss him and he will have to be a pretty good
shot to land on you. Now go for him.”

Johnson’s advice was in itself as good as a circus. It was hard to tell
which was the most ridiculous figure; the huge Manning sheepishly trying
to keep from hurting his little adversary, or the trembling little
freshman fighting wildly with the fury of desperation. The crowd howled
their delight, and when time was called gleefully awarded the decision
to the freshman.

Bout followed fast upon bout and the interest never flagged, for the
combinations were such that they furnished a plentiful variety. Some
were so unevenly matched as to be altogether ridiculous, others were
evenly enough matched but so ignorant of the game that the slugging
match was wildly exciting, in still other cases science showed its
superiority to brute force, but really scientific sparring on both sides
was rarely seen.

Johnson drove the crowd almost into hysterics by an exhibition of
wildcat fighting against a man almost twice his size. With the agility
of a cat he bounded around his big opponent, doing very little damage
himself, but continuously maddening the big fellow with ceaseless
taunts, and successfully wriggling out of reach of all punishment.

Scott looked on doubled up with laughter. He had not seen any very good
boxing, but viewed as a farce it certainly was a howling success. He was
well pleased that he had drawn Morgan, the best boxer in the College,
for he had not had any practice in a long time, and was eager to measure
himself against one of these Westerners who were inclined to look upon
the East with some contempt.

Finally his turn came and he called cheerfully for Morgan as he walked
over to Johnson to be gloved and given his facetious instructions.

Johnson was more serious with him than with most of the others. “You’re
up against the real thing now, Scotty. He can box like a fiend, and has
the strength of a moose. Keep your chin in,” he cautioned in a low voice
as Scott walked into the ring, “and remember your sporting views,” he
chuckled.

The match differed from any that had gone before. Both men were expert
with the gloves, and they were fairly matched physically. Morgan was a
trifle taller, giving him the advantage in the reach, Scott was a little
heavier in the shoulders. They shook hands, stepped back quickly and the
fight was on. Morgan had his reputation to sustain, Scott had his to
make. The crowd rose in a body to give better vent to its excitement.
The two circled rapidly, passing, parrying, sidestepping, dodging; now
almost in each other’s arms, now at arm’s length, and occasionally a
lightning pass, followed by a sharp spat told of a good blow gone home.
Scott found Morgan his equal in out-fighting, but his training with the
old prizefighter gave him much the best of the mix-ups.

Suddenly something happened. Scott invited a full swing from Morgan,
attempted to side-step, slipped on the damp sod, and received the full
blow on the point of his chin. The stars danced merrily before his eyes
and he sat down with a thud. He was up almost instantly. “Good shot, old
man,” he cried to Morgan, and was boxing again with as much vigor as
before.

“By George, he does believe it,” Johnson yelled. No one else knew what
he was talking about, but Scott smiled.

When time was called the match was declared a draw. Morgan shook Scott
enthusiastically by the hand. “Scotty, you are a winner and it will be
up to you to fight in the big fall meet. Why, you are not winded at
all.”

“No,” Scott answered quietly, “the old prizefighter who taught me always
insisted on each lesson going to ten rounds, and I am used to it.”

“Oh, ho! learned from a professional, did you? That accounts for your
not being phased by that blow on the chin, and your strong in-fighting.
I should not stand any show with you in a real fight. I’m winded now.”

All the fellows crowded around Scott to congratulate him and forgave him
his inability to play football in their admiration of a man who could
stand up to Morgan.

“Well, fellows,” Ormand shouted, “that bout was too good to be spoiled
by anything else. It’s half past eleven. Let’s put out this fire and
march home.”

The fire was soon extinguished, and the crowd filed out of the woods
singing familiar songs and yelling fiendishly at every sleeping house
they passed. Slowly it melted away as the fellows came to their various
rooming houses. When Scott and Johnson turned into their house they
heard the singing of the remnant of the band dying away in the distance.

“Scotty,” Johnson said with admiration written in every feature, “you
are the new White Hope of the College. When you took that wallop on the
jaw and praised the man who did it, I believed what you said this
afternoon. Now watch me be your kind of a sport.”



                               CHAPTER IV


The next three weeks were full of pleasure for Scott Burton, for they
brought him hours of his favorite exercise. Ormand, who had considerable
influence with the student powers at the University, had made it his
business the morning after the campfire celebration to arrange for Scott
to represent the freshman class in the heavyweight class in the boxing
match held each year to settle the supremacy between the under classes.
It was an honor which the foresters had long coveted, and was granted to
them only after Ormand had exhausted all his persuasive powers in his
effort to show them how totally inadequate all the other candidates
were, and how sure his candidate was to win. In his own mind he was not
at all certain of the outcome, for the sophomores had a young giant who
had won the event without an effort the year before, and held the
supremacy in the whole University ever since.

Scott trained like a prizefighter, leaving no stone unturned to put
himself in the pink of condition. He changed his recreation hour from
the hour after supper to the hour before, and that hour was invariably
spent in the boxing room of the gymnasium. Every day he boxed fast and
furious bouts with Morgan, Manning, Edwards, Ormand and any of the other
big fellows who cared to try it. He could wear them all out one after
the other, and he worked incessantly to increase his endurance, for all
agreed that it was his best chance to push the fight at a furious pace
from bell to bell. For there were other men who were as good boxers as
he, but none of them, they figured, with half his endurance or his
ability to stand punishment. He was fast on his feet, could close in on
any of them at will, and once at close range none of them could compare
with him for a moment.

Johnson fussed over him like a mother. He was at the boxing room as
regularly as Scott himself, and never left till he could give his charge
a good rubdown, and escort him to supper, where he watched his diet with
an eagle eye, and ordered away every dessert that Scott really cared
for. He domineered to such an extent that Scott more than once
threatened to thrash him instead of the sophomore, but Johnson always
had his way and tightened up his orders after every encounter.

“Johnson,” he said one day, as he watched a luscious piece of pumpkin
pie going back to the kitchen by Johnson’s orders, “when that scrap is
over I am going to eat your dessert and mine, too, for a month.”

“You may have my dessert for all the rest of the winter if you win,”
Johnson responded earnestly.

“There it goes again,” Scott complained. “What difference does that
make? I may put up the very best fight I ever made in my life and get
everlastingly licked. Then you would want to do me out of my right to
eat your pie simply because the other fellow was too much for me. But if
he happens to be a poor scrapper and I win easily you would cheerfully
let me eat your desserts for six months. That’s queer logic.”

“Some more of your Eastern sporting views,” Johnson jeered.

“Well you ought to give a fellow credit for what he does, oughtn’t you?
If he puts up a perfectly good scrap, give him credit for that. If the
other fellow puts up a better one give him credit for _that_. I am going
to eat your dessert anyway, so there is no use in arguing about it.”

They went to their rooms and straight to work. Johnson had wanted Scott
to stop his studies for a while, but on that one point Scott balked and
insisted on keeping up all his work, for he felt that his ability to
handle it at all depended on his keeping it up-to-date. He was working
hard on a problem when Johnson announced that it was ten o’clock and
time for all prizefighters to be in bed. He emphasized his orders by
blowing out the student’s lamp. Scott fired a book at him, which Johnson
dodged cheerfully and proceeded to go to bed.

“That’s something else I am going to do,” Scott cried with some spirit.
“After the twenty-fourth of October I am going to sit up as late as I
blame please.”

“Um-huh,” Johnson answered, unperturbed. “_After_ the twenty-fourth you
may sit up all night if you want to, but—_after_ the twenty-fourth. You
need not talk too bigity; you may not be able to sit up at all after the
twenty-fourth.”

And so it went from day to day. Scott working as never before, and
Johnson rigidly enforcing his rules, jollying his way through all the
threatened mutinies. In one short week Scott had jumped from an unknown
student to the idol of the College. He realized that if he could win
that match his position among his fellow students would be established.
This idea spurred him on to untiring efforts. Even the girls began to
look after him when he passed, and that embarrassed him, for he had
always been shy about girls.

At last the all-important day arrived. The morning classes had been
dismissed for the occasion. The students assembled on the campus by the
hundreds, boys and girls together, crowded around the little open space
reserved for the events. For the upper classmen it was a festive
celebration to be thoroughly enjoyed. For the under classmen it was a
serious contest, and through the good-natured yelling and cheering there
ran an undercurrent of antagonism, which broke out in petty scraps and
bickerings all through the crowd. The upper classmen were kept busy
exercising their police functions to confine the competition to the
organized contests.

Finally the crowd settled down with the classes concentrated, each on
one of the four sides of the opening. The field marshal announced the
cane rush between the sophs and the freshmen as the first event, and
called for the representatives of the two classes. The chosen men, forty
husky fellows from each class, stepped forward and lined up on opposite
sides. All were dressed in the oldest clothes they could find, and
looked more like a band of strikers than students seriously inclined
toward higher education. The officials brought forward the cane and
placed it in the hands of five select men from each class, carefully
placing the hands so that neither class had an unfair advantage. The
remaining champions were then lined up carefully at equal distances on
either side of the cane. When all was arranged there was an instant of
intense suspense as the referee took a review of the situation before
raising the whistle to his lips.

At the first shrill blast the contestants rushed tumultuously forward on
the little writhing knot of men around the cane. Sophomores tugged at
freshmen to tear them away from the coveted cane, and freshmen struggled
desperately with tenacious sophomores. In an instant they were all
merged into one seething mass of humanity. It was practically impossible
for those on the outside of the crowd to reach the cane, but they fought
as wildly as those in the center. The pressure in the center became so
great that one man was squeezed out of the mass like a grape from its
skin, and rose head and shoulders above the crowd in spite of his best
efforts to stay on the ground. Men on the outskirts vaulted to the heads
of the crowd with a running start to crawl over the tightly packed heads
and shoulders to the center only to be caught by the feet and dragged
violently back to the ground. Frequently tempers were ruffled beyond
control, and the consequent slugging matches had to be stopped by the
officials. Pieces of wearing apparel littered the ground. Sweater
sleeves and pieces of shirts rose high above the crowd. The grim silence
of the contestants contrasted strangely with the wild cheering of the
spectators. It was impossible to tell where the advantage lay, but that
detracted nothing from the enthusiasm. Scott watched the struggle, the
first of the kind he had ever seen, with intense interest, and forgot
for the time that he would so soon be the central figure of just such
another spasm of excitement and frantic cheering. The contestants still
fought on with dogged perseverance, but their efforts were becoming
weaker, and they were glad to stop at the referee’s whistle.

The upper classmen formed a circle around the ragged crowd, and the
judges began their search for the cane. Those on the outskirts were
summarily pushed outside the circle till the group was reached who
actually had hold of the cane. The hands on the cane were counted,
thirteen for the sophomores and ten for the freshmen. The announcement
was received with frantic shouting by the sophomore supporters and the
heroes were welcomed back to the side lines with wild demonstrations.

But there was not much time for such celebrations. The program was a
long one and the officials’ call for the lightweight wrestlers centered
the interest of the crowd on a new event. One by one the events passed
by and the interest began to flag—for it was a sophomore day and the
freshmen seemed wholly outclassed. Decision after decision went to the
sophomores, and at the call for each new event the cheers from the
freshmen ranks grew weaker. They were becoming overwhelmed by the
defeat.

As the freshman middleweight stepped into the ring for the second round
of his drubbing, Johnson, who had been pleading with each man in turn to
do something for the honor of his class, turned to Scott almost with
tears in his eyes. “Now, Scotty,” he said, “you’ll be the next, and
you’ve got to win. This bunch of loafers has lost everything for us, and
a forester must save the honor of the class. There, that wax figure got
knocked down again. That finishes him. Now come on. You’re the last hope
between us and a shut out. Show ’em what a forester’s made of. You’ve
simply got to win.”

The referee had called for the heavyweights, and Johnson, Scott’s
faithful second, was tying on his hero’s gloves. Scott felt a little
nervous, but knew that he would be all right as soon as the first blow
was struck.

Johnson fussed around his roommate like a nervous mother. “Now, Scotty,
everything is ready. He’s a regular moose, but remember the game. Go at
him like a tornado from the very start and he can’t stand the pace.”

With these final instructions Scott walked out to meet his opponent. The
man opposed to him was indeed a giant; he had never boxed with such a
big man, and he saw the last gleam of hope dying in the freshman ranks.
That would have taken the courage out of many men, but it only made
Scott the more determined to save his class’s honor, and bring
everlasting fame to the foresters.

The big fellow shook hands condescendingly with a rather patronizing
air, which maddened Scott. In stepping back from the handshake the big
fellow took a leisurely and rather contemptuous slap at his opponent’s
head, but that was the last chance he had to show his superiority. Scott
dodged like a flash and landed a straight punch in the big fellow’s
stomach. The ease with which he had lorded it over the whole University
for a year had made him careless, but he was a good boxer and he knew
that he could not afford to play with this new man. Scott left him no
time to think it out. He pushed the attack with a fury that brought the
spectators to their feet, and wrung from the freshmen the first real
cheer they had had the heart to give since the cane rush was decided.
Scott rushed his opponent again and again, each time breaking away with
a vicious hook to the short ribs that worked havoc with the big fellow’s
wind—none too good at the first. It was not, however, a one-sided fight
by any means. The sophomore’s superior reach and weight gave him a great
advantage, especially in the out-fighting, and he was not slow in
grasping the opportunities. Scott’s rushing tactics forced him to make
some good openings and it was only his ability to stand punishment that
saved him several times.

During the first round he was rushing in on his opponent when he
received a straight punch in the right eye that landed him flat on his
back. The hopes of the freshman class fell with him, but Scott was up
again like a rubber ball amidst a perfect tempest of cheers, was inside
the big sophomore’s guard almost before that gentleman realized what had
happened, beat a veritable tattoo on his short ribs and was away clear
without being touched. He was fighting as strongly and furiously as
ever, while his opponent was laboring heavily.

But Scott still had to be very careful to avoid those vicious swings.
Twice he received blows on the chin which sent his head back with a
snap, and which would have knocked out a less hardened man. He saw that
his man was weakening and gave him no peace. He had rushed him to the
ropes and was fighting at close range in the hope of getting a chance at
his jaw when the whistle ended the first round.

Johnson received him with open arms, and wrapped the bathrobe carefully
about him. “You’ve got him going, Scotty, if you can keep up another
round like that you’ll get him easy. Can you do it?”

“Yes,” Scott answered, “ten of ’em, if he doesn’t knock my head off in
the meantime. He certainly landed some dandy blows on me.”

“Why don’t you play for his jaw more? You’re just hammering away at his
ribs all the time; you can’t hurt him there,” Johnson remonstrated.

Scott laughed, “You don’t realize how tall he is. I can’t reach his face
unless I’m in close and then I am afraid to reach up so high; it would
give him too big an opening. Those rib blows count in the long run, but
I do not believe myself that they will be any good in a two-round fight.
I’ll have to risk it this time, I guess.”

Johnson was delighted to see that his hero was not winded in the least,
and he watched the heavings of the bathrobe opposite with huge
satisfaction. The freshmen were hopeful once more, and answered the
taunts of the sophomores with some spirit.

At the sound of the whistle Scott shot to his feet like a
jack-in-the-box and met his opponent three-fourths of the way across the
ring. He tried some sparring at long range, but found that he was still
outclassed, even though the sophomore was plainly showing his fatigue.
Several stiff blows about the face showed him that it was not yet safe.
Once more he ducked, charged, and pounded the big fellow’s wind. He
received a blow on the jaw when he thought he was clear out of reach,
but he realized that the old vim was no longer back of it.

Scott decided that the time had come to take the one chance he had of a
clean decision. He rushed his man furiously, and tried for an opening to
the face, but was driven out again without getting it. He noticed that
the sophomore’s breath was coming in labored gasps and rushed him again.
With a terrific hook to the stomach he lowered the big fellow’s head and
landed heavily on his jaw, but the man was indeed a very moose and
withstood the blow though it dazed him a little. Relying on this Scott
took his chance. He offered a beautiful opening which his opponent took
eagerly, throwing all his waning strength into one mighty full-arm swing
for Scott’s unprotected chin.

Few in the audience realized what a risk Scott had really taken in
trying to side-step a man like that, but he himself realized it to the
full and planned it with the greatest care. He side-stepped with the
agility of a cat, felt the glove just brush his cheek, and threw all the
weight of his splendid shoulders into a hook to the jaw. The blow went
true, and the big man wilted in his tracks. Scott caught him in his arms
and was letting him gently to the ground, when he wriggled loose,
staggered to his feet and struck at Scott blindly but savagely. Before
he could fully recover, however, the whistle blew.

Scott stood patiently in the ring waiting for the decision, but not so
the crowd. Yelling wildly the freshmen descended with a rush on the one
champion the day had brought forth for them, heaved him on their
shoulders, half clothed as he was, and swept across the campus through
the crowd of spectators. He remonstrated and fought as hard as he had in
the ring, but to no purpose. They carried him clear across the campus
and out into the street. Scott would have given anything for even his
undershirt. He had objected to stripping to the waist even there in the
ring, but now that the match was over to be exhibited in this way to all
those girls was intolerable. At last it ended. A hundred and eighty-five
pounds is not a light weight to carry even if it is a hero and Scott
managed at last to fight his way to the ground. He was wondering how he
would ever get back to his clothes, even if they had not been carried
off by the crowd, when the faithful Johnson pushed his way forward with
them.

“Now get out of the way,” Johnson commanded the throng of admirers, “and
let me take him home for a little rest.”

“Scott,” he continued as he hustled him to the car, “now you can go home
and sit up all night for the rest of the winter. Yes, and hanged if you
can’t eat my desserts for the next six years.”

“Humph,” Scott grunted good-naturedly, “and all just because I won.”



                               CHAPTER V


As the boys sat in their room that evening in their pajamas talking over
the events of the day Scott was impressed more than ever with Johnson’s
strange philosophies, apparently gathered from almost unlimited
experience. Johnson was in a very good humor over the results of the
boxing match and Scott thought it a good opportunity to get him to tell
his story.

“Johnson,” he asked curiously, “where haven’t you been? You don’t look
very old but there does not seem to be any place that you have not
worked in all the United States.”

“Well,” Johnson answered, “I have never been to the South or East, but
there are not many sections of the West that I have not seen.”

“How did you do it?” Scott urged. “You said that I could sit up all
night, you know, and I could listen very contentedly to an account of
all your wanderings. They must be interesting for I suppose you beat
your way everywhere. Come on, let’s have the whole story,” and he
settled himself down to listen.

Johnson, who loved to have an audience for his adventures, was in his
glory. He had had adventures galore and they lost nothing in his telling
of them.

“If you really do not want to sleep for an hour,” he said, “I’ll tell
you about them, but there is no use in trying to do it in less. It
covers a great many years in spite of my young and boyish face.

“You asked me to tell you about my work. Well, that began when I was six
years old. My father was a teamster in Duluth, and I was the oldest of
eight children. The old man did not believe in any idlers in the house,
and one morning when I was about six he kicked me out the front door and
told me not to come back till I had earned something.” Johnson had never
been taught any family pride and made no attempt to shield either his
family or himself.

“There are a good many things I have forgotten since then, but I
remember perfectly well what a pickle I was in that morning. I had had
too many of those kicks to try to go back so I paddled away right up to
the main street howling like a good fellow. Nobody paid any attention to
me till I ran into a newsboy.

“‘Hello, sonny,’ he said, ‘what’s the matter with you? Lost a million on
the races?’ I told him my troubles and he handed me a bundle of papers
and told me he’d give me a cent for every ten I sold. ‘Don’t quit
crying,’ he said, ‘keep it right up. That ought to sell them if anything
will.’

“I made five cents out of it that morning and went home happy. The old
man came in to dinner, took the money for my board and told me to get
some more that afternoon. The newsy stocked me up again and I was such a
little kid that lots of people bought from me. Well, I kept at that
paper business for a long time, but the old man kept taking all of my
money for board and it was not encouraging. At last I got wise enough
not to take home all I earned and began to get ahead a little.

“When I was not selling papers I took to running errands and finally
became a regular messenger boy. I learned to read the papers while I was
selling them. I tell you I learned things on that messenger job. A
messenger boy on a night shift sees everything in a town except the
inside of the churches. One night about two A. M. I took a message away
up town. It took a long time to get anybody up, but finally an oldish
man came to the door. He looked at me a minute without taking the
message I was trying to give him, and then pulled me into the house by
the back of the neck.

“‘What are you doing out at this time of night?’ he asked sternly.

“I was sassy and told him that it was his fault for getting a message at
that time of night.

“He took my number, and I thought for a while that he was going to have
me fired, but he was not that kind. He was a Catholic priest. When he
turned up at the office the next afternoon I was scared. He simply
collared me and led me away. He took me to one of the big hotels and
right up to the proprietor. ‘Here he is,’ he said. Then he turned to me.
‘You’re going to be bellhop here from four o’clock in the afternoon on,
and in the daytime you’re going to school. I’ll come here in the morning
with you and see that you get started.’

“Well, that suited me fine. I had always wanted to go to school. He
started me in in the morning and kept tab on me as long as I stayed
there. When my old man found that I had a good job he tried to get me
back home, but the priest settled him and I have not been home since. By
the time I had reached the eighth grade I had worked in about every job
there was in Duluth. But it was in the bellhop job that I got my hunch.
A couple of foresters stopped there one evening and sat talking where I
could hear them. Their talk showed me what I wanted to do. I talked to
one of them and found out something about it.

“That meant that I had to go to the University, and if I went to the
University I had to have some money. Then I had heard those fellows say
that what a man wanted was experience in the woods and with men. That
summer my wanderings started. I learned at the employment agency that
they needed men on a construction crew in North Dakota. They booked me
and I went. I drove team on a slusher for two months. It was a tough
outfit, but they did not have anything on me there, and I learned to
handle a team. I had never had anything to do with one before. When the
harvest started I skipped the crew and went to hauling water for a
threshing crew. They paid twice as much.”

“Had to work about twenty hours a day, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I did not mind that. That fall I entered the high school. When
summer came times were pretty hard and work was scarce. I jumped a
freight and beat my way to the Pacific Coast. The brakeman happened to
kick me off in the apple region of Washington—I did not have any more
money to tip him—and I got a job there packing apples. Paid pretty well,
but the Chinks were a dirty lot to work with. When the apples were all
packed I beat my way up to the Puget Sound district and got another job
in a lumber camp cutting wood for a donkey engine. That was some hard
work but I learned a lot about the logging. I had a fierce time trying
to get home. I got kicked off so many times that I finally had to pay my
fare back from Missoula. Got back a month late for school then.

“Back in school again I still held onto the bellhop job. I knew that if
a man was going to get along well he had to be a good mixer. I learned
that at the hotel. Gee, it was tough. I had such a poor start at home
that every summer I lost nearly all I had gained in the winter. What
little manners I have are only smeared on the outside and they keep
cracking off.

“The next summer I shipped to Colorado to work in the mines. That did
not last long. It paid pretty well, but I had to work on the graveyard
shift from eleven at night till seven in the morning, and I could not
stand being shut up all the time. So I wandered down into the southwest
part of the state, and worked in a lumber camp there. Great sport
working up on top of a mesa nine thousand feet above sea-level, trying
to swing a five-pound ax when you hadn’t the breath to lift a paper
weight. You could puff with all your might there but the air did not
seem to be any good; the more you puffed the more you got winded. I got
used to it after a while. There were some queer duffers in that camp,
‘lungers’ who had come out for their health. One fellow was a school
teacher from Philadelphia. We worked together on a saw crew, and he
undertook to teach me Spanish. Before the summer was over he had me
chattering like a greaser. I managed to teach him a little Swedish. The
combination was fierce.

“I beat my way home through Kansas City, and was a month late for school
again. The old priest offered me a job as a sort of secretary. Said it
would help to give me a little culture, and as that was what I was after
I took it. It was great experience and he saw to it that I was not
overworked. He was certainly a dandy. That spring he gave me a letter to
some friends of his up north of Lake Superior and I worked on a summer
logging job.”

“That was great luck, wasn’t it?” Scott commented.

“Yes, I thought so at first. Those people were very good about giving me
a job, but I never came so near earning my money in my life. I was ‘bull
cook’ and messenger boy. They had me up at daybreak, which is shortly
after two o’clock in that country in the summertime, and kept me going
till dark, about ten. I had to cut the wood for the kitchen stove and
keep the whole camp supplied with water, sweep out all the buildings
every day and do anything else that blamed cook could think of. He had
the indigestion so badly he could not see straight—most of those camp
cooks have from ‘lunching’ so much between meals—and it had ruined his
disposition. The only rest I got was when he sent me out to the woods at
noon with the men’s dinner. I usually stayed out most of the afternoon
watching the logging. The boss was onto the game, but knew what the cook
was and did not kick. The cook did, though. I used to be so sore
sometimes when I had been out a little later than usual that I would eat
supper standing up. But when fall came I knew something about summer
logging, and more about the northern lumberjacks, especially cooks.

“The last year of the high school with the job as the priest’s secretary
to help out was a cinch. Everybody knew what a rough kid I had been and
helped me along. That summer I made the longest jump of all. There are a
lot of people in Duluth who are interested in copper mines in the
southwest, and one of them offered me a job as timekeeper. That took me
down into Arizona near the Mexican line. The office work kept me so busy
that I did not have a chance to see anything, and the thought of being
in that new country without seeing things was too much for me.

“I jumped the job at the end of the first month and struck down into
Mexico. My greaser talk came in handy then. I finally picked up a job as
timekeeper on a railroad construction crew. That was great, for they
were just putting the finishing touches on a road, and moved fast. I saw
lots of the country.

“I had one pretty strange experience there that scared me badly at the
time. One of the engineers who was superintending the job was an
American and a dandy fellow, but he was pretty sharp to those Mexicans;
used to make them work harder than they liked. One day he kicked a
fellow who refused to dig out a grade stake for him. The greaser did not
do anything at the time, but when you insult one of those fellows you
ought to kill him right there, for he’ll lay for you.

“That afternoon I was asleep on a flat car while the train was running
around the side of a mountain to a new work station, when I heard
someone jump down onto the flat from a box car. I opened one eye and saw
that it was the greaser who had been kicked. He glanced at me, thought I
was asleep, and started to climb onto the next box car behind. I didn’t
think anything of it till I saw that he had a knife in his hand. That
woke me up pretty quick for I knew how they fought. As soon as he was up
the ladder I started up after him to see what was going on.

“When I peeped over the edge of that box car there was the greaser
sneaking slowly up on the engineer, who was asleep on his back. There
wasn’t any time to lose and I yelled like an Indian. I never saw
anything so cool as that engineer. He opened his eyes with a jerk,
rolled over once to dodge the knife, jumped to his feet, and knocked
that greaser off the box car down the side of the mountain with one
blow. He did not even look to see where he landed. He saw me staring
over the edge of the box car with my eyes hanging out on my cheeks, and
said, ‘Good boy, kid.’ With that he lay quietly down on his back again.
I didn’t sleep for a week but it didn’t seem to bother him any, or
anybody else. There was never anything said about it.”

“Didn’t the courts investigate it?” Scott asked in surprise.

“No, a greaser does not count there.

“When we finished the line we were away down in Southern Mexico; it was
time for college to begin and no way to get back. I made my way across
country to the nearest seaport and found a steamer just about to sail. A
greaser there said she was bound for New Orleans, and I stowed myself
away in the hold.

“It was stuffy in that old pit and I thought we would never get to New
Orleans. My grub began to give out and I lived on half rations for four
days and on nothing for two. I had just finished the last of my water,
and had decided to try to get out when we docked and the hold was opened
up. I managed to sneak out in the night and hid in the warehouse. I did
not know much about what New Orleans looked like, but I did not think so
many of the people there were Spaniards. Then I found out that it was
Buenos Ayres instead of New Orleans. That pesky ship had been sailing
the wrong way.”

“That was certainly a good one on you,” Scott laughed.

“Yes,” Johnson bragged. “Fortune has had many a good one on me, but
nobody else has.

“Well, I was too late for college then, so I stayed to work in the
warehouse awhile, and took a trip back into the country. The place
looked pretty good to me and I came near staying there, but I had been
working too long to get to the University to let it go. So I took a job
on a sailing vessel and reached New York about February 1. I beat my way
West with the idea of entering the University at the beginning of the
second semester, but they would not let me.

“You know how I worked around College all last spring, carried a rod in
a survey party in Wisconsin all last summer and have been trotting up
and down this blooming hill to lectures all fall. Now I reckon I have
talked you to sleep, so I’ll go myself.”

Scott did not speak for a minute, but it was not because he was asleep.
The very carelessness with which Johnson related his wonderful
achievements, and the utter lack of conceit in his almost superhuman
efforts to rise in the world, added to the fascination of it. Scott was
thinking what a bed of roses his life had been compared with Johnson’s,
what a tremendous handicap he had been working under, and yet how little
he had the advantage of Johnson. Even that little advantage was
temporary, for a man with that experience of life would soon distance
him when he finally started his real work.

“By George, Johnson,” he said, starting up suddenly, “you’re a hero.”

But the hero made no answer, for true to his word he was already asleep.

Scott lay awake for a while thinking it over. He wondered what his
father would think of Johnson as a chosen companion. Judged on the basis
of family as was the custom at home Johnson would be rejected but he
felt in his heart that Johnson had certainly earned a place in the world
and finally went to sleep convinced that if he could not get his ten
thousand acres without discarding Johnson he would go without it.



                               CHAPTER VI


From the moment that he out-boxed that big sophomore, thus saving the
honor of the class and bringing everlasting glory to the foresters,
Scott’s reputation was established. From an unknown stranger passing
quietly and unnoticed from class to class, he had become the lion of the
College and one of the “popular” men of the University. Men he had never
known hailed him familiarly on the street and in the corridors; girls he
had never met smiled at him frankly. A reporter tried to get an
interview with him for a big daily paper. Clubs, societies,
associations, fraternities, organizations of which he would never have
had any knowledge if it had not been for that fateful boxing match,
opened their doors to him and invited him cordially to enter. After the
quiet life he had led in the little village, with his limited
acquaintance and Dick Bradshaw for his only intimate friend, this new
life opening before him thrilled him and tingled through his blood like
old wine. He remembered his father’s injunction to mix, to study men and
learn human character; his new life would give him the opportunity to do
it.

He thought he knew now what his father had meant by “responsible
companions,” and felt that the fulfillment of that part of the condition
for the ten thousand acres was as good as accomplished.

He accepted many of the invitations, took an interest in many of the
student activities opened to him, and began to drift more and more into
society. His after-supper hour of recreation stretched to two, three,
and even four hours, till it looked as though he would have to carry out
the threat he had made to Johnson that he would sit up all night
studying after the match. Many of his new amusements were expensive, and
he soon found himself exceeding his allowance. At last the theater
parties, fraternity dances and other diversions became so frequent that
he found it impossible to get in the hours of study he had prescribed
for himself.

He wrote to Dick Bradshaw of his triumph in the championship match and
the consequent honors and civilities that had been heaped upon him. He
wrote to his father of his wide acquaintance, of his active
participation in the life of the University as a whole, and the great
success he was making. Incidentally he asked for an increased allowance.

In short, Scotty’s head was rapidly being turned by his sudden rise to
the position of popular idol. He knew in his heart that he was acting
foolishly, and would have condemned his own actions if he had taken the
time to think seriously about them, but he was too busy and too
hilariously happy to think about them at all.

This had been going on for about a month when an impending examination
in a subject that he had been sorely neglecting forced him to put in a
quiet evening’s study with Johnson. Such evenings had become exceedingly
rare of late, and for the first time in his life he found that intense
studying for a long time was irksome, in fact he found it hard to
concentrate his mind enough to study intensely at all.

About eleven o’clock he yawned, looked longingly at the bed and closed
his book with a bang. What was the use of studying so hard, anyway, the
examination would take care of itself, he had never failed in one in his
life. Johnson, who had missed Scott sorely in his long lonesome evenings
of study had been watching him furtively with an expression, half
pitying, half contemptuous. He had come to admire Scott intensely, and
he hated to see his hero falling so rapidly, and for the objects he had
always considered so trivial. He thought that Scott would probably
resent any criticism from him, but he was still loyal. He had trained
Scott up to that fight and if possible he was going to train him down
again. He was no coward and grasped the opportunity to put the
disagreeable business through without delay.

“Quitting already?” he asked casually, as Scott slammed to his book.

“Yes,” Scott answered with another yawn, “I’m going to bed. I’m sleepy
and sick of the stuff. Guess I know enough to pass anyway.”

“Scotty,” Johnson asked bluntly, “how much allowance have you?”

Scott looked up in surprise, for it was the first time that Johnson had
ever asked him such a question, and he did not see what he was after.
But he answered frankly. “Forty dollars a month, but I’m running shy.
Did you want to borrow some?”

“No,” Johnson answered somewhat proudly, “I earn all I need. Bronson has
five hundred a month, Swanson six, and Edwards all he can use.”

These were some of the men Scott had been going with but he could not
see the point of Johnson’s remark.

“What’s that got to do with it?”

Johnson came out with it like a man. “Just this, Scotty. Those fellows
all have dollars to your pennies and they are going a pace that you
cannot stand. They don’t care whether they get through College in four
years or forty. If you try to keep up with them you will soon be in debt
up to your ears, and as soon as all your money’s gone they will drop you
like a hot cake. You’re not in their class.”

“Not in their class!” Scott answered indignantly. “My family is as good
as, or better than theirs, any day and that’s what counts. It does not
matter home whether you have money or not as long as your family is all
right. You can pick all the millionaires you want for company.”

“It may be all right there,” Johnson answered quietly, “but it won’t
work here. If you have money it does not matter whether your father was
a garbage man or the President of the United States; but believe me, you
have to have the money.”

“It has not worked that way so far,” Scott answered defiantly, “and when
it does I guess I’ll know it without being told.”

“And in the meantime you are getting in debt deeper every day and that
with your father’s money.”

“Is that your business?” Scott cried angrily. It had caused him some
compunction to ask his father to increase his allowance when he knew the
poor doctor could ill afford it, and the shot hurt him.

“No,” Johnson sighed, “it’s none of my business, and I knew I should be
unpopular for butting in, but I had to warn you. A man who comes from
Massachusetts to Minnesota on an allowance of forty dollars per month
and takes the amount of work that you are taking to save a year’s
expenses is not in a position to run with a bunch of millionaires and
flunk in all his studies. If you are behind in a single study at the end
of the first eight weeks you’ll have to drop all that extra work, and at
the rate you have been going you will be behind in a good deal more than
one. I’m through now. Think about it before you get too mad,” and he
rose to go to bed.

“I’ve never flunked in a subject yet,” Scott answered haughtily. “I can
take care of my studies by myself and I do not consider that you can
give me many points on my social activities.”

“If that’s the way you feel about it,” Johnson said with quiet dignity,
“you’d better go room with someone your equal. I am neither a
millionaire nor a society leader.”

“It’s too late tonight,” Scott said angrily, “but I’ll get out fast
enough in the morning.”

“Good hunch,” Johnson said with apparent indifference, though it really
cut him deeply. He was not angry. He had foreseen all this before he
spoke at all. He knew it was the best thing for Scott and he was willing
to swallow all these indignities for his sake. He longed to tell Scott
how much he cared for him, but that was out of the question under the
circumstances. He knew that Scott would come to his senses and thank him
some day, but in any event he felt that he had acted the part of a true
friend. He crawled into bed with a deep sigh of regret, nearer to a sob
than he had come for many years.

Scott sat before the table for some time, his chin on his chest, and a
scowl on his face, sullenly flapping the cover of his notebook. He felt
bitter against Johnson, for he knew in his heart that Johnson was right,
and the truth always cuts deeper than anything else. He thought how his
father, already worried over his request for increased allowance, would
grieve if he should fail in any of his studies, and he thought of his
mother’s advice. Already there were some things that he did not care to
write her.

The flapping of the notebook cover fanned a yellow envelope out from
between the leaves. He had taken it out of his post office box and
dropped it in his notebook without reading it. He tore it open idly and
glanced at it. The next instant he was sitting bolt upright reading with
unbelieving eyes the following terse note:

                      Committee on Students’ Work
                                11/1/11

    Your record for the first six weeks’ work shows that you are
    behind in three subjects. Report to this office at once or
    your registration will be canceled.

Scott gazed at the paper half dazed. Coming as it did on top of
Johnson’s harangue it brought him to his senses with a sudden jerk. It
was the first time in his life that he had ever fallen short in his
studies, and his hurt pride rose triumphant over his social aspirations.
What Johnson’s loyal advice had failed to do—probably never would have
done—this blow at his student’s reputation did instantly. Johnson had
only aroused him to stubborn anger; this cold-blooded sentence forced
him to think and use his reason.

Where was he going anyway? What did the pleasures and associations which
had loomed so big to him in the past few weeks amount to? Why did those
men seek his company when he knew that they spoke always contemptuously
of other poor men as good as he? His head had been so turned by the
flattery that he had imagined it was on account of his sterling
qualities.

He viewed it through the glass of cold reason now and the truth dawned
on him, burst forth so clearly that he wondered why he had not seen it
before. He remembered how one of the men who disliked dogs had paid five
hundred dollars for the prize winner at the Minneapolis show and he
shivered as he realized the truth. He was the prize dog in the
under-class boxing match. The humiliation of the truth, and he knew now
that it was the truth, angered him beyond reason at first, and then
filled him with disgust at his own weakness.

And how about the responsible companions he had been priding himself on
a short time before? He knew that Johnson had judged them aright and he
knew his father’s judgment would be the same. Moreover, he recognized in
that little yellow envelope the first symptoms of another obstacle that,
unless quickly overcome, would put that magnificent chance at a forest
estate far beyond his reach.

He realized then the true loyalty of Johnson. He knew how it must have
pained Johnson to say what he had said, and how it must have hurt him to
have his friendship misconstrued. What one of those millionaires would
have done as much for him, the prize pup, or would even have thought
twice whether he was disgracing himself or not? He thought how his
admiration for Johnson had been slowly dying under the new influences,
and remorse almost choked him. He strode quickly over to the bed to
apologize, but Johnson slept so peacefully that he did not have the
heart to wake him after the pain he had already caused him.

He took up his notebook resolutely and began to study. At five o’clock
he slipped quietly into bed encouraged by the feeling that he was once
more well prepared for an examination. But sleep did not come at once.
He lay for almost an hour wide awake and wondering how he could ever
have been so foolish as to let a little flattery run away so completely
with his common sense. More especially he longed to apologize to
Johnson. Dear old Johnson whom he had so shamefully neglected for the
past month. Not only had he neglected him, but had actually begun to
look down on him. He saw him in his true proportions again now and
longed to tell him how much he looked up to him. Scott was no cad and he
was anxious to confess to Johnson the extent of his fall. At last he
fell into a restless sleep. Only after an hour of this tossing about did
the sleep become profound.

When Scott finally awoke with a start it was to find Johnson gone. He
had just time to make his examination if he went without breakfast. He
tumbled into his clothes and ran all the way to the recitation hall. He
went at his examination in dendrology with his oldtime certainty, and
repaired straight to the Students’ Work Committee. He found that he was
not by any means alone in his disgrace. The room was crowded, some
contrite, some indifferent, some defiant. Case after case was discussed
in the chairman’s office and disposed of. At last his own turn came. The
chairman looked at him inquiringly.

“Burton,” Scott answered to the implied inquiry and turned red to the
very ears.

The chairman picked a card from the case in front of him, glanced over
it and looked him in the eye searchingly. “Well, Burton, your record
shows that you are behind in dendrology, forest entomology and forest
engineering. What’s the matter?”

Scott blushed violently, but confessed frankly. “I lost my head and
tried to do too much society. I neglected my studies. I think I have
waked up now.”

“A wholesome confession is good for the soul,” the chairman laughed.
“Report to me one week from today and remember, if you are below in a
single study at the end of another six weeks, you’ll probably have to
drop all that extra work and maybe some more besides.”

The chairman rang for the next victim, and Scott blushed his way out
through the crowd. He felt tremendously relieved. He knew that he could
make good in that work and registered a vow that that committee would
never have to call him up again.

This trying ordeal over he hurried back to the room to find Johnson. The
room had a rather desolate look and Scott was wondering what was the
matter with it when he spied a note on the table. He read it half dazed.

    Since you did not carry out your promise to move, I moved
    myself. I have some self-respect.

                                                        Johnson.

It was Johnson’s one great short-coming, lack of tact, and Scott’s
longing for forgiveness turned once more to anger. He was blinded to the
kindness which had prompted Johnson to warn him and forgot the insults
with which he had received it. He could see in it now only an
impertinent interference in his private affairs and railed against
Johnson as a mucker who would not accept an apology even when he did not
deserve it. He forgot that Johnson knew nothing of his change of heart,
and felt bitter against him. All thought of apology had vanished.

He was still in this frame of mind when Greenleaf came into the room.

“Hello, Scotty,” he said, “I met Johnson moving his belongings a while
ago. Said you and he had a falling out. They have sold the house where I
am rooming and are going to turn me out. Do you want a roommate?”

“Sure,” Scott said promptly, “I’ll help you move in now.”

So the door was closed to Johnson’s return. The new arrangement gave
Scott little chance to think it over. Had he thought the matter over
calmly he would probably have sought Johnson out and apologized to him
at any cost to his own pride, but he did not let himself think about it
and harbored his unjust bitterness.

Greenleaf was a different type from Johnson. His father was a well-to-do
lawyer who could very readily have allowed his son ample spending money
and would have done so in the East, but preferred to follow the Western
custom and make the boy earn his pocket money. Consequently Greenleaf,
although blessed with a comfortable—even a luxurious—home had spent most
of his summers working at any kind of a job that he could get. He made a
very congenial roommate, but Scott missed in him the breadth of mind and
keen reasoning powers which he had admired so much in Johnson.



                              CHAPTER VII


The days slipped quietly by in the routine of work as of old and Scott
was surprised to find how much more he really enjoyed himself than he
had the previous month. The satisfaction of work well done more than
paid for the loss of the amusements—for every classroom failure had cut
him like a knife. His second meeting with the Students’ Work Committee
had no terrors for him now. He took to the Committee special reports
from all his instructors and they were above reproach. The chairman
smiled good-naturedly. “Did some plugging, eh? That’s the business;
you’ll find it pays better than society. Plenty of time for that later.
Keep it up and you need not come back.”

Thanksgiving was approaching rapidly, bringing to Scott the first pangs
of homesickness he had felt. Every Thanksgiving that he could remember
he had sat down to a bounteous dinner in the old home and the prospect
of celebrating the day in a boarding-house was not very bright. He had
had an invitation to go home with Swanson, but had promptly canceled it
when he realized that he was invited in the capacity of the prize pup.

He was gloomily thinking over the prospect when Greenleaf burst into the
room. He put his foot in Scott’s lap, jumped lightly to the table, and
landed in his chair on the other side with a crash. The jar shook the
entire house. Scott thought he had gone crazy, but Greenleaf beamed at
him in perfect contentment.

“What are you going to do Thanksgiving?” he asked eagerly. “Going to
gorge yourself at that millionaire’s?”

“No,” Scott laughed, “I canceled that for fear they might make me eat in
the barn with the other prize stock. I am going to gorge myself all I
can at the boarding-house, but I hardly expect to injure myself there.”

“Cancel that too. I have a scheme worth ten of that. We have Thursday
and Friday off. Saturday we have but one class, which we can cut with
impunity. Let’s you and Morgan and Ormand and me, take a hike down the
river to Wabasha. Morgan has a dog tent that will hold the four of us if
it is put up as a lean-to and we can sleep wherever night catches us, as
long as it is not in a town. We can collect all kinds of specimens for
dendrology and have a whale of a time.”

“I thought you were going to work,” Scott objected.

“So I was going to work, but didn’t you see me come in just now? I don’t
come in that way every night, do I? I just received a check from the
state for some fire-fighting that I did so long ago that I had forgotten
it, and, by jingoes, I am going to celebrate.”

“That would certainly be a great stunt,” Scott agreed, “and I don’t know
of anything I’d rather do. I am crazy to have a look at the geology of
that river bottom. Will the other fellows go?”

“Sure, I saw them both and they are in for it. They know the trees, the
insects, and the fungi, not to mention some sylviculture, and methods of
estimating. You know the rocks and geology, and I know every bird and
beast that moves in these parts. I tell you it will be great!”

“Where shall we get our meals?” Scott asked.

“I have a camp frying pan and a teakettle, and we can buy what grub we
need at the stores we pass. Maybe we shall have some game, too, Ormand
is a dandy with that little Stevens pistol, and may catch something
sitting around loose. Tomorrow we’ll get everything ready and the next
day we’ll start good and early.”

Scott’s homesickness vanished with the fancied smoke of the promised
campfires. He had never really camped and the prospect of a Thanksgiving
dinner in camp was very attractive. He hurried out to borrow a pack sack
from Manning, and eagerly put in all his spare time the next day in
minor preparations. He was tremendously excited, but did not know
exactly what to do. Greenleaf was no less excited over his unexpected
holiday, but went about the preparations of his kit with the
thoroughness of an old prospector. Ormand and Morgan came in the evening
to discuss the final plans and hold a consultation over the equipment.
They had left the purchasing of the supplies to Greenleaf. Ormand
lounged on the bed and Morgan lay comfortably back in the easy chair,
while Greenleaf, pencil in hand, read over the list of supplies. Scott
felt his helplessness on such an occasion, and sat quietly back in a
corner to listen.

“I’ve figured out the supplies for the whole trip,” Greenleaf began,
“but I thought we could get just half of it now and stock again at Red
Wing.”

“Sure,” Morgan assented. “No use in our carrying any more than we have
to. Some of it we might as well get all at once, but we can restock on
the heavy stuff.”

“Let’s hear the list,” Ormand grunted from the bed.

“Twelve pounds of flour,” Greenleaf started.

“Cut it out,” came in a chorus from the others.

“We’re not running a logging camp in the backwoods,” Morgan objected.
“We can carry bread and save piles of trouble.”

“Well, if you’re really going to camp,” Greenleaf contended, “you ought
to cook everything you need.”

“Fudge,” Ormand cried. “We are going out for pleasure, not to see how
much work we can do. That would be a freshman trick.”

Greenleaf, overruled but entirely unabashed, proceeded with the list.
“Eight pounds of bacon, two of oatmeal; two of sugar; six pints of
condensed milk; two quarts of beans.”

“Eight cans,” Morgan corrected, “but it would be great fun to have a
bean hole if you would run ahead—half a day to start the fire.”

“Right you are,” Greenleaf conceded. “I forgot that we did not have a
cook and a pack mule. Two pounds of butter, one of salt, a quarter-pound
of tea. How is that for grub? Oh, yes, twelve loaves of bread for Morgan
to tote.”

“Yes,” Morgan said, “I’d rather tote it any day than try to eat your
biscuits. Add two pounds of pancake flour and a can of syrup.”

“How about lard?” Scott ventured.

“Don’t need it when you have the bacon,” Ormand objected, “but you’d
better add two pounds of cheese and a box of matches. Yes, and you’d
better take one can of tomatoes, so we can have the can for a lantern.”

“Now for the dishes,” Greenleaf said. “One frying pan; one teakettle;
four tin cups; four spoons; two canteens.”

“One tomahawk,” Ormand added.

“Do you call that a dish?” Greenleaf jeered. “One pair of blankets
apiece will be enough for us, and Morgan’s dog tent will complete the
outfit.”

“One Stevens pistol and two boxes of cartridges,” Ormand added.

They all thought silently for about five minutes, but could think of
nothing else.

“Well,” Ormand said, rolling leisurely off the bed, “you buy the stuff,
Greenleaf, and bring it here, this is the nearest place to the carline.
We’ll be here at six tomorrow morning, divide up the packs and take the
car to the Indian Mounds. Good night.”

The two seniors gone, Greenleaf devoted a few minutes to revising the
list and picking out the things for immediate purchase. At last, after
many alterations, it seemed to suit him. With one last critical glance
at it he bounded out of his chair and started for the door.

“Come on, Scotty, bring your pack sack and we’ll get this grub. Then
we’ll go to bed and get a good sleep. If you have never been in camp you
probably will not sleep much the first night, and better get all that’s
coming to you now.”

With the aid of the list the purchases were soon made at the corner
grocery and the “grub” piled in one corner of the room. It looked to
Scott like a rather small supply for four men for four days, but he felt
that the others knew what they were about, and was satisfied to trust to
their judgment. All the other duffel was collected in a heap ready for
division in the morning. Then they went to bed.

By a quarter of six they were dressed for the hike, and the other
fellows had arrived. The packs were soon satisfactorily arranged and
they hurried to the carline. It was a long ride to the Indian Mounds but
they reached there by seven o’clock, slipped on their packs and hurried
away down the river bank in search of a suitable place to get breakfast.
They soon located a place in a small opening where an eight-inch stub
had been broken in half by its fall.

Morgan made the fire in record time. With Scott’s help he laid the two
pieces of the tree-trunk side by side with about three inches between
them. That was the self-burning fireplace. A handful of dried leaves, a
bunch of small twigs, a match, and the fire was ready for the kettle.
Scott thought it only the beginning of a fire and was busying himself
collecting a wagon-load of dried limbs for fuel when Greenleaf came up
with the kettle full of water and set it over the diminutive blaze.

“How long do you think it will take to boil there?” Scott asked
sarcastically.

“About five minutes,” Greenleaf answered cheerfully, missing the
sarcasm.

Scott saw that he was sincere, and decided to time it rather than chance
showing his ignorance by disputing it now. In the meanwhile Ormand had
unpacked the oatmeal, sugar, a can of milk, the tin cups and spoons.

“How about pancakes?” he called.

“Too late this morning,” Morgan answered, and the pancake flour was left
in the pack.

Scott was watching the fire with considerable interest. Greenleaf sat
patiently beside it, occasionally poking tiny twigs in between the logs,
but never on any account overfeeding it. In a few seconds over the
prescribed five minutes the water began to boil. Greenleaf immediately
removed it from the fire, dropped into it a small bag containing a
heaping teaspoonful of tea, and getting two of the canteens, which Scott
had looked upon as superfluous baggage, considering the number of houses
they would pass, leaned them carefully against one of the logs with
their uncorked mouths up. Five minutes later he fished out the little
bag and poured the tea into the canteens, which he corked immediately.

No sooner was the tea out of the kettle than Ormand rinsed it and poured
into it a cup of oatmeal and three cups of water which he had already
brought to a boil in the frying pan. He put the kettle back on the fire,
dropped in a pinch of salt, and proceeded to trim a good stiff, green
stick. With this he began to stir the oatmeal vigorously, at the same
time feeding the fire with the other hand.

“Anybody want any tea before he has his oatmeal?” Greenleaf asked. They
all did. The smoking tea was poured into the tin cups, a can of
condensed milk punctured in two places with a nail which Greenleaf
produced from his pocket—“I always carry a nail,” he explained, “a round
hole is so much easier to plug,”—and the tea was adjusted to every
individual taste. Ormand stopped feeding the fire long enough to manage
his tea with one hand, but never left off stirring for a second. They
all sipped their tea contentedly until Ormand announced that the oatmeal
was “done.”

It was then dealt out into the teacups, sugared and plastered with the
undiluted milk. The cooking being over Morgan piled some larger sticks
on the fire and they sat around it comfortably. Scott was very much
surprised to see how very full a cupful of oatmeal made him feel.

Breakfast over, Morgan rolled the two logs apart so that by the time the
teacups and the teakettle had been sand-scoured and rinsed out in the
little stream the fire was almost out. A pot or two of water on the
dying embers, the cups strung on the individual belts, and the party was
ready to move. The most astonishing part to Scott was the perfect
harmony of all the actions, and the promptness with which each one
performed his part when he knew that they were not acting on any
prearranged plan. He was to have a still more striking exhibition of
this freemasonry of the woods when the little camp was pitched for the
night.

Ormand took the lead and the four filed away down the river. Very little
was said. Each man was wriggling himself into harmony with his pack and
too full of the sheer joy of being once more in the open to care to
talk. The houses very quickly ceased to obtrude themselves and Scott was
surprised to see how soon they were in practically uninhabited woods.
The flat river bottom was here very narrow and the cliffs rose almost at
right angles to a height of one hundred and fifty feet. Frequent streams
crossed their path, emerging from miniature gorges in the cliffs, and
hurrying across the narrow strip of bottom land to the river. Trees
there were in plenty, many of them species which Scott did not expect to
find at all in such places.

At the end of an hour and a half of steady walking Ormand declared that
it was time for a rest, and dropping his pack at the foot of a big elm
tree, sat down beside it. All the others followed his example and they
were soon comfortably settled in a little hollow protected from the
wind.

“Great day for a hike,” Morgan exclaimed. “Just about cold enough to
make it pleasant. The buds are all well formed so that you can identify
things, and the leaves gone so that you can see something.”

“Yes,” Ormand agreed, “you can see our Thanksgiving dinner running all
around us. Did you ever see so many rabbits?”

Greenleaf produced a bunch of twigs he had collected along the way.
“Here’s where you fellows take an examination in dendrology. Of course
you know all these species from their buds, or think you do, and now
we’ll see about it. Scotty and I are not supposed to know anything yet
except the conifers, but we’ll see if you can outguess us. Here, for
instance,” he proceeded in the tone of a man with a megaphone on a sight
seeing automobile, “is a small twig on which there are five perfectly
good buds. Mr. Morgan, you will please elucidate.”

Morgan examined the twig carelessly and handed it to Ormand, who passed
it on to Scott.

“Elm,” Morgan announced confidently. The others nodded assent.

“Sure,” Greenleaf jeered, “any jay knows that. But now for this neat
little fellow.” He handed over a somewhat similar looking twig, but more
slender, and with sharper buds standing well out from the twig. Morgan
examined this one much more carefully, bit it, tasted it, bent it,
passed it on. The others repeated the performance. When it had completed
the rounds Morgan declared himself for white birch. Ormand immediately
disagreed with him, and, after considerable hesitation, declared himself
for blue beech.

“The buds are too big,” objected Morgan.

Scott was completely at sea.

“Very good, very good, gentlemen,” Greenleaf jeered, “but I broke it off
an ironwood tree.”

The twig then went the rounds once more and was readily identified by
the green on the buds.

“Humph,” Greenleaf grunted, “seems pretty easy when I have told you what
it is.”

This became the favorite amusement at every stop that was made, and all
along the line of march the identity of every tree concerning which
there was any doubt, was settled to the satisfaction of everyone. Scott
soon learned the trees well enough to take part in the discussions, and
added to the interest of the stops by quizzing the others on specimens
of rock he had collected, or explaining the physiography of the country
through which they were passing. On the present occasion the stop was of
brief duration. They planned to celebrate Thanksgiving in the usual
manner with a big dinner in the middle of the afternoon and no more
hiking that day. With this object in view they had elected to camp about
two miles below Hastings, which they reached at half past two.

Scott was anxious to see how such a tiny tent as they were packing could
possibly be made to accommodate four good-sized men. His curiosity was
still further aroused by the eagerness with which the others seemed to
be looking for a large fallen tree. A shout from Ormand brought the
party to a halt.

“Here she is. Just where we want her, too.” The “she” referred to a
large rotten log lying parallel to the river bank and some thirty feet
from it.

Ormand began singing out orders like a major general even before he had
slipped out of his pack. “Morgan, you build the fire and get the kettle
on. Greenleaf, you and Scotty put up the tent and make the beds. I’ll go
get the turkey.” And he disappeared in the bushes.

Greenleaf immediately took charge of the operation. “You unpack the
tent, Scotty, while I cut the poles.” Scott busied himself with the pack
while Greenleaf went circling through the neighboring woods eying
critically every sapling he passed. An occasional sound of chopping
announced the discovery of the sought-for pieces. In ten minutes he was
back with two pieces, each three and a half feet long and forked at one
end, a long slender pole, and two heavier poles about twelve feet long.

Scott buttoned the two halves of the dog tent together and watched
Greenleaf chopping off the brush and smoothing the ground on the south
side of the log. When this was completed to Greenleaf’s satisfaction,
and he was very particular about it, he stretched the straight edge of
the tent—what would ordinarily have been the front—tight along the log.
He then produced from his pocket three twenty-penny spikes which he
proceeded to drive through the brass eyelets into the log.

He and Scott stretched the tent out flat in a horizontal position and
pushed the two forked sticks into the ground just outside of the front
corners. On these two forked sticks the slender pole was laid and the
front corners of the tent tied to it, thus keeping the canvas taut. The
heavy poles were then pushed butt first through the forked sticks, under
the canvass, over the slender pole, over the log, and shoved firmly into
the ground behind the log. The flaps which usually form the back of the
tent were then extended to their full length and tied to the ends of the
heavy poles. In just fifteen minutes the little lean-to was completed
and as steady as could be desired.

They collected a big pile of dead leaves, which they spread evenly on
the ground under the canvas for a mattress, and spread the blankets over
them. In the meanwhile Morgan had built a fire similar to the one they
had used in the morning and had the kettle boiling merrily. He had also
collected a big pile of green wood for the night fire.

Just as they finished their work Ormand bounded into camp with two
rabbits he had shot with his twenty-two pistol. The tea was made as
before and another kettle of water put on immediately. Greenleaf was in
favor of boiling the rabbits in the teakettle, but Morgan insisted on
stewing them in the frying pan. Two cans of beans were punctured and
placed in the fire to warm. Scott spread out the other stores and in an
hour from the time they had found the log they were seated around their
Thanksgiving dinner. Some more critical guests might have found fault
with it, but for them it could not have been improved. A bag of apples
which Scott had bought on his way through Hastings nobly topped off the
feast.

The meal over they repaired to the tent to enjoy themselves. As the
evening was rather cold they heaped leaves at the end of the tent to
keep out the wind and built a good big fire in front of it. Under that
little flap of canvas it was warm as toast. In this cozy little retreat
they spent the evening telling yarns and discussing the plans for the
rest of the trip. When the last of the apples had been disposed of they
remodeled the fire for the night, and rolling in their blankets they
were soon lost to the world. In spite of all the predictions for a
sleepless night for Scott he was the first one asleep and the last one
to wake up in the morning.



                              CHAPTER VIII


Greenleaf rolled the others out in the morning while it was still dark
and breakfast was disposed of in short order. It was a repetition of the
morning before except that pancakes and bacon were added to the menu. As
soon as the dishes were rubbed clean in the sand from the river bed and
the packs made up the party was again on the trail.

They made good time the second day in spite of the slight soreness in
their necks and backs from the unaccustomed packs, light though they
were. By night they had covered twenty-five miles and camped within
sight of the lights of Red Wing. Scott was delighted with the active
part he was already able to take in the preparations for the night. The
wind blowing steadily in their faces all day had made them very sleepy.
Within an hour after they had finished their supper they were all asleep
in their blankets.

[Illustration: By night they had camped within sight of the lights of
Red Wing.]

Saturday morning they felt better than ever—for the second day of a
walking trip is always the hardest—and started out in splendid spirits.
Entering Red Wing just as the grocery stores were opening they tarried
only long enough to replenish their food supply. The boys were jealous
of every minute they had to spend in town. The cliffs were on the west
bank of the river now and they looked far out across the broad bottom
lands of the Wisconsin shore to the hills in the distance. Later in the
day they came to Lake Pepin and enjoyed the change of scenery. Scott
explained the geological significance of the great lake in the course of
the Father of Waters and it took on a new interest to them.

In the evening they were well within reach of Wabasha and knew that they
could “take it easy” the next day. They lounged around the fire in
luxurious ease for several hours spinning yarns before they piled the
fire with green wood for the night and turned in.

Early morning found them tramping gaily along the river bank, their
packs lightened of nearly all the provisions and their minds happy in
the freedom of movement which came with the third day of the walking
trip. They felt primed for any adventure and it was not long till they
had one which furnished them with more excitement than they had
bargained for.

They had stopped to throw stones at a bottle which was bobbing down the
current when Greenleaf, who had spent one spring on the “drive”
(floating the winter cut of logs to the mill), discovered a couple of
logs hung on the shore near them. He had learned after many a ducking,
to ride a log in the water, and seizing a pole lying on the shore,
succeeded in shoving off the log into deep water and jumping on it. It
was a dangerous proceeding for without the long spikes, or driving
calks, in the shoes a log is very hard to handle, especially when it has
been hung up along the shore for a long time and become coated with a
layer of mud. But Greenleaf had had plenty of training in this business
and with the aid of the long pole rode the log down the swift current as
steadily as though it were a mud scow. The others kept pace with him
along the shore cheering vociferously. At last Greenleaf tired of the
fun and yielded to the entreaties of the others to let them try it.

Ormand had ridden logs a little the summer before while his class was at
Itasca Park and the ease with which Greenleaf rode that particular log
piqued him into a desire to show his skill. He knew it was a ticklish
undertaking and one not likely to add much to his credit but nerve was
not among the things he lacked and he was willing to take the chance.
When Greenleaf jumped ashore Ormand grasped the pole boldly and sprang
onto the log with apparent confidence. He landed squarely on the center
of the log, which, propelled by his momentum, glided smoothly out into
the stream. His success astonished him more than it did the others who
did not know how little experience he had had. Had the log been straight
and had fate not doomed it to strike a snag in the river Ormand might
have landed successfully with a brilliant reputation as a riverman. But
it was decreed otherwise.

As soon as the log floated out of the eddies near the shore it was
caught by the current and turned down stream, but it was still working
out toward the center of the river. Ormand did not like this for he knew
that his success so far was due almost entirely to luck, and he did not
want to tempt providence too far. He began paddling with the pole in an
attempt to work the log back toward the shore. He was making a little
progress but his work with the pole had a tendency to make the log turn
slowly over in the water. He moved cautiously to keep on top and was a
little surprised when the log stopped twisting as though one side of it
were weighted. The other boys on the shore were cheering and keeping
pace with the log, each eager for his turn to come. Just as Ormand was
beginning to have hopes of making a graceful landing the center of the
log touched a snag which was fast to the bottom of the river. The log
twisted slowly a few inches in the same direction as before and then
suddenly whirled over like a thing bewitched. Ormand was not looking for
the sudden change of speed. His feet were jerked from under him and he
fell backwards into the river. A shout of laughter arose from the boys
on the shore for they knew Ormand was a good swimmer and considered it a
huge joke to see him ducked.

Scott alone had noticed that Ormand’s head had seemed to strike the log
as he fell and when he did not see him come up immediately he dived into
the river without hesitation much to the surprise of the others. Scott
was a splendid swimmer and even encumbered with his heavy shoes and his
clothes he covered the fifty feet between the log and the shore in a few
powerful strokes.

“Have you seen him?” he called to the boys on the shore.

“No,” yelled Morgan, now thoroughly scared, “he has not come up yet.”

Scott dived beside the snag and came up almost immediately with Ormand
grasped firmly by the collar. He swam straight for the shore with his
burden.

Greenleaf’s experience on the drive helped him now. “You help them out,”
he called to Morgan, “while I build a fire.” He dashed back to the
timber at the edge of the grass swamp and collected some wood.

In spite of Scott’s best efforts the current carried him quite a way
down the stream. It was hard work and he was glad when Morgan relieved
him by grasping the unconscious Ormand and, dragging him out on solid
ground, lent him a helping hand. Together they carried the limp body to
the fire.

Greenleaf, who had seen several such cases on the river, immediately
took charge. “First we must get the water out of him,” he said, and
turning Ormand on his face he grasped him around the waist and raised
his body.

“Pull his tongue out, Scotty,” he said.

It was not easily done but Scott finally succeeded with the aid of his
pocket handkerchief. By gently shaking Ormand, Greenleaf succeeded in
getting most of the water out of his lungs.

“Now turn him on his back,” he said, “and we’ll start him breathing.”
The boys obeyed feverishly. Greenleaf then placed a foot on either side
of the inert body and grasping a wrist in either hand raised the arms
slowly to a perpendicular position and then lowering them onto the chest
by flexing the elbows pressed them down firmly. He repeated this motion
slowly and regularly while the others obeyed his directions to take off
Ormand’s shoes and rub his feet. Five minutes passed in this way—it
seemed hours to the anxious boys—and still there was no sign of life.

“Fellows,” Morgan sobbed imploringly, “he can’t be dead, can he?”

Before anyone could answer the question a little shiver passed through
Ormand and he heaved a gasping sigh. Morgan and Scott were so delighted
that they wanted to throw themselves on him.

“Get out of the way,” Greenleaf commanded sternly, “and heat up a couple
of those blankets I put there by the fire.”

Both of them grabbed the blankets, eager to be of some help.

Ormand looked around in a dazed way and groaned, “What’s the matter with
my chest, Greeny?” he asked feebly; “it feels as though somebody was
sticking a knife in me.”

“You’re all right,” Greenleaf said cheerfully, “but you had a pretty
narrow squeak. Be quiet now while we wrap you in these hot blankets.”

Together they rolled Ormand in the hot blankets and Greenleaf fed him
spoonfuls of hot tea that he had kept from lunch in his canteen.

For a while it did not seem as though Ormand realized what had happened
to him, but after a while he raised his hand slowly to the back of his
head and a light broke over his face.

“Now I remember,” he said. “I fell off that log and broke my head on the
way.”

“Yes,” Greenleaf said, feeling the bump gently, “you cracked it on the
way, all right, but you cracked it a good deal harder on the log.”

The reaction from the strain they had all been suffering brought a laugh
out of all proportion to the joke.

“I can’t see what threw me so quick,” Ormand said; “it was turning so
slowly that I thought I could control it.”

“Didn’t you know she was crooked?” Greenleaf asked in astonishment.

“No,” Ormand said, “I did not notice it.”

“Well,” Greenleaf exclaimed, “you sailed out there into the stream so
well that I thought you were an old hand or I would have told you. She
was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg and floated pretty solidly belly
down. When you started paddling it turned the bowed part way up and she
stayed that way till she struck that snag. That forced the bow clear
over and she went down the other side with a whoop. Those crooked ones
are the deuce to ride; even the old hands seldom tackle them.”

“I don’t know much about it,” Ormand confessed, “but you did it so well,
Greeny, that I wanted to show off. It would probably have fixed me if it
had not been for you fellows. Well, I feel all right now,” and he tried
to get up.

“No you don’t,” Greenleaf said determinedly, pushing him back into the
blankets, “you were pretty nearly drowned, and unless you are careful
you’ll have pneumonia, and you must not leave those blankets till you
are plumb dry.”

“Was I really that near it?” Ormand shivered.

“Seemed to me you were unconscious about an hour,” Scott said.

“Scotty was the only one who had sense enough to know that you were
hurt,” Morgan said. “He dived right in as soon as you went overboard
while the rest of us were laughing our heads off.”

Ormand looked his thanks to Scott and shivered again to think how near
to death he had been.

In about three hours all the clothes were dried out and Greenleaf
consented to let his patient move slowly with two assistants. They made
their way to Reeds Landing, which was close by, and took the train back
to the city. Their pleasure trip had narrowly escaped a very tragic
ending, but even Ormand, after a few days, declared it had been a grand
success.



                               CHAPTER IX


Once more settled into the routine of college work the time passed
rapidly. Scott began to wonder what he would do with himself during the
Christmas vacation which was now close at hand. He had for some time
imagined that some of the fellows who lived near there would take pity
on him, a stranger from a distant land, and invite him to spend the
holidays with them. He knew he could rely on that at home. But the time
was now close at hand and no such invitation had materialized. The
reason for it, when he found it out, astonished him more than ever. He
found that none of them had any idea of spending that time loafing at
home. The senior class was going to the lumber woods the day after
Christmas, and all the others, rich and poor alike, were going to work
at some job or other.

The thought seemed ridiculous at first, but as he noticed the
self-reliance and independence of the men around him and recognized
their ability to care for themselves anywhere, at any time, it began to
look more reasonable; instead of looking down on them for their
eagerness to earn money he began to admire them for their dignity. It
occurred to him that it would be a novel experience to try a job for a
while himself. He was ashamed to think how ignorant he was of such
things and how helpless he should be if he were really suddenly thrown
on his own resources where he would have to find a job for himself. Any
of his classmates could find a dozen jobs while he was trying to think
where to look for one. He was about decided to try his ability to
support himself, when this problem, like most of the practical problems
which had confronted him since he left home, was settled for him by his
roommate.

That young gentleman sauntered into the room one afternoon about three
days before the holidays began and seemed to be in a particularly
cheerful mood. With considerable show he pulled a strip of paper from
his pocket, stretched himself luxuriously in his chair with his feet
protruding from under the opposite edge of the table and cleared his
throat loudly. “Now, young man,” he began, in as deep a voice as he
could command, “what do you intend to do this Christmas vacation? Are
you going to work for an honest living or loaf and grow fat
ignominiously?”

“Well,” Scott responded, falling in with his humor, “I was going to ask
your advice about that, sir.”

“Very good. Then my advice to you is that you work. If you loaf you will
have to loaf alone, which will soon become more tiresome than working,
unless you want to fall back on your old friends, the millionaires,
which would be degrading. Work during the holidays and buy a canoe for
Itasca with the earnings. How’s that?”

“Fine,” Scott exclaimed. “Do you think I could earn enough for that? I
am pretty green, you know.”

“Never mind about your color,” Greenleaf assured him; “most of the men
who work extra for the holidays are more or less of that shade. You
won’t be noticed. That point settled, now let’s see what kind of a job I
can give you. I have been looking into the matter a little, and have a
list of vacancies here from which we can choose something agreeable.”

Scott was very curious to see what the nature of the jobs would be. In
his own mind he had pictured such positions as temporary clerkships in a
bookstore, a bank, or wholesale house; private secretary to a railroad
president, or some kind of investigational work for some ambitious
professor. There his imagination had failed him.

“First,” Greenleaf continued, eying his list, “there is an extra
salesman wanted at the Palladium.”

Scott gasped audibly.

“That,” Greenleaf said critically, doing the choosing for both of them,
“we’ll not consider, because they pay only a dollar and a half per day
and keep you standing up half the night.

“Next there is the job of carrying extras for the postman. That is no
good because they do not pay any more than the other and it is likely to
run out before the holidays are over. Cold job, too.

“Then there is a billing job in the express office. That is some fun and
they pay two-fifty, but there is only one opening there and it is inside
work.

“Next, writing tracers in the freight office, two-fifty, but a dog’s
life and too much brain work.

“Next. Working on the sewer gang. Two dollars but too many ‘hunyacks’ to
work with. Too hard work any way when you are not in training for it.

“Next. Work here at the Station at fifteen cents per hour. See too much
of the place now. I want a change of view for my holiday.

“Last. Trucking in the transfer shed at twenty cents. That looks to me
like the best shot. Outside work, plenty of exercise, a chance to work
extra if you want to, and we can both work together. How does that
strike you?”

Between the character of the jobs, so different from what he had
imagined, and the marvel of wondering how Greenleaf ever got in touch
with so many different lines of work, Scott was too astonished to give
an immediate answer.

“Not much variety in the winter time,” Greenleaf apologized. “Oh, here’s
another one. Driving an extra delivery wagon for the Kings’ Palace.
Two-fifty, but that’s probably gone by this time. Mean job, anyway,
especially in the winter, and too long hours. No, I’ll go down and
telephone the transfer shed to hold two jobs. Are you game?”

“Sure,” Scott answered faintly, and Greenleaf popped out on his errand.
While he was gone Scott spent his time in wondering what kind of a job
he had gotten into, for he had never heard anything about a transfer
shed, and had no idea what Greenleaf had meant. Before he had been able
to figure out any satisfactory solution Greenleaf returned.

“It’s all right,” he cried; “they said they’d save us two trucks, and
said we could come down Friday morning at 7 A. M. I tell you we’ll get
some lively work there.”

Scott, who was ashamed to confess his ignorance, kept a discreet silence
except to confirm any of Greenleaf’s statements which seemed to need
confirmation. He turned the matter over continually in his own mind, but
having nothing to work on never came to any conclusion.

At last the vacation began and the two boys presented themselves, or
rather Greenleaf presented them both to the foreman at the shed. They
were assigned to a westbound gang and directed to study the signs on the
platform till it was time to begin work.

The transfer shed was located in an enormous freight yard amidst a
network of forty or fifty tracks. The shed itself consisted of a large
warehouse with offices on the second floor and, extending from either
end of it, a covered platform some twenty feet wide and about a hundred
yards long. Its floor was of heavy planking, the splintered condition of
which seemed to indicate heavy traffic of some kind. It was on a level
with the floors of the box cars which were standing four rows deep on
either side of it. Iron skids were laid from the platform to the
car-sills, forming a gang plank.

Stuck in the posts nearest the gang planks on one side of the platform
were four tin signs bearing the names of the cities in the West, or such
mystic signs as “1st Div. Way,” “Valley Way,” “East Local,” etc. Scott
noticed that all the cars on that side were empty, while those on the
opposite side of the platform seemed to be loaded to the roof with every
conceivable kind of freight. He had not yet figured out the significance
of all this but he studied hard and soon had a pretty good idea of their
general location on the platform. He had also mastered the fact that
when he found there were four signs connected with each skid, that the
top sign referred to the car on the first track, the lowest one to the
fourth, etc.

Just then there was a great rumbling noise in the direction of the
warehouse and a swarm of men, each pushing a two-wheel truck, burst out
onto the platform and assembled in little knots around the doorways of
the loaded cars. One man with a tally board in his hand stepped out of a
car some distance down the platform and beckoned to them.

“You belong to five,” he shouted. They nodded assent.

“Get two trucks out of the warehouse, and get a move on you,” he
growled, as he turned again to the gang of men who were loosening the
tangle of freight in the doorway of the car. The tone of voice rather
galled Scott, but he had chosen his job and knew that he must accept its
conditions. Some of the trucks in the warehouse were pretty badly
battered up, but the boys soon found two with smooth handles and easy
running wheels. When they came out the work had started in earnest, and
men were dodging in and out of the cars, some with loads, some with
empty trucks. All seemed to be in a tremendous hurry.

As they approached the car where gang five was working the man with the
board asked them if they were old hands. They said that they were not
and asked what they should do.

“Take things where I tell you and keep on the jump. Hang the ticket I
give you on the nail to the left of the door where you leave the stuff,
and be sure it’s the right car. Those tickets are collected from time to
time—Fargo [he yelled at a passing truckman, and handed him a small slip
of paper]—and if you’ve left anything wrong you’ll be stuck for the
freight. You’re six,” he said to Greenleaf, “and you’re seven,” to
Scott.

Scott took his place in the line and soon found his truck loaded with
small boxes piled mountain high.

“Fifteen for Moorehead,” the loader called.

“Right,” came the echo from the check clerk, the man with the board. He
was seated beside the car door, and as Scott passed him screamed
“Moorehead car,” and shoved a slip into his outstretched hand.

Scott found that the management of a two-wheeled truck was a good deal
more difficult problem than he had ever imagined it to be. If he let the
handles get an inch too low the burden became almost beyond his strength
and twice he raised them so high that he was lifted bodily from the
ground in spite of his violent efforts to stay down. It was a question
of balance, and some of the men around him seemed to have mastered it
perfectly. Some walked steadily and easily along with a load that would
have filled a horse-cart, others tore past with a barrel or large box
not only perfectly balanced but carrying them along with one foot on the
axle of the truck and their bodies suspended from the truck handles by
the armpits. The trucks seemed to shoot here and there, even almost at
right angles into a car door, without any effort on the part of the
truckman or without his so much as touching his foot to the floor. Every
time Scott’s truck ran over a chip or struck the edge of a skid, his
handles showed an almost uncontrollable tendency to throw him in the
air, and several times he narrowly escaped spilling his load in that
way. When he finally reached the Moorehead car safely a storeman met him
and showed him where to dump his load. He stuck his slip on the nail
with the others and ran back to the car. He found that by continually
running with his empty truck he could just about make up for his
slowness on the outbound trip, and maintain his turn in the gang. It was
a disgrace to lose a turn.

Greenleaf had done a little trucking in the warehouses around Duluth and
in half an hour was racing with the best of them, and was on joking
terms with every man in the gang, except the gruff check clerk, who had
been raised to that position temporarily, and was afraid to joke for
fear of losing his dignity.

It was marvelous to see the way these men could handle loads of any
weight and any shape on those little two-wheeled trucks. Nothing seemed
to be too heavy, nothing too cumbersome to be balanced on a truck and
wheeled away by one insignificant man. Hogsheads of tobacco weighing
twenty-six hundred pounds were wrestled onto a truck by five or six
husky men, and, once on securely, were trotted out unassisted by one
consumptive looking Austrian.

At last Scott thought they were stuck on a crate of glass some ten feet
long, four feet high and six inches thick which stood on edge against
the wall and seemed too heavy to be moved by human force, but, he soon
found, to his own humiliation, that he was mistaken. The loader, or
caller, broke up with his steel freight-hook the cleats which held it,
sized up the situation and called to Scott: “Break that out of there.”

Scott knew what that meant from watching the others. He stepped forward
and with his foot on the axle of the truck drove the sharp blade deep
under the edge of the crate. He then threw all his weight on the handles
in an attempt to raise the load on the blade. The crate bobbed up a
little but dropped back with a bump and jerked Scott violently up in the
air like a cork. He tried three times with all his might but never got
the box more than an inch from the floor.

At this point the caller interfered in a most humiliating manner.

“Better put some bricks in your pocket, boy,” he jeered. “Get out of the
way and let a man get hold of that truck.”

That was a pretty hard thing to bear quietly from a man twenty pounds
his inferior in weight, but Scott thought he would soon be vindicated
because he did not believe that any man could budge that crate.

The caller drove his hook into the side of the car by way of hanging it
up, grasped the handles of the truck and with a few quick jerks moved
the crate out a foot or more from the wall. He then blocked the wheels
with a chip of wood, placed his foot carefully on the axle, and grasping
the handles tightly threw himself far forward over the crate. For one
second he poised there and then threw himself violently backward with
every ounce of impetus his muscles could summon to his aid. The handles
went down within two feet of the floor and there seemed to hang in the
balance. It was against the ethics of the shed to help him and all the
men watched him struggle slowly and laboriously up between the handles
at the same time keeping them down. With one final wriggle he gained the
ascendancy and forced the handles to the floor.

“Here, Ole,” he called, “run your truck under there and get her
balanced.”

Ole placed his truck, two men helped the caller let his handles slowly
up and the great crate balanced serenely on the other truck.

“Here’s your truck, kid.” Then seeing the chagrined look on Scott’s
face, “You’ll get on to it some day; it takes practice.”

Scott’s boxing training and endurance stood him in good stead. He was
able to put in three hours of extra work even the first night. Later on
as he learned the tricks of the trade the work became easier, and he
began to enjoy it. There were all classes of men and all nationalities
represented in the ten gangs at the shed, Swedes, Norwegians, Austrians,
Finns, Poles and one gang of real Southern negroes. It was a problem
worth while to study the characters of these different races; to compare
the slow sullen plod of the Scandinavian with the carefree cheerfulness
of the negroes, to see the contempt of the Irish foreman for all the
races of slower wit. It was a liberal education in itself.

He soon learned the workings of the shed and became interested in its
methods. The cars rolled in there from the Eastern cities loaded with
all kinds of merchandise for all the points of the northwest. The
waybills for these cars were sent to the office in the second story of
the warehouse where the clerks abstracted them, and wrote out on large
sheets of paper the names of consignor, and consignee, and descriptions
of the consignments. These abstract sheets were then taken by the
foreman as fast as the cars came in and placed on the clips on the
platform. Here the check clerks took them in charge.

A gang usually consisted of a check clerk, a caller and five truckmen.
The caller read the directions on the freight and loaded it on the
trucks, always selecting for any one load boxes which went into the same
car. The check clerk checked them off on his abstract and told the
truckman where to take it. It was the duty of the check clerk to know
every point in the territory and how to reach it.

Scott had started the work with the idea that any educated man had an
advantage over any other man not similarly educated, and could excel him
at his own work. One day’s experience on the truck handles had very
effectually shown him his mistake. He began to realize that a man who
had spent several years rolling a truck was quite as much of an expert
in his line as a doctor was in his, and that no man could tell him much
about it. It was depressing at first, but as he became more expert
himself he began to find that he could outdo these men in many ways on
account of his better head work. He soon began to enjoy the work in the
capacity of a master workman.

All this was extremely interesting to Scott and he felt that he was
acquiring invaluable experience. Christmas passed almost unnoticed save
that Scott’s box from home furnished them many a grateful lunch when
they returned to their rooms at night tired but happy in thrashing over
the day’s doings.

But that was not all. There was plenty of fun and humor at the shed as
well as elsewhere. One afternoon Scott thought he noticed some freight
in the Willmar car which did not belong there. It was the mistake of the
check clerk or the caller. No one liked the check clerk, but the caller
was popular, and Scott decided to tell him about it.

“Charlie,” he said when he returned to the car, “I think you called some
of that stuff wrong. I saw some of your stuff up there in the Willmar
that I did not think belonged there.”

Charlie was master of a rough-edged sarcasm and he spared no one. Work
was a little slack and he settled down to rub it into Scott.

“You _think_ I made a mistake. You _think_ it don’t belong there. What
right have you got to think? Don’t you know that there is a man upstairs
who is paid eighteen hundred dollars a year just to sit at his desk and
think? He does all the thinking for this place. You just flap your ears
like a little jack-ass and push that truck.”

The sally was met by howls of laughter and Scott was obliged to join in
them. All the rest of that day whenever he looked at all pensive Charlie
broke into his meditations with, “Say, boy, you been thinking any more
lately?”

Another source of amusement which originated with the darky crew, but
soon spread to the whole shed, was the popular method of settling all
disputes and rough houses. No sooner did two men start to tussle than
some enthusiast in the crowd, sometimes one of the combatants if he felt
sure of victory, would yell, “Get a board.” That was the invariable war
cry. There were always plenty of people to carry it out and as if by
magic a husky man would appear with a bed slat. The presence of that bed
slat reversed the ordinary methods of wrestling completely. It was no
longer the object to come out on top, for the top man got the full
benefit of the bed slat laid on with no gentle hand. The agonized
expression and bodily writhing of the victim who saw that descending bed
slat out of the corner of his eye were the delight of the crowd. The man
who could stay underneath with the seat of his trousers glued fast to
the platform was the successful combatant in the eyes of all concerned.
It was not a position easily maintained, for the exertions of the other
man under the stimulus of the bed slat became almost superhuman.

Scott had been anxious to try his strength at this game with some of
these strong laborers, but he had been slow to make their acquaintance.
The day before he left the shed he had his opportunity thrust upon him.
There was a big Swede there, the bully of the shed, who was acknowledged
to be the “best man” at the bed slat game. He was consequently always
looking for trouble and had gotten the better of nearly everyone there
at some time or other. Scott had often wondered what his skill could do
against this man’s strength.

The clash came unexpectedly. Scott shot out of a car door with his empty
truck just in time to crash into a truck loaded high with small boxes.
The impact dumped the top-heavy load, and fifty cobbler outfits were
scattered the width of the platform. Almost before he knew what had
happened he felt himself raised bodily from the ground and the big Swede
was bellowing the war cry in his very ear. He felt absolutely helpless
in that iron grasp. Hardly had the echo of the war cry died away when
there was a swish and the inevitable bed slat landed with a crack like a
rifle.

The tears sprang to Scott’s eyes, but all the feeling of helplessness
was gone. With one frantic wrench he freed himself from the big Swede’s
arms. He dodged the next blow of the menacing slat, grappled his
opponent around the knees and brought him to the ground with a crash. He
had downed his man, but with the wrestler’s instinct, and unmindful of
the rules of this new game, he had fallen on top of his opponent. Crack
came the relentless slat. There was no time to lose. He was free and
could have ended the scrap by leaving his opponent but that would have
been to acknowledge defeat, which he was not willing to do without a
fair trial. With one wild dive he secured a crotch and body hold on his
untrained opponent; but the man was too big—he could not turn him over.
Just then the bed slat descended again with a vicious spat. That gave
him the needed strength. One agonized heave toppled the big fellow heels
over head and Scott fell neatly under him. Flat on his back with the big
Swede pinned helplessly above him he listened to the cracks of the slat
mingling with the yells of the crowd and smiled as he foiled the
heavings of the mighty frame with his skill.

A half dozen cracks were enough. The big fellow howled for mercy, and
Scott arose the hero of the shed. The forty-five dollars he earned that
vacation was the pride of his life, but if he had been given his choice
he would have preferred to repeat that triumphant moment when he lay on
his back on the platform and listened to the tune of that slat.



                               CHAPTER X


Of all the Christmas vacations which Scott could remember he recalled
none that had left him such real sensations of pleasure as that three
weeks of hard labor in the old transfer shed. It formed almost the only
theme of conversation between the two boys for the next two weeks. A
month ago Scott would have laughed at the idea of his being able to
learn anything at such a place, yet hardly a day passed now that he did
not feel that he had been helped by his experience. Moreover, he took a
very different interest in the laboring men he saw and seemed to look at
everything from a different point of view.

He buckled down to his work with a better will than he could have done
after a period of idleness and had the satisfaction of seeing his extra
courses rapidly coming to a successful close. The mid-year examinations
came bringing terror to the unprepared, but Scott took his Saturday
afternoon and Sunday off as usual, and waded through the examinations in
the regular routine of his work. He came out of them with flying colors,
and found himself a full fledged junior with the privilege of taking
part in all the activities of the class.

The most important of these class activities at this time was the
formation of the famous Junior Corporation for the management of the
camp at Itasca. A camp meeting was called at which Ormand and Morgan,
the officers of the last year’s Corporation, explained its organization
and workings. Ormand explained the object of the Corporation.

“You see, fellows, it’s like this. That camp is twenty-seven miles from
the railroad. There is no boarding house within striking distance of the
place, so somebody has to run the cook shack. If an outsider came in to
run it he would have to charge big money in order to make any profit; if
the school ran it the fellows would always be kicking on the grub; if
the fellows run it themselves they can make it cost what they please and
have nobody but themselves to kick if they don’t like it. It has always
worked out first rate. We kept board down to two dollars and eighty
cents per week last summer, had good grub and entertained lots of
company.

“Of course it means some work. The school supplies a good cook shack and
all the equipment. You will have to elect some good man manager to
attend to all the business, and another good man secretary to keep the
books, pay the bills and help him out generally. Then the rest of you
must back them up in everything they do. Hire your own cook, buy your
provisions wholesale and buy your own cows.”

Morgan then explained the organization of the camp crews and the rules
of the game as well as he could.

With this information as a guide the new officers were quickly elected
and the organization completed. Merton was elected manager and Scott,
secretary. Before his experience at the shed Scott would have been
afraid of this responsibility, but he had more confidence in himself now
and welcomed the experience.

The next few weeks were indeed full ones for the new officers. They
levied an assessment of twenty-five dollars from each member of the
class to meet the immediate expenses, held long conferences with the
former officers, making up grocery lists and collecting details of
information which would aid them in handling the various contingencies
which might arise in the course of the summer. They signed a written
contract with the director of the College defining their duties and
privileges. They carried on an extensive correspondence in an effort to
locate a suitable cook and find two cows which would answer their
purpose. After holding a protracted meeting with the representative of a
wholesale grocery company they placed an order for what seemed to them
an inexhaustible supply of provisions.

In the bustle of preparation various lines of private enterprise were
brought to light. One man had constituted himself a special agent for a
certain shoe concern and took orders for all styles of boots, puttees
and moccasins. Another was appointed to purchase compasses and all other
needed equipment of a like nature; while still another canvassed the
class for sweaters, flannel shirts, mackinaws, and riding breeches.
Scott added to his official duties the selection and purchase of a canoe
which he paid for with the money he had earned at the shed. It was a
busy time for everyone and the fever of expectant excitement pervaded
the entire class. The tang of spring was in the air and these young
savages were yearning for the freedom of the woods.

Two days before the appointed day of departure came the annual banquet
of the Forestry Club to speed the parting juniors. It was regarded
somewhat as a sacred rite because it was the last meeting of the year
when all the classes could be together. By the time the juniors would
come down from the woods the seniors would be scattered to the four
corners of the country and there was no chance of getting them all
together again after that. It was also the time when the embryo orators
of the different classes aired their wit in after-dinner speeches. Men
had been known to keep jokes secret for a whole year for the sake of
springing them publicly at the banquet.

A committee of the Club had made all the arrangements. A hungry crowd
some forty strong assembled at the hotel and, as is customary on all
such occasions, starved for almost an hour waiting for the banquet to be
served. It was a very good banquet and tasted all the better for the
delay—maybe that is the reason all banquets are delayed—but everyone was
more interested in what was to come afterward than in the dinner itself.

The professor of engineering was in the chair as toastmaster, the
director of the College was present and so were all the popular
professors. It was rather an honor for a faculty member to be invited if
he was not a member of the Club—for it was an independent organization
and invited none out of mere politeness. This was pretty generally
understood and few who were invited failed to appear. One or two
outsiders who had earned the friendship of the Club were also there.

As the last waiter closed the door behind him the toastmaster arose and
solemnly proposed that they should all sing “Minnesota.” Every man was
on his feet in an instant, for it was traditional that the “Foresters
had more spirit than all the rest of the University put together,” and
they never neglected to show it at every opportunity. The song had the
desired effect; it struck fire which melted all formality and welded the
crowd into one homogeneous whole. There were no longer any class
distinctions; the faculty were stripped of their dignity. The
toastmaster grilled everyone unmercifully. The faculty told all the
jokes they could think of on the students and on each other; the
students “slammed” the faculty unrestrained. Everyone had the best kind
of a time. When the toastmaster finally resigned his seat it was close
to eleven o’clock, and there were many under classmen among those
present who were already looking forward to the meeting of the next
year. There was more than one senior who went home rather sadly thinking
that it was the last of its kind for him.

It had been a revelation to Scott. His relations with the faculty had
been wholly of the classroom, and he had formed the students’ usual
opinion of them as a type. That night he had seen them act like human
beings and he began to wonder if some of them were not almost human
after all.

The fifteenth of April, the day set for the departure, arrived at last.
The train left the Union Depot at nine in the morning, and the boys were
eager to reach the depot. The car stopped and they hurried into the
station where they found a wild and woolly looking group assembled in
the corner of the waiting room. They could not wait to get to the woods
and were nearly all attired in true lumberjack fashion, only the pallor
of their faces betraying them. They hailed the new arrivals with that
exaggerated hilarity that only a crowd of college boys can display. And
that hilarity instead of subsiding grew steadily with the arrival of
every new addition. They joked each other continually, riled the grouchy
baggage man almost to madness and “joshed” every porter who showed
himself.

When the train came in from St. Paul the crowd surged boisterously
forward sweeping everyone before it. Most of the people recognized the
joyous buoyancy of youth, and knowing how useless it was to oppose it,
yielded good naturedly enjoying it by a sort of reflected pleasure, but
a few resented it wrathfully, thereby making themselves ridiculous. On
they rushed across the platform and took possession of the smoking car.



                               CHAPTER XI


That trip to Park Rapids was a memorable one to the boys, as well as to
everyone else on the train. Most travelers consider it a dull and
tiresome ride but the boys seemed to find a source of never-ending
enjoyment in the sameness of the little towns along the road and the
long stretches of prairie, broken here and there by patches of jack
pine. The almost unbroken series of practical jokes which they played on
the trainmen and on each other made the miles slip pleasantly by for the
other passengers. It was all done in a good-humored spirit of abandon
that angered no one.

The dinner which they devoured at Sauk Center amazed some of the invalid
ladies who watched them, but it was only a vague foreshadowing of the
meal which they would eat in that same room on the downward trip when
their appetites had been whetted by four months of strenuous work in the
woods. With a cheer for the town which had fed them so well they boarded
the little branch train which was to take them to their destination and
resumed their old amusements. At Wadena they welcomed wildly a stray
member of the class who had come across on the N. P. to join them. They
immediately proceeded to work off on him all the gags which had been
developed earlier in the day.

As they neared Park Rapids the spirit of restlessness pervaded the
crowd. No sooner had the wheels stopped turning than they boiled out
onto the platform amidst the crowd of citizens who had made their
regular daily pilgrimage to see the train come in. They lost no time at
the station, the baggage could be taken care of in the morning, but
swarmed away up the street to the hotel. They selected a cheap hotel—for
no matter how much money a man might have at home it was part of the
game to keep down the expenses of that trip to the minimum.

Their duffel disposed of, Merton, as manager of the corporation, hurried
away to interview the storekeepers to arrange for a shipment of eatables
by the stage in the morning and to make an agreement with them for such
emergency supplies as they might require through the summer. Scott, with
a feeling of pride in his new responsibility, searched the livery
stables for two teams, one to haul the baggage and another the groceries
they had shipped tip from St. Paul. The others scattered in all
directions to explore the town, to sound its resources and locate some
amusement for the evening. They returned to the hotel for dinner, a
little disappointed, with nothing to report but a moving picture show
and a bowling alley.

The whole party was early afoot in the morning to take advantage of the
6:30 breakfast, for there was a big day’s work ahead of them. The former
classes had established the precedent of walking to and from camp, and
no class now dared fall short of that standard. A twenty-eight mile walk
was a big undertaking for men fresh from the classroom, but it had to be
done to maintain the class prestige. The people of the town expected it
of them and even the stage driver, who had become reconciled to the loss
of the fares, took a certain pride in their independence and recited the
exploit times without number to the summer boarders who later chanced to
be his passengers.

It was found that three of the boys had set out the night before to
spend the night at the Fairview Hotel at Arago, half way out, and
complete the journey in the morning. Three of the others, inexperienced
and not yet imbued with the spirit of the thing, waited for the stage.
Four of the remaining ones took the road immediately after breakfast,
while Merton and Scott hurried away to get the wagons started. By
seven-thirty the two wagon-loads of duffel and groceries were on the
road, and the two boys walked gayly on ahead, full of the joy of the
open. It was also a precedent that the walkers should reach the camp
ahead of the stage and they swung to their work with a will.

The twenty-eight mile walk, such a marvel to those who never walk
themselves, was uneventful. At the Lodge, on the south end of Lake
Itasca, Scott and Merton overtook the other four walkers, and the six
then finished the journey together.

“So that is Lake Itasca,” Merton observed rather thoughtfully, as they
followed the road along the hills on the east shore, “the source of the
Father of Waters. I remember seeing pictures of it in my geography.”

“Sure thing,” Bill Price answered quickly. “So do I. I recognized it as
soon as I saw it.”

“Well, this is something like a forest,” said Scott, admiring the dense
stand of pines stretching down the hill to the water’s edge. “I began to
think down there below Arago that the whole country was just covered
with brush.”

“I wonder where the stage is?” Merton mused looking back over his
shoulder, and they quickened their pace perceptibly.

“No matter now,” Scott answered. “We could outrun him from here if we
had to.”

“Be easier to pay him to stay behind us,” Bill suggested.

In this way the last three miles passed rapidly and a sudden turn in the
road brought them in sight of the camp not more than two hundred yards
away. They had heard so much of it from the seniors and seen so many
pictures of it taken at all possible angles that they recognized it at
once.

“There’s the cookshack up on the hill,” Merton shouted, “and there’s
smoke coming out of the chimney, too. That looks good to me. I could eat
a porcupine right now, quills and all.”

“There’s the library straight ahead,” said Scott. “I wonder where the
other buildings are?”

“There’s the barn,” Bill called, “and here’s the foreman’s house right
beside us. Gee, doesn’t that lake look fine from here? I wish it was
warm enough for a swim.”

A shout showed that they had been sighted from the camp and they
answered with an Indian whoop. They piled eagerly down across the campus
and were welcomed enthusiastically by their classmates who started out
the night before and by Professor Mertz, who had come up the previous
week to get the place in shape.

They all sat down on the library porch and made a preliminary survey of
the campus. The lake shore, not over a hundred feet away, stretched
north and south; across a quarter-mile of shining water the opposite
shore, part birch, part swamp, part pine. The roof of the boathouse
peeped over the bank directly in front of them, the big log bunkhouse
loomed up to the north, and hidden in the trees to the south were the
four small cabins of the faculty. It was a beautiful picture even then,
but nothing to what it would be when the trees were in leaf and all the
vegetation green.

“Looks pretty fine,” Merton said, “but, what’s more important, how do
you like the looks of the cook?”

“Fine,” came the chorus; “he moved in as naturally as though he had
always belonged here and has a hand-out waiting for you now.”

“’Nough said,” cried Bill, and they all arose as one man. “Let’s go
_see_ the cookshack.”

The cook, who had held despotic sway over many a lumber camp, was
waiting for them in the doorway and greeted them cheerily. It was hard
to realize that he had never seen any of them before.

“Not much in the way of chuck, yet,” he apologized, “but I got some
flour at the store, and there’s bread and butter and cheese and the
teapot is on the stove.”

The newcomers dropped into the benches without more ado and ate
ravenously.

“Looks like five dollars a plate to me,” Morris chuckled between bites.
“I could die eating like this.”

“Chances are pretty good that you will,” Bill purred, “you put in more
time at that than anything else.”

“When’s the grub coming?” the cook asked anxiously.

“There is enough on the stage for a couple of meals,” Merton answered,
“and a good two-horse wagon-load will be here a little later.”

The cook looked immensely relieved, “Good, there ain’t nothing makes me
nervous like an empty pantry.”

They had just finished eating when the stage hove in sight. It was a
good three-quarters of an hour behind them. Of course the three boys on
the stage had to have a “handout,” so they all ate some more.

Merton pulled out his list of groceries and consulted with the cook.
“Jansen, here’s a list of the stuff we have coming on the wagon. You’d
better look it over and see whether we have forgotten anything. If we
have we can send for it tonight and have it on the stage tomorrow. There
are only eggs, and a little butter to get. I want to arrange with some
of the settlers tomorrow about supplying us with those things. Have to
have some potatoes, too, and we have a couple of cows coming tomorrow.”

Jansen looked the list over with approval shining in every line of his
face. “Fine,” he exclaimed, “we can live high on that, but you’d better
order some beans pretty soon and some more ginger. I’m strong on beans
and ginger bread. You can’t run a camp without ’em.”

“Come on, fellows,” Price called from the doorway, “let’s go have a look
at the bunkhouse. I want to select my suite.”

They all trooped down the hill through the pines and across the tennis
court towards the bunkhouse.

“This tennis court looks good to me,” said Morris. “I expect to put in
many a good hour here.”

“All right,” Merton answered cheerily. “We’ll appoint you a committee of
one to smooth it up, patch up the backstop and mark it out. There’s
nothing like having work that interests you.”

“Gee,” exclaimed Burns, “those big upper porches look cold enough now,
but I’ll bet they make dandy places to sleep this summer. You can lie
right in your bunk and watch the moonlight on the lake.”

They filed through the door and stood looking admiringly around them.
The whole ground floor, twenty-four by thirty-six feet, was one big club
room with a big fireplace opposite the door and plenty of windows. The
furniture was built of pine two by sixes, crude but massive and well
suited to the log building. In the city the place would have looked
rough enough, but there in the backwoods it looked like a castle and the
fellows immediately adopted it as such.

“Isn’t this great?” Scott said. “When we get a good big fire whooping up
that chimney and our library here, it can rain all it pleases.”

“Yes,” Bill said, “and I’ll bet more than one mosquito will dull his
bill trying to bore through those tamarack logs. I’m going to file my
claim on this big morris chair right now, and I’ll put on those gloves
there on the wall with any man who wants to dispute it.”

The crowd wandered upstairs. It was the same as the downstairs save that
there was no fireplace and the only furniture was some twenty steel
bunks with wire springs. Big double doors on each end opened onto
twelve-foot screened porches.

“Me for the outside, right now,” said Merton, proceeding to drag one of
the bunks out onto the north porch.

“Well,” said Scott, “I’ll join you. It may be a little cold at first but
we get the pick of the locations if we get out now. There’ll be a rush
for it the first warm night. Better take the west end, the sun will not
get in on you there so early in the morning.”

“Long head,” Merton answered, dragging his bunk across. “Get a better
view of the lake, too. Isn’t that great? There’s the post office up
there and the ‘town site’ the fellows used to laugh about. Let’s go see
Professor Mertz and find out what there is to be done.”

But they did not have to look for Professor Mertz; he was downstairs
waiting for them. He smiled at their enthusiasm over their new quarters.

“Well, fellows,” he began sociably, “I see that you recognize the
possibilities of this place for having a good time, and you are not
mistaken in it. You’ll have the time of your lives. But I want to call
your attention to some of the other features. You must remember that
this is the University and everyone will judge the University by what
you do here. Think every time before you do anything, what effect it is
going to have on the school. Its reputation here depends on you
entirely.

“There are five boats in the boathouse; three of them are for your use;
two of them, the cedar ones, are reserved for the faculty. The scow is
for general use, but no one runs the engine except Professor Roberts,
Mr. Sturgis or myself. The old tub of a sail boat you can rig up if you
want to. It is not much good, but the fellows usually manage to get some
fun out of it. Whether you are in a boat or swimming, be careful. You
may think that you are too old for that warning, but two men have been
drowned in that lake in the past four years, and they were both as old
as you are. Never go swimming alone and never ‘rough-house’ in a boat.

“Next, be careful about fire, both around the buildings and the woods.
The woods are very dry now and a match thrown down carelessly may mean a
fire which will cost several hundred dollars to put out. You will
probably have a chance to fight one somewhere before long and then
you’ll understand. Never throw down a match until it is out completely.

“Another thing. Don’t peel every birch tree you see. It will be a big
temptation at first to get bark for postal cards, etc., but don’t peel
the trees along the roads or trails. It destroys the looks of the woods
and is disgusting to woodsmen. When you want some bark find a tree in
some out-of-the-way place—there are thousands of them—chop it down and
peel the whole of it. This is a park, you know, and we do not want to be
accused of vandalism.

“Lastly, remember that you are responsible for the camp. We furnish you
with a good equipment and it is up to you to see that the camp is kept
in shape, the buildings clean and everything orderly. We’ll help you all
we can, but remember that it is _your_ camp.

“I won’t preach to you any longer. You can have tomorrow to get things
straightened out and get your bearings. The next day we’ll have a
dendrology excursion to catch these trees here before the leaves come
out. If you want me you’ll find me in that third cottage.”

The professor chatted awhile before he walked away to let the boys
adjust their own affairs—for it was the policy of the camp to interfere
with them no more than was absolutely necessary; it helped to develop
their independence. On this particular occasion chance deprived them of
very much choice in the matter, for hardly had they started a discussion
of detailed organization than a rattling of wheels announced the arrival
of the wagons with the supplies.

“Talk about your quiet places in the backwoods,” Morris exclaimed, as he
ran out with the rest of the crowd, “there’s something doing every
minute. You no sooner finish one thing that you have never done before
than another turns up.”

“Yes,” Bill retorted sarcastically, “always something new. You’ll have
to unload a wagon and then the first thing you know you’ll be eating
supper.”

With so many zealous workers the baggage was soon unloaded and stowed
away in the bunkhouse; the provisions were neatly arranged under the
cook’s directions on the shelves of the little storeroom in the back of
the cookshack.

Scarcely had they finished admiring their work when a terrific din broke
forth on the other side of the building, a vibrating, metallic clatter
that must have startled the deer a mile away. When they tore around the
corner to investigate they found the cook grinning from ear to ear,
belaboring with an old ax a four-foot circular saw, which was hung from
the corner of the building on an iron pipe.

He stopped, panting. “There, I’ll ring her like that fifteen minutes
before mealtime and then just three hard taps when the meal is ready.”

It was certainly an effective gong. It had first been used in that
neighborhood as an instrument of torture, by a crowd of settlers in a
charivari party for a newly married couple some two miles to the north.
The distinctness with which it was heard on the school ground on that
occasion had been sufficient proof of its efficiency and it had
straightway been appropriated by the students.

The ravenous boys forgot their lunch of only two hours before and did
full justice to the supper with a will that did the old cook’s heart
good. Then as the night was pretty cold they adjourned to a roaring fire
in the bunkhouse and soon to a welcome bed.



                              CHAPTER XII


All the next day the boys were busy as badgers making garden, sawing
wood for the cookshack, fixing up the tennis court and putting the camp
in shape generally. The gangs were well organized for so early in the
season and did their work quickly. Merton and Scott, who had scoured the
country to the northward in search of eggs and butter reported a supply
sufficient for the first half of the summer at least. They also brought
back with them two cows which they had purchased through correspondence
with the foreman. Night found them feeling very much at home, with much
of the preliminary work completed. Professor Mertz had kept a friendly
eye on them all day, showing them better methods in their work, running
the gasoline engine for the woodsaw and helping them out of difficulties
at every turn, but interfering very little with their plans.

The rest of the week was devoted to their real introduction to the
forest. At eight o’clock in the morning with their lunches on their
belts they set out with Professor Mertz, sometimes on foot and sometimes
in the scow, but always with the assurance that they would get all the
walking they wanted before they returned to camp. Occasionally a road or
trail would take them where they wanted to go, but more often they
plowed through the untracked forest, through densely tangled alder and
hazelnut brush, across spongy tamarack swamps or grass meadows, into the
fragrant thickets of balsam second growth or over the open pine ridges,
skirting the shores of lakes or clambering over piled up windfalls. The
only rests were when Professor Mertz waited for some of the stragglers
to come up for general consultation on some new species, often one with
which they had all been familiar in the classroom, but failed to
recognize in its new surroundings. Hour by hour these strangers became
less frequent and they greeted old friends enthusiastically. It was
fascinating work, and led them on mile after mile almost without
realizing how far they were going till they found themselves at four in
the afternoon some five or six miles from home, with a race for supper
ahead of them. Most of them were well used to walking but they had done
the greater part of it on roads or pavements, and they found this cross
country work a very different thing. It was only pride and nerve which
kept them up with the long strides of the professor as they “hiked” back
to camp; they all admitted being tired.

When Scott thought that the park was little more than twenty thousand
acres in extent, and that all their hikes had covered but a very small
portion of it he began to realize what a really princely estate he would
have if he could only fill those conditions.

Among the other things that they had seen on their trips, especially
when they were on the lake, were the numerous columns of smoke, thin
gray lines in the early morning expanding toward mid-day into great
black storm clouds which fanned out over the whole sky and cast a gloom
over everything. To the inexperienced boys the columns seemed always to
be in exactly the same location, but the woodsmen could see them
advancing, retreating, sidestepping, like trained fighters, and, knowing
the country as they did, could explain almost every movement. They
watched the fires unceasingly, for it was so dry that only a high wind
from the right direction was needed to bring any one of them down on the
park with a terrific sweep that would be hard to stop. The older men
prayed for rain to relieve the unheard of drought and put a stop to the
fires, but the boys longed for a chance to try themselves against those
great smoke-breathing monsters.

One evening when they had returned late from a long tramp, Scott was
thoughtfully watching a great black formless mass standing out against
the western twilight and thinking regretfully that it must be ten miles
away. There was no wind and the great wavering column boiled upward till
it seemed lost in space.

“Fire, fire, everywhere,” he murmured, “and not a spark to fight.”

“Yes,” said Morris, “and from the way the fellows talked last year you’d
think that they did nothing else but fight fire.”

The foreman, who was passing by the porch, heard the remark and stopped,
leaning up against the screen.

“Don’t you worry yourselves about not getting any fire-fighting
experience,” he said. “Two of the patrolmen ’phoned in this afternoon
that the fires in the north and west were bad ones. If the wind comes up
from those directions they’ll need all the men they can get.”

“Do you think there is any chance of a wind?” Merton asked, eying the
sky inquiringly.

“If we don’t have one in the next three or four days,” the foreman
answered, “it will be the first chance it ever missed.”

“Three or four days,” Scott grumbled in disgust; “the fires may all be
out by that time.”

“Don’t you fool yourself,” the foreman answered him. “Those fires are
not in the habit of going out of themselves even in three or four weeks.
Nothing short of a week’s rain or an army can put them out now.”

“I’ll bet if it does blow it will be from the south,” Bill grunted;
“there’s a conspiracy to do us out of part of our rightful education.”

As the foreman moved off chuckling, he called back over his shoulder:

“The wagons are all packed ready to start, and I’ll bet pop for the
crowd that we’re on the fireline somewhere in thirty-six hours.”

“Done,” yelled a half-dozen voices at once.

“Better sleep while you can,” the voice called back, “you won’t get much
at the fire. Good night.”

“Good night.”

“Sort of a poor bet,” Bill mused, “because he is the man who can order
us out; but I’m willing to pay up all right for the chance, if we have
to go ten miles to find the fire.”

“Well,” Morris yawned, “I guess he’s right about the sleep, anyway, and
I’m going to turn in.”

Everyone else seemed to be of the same opinion and they filed off to
bed. In half an hour the chorus of snores rolling up from the upper
porches bore witness to the fatigues of the day’s hike and complete loss
of interest in the fire situation. The stillness of the forest—really
made up of the countless small noises of the insects, birds, and roaming
night-walkers of the animal world—settled over everything. Not a leaf
stirred. Even the columns of black smoke which rolled up incessantly on
the horizon thinned out to a wavering gray streak as the dampness of the
night cooled the ferocity of the fires.

In spite of the stillness and the favorable prospects of a peaceful
night a faint light still glowed in the office and the foreman, ready
dressed, slept on a couch beside the telephone. About midnight the
lonely call of a timber wolf brought an answering hoot from an old owl
in a neighboring swamp, and as though in recognition of these gruesome
sounds of life a shiver passed through the leaves of the aspen trees. It
must have penetrated to the marrow of their limbs for they continued to
shiver more and more violently long after the reverberating echoes of
the night calls had died away. Here and there little ripples appeared on
the surface of the glassy lake. A dull roar to the southward, like the
groan of a mighty monster would have caused the city man to murmur
“Thunder,” and roll over for another nap, but to the foreman who sat up
wide-eyed in his couch at the first rumble, it spoke of the winds in the
pines and no gentle breeze at that.

“If there are any fires in the south, Jones will have his hands full.
And so will we,” he added, “if this wind keeps up and they don’t get her
blocked before morning. Well, I’m glad that it’s not from the north or
west.” And with that, after a long look out of the window behind him he
went back to sleep.

Already those menacing columns of smoke were answering to the call of
the wind. They no longer wandered hesitatingly upward in hazy fashion,
but bent sharply to the northward, stretching their covetous arms over
the doomed forest. The smoke rapidly increased in volume and blackened
the whole sky, while here and there a dull red glowed fretfully on the
horizon. The dew was keeping down the flames, but the wind was fanning
the glowing coals to a fury which needed only the help of the drying
morning sun to cause them to leap away like a cyclone over the whole
ill-fated woods. Under ordinary conditions such a wind storm could only
precede a rainstorm, but the drought had lasted so long that every
particle of moisture seemed to have dried from the atmosphere and the
dry wind seemed only to evaporate the dew and make the ground more dry.

Scarcely had the foreman picked up the lost thread of his dream when the
telephone bell rang long and violently. He was on his feet in an
instant.

“Hello.”

“Yes—Oh, hello, Long.”

There was a long pause as he listened. “Coming around east of Brown’s,
is she? That’s bad, isn’t it?—Can we head her north of Mantrap?—Think we
can. Well, I have the wagon here all loaded and we will leave here in
half an hour with fifteen men. We ought to be down there in two hours.
You scout her out till we come.

“Yes, I’ll bring ’em, good-bye.”

He hung up the receiver and slipped across the hall to call his wife.
“Come, Mamma, the fire is coming in at the southeast corner and we’ll
have to go down. You call the men and get the grub ready while I go call
the boys.”

His wife was too accustomed to this sort of thing to be surprised; in
fact, she had been prepared for it for several days. Sturgis, leaving
the house as she started to call the men, hurried over to notify the
boys and Professor Mertz, who inquired the particulars and promised to
join them at once.

A few minutes later a prolonged, “Tur-r-r-r-rn out” almost raised the
boys from their beds. A medley of answers came from all parts of the
upper regions of the bunkhouse: “Aye-aye, sir,” “What’s up?” “Who is
it?” “What happened?” “Is it a fire?”

“Yes, it’s a fire at the southeast corner of the park, and I want every
man I can get. The wagon will leave in fifteen minutes. Some of you go
up to the cookshack and bring the grub you find there down to the barn.”

He knew from the cries of joy and the general bustle that there would be
no delay on their account. He grinned to think what a different
reception his call for the next fire would meet. He hurried away to the
cookshack where he found Mike, awakened by the shouts, already up and
waiting for him.

“Where is she?” Mike asked cheerfully.

“Southeast corner,” Sturgis answered briefly, “and the whole outfit will
have to go. We’d better take all the bread and cooked stuff you have on
hand and they’ll probably want some more by tomorrow night. We’re liable
to be down there some time if this wind keeps up.”

“Aye-aye, it’s a bad one,” Mike assented, with a glance at the clear
sky, “and no sign of rain.”

“No,” Sturgis answered dolefully; “looks as though it had forgotten how.
Some of the boys will come up for that stuff,” he added as he moved
away.

The boys were so eager for the “fun”—as they called it—that they lost no
time in arranging niceties of dress. Some of them were already
scrambling up the hill towards the cookshack.

“This is some wind,” Scott grunted, as he panted up to the cookshack
door. “I wonder what they can do with a fire on a night like this?
Hello, Mike, when did you get up?”

“I got up with the wind,” Mike answered. “You can’t fight fire without
grub, so I knew they would be after me. There’s the stuff on the floor.”

“We _may_ come back sometime, Mike,” Bill said reproachfully, looking at
the small mountain of provisions.

“Yes,” Mike said serenely, “some of you will be back here tomorrow
afternoon for more grub. I fought forest fires before you were born, and
I know how much good victuals they can burn up. The wagon will be
leaving you if you stand here talking too long.”

By that time most of the boys had assembled. They took the hint, also
the supplies, and hurried to the barn in wild excitement. At the wagon
they met Professor Mertz who looked over the group with a grin.

“What have you with you?” he asked.

“Grub,” was the prompt answer.

“Well,” Professor Mertz continued, “all of you go back to the bunkhouse
and get your sweaters, coats, blankets and hats—soft felts if you have
them. I know that you want to travel light and think that because you
are going to a fire you’ll be plenty warm but if you do happen to get a
rest down there it will be cold. You may be gone a week and what little
sleep you get you’ll want to be comfortable.”

When the boys came back Professor Mertz hauled out a bag of lemons and
tossed one to each. “Here’s where we hand you each a lemon,” he said,
“but most of you won’t know how big a one it is till you get home. Keep
those till you need them. If you get dry when you can’t get to water try
a suck. It’ll taste pretty good then.”

They all clambered into the two wagons—one of them had just arrived from
the post office in response to a telephone call—and the expedition
started.

The boys were in fine feather and sang lustily every song they could
think of. For a long time after they had started, broken fragments of
the songs floated back on the high wind. When they passed the Lodge they
set up a mighty shout which made the few summer boarders who had
ventured into the woods so early in the season, think that they were
about to be the victims of an Indian massacre.

The thing which impressed all the boys most was the apparent lack of
hurry. They were used to seeing the fire engines tear up the city
streets at full speed and the slow plodding of the work horses seemed
the height of foolishness. Merton took advantage of his position on the
seat with Sturgis to inquire into the matter.

“Couldn’t we make better time walking?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” Sturgis answered, “you could make quicker time, but you’d
better save yourself for work later on.”

At last there came an exultant shout from the boys. A long line of fire
was visible on a ridge to the southward. The singing ceased and all was
suppressed excitement which one moment expressed itself in silence, the
next turned into a babel of wild speculations. The fire had appeared to
be very close when they first sighted it, but as they mounted hill after
hill and obtained new views it seemed to get no closer till a man
suddenly appeared in the road to tell them that they had arrived.

The air was loaded with smoke which made the eyes smart uncomfortably
but there was no other sign of the fire. The smoke intensified the
darkness so that in spite of the breaking day an object could not be
distinguished ten feet away. The boys piled out in the darkness eager
for orders and were somewhat disappointed when Sturgis told them to
build a fire and sleep if they could. “We’ll size up the fire and be
back as soon as we can tell what to do.”

There was a murmur of disgust from the crowd and Bill voiced the general
sentiment. “Humph, I thought we came down here to put out a fire, not to
build one.”

The three men moved off into the woods, the lanterns bobbing weirdly
over the uneven ground. The boys watched them dolefully out of sight.

“They say Diogenes hunted for an honest man with a lantern,” Bill mused,
“but that’s nothing to those three guys going out to look for a fire. It
must be a whale of a fire.”

The forest was full of strange noises which would have spoken volumes to
an old woodsman. Every few minutes a sharp rending sound followed after
a pause by a dull boom told of some old dead stub, the lonely silent
sentinel of two or three centuries, undermined by the fire and hurled
crashing to the earth by the wind, triumphant at last after so many
defeats. The roar of the wind through the waving needles told of the
violent struggle which the growing pines waged continuously with that
same wind which would in the end hurl them down as it had just hurled
down the deadened stub. A hissing roar like great skyrockets
occasionally painted a vivid picture of a noble spruce turned into a
torch for the sport of the flames. Violent snapping of the twigs and
brush told of some woods creature driven from its home, and in its
confusion making short terrified dashes broken by long intervals of
shivering, startled listening. All in between these strange noises the
absence of the insects silenced by the wind and smoke, seemed to produce
a weird, unnatural stillness.

The boys had shivered around the fire for more than an hour when Sturgis
appeared suddenly. “Well, I guess we’ve found her. Jones reports that
she has already jumped him to the east of here and we’ll have to hustle
to head her off. She’s in the park by now.”

They tumbled into the wagon again, and the big farm horses, whipped into
a lively trot now, jangled back up the road the way they had come. Even
yet no great amount of fire was visible.

At a sharp turn in the road where there was a considerable clearing, a
scene was revealed that stunned them with a realization of the true
state of affairs. The clearing was bounded on the east by a wall of
flame, a bloody red, streaked here and there by the black resinous
smoke. The brush was burning violently with a dull roar, and every few
minutes the flames rushed with a hiss to the tops of the scrubby jack
pines. At the north end the smoke streamed out under pressure of the
wind almost parallel with the ground, a sooty black slashed here and
there with disconnected tongues of red flame which leaped far ahead of
the main body of the fire and licked eagerly at the resinous tops of the
pines. It was a sight to send cold shivers up the back of the bravest
man, and the boys gazed at it in awestruck silence.

On the left side of the road and within the park another fire crackled
and snapped across a half-mile of front. It was seemingly entirely
separated from the other fire a quarter-mile to the eastward, but a
careful observation revealed a narrow trail of blackened stubble where
an offshoot of the original fire had skimmed a corn row, jumped the road
and started another conflagration in the dense brush within the park.
Already it was beyond any hope of immediate control.

Sturgis drove into the brush beside the road and stopped. He waited for
the crew to assemble before giving his simple directions.

“Here’s where you have to do it, boys. That fire has to be stopped today
or this whole park will be wiped out clean. We cannot do much with it in
the daytime without backfiring and we can’t backfire till we get a
fireline to work from. I figure that we have enough lead on it now to
make a break across the front of it before it gets here. It will be due
here before very long. Every man must do exactly as he is told or he
will run the chance of being burnt up. We’ll start in here at this road
and run a trench to those lakes. Franklin has already gone across to see
how far west it reaches. From the other end of the lakes we’ll have to
trench on around it. It means many hours of hard work and it’s up to you
fellows to show what you’re made of. We’ll eat a little lunch and start
in.”

The lunch was hastily pulled from the wagon and gulped in silence. The
boys were at last convinced that something serious was really going on.
In ten minutes they picked up their tools ready to start. Sturgis strung
them out rather close together on a line leading to the lakes and
himself disappeared into the brush to the westward.

For a while the boys worked in silence digging their little trenches and
spreading the dirt on the leaves on the side toward the fire. When no
immediate signs of the fire appeared they began to relax a little and
call to one another.

“Do you really believe that fire can burn clear up here by this
afternoon?” Scott called to Merton who was working next to him.

“Search me,” Merton called back. “Sturgis and Dan seem to think so and
they must know. Doesn’t seem possible, does it?”

“No, not if we can judge by the way it was traveling this morning.
Still, it was going some on the other side of that clearing.”

They had just about finished the ditch assigned them when Sturgis
appeared again with Dan and two of the men.

“You haven’t any time to lose, fellows. Start the backfire there right
at the edge of the trench. Then watch it like a hawk to see that no
sparks blow over on you.”

He lighted a handful of leaves with a match and thrust them into the
litter to start the fire in the brush. It was not a difficult task. The
dry leaves and brush ignited readily and the fire spread rapidly. By
picking up bunches of burning leaves and carrying them a little farther
along the line the fire was soon spread over the entire distance from
the road to the lakes. It ate back slowly against the wind and sparks
were continually jumping the narrow space across the little break. Nor
were they as easily handled as they had been in the early morning. Every
spark which landed started a fire immediately and several times fires
were started in dead pinetops which required the whole force to put them
out. Dan and the men aided in the work where they were needed.

The boys found it hot and exciting work. The lack of sleep the night
before, the ride in the springless wagon and the early morning work were
beginning to tell on their untried muscles. Gradually as the front of
fire crawled back farther from the trench fewer sparks were carried
across and they were enabled to devote part of their time to putting out
the dead stubs and wiping out every trace of inflammable material in the
burned area.

The backfire had burned some hundred feet from the trench and yet there
was no sign of the approach of the main fire other than the thick pall
of smoke which the wind drove down close to the ground. It irritated
their nostrils and stung their eyes, especially the smoke from the
hardwood brush in the backfire, till the tears streamed down their
faces.

Scott found himself enjoying a few minutes rest near Dan. “It seems as
though this backfire would burn up more of the forest than the other
one. Couldn’t you start it closer to the main fire?” he asked.

“You ain’t any too far away from it now,” Dan answered. “Listen.”

The crackling of the backfire near at hand made it hard to distinguish
more distant sounds, but Scott could hear a dull roar which seemed to
dominate everything like the base viol in an enormous orchestra and it
was apparently growing rapidly louder. The dull boom of falling trees
became more and more frequent. Suddenly, as he listened, this indistinct
roar swelled to a terrific burst of thunder. It was like to nothing he
had ever heard before, and yet in it he recognized the elements of a
great fire, the same sound that he had heard in a big fireplace, but
magnified so tremendously that it was almost beyond comprehension. His
instinct was to run, run anywhere, no matter where, but he stood there
too terrified to move.

[Illustration: His instinct was to run ... but he stood there too
terrified to move.]

“Ain’t she going some now?”

The calm voice close beside him brought him to his senses and the sight
of Dan gazing unmoved at the opposite hill reassured him. He shuddered
to think how near he had come to disgracing himself and laying himself
open to the everlasting jibes of Bill Price. He felt the blood coming
back into his pale face and was thankful for the soot which covered it.
He tried to look unconcerned, but the frequent bursts of ever increased
fury on the other side of the hill made him start in spite of himself.

“Will that little line of burned brush stop such a fire as that?” he
asked as calmly as he could.

“Nothing would stop it up there,” Dan answered, “but she’ll slow up some
when she gets to the top of that hill. How about starting the backfire a
little closer to it?” he grinned.

Before Scott could answer the taunt the fire burst over the entire
length of the ridge in front of them with one mighty, deafening roar and
the red flames shot a hundred feet in the air. It was a sublime sight,
those red flames shooting wildly up through the dense pall of black
smoke but Scott would have felt more comfortable a mile or two away. The
scant two hundred yards to the top of that ridge seemed as nothing in
the face of that raging conflagration. A deer maddened with fright and
blinded by the smoke, bursting through the backfire and dashing close to
him in its flight, almost threw him into a panic.

“Poor chap,” Dan murmured, looking after the fleeing deer, “he’s safe
now, but the wolves will be eating many a roast partridge and quill pig
back in there about next week.”

The rush of the fire died as suddenly as it had started. Only for a few
minutes the flames raged furiously along the brow of the hill, then it
dropped down to the ground and became a mere brush fire, crawling slowly
down the slope to meet the backfire which was already creeping close to
the foot of the hill. Ominous crackling, snapping and booming told of
the destructive work going on beyond the ridge, but the mighty initial
rush of the flames was over. The blast of hot air made the sting of the
smoke almost unbearable, and it hastened the burning of the backfire. It
swept up the hill with a speed and roar which would, a few minutes
before, have seemed marvelous but now in comparison with that fury of
the main fire driven by that furnace heat seemed but a paltry bonfire.
The fronts of the two fires met, consumed whatever was within their
reach and died away to a few smoldering logs.

Sturgis appeared once more, this time from the direction of the road
where he had been scouting to the eastward to see what progress the fire
was making outside of the park. He addressed himself to Dan.

“That fire that just came up over the hill crossed the road from the
eastward just north of Alcohol Lake away ahead of the fire we saw in the
Park. Good thing we did not try to head it farther down. The fire on the
other side of the road is still a half-mile south.”

“What made her go so much faster inside?” Dan objected.

“Don’t you remember that tangle of dead brush and slashings between here
and Alcohol?” Sturgis asked. “That’s what did it. They have been burned
up on the outside. You take Pat and Phil and see that the fire does not
cross the road behind us. Let Phil take the teams up to the Lodge. I
think maybe you can stop that outside fire at the turn of the road. It’s
four o’clock and she’ll begin to run a little slower before long.”

“Leave that to us,” Dan answered confidently; “she’ll never get in
behind you.”

“All right,” said Sturgis, “I’ll get the boys together over there at the
lake for lunch and by that time Franklin ought to be back.”

Scott went out with Sturgis to the wagons to get the lunch and they
carried it over to the little lakes, collecting the fellows as they
went. It was a tired, hungry crew that sat around the campfire and
swapped adventures.

“When I saw that fire this morning,” Bill Price said, “I thought those
fellows last year were telling us some fairy stories, but when I heard
them feeding the lions over back of that ridge and saw the fireworks on
top of the hill I concluded they had never been to a forest fire. How
did you fellows feel over there in the brush when that little inferno
stunt was pulled off?”

Scott did not mind telling his sensations as long as he had not yielded
to them and he found most of the others had felt about the same way.

“Strange,” Bill said, “all you fellows felt like running. Such a thing
never occurred to me, but,” he added, with a grin, “I pulled up a
four-inch sapling trying to keep from jumping in this lake.”

“I wonder if we’ll be going home now?” Greenleaf asked, as he stretched
wearily out on the flat of his back.

“No,” Scott said, “Sturgis sent the wagons up to the Lodge just before
he came over here.”

“I suppose we’ll have to patrol this line all night,” Spencer grunted.
“Where’s Sturgis now?”

“Went west again.”

“Holy mackinaw!” Bill exclaimed. “That man has walked just one thousand
miles since morning. _I’m_ going to sleep.”



                              CHAPTER XIII


But just then Franklin came in with Sturgis.

“Pretty dry out that way,” he grinned, helping himself to an enormous
slab of bread and a big hunk of cheese.

“How far west does the main fire extend?” Sturgis asked.

“Within about forty rods of Deming Lake.”

“Deming Lake!” Sturgis almost shouted. “That means that it may get on to
section thirty-six.”

“Almost there now,” Franklin answered cheerfully. “We can stop it on
that row of lakes if it just don’t come around from the southeast on the
other side of them. That’s going to be the big trouble.”

“We’ve _got_ to stop it,” Sturgis gritted between his clenched teeth.
“If that fire ever gets into that young growth on thirty-six Professor
Roberts will never forgive me.”

“The only way you can do it,” Franklin assured him cheerfully, “is to
clean things up here tonight so that you won’t have to waste men on
patrol and fight her face to face down there in the morning.”

“I guess you’re right,” Sturgis assented, “and we’d better be getting at
it. You take the boys and start cleaning up from the south end of the
lake here and I’ll go see what Dan is doing with the fire across the
road.

“We’ve stopped the first rush now and there is no more danger tonight,
but the wind is a little southeast and if the fire gets around us to the
west and breaks away in the morning we’ll be worse off than we were
before and all our work wasted. Now we have to clean up the edges of
this fire for two miles. Bury the fire along the edges, cut down all the
stubs which may throw sparks, and throw back into the fire all burning
logs and rotten stuff.”

“Two miles,” Bill Price exclaimed, “and here I’ve been dreaming of home
and mother. Come on, boys, for every one that dies there’ll be one more
vacancy for the under classmen.”

They filed away around the lake and were soon scattered along the front
of the fire intent on their gruelling work. The wind had gone down and
the fire no longer ran readily, but it burned too fiercely to permit of
close approach and they were forced to resort to the slow, tiresome
process of trenching and allowing the fire to burn up to it. It was
comparatively easy to keep it from crossing. Then they were able to go
back and complete the cleaning up. As each man cleaned up the little
patch assigned to him he passed on to another ahead of the foremost man.
And so they worked one weary hour after another, slowly crawling along
that crooked line. It became so dark and the line of the fire was so
crooked that the boys had no idea where they were or where they were
going. Each man was practically isolated in the darkness. Occasionally
it happened a man toward the end of the line who had been delayed by
some refractory stubs found himself deserted and became completely lost,
unable to find the other workers.

At last at one o’clock they were allowed to rest and they fell asleep by
the campfire like one man. At three o’clock Sturgis called them again.

They had to be shaken individually, some even required repeated
applications, to bring them to their senses. Slowly they scrambled to
their feet, still half asleep, groaning with the aches and pains which
shot through their wracked bodies. They saw the men up and going
silently about the morning preparations, realized that they had been
favored with all the extra time there was for sleep, and choked down
their troubles in silence. No one seemed to have anything to say, not
even Bill Price, but it was the dogged silence of determination, not
sullenness. The meager breakfast was soon over for they were running
short of provisions, and they were ready to work once more.

“Are we working again or yet?” Bill asked musingly.

“Sorry I could not let you sleep longer, fellows,” Sturgis apologized,
“but we can cover rods now to the feet we can make when the sun gets up.
Dan will keep the men here to make breaks between the lakes and backfire
as soon as it’s dry enough. The rest of us will go down to the south end
of Josephine and see what we can do there. It’s a race for the north end
of Niowa and we must win.”

The wind was already on the rise. On the rise and from the east, the
worst possible direction. Sturgis placed his scattered line of workers,
urging them to greater efforts, and took the trail he had come down that
morning to rob Dan of two of his small force. They had already completed
their short breaks across the narrow necks and were waiting for an
opportunity to start the backfires.

“Can you do it with one man, Dan?” he panted. “It’s a race down to
Nimashi Lake, and every man counts there.”

“I can try it,” Dan answered simply.

With his two recruits Sturgis hurried south once more, harried the poor
weary workers to frenzied efforts and took up his own position at the
south end of the line. Already the wind had fanned the fire to a heat
that made close work impossible and they had to resort to the slow work
of trenching and backfiring. There were still two hundred yards to go.
Slowly the men began to come around from the rear to take up the new
positions in front, and the gap was narrowed. Even at that it looked as
though it would be impossible to head it at the lake, but at the last
minute five men came up from the rear, Scott among them, and under
Franklin’s lead fought the fire face to face. Clothes were burned and
eyebrows singed, but they fought desperately. They beat the fire out of
the last grass strip between the hill and the lake in one grand
triumphal rush.

For the time that fire was safe. The reaction on the overworked boys was
almost immediate. With one accord they lay down wherever they happened
to be and went to sleep. Sturgis looked at them enviously. He had worked
harder than they, and on considerably less sleep, but he knew that their
apparent victory over the fire could be turned to a complete defeat by
the passage of a single unwatched spark across that narrow fireguard.
Only a weary patrol of the entire fireline for the rest of the day would
make it safe.

He turned away with a weary sigh. “I guess it’s up to you and me and
Dan, Franklin, to patrol this thing. I never saw a better working bunch
of boys, but they are not used to it, and they are all in.”

“Well,” Franklin grinned, apparently as fresh as when he started, “the
fire’s almost all in, too, and I guess we three can handle it.”

They had just started to trail away northward over that weary stretch of
line, leaving the boys asleep where they were, when Professor Mertz, who
had gone home the night before, strode over the brow of the hill with a
big pack sack on his back.

“By George, Mertz,” Sturgis cried gratefully, “you’re the best-looking
man, with that pack on your back, that I’ve ever seen.”

“How’s the fire?” Professor Mertz asked anxiously.

“It’s all over but the shouting,” Sturgis assured him, “if we can just
keep awake long enough to patrol it for the rest of the day. It was
pretty hot down there by that lake, but the boys fought like good
fellows and stopped her. It can’t get by below.”

“Where are the boys?”

“Sound asleep right where they dug the last shovelful of dirt. They hit
the ground and were snoring before the dirt fell.”

“Pretty tough one for a starter,” chuckled the professor. “You fellows
look pretty tired yourselves. I brought five men down with me and put
them to patrolling above here. Guess they can handle it all now. Dan was
in a pretty tight hole back there.”

The strain relieved and the necessity for keeping at it removed, Sturgis
and Franklin sat down with a thud, and would probably have joined the
boys if the sight of the pack sack had not kept them awake. The
professor soon had the coffee boiling and the supplies spread out
temptingly. Getting the boys awake was a harder task, but the mention of
something to eat aroused even the most weary and they fell to with a
will.

It was agreed that the fresh men should be left to maintain the patrol
until six o’clock that night, and all the rest should go back to camp in
the wagon. It was a tired crew, but they kept their spirits buoyed up by
the feeling that they had won a great victory and made good. They tuned
up for the Lodge and sang lustily in answer to the cheers of the summer
boarders who turned out to see them go by. The songs heralded their
approach long before they reached the camp, and all the non-combatants
were out to welcome them. They presented a begrimed and bedraggled
spectacle, but they were supremely happy.

“Do I win that pop?” Sturgis called after them as they trailed away to
the bunkhouse.

“You sure do,” Bill Price shouted back, “and I’ll bet you another case
that I can sleep till tomorrow noon without waking up even to eat.”

Scott remembered how the fire swept roaring up that hill and dreamed all
night that he was fighting just such fires sweeping up the mountain
slopes of his own forest in New Hampshire. The fact that he might never
get that forest made them seem none the less real.



                              CHAPTER XIV


For the next few days the adventures of that fire were the sole subject
of conversation. Hazen, the official historian, devoted all his spare
time to writing up the details in the official scrapbook and they lost
nothing of their vividness in the process. It was wonderful, now that it
was all over, to see how they had enjoyed that gruelling work on the
fireline. Scott wrote home an account of the fire which perfectly
confirmed his parents in their belief in the woolliness of the West, but
left them undecided as to whether the fire had been a catastrophe
narrowly prevented by almost superhuman efforts or a harmless scheme
devised for the amusement of the students. Such were the views of the
fire, now that it was past history and the frequent rains precluded its
repetition, but it was a notable fact that throughout the remainder of
the summer no one was heard to wish for another.

The ground had thawed out sufficiently for the nursery work and the boys
were spending their days busily in the seed beds.

The novelty of the work in the nursery had made it interesting at first,
but otherwise it was not very fascinating, and on the fourth day it was
getting monotonous. Each crew of two had thoroughly spaded up a bed four
feet wide by fifty feet long and had bordered them with boards on edge,
which Professor Mertz required to be set with excruciating exactness.
The boys declared that he could smell the slightest deviation in one of
those boards.

The beds thus prepared had then to be covered with a layer of carefully
prepared manure and that in turn covered with a layer of well sifted
sandy loam. The dirt sifting soon became monotonous and monotony in that
crowd necessitated some side line to keep up the interest. Fourteen
ingenious minds were looking for some opportunity to put a little spice
into the mechanical labor.

Morris straightened his long angular frame stiffly, stretching his tired
arms over his head and gazing straight into the zenith in his effort to
relax every muscle he had been straining over that sand sifter. The
action exposed very prominently a leather thong attached to the ring of
a large silver watch. The chance for a joke seemed slight, but it was no
time to neglect the slightest opportunity. Bill Price grabbed the thong
with the quickness of a cat and was surprised to find how easily the
watch slipped from Morris’s pocket to his own.

Several saw the transfer and prepared to elaborate the joke. Hazen,
working on the next bed, took a stretch. “Gee, but this is a long day.
What time is it getting to be, Morris?”

Morris felt confidently in the accustomed pocket for his watch. His
fingers fumbled there persistently for a minute before he realized that
the watch really was not there. At the mention of the time all within
hearing had looked up: they were all interested in the time.

Morris felt doubtfully in his other pockets. He was the legitimate butt
of many of the camp jokes, and a wink from Price told all the others
that something was up.

“I don’t know,” Morris answered hesitatingly, “I’ve lost my watch.”

“Lost it?” Price exclaimed. “When did you have it last?”

“Looked at it just a little while ago.”

“Haven’t been away from here, have you?” Hazen asked.

“Only down to the dirt pile.”

“Must have fallen out of your pocket when you were leaning over the
bed,” Greenleaf suggested.

“Don’t see how it could fall out on this bare ground without my seeing
it,” Morris objected. “There is nothing around here to hide it.”

Bill Price was equal to the occasion. “Perhaps you covered it up in the
beds. You’ve been sifting sand over them. Might have dropped right under
the sifter,” he suggested.

“Yes, that might be,” Morris acknowledged, ruefully looking over the
broad expanse of beds. “It’ll be pretty hard to locate it.”

“I should think you could hear it,” Merton said, “it can’t be covered
more than half an inch.”

Morris grasped at the possibility. “By George, that’s right,” he said.

“You’ve only sifted these four beds, haven’t you?” Price asked
encouragingly.

“Yes,” Morris answered after thinking a minute, “only these four here.”

While the rest of the fellows gagged themselves or rolled ecstatically
in some out of the way corner, Morris jack-knifed his gaunt length over
the bed and, with his ear close to the ground, occasionally scooping up
a little loose sand, weaved his way slowly up the long bed. The
lowliness of his head and the extreme length of his thighs caused him to
present a most remarkable figure. This queer position coupled with the
set expression of intent listening threw the boys almost into
convulsions.

Slowly he went up one bed and down the other without varying his
tiresome procedure in the least.

“Reminds me of a spring robin looking for worms,” Merton said. “You’ll
see him pull one up in a minute.”

“If you can’t hear that watch there,” Bill Price called sympathetically,
“go out in the brush and hear a wood tick.”

“Why don’t you give him that watch, Hazen?” Greenleaf called across from
another bed. “He’ll break his back in a minute.”

But Morris was not the man to leave a thing half done. He covered those
four beds conscientiously, and rose with a groan only when he was sure
that the beloved watch must be hiding elsewhere.

“Seems queer where it could have gotten to,” he mused. “It ticks pretty
loud, and I could have heard it if it had been there. The only other
place it could be is in the sand pile. You fellows be careful how you
shovel in that pile.”

He returned to his job of sifting dirt over the bed, but kept an eye on
the sand pile and shouted wrathful warnings every time anyone went near
it. Of course they all took occasion to go there as much as possible and
jabbed the shovel around recklessly.

Price was working with Morris. One of them brought the dirt from the
pile while the other sifted it onto the beds. They shifted frequently,
for the sifting work was very tiresome. Price watched his opportunity,
slipped the watch into a shovelful of sand and dumped it carefully into
the screen. Everyone stood at attention. Two or three shakes of the
screen and the silver twinkled through the sand.

Morris’s face beamed at the sight of it. Amidst profound silence he
examined the watch minutely. “Not a scratch on it,” he announced
innocently. “I don’t see how it escaped, the way you fellows have been
jabbing around that sand pile. I remember feeling it drop now, but I did
not realize what it was at the time.”

For a moment it looked as though there would be a general outburst, but
the fellows all changed their minds and decided to keep it for the next
year’s banquet.

That joke livened up the crowd and before the effects of it had worn off
Professor Roberts arrived to take up the work of forest mensuration. The
boys welcomed the change because it took them into the woods on all day
expeditions. They packed their lunches, slung them on the back of their
belts, and felt that they were good for all day no matter where they
were called upon to go. Sometimes they traveled all day on foot, more
often they took the scow to some distant point on the lake before
striking into the woods, but no matter how they started they were always
certain of new adventures.

One day as they were returning pretty tired from section 36 a fox
terrier that had joined the camp as a volunteer was poking busily around
all the bunches of brush looking for excitement. Scott watched him in
disgust as he ducked into one clump after another with undiminished
energy and rose frantically on his hind legs in his vain efforts to
follow some little chickadee into a neighboring tree.

“That dog makes me sick,” Scott remarked to Price in deep disgust. “He’s
been trying to fly all day and he hasn’t been three feet off the ground
yet.”

“Couldn’t do much better yourself,” Bill answered drily.

“Well,” Scott retorted, “I should at least know it by this time. Why
don’t he hunt something his own size instead of chasing those pesky
little bunches of feathers? If he were any good he would scare up some
real game instead of wasting his energy on those things.” The dog had
picked out Bill for his temporary adviser, as far as a fox terrier
permits himself to be advised by anyone, and Scott was attempting to use
him for a club to get a “rise” out of Bill.

Just then the dog made two or three stiff-legged bounces in the brush as
though in an apparent endeavor to see something on the ground beyond.

“By George,” Bill exclaimed, “if he tackles that porcupine he’ll have
something more than his size. Come here, you crazy Jehu, and let that
pincushion alone.”

“Don’t worry,” Scott assured him, “no animal will touch one of those
things.”

But a fox terrier is governed by no laws, natural or otherwise. The
porcupine had chattered his teeth defiantly and the dog, heedless of the
warning shouts, flung himself upon the first game he had found that
could not fly. The porcupine uttered a plaintive whimper, turned his
back on the dog with astonishing agility and struck him full in the face
with one blow of his powerful tail. The dog did not wait for more. With
one astonished yelp he jumped into the brush regardless of direction or
obstacles and continued his course due east at a terrific pace as far as
they could see him.

“Running a pretty good compass course,” Bill remarked. “He ought to be
showing up over there in the west pretty soon; it won’t take him long to
go around the earth at that rate.”

“Poor little chap,” Scott muttered. “I wonder if any of those quills got
him in the eye? There must have been a dozen of them in his face.”

“A dozen,” Bill exclaimed. “Ask him. I’ll bet he thinks there are a
thousand.”

“If he comes back to camp we can pull them out for him,” Scott said.

“Yes, but if he runs like that for an hour it will take him a week of
ordinary travel to get back.”

In the meanwhile the porcupine had turned quietly to his own peaceful
pursuits, chattering and whimpering up a young pine tree and stopping
for a nibble or two at the bark as he went. He had apparently forgotten
the existence of the dog and cared not a rap of his prickly tail for
anything else alive.

But the dog had by no means forgotten him.

When the boys arrived in camp a half-hour later they discovered a white
patch lying beside the pump in a puddle of water.

“Look there,” Scott exclaimed, “there’s the dog. He looks sort of
tired.”

“Probably ran a hundred miles,” Bill commented. “Let’s see if he has
shaken all those quills.”

The dog, lying in a position of exhausted prostration, paid no attention
to them. Tired out as he was he held his head wearily up from the
ground.

“Gee, look at those quills,” Scott cried excitedly.

“Has more in his head than the porcupine,” Bill said. He stepped forward
and tried to pull out one of the quills. With a yelp of pain the dog
snapped at him viciously. “They won’t pull out and they must hurt him
worse than tight shoes. I wonder how we can get them out?”

Just then Professor Mertz appeared with an armful of gunny sacks and a
pair of pliers. “Do you fellows want to take a hand in a surgical
operation?” he asked.

“Sure,” Bill said. “We saw how he got ’em in, and now we’d like to see
how you get ’em out.” He told the story of the brief, one-sided battle.

“He certainly has his share of them,” said the Professor. “His eyes seem
to be swollen shut, and it is little short of a miracle if there is not
a quill in them. We’ll do our best for him, but he’ll be a pretty sick
dog even if it does not kill him.”

As Professor Mertz talked he slipped several layers of sacking under the
dog’s body and wrapped him in it, securely binding his legs to his body.
The dog, seeming to realize that someone was trying to help him,
submitted quietly.

“Now you fellows wrap a lot of this sacking around your hands so that he
cannot bite you and hold him as still as you can while I try to get at
those quills. He’ll probably fight pretty hard.”

When the dog was securely pinioned Professor Mertz cautiously fastened
the pinchers on a quill in the dog’s nose and pulled. With a yelp of
pain the dog snapped wildly and made a desperate struggle to get away.
The boys were surprised to see how hard the quills pulled till a careful
examination showed the dozens of little barbs turned viciously backward.
The operation was repeated again and again. A close examination
discovered an almost innumerable number of quills. Some of them pierced
the under jaw and protruded into the mouth, some which struck the roof
of the mouth poked their vicious points through the skin on top of the
nose, still others pierced the lips and tongue, while countless others
stuck up in the face and ears like pins in a crowded cushion. Overcome
by the pain the dog ceased his struggles and only emitted a plaintive
whimper as the venomous little barbs were drawn.

“Don’t you know that hurts?” Scott said, as he watched how the skin was
drawn to a point on the extraction of each quill. “I don’t see how he
can stand it.”

Price was silently counting the quills. “Ninety-six,” he announced as
Professor Mertz drew the last visible barb. “Just think of it.
Ninety-six in that little space, and with one slap of that clumsy tail.”

By that time most of the boys had come in and were standing around in a
wondering group listening to the oft-repeated story of the encounter,
and marveling at the number of quills. The poor dog seemed to have given
up completely. He no longer made the slightest move or demonstration. He
apparently had no interest in anything. His face was swollen till his
eyes were completely shut and the blood trickled freely from the dozens
of little punctures. Professor Mertz bathed the fevered head and gently
carried the patient over to a quiet corner of the shed.

“Now,” he said, “you boys want to be careful how you touch him for a
week or two. I have pulled out all the quills in sight, but there are
probably some others in his flesh which will gradually work to the
surface and if you should happen to strike one of them in patting him he
would probably bite you—for they make a nasty sore.”

For the next week Bobs was a pretty sick dog, and seemed to take very
little interest in life. For a while they thought he must die, but he
gradually improved and when it was possible to examine him carefully it
was found that both his eyes had escaped injury. The boys were very
careful of him. As Professor Mertz had predicted, every now and then
during the next three weeks a gingerly inspection brought to light the
points of quills in locations which showed that they had worked
mercilessly through the flesh for some considerable distance. It was at
least a month before he became once more his old light-hearted self and
even then Bill Price could throw him into a violent fit of trembling by
chattering his teeth like a porcupine.



                               CHAPTER XV


The thirteenth of June found everything running smoothly at the camp and
the boys having the time of their lives. The crews were well organized
and taking good care of the work assigned to them. Of course there had
been many cases of neglect and carelessness but they had been overcome
in one way or another and the boys felt quite proud of their management.
The cows were milked regularly, the woodpile replenished to the
satisfaction of the cook, the camp kept in good order and the class work
zealously performed.

All of these things were of importance, for on them depended the annual
trip to the White Earth Indian Reservation. The former classes had all
gone and no one wanted to see the custom broken. The president of the
corporation had made formal application to Professor Roberts for three
days’ absence for the whole class and preparations for the trip were
busily under way. Pack sacks were being stuffed with all the necessary
provisions and bedding, and through it all a running discussion of the
plans for the celebration made the whole camp vibrate with heated
argument. Lacking other forms of amusement an argument was always
welcome. Many a time an argument on predestination, or some other
equally abstract question, developed oratory which could be heard half a
mile away.

The object of the trip in question was the annual celebration of the
Peace Festival on the White Earth Indian Reservation, commemorating the
treaty of peace between the Sioux and the Chippewa tribes. Years ago the
forests of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota had been the hunting grounds
of the Sioux till the Chippewas, driven westward by the warlike Five
Nations (who had in turn been driven out by the Whites) forced them out
into the open prairies. For years the Sioux, returning to the forests to
avoid the severity of the winter on the plains, had clashed savagely
with the Chippewas. Finally a treaty of peace had been made and every
year they celebrated that peace at White Earth with horse races, canoe
races, war dances and other festivities.

“Have you fellows decided yet how you are going?” Merton asked, stopping
in the door of the lecture hall, where a half-dozen fellows were fussing
over their preparations.

A confused babel immediately broke forth. “No,” Bill announced
complacently, “nobody has decided anything but me; I’m going to stay
home to take care of the ‘caows.’”

“Well,” Merton continued, “I’m going to start right after lunch, and
I’ll be glad of all the company I can get. The rest of you may decide
what you please.”

“When do you expect to get there?” Bill asked.

“Tomorrow noon,” Merton answered confidently.

“Yes, you will,” Bill answered contemptuously. “It’s fifty good country
miles.”

“Yes,” Merton said, “fifty-five of them. I’m good for it.”

No one was willing to back down, so no one answered him, though each one
had his own private opinion about it.

True to his word Merton wriggled into his pack sack immediately after
lunch and called for volunteers. Scott was the only one ready to join
him at once, and those two swung off up the road, leaving the others
still hovering around undecided.

“Good-bye, fellows,” Merton called back to them. “We’ll see you at White
Earth if you ever get there.”

“Don’t you be sarcastic,” Greenleaf called after them, “we’ll be there
to welcome you.”

The two boys trudged on steadily; not very fast—for the road was too
long ahead of them—but at a pace which would land them many miles on
their road by nightfall.

“If we only knew the road,” Scott said, “it would not be so bad; but
there is no telling how far we shall have to walk to get there.”

“No, and they say there are no settlers in that country except Indians.
They _could_ tell us the way, but most likely they won’t.”

“Someone was telling me,” Scott said, “that there is a lumber camp over
there somewhere with a logging road running where we want to go. I hope
we can strike it.”

“That would help some.”

They had no trouble for the first eight miles. The road lay straight,
though exceedingly rough, before them; but at that point they came to
the first obstacle, a fork in the road.

“The more traveled one ought to be it,” Merton suggested, and they took
it without more ado—for there was no use in wasting time in choosing
when they had no possible way of determining the right course. For half
a mile they had followed the rough winding road when they came to a
tumbledown cabin and there the road stopped.

“Might have known that if we’d stopped to think about it,” Merton
growled, as they immediately retraced their steps. “This fellow makes
all the travel there is on that road, going to the store.”

They soon reached the main road again—if such it could be called. Scott
blazed a tree with his tomahawk and wrote the directions on it. “Might
as well save them the trouble,” he explained, “even if it does help them
to catch up with us.”

For nine miles more they jogged on steadily and were beginning to think
that things were not as bad as they had been painted when they came to
another fork where the road split up into two indistinct tracts, neither
one of them sufficiently plain to justify anyone in following it with
the hope of ever reaching a town however remote. They had not seen a
soul since they left camp and there certainly seemed very little chance
of their meeting anyone on either of those roads.

“Neither one of them looks good to me,” Merton grunted. “Let’s eat some
lunch and then toss up for it.”

It seemed the only thing to do, and in a few minutes they were eating
hungrily. They had brought a canteen with them, and it was well that
they had—for they had not passed anything, even at the tumbledown cabin
which looked like good drinking water.

“There is one thing sure,” Scott said; “we have been traveling pretty
steadily westward and must be north of where we want to go. Then we want
to take the south road.”

“Yes,” Merton assented, “and if we get out there five miles or so before
we find that we are wrong we’ll beat it across country to the northwest
till we strike the right road instead of coming back here. We can’t lose
much that way.”

“No,” Scott agreed, “nothing but ourselves.”

“Well,” Merton said, looking apprehensively down the road, “let’s be
going. We don’t want those other fellows to catch up with us here and
think we’re stumped on this fork in the road.”

They scrambled to their feet and set out briskly, for, as Scott
explained, if it was the wrong road they wanted to find it out before
dark, as it would not be very easy to travel across country through the
woods in the night. The road did not get any better or any worse, nor
give any other signs of its ultimate destination. They had been
traveling in this way for two hours when they heard a dog barking ahead
of them, and soon they spied a small shack.

“Now for some Indian talk,” Merton exclaimed disgustedly.

He was not disappointed. In the doorway of the rickety old shack sat an
old man, smoking an old blackened clay pipe, his eyes fixed on them in
watery indifference. He must have been very old, Scott thought he looked
at least a thousand. His face was a mass of deep-cut wrinkles forming
the precipitous cliffs and mountain valleys of a bold relief map. His
palsied head shook violently and his scanty white locks fluttered
nervously against the high cheek bones. No one but an Indian could have
looked so old.

Merton addressed himself to the old man but had little hope of getting
an answer. “Can you tell us whether this is the road to White Earth?”

The old man’s expression changed not a particle, but he gurgled almost
inaudibly, an incoherent stream of Chippewa. It did not enlighten them
much, but it produced some effect, for a girl suddenly appeared in the
doorway behind him and looked them over curiously. As Scott looked at
her his poetic visions of beautiful Indian maidens faded away.

“_That’s_ not Minnehaha,” he mumbled; “that’s a cinch.”

She was thin to emaciation, and unspeakably dirty. One eye was
apparently closed with a loathsome disease, giving her face a sinister,
leering expression. She did not look like a promising subject, but
Merton tried her.

“_Bojou, bojou_,” he used the greeting of the old French _coureurs des
bois_. “We are trying to get to the Peace Celebration at White Earth.
Can you tell us whether this is the road?”

The old man mumbled some more Chippewa. The girl stared at them
sullenly. Scott took out half a dollar and looked at it thoughtfully.
The girl’s good eye caught the gleam of the silver instantly. “Frazee
camp, ten mile. Straight trail,” she exclaimed, pointing to a faint
track leading on westward from the house, and thrusting her hand eagerly
over the old man’s shoulder for the money. Scott dropped it into her
hand quickly, lest she should touch him, and with another exchange of
“_Bojou_” they took to the trail again. Anybody but an Indian living in
that unfrequented place could not have resisted the temptation to watch
them on their way, but the girl turned indifferently into the cabin and
the old man did not so much as turn his eyes to look after them.

“It’s about ten to one that she’s stringing us,” Merton said cheerfully,
“but this is about as near right as we can go now and it will be great
luck if we do strike that camp.”

“It’s only half past eight,” Scott said, “and we ought to make the camp
tonight if it is there. There’s a good moon. Wasn’t that girl a fright?”

“That’s the way most of them look around here. They nearly all have
trachoma. I have seen some pretty ones, but mighty few. Let’s hit it up
a little. We don’t want to get to that camp too late, or we can’t get
in.”

The pace became too hot to permit of further conversation, and Scott
amused himself revising his Indian ideas and speculating on what the
Celebration would be like. The spectacle at the cabin had changed his
expectations. The long June twilight made the road plain before them
till ten o’clock and by that time the moon was high in the heavens. By
eleven o’clock they were beginning to think that the sight of that half
dollar had led the “beautiful Indian maiden” to invent a lumber camp for
the occasion, when they heard the snort of a locomotive at no great
distance ahead of them.

“There, by George!” Scott exclaimed. “She was honest, if she was
homelier than sin.”

“The next question,” Merton said, “is that locomotive going or coming?”

The sound had ceased, and they hurried forward to investigate. They
found that it was only the “swipe” cleaning out the engine. They could
see his figure flitting here and there around the engine in the dim
light of a lantern. He heard them coming and stopped to see who it
was—the camp had been asleep for two hours. When he saw their packs he
took them for lumberjacks looking for a job.

“Nothing doing here,” he growled, without further greeting. “The camp’s
full up, and the boss has a waiting list.”

“He’s lucky,” Merton commented. “We’re not looking for jobs. We’re
trying to get to White Earth. Will there be any train out in that
direction in the morning?”

“Five o’clock,” the man growled, “if I can get this old teakettle
cleaned out by that time. Where did you come from?” In the daytime he
would probably have ignored their existence, but the loneliness of the
night and his curiosity made him sociable.

“Itasca Park,” Merton answered. “How near will the train take us to
White Earth?”

“Some hike,” he said, ignoring the question. “Going to the Peace
Celebration, I suppose?”

“Yes, we just want to see the doings. How near did you say the train
would take us?”

He seemed loath to answer them. “’Bout eight miles,” he finally
answered. “Reckon you fellows must be tired if you have hiked from
Itasca. You can sleep there in that shack if you want to. I’ll call you
in the morning.”

It seemed to the boys that they had hardly closed their eyes when they
were awakened by the engine and found it broad daylight. The man had
forgotten to call them, and they had just time to crawl onto the caboose
when the train pulled out, lurching along over the uneven track. The
little Shaw engine with its upright cylinders and geared connections
made a noise which would indicate a tremendous speed, but the train
barely crept along and they were an hour and a half going the fifteen
miles to the junction where they had to walk once more. As they had
eaten their breakfast in the caboose they started out at once on the
road the brakeman showed them, and by nine o’clock they came within
sight of the Peace Celebration.

A small rolling prairie lay before them, completely surrounded by forest
and surrounding a very pretty little lake. The festivities had not yet
started, but it was a lively scene, nevertheless. The tepees and wigwams
of the Indians were scattered over the whole plain in most picturesque
fashion. Indian braves in full regalia strolled leisurely about or sat
smoking contentedly in front of their tepees, while here and there the
booths of the squaws displaying all manner of Indian baskets, beaded
belts and moccasins presented bold patches of color. Many visitors
thronged the camps, bargaining for souvenirs and asking foolish
questions of the Indian chiefs who never answered them. It was a
peaceful scene, and would have served as a model in point of order for
many a white man’s fair. The Indian policemen did their work well,
patrolling the camp continuously on their moth-eaten little ponies.

“Well, Scotty,” Merton cried. “Here we are, at nine o’clock in the
morning. We sure were lucky. Those other fellows can’t get here before
noon, anyway, and they’ll be all in. That train was the clear stuff.”

“Yes,” Scott said, “fifteen miles is a pretty good lift, even on a train
like that. Let’s pick out a place for a camp and fix things up.”

They selected a site on a little knoll on the shore of the lake, where
they soon had their dog-tent up and were sitting as comfortably in front
of it as any chief in the tribes. They commanded a pretty good view of
the whole field and could tell from the movement of the crowd what was
going on.

As they learned from one of the policemen that the program would not
open till the afternoon with pony races, foot races, canoe races and a
big parade, they decided to content themselves with a general view that
morning and wait for the other fellows.

At eleven-thirty they saw them coming straggling in along a road from
the north and hurried to meet them.

“Where have you been all the forenoon?” Scott called tauntingly.

“I suppose you have been here all of five minutes,” Morris sneered, “or
are you on your way home?”

“No,” Merton said, “we’re not quite ready to go home, but we _have_ been
here two hours. We came over from the lumber camp on the logging train.
What time did you leave the camp?”

“We did not see any camp,” Morris answered sullenly. “We have not seen a
soul since we left home.”

They had taken the north fork of the road, which carried them north of
the camp, but had the virtue of being five miles shorter. They had put
up for the night in a deserted log cabin on the edge of a swamp, where
they had been eaten up by the mosquitoes, and had been walking since
five o’clock that morning. It was a rather peevish crowd, and the luck
of the others in getting a lift on the logging train did not improve
their temper. While they talked they walked over to the camp, put up the
rest of the tents and cooked dinner. An hour’s rest set them all up, and
they were ready for anything the afternoon might bring forth.

The program opened with the grand parade. It was quite an imposing
sight. There were some three hundred Indians of the two tribes. They
formed at opposite ends of the grounds, rode solemnly forward till the
columns met, and joined forces in one big parade. The two oldest chiefs
rode side by side at the head of the procession, decked in all the
extravagance of paint and feathers that the savage mind could invent. To
them it was a solemn occasion—for they could remember the times when
they had opposed each other in bitter strife—and they sat their ponies
in stately dignity. The lesser chiefs followed, and the young bucks
brought up the rear. They slowly circled the entire grounds amidst the
cheers of the onlookers.

The procession finally came to a halt on a little knoll which commanded
a view of the lake on one side and the level race track on the other.
Here the chiefs seated themselves solemnly in a large circle supported
by a larger circle of braves. One of these brought the ancient peace
pipe, lighted it at the fire in the middle of the circle and handed it
to the oldest chief. The old man puffed solemnly a few times, and handed
it on to his neighbor. At last the circuit was completed and the sacred
rite was ended. The far-away look in the eyes of the older chiefs showed
that their thoughts were wandering back to the bloody scenes of their
early days and that they were counting again the scalps they had taken
in those relentless fights.

These rites ended, the young men hurried away to prepare themselves for
the contests to come. As an athletic exhibition it was really pathetic.
The competitors were in miserable physical condition; the half-starved
ponies ran in a listless way, and the foot racers would have stood very
little show in a high school track meet. The canoe races were slow, for
the men who took part in them were so accustomed to letting their squaws
do the paddling that they made a poor showing.

“It takes all the glamour of romance to throw any interest into that,”
Scott remarked. “We enjoy it because they are real Indians, but I’ll bet
they would not stand a ghost of a show in our Fourth of July
Celebration.”

“We ought to have brought along one of the oxen and entered him in the
horse race,” Steve whispered.

They had wandered down one of the streets to look over the baskets and
bead work when an unearthly hubbub broke out on the knoll they had just
left.

“Something doing now, fellows,” Merton yelled, as he led the crowd back
in the direction of the sound at full speed.

“Sounds like a cross between a dog fight and a heron rookery,” Bill
muttered, as he slowly overhauled Merton in the race. Their dash had
caused a veritable stampede of all the visitors in the street, and long
before they reached the scene of the disturbance they were leading a
fair-sized mob.

At the edge of the knoll they stopped short and gazed on the scene in
amazement. Everything was peaceful enough, but prancing around the fire
with a weird, halting step were the braves of the tribe, daubed with war
paint and chanting their wild war song. It was a most monotonous
performance which went on unceasingly without the slightest change, but
there was a certain fascination about it which kept everyone silent for
some time. Unconsciously the onlookers rehearsed in their minds the
scenes of Butler’s raid and imagined these savages lashing themselves in
this way into blood-thirsty fury. Or possibly some of those old chiefs
looking on so grimly were in the force which destroyed Custer’s little
troop. The same people watched and watched and then came back to see it
again.

All evening as the boys wandered from booth to booth bargaining with the
squaws for beaded moccasins and belts, or danced in the pavilion they
could hear that monotonous “Ki yi, ki yi, ki yi, ki yi,” pervading
everything. And late in the evening when they went to bed in their
little camp that dull drone which had at one time caused so many
sleepless nights put them to sleep.

In the morning they continued their shopping. It was a good-natured
crowd composed of people from all over the country with some from the
cities, and two troops of boy scouts. The boys found the squaws shrewd
bargainers, with a thorough knowledge of the value of money and a pretty
good idea of the white man’s craze for Indian trinkets. Nor were they
all as ugly as the one Scott and Merton had seen at the little cabin.
Some of them were strikingly handsome and their richly beaded, bright
colored garments added much to their barbaric beauty. It was a good deal
of fun arguing with them.

Immediately after lunch the boys packed their duffel and started for
home, for Merton had learned that the logging train went east about
three o’clock. Their trip home was uneventful. They spent the night at
the lumber camp and came in sight of the school about three o’clock in
the afternoon.

“Well, boys,” Bill called in a fatherly tone from a comfortable seat on
the front porch, “how did you enjoy the circus?”

Fifteen miles back up the road the opinion might have been different,
but now that they were home they all declared it great, and as time went
on it became “greater.”



                              CHAPTER XVI


If any of the boys had come to camp that summer with the idea that times
would be dull there they were beginning to find out how badly they had
been mistaken. As Bill Price said, “there was something doing every
minute and no time to sleep in between.” They had scarcely recovered
from the trip to White Earth when there was more excitement and it
started from an old familiar cause. When they were working in the
nursery one morning about ten o’clock they heard a wild yell down toward
the turn in the Park Rapids road.

It was impossible to determine who it was at that distance, but someone
was swinging jauntily along and commanding them in stentorian tones and
no uncertain terms to get to work. It was impossible long to mistake
that manner and Greenleaf shouted, “It’s Johnson.” They all trooped down
to welcome him, for his sunny disposition and free comradeship had made
him a favorite with everyone.

“Good,” he called as he saw them approaching. “Coming out to welcome the
president, are you? Where are the keys of the city?”

“Glad to see you, freshie,” Merton said grasping his hand warmly. “Where
did you blow in from? We thought you had given up the idea of coming
up.”

“From the city of Arago. Hello, Greenleaf. Morris, you’re black as a
nigger. Look at the mustache on Steve. All of you look sort of black and
hairy. You are sure a hard-looking bunch. You see I walked out to the
hotel at Arago last night and completed the trip this morning.”

“What are you going to do here?” Merton asked.

“Me? Oh, I’m going to work for the State Forest Service as special
patrolman. Have to report to the ranger at Park Rapids tomorrow. Thought
I’d pay you a visit.”

They had been walking up the road and now walked onto the campus by the
library. All of them were interested in the news from the outside.

“Look at that old lake,” Johnson exclaimed eagerly. “Looks good to me.
Good swimming?”

“Fine,” Bill said, “you’ll have plenty of chances to try it. Come on
down and see the boathouse. Scotty has a fine canoe, and there’s a bunch
of good boats.”

They moved down the steps and out onto the long dock. Then it happened.
Without a word being spoken Johnson suddenly found himself hanging back
down with four grinning huskies holding his hands and feet while another
trained a camera on him.

“One,” the crowd shouted as he swung out over the water.

“Two,” the swing was more rapid and he felt that he was gathering
momentum.

“Go as far as you like, fellows,” he shouted irrepressibly.

“Three,” and with arms and legs spread wide he circled gracefully far
out over the water like a huge heron. He landed with a tremendous
splash, disappeared for an instant, and swam laughing back to the dock
amidst shouts of side-splitting laughter. Professor Mertz was standing
on the bank fairly choking.

“What’s the next stunt?” Johnson asked, laughingly shaking hands all
around again. “You put one over on me that time. I suppose you fellows
have been lying awake nights preparing a warm reception for me. But come
to think of it, you did not know that I was coming.”

It was hard for anyone who did not know the complete harmony existing in
the camp to realize that the whole scheme was conceived on the spur of
the moment and carried out perfectly without a word. But such was the
case. It had occurred to the whole crowd as to one man and they had
carried it out spontaneously.

“Well,” Merton said, “you took it like a man, so that is all for the
present. The rest depends on you.”

As they came up the slope Scott came tearing down across the campus.
When he came out of the cookshack the whole crew had disappeared from
the nursery. While he was wondering what had become of them he heard the
shouting at the dock but had arrived just too late to see the fun. At
the sight of Johnson dripping from every angle and squirting water from
his boots at every step he stopped short. “What under the—” he started.

“Oh, yes,” Johnson cried in mock sarcasm, “I suppose this is a great
surprise to you. You probably will be asking me next how I got wet.”

They shook hands heartily. They had not been on intimate terms since
Johnson moved out of his room, but here in the woods everything seemed
different. Everyone was intimate with everyone else there.

“Well, how _did_ you get wet?” Scott asked.

“You see in me, my friend,” Johnson orated, striking an imposing
attitude, “the victim of mob violence. A peaceful citizen martyred to
the ancient and dishonorable custom of compulsory immersion. I was duly
baptized in my infancy, but your honorable associates here thought that
it did not take and repeated the dose. In plain language, they threw me
in the lake.”

Johnson had the happy faculty of making capital out of everything that
happened to him and he now moved gayly away with the crowd as solidly a
member of the “gang” as though he had been there all the summer. He
inspected the premises with the air of a proprietor and by evening was
familiar with every detail of the camp. He jollied the cook, made
friends with all the children on the place and arranged a four-day
fishing trip with the postmaster a mile up the lake, because, as he
explained to the other fellows, that gentleman had the only supply of
angle worms in that section of the country.

That evening around the campfire he threw the crew into convulsions with
a dramatic account of the conversation he had heard in Park Rapids
between the express agent and an irate fisherman.

“I tell you there isn’t anything for you,” said the agent.

“But I tell you there must be,” the fisherman retorted. “They were
shipped from Wadena two days ago.”

“Was it a box?” the agent asked, looking over the waybills once more.

“Yes,” snapped the fisherman, “and if it has been lost I’ll sue the
company. I’m not going to have a week’s pleasure spoiled for nothing.”

“Well, there’s nothing here,” the agent answered doggedly.

“I would not have lost them for fifty dollars,” the fisherman raged
angrily. “Nothing is safe with this company any more.”

“What was in it?” asked the agent.

The fisherman almost exploded with excitement. “Seven dozen angle
worms,” he screamed.

“That’s the reason I got next to the postmaster up here,” Johnson
explained, when the laughter had subsided, “the agent said he had some
planted.

“I expected to come up here the first of June,” he continued, “but some
bloated millionaire out at Minnetonka wanted his forest park trimmed up
and I could not resist the temptation to help him out at five dollars
per.”

And so he ran on detailing the news of the cities and bringing the camp
up-to-date on the doings of the rest of the University. He was perfectly
at home. Everyone recognized in Johnson the quick-witted, steady nerved,
natural born leader of men. Scott’s old admiration for Johnson grew as
he listened to him and his conscience hurt him when he thought that he
had never apologized for the boorish manner in which he had received his
friendly advice. He longed to grasp his hand now and apologize—he knew
Johnson would forgive him with undeserved readiness—but he could not do
it before all the fellows and an appointment with Greenleaf to try the
trout stream kept him from doing it that night.

But he made a solemn resolution that he would make full reparation to
Johnson, and to make sure that it would not be overlooked he stored it
away in his memory with the determination to win the ten thousand acres.
He felt that the accomplishment of those two things was essential to his
happiness.

Scott and Greenleaf hated to miss the news but had to leave the campfire
early in order to make the camp near the trout stream, where the
firebreak crew was located, before dark. They had planned to sleep at
the camp and fish early in the morning.

The other boys all made fun of them because the trout stream had the
reputation of being the worst mosquito hole in the park. It was a walk
of only two miles and a half, and they soon located the camp on a little
knoll near the beautiful spring which formed the source of the trout
stream.

The men were smoking around the campfire preparatory to going to bed,
for they kept early hours, especially on Friday night, that they might
start an hour earlier Saturday morning to get off an hour earlier that
night. They were delighted to see the boys, for they had little company,
and doubly delighted at the prospect of trout for lunch.

“You boys did not bring a bear trap along with you, did you?” Dan asked.

“Have you seen a bear?” Greenleaf asked eagerly.

“No,” Dan said, “we didn’t see him, but he stole a dozen eggs and two
pounds of bacon out of the cook tent last night.”

“Why don’t you lay for him?” Scott asked.

“Can’t touch him here in this park,” Dan answered.

“He’s probably ten miles away by this time,” Greenleaf said carelessly.
He thought it was a scheme cooked up to try to scare them.

“No,” Pat said confidently, “he has stolen something from us nearly
every night for a week.”

It never occurred to Scott to doubt the story and he wondered at
Greenleaf’s indifference, but Greenleaf was very cautious and dreaded
being taken in. Dan saw that he did not believe it.

“Do you know a bear track when you see it?” he asked.

“You bet,” Greenleaf answered confidently.

“He left plenty of those visiting cards around here,” Dan said.

Rising he led the way to the cookshack and showed them the claw marks in
the butter tub, and then to the garbage heap where the soft ground was
covered with tracks like those made by a barefoot man.

“No mistaking those,” Greenleaf exclaimed excitedly. “By George, let’s
catch him tonight.”

“What are you going to do with him when you catch him?” Dan asked. “You
can’t kill him, you know.”

“We’ll cage him and take him down to camp. Where are the shovels, Dan?”

Dan produced the shovels and sat down to watch the performance.
Greenleaf was all enthusiasm.

“Come on, Scotty,” he cried. “We’ll dig a hole right here beside the
garbage heap. This seems to be where he comes most.”

The boys worked so energetically that the hole grew apace. They worked
in ten-minute shifts and made the dirt fly. It was almost pure sand with
just enough clay to make the sides stand up, the easiest kind of
digging. The men soon caught the spirit of the thing and volunteered to
take their turns at the shovels. In an hour the pit was completed, five
by five and six feet deep, with perpendicular sides.

“There,” Greenleaf said, clambering out on the end of a shovel Dan
extended to him, “if Mr. Bruin tumbles into that he’s our meat.”

“Yes,” Dan laughed, “he’ll be our meat, but the next thing will be to
cure the meat.”

“We’ll shovel this garbage into the pit to lead him on,” Greenleaf said.
“Now where is the brush you cut when you built this camp? He won’t be as
apt to suspect that as he would fresh cutting.”

“There’s a pile of it up there by the bull pen,” said Pat.

They brought down two or three loads of it and built a weak cover over
the pit, strong around the edges but exceedingly weak in the center.
This was accomplished by placing many small limbs with the heavy ends
resting on one side and the tips on the other, using enough of them for
the butts to make a fairly strong thatch all around the edge.

“Now,” Greenleaf said, “where is something we can use for bait?”

“I thought you put the garbage in there for bait,” Scott suggested.

“No, that was just to prevent him from making a meal off of it without
getting near the pit at all. Besides, he’s been smelling that every
night for a week. We want something real tempting.”

They canvassed the resources of the cook tent and finally decided on the
lid of a pork barrel with a piece of bacon on it. This Greenleaf placed
carefully in the center of the brush covering.

“There,” he exclaimed, “that ought to get him if anything will. Now
let’s make all those things in the cook tent safe so that he cannot get
a meal in there.”

Everything was made shipshape for the night and they went to bed—for it
was already much later than the men had intended to sit up.

“Gee,” Greenleaf whispered to Scott as he wriggled into his blanket,
“isn’t this great? It beats fighting fire, and I’ll bet you tomorrow’s
breakfast we have that bear before morning.”

It was not easy to go to sleep with the prospect of catching a bear any
minute, but they finally made it and dreamed of whole droves of bears
eating at the breakfast table with them. The hard day’s work, the
sighing of the breeze in the jack pines and the great stillness of the
woods made them sleep soundly. No unusual noises disturbed them; the
hours slipped by uncounted. It was half past four when an excited shout
from Dan aroused the whole camp.

“By George, fellows, we’ve got him. He’s in there.”

He did not have to call twice. Greenleaf almost tore a hole in the side
of the tent getting out and the others were close behind him. Sure
enough there in the bottom of the pit was a yearling black bear,
bouncing wildly around and digging furiously at the walls. He made
frequent springs at the edge of the pit and several times succeeded in
clawing the top. He had evidently been very little concerned by his fall
until disturbed by the awakening of the camp—for he had eaten the bacon
and picked the garbage over very thoroughly.

“Ha, ha, my boy,” Greenleaf called to him, “you will steal our eggs,
will you? You’ll make exhibit ‘A’ in our menagerie now for a little
while till we finish with this camp.”

The bear resented the taunts with renewed efforts to escape and he was
clawing down so much dirt from the sides that it was evident he would
soon have enough pulled into the bottom to enable him to jump out. Every
jump he made brought him a little nearer to the surface.

“You fellows put some poles across the top of this pit,” Greenleaf
directed, “good heavy logs, to keep him from getting out and I’ll go
down to camp to get Sturgis to build a cage for him. Don’t let him get
away, whatever you do. Knock him in the head first if you have to.”

With that he was gone. It was only half past five when Sturgis went out
to milk, and saw Greenleaf puffing up the road. He thought the
mosquitoes had probably chased him out as they had several former
fishermen, and he rather wondered at it—for he thought him a better
sticker than that.

“Where are the fish?” he called as soon as Greenleaf was within hailing
distance.

“The mischief with the fish,” Greenleaf panted. “We’ve caught a bear.”

“Caught him,” Sturgis laughed. “Where is he, following you home?”

“Not this trip. I haven’t got him trained yet.”

Greenleaf explained the capture, and suggested that they build a cage to
keep him in till the work on the east line was finished. It seemed the
only thing to do, and they set to work immediately to build a
substantial cage of two by fours and a piece of woven wire hog fence.
They loaded the crude cage on a one-horse wagon and started out for the
camp.

“Won’t those fellows be surprised,” Greenleaf chuckled, “when we bring
them in a bear for breakfast instead of a trout?”

They were soon back at the bear pit, where they found things pretty much
as Greenleaf had left them. The bear had dug down considerably more dirt
but had tired himself out and was lying quietly in the bottom of the
pit. They carried the cage over to the edge of the pit with the open end
close to the edge.

“Little fellow, isn’t he?” Sturgis said, peeping down between the poles.
“We oughtn’t to have much trouble with him.”

“If you had seen him bouncing around in there a while ago,” Dan said,
“you wouldn’t be so sure of it.”

“Well,” Sturgis answered, “we’ll try him, anyway. Pat, you get that
light logging chain while we take these poles away.”

The removal of the logs seemed to give the bear renewed hope, and they
soon found that he was only resting, and not nearly so exhausted as he
looked. He sized them up sullenly for an instant, and then made a
vicious lunge at Dan which brought him head and shoulders above the edge
of the pit. He clung desperately to the rim and only the crumbling of
the sides kept him from getting out. He fell heavily on his back but
recovered himself instantly, sprang again with a vicious snarl, and a
furious blow of his paw laid the leg of Greenleaf’s trousers open for a
foot. Once more the crumbling dirt threw him back.

As Pat came running up with the chain, tying a slip noose in it as he
ran, the bear made another desperate spring and obtained a firm hold
with his front feet, balanced a second and drew up one hind foot to the
solid ground. In another instant he would be free from the pit, an ugly
customer to handle in his infuriated condition. Greenleaf sprang forward
with the intention of pushing him back into the pit with his hands at
the infinite risk of falling in with him, but Dan was ahead of him and
struck the bear a heavy blow on the head with the flat of an ax. The
blow knocked the crazed animal back into the pit just as he had all four
feet on the surface.

“I hate to do it, old man,” Dan said, “but I ain’t crazy to hug you.”

The bear was dazed by the blow and wandered aimlessly around the pit,
snarling horribly. He was not ready to give up yet.

“He pretty near had us that time,” Sturgis said, “but don’t hit him too
hard. Run that noose end of the chain through this far end of the cage,
Pat, out of the open end there and down into the pit. Then if we can get
the noose around his neck we can pull him right into the cage and hold
him there while we nail him up.”

Scott took charge of the noose and attempted to lasso the bear. It was a
difficult trick. Every time he had the noose nearly on the bear would
grab it and bite it savagely. At last he saw his chance. The bear sat up
on his haunches for a better view of his tormentor and Scott dropped the
noose neatly over his head. The noose refused to tighten and Dan reached
down with a shovel to slip it along. The bear slapped it a blow that
tore it out of Dan’s hands and sent it rattling up against the side of
the pit, but his temper proved his undoing. He pounced savagely on the
fallen shovel, the only thing he could reach, and the lunge tightened
the noose.

“Now will you be good?” Scott shouted triumphantly.

“Get on the end of that chain, boys,” Sturgis directed, “and keep it
tight while I dig down this side of the pit so that we can drag him
out.”

The edge of the sandy pit was soon broken down to an easy slope and the
protesting bear was dragged relentlessly into his new home. The hog wire
was quickly fastened across the end of the cage and the chain loosened.
For a few minutes the bear resented its captivity desperately, tore
furiously at the wire, threw itself violently against the side of the
cage, and growled savagely. But it did not last long. The tremendous
exertions in the pit, the heavy blow on the head and the utter futility
of the attacks on the cage had broken his spirit, and abandoning all
hope he lay quietly down in the cage, wholly indifferent to everything.

“That’s the way, old boy,” Greenleaf said soothingly, “take it easy. We
are going to take you to a nice place where you will get more to eat
than you have ever had before in your life.”

They brought the wagon over to load the cage, but found a new
difficulty. The horse had no idea of hauling a bear. The instant he
scented the brute he became almost unmanageable and it required the
combined efforts of the whole crew to keep him from getting away. He
trembled violently and snorted with fear.

“Take him out,” Dan said, “and I’ll get the oxen. They haven’t sense
enough to be afraid of anything.”

Dan did not like the oxen, but he knew their possibilities. When the
change had been made they set out for the school, Greenleaf leading the
procession on the rebellious horse.

The news of the capture had spread rapidly around the campus. Two or
three of the boys met them a mile down the road, the others were all
assembled near the library, students, professors’ families, visitors,
workmen and all, awaiting the arrival of the mighty hunters. Some were
awaiting the further development of what they considered a joke; others
were prompted by genuine curiosity to see a real, live, wild bear.

Greenleaf looked a little anxious at the waiting crowd and then at the
cage. “I wish he’d perk up a little,” he said, riding as near the cage
as the horse would consent to go. “Can’t you twist his tail a little,
Scotty? Bill Price will be saying he was dying when we found him.”

“He hasn’t a great deal of tail to twist, so far as I can make out,”
Scott answered doubtfully, “and nothing seems to arouse him at all. I
wonder if he is going to die after all?”

The crowd cheered loudly as the wagon pulled slowly into the yard and
pushed close around the wagon to inspect the prize.

“You need not be afraid,” Greenleaf assured the ladies, “Dan had to
knock him on the head with the flat of an ax and it has dazed him a
little. He’ll be all right in a little while.”

“What did he hit him for? To loosen him from the ground?” Bill Price
drawled. “You must have had a hard time _dragging_ him into the cage,
Greeny.”

“Never you mind,” Scott retorted, “if you had seen him trying to get out
of that pit and ripping Greenleaf’s trousers nearly off, you’d have
thought he was a pretty lively corpse.”

“In a pit, was he?” Bill asked quietly. “I supposed he was dead but why
do you suppose they tried to bury him?”

“Never mind, Greeny,” Scott consoled him, “Bill would not have had the
nerve to catch a dead one.”

“Cheer up, fellows,” Greenleaf grinned as he helped carry the cage over
to a shady spot, “we’ve got the first bear ever caught in the park, if
he is a dead one, but if you all live to grow up you may catch one
yourselves some day. Who can tell? Bears are dumb brutes.”

Scott looked eagerly around for Johnson but he had already left for Park
Rapids, and Scott had to harbor his troubled conscience for many another
month. It was beginning to hurt. He little dreamed then how splendidly
he would some day square the account.



                              CHAPTER XVII


The bear recovered from the crack it had received on the head, thrived
in its new mode of life and became one of the curiosities of the park.
It became quite tame, permitted a favored few to scratch its head, and
only occasionally hurled itself at the wire with an ugly snarl when
strangers approached the cage. Different people tried a great variety of
food upon it, but nothing seemed to satisfy it so well as the
blueberries and fish; of these it never tired.

The capture of the bear had opened up a new field of interest to Scott.
He knew the geology of the country thoroughly—could trace the origin of
almost every type of pebble to be found in the glacial drift; his
dendrology and botany had brought him in touch with all the trees and
plants, but the great field of animal life he had completely overlooked.
The bear furnished a point of contact, and he grasped the new lead
eagerly. He undertook the responsibility of feeding the bear regularly
and enjoyed studying his diet and habits. There were many good books on
natural history in the library and he soon obtained a pretty good idea
of bruin in all his relations to man and beast. He was surprised to see
how many new points of interest this study brought out and still more
surprised to find how many traces of bear he could find in the woods now
that he knew enough to look for them.

Naturally to such an active mind as his, the study and observation of
one animal could not help but be an introduction to the other forms of
animal life. The deer, wolves, minks, lynx, wild cats, skunks, otter,
coons, porcupines, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, fish, nutes,
salamanders, snakes, birds and a host of others he had never dreamed of
crowded upon his attention and filled the woods with a new interest. Now
that his eyes were opened he could not walk a hundred yards without
seeing something to attract his attention. He was beginning to realize
how the old woodsman with his knowledge of woods’ life could live for
months without human company and never feel lonely.

Greenleaf had long ago discovered this secret, and could help him
greatly in his observations. Almost every Sunday when the other fellows
were enjoying themselves with the girls at the Lodge these two were
canoeing around the lake or tramping through the woods investigating
some of the denizens.

As Greenleaf expressed it: “There’s plenty of time to rush the girls
when you are cooped up in town and can’t get at the other animals.”

It came about very happily that just at the time when Scott was
beginning to get interested in the animals a naturalist came to visit
the camp and a geologist came to give the boys some field work. Scott’s
thorough knowledge of geology let him out of the class work and enabled
him to put in a large part of his time with the naturalist. The trips he
made with this interesting man lent him an enthusiasm and gave him many
practical hints which carried him easily over the preliminary stage
which is apt to be rather discouraging to the uninitiated. It carried
him to a point from which he could easily go on alone.

This new friend, Dr. Barnes, was a man of deep reading and wide
observation, a Chautauqua lecturer, and a most interesting
conversationalist. He had camped all over the north woods studying the
habits and watching the antics of the woods creatures. He was as
delighted to find a fellow enthusiast no matter how green a beginner, as
Scott was to profit by his experience and they became great chums.

The special attraction which had brought Dr. Barnes to that particular
place at that time was an opportunity to study the beaver, of which
there were a great many in the park. Two pairs placed there ten years
before had increased until they populated dozens of lakes and had built
some dams of remarkable size. The evidence of their work was everywhere
but the beavers themselves seemed to possess a wonderful faculty for
keeping out of sight, and Scott was astonished when he tried to look
them up in the books to find how little seemed to be known about them.

“Well, Scotty,” Dr. Barnes called to him one morning, “suppose we paddle
down to the beaver dam on the west arm and reconnoiter a little? I want
to look over the situation there and see if there is an opportunity to
stay down there some night and watch them work—for I believe they work
at night.”

“Very well, sir,” Scott replied, “I am free today, and shall be
delighted to go wherever you suggest.”

“I suggest,” said the doctor, “that we take lunch, explore the place
thoroughly, and, if we find it practicable, go back after supper to
spend the night.”

They were soon ready to start, and armed with a camera and two axes they
paddled swiftly down the west arm. Two deer, standing knee deep in the
water, half hidden by the reeds, watched them curiously as they paddled
past, but they were bent on rarer game, too intent to turn aside.

“They say the dam is up that little creek; it’s a cedar swamp,” Scott
said, “but I don’t know how wet it is.”

“Well, let’s land on that high point just this side of the swamp and we
can work in from there. The dam must touch that dry land somewhere.”

“There. The canoe is safe. Shall we take our lunches?” Scott asked.

“Certainly,” the doctor replied emphatically, “one of the first rules of
the woods; never get separated from your lunch.”

They climbed the steep bank to a bench which marked a former level of
the lake. It had been covered by a good stand of popple, but most of it
was now down, apparently thrown by a windstorm. Suddenly Dr. Barnes
spied a stump.

“Can it be—” he began excitedly running over to examine the stump. “Yes,
sir, that one, that one, that one, everyone of them gnawed down by the
beaver.”

He was trotting hurriedly from stump to stump. Scott hastened to examine
one of them and found it very distinctly marked with the print of teeth,
as though it had been cut off with a series of gouges with a concave
chisel. It was a very neat job.

“Just about two acres cleared clean,” he said, as the doctor puffed up
from the swamp. “I did not know they cut down such big trees.”

“Big trees!” the doctor echoed. “There’s a stump down there on the edge
of the swamp fifteen inches in diameter. We must have some pictures of
this.”

While the Doctor busied himself with the pictures Scott scouted around.

“Look here,” he shouted excitedly, “here are some regular skidways and
logging roads.”

The Doctor came on the run. “Yes, sir, well planned ones, too. You see
they cut down the tree simply to get the twigs and smaller branches. The
latter they haul down these skidways, float to their pond near the house
and keep under water so that they can peel them in the winter time. Now
let’s go look for the dam. There ought to be a beaver trail down to the
swamp.”

He was right. A well beaten trail led them down to the swamp and right
to the end of the dam. It was a queer looking structure; a low
embankment of dirt and sticks winding away across the swamp, which was
dry below the dam and covered with a foot of water above. They walked
along the top of the dam pacing the distance as they went. As they
neared the stream the dam increased in height to about six feet backing
up a corresponding depth of water.

“Two hundred and forty feet,” the doctor said, “isn’t it wonderful?”

“What is it for?” Scott asked.

“You see they had to build it so long on account of the swamp. If the
banks of the stream had been steep the dam would have been short. They
build it to keep water always around the house, which is built in the
pond above the dam. The entrance to it is under water. The wolves can’t
get into it. Besides that it gives them a chance to get under the ice
for their sticks in the winter. See that big pile of sticks out there in
the pond? That is the house. Let’s see if we can get out there.”

By walking fallen trees and wading shallow bars they finally reached the
house. It was some fifteen feet across and protruded about four feet
above the water. It was built of sticks—all of them providently peeled
beforehand—from an inch to three inches in diameter, the whole plastered
thickly with mud. It seemed perfectly solid. There were a few tracks in
the mud and a whimpering such as might be made by small pups came from
the inside, but no beavers were to be seen. They retraced their way to
the dam.

“Right there,” the doctor said, pointing to a mound of comparatively dry
moss, “we could spend the night quite comfortably. I believe that if we
break a hole in the dam so that they can hear the running of the water
they will come to fix it up.”

They made their way down the stream. There were several other dams which
had apparently been abandoned, all short, but one of them higher than
the new one. Just before they reached the lake Dr. Barnes was delighted
to find an old abandoned house.

“Now,” he exclaimed excitedly, “we’ll see what it’s like inside.”

The solidity of the structure was wonderful, but by dint of considerable
hard work with the axes they cut away half of the house, showing the
interior in cross section. It was some time before Scott had a chance to
inspect it himself for the hole was no sooner opened than the doctor
crawled into it head first; spasmodic wriggling of his legs and a series
of muffled exclamations alone told of the state of his emotions. He
stayed so long that Scott began to fear that he had moved in there to
live. He finally wriggled out very red in the face, and very jubilant.

“Why don’t you look in there?” he asked. “You can see just how they
live.”

Scott did not waste any time explaining why he had not looked in, but
crawled eagerly into the muddy opening. Much to his surprise he found
the floor of the house well above the level of the stream and perfectly
dry. The roof of the house was arched up with great skill leaving an
opening in which a good-sized man could curl up very comfortably. On two
sides there were tunnels leading down to small dirt landings almost on a
level with the surface of the water. From these the beaver could slip
conveniently under the water, still within the house, and swim out
through a submarine passage. It was certainly a very ingenious
arrangement—for they had all the advantages of living on land and at the
same time were protected absolutely from the attacks of all land
animals. The floor was covered with fish bones, which Scott learned
later had probably been left there by the mink who had made use of the
house after its abandonment by the original inhabitants—for the beavers
themselves do not eat fish.

No sooner had Scott wriggled out than the doctor crawled laboriously in
again with a pencil and envelope in his teeth to draw a sketch of the
interior. This completed and several photographs taken of the house from
all angles, they ate lunch, traced out the boundaries of the cuttings on
both sides of the swamp and paddled home to prepare their outfit for a
night in the wet moss. Dr. Barnes was all enthusiasm.

The other boys had no desire to share in the expedition, but they were
immensely interested in a way and shouted bits of advice and sarcastic
sympathy after the canoe as long as it was in range.

The long twilight gave them plenty of time, and they sneaked the canoe
along the edge of the lily pads in hope of catching some of the beavers
out foraging—for it was the time of day when they were most often seen.
As they approached the cedar swamp they observed a green popple branch
moving mysteriously and swiftly across the surface of the lake. Closer
observation showed that it was being vigorously pushed along by an
energetic beaver. They gave chase to see what he would do. He was
evidently loath to give up the prize, for he only swam the faster,
throwing quite a swell like a small tug boat. Finally the pursuit became
too hot for him and he abandoned the branch, diving under the surface
with a splash. Several times he came up to reconnoiter, diving again
almost instantly. Each time he dived he struck the water a blow with his
broad flat tail which sent his head under with a jerk and made a report
easily heard a half-mile away over the still water.

They paddled the canoe over toward the shore again to see if he would
recover the branch. After several false starts he took it in tow once
more and disappeared with it up the creek. When the canoe was still some
distance from the shore they spied another beaver dodging around the
lily pads. He was so intent on his own business that he did not seem to
notice the silently moving canoe. He was evidently making his evening
meal off of the yellow lily buds. Rising head and shoulders above the
water, he would devour a bud with great relish, sink silently into the
water and come up alongside of another juicy bud. They followed these
maneuvers for some time before he took alarm, dived with a loud splash
and was seen no more.

They scouted around cautiously but failed to find any more night
marauders.

“We’d better go ashore now,” the doctor suggested, “and fix things up
for the night. It may get dark before we are ready.”

They pulled the canoe up on the marshy shore and made their way up the
stream to the spot they had picked in the morning. The mound of moss
proved to be none too large, but the blankets were finally arranged so
that they thought they could spend the night in comparative comfort.

“Now for a hole in the dam,” the doctor said, with suppressed
excitement. “Where’s the ax?”

They soon found that a pick would have been more effective. The dam was
built even better than they had thought. The sticks were woven together
and plastered with a solidity that astounded them. A breach some three
feet long and a foot deep was finally made, and the water came pouring
out with a rush which must have appalled the beavers.

“There,” said the Doctor panting from his exertions, “that ought to
bring them all to the rescue. We must keep very still and wait
patiently.”

“Do you think they can smell us here?” Scott asked anxiously. “We are
pretty close to the break.”

“No, I don’t think so; most of these water animals rely more on sight
and hearing than on smell. They may be suspicious for a while, but they
will have to fix it for fear of having their pond drained.”

It did not take the beavers long to discover the break in the dam. The
watchers had scarcely settled themselves on their blankets when they
heard the distant plunk of a diving beaver in the pond. There was a
moment of tense silence and then another plunk nearer.

“Here they come,” the doctor whispered excitedly. “Keep quiet.”

The approaching beaver evidently wanted to investigate the leak, but had
no idea of being drawn into an ambush. He circled cautiously around at a
distance, diving nervously at short intervals, till, finally assured
that there was no danger, he swam boldly up to the breach and nosed
around it. They could see the faint glimmer from the little roll of
water he pushed along in front of him and once he passed so close to
them that they could hear his heavy breathing. Then he swam quietly
away.

“That must be the watchman sent to reconnoiter,” the Doctor explained.
“He has gone back to report on the break.”

He must have made a very lengthy report or had some trouble in
convincing the others, for it was a full hour before they heard anything
from him. Then once more they heard the distant “plunks.” Much to their
disappointment he came alone. He repeated the same performance as before
and disappeared once more.

“He must have forgotten some of the details,” Scott muttered.

Another hour of waiting and he came again. He seemed worried over the
escaping water but showed no inclination to repair the dam.

The next hour it was the same thing. “He must patrol this place all
night,” Scott suggested. “Do you notice that he strikes the hour almost
to the dot?”

“Yes,” the doctor murmured, a little sleepily. “They must come to repair
that dam pretty soon. We ought to have made the hole deeper.”

It grew cold in the swamp and each hour seemed colder than the preceding
one. The dismal squawk of a night hawk or the honk of a passing blue
heron sounded occasionally above the monotonous flowing of the water. An
owl seemed to be hooting fun at them from a neighboring tree—for he
always started up just after the sentinel had made his round, and along
toward morning the occasional scream of a coon just returning from his
night’s marauding, pierced the stillness. The crowded quarters on the
little mound of moss were very hard on cramped muscles and the lack of
industry on the part of the proverbially busy beavers was thoroughly
disappointing. Scott was beginning to feel his enthusiasm in the beavers
oozing away.

The dawn, that chilling interval between night and morning, was stealing
upon them and soon the streaks of light began appearing in the eastern
sky.

The Doctor stretched himself as much as he dared without getting his
feet in the water and sat up shivering. “I guess we have seen about all
we are going to see this trip,” he said despondently. “We might as well
go down here on dry ground where we can stretch ourselves and cook
breakfast.”

“Don’t you suppose they are going to fix that blooming dam sometime?”
Scott asked in disgust.

“Surely they’ll fix it,” the doctor replied confidently; “maybe they
work in the daytime. We’ll come back again sometime, break the dam wide
open, and hide on a platform in the trees. Maybe that would get them.”

Scott made a mental resolve that he would not make one of the party in
the tree, but the little doctor’s ardor was so little dampened by the
failure that he soon felt ashamed of himself.

“After all,” the doctor said reassuringly as they paddled back to camp,
“we did not fail altogether. All scientific facts are collected slowly,
one by one, and each new one is so much added to the sum of human
knowledge. We have seen a beaver patrolman on his beat—even had some
water splashed on us by him—and that’s more than any other scientist I
know can say.”



                             CHAPTER XVIII


It was Saturday evening and the boys had gathered around the campfire on
the lakeshore—for the breeze was rather chilly as it often was even in
those summer months. Most of them had been working all day and were now
content enough to lie idly by the fire listening lazily to the
three-days-old baseball news or throwing gibes at Higby and Porter who
were preparing for their nightly canoe trip to the Lodge.

“Gee,” Greenleaf said, “I wish something exciting would turn up.”

“Caught any more sick bear?” Steve asked sarcastically.

“That bear was the liveliest corpse you ever saw,” Greenleaf retorted.
“The bears have not bothered any more lately, but I found a peach of a
partridge nest this afternoon. Eleven eggs in it. And on the way home I
found a mallard duck’s nest away up on the hill back of the dining hall.
There were eleven eggs in that, too. You better get some pictures of
them in the morning, Morris.”

“How will those ducks ever get down to the lake?” Morris asked.

“March down,” Greenleaf answered. “The day after they hatch every one of
them will be in the lake. You ought to have seen that old partridge when
I found the nest. She fluttered right across my feet twice, playing at a
broken wing, and when I went away she ran after me hissing and whining
like a pup. I reckon she thought she scared me out.”

“Probably did,” Bill Price insinuated.

Before Greenleaf could retort Sturgis came around the corner of the
library and called him.

“I wonder if he is going to spoil my evening?” Greenleaf growled, but he
jumped up cheerfully enough. He was doing some extra work clerking for
Sturgis.

The two disappeared around the library, and the desultory discussion
around the fire continued. In a few minutes Greenleaf walked back to the
fire alone. He stood there talking casually until he had caught Scott’s
eye, when with an almost imperceptible raising of the eyebrows he
beckoned him away. He walked off whistling toward the bunkhouse and
Scott soon followed him.

“What is it?” Scott asked eagerly, when he had overtaken the loitering
figure, for he had caught something in Greenleaf’s eye which showed
excitement.

“What is it?” Greenleaf repeated excitedly. “It’s something that will
make capturing that bear look pretty tame.”

“What?”

“Catching a man,” Greenleaf said mysteriously.

Scott was burning up with curiosity. “Well, why don’t you tell a fellow
what it is instead of mooning around like a hero in a dime novel? Who is
the man? Where is he? What has he done?”

“We don’t know who he is,” Greenleaf answered, with exasperating
deliberation, “and you mustn’t talk so loud about it. There is no
telling who may be in with them. It would not do to have them warned
now.”

Scott gritted his teeth. “If you don’t want your neck broken you’d
better explain this thing. What’s it all about, anyway?”

Greenleaf looked around suspiciously and drew Scott out into the open
tennis court. “Sturgis has a hunch,” he whispered, “that those men who
are working on the north road are trying to snare deer in the park. He
wants us to help him catch them. It’s against the law, you know, and
he’s a game warden.”

“Whereabouts are they?” Scott asked eagerly.

“He thinks the snares are over in Hubbard ravine. We’ll go over there
tonight and try to catch them in the early morning when they come to
look at the snares.”

“Gee,” Scott chuckled, “that will be something worth while. Are we going
to start now?”

“Sturgis said he would wait for us at the corner of the pasture. We’d
better take our coats with us; it’ll be cold waiting.”

A few minutes later the three had met and were hurrying out the old road
toward the ravine. The boys were eager with suppressed excitement. They
felt the primitive thrill of the manhunter.

“How did you hear about it?” Scott asked.

“One of the men heard them talking,” Sturgis said, “and saw them hanging
around the ravine one evening when he was going home.”

“How many are there?” Greenleaf asked.

“Two men and a boy up there, but probably we cannot get more than one of
them. They will not all come to see the traps.”

“Do you think they’ll fight?” Scott asked eagerly.

“No,” Sturgis said, “I doubt if they will fight much, but they’ll
probably put up an awful run for it. There’s a hundred dollars’ fine.”

They walked on for a while in silence, each one figuring out his tactics
for the coming battle. It was a very dark night. Only the blacker
outline of the trees against the dark sky indicated the opening of the
road ahead of them. Now and then they heard some night prowler rustling
through the brush, or the swift short rush of a frightened rabbit. Once
they came dangerously near stumbling over an indifferent porcupine who
refused to give them the road. It made them a little more careful how
they picked their steps.

“We’ll have to leave the road here,” Sturgis said, stopping at a trail
which would have been entirely invisible to anyone not thoroughly
familiar with the woods at night. “They may be looking for tracks in the
road in the morning and we don’t want to scare them off.”

It was slow work picking their way along that crooked trail. It wound
through a dense stand of young jack pine, and the darkness was absolute.
Again and again Sturgis had to wait for them, for it was necessary that
they be in touch with each other if they were to stay together. It
seemed to Scott as though they must have gone miles and miles, but he
knew that it could not be far. The steep side slope on which they were
traveling told him that they were on the edge of the ravine. The whir of
frogs in the hollow told of a shallow lake. They left the side hill
trail to avoid the gullies and then wound here and there to keep out of
the denser brush. Scott no longer had the slightest idea where he was or
which way he was going, but Sturgis evidently had his bearings, for he
turned abruptly down the hill across a narrow neck between two swamps.
On the opposite edge he stopped to listen.

“Those fellows are camped right up there a quarter of a mile,” he said.
“Don’t make any noise, because they may have a dog in camp.”

Scott was astonished to find that they were on a road, but it was
grass-grown and would tell no tales. Once more they turned from the
road, this time into an open stand of Norway pine free from undergrowth.
They had gone just far enough to be out of the way of any stragglers
from the road when Sturgis stopped. “We’ll wait here,” he said. “It’s a
pity we cannot light a fire, for it will be cold.”

“Why did we start so early?” Greenleaf asked. “They are not likely to
come before morning.”

“No,” Sturgis said, “they won’t come before morning but I don’t know
just where that runway is. The moon will be up after a while, so that we
can find it and pick out a good place to hide.”

“What sort of a trap do they use?” Scott asked.

“They don’t use a trap,” Sturgis said, “they use a snare. Bend down a
sapling, attach a wire loop to it, and fasten it down with a trip. You
don’t want to get into it for it may be a good-sized tree and it would
jar you some.”

They waited in silence for two hours. It was too cold to sleep. Scott
tried it once, but he soon woke up shivering. After that he tried to
keep warm by deep breathing and straining one muscle against another.
The darkness was beginning to seem interminable when the moon, coming
slowly above the horizon, cast a faint shimmer of light through the
clouds. As the light grew stronger Scott distinguished the steep
declivity close in front of them leading down to the swamp and
recognized the trout stream which the bear had kept him from fishing.
The tangled swamp looked in that half light like a pretty poor place in
which to catch a man, but he tightened his shoe lacings at the mere
thought of the race and the blood tingling through his veins soon warmed
him.

“Now let’s see if we can find that runway,” Sturgis said, rising
stiffly. “Look out for that snare.”

They crawled slowly along the edge of the hill, searching for the
deer-trail and taking great care not to leave a trail themselves—for as
Sturgis had said, men who were running the risk of a hundred-dollar fine
would be mighty suspicious of the least sign of an intruder. They had
not gone over forty rods when they came to a very plain trail leading
down into the swamp. “This must be the trail,” Sturgis said, “and this
little clump of young popple is a good place to hide. They ought to come
from this side.”

Once more they took up the silent, weary watch. It seemed to Scott as if
he must get crosseyed looking down that narrow trail. Occasionally his
eyes would become so blurred that he had to take a general survey of the
surrounding country to relieve his strained muscles. There was not a
sound in the woods. It was that period which is a sort of “no man’s
land” in the daily program, the time when life seems at its lowest ebb,
when the sinister noises of the night have ceased and the songs of the
morning have not yet begun.

Slowly the sky began to pale and the birds began to move restlessly in
the trees. Almost before they could fully realize it the world was wide
awake. The light grew stronger and stronger till the real sunlight was
visible spreading fanlike up from the eastern horizon.

“Well,” Sturgis said nervously, stretching himself, “if they are coming
it is pretty near time for them to be here.” He peered out through the
bushes toward the camp and immediately jerked his head back violently.
“By George, there comes Newman, now,” he exclaimed excitedly. “Don’t
make a sound, whatever happens.”

From their hiding place in the bushes they could see a man making his
way rapidly up the hill. He was coming almost directly towards them. It
seemed as though he must feel those burning eyes, for on the brow of the
hill he stopped and looked suspiciously around him. His eyes traveled
searchingly over the ground.

Suddenly there was a crash in the swamp below, followed instantly by a
cry like the bleat of a frightened sheep. It so startled the tense
nerves in the bushes that they surely would have been betrayed had it
not affected the newcomer so much more. At that sound he threw caution
to the winds and bounded down the hill, crashing through the brush like
a moose.

“What was that noise?” Scott whispered.

“A deer in the snare,” Sturgis said. “Come on. Don’t make any noise
unless he runs, and then after him.”

They crept stealthily down the hillside, keeping under cover as much as
possible but relying mostly on the deer’s occupying the poacher’s
attention. They did not have far to go, for the snare was not over a
hundred yards from their hiding place. Before they had covered half the
distance they could catch glimpses of Newman through the brush vainly
struggling with the deer. The noose had caught it around the body just
in front of the hind legs and suspended it clear of the ground. It was
thrashing the air violently with its front feet and blatting in the
frenzy of despair. Newman tried at first to cut its throat, but found it
impossible to get past those murderous feet. He was just turning to cut
a club when he saw his pursuers not over thirty yards away.

The boys in their tennis shoes had easily distanced Sturgis. When they
saw that their approach was discovered they bounded ahead with an
exultant shout. Each picked his own way through the swamp, and neither
thought of anything save the flying figure ahead of him. They were both
good runners but fear lent wings to the feet of the fugitive and he knew
the swamp better than they. They fell through holes in the sphagnum and
went sprawling. Had Newman stuck to the swamp he might have
out-distanced them, but at the north boundary he took to the firebreak
and started eastward over the ridge. The boys came out on the solid
ground fifty yards behind him.

“Now we’ve got him.” Scott hissed between his teeth, and he shot away
over the hard ground at a terrific pace. Greenleaf’s breath was coming
in gasps, but Scott’s endurance was standing him in good stead. They
closed on the poacher at every jump and were already within twenty yards
of him when a frightened glance over his shoulder told him that he had
no chance in the open road. He turned suddenly into the dense brush and
dodged like a jack rabbit. Greenleaf caught his toe on a fallen log and
went crashing out of the race.

Finding only one man behind him and that man almost within striking
distance Newman turned at bay. But he was so exhausted that he could
hardly stand. He waved his knife threateningly, and tried to warn Scott
off, but his hot breath choked him.

[Illustration: He waved his knife threateningly, and tried to warn Scott
off.]

“Better give it up, old man,” Scott said, eying him coolly. “You’re all
in.”

The man swayed unsteadily, and gasped what was meant to be a threat.

“Come,” Scott commanded, taking a step forward, “drop that knife and be
sensible.” He snatched up a stick and advanced resolutely. The man still
waved the knife sullenly. With one quick blow of the stick Scott sent
the knife flying and almost at the same instant felled the man with a
left to the jaw. Greenleaf came up panting, and the man showed no
further signs of fight. Scott secured the knife as a trophy of the
chase.

“Now get up and come along sensibly,” Scott commanded.

Neither Greenleaf nor the poacher had sufficient breath left to talk and
they made their way out to the road in silence. It was not till then
that either of them noticed that Sturgis was not with them or even in
sight on the road.

“We certainly could not have lost him,” Scott exclaimed.

“Maybe he twisted a leg in that swamp,” Greenleaf suggested. “I came
near it several times.”

As they hurried along they were surprised to find how far they had come.
They had covered a good half-mile after they left the swamp.

“No wonder I was so pesky winded,” Greenleaf said, as they made their
way slowly along the hillside. “That’s the farthest I have run since the
bear chased me in Montana. Here’s that deer trail. We can cross the
swamp now.”

The swamp was very narrow and before they had gone four rods Newman
stopped with a gasp. The boys followed his frightened stare and horror
almost paralyzed them for an instant. Then they burst into roars of
laughter in which Newman joined maliciously. There, only a short
distance ahead of them, was Sturgis, suspended by one foot from a deer
snare so that only his head and shoulders rested comfortably in the soft
moss. They were afraid at first that he was badly hurt, but the sheepish
look of humiliation was too much for their gravity. Ten feet beyond, the
deer was still struggling on another wire.

“Are you—” Scott began, but burst into another uncontrollable fit of
laughter. “Are you hurt, Sturgis?” he managed to get out between the
explosions.

“Nothing but my feelings,” Sturgis answered dryly. “Bend that sapling
down a minute. There. I see now why you set two of these things,
Newman,” he added as he waved his leg cautiously around to see if it
would work.

“Why didn’t you yell?” Greenleaf asked.

“Well, at first I was too astonished to yell and then I was afraid that
if I did you would stop and let Newman get away. I wanted you pretty
badly anyway, Newman, and I wouldn’t have had you get away after this
for twice the fine.”

Even the mention of the fine could not suppress the grin on Newman’s
face. When they had sufficiently recovered they turned their attention
to the deer. It was no easy task to get him down. He was somewhat tired
by the long struggle but still promised an awful punishment to anyone
who might try to touch him.

Newman had become resigned to his fate and was beginning to enjoy the
situation. “I put him up there,” he chuckled, “now let’s see you get him
down.” He sat down on a log to see the fun.

Greenleaf came to the rescue as usual, “I’ll climb the tree and cut off
the top. Then we can handle him.”

Cutting off the top was a simple proposition but the “handling” was more
complicated. For a moment it looked as though there were at least twenty
deer. The air seemed to be full of them and it was not safe to go near.
Greenleaf could not even get down out of the tree. But such violent
antics could not last long in the dense brush. In a very few minutes the
deer was completely tangled up in the wire and lay panting in a clump of
alders unable to get up. Cautiously Sturgis sneaked up from behind and
unfastened the wire loop. Scott, venturing a little too close had his
trousers slit from the knee to the ankle with one vicious blow of that
delicate front foot.

For an instant—and only an instant—the deer did not realize that it was
free. Then with one bound it landed squarely on all four feet, cleared
the clump of alders as lightly as a puff of smoke, and bounced away up
the ridge the white tail waving defiance.

The progress home was slow—for Sturgis’ leg was rather badly
wrenched—but they managed to get there just as the boys were coming down
from breakfast and their advent into camp was, if possible, more
triumphant than when they had captured the bear.



                              CHAPTER XIX


The days in camp had come to an end, come insensibly to an end, for time
had glided so swiftly from one event to another that it was almost
impossible to believe that those four months, which had seemed so long
in the spring, had actually gone.

It was about seven o’clock in the morning when the canoes put out slowly
from the boathouse, one by one, and assembled in a little compact fleet
just outside the swimming raft ready for the seven-hundred-mile trip
down the river. When the last had joined the fleet there was a mighty
wholehearted yell for the old camp, before they all shot away together
toward the river. The yell was answered by the one lonely scream of a
loon.

There was many a lingering backward look as long as the camp was in
sight, but once in the shallow river they were soon too busy to think of
it. The river was low, and the mighty Father of Waters was in many
places unable to float the little fleet. They frequently had to resort
to towlines and it was noon before they passed the mouth of Sucker Brook
and La Salle, where they had comparatively deep water. Even then
progress was slow, for the lumbermen had blocked the river in many
places with splash dams to enable them to drive their logs. Night caught
them less than half way to Bemidji.

“And that,” Bill Price said as he looked back up the narrow river of
shallow water, “is one of the largest rivers in the world. It certainly
looks as though it would have to grow some.”

Ten miles above Bemidji the next afternoon they ran onto the remnant of
the spring drive and had to pick their way through the bobbing logs with
care. It was slow work and not over safe, but they persevered till late
in the evening and finally camped on the shore of Lake Bemidji.

From there on the going was better. The paddlers changed places every
half hour to utilize the third man, the portages became less frequent
and the little line of canoes slipped rapidly down the river and into
Cass Lake. In the center of the lake they saw a beautiful pine-covered,
star-shaped island which they recognized from the stories they had heard
of it. They stopped there for lunch and had a look at the pretty little
lake in the center of it believed by the Indians to be the home of the
Windigo, or Indian devil. No one of the native Indians would for any
consideration consent to spend a night on the island. Whatever the
character of the Windigo he certainly knew how to pick out a beautiful
home.

Early the next morning they came to the entrance of Lake Winnibigoshish
only to find themselves blocked by an unexpected obstacle. The stiff
breeze had lashed the shallow water into a tangle of white-capped waves
in which a canoe would have led a very precarious life even if there had
been no other danger. But the rough water was only a very small part of
it. The lake had been very greatly enlarged by a high government dam
which had caused the backed-up waters to spread over several square
miles of forest. This flooding had killed all the trees in the
overflowed area and left half the lake dotted with dead stubs, some
rising high above the surface, others lurking treacherously just out of
sight. This made it absolutely unsafe for any boat except on a perfectly
quiet day and even then a sharp lookout was necessary.

It was very exasperating to see that great expanse of water, looking to
them like a broad parade ground, after the crooked lane of the river,
and yet not be able to venture across it. For two days they lolled
around camp waiting impatiently while the wind blew steadily.

That evening Merton was goaded to desperation. “You fellows can do as
you please,” he said determinedly, “but I am going to cross that lake
tomorrow at sunrise. It ought to be smooth at that time of day, but I am
going if she is standing straight on end.”

“Well,” Bill said suavely, “of course it does not matter much about your
drowning yourself, but it would be a pity to smash up that canoe.”

“It’s an old one,” Merton laughed, “and I’ve used it long enough.”

“I’ll go with you,” Scott announced resolutely; “that’s no place for a
man to go alone.”

“Oh, I am not going alone. Our whole boat is agreed on it.”

“Then we’ll all go,” Bill said, “you fellows have no monopoly on the
sand in this lake.”

So it came about that the rising sun found the five canoes threading
their way cautiously out among the sunken trees toward the open water.
The sea was a little choppy, but the boys figured that they could make
it across before the wind came up. Once in the deep water they drove
steadily ahead, eager for the shelter of the opposite shore. It was a
tremendous lake and seemed, now that they were in the middle of it,
larger than it had before.

At nine o’clock the wind began to rise perceptibly. They were still some
miles from shore and getting into the submerged timber again. There were
many narrow escapes, but the light canoes seemed to bear charmed lives
and grazed impudently past those cruel black stubs.

The boys had missed so many of them that they became indifferent to the
danger. Suddenly there was a vicious rending sound as a sharp dead
tamarack pierced the bottom of Morris’s boat as though it had been an
eggshell, narrowly missing Bill Price, who was third man in that boat.
Quick as a flash Bill broke off the stub with one savage kick and
pressed a tent fly tightly down on the break.

“Need help?” Merton called as the other canoes closed in.

“Not yet,” Bill answered quietly. “Now, Morris, you and Steve paddle for
shore as tight as you can go while I hold down this pack and bail for
it.”

The canoe went swiftly on while Bill, seated on the pack, built a small
coffer-dam around himself with blankets and bailed out the water with a
quart cup. It rose steadily in spite of his best efforts and began to
ooze over the dam. It seemed only a matter of minutes before the canoe
would sink. They were making pretty good time, taking chances on not
striking any more stubs and rapidly shortening the distance to shore.

At the end of ten minutes the canoe was pretty low in the water. “I
can’t make it, fellows,” Bill panted. “Get Mert to tow us and all three
of us can keep it down easily.”

They cast a line to the nearest canoe, Merton’s, and all three plied the
bailing cups. Slowly the water began to go down and the canoe floated
higher.

“I’ll try paddling again,” Morris said. “You and Steve can keep her
down, I guess.”

This arrangement greatly increased the speed and the two bailers managed
to keep the water down. At last they scraped on the solid ground.

“There,” Bill said as they scrambled ashore and pulled up the disabled
canoe, “I feel better now. I kept thinking how unpleasant it would be if
I had to swim ashore with one of those sharp stubs puncturing my stomach
the way it did that canoe. I had a hunch that it would do it, too.”

The other canoes came safely through and everyone gathered around to see
the damage. It proved to be an easy hole to patch and the little
procession was soon on its way down the river.

“I suppose it was a foolish thing to do,” Merton said, “but I’m glad we
did it. That wind is just ripping again and there is no telling when we
should have gotten across.”

The rest of the river was easy traveling and the rapid current helped
them along wonderfully. There were a few rapids which they shot
successfully, a few dams where they had to portage and one or two places
where the logs were so thick that they had trouble in picking their way
through them, but most of the time it was plain sailing.

Among the most interesting sights along the river to them was the big
paper mill at Little Falls. They knew that they would have the process
to study in their course in by-products the next semester, and took the
opportunity to see it first hand. Merton interviewed the manager and
found him very ready to show them through the whole factory. They found
that he had made a canoe trip part way down the river himself at one
time, and was very much interested in their adventures.

The manager invited them to spend the evening at his home, but they had
not spent a night in a town since they started and resolved not to do
so. They thanked him heartily and took to their canoes.

There were very few obstructions in the river below Little Falls and by
putting in long hours they made wonderful time. On the evening of the
second day they sighted the lights of Minneapolis.

“The town looks good to us now, fellows,” Merton said, “but we have left
the best summer of our lives behind us.”

“You bet we have,” was the answering chorus, and for a moment the little
group looked silently and wistfully at each other before they scattered
their several ways.



                               CHAPTER XX


Two weeks later the old Itasca crowd was assembled on the campus and
beginning the routine of the classroom once again. It was easy to pick
them out anywhere among the students. Their sunburned faces and the
independent, self-reliant air drilled into them by the life of the camp,
together with the strong bond of fellowship which made them flock
together, work together and loaf together made them the natural leaders.

They had done things and knew what they could do; they had borne
responsibility and were unfrightened by it; they had worked out the
problem of governing themselves all summer and readily applied their
experience to the governing of others. In addition to all that they were
the senior class. It was only natural that they should control all the
politics in the college and be the nucleus around which all the college
activities formed. They neither dictated nor grabbed, but their
influence was irresistible.

The new semester brought them new courses of study: forest management,
lumbering, forest by-products, wood preservation and forest law. The
work was practically all technical now. Among these studies Scott found
in lumbering an all-absorbing interest. The other subjects he liked well
enough, but of the lumbering he could not get too much.

Scott was sorely disappointed to find that Johnson had not returned to
college. With his usual luck that young man had gained the confidence of
a big lumberman with whom he had come in contact in the course of his
duties as patrolman and had been given charge of the logging inspection
in some of the northern camps. He was staying out a year for the
experience. The greater Scott’s success became, the more keenly he felt
his debt to Johnson. It seemed as though fate were spitefully keeping
them apart. Several times he had thought of writing but somehow that
seemed cowardly and he had decided to wait.

The weeks slipped by comparatively uneventfully. The seniors had struck
their stride and felt that they were coming down the home stretch of a
professional course; the outside events which had formerly meant so much
to them were incidental now, and their real interest lay in the work.

Christmas was almost come—the second Christmas since Scott had left his
quiet New England home—and the boy longed to go back there to see the
old folks. He had at one time made up his mind to go, but on more mature
reflection decided that it could not be. He knew that he would better go
to the woods and put in all the time he could in the lumber camps.

Scott realized that most of the men had more woods experience than he.
Moreover, the men in his class would spend the month of January in the
lumber camps while he, on account of irregularities in his course, could
not leave the college at that time. If he was to see anything of the
lumbering operations in that section he must do it in the Christmas
vacation.

Thus it happened that the Saturday before Christmas found Scott
traveling northward towards the logging camps with no other companion
than Greenleaf who had decided to accompany him.

It was really a long trip. It did not seem long, however, till they
alighted on a short platform where the train left them, the only living
creatures in sight.

“Prosperous looking place,” Greenleaf commented, as he looked out over a
broad expanse of brush-dotted snow to where a line of timber loomed
against the sky.

“Pleasant place to be put off at night,” Scott said. “I wonder where
that mail carrier is the old man told us about?”

As though the question had called him to view, a tall gaunt pacer
whisked out of a tamarack swamp on the other side of the track, jerking
a light cutter over the bumpy trail at a tremendous pace. He seemed to
be going wherever he liked and it required quite a stretch of the
imagination to conceive that the man in the sleigh was driving him.

“You from camp No. 11?” Greenleaf asked, when the gaunt horse had
consented to stop for a minute.

“Yes,” the man growled between his teeth, as he tried to hold the horse.

“Mr. Grafton told us to go out with you,” Greenleaf said, throwing in
the mail sack and climbing in after it. Scott jumped in the back and the
horse started with a plunge.

“Seems like a lively horse,” Scott said, as he hung on for dear life
while the horse jerked the sleigh along in a series of lunges over the
poorly covered corduroy.

“He ain’t goin’ none yet,” the man growled; “wait till we get off this
corduroy.”

At last the bumping ceased and the sleigh slid lightly over a smooth
road. “Now git, if you must,” the driver said, slackening his hold on
the lines. The plunging ceased instantly as the big horse stretched
himself to a steady, swinging pace and shot up the road like an arrow.
The snowballs from his hoofs pelted them in a shower and the zero wind
cut like a knife. For a good mile the pace never slackened or faltered.
From there on the road was bad and they had to go slowly but there was
no more plunging. The big fellow had had his go and was satisfied.

“Gee,” Greenleaf said admiringly, “that’s some horse.”

“That’s the fastest I’ve ever traveled behind a horse,” Scott said, as
he rubbed his chilled hands and face.

“The boss keeps him here in the winter,” the man said proudly; “he’s a
racer.”

The praise of the horse had mellowed the surly driver and the remainder
of the five miles to camp passed pleasantly enough.

To Scott the low lying, snow-covered huts of the camp were a revelation.
He felt completely at a loss. Stables, bunkhouses, cookshack, office and
shops; they all looked alike with the single exception of size. None of
them looked like a house.

“Where’s the foreman?” Greenleaf asked.

“In the office, probably,” the man said.

Greenleaf started for the office as though he had been in that camp all
his life. The office, as in all camps, was a combination of wanigan, or
store, and office. In there they found the foreman patching up some torn
harness. He did not seem to see them come in, and paid not the slightest
attention to them; he still busied himself with the harness. Greenleaf
leaned carelessly against the counter watching the operation. When this
had continued for about five minutes Scott began to wonder why Greenleaf
did not present the letter they had brought, but he waited patiently,
feeling his greenness.

At the end of about ten minutes the foreman straightened up to have a
look at them. Greenleaf, who knew the breed perfectly, continued to look
at the harness in silence as though it were the most interesting thing
he had ever seen. The foreman looked him quietly over for several
minutes before he gruffly demanded,

“What do you want?”

“I have a letter for you from the boss,” Greenleaf said, handing it
over.

The foreman read it carefully, and then without looking up, “Go over to
the cookshack and get lunch.”

The boys went out. “I thought I could make him talk first,” Greenleaf
chuckled.

“What were you waiting for?” Scott asked.

“Never speak to one of those fellows first,” Greenleaf admonished him.
“If we had piped right up as soon as we went in there he would have kept
us waiting an hour before he read that letter. Now he knows we’re not
greenhorns and respects us.”

Going into the cookshack was a good deal like going down a cellar. There
were only four small windows which shed a very dim light over the big
room. Down the center were two long oilcloth-covered tables set with
about a hundred tin cups and tin plates with knives and forks to match.
Sugar and spoons were found in tomato cans at intervals. About every six
feet there was an immense salt shaker, a bottle of vinegar and a bottle
of catsup.

At the end of these tables under a skylight was an enormous kitchen
range with two barrels rigged up for hot water boilers and flanked by a
big sink and a sort of serving counter. On one side was a giant
breadboard built in over the flour bin. It was the strangest looking
dining-room Scott had ever seen.

Greenleaf nodded to the cook, a fat man in a white apron who was leaning
against one of the tables.

“Can we get a hand-out?” he asked.

A grunt was the only response, but Greenleaf walked familiarly to the
counter, pulled a box out from under it and selected some cookies. He
unearthed another box containing some doughnuts, bread from another and
soon had quite a collection. As soon as the cook saw they knew the ropes
he warmed up immediately. “You’ll find the coffee and tea on the back of
the stove, boys, and there’s some pie on the shelf. Beans are in the
oven and some meat in the safe.” On the whole they had a pretty good
lunch.

When they returned to the office they found the foreman waiting for
them. The fact that they had not been thrown out by the cook increased
his respect for them—for the cook is the real autocrat of the logging
camp.

“The boss says to give you fellows whatever you want. What is it?”

“Board and lodging for two weeks,” Greenleaf answered promptly. “We want
to look over the work here and see how things are done.”

“Want me to show you around?” the foreman asked tentatively. Those were
the instructions in the letter, and he did not like the prospect.

“No,” Greenleaf said, “we can take care of ourselves.”

The foreman looked relieved. “You can get your meals at the cookshack
and sleep here in the office in that upper bunk; you’d get full of
varmints in the bunkhouse.”

With that he left them, glad to get away.

“Let’s look around the camp,” Greenleaf suggested. “We won’t have time
to do anything else before dinner. They eat about half past eleven.”

“Why not let the foreman show us around?” Scott asked. “We’d see more.”

“He’ll do it better if he don’t have to,” Greenleaf answered. “That
letter probably told him to do it. A foreman hates that kind of thing
unless it is a big lumberman who wants to see things.”

They glanced into the bunkhouse. It was almost dark—for there were only
two small windows—and the view was rather hazy. The walls all along both
sides and one end were lined with a double row of bunks filled with
musty straw and some filthy blankets. A large round-house stove stood in
the center of the room and suspended on wires around it were three rows
of rusty looking socks. The air was anything but pure.

“That’s what you miss by sleeping in the office,” Greenleaf said, as
they backed out. “And you’re missing a lot more that you don’t see. I’ve
tried it. It’s not so bad when you get used to it, but it’s no fun
getting used to it.”

Scott shuddered as he thought of it. “These lumberjacks must be a tough
lot,” he said.

“Wait till you see them. They are not the old time lumberjacks you read
about. They’re the scum of Europe. You’ll hear a dozen languages in that
cookshack if the cook does not knock them in the head with the rolling
pin.”

They had made the round of the stables where they had a long talk with
the barn boss on the cost and methods of feeding, and had held a short
conference with the saw filer when Scott was startled by a peculiar
sound. He found it was the cookee blowing a long tin horn to call the
men to dinner. It sounded dismal enough then, but many a time after that
when he had been in the woods all day it seemed like the sweetest kind
of music.

In a few minutes the men began to stream into camp—Finns, Swedes, Poles,
Norwegians, an occasional Austrian and a few of other nationalities. It
was certainly a motley crew. Their mackinaws were the only thing about
them that presented any appearance of uniformity. That and their shape,
for the habit of keeping warm by putting on layer after layer of flannel
shirts, gave them all a more or less stout and stubby appearance. Their
rubbers, worn over two or three pairs of thick woolen socks, crunched
sullenly in the dry snow. They filed silently into the bunkhouse and at
another toot of the horn poured out again into the cookshack.

The boys hurried into the cookshack with the rest and were assigned
seats next to the foreman. There was no time lost. The men piled their
tin plates high and emptied them with astonishing rapidity. The dozen
languages that Greenleaf had predicted were certainly there, but were
not in evidence, for a sign “No Talking” backed up by a
determined-looking cook acted as a damper on conversation. Hardly a word
was spoken. In five minutes some of the most expert had emptied their
tin plates twice and were filing out.

In the afternoon they went to the woods and followed the operation, from
the stump to the landing. They watched the great towering pines, sawed
off the stump and wedged over, come smashing down wherever the sawyers
willed them to fall. They saw them cut into logs and the logs rolled
onto little single sleds, with the back ends dragging in the snow and
saw them hauled over the skidroads to the ice-coated logging road and
piled on the skidways. They saw those skidways dwindle as the logs were
piled high on the broad bunks of the logging sleds and hauled away,
forty tons at a load, over the ice road to the river bank where they
were rolled on the ice to await the spring floods which would carry them
away to the mills hundreds of miles down the river, or, as in another
part of the tract, hauled to the railroad track to be carried directly
to the mill by rail.

It was on the last day of their stay that Scott suddenly and
unexpectedly blossomed out into the hero of the whole camp. He and
Greenleaf walked five miles over to the next camp to see the steam log
loader, or jammer, which was working there. It was located on a steep
side hill where the logs, piled high on the upper side of the track,
were swung across onto the cars. On the other side of the track the
ground sloped away steeply.

While they were watching the big machine Scott thought he recognized
something familiar about a man who was working further down the slope
locating a new skidroad. He knew he had seen those quick, cat-like
motions before. He left Greenleaf and started down there. Before he had
gone half way he recognized Johnson.

Suddenly there was a shout from the jammer, a cry of warning. Johnson
was evidently so accustomed to the general clamor that he did not look
around, but Scott, who was a little nervous in these strange
surroundings, turned instantly.

An enormous log which was being swung onto the car had broken loose from
the iron clutches of the jammer, dropped over the down-hill side of the
car and was sweeping sideways with the speed of an arrow directly toward
Johnson. It was almost on him. An instant’s delay meant sure death. The
men on the jammer stood horrified and helpless.

Scott saw that Johnson could not be made to understand in time to jump.
Shouting at him would do no good; before he could comprehend it would be
too late. Scott took the only chance left to him, poor as it seemed. To
the horror of the workmen he jumped directly in the course of the log
and striking Johnson full in the chest with all the power of his
practiced right arm, he jumped wildly straight in the air. The huge log
swished under him, striking his feet as it went and bringing him down
heavily on his head.

Scott struggled quickly to his feet and looked half-dazed toward
Johnson. Before he could see what had happened he felt himself in
Greenleaf’s arms and knew from the cheers of the men on the jammer that
his blow had carried Johnson out of danger. He needed Greenleaf’s
support for his knees kept doubling up under him and a cold sweat had
broken out all over his body.

Johnson rose slowly and looked down the slope after the log. Then he
turned and recognized Scott.

“By George, Scotty,” he cried, grasping Scott’s hand warmly, “how did
you come here? You surely saved my life that time and risked your own to
do it. Hello, Greenleaf.”

“Are you hurt?” Scott asked anxiously.

“Only in the chest,” Johnson answered with a grin. “I see my training
did you some good.”

“We are making a lumber report on camp 11,” Scott said, “and came over
to see the jammer. I did not know you were here, but thought I
recognized you and came down to see.”

“Good thing for me that you did.”

“I found out long ago what a mucker I made of myself last fall and have
been longing for a chance to apologize, but something always interfered.
Now I am going to get it out before anything stops me. I have made good
ever since you called me down, and I owe it all to you. I was ashamed of
myself at the time, but was too big a coward to tell you so.”

“And now,” Johnson laughed, “you have far more than squared the account
by knocking me down and probably breaking two or three ribs. Forget it.
I acted only for your good, knew what I would get from the start and was
never sore about it. Let’s go to the camp.”

They talked until late in the afternoon, when Scott and Greenleaf had to
return to camp 11. They said good-bye to Johnson with many regrets and
left in the minds of the lumberjacks a feeling of respect such as they
had never before felt for a college man. The news of the rescue had
reached camp 11 ahead of them and Scott was flattered at every turn.
This flattery meant little to him, for he knew from experience how
little it was worth, but he was delighted over his reconciliation with
Johnson. He had not realized what a burden he had been carrying.

The next morning they went to the train behind the old pacer feeling
well repaid for their trip. The foreman himself had come out to bid them
good-bye.

The journey home was a pleasant one for Scott. He had carried out one of
his resolutions and placed himself once more on an honest footing with
Johnson. Moreover, he felt convinced that he had picked responsible
companions. Merton, Greenleaf and Johnson, he thought, were certainly
above reproach. The only thing that worried him was whether the sterling
qualities which he knew so well would appeal to his father’s Eastern
viewpoint. He remembered how he had regarded them when he first came
West, and he had some misgivings.



                              CHAPTER XXI


Scott realized that the trip to the lumber camps had been the most
instructive three weeks that he had ever spent. Every minute of the time
he had been learning something new, some detail of logging, some new
phase of woods life, some new trait of lumberjack character. At the same
time he had been so interested that it had seemed more like a pleasure
trip than a required part of the school course. He felt that he could
have spent the whole winter right there in that camp and enjoyed it all.

He returned to the college fresh, rested and ready for the hardest grind
of his life. The Civil Service examinations were only two months away
and on these examinations depended his appointment in the Government
service, and the fulfillment of his father’s condition. In this it meant
far more to him than to any of the others. The field covered was
enormous and Scott felt that it was simply a matter of steady grinding
to get over as much of the ground as he possibly could. He apportioned
his time carefully to the different subjects and prepared to put in
thirteen hours a day.

He knew that there would be many questions which would be a mere matter
of judgment, and on those he did not waste his time; but there would be
many others which would call for facts and those facts he proposed to
master.

The weeks passed by monotonously enough. There was no variation, no
change from the set routine. The other members of the class were working
spasmodically but they had not tied themselves down to such gruelling
work.

Johnson astonished Scott by coming to town two weeks before the
examination and announcing that he was going to test the value of his
experience by taking the examination, and seeing what he could do with
it. He followed the lines of Scott’s work pretty carefully and in the
hour which they devoted to discussion every evening he managed to
collect most of the points that had been unearthed during the day.

At last the day for the great trial arrived. It was to last for two days
of seven hours each; two unbroken periods of seven long hours.

They went down to the post office where the ordeal was to take place. “I
feel like a sausage,” Johnson said. “I’m stuffed so tight that I can’t
shut my eyes comfortably.”

“I feel worse than that,” Scott answered. “I feel as though I had been
stuffed so tight that I had burst somewhere and all the stuffing was
running out. If I don’t get hold of those questions pretty quick I’ll
forget my name.”

“I’ve already forgotten my name,” Johnson said, “but I think it is
Dennis.”

They were quickly seated in the great silent room with eight others, all
in a great state of nervous excitement. At the first stroke of nine the
first set of papers was handed out and they were off with a rush.

Scott never had a very clear idea of those two days except that he wrote
on and on incessantly and was not in the least rattled when he had once
begun to write.

“Well,” Johnson said, when the two days’ trial was over and they were
settled comfortably in Scott’s room, “they bowled me over on some of
that German stuff, but I think that I hit the most of it pretty hard.
That grubbing around I did last summer helped me a lot and I fairly
killed that lumbering.”

“I’m not going to speculate,” Scott said, “but it seemed easy to me.
That’s when a fellow flunks the worst, when it seems easy.”

“It was good practice, anyway,” Johnson said; “I would not take a job
yet if I could get it. I know better what I ought to study next year,
and that is what I took it for.”

So the great event for which they had been working so hard for two
months was laid away on the shelf and Scott settled down to his lighter
schedule. The rest of his class went away to the Forest Experiment
Station at Cloquet, but Scott’s irregular course forced him to stay at
the College. He put in his spare time reading along those lines and when
his class work was over, June 1, went up there for a week.

The other men came down about that time so he had a week alone with the
director of the station. The experience opened up a new line of thought
to him. He had studied the growth and learned the characteristics of
trees; here he found exact scientific experiments to discover the facts
which controlled that growth and formed those characteristics. It was a
fascinating field, especially the study of all the instruments which
were used to wrest from nature the answers to the pertinent questions
which the practical work suggested.

Scott would have liked to stay longer at the Station, but it was time
for commencement, and after that he was going home. That overshadowed
everything now. The solemn rites of commencement, and even the almost
sacred last meeting of the old Itasca corporation, were dimmed by the
visions of the home which he had not seen for two long years.

The last ringing cheers of the old corporation had scarcely died away
when he was on a train traveling all too slowly eastward. The states
crept by very slowly, but on the second day he found himself in the
Berkshire hills and felt that he was almost home.

No sooner had the train stopped than he was out and up the village
street. He had not told them what train he would take and no one was at
the station to meet him. He felt that he would rather not meet them at
the station anyway. Everything about the village looked so quiet, and
peaceful, and old.

He would not have changed a stick of it for all the slurs the Westerners
could cast upon its sleepiness.

About halfway home he met Dick Bradshaw. The two boys greeted each other
eagerly.

“Hello, Scotty,” Dick cried, “I thought you were not expected till
tomorrow.”

“I’m not,” Scott said, “but I could not wait any longer. It certainly
seems good to get back.”

“You’ve been away long enough,” Dick growled, “and you have written
about like a clam.”

“Well, I’ve been too busy to write much, Dick. I’ve had the time of my
life. I had to work for it, but I finished and I’m a full-fledged
forester now.”

They were in sight of the house and Scott was looking it over eagerly.

“I’ll come around to hear about it in the morning,” Dick said.

Scott hardly answered him, for as he opened the yard gate he saw his
father and mother on the side porch. He dropped the suitcase at the gate
and bounded up the steps and into his mother’s arms.

“Mother!” he cried.

She held him silently a moment and then released him to allow him to
grasp his father warmly by the hand.

“Welcome home, my boy,” he said quietly; “it’s been a long weary time
since you left us.”

“It certainly has,” Scott said, “and I thought the train would never get
here this time.”

“Two long years, Scott,” his mother said, placing her hands on his
shoulders and looking searchingly into his face, “but you have not
changed a bit. I was afraid you would.”

“No, mother,” he answered, “I was pretty foolish for about a month, but
I got over it. And I can tell you all about even that,” he added
smilingly, remembering his mother’s parting advice.

“Yes, I believe you could, Scott,” she said, looking earnestly into his
eyes. “Come in to supper; we have been waiting in hope that you would
come. There’s some mail here ahead of you.”

The old dining-room with the old chair in the same old place thrilled
him with a strange joy. He suddenly realized that it was the first
private dining-room he had been in since he left home.

He picked up one of the letters beside his plate. It was the return from
his Civil Service examinations. He opened it eagerly and his face
lighted as he read it.

“I passed my Civil Service exams,” he said modestly, handing the letter
to his father.

“Ninety-two,” his father cried excitedly, “and you are rated second on
the eligible list. Does that mean that only one man in the United States
made a better mark?”

“I suppose so, but only a few of the men in the United States took it.”

“My boy, I’m proud of you,” his father said, grasping his hand. “And on
only two years’ work, too. Aren’t you glad, Susan?”

“Of course I’m glad,” his mother said, looking proudly at her son, “but
I’m not surprised. I knew he could do it.”

Scott opened the other letter. It was from the Forest Service appointing
him to a position in the White Mountains at twelve hundred dollars per
year. He turned it over silently to his mother.

“Thank heaven, it’s near home,” she said fervently.

“Mother, do you see that mark of ninety-four in lumbering?” he asked,
referring to the Civil Service sheet again. “That’s what I learned last
Christmas when you thought I ought to come home.”

“I knew you were right, Scott, and I’m glad you stayed, but it was hard
to believe it then.”

“Come,” Dr. Burton urged cheerfully, “let’s eat supper if I am not too
proud. I never felt so stuck up in my life.”

“And I never felt so happy,” Scott said. “I must wire the news to
Johnson.”

“Good,” said Dr. Burton; “from what you have written of that man,
Johnson”—Scott looked up anxiously, conscious for the first time since
his arrival of the great prize that was yet hanging in the balance. The
first joy of the homecoming had driven it completely out of his head—“he
must be a remarkable fellow. And many of those others that you have
mentioned in the past year strike me as being especially promising
material. I am entirely satisfied with you, Scotty, and tomorrow you
shall be the legal owner of that ten-thousand-acre forest.”





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