“J. V. M.,” replied Mrs. Morton.
“Very well. Then at eight o’clock every night I will call J. V. M. slowly a number of times. Then I will tick off the alphabet slowly and the numerals one to ten. You listen in, and if the sounds are blurred or not sharp, tune your instrument as I have shown you until you can hear distinctly. If you make the letters with a pencil as you read them, it may help you. I’m sure you will soon learn to read. I’ll repeat the alphabet and the numbers three times slowly. Then I’ll listen in for five or ten minutes. If you want to try to call me, give my signal and follow it with your own, thus: ‘CBC—CBC—CBC—JVM.’ That means ’Charley Russell—James Morton calling.’ If I hear you, I will send the letters ‘JVM—JVM—JVM—I—I—I.’ That means ‘James Morton—I am here.’ Then you can begin to send your message. I hope we’ll be able to talk to each other very soon.”
“It won’t be my fault if we don’t,” smiled the ranger’s wife.
“Now I must be off,” said Charley. “I’ve no doubt Mr. Marlin is getting impatient. We’ll just clean up this mess and then I’ll go.”
“I’ll clean things up,” insisted Mrs. Morton.
“No; I made the mess and I’ll clean it up,” protested Charley.
He began to pile the torn pieces of pasteboard together so he could thrust them into the stove. The bottom of the pasteboard box had been built up with several layers of pasteboard, evidently cut from other boxes. Charley took them out one at a time, preparatory to crumpling up the box itself. As he lifted the last layer of pasteboard he stopped in blank amazement. Then he called excitedly for Mr. Marlin. Before him lay a piece of green pasteboard exactly like the charred fragment taken from the ash heap in the burned forest.
The Forester’s Problem
For a moment the two men looked at each other in astonishment. Then, “Keep that,” said the forester. “We’ll talk the matter over on our way back.” Mrs. Morton, not comprehending what had happened, also looked astonished. But like the wise woman she was, she held her peace. Charley tossed the other pasteboards in the fire, stuffed the green piece in his pocket, and said good-bye to his new friend. The forester, after telephoning to his office, followed Charley, and a moment later the two were spinning up the road toward the fire trail.
“I can’t understand it,” said Charley. “Here’s a package direct from Lew, with the very clue we’re looking for, and Lew never said a word about it. I can’t understand it. I’m certain Lew sent the box. That was his handwriting on it. And I’m just as sure he never saw that bit of pasteboard, for Lew would never slip up that way. I just can’t understand it.”
They reached the point where Charley was to leave the car and plunge into the forest. But Mr. Marlin, instead of stopping his motor, turned into a natural opening in the woods and drove slowly among the forest trees. In a moment he ran the car into a stand of pines, where it was protected by the dense tops above and well hidden from sight of the highway.