The forester began to laugh. “Charley,” he said fondly, “the Bible tells us there are none so blind as those who won’t see. If you were the ranger in charge of those men, would you still like to do the work?”
“Oh! Mr. Marlin,” cried Charley, “you don’t mean——”
“Yes, I do. Your service as a fire patrol ends to-night. To-morrow you take charge of this section as temporary ranger, pending Jim Morton’s recovery. I just can’t get along without a ranger in this district. Work is being neglected, the big lumber operation has already commenced in Lumley’s district, and things are piling up here too deep. I can’t get along another day without a new ranger.”
Charley was too happy for words. “I’ll do my best,” he said, with quavering tones. But in a moment he got command of himself. “You told me I couldn’t handle a crew of men,” he said.
“Maybe you can’t, Charley, but you’ve handled everything else and handled it well. It is plain that you love the forest and understand as much about its needs as any ranger I have. A little experience is all you need to make a first-class ranger. I’ll give the men a talking to. When I get done, they’ll know it won’t pay to monkey with you, even if you are only a high school boy. Now, Ranger Russell, I think we had better turn in and get some sleep, for we’ll have to pull foot early to-morrow.”
A Trouble Maker
Pull foot early they did, too. Charley himself was no sluggard, but the forester’s capacity for work simply amazed him. He knew the forester was on the job late every night, for he reported to him each night the last thing before he went to bed. Yet whenever the forester spent the night with Charley, Mr. Marlin was up at an early hour; and the present occasion proved no exception.
Mr. Marlin had never said much about himself to Charley, and no one else had happened to do so; but Mr. Marlin had worked himself up from the ranks. He had been a fire patrol and later a ranger, and then had attended the state forestry school, as the other district foresters had done.
His unusual training, great diligence, intelligence, and untiring energy had made him one of the ablest men in the service. By sheer ability he had won for himself the oversight of this district, which was one of the most important in the entire million acres of state forest lands.
Hardly was the forester afoot this morning before he had a fire going and breakfast cooking. Before breakfast was ready, the two forest guardians began to strike camp. Charley took down his wireless and stowed it as compactly as possible. The tent was lowered and rolled up. Everything was gotten into portable shape, and as soon as breakfast was over, the dishes were washed and they, too, were added to the bundles.
“I don’t care to let anybody know where your camp was,” said the forester. “I may want to use this site again. So we’ll have to pack our stuff out ourselves, at least part of the way. I am going to put a crew of men in here to-morrow and they can finish carrying out the duffel if we cave in before we reach the road. It will be a pretty good load.”