“Heard every word of it,” replied the forester. “The jig is up. That was Bill Collins’ cousin and he’s as crooked as Bill. Lumley will know what’s afoot as quick as Collins can get word to him. We’ve got to act quick. There’s a detail of state constabulary at Ironton, and they could get here in a motor in thirty minutes if I could only telephone them. Why in thunderation did I ever leave the office without my portable instrument? The nearest ’phone is at Jim Morton’s. It will take me three-quarters of an hour at my best pace to make it. But it’s the best I can do. I’ll hike for Jim’s. You hustle back to your tower and keep a close watch on things. I’ll telephone you as soon as I can. We’ve got to step lively if we are to catch that scoundrel Lumley.”
The forester hastened down the highway at a A tremendous pace. Charley set out along the forest road he had so recently built. Before he knew it, he was running madly. He ran for a long distance, hardly conscious that he was running. Presently he stopped from very fatigue. Then he realized that he was greatly excited and that he was running from sheer nervousness.
“This won’t do at all,” he muttered to himself. “You’re worse than an old hen. If ever you needed to keep your head, it’s right now.”
He took a grip on himself, drew a long breath, and settled to a fast walk, thinking hard. He could not see how he himself could accomplish the arrest of Lumley. If his chief did not think it advisable to attempt it, he was very certain that he ought not to try it himself. And he was glad at the thought. For he could not help but recall the wicked gleam in Lumley’s eyes, the man’s savage outburst of temper, and his vicious talk. He understood well enough that Lumley would not submit to arrest without a struggle.
Then the thought came to him that he had no business trying to arrest Lumley, even if he could do it. The chief was attending to that and the chief knew best what to do under the circumstances. Also, the chief had given him his orders. His business was to obey orders. And those orders were to take care of the forest.
Fresh alarm seized him. Why had the forester given him those orders? Was there danger of any one’s setting fire to the forest? At the thought Charley was almost in a panic again. A passionate love for the great woods he was guarding had sprung up in Charley’s heart. He held come to dread fire with a dread unspeakable. He had come to regard it with a feeling of absolute terror. In this feeling there was nothing of physical fear. A little blaze in the forest made him so wild with anger that nowadays he would fight it recklessly. His fear was the dread lest the immemorial trees he was guarding should be wasted and the forest destroyed. It was apprehension for the forest, not for himself, that troubled Charley.