They reached the road, jumped into the forester’s car and sped away to Lumley’s house. Half an hour later they entered the forester’s office, carefully carrying a window-sash. As the forester reached his desk, the man in charge handed him a message from the state police at Maple Gap. It read, “Have arrested three men who came out of the forest here and tried to board a train. They give fictitious names, but no doubt two of the men are wanted. Third has gold teeth and scar over right cheek. Do you want him?”
“Do we want him?” echoed the forester, as he began to write an answer. “Well, I should say we do.”
He dashed off his message, and handed it to his assistant. “Rush that,” he directed.
Then he took a long coil of wire from a closet and led the way back to his car. “That’s for a temporary aerial in case you decide to make one,” he said, as Charley climbed up beside him and they went whirling back to the fire-tower in the mountains.
In due time Ranger Morton came out of the forest with his big crew. The men were black with smoke and their hands and faces were blistered and scratched. But they were a happy crew for all that. They had extinguished what at first bade fair to be the worst fire ever seen in their district.
By this time every man in the gang had heard the story of Lumley’s dastardly act and Charley’s quick wit. Most of the men lived in or near the forest, and a great fire might have consumed their homes just as truly as it would have destroyed the forest. It was small wonder, then, that to a man they had only admiration and gratitude for Charley. The last vestige of ill-will that any of them might have had for Charley was gone. Like men of the forest, they said little. But Charley knew that this little meant much. He had won the good-will and respect of every man in the district. No wonder he was happy.
This thought did much to offset the feeling of regret that he could not help experiencing at the realization that his days as a ranger were numbered. When he became a patrol again, or a member of Jim’s crew, for he believed that Mr. Marlin would grant him that wish, he knew that he would stand on a par with the men in their own estimation. So he waved good-bye to the departing trucks with a mixture of happiness and regret.
But he was not allowed many hours to indulge in either emotion. Very early next morning the telephone, which Ranger Morton had promptly repaired, began to ring. Charley answered the call and received a brusque order from the forester to remain at the tower, as the forester was coming out to see him.
“I wonder if Mr. Marlin ever sleeps,” said Charley to himself. “He’s probably on his way here now and I’m hardly out of bed. I’ll make him a cup of coffee and some toast anyway.”
But when Charley came to make the toast, he could find only three slices of bread. Lumley had cleaned him out of food. It seemed no time at all to Charley before he heard the chugging of the forester’s motor in the valley. A short time afterward two men ascended to the cabin. Charley was surprised.