“Good-night and good luck.”
“I wish they were here,” said Lew, as Charley covered the instruments to protect them from dampness, and moved over near his chum. “It doesn’t seem right to be in the forest without the whole crowd. This makes me think of our camp in the forest near the Elk City reservoir, when we were hot on the trail of the dynamiters. I’d hate to camp out at this time of year without any fire.”
“Well, let’s turn in. We want to get up early to-morrow and try those crabs. I’ll bet we get a bunch of trout.”
“Bet we do, too,” replied Charley.
Little did he dream that on the morrow he would be engaged in matters far more serious than catching trout.
The Forest Afire
The earliest rays of light had hardly penetrated beneath the giant pines the next morning before the two boys were astir. Their breakfast was quickly cooked and eaten. Then they buckled on their bait boxes, now bulging with worms and crayfish. They carried as well their books of flies. And Charley slipped the little axe into his belt, to have something to chop with in case they wanted to hunt for whiteworms.
“Let’s go back where we caught that big fellow last night,” said Lew. “There may be some more like him in those deep pools.”
“All right. Come on.”
With nothing but their little rods to carry, they made fast time through the forest, and had already reached the pool in which the big trout was taken, before the first ray of sunlight came flashing among the tree trunks.
“We’re going to have a fine day,” said Charley. “It’s my turn to catch a fish. Here goes for a try.”
He baited his hook with a crayfish, and cautiously made his way toward the brink of the brook. Half-way he paused and straightened up, sniffing the air. Then he turned and looked at Lew.
“Smell anything?” he asked.
Lew had also detected a taint in the fresh morning air. “Smells like smoke,” he said. “Probably some fisherman cooking his breakfast.”
Charley turned toward the brook again, then once more faced his companion.
“People don’t cook with leaves,” he said soberly. “That isn’t wood smoke, that’s burning leaves.”
For a moment the two boys looked at each other in silence.
“You don’t suppose——” began Lew, but Charley cut him short.
“Let’s make sure. Which way is that smoke coming from?” He stepped to the brook and dipped a finger in the cold water. Then he held his hand aloft.
“There’s so little wind stirring I can’t tell which way it’s blowing,” he said. “One side of my finger feels as cold as the other.”
Again he tried it. There was just a suggestion of an air current. “Seems to be blowing straight up the valley,” he said.
“I’ll try a match,” said Lew. He took his waterproof match box from his pocket and drew forth a match, which he lighted on his heel. “You’re right,” he said. “The flame blows up-stream a little. What shall we do?”