As they ran, they glanced back over their shoulders. At first the bear did not move. Then she stirred uneasily and a second later, rose to her feet and ran madly away. The boys stopped running.
“I guess both parties had a lesson,” said Lew.
The Secret Camp in the Wilderness
Their encounter with the bear made the two lads forget for a while their weariness. They made fast time along the fire trails. After a long tramp, they topped the final ridge and paused to rest and study the country. This they could do with ease, for the summit of the mountain was rather sparsely timbered. A very little search disclosed a tree that was at once tall and easy to climb, and that was surrounded only by low brush that would not obstruct the vision. From this lookout they gained a wide view in every direction.
“We can see for miles and miles,” said Charley. “The forester was right in telling us to come often to this lookout. We can discover more from here in a minute than we could by a week of wandering about among the trees.”
Slowly the boys swept their vision around the horizon. Everywhere the mountains appeared to bask in the warm spring sunlight, seemingly as secure as cats dozing by a fireplace. The fleecy clouds, passing across the face of the sun, threw shadows on the hillsides, making beautiful patterns of light and shade. The fresh, young growths gave forth a soft green tint, in pleasing contrast to the darker colors of the pines. Brooks sparkled in the bottoms. Far as the eye could reach this gorgeous panorama extended.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” said Charley, after the two boys had surveyed the scene in silence. “The forest is one of nature’s very finest gifts. And to think what we do to it by our carelessness. At any minute this green paradise may become a very hell of roaring flame, just because some smoker is too careless to blow out his match before dropping it, or some camper too lazy to make sure his fire is extinguished. Why, it seems to me that a murderer is an innocent angel compared to such a man. Think what he does! He kills the fish and the birds and the animals and perhaps some human beings, and he destroys not only the wood that civilization must have, but he ruins the very ground so that it cannot produce another forest. It seems to me that a man who does that ought to be punished more severely than any mere murderer. Why, a murderer kills only a single being. The man who starts a forest fire kills countless living things. I tell you, Lew, it makes me mighty proud to have a part in protecting this grand forest.”
The boys were silent, wrapped in thought, until Lew suddenly pointed to a dense growth of evergreens directly below them, and not very far down the ridge. “That must be our camp site,” he said. And both boys examined the spot with interest.
“That must be it,” said Charley. “It’s dense enough, goodness knows! And there is a little stream of water stealing out of the lower side of the thicket. So there is a spring in there. Let’s go down and take a look at it.”