“Not much use to wish it,” said Charley. “They’re furtive, and I suppose they will stay in their lodges for hours. It seems to me I read that they work at their dams mostly at night. We’ll go on now, but maybe we could come up here some moonlight evening and see them at work.”
They made their way around the beaver dam and continued on up the valley. Within a few hundred yards they came upon a blazed tree. Speedily they discovered a second. Then, following the line indicated by these two trees, they rapidly passed tree after tree blazed and painted white, tracing the line entirely across the valley. They picked out some landmarks by which they could readily locate the line again.
“If anybody except those beavers starts any timber cutting,” said Charley, “we’ll know in a second whether he’s cutting the state’s wood or not. Now I guess we’d better hustle back to camp.”
Lew got their noonday meal while Charley ascended once more to the watch tree at the top of the mountain and made a careful survey of the country. Not a sign of smoke could he see in any direction. No fire was discovered during the afternoon hike. The evening inspection from their tower was equally reassuring. After a brief chat by wireless with their friends at Central City, and through them sending their nightly message to the forester, telling him that all was well, the two tired young fire patrols rolled up in their blankets and were quickly asleep, serene in the knowledge that the forest they guarded was safe.
Spying Out the Land
All too rapidly the days passed. Occasionally a shower moistened the surface of the ground, but for the most part the dry weather continued, with every hour increasing the fire hazard. During the first few days Charley was never free from a feeling of dread. Every time he awoke he expected to smell fire. Every trip to the watch tree was made in the fear that somewhere within his vision there would be telltale clouds of smoke arising. A nervous apprehension seized upon him, and a mortal fear of fire; and a growing disbelief in his own power kept him in a state of unconquerable anxiety.
All these were sensations new to Charley, though they were normal enough. The natural result of responsibility, they were coupled with Charley’s keen realization of the insignificance of his own or any one else’s powers as opposed to the vast forces of nature. Had Charley never seen a forest fire, had he never done battle with the raging flames, he could not have had this sharp realization of the insignificance of his own strength. But the recent struggle with the forest fire and that far more desperate battle with the same enemy years before, when the Wireless Patrol was in camp at Fort Brady, had given Charley a true estimate of the well-nigh irresistible fury of a fire in the forest, should conditions be favorable to the flames.