Leaving the road, he plunged into a growth of young fir trees, made his way through these, and at length reached a valley where the trees were larger, and the underbrush was not so thick. This would lead him to the level beyond where he could obtain a view of the fire, and learn the real nature of the danger. The heat here was intense, for not a breath of wind fanned his hot forehead. But steadily and rapidly he sped forward, and to his great relief reached, at length, the edge of the woods. Here he stopped and viewed the situation. Below him on his right was a stretch of country, covered with blueberry bushes, small fir, pine and spruce trees. It was a desolate region, and the hot sun had parched the shallow soil which covered the rocks beneath. In places these rocks protruded above the ground, and presented either flat surfaces or large cairn-like heaps.
The instant John emerged from the forest he looked anxiously away to the right, and the sight he beheld filled him with fear and awe. The forest was a seething mass of flames, and great volumes of smoke were rolling up into the air. The roar of the fire, and the crashing of trees could be heard for some distance, growing louder each minute. The monster was speedily approaching, laying waste all before it. In another half hour or so it would be through the heavy timber and out upon the plains where everything would be quickly blasted beneath its fiery breath. Even now the wind, caused by the fire, was sending forth flaming branches, and wherever these fell they began to burn most fiercely.
John realized that the sooner he was out of this place the better, for at any minute he might become encircled by a roaring furnace. He was most thankful that the fire had not reached the lake, so he would be in time to assist the ones on the island in case of need. The only danger would be from flying embers, but if there, he might be able to stamp out any flame before it had time to do much damage.
As he hurried along the edge of the plains the roar of the fire became almost deafening, while the incessant crashing of trees added to the horror. Never before had he experienced such a forest fire, although he had heard old men tell with almost bated breath of the wild fires they had witnessed, and of the destruction which had ensued.
He had gone about half way to the lake, when, happening to glance to his right, be saw something slowly moving among the bushes some distance away. As he looked, he noticed that it was a man, who seemed to be limping painfully among the bushes. At times he stopped, glanced back, and then staggered forward. Who could it be? he wondered, and what was he doing over there? That the man needed assistance was certain, for at the rate he was travelling he would surely be overtaken by the fire ere he could reach the lake. John was greatly puzzled. What should he do? He must reach the island in time to save the women, and yet it was not right to leave the apparently helpless man on the plains to die.