The Man of the Forest (Chapter 7, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 7

The first camp duty Dale performed was to throw a pack off one of the horses, and, opening it, he took out tarpaulin and blankets, which he arranged on the ground under a pine-tree.

"You girls rest," he said, briefly.

"Can't we help?" asked Helen, though she could scarcely stand.

"You'll be welcome to do all you like after you're broke in."

"Broke in!" ejaculated Bo, with a little laugh. "I'm all broke UP now."

"Bo, it looks as if Mr. Dale expects us to have quite a stay with him in the woods."

"It does," replied Bo, as slowly she sat down upon the blankets, stretched out with a long sigh, and laid her head on a saddle. "Nell, didn't he say not to call him Mister?"

Dale was throwing the packs off the other horses.

Helen lay down beside Bo, and then for once in her life she experienced the sweetness of rest.

"Well, sister, what do you intend to call him?" queried Helen, curiously.

"Milt, of course," replied Bo.

Helen had to laugh despite her weariness and aches.

"I suppose, then, when your Las Vegas cowboy comes along you will call him what he called you."

Bo blushed, which was a rather unusual thing for her.

"I will if I like," she retorted. "Nell, ever since I could remember you've raved about the West. Now you're OUT West, right in it good and deep. So wake up!"

That was Bo's blunt and characteristic way of advising the elimination of Helen's superficialities. It sank deep. Helen had no retort. Her ambition, as far as the West was concerned, had most assuredly not been for such a wild, unheard-of jaunt as this. But possibly the West--a living from day to day--was one succession of adventures, trials, tests, troubles, and achievements. To make a place for others to live comfortably some day! That might be Bo's meaning, embodied in her forceful hint. But Helen was too tired to think it out then. She found it interesting and vaguely pleasant to watch Dale.

He hobbled the horses and turned them loose. Then with ax in hand he approached a short, dead tree, standing among a few white-barked aspens. Dale appeared to advantage swinging the ax. With his coat off, displaying his wide shoulders, straight back, and long, powerful arms, he looked a young giant. He was lithe and supple, brawny but not bulky. The ax rang on the hard wood, reverberating through the forest. A few strokes sufficed to bring down the stub. Then he split it up. Helen was curious to see how he kindled a fire. First he ripped splinters out of the heart of the log, and laid them with coarser pieces on the ground. Then from a saddlebag which hung on a near-by branch he took flint and steel and a piece of what Helen supposed was rag or buckskin, upon which powder had been rubbed. At any rate, the first strike of the steel brought sparks, a blaze, and burning splinters. Instantly the flame leaped a foot high. He put on larger pieces of wood crosswise, and the fire roared.

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