Chapter XIV. The Big Tree

The Bobbsey twins saw, just ahead of them, a stream of water sparkling in the sun. They also saw a place that had been cleared of trees, which had been cut down, making a vacant place in the woods. And in this clearing, or vacant place, near the small river, were a number of rough-looking buildings. It was from one of these "shacks," as Bert afterward called them, that the screeching sound came. And puffs of steam coming from a pipe sticking out of the roof of this shack showed that there was an engine there.

"Is this the lumber camp that I am to own?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she looked ahead and saw the buildings, the piles of logs, and the stacks of boards.

"This is the place," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It is bigger than I thought. We will have to get some one to look after it for you, Mother. You and I can't be running out here to see that the men cut down the trees right, and make them into boards. Yes, we shall have to get some one to help us."

"Couldn't I help?" asked Bert. "Maybe I'd rather be a lumberman than a cowboy."

"You'll have to grow some before you'll be of much use around a lumber camp," said the driver of the wagon. "It's hard work chopping down trees."

"Do you ever have a fire here?" Freddie demanded suddenly.

"Sometimes, my little man," the driver answered. "Why? Do you like to see fires? I don't, myself, for they burn up a lot of good lumber."

"I don't like to see fires, but I like fire engines," said Freddie. "And I have a fire engine at home, and it squirts real water. But I couldn't bring it with me 'cause it was too heavy to carry. But if there was a fire here maybe I could watch the engines--I mean the big ones."

"We don't have fire engines in lumber camps," said the driver, whose name was Harvey Hallock. "When it starts to burn we just have to let her burn. But I guess--"

However, no one heard what he said, for at that moment the saw must have come to another hard knot in a log, for there was that same loud screeching sound like a wild animal yelling.

Nan covered her ears with her hands, but Bert and Freddie and Flossie seemed to like the noise.

"Mercy me!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, "I hope that doesn't happen very often."

"Well, I might as well tell you it does," said Mr. Hallock. "We keep the sawmill going all day, but of course we shut down at night. It won't keep you awake, anyhow."

"That's good," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "I don't believe I'd want to own a lumber saw if it kept me awake with a noise like that."

Certainly this sawmill in the midst of the big lumber tract was very different from the small one in Mr. Bobbsey's place at Lakeport. The children often watched the men sawing up boards at the yard their father owned, but the work there was nothing like this.

The saw cut through the hard knot and the screeching sound came to an end, at least for a time.

"This is where you folks are going to stay," said Mr. Hallock, as he stopped his team in front of a building, at the sight of which Bert and Nan gave shouts of joy.

"It's a regular log cabin! Oh, it's a regular log cabin!" cried Bert, as he saw where they were to live during their stay in the lumber camp.

"So this is to be our cabin, is it?" said Mr. Bobbsey as he got down and helped his wife, while the driver lifted out the children and then the baggage.

"Yes, the boys fixed this up for you," answered Mr. Hallock. "We hope you'll like it."

"I'm sure I shall," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as she looked inside the log cabin, for it really was that, the sides being made of logs piled one on the other, the ends being notched so they would not slip out.

"Isn't it cute!" exclaimed Nan, as she followed her mother inside the cabin. "It has tables and chairs and a cupboard and everything!"

"And it's all made of wood!" cried Bert. "Say, the Boy Scouts would like this all right."

"I believe they would," agreed his father. "As for everything being made of wood, it generally is in a lumber camp. Now we must get settled. Where can I find the foreman?" he asked of the driver of the wagon who had brought the Bobbseys over from the railroad station.

"He's outside somewhere in the woods," was the answer. "I'll find him and tell him you're here. I'll send the cook over to see if he can get you anything to eat. Are you hungry?" he asked the children.

"I am!" admitted Bert.

"And so am I!"

"And I!" echoed Flossie and Freddie.

"Well, that's the way to be!" said Mr. Hallock. "Children wouldn't be children unless they were hungry. We've got plenty to eat here, such as it is. Not much pie and cake, perhaps, but other things."

"We don't want pie and cake when we're camping in the woods," declared Bert. "We didn't have it at Blueberry Island--that is, not every day."

"All right! I guess you'll get along!" laughed the driver, as he went off through the trees to find the cook and some of the men of the lumber camp.

Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were looking about the log cabin that was to be their home for about a week, and the children were playing about outside, watching some squirrels and chipmunks that were frisking about in the trees, when a voice called:

"Well, I see you got here all right!"

Mr. Bobbsey and his wife, who were putting some of their baggage in one of the inner rooms, came to the outside door. They saw a big bearded man, wearing heavy boots, with his trousers tucked in the tops of them, smiling at them.

"Are you the foreman?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"No, I'm Tom Jackson, his helper," was the answer. "Mr. Dayton will be over in a few minutes. He's seeing about some big trees that are being cut down."

"I don't want to take him away from his work," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"Oh, he's coming over, anyhow, to see how you stood the trip out to this rough place," said Mr. Jackson. "Of course it isn't as rough as it is in the winter time, when we do most of our tree-cutting, but it's rough enough, even now."

"We are used to roughing it," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a smile. "We like it, and the children think there is no better fun than camping out."

"Well, that's what this is--camping out," said the foreman's helper. "But here comes the cook, and he looks as if he had something for you to eat."

A little bald-headed man, with a white apron draped in front of him, was coming along a woodland path with some covered dishes on a tray held on one hand, while in the other he carried what seemed to be a coffee pot.

"Just brought you folks some sandwiches and a pot of tea," he said, as he set the things down on the table in the log cabin. "This is tea even if it's made in the coffee pot. But I washed it out good first," he said to Mrs. Bobbsey. "Mostly the lumber men like coffee, though in winter they're fond of a hot cup of tea. I give 'em both, and generally I have a teapot, but I can't find it just this minute. I brought some fried cakes for the children, too."

"I thought he said there wasn't any cake in a lumber camp," said Bert, looking out toward the driver who was going off with his team.

"Well, generally I don't get much time to make fried cakes," said the little bald-headed man who acted as cook. "But I made some specially for you youngsters to-day," and he lifted off the cover of one dish and showed some crisp, brown doughnuts, which he called "fried cakes."

"Oh, I want some!" cried Freddie.

"So do I!" echoed Flossie.

"There's enough for all of you," remarked the cook. "Now, then, Mrs. Bobbsey, you'll have a cup of tea, I know," and he poured out a hot, steaming cup that smelled very good.

Mr. Bobbsey ate some of the sandwiches and had a cup of tea, and, after they had taken the edge off their hunger on the doughnuts, the children also ate some of the bread and meat.

While their father and mother were talking to the assistant foreman and the cook, who said his name was Jed Prenty, the four Bobbsey twins wandered outside the log cabin. It stood on the edge of a clearing in the forest, and not far away there were other log buildings, most of them larger than the one where the Bobbseys were to live. These other buildings were where the lumbermen slept and ate, and one was where Jed Prenty did his cooking. In another building, farther off, the horses were stabled.

"Let's take a walk in the woods," said Bert to Nan. "I want to see 'em cut down trees."

"So do I," she said. "We can take Flossie and Freddie with us. We won't go far."

"Are there any cowboys here?" Freddie wanted to know.

"Not any, I guess," laughed Bert. "We'll find them when we get to Cowdon, where mother's ranch is."

Before they knew it the Bobbsey twins had walked quite a little way along a path into the woods. They heard the sound of axes being used to chop down trees, and they were eager to see the lumbermen at work.

"Oh, look at this big tree!" called Freddie to Bert. "Some one cut it almost down!" He and Flossie had, for the moment, wandered away from Bert and Nan, though they were still within sight. At Freddie's call Bert looked up and toward his small brother.

Bert saw the two small Bobbsey twins standing beside a big tree which, as Freddie had said, was partly cut down. Just then came a puff of wind. The big tree slowly swayed and began to fall over. And Flossie and Freddie were standing near it, right where it would crash down on them!