Part Four
Chapter VII
 

The charlatan had babbled; but without knowing it he had given Bob what he sought. He saw all the reasons for what had heretofore been obscure.

Why had he been dissatisfied with business opportunities and successes beyond the hopes of most young men?

How could he dare criticize the ultimate value of such successes without criticizing the life work of such men as Welton, as his own father?

What right had he to condemn as insufficient nine-tenths of those in the industrial world; and yet what else but condemnation did his attitude of mind imply?

All these doubts and questionings were dissipated like fog. Quite simply it all resolved itself. He was dissatisfied because this was not his work. The other honest and sincere men--such as his father and Welton--had been satisfied because this was their work. The old generation, the one that was passing, needed just that kind of service but the need too was passing. Bob belonged to the new generation. He saw that new things were to be demanded. The old order was changing. The modern young men of energy and force and strong ability had a different task from that which their fathers had accomplished. The wilderness was subdued; the pioneer work of industry was finished; the hard brute struggle to shape things to efficiency was over. It had been necessary to get things done. Now it was becoming necessary to perfect the means and methods of doing. Lumber must still be cut, streams must still be dammed, railroads must still be built; but now that the pioneers, the men of fire, had blazed the way others could follow. Methods were established. It was all a business, like the selling of groceries. The industrial rank and file could attend to details. The men who thought and struggled and carried the torch--they must go beyond what their fathers had accomplished.

Now Bob understood Amy Thorne's pride in the Service. He saw the true basis of his feeling toward the Supervisor as opposed to his feeling toward Baker. Thorne was in the current. With his pitiful eighteen hundred a year he was nevertheless swimming strongly in new waters. His business went that little necessary step beyond. It not only earned him his living in the world, but it helped the race movement of his people. At present the living was small, just as at first the pioneer opening the country had wrested but a scanty livelihood from the stubborn wilderness; nevertheless, he could feel--whether he stopped to think it out or not--that his efforts had that coordination with the trend of humanity which makes subtly for satisfaction and happiness. Bob looked about the mill yard with an understanding eye. This work was necessary; but it was not his work.

Something of this he tried to explain to his new friends at headquarters when next he found an opportunity to ride over. His explanations were not very lucid, for Bob was no great hand at analysis. To any other audience they might have been absolutely incoherent. But Thorne had long since reasoned all this out for himself; so he understood; while to California John the matter had always been one to take for granted. Bob leaned forward, his earnest, sun-browned young face flushed with the sincerity--and the embarrassment--of his exposition. Amy nodded from time to time, her eyes shining, her glance every few moments seeking in triumph that of her brother. California John smoked.

Finally Bob put it squarely to Thorne.

"So you'd like to join the Service," said Thorne slowly. "I suppose you've thought of the chance you're giving up? Welton will take you into partnership in time, of course."

"I know. It seems foolish. Can't make it seem anything else," Bob admitted.

"You'd have to take your chances," Thorne persisted. "I couldn't help you. A ranger's salary is ninety a month now, and find yourself and horses. Have you any private means?"

"Not enough to say so."

"There's another thing," Thorne went on. "This forestry of our government is destined to be a tremendous affair; but what we need more just now is better logging methods among the private loggers. It would count more than anything else if you'd stay just where you are and give us model operations in your own work."

Bob shook his head.

"Perhaps you don't know men like Mr. Welton as well as I do," said he; "I couldn't change his methods. That's absolutely out of the question. And," he went on with a sudden flash of loyalty to what the old-timers had meant, "I don't believe I'd want to."

"Not want to!" cried Amy.

"No," pursued Bob doggedly, "not unless he could see the point himself and of his own accord. He's done a great work in his time, and he's grown old at it. I wouldn't for anything in the world do anything to shake his faith in what he's done, even if he's doing it wrong now."

"He and his kind have always slaughtered the forests shamefully!" broke in Amy with some heat.

"They opened a new country for a new people," said Bob gently. "Perhaps they did it wastefully; perhaps not. I notice you've got to use lots of lubricating oil on a new machine. But there was nobody else to do it any different."

"Then you'd let them go on wasting and destroying?" demanded Amy scornfully.

"I don't know," hesitated Bob; "I haven't thought all this out. Perhaps I'm not very much on the think. It seems to me rather this way: We've got to have lumber, haven't we? And somebody has to cut it and supply it. Men like Mr. Welton are doing it, by the methods they've found effective. They are working for the Present; we of the new generation want to work for the Future. It's a fair division. Somebody's got to attend to them both."

"Well, that's what I say!" cried Amy. "If they wouldn't waste and slash and leave good material in the woods--"

Bob smiled whimsically.

"A lumberman doesn't like to leave things in the woods," said he. "If somebody will pay for the tops and the needles, he'll sell them; if there's a market for cull lumber, he'll supply it; and if somebody will create a demand for knotholes, he'll invent some way of getting them out! You see I'm a lumberman myself."

"Why don't you log with some reference to the future, then?" demanded Amy.

"Because it doesn't pay," stated Bob deliberately.

"Pay!" cried Amy.

"Yes," said Bob mildly. "Why not? The lumberman fulfills a commercial function, like any one else; why shouldn't he be allowed freely a commercial reward? You can't lead a commercial class by ideals that absolutely conflict with commercial motives. If you want to introduce your ideals among lumbermen, you want to educate them; and in order to educate them you must fix it so your ideals don't actually spell loss! Rearrange the scheme of taxation, for one thing. Get your ideas of fire protection and conservation on a practical basis. It's all very well to talk about how nice it would be to chop up all the waste tops and pile them like cordwood, and to scrape together the twigs and needles and burn them. It would certainly be neat and effective. But can't you get some scheme that would be just as effective, but not so neat? It's the difference between a yacht and a lumber schooner. We can't expect everybody to turn right in and sacrifice themselves to be philanthropists because the spirit of the age tells them they ought to be. We've got to make it so easy to do things right that anybody at all decent will be ashamed not to. Then we've got to wait for the spirit of the people to grow to new things. It's coming, but it's not here yet."

California John, who had listened with the closest attention, slapped his knee.

"Good sense," said he.

"But you can educate people, can't you?" asked Amy, a trifle subdued and puzzled by these practical considerations.

"Some people can," agreed Thorne, speaking up, "and they're doing it. But Mr. Orde is right; it's only the spirit of the people that can bring about new things. We think we have leaders, but we have only interpreters. When the time is ripe to change things, then the spirit of the people rises to forbid old practices."

"That's it," said Bob; "I just couldn't get at it. Well, the way I feel about it is that when all these new methods and principles have become well known, then we can call a halt with some authority. You can't condemn a man for doing his best, can you?"

The girl, at a loss, flushed, and almost crying, looked at them all helplessly.

"But----" she cried.

"I believe it will all come about in time," said Thorne. "There's sure to come a time when it will not be too much off balance to require private firms to do things according to our methods. Then it will pay to log the government forests on an extensive scale; and private forests will have to come to our way of doing things."

"What's the use of all our fights and strivings?" asked Amy; "what's the use of our preaching decent woods work if it can't be carried out?"

"It's educational," explained Thorne. "It starts people thinking, so that when the time comes they'll be ready."

"Furthermore," put in Bob, "it fixes it so these young fellows who will then be in charge of private operations will have no earthly excuse to look at it wrong, or do it wrong."

"It will then be the difference between their acting according to general ideas or against them," agreed Thorne.

"Never lick a pup for chasin' rabbits until yore ready to teach him to chase deer," put in California John.