"Well, pard, how do yer like 'em?" inquired the cook, sending another spinning over to Walter's plate.
" They're just the best ever ! " exclaimed the boy enthusiastically. " I'm going to teach -cook to make 'em when I get home. Wish dad could have one of these right now. Say, Jim, it's my turn to fry now."
The guide tossed one more to begin on while Walter was frying the next, and then turned the frying-pan over to the amateur cook. Big Jim's eyes twinkled as the boy reached for a knife with which to turn the cake. His big hand closed over the knife first.
" Nobody can be a side pardnero' mine who has t' take a knife t' turn a flapjack," he drawled, "and, son, I kind o' think I'd like you fer a side pardner. Thet bein' so, up she goes ! "
Walter grinned sheepishly and gave the frying-pan an awkward toss. The required twist of the wrist was wholly lacking and, instead of turning a graceful somersault in the air, the cake shot out at an angle and landed soft side down on the very spot the guide had occupied a second before. That worthy, with wisdom born of experience, had shifted his base at the first motion of the frying-pan, and was now rolling on the ground in huge glee, his infectious laugh rolling through the camp.
Walter, his face crimson with more than the heat of the fire, bit his lips in chagrin which he could not hide, but being blessed with a strong sense of humor he joined in the laugh and straightway prepared to try again. This time, under a running fire of comment and advice from Big Jim, who solemnly assured him that in his humble opinion " the landscape ain't really a-needm' blueberry frescoes t' improve its beauty," he succeeded in sending the cake into the air within catching distance of the pan, but it lacked the impetus to send it high enough to turn completely over, and fell back in the pan in a shapeless mass.
Big Jim cast an appraising eye at the batter kettle and, evidently considering that his chances of a square meal were in jeopardy, reached for the pan and gave Walter a practical demonstration. Holding the pan slanting in front of and away from him he gave it a couple of preliminary easy flaps to get the swing, then flipped boldly and sharply. It seemed the easiest thing in the world, and in fact it is when you know how. Returning the pan to Walter he had the latter go through the motions several times until he was satisfied.
Then he bade him pour in the batter and go ahead.
Slowly at first, then faster the bubbles broke to the surface. Presently the edges stiffened and with a little shake Walter felt that the cake was loose and free in the pan. Getting the preliminary swing he gave the pan a sharp upward flip and a second later the cake was back over the fire, brown side up.
The guide nodded approvingly. " Reckon yer goin- t' be a sure enough woodsman," he 6aid. " Nobody what can't toss a flapjack has any business t' think he's th' real thing in th' woods."
Breakfast finished it fell to Walter to wash the dishes while the guide went out to look for deer signs. Cleanliness is next to godliness in camp as well as at home, and hot water is as necessary to wash dishes in the one place as in the other. Walter had finished his work and was hanging the towel to dry when he heard a queer noise behind him. Turning, he was just in time to see a bird about the size of a blue jay, but gray and white in color, making off with the cake of soap which he had left on a log.
Flying to the nearest tree it started to sample its queer breakfast. But one taste was enough. With a harsh scream, which was a ludicrous blending of disappointment, disgust and rage, it dropped the soap and vigorously wiped its bill on the branch on which it was sitting. Then scolding and protesting in a harsh, discordant voice, it flew to the next tree, stopping long enough to give the bill another thorough wiping on a convenient branch, only to repeat the performance on the next tree, and so on until it disappeared in the depths of the forest.
Walter laughed heartily, disgust was so clearly manifest in every motion of the bird and the torrent of invective being poured out was so very plainly aimed at him personally as the author of its discomfiture. The boy had never seen a bird of this species before, but he recognized it at once from its markings, the fine silky plumage and certain unmistakable characteristics in general appearance and actions, as a member of the jay family. It was, in fact, the Canada Jay, Perisoreus canadensis, first cousin to the blue jay, and a resident the year through of the north woods, where it is often called the moose-bird.
Big Jim returned just in time to witness the last of the performance.
" Whisky Jack seems t' think yer ain't been usin' him just right, son," said he. " What yer been doin't' rile him up so? "
Walter told him the incident of the soap, and the guide chuckled with enjoyment. " Serves th' old thief right," said he. " Why, I've had one of them fellers sit on my tent just waitin' fer me t' go out so's he could go inside an' steal somethin'. He'll swipe a meal out of yer plate while yer back's turned. Just th' same, it's kind o' sociable t' have him neighborly if yer happen t' be all alone in th' deep woods fifty miles from nowhar, 'specially in winter."
" Where did he get the name of Whisky Jack?" asked Walter.
" Don't know, son, unless it comes from an Indian name I heered a half breed in a Canada lumber camp use once. He called one o' these jays thet hed got caught tryin't' steal th' bait from a mink trap he had set a ' whis-kee-shaw-neesh.' When yer say it quick it sounds something like 1 Whisky John,' an' I reckon maybe thet's where th' trappers and lumbermen got th' name ' Whisky Jack.' Anyhow, thet's what they all call him. Ever see one before ? "
" No," replied Walter, " but I knew it was a Canada Jay as soon as I saw it. You see I had read all about it in a bird book," slyly putting just the least emphasis on the word book.