Walter's skill with his camera gradually won for him the distinction of being the best photographer in camp. When, therefore, he somewhat diffidently told Chief Woodhull of his ambition to secure some flash-light views of deer the chief listened attentively to the plans suggested for securing them, and promised to lay them before Dr. Merriam. Imagine Walter's delight when on the following day the big chief sent for him, and after close questioning informed him that it was arranged for him to make a two days' trip to Lonesome Pond with Big Jim for the purpose of trying for the coveted photographs of wild deer in their native haunts.
It was an almost unprecedented honor for a first year boy. The privilege of making such an expedition alone with one of the guides was reserved for the older boys, whose experience and training fitted them for the "roughing" which such a trip usually involved, Walter fairly walked on air when he left Dr. Merriam to seek Big Jim and make the necessary arrangements. He found the guide tinkering with a jack-light.
" Dr. Merriam says--" began Walter.
" I know all about it, son," interrupted the guide. " You an' me'll be pardners for a couple o' days, and we'll start before daylight to-morrow morning. Rustle round now and get your picter machine ready. I reckon Mr. Peaked Toes will be a mighty unsartin subjec', a leetle mite bashful. If you don't get him th' first shot, 'tain't likely he'll wait fer a second, so it's up to you t' hev everythin' in workin' order. Run over an' tell cookie thet I want two loaves o' bread, a slab o' bacon, some butter in a wide-mouth jar, flour, salt, cocoa anr sugar fer a two days' trip. We're goin' light, so you won't need t' bring nothin' but yer fish rod, blankets, sneaks an' an extra handkercher. Better turn in early, fer we want t' start at four o'clock sharp. Hev cookie put up a lunch. Now skip ! "
At quarter of four the next morning Walter slipped out of the wigwam. The moon had not yet set, while in the east appeared the first faint flush of the coming day. The forest lay black and still. For a moment or two he shivered in the chill of the outer air after the warmth of the wigwam. There was a light in the guides' cabin, and thither he made his way at once.
Just outside the door stood a pack basket, a tightly rolled blanket lashed across it, and the handle of a frying-pan protruding from the top. Big Jim's favorite paddle leaned against it. As Walter approached, the door opened and the guide stepped out.
" Hello, pard ! " said he. " I was jes' comin' over t' pull yer out o' yer blankets. Come in here an' hev a cup o' hot cocoa an' stow thet snack away; it's easier t' carry inside than out."
When Walter had gulped down the hot drink and eaten the lunch put up for him by the cook he felt ready for anything.
As they took their way down the trail to the lake the hoot of a great horned owl suddenly broke the silence and wakened startled echoes on Old Scraggy.
" Whooo-hoo-hoo-hoo ! Whooo-hoo-hoo ! "
" Ole Fly-by-night must hev had poor hantiii' last evening" said the guide. " Do you see him, son ? "
Walter searched the trees near at hand, but could make out nothing that resembled a bird, and his chagrin was deepened by the guide's next remark.
"Them books may tell yer where t' look, but they don't teach yer how t' use th' eyes God give yer. Now any five-year-old born in th' woods would hev seen thet big swelled up bunch o' feathers fust thing. Look at thet tall pine stump over thar t' th' right and-- "
" Whooo-hoo-hoo-hoo ! Whooo-hoo-hoo ! " rang the fierce cry again, and almost on the instant the top of the stump resolved into a huge, broad-winged bird, that swiftly and noiselessly dropped behind a low hemlock. A moment later it reappeared, a hare struggling in its talons, and flew heavily over toward a swamp. Big Jim promptly seized upon the episode to drive home a lesson in woodcraft.
" Pard," said he, " thar's a better lesson in the A B C o' wood life than I could give yer in a month o' talkin'. If thet hare hadn't let its narves go on th' jump, and had remembered what she ought t' hev knowed afore she was born, thet to sit tight an' not move a muscle when yer don't want t' be seen is tli' first law o' th' woods, she'd be sittin' nice an' snug this very minute, instead o' stuffin' ole Fly-by-night's craw. Puss was narvous. The hoot startled her an' she moved jest a leetle bit. Probably she rustled a leaf. Them big owls is all ears. Fact, son ; the whole side o' th' head, pretty near, is an ear. He heared thet leaf rustle, an' he was Johnny-on-the-spot in a jiffy. Yer saw what happened. Never make a sudden move in th' woods. Sit tight if yer don't want t' be seen, or move so slowly thet nothin's goin't' notice it. Don't never ferget it ! Yer've jes' seen what fer-gettin' may cost. When yer go in th' woods leave yer narves t' hum."
The pack basket and duffle were stowed in the middle of the canoe, Walter took the bow seat and the guide, kneeling in the stern, for he had never outgrown his early training when canoes of his acquaintance had no seats, shot the little craft out into the lake. As they turned into the low marshy estuary which marked the outlet of the lake, the first rays of the rising sun glanced over Mt. Seward.
Once in the main channel of the river they felt the gentle force of the current, and under Jim's powerful stroke they swept swiftly on. Walter had been doing his full share, for he was a good paddler, but now the guide suggested that he put up his paddle and hold his camera ready for whatever they might surprise along the river's edge, or up some of the numerous setbacks.
The boy put his paddle aside and, slipping a film pack into the camera, set the focus for one hundred feet. Then with thumb and forefinger of his right hand on the focussing screw, ready to shorten the focus should they get within less than one hundred feet of a subject, he set himself to watch the shores.