As the guide shoved off Walter started to bend on a change of flies, but to this Big Jim quickly put a stop.
" Pard," said he, " no true sportsman will ever kill more'n he needs. We've got enough —all we can use. The man who kills jes' fer th' fun o' killin' ain't nothin' more'n a butcher. He'd better get a job in one o' them big slaughter-houses. When I find I'm guidin' fer one o' thet breed he most gen'rally don't hev no luck."
Walter felt the rebuke, but he was fair, minded enough to appreciate and not resent it. Nor did he ever forget it.
Back at camp Big Jim at once started preparations for dinner. Going into the woods he cut a small log of hard wood about two feet long, out of which he split a slab about three inches thick. One side of this he rapidly smoothed. Under his direction Walter had, in the meantime, built a fire of small pieces of hard wood. This was soon a bed of glowing coals which would retain their heat for a long time, a property which soft woods do not possess, as the guide took pains to impress upon him. For this reason hardwood coals are always preferable for cooking.
When the slab was smoothed to Jim's satisfaction he propped it up in front of the coals. Splitting the largest fish down the back its entire length, taking care not to cut through the belly, he cleaned it and wiped it dry. When the slab was hot he tacked the fish to it, skin side down, and spread full width.
Then the slab was once more propped in front of the fire and three strips of bacon were hung across the top so that the fat would try out and drip on the fish. When it became necessary to reverse the ends of the slab so that the fish would cook evenly the bacon was taken off and impaled on the pointed end of a small stick, it becoming Walter's duty to hold this so that the drip would continue to baste the fish.
While Walter tended the fish the guide made a reflector according to an idea Walter had given him. Lashing together two sticks in the form of a T, one two and a half feet long and the other a foot long, he tacked a piece of birch about two feet wide to the ends of the T, thus forming a segment of a circle. The white side of the bark was turned in. A flat piece of hemlock bark was fitted across the sticks and a rough handle was lashed to the whole. The result was a crude but effective reflector to concentrate the light from a flash in a given direction.
By the time this was finished the fish was done to a turn. A dash of salt and pepper was added, and it was ready to serve on the slab on which it was cooked. Have you ever sat under the sweet smelling hem- j locks, careless of all else in the world save i securing your full share of the flaky pink flesh of a trout cooked in this way? If you I have then your mouth is watering this very | minute. If you have not—ah, why try to describe it? My advice to you is simply this : ! Follow Walter's example at the earliest op- j portunity.
Bread with butter and hot cocoa (Dr. Merriam tabooed coffee or tea for growing boys) completed the menu. When the dinner was finished, to the last shred of pink flesh clinging to crisp brown skin, Walter felt that never before in all his life had he eaten half so delicious a meal.
With dinner out of the way and camp made ready for the night they prepared to put into execution the plan which was the real object of the trip. There was no moon, for the sky was overcast, and the night promised to be very dark. This was much to Jim's liking, for the blacker the night the less likelihood that the deer would see ought but the baleful, fascinating glare of the jack-light.
It was nine o'clock when they left camp, Walter in the bow as usual, but this time with nothing to occupy his attention but his camera and the jack-light strapped on his hat. The reflector was within easy reach of the guide, to whom Walter had given careful instructions in its use. A flash, consisting of two No. 2 cartridges, had been prepared and wires connected from a couple of electric batteries. Jim had merely to press a button to fire the flash.
It was agreed that Walter should set his focus for one hundred feet and that, should they be lucky enough to find the deer, the judging of the distance and setting off of the flash should be left to the guide.
It was weird, uncanny, that paddle down the lake, the black water beneath them and a black formless void around and above them. A dozen strokes from shore Walter felt as utterly lost so far as sense of direction was concerned as if blindfolded. But not so Big Jim. He sent the canoe forward as confi-dentty as if in broad daylight. The jack was lighted but not uncovered.
Walter became aware presently that the canoe was moving very much more slowly and he suspected that they were approaching the lower end of the pond. At a whispered word he turned on the jack. The narrow beam of light cutting athwart the darkness made the night seem blacker by contrast. Very, very slowly they were moving, and there was not so much as the sound of a ripple against their light craft.
The boy sat motionless, but listen as he would he could detect no smallest sound to denote the presence of his companion, much less to indicate that he was paddling. But paddling he was, and the canoe steadily crept forward. A mighty chorus of frog voices in many keys evidenced the close proximity of the meadows surrounding the outlet. As the canoe's course was altered to parallel the shore the boy cautiously turned in his seat so that the rays from the jack were directed shoreward. At that distance, even in the very center of the beam of light, the shore was but a ghostly outline, and Walter wondered how it could be possible that they could see the eyes of a deer.
Once the heavy plunge of a muskrat made him jump inwardly, for his nerves were keyed to a high pitch. He was beginning to feel cramped from so long maintaining one position. One foot and leg had gone to sleep. But he grimly ground his teeth and resolved that, come what might, he would not move.
A slight tremor on the port side of the canoe attracted his attention and he realized that Big Jim was shaking it, the signal agreed upon should the guide see the deer first. Walter forgot his discomfort. Eagerly he stared at the shore. For a few minutes he saw nothing unusual. Suddenly he became conscious of two luminous points—the eyes of a deer gazing in fixed fascinated stare at the light. He could discern no faintest outline of the animal, but the eyes glowed steadily, unwinking.
Inch by inch the canoe drifted in. Suddenly the two glowing points disappeared. Walter's heart sank. Had the animal taken fright? No, there they were again ! The deer had merely lowered its head for a moment. A shake of the canoe warned the boy that there was something more. Turning his own eyes from the two burning there in the blackness he presently became aware of two more, smaller and lower down. A second later he saw a third pair.
What could it mean? Could it be that the deer had enemies stalking it? What if it should be a lynx or even a panther I His excited imagination conjured up a thrilling scene. What if he could photograph it! He longed to ask the guide what it all meant, but that was impossible.
Slowly, slowly they drifted in toward the three pairs of eyes. Walter kept his camera pointed directly at them, the shutter open, not knowing what instant the flash might go off. Still they drifted in, Walter as fascinated by the six glowing points as were the deer by the jack. Inch by inch, inch by inch they drew nearer. Would the flash never go? Walter felt that he must turn and see what Big Jim was doing. Could it be that Jim had disconnected the wires and was unable to fire the flash ?
Even as this dread possibility entered his mind the water and shore directly in front of him were lit by a blinding glare. He had an instantaneous impression of a doe and two fawns staring in curious alarm from near the shore of a wild meadow flanked by ghostly tamaracks. Quite automatically he squeezed the bulb that closed the shutter. Then for a few minutes he could see nothing. But he could hear the plunging of the frightened animals as they fled for the shelter of the forest, and his heart leaped at thought of what that negative in his camera must hold.
" Git 'em, pard ? " drawled the voice of the guide.
" I guess so. I don't see how I could help it. Anyway, I held the camera pointed right at them," replied Walter.
" Guess thet'll do fer to-night, son," said Jim, swinging the canoe about. " Shut off th' jack an' git out yer paddle. It's us fer th' blankets now I "