"Not in the least, Upton," he replied smilingly. " I presume you have been developing those Lonesome Pond negatives, and to tell you the truth I am almost as anxious to see them as you are yourself. You see Big Jim has told me all about that trip, and he was positively enthusiastic over the flashing of the three deer."
The doctor came over to the dark room and supped in. "I presume they are about fixed by this time," he said, dipping his hand into the fixing bath and taking out a negative. He held it to the light and examined it critically. "Just a trifle over time, don't you think, Upton ? Still it is an excellent negative, and the composition is admirable. Hello, what's this?" He had dropped the first one into a tray of running water and had picked up a second which he was turning round and round in his hands as if he hardly knew which was top and which was bottom. "Ha, i have it!" An expression of perplexity passed over his face and his brows puckered. " What's this. Upton?" he asked. "i didn't hear anything about any such photo as this."
Walter stepped behind him and looked at the negative the doctor was holding to the light At first he could make nothing of it but a tangle of foliage. Then suddenly he saw against this background the figure of a man stooping beneath the burden of the body of a deer across his shoulders. Walter's mouth gaped foolishly as he studied the negative.
" What does it mean, Upton ? " the doctor repeated, a twinkle in his eyes as he saw the boy's vacant look.
" I don't know, sir," replied Walter truthfully enough.
" But the negative is yours, isn't it?" persisted the doctor.
" Yes, sir. No, sir. That isówhy, of course it must be mine," replied Walter confusedly. " I don't understand it at all, sir."
" How many flashlights did you make? "
" Two ; the one of the three deer and the one on the run. This-" He paused as it flashed over him for the first time that this was a flashlight negative.
" Yes," said the doctor with a quizzical smile, " this is one of them. And as it certainly isn't the one of the three deer it is the one on the run."
" Butóbut what does it mean ? " asked Hal, looking over the shoulders of the others.
" It means," said the doctor gravely, " that Upton has secured the evidence that will convict the poacher of Lonesome Pond."
He dropped the film back in the fixing bath. " I see it is not quite clear yet. Fix and wash it thoroughly and then if you can, Upton, I wish you would make a print from this before Jim and the warden return tonight. They have gone up to the Durant camp to look about a bit. I must request you both to say nothing whatever about this matter until I give you permission. And of course you understand that the photograph is to be shown no one. Bring the prints to me as soon as you have them made. If you have time make a print from each of your other negatives. We'll entertain the warden on his return."
By noon the films were dry and by three o'clock that afternoon a complete set of prints was in Dr. Merriam's hands. Late in the afternoon Big Jim and the warden returned, and shortly after the doctor sent for Walter.
" Warden," said he, " this is Upton, the lad who was with Jim at Lonesome. I've called him in thinking you may like to question him a bit as to conditions at Lonesome, and also that he may have the pleasure of showing you some photos in which I know you will be interested, as will Jim also. I tell you, warden, some of our boys are doing great work here I It takes something more than mere knowledge of photography to get such pictures as these! The man behind the | camera has got to be something of a woods- ! man, as I think you will admit when you have looked these over."
As he finished speaking he handed the package of prints to Walter face down, and the boy, noting that they were numbered in consecutive order, instantly realized that this was a cue for him to show them in that order. As one by one the prints were laid on the desk Big Jim bent over them with all the enthusiasm of a great overgrown boy, telling the warden the story of each and making comments that made Walter blush to the roots of his hair. When the beautiful picture of the doe and her two fawns was put before him Jim's delight was without bounds.
The doctor smiled. "So you think that's pretty good, do you, Jim? " he asked.
"Good? It's the best I ever see!" exclaimed the guide.
" Upton has one that will interest you still more, I think, Jim. Show it, Upton."
The warden and guide leaned forward eagerly as Walter placed the last print on the desk. For a full minute there was absolute stillness as the two men studied the print in surprised astonishment. Walter will never forget the expression on the guide's face as he stared first at the doctor, then at Walter and finally back at the print, while slowly comprehension of what it meant dawned.
" What did I tell yer? " he roared, smiting the desk with a huge fist. " What did I tell yer? Didn't I say it was Red Pete? Is this evidence enough for yer, warden?"
" It's evidence enough, Jim; but say, I haven't got this through me yet. You didn't tell me anything about seeing Red Pete, let alone taking his photograph. It's a wonder he didn't put a knife in you for that."
Jim laughed. " I expect he would if he was sure what had happened," he replied. " Yer see thet thar buck must hev taken one o' th' other runs an' reached th' lake, where Pete was laying fer him. Pete potted him, an' then waitin' just long enough t' bleed him an' take out his innards (I found 'em th' next mornin') he dug out 'fore we should come snoopin' round. He jes' happened t' hit th* run th' camera was on, an' o' course he fired th' flash. Oh, glory ! I wish I could hev seen his face right after thet flash! I bet every black har on his head was standin' on end an' thet Pete was reelin' off prayers t' every saint he's ever heard o' as fast as his tongue could go I"
" I notice that he held on to the deer," observed the warden dryly.
" You bet he did ! " replied Jim. " Thet flash jes' naturally blinded him fer a few minutes, an' he couldn't see nothin' I Then he heered us comin' on th' jump an' he didn't hev no time t' look fer th' camera an' bust it. He jes' hit th' trail double quick a-trustin't' luck thet we didn't git nothin'."
" This is all the evidence I want," said the warden. " Doctor, I want you to let me have Jim for a couple of days. I need him, for Pete's a slippery customer, and it'll need two of us to surprise him. We'll start for Lonesome early to-morrow morning, and the less said about our movements the better. Remember, boy, mum's the word," he added, turning to Walter.
Jim had been studying the photograph closely. " Whopping big buck Pete's got thar I" he remarked, then added sharply, " Son, come here an' tell me if this is a scratch on th' picter or if it's in th' picter I "
The guide was pointing to a tiny white line on the shoulder of the deer. Walter examined it closely. " It's in the picture," he said slowly. Then, a startling idea slowly forming in his mind, he looked up at the guide, who instantly read his thought.
" Yes," said the big fellow with angry bitterness. " It's him. It's the King o' Lonesome Pond, th' big buck you 'n' me trailed thet mornin', murdered by a half-breed cutthroat who'd treat you 'n' me jes' th' same if he dared, an' he could see a dollar in it. I'm ready t' start when you are, warden, an' th' sooner I see his ugly mug behind th' bars th' sooner I kin enjoy my vittles agin."
When the name of Red Pete was first mentioned it had sounded strangely familiar to Walter, but try as he would he could not place it. Now as he studied the photograph he recognized the low-browed, surly axeman who had been in the waiting room at Upper lChain the morning of his arrival in the woods, and there Hashed through his mind Big Jim's characterization of Pete that morning as the " meanest man in th' mountains." How little he had dreamed that their lines would ever cross, and nowóhe shivered involuntarily as he wondered what the outcome would be and what would happen if the outlaw should chance to learn of the evidence Walter now held in his hand.
" IóI guess you'd better keep the film and the prints," he said, turning to Dr. Merriam, and breathed easier as the doctor took them. Then excusing himself, he hurried out to find Hal and warn him not to breathe a word about the second flashlight picture.
Did Red Pete suspect? And if so what if he should happen to meet him alone in the woods ? For the next few da}rs he seldom went far from camp, and never alone. Even then he had the feeling of being watched, and would turn suddenly half in fear and half in hope that he might catch a glimpse of the breed's threatening face peering from some leafy screen. Walter's nerves were playing him tricks. Nor did they become any easier when the warden and Jim returned empty handed from Lonesome Pond. They had found plenty of traces of the poacher, in fact had found his camp, but it was evident that the outlaw had transferred his headquarters elsewhere.
Owing to other business the warden was obliged to postpone the search for the time being, but left with a promise to return at an early date to run Pete down. In the meantime Walter continued to feel uneasy, and the lumber camp to enjoy fresh " veal."