Chapter XXI. Told by the Pictures.
 

"You'll think we took great care of the camp!" Teddy said, flushing, to Ned, as Jack and Jimmie, followed by the cheers and good wishes of their chums, started away.

"Aw, it wasn't Teddy's fault at all," Oliver declared. "He went down to tell Uncle Ike what a gentleman and a scholar he was, and I was supposed to watch the tent."

"And I was to help him," wailed Dode. "See how well I did it!"

He swung a hand around at the mess on the ground.

"So, while Teddy was down at the corral, Dode and I sat down to develop some snapshots. We never looked out at all! After we had a lot of pictures ready to show on your return, we heard a noise outside and thought Teddy had come back."

"And there is when we got it!" Dode cut in.

"Yes, there, is where we got it in the neck," Oliver went on, while Teddy grinned. "The gun I looked into seemed about as large as the tunnel under the Hudson, and I became the good little boy without further argument."

"I thought the gun I saw was a room in a cavern!" grinned Dode.

"So they performed with their ropes and gags, and we lay there like two little kittens while they tore up our work and smashed things generally. And the way they wrecked the trunks and boxes was a caution."

"What did they talk to each other about while they were searching?" asked Ned.

"Nothing much. They seemed to be too busy looking for papers. From what I could make out; I reckon they thought you had some official document with you."

"I have," laughed Ned, "but they did not find it."

"After they had made all the trouble they could," Oliver went on, "they spoke of burning the tent, and I guess they would haved one it, too, if other things hadn't attracted their attention just at that time!" he added, with a wink at Ned.

"Well," Ned observed, "I'm sorry we lost the pictures, but there may be some of the valuable ones left. We'll look them over right now."

"Jimmie left the films from his baby camera," Teddy remarked. "We can see what he got while he was in the hands of those cheap skates!"

Nearly all the snapshots taken by Ned and Jack on the afternoon they had come to the hiding place of Jimmie's captors had been printed by the boys, and most of them had been destroyed, plates and all. Stationing Oliver and Dode out on the slope to watch for any approach which might be made, Ned gave his attention to the pictures.

"The worst of it is," Frank declared, "that the good ones were the ones the boys printed, and the ones which were burned up."

"I don't know about that," Ned said. "The camera sees things the human eye does not see! What we want now is a knowledge of the country near the spot where Jimmie was held. We took plenty of pictures around there, and Jimmie took some, too, so we may be able to find what we want."

"I'll work over the baby camera pictures while you handle the others," suggested Frank, and the two boys were soon busy at their tasks. Finally Ned handed a torn print to Frank, pointing out a single feature as he did so.

"You see the tree in the foreground?" he asked.

"Yes, of course."

"Now follow along back to the bush at the left and in the rear."

"I see the bush," Frank said.

"What else do you see there?"

Frank bent closer over the print.

"Is that a face there?" he asked.

"It certainly is a face."

"But it looks too small for a human face. It may be caused be some odd arrangement of the leaves. Besides, it is very indistinct."

"Sure, because it is in the shade. It is almost a miracle that we see it at all. I 'll get a better print of it soon and enlarge it. Then we shall know more about it. Now, look lower down. What do you see there?"

"Say," cried Frank, "that's a child's face up there! Here is the leg below. Now, what do you think of that?"

"That is doubtless the boy Jack and I saw," said Ned.

"The grandson?" asked Frank.

"The prince, unless I am much mistaken," Ned said, cooly.

"So you saw him?" asked Frank.

"We saw a child," was the reply. "He came toward us for a few steps and then ran back! Now we'll look over the remaining pictures and see what we can find."

"That wasn't the grandson, was it?" asked Frank.

"Mike III. was at the cabin that afternoon," was the reply.

Presently Ned came to another torn print showing the mountain slope directly in front of Chimney rock. He passed it over to Frank with an odd look in his eyes.

"Look right in the foreground, between those two stones," he said.

"What is it between the stones?" asked the boy.

"Looks to me like a coat."

"Do you really think it is?"

"Sure thing!" laughed Ned. "I'm going over there directly and see if it is still there."

Frank looked puzzled.

"But how did it come there?" he asked. "Why should it be left there?"

"I have known children to throw off coats or jackets on a hot day," smiled Ned. "I imagine that princes are not different from other children."

Ned went on with his examination of the pictures. At last he came to one which was badly torn, almost half of it being missing.

"There," he said. "This is a picture taken right there at Chimney rock. Do you see the face above it?"

The face referred to was not that of either of the two men Jimmie had been captured by, or of Bradley, who sat scowling just beyond reach of their voices.

"That is the man we want," Ned said, with a sigh. "If we had the other part of the picture we should see the boy looking over the rock, close at the man's side."

"Very close!" Frank observed. "They seem to have hold of hands. Doesn't that look like a closed hand down lower?"

"That is just what it is!"

Ned laid the picture aside and Frank brought out those which had been made from the films taken from the baby camera. There were half a dozen of them and all were remarkably good.

"Look here," Frank said, "the kid took a picture of the slope back of the rock. Our pictures do not show that. Look up a short distance!"

Not very far up the slope hung a huge boulder which seemed on the verge of falling.

"If you'll notice the point of contact with the ground," Frank went on, "you'll see that the boulder is propped up by wedge-like stones put under it."

"Exactly!" Ned said. "And that means that the boulder has fallen or been pried out of its nest, and that the cavity behind it is regarded as a good hiding place."

"Do you think the prince could have been there?"

"Not when Jack and I were in that section. We saw him out on the slope."

"But he went back that way?"

"Yes."

"Tell you what!" Frank exclaimed. "I'm going to take these pictures home to Dad, and let him print them in his newspaper."

"You'll have to write a story to go with them."

"Oh, I suppose so, but stories aren't read when there are pictures. The cuts tell the story. Dad will like the photographs."

After a time Ned came to the picture of a man with the head torn off! In destroying the print the outlaws had contented themselves by merely ripping it into two pieces. The head part was not to be found.

"What's the dangling things in front of the man's breast?" asked Frank.

"Legs!" replied Ned.

"I never knew a man to wear his legs up there!" laughed Frank.

"But you have known men to lift kids to their backs and let their little legs hang down in front for handles? What?"

"Never thought of that?" Frank exclaimed.

"If we only had the face!" Ned worried.

Then he paused a moment and went back to the print carrying the strange face.

"Here it is!" he said. "See! This is the same man. There are the boots and the buttons. The camera caught the man twice."

"I don't know why you didn't see some of these things when the pictures were made," laughed Frank. "Next time I go out taking snapshots I'm going to study the landscape, so I can choose subjects for my pictures!"

"All this means," Ned began, "that we were watched when we were taking the pictures that afternoon. These people were looking at us! We might as well have been walking through an open street."

"But why didn't they do something to you, then?" demanded Frank. "They captured the ones who entered the workroom."

"Those were counterfeiters, not abductors."

"Well, then, they caught Jimmie and lugged him away?"

"In an effort to drive us out of the country, yes."

"Then why didn't they capture you?"

"Because they thought they had us scared so we'd go, and so didn't want to show their hand. Remember that it was the counterfeiters who were supposed by us to have taken Jimmie."

"I understand. When you found that the boy at the cabin was not the one you were looking for you were supposed to go away so as to save Jimmie's life, and leave the true prince here in hiding."

"That is just it."

Bradley now called out to the boys that he had something to say to them, and they hurried to his side.

"I want you to get the widow's grandson and take him to her," he said. "I was used decent, and I don't like to have her suffer."

"Where is the boy?" asked Ned.

Bradley open his eyes wider in wonder.

"Do you really think I took him away?" he asked.

"Not a doubt of it!" Frank declared.

"Well, I didn't," Bradley insisted. "I don't know where he is, but I think I can point out the likeliest place to hunt for him."

"Down at Chimney rock?" asked Frank.

"In that section, yes. And, look here. You will need to be in a hurry, for the men who have him are anxious to get rid of him--and they are unscrupulous!"