who asked the question, for he had been the only one to see Dave raise his shotgun, take quick aim, and fire into the brushwood lining the river at that point.
“I shot at a rabbit, and I think I hit him,” was the reply. “I’ll soon know.” And Dave skated toward the shore, less than twenty yards away. He poked into the bushes with the barrel of his gun and soon brought forth a fat, white rabbit which he held up with satisfaction.
“Hurrah!” cried the senator’s son. “First prize goes to Dave! He’s a fine one, too,” he added, as the students gathered around to inspect the game.
“Thought you said you wouldn’t shoot anything less than an elephant,” grunted Buster.
“The elephant will come later,” answered Dave, with a smile.
“I’d like to get a couple like that,” said Gus Plum, wistfully.
“Maybe that will be the total for the day,” was Sam’s comment. He had gone wild-turkey shooting once and gotten a shot at the start and then nothing more, so he was inclined to be skeptical.
“Oh, we’ll get more, if we are careful and keep our eyes open,” declared Dave. “I saw the track of the rabbit in the snow yonder and that made me look for him.”
Dave’s success put all the students on the alert, and they spread out on either side of the stream, eager to sight more game.
Less than two minutes later came the crack of Gus Plum’s shotgun, followed almost immediately by a shot from Buster Beggs’ pistol. Then a gray rabbit went scampering across the river in front of the boys and several fired simultaneously.
“I got him! I got him!” shouted Gus, and ran to the shore, to bring out a medium-sized rabbit.
“And we’ve got another!” cried Sam. “But I don’t know whether Shadow, Ben, or I killed him.”
“I guess we all had a hand in it,” said Ben. “We all fired at about the same time.”
“What did you get, Buster?” questioned Chip Macklin.
“I—I guess I didn’t get anything,” faltered the fat youth. “I thought I saw a squirrel, but I see now that it is only a tree root sticking out of the snow.”
“Great Scott, Buster! Don’t shoot down the trees!” cried Phil, in mock dismay. “They might fall on us, you know!” And a laugh arose at the would-be hunter’s expense.
On the students skated, and before long reached a point where the river was parted by a long, narrow strip of land known as Squirrel Island, because squirrels were supposed to abound there.
As they reached the lower end of the island Dave held up his hand as a warning.
“I think I saw some partridges ahead,” he said, in a low voice. “If they are there we don’t want to disturb them. Put down the hamper and take off your skates, and we’ll try to bag them.”
His chums were not slow in complying with his commands, and soon the crowd was making its way toward the center of the island, where grew a dense clump of cedars. They had to work their way through the brushwood.
“Ouch!” exclaimed Shadow, presently.
“What’s the trouble?” whispered Roger.
“Scratched my hand on a bramble bush,” was the reply. “But it isn’t much.”
“Be careful of your guns,” cautioned Dave. “Don’t let a trigger get caught in a bush or you may have an accident.”
“There they are!” cried Ben, in a strained voice. “My, what a lot of ’em!”
He pointed ahead, and to one side of the tall cedars they saw a covey of partridges, at least twenty in number, resting on the ground.
“All together!” said Dave, in a low, steady voice. “Fire as you stand, those on the right to the right, those on the left to the left, and those in the center for the middle of the flock. I’ll count. Ready? One, two, three!”
Crack! bang! crack! bang! went the shotguns and pistols. Then came a rushing, rattling, roaring sound, and up into the air went what was left of the covey, one partridge, being badly wounded, flying in a circle and then directly for Roger’s head. He struck it with his gun barrel and then caught it in his hands, quickly putting it out of its misery. The other boys continued to bang away, but soon the escaping game was beyond their reach.
“A pretty good haul!” cried Dave, as he and his chums moved forward. “Three here and the one Roger has makes four. Boys, we won’t go back empty-handed.”
“Who hit and who missed?” questioned Sam.
“That would be a hard question to answer,” returned Phil. “Better let the credit go to the whole crowd,” and so it was decided.
“Well, there isn’t much use in looking for any more game around here,” said Dave. “Those volleys of shots will make them lay low for some time.”
“Let’s go into camp and get lunch,” suggested Buster. “I’m as hungry as a bear.”
“Were you ever anything else?” questioned Ben, with a grin, for the stout youth’s constant desire to eat was well known.
They tramped to the south shore of the island, and there, in a nook that was sheltered from the north wind, they went into temporary camp, cutting down some brushwood and heavier fuel and building a fire. Over the flames they arranged a stick, from which they hung a kettle filled with water obtained by chopping a hole through the ice of the river.
“Now, when the water boils, we can have some coffee,” said Roger, who was getting out the tin cups. “And we can roast those potatoes while the water boils,” he added.
“What about some rabbit pot-pie, or roast partridge?” asked Buster.
“Oh, let us take all the game back to the school!” exclaimed Ben. “Just to show the fellows what we got, you know.”
“That’s the talk!” cried Gus. “If we don’t, maybe they won’t believe we were so lucky.”
“Yes, let us take it all back,” chimed in Chip Macklin.
All but Buster were willing to keep the game. He heaved a deep sigh.
“All right, if we must,” he said mournfully. “But it makes my mouth water, just the same!” And he eyed the plump rabbits and fat partridges wistfully.
Inside of half an hour the lunch was under way. Around the roaring campfire sat the students, some on convenient rocks and others on a fallen tree that chanced to be handy. They had brought with them several kinds of sandwiches, besides hard-boiled eggs, crackers, cheese, some cake, and the coffee, with a small bottle of cream and some sugar. They also had some potatoes for roasting, and though these got partly burned, all declared them “fine” or “elegant,”—which shows what outdoor air will do for one’s appetite.
They took their time, and during the meal Shadow was allowed to tell as many stories as he pleased, much to his satisfaction. It was Dave who was the first to get up.
“Might as well be moving,” he said, after consulting his watch. “We’ll have to start on the return inside of two hours, and that won’t give us much time for hunting.”
“Wait, I want just one more picture!” cried Sam, who had been busy before with his camera. “Now all look as happy as if to-morrow were Christmas!” And as the others grinned over the joke, click! went the shutter of the box, and the picture was snapped.
“Now, Sam, let me take you, with a gun in one hand and the partridges in the other!” cried Dave. “If it turns out well, we can have it enlarged for our dormitory.” And a minute later another picture was added to the roll of films.
“Why not leave the things here and come back for them?” suggested Roger. “No use in toting the hamper and game everywhere.”
“We can hang the game in a