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After the excitement attending the skating races, matters moved along quietly at Colby Hall for several days. The Rover boys, as was their custom, paid close attention to their studies.
"We've got to make a record for ourselves," was the way Jack put it. "If we don't, our folks may take it in their heads to send us to some other boarding school, thinking Colonel Colby is too easy with us."
"And to take Jack away from this vicinity when he is getting so sweet on Ruth Steven----" began Randy, when he was cut short by a book flung by his cousin, landing on his shoulder.
"You cut out that talk, Randy!" cried Jack.
"Let's talk about the weather," murmured Andy, who had passed to the window. "Say, fellows, do you know, I think it's going to snow!"
"Hurrah! That means some fun snowballing!" cried Fred.
The snow came down all that night, and in the morning covered the ground to the depth of several inches. A great many of the cadets rushed out in glee, and half a dozen impromptu snowballing matches were soon in progress.
It was almost time to go in for the morning session when several of the cadets noticed a figure, huddled up in a slouch hat and a heavy overcoat, coming up from behind the Hall toward a side door.
"Here comes Bob Nixon!" yelled one of the cadets, mentioning the name of Colonel Colby's chauffeur. "Let's give him a volley."
"Right you are!" exclaimed Andy gleefully.
"Stop! Can't you see----" commenced Jack, but before he could finish his sentence both Andy and Randy had let drive at the advancing figure. One snowball took the man in the shoulder and the other landed just below his left ear.
"Here! here! what do you mean by such proceedings?" cried the attacked individual in great wrath, and then, as he held up his head and pushed back his slouch hat, all saw that it was Asa Lemm.
"Great watermelons!" groaned Andy. "I thought sure it was Nixon!"
"I knew it wasn't, and that's why I tried to stop you," said Jack.
"Say, he's some mad," whispered Randy, as the language teacher strode toward them. "I wonder what he'll do."
"How dare you boys attack me?" roared Asa Lemm, as he shook his fist at the crowd. "How dare you do it?"
"It was all a mistake, Mr. Lemm," said Randy meekly.
"We didn't know it was you--really we didn't," came from Andy. "We thought it was Bob Nixon. He likes to snowball with us."
"I do not believe a word of it!" cried the irate instructor. "How many of you threw at me?" he questioned, glaring at the crowd.
To this there was no immediate answer, and then Randy stepped forward.
"I did, for one," he said.
"And so did I," came from his twin.
"No. We were the only ones, Professor," answered Randy. "And I hope you will overlook it this time," he continued. "We did not know it was you."
"Both of you report to me after school this afternoon," said the instructor harshly; and then without another word he turned and tramped off into the Hall.
"Now we are in for it, Andy," was Randy's dismal comment.
"Oh, well, he can't do any more than kill us," was the light-hearted reply of the other.
"Do you want to be killed, Andy?" quizzed Jack.
"I know what he'll do," was Randy's comment. "He'll keep us both in and give us extra lessons to learn." And in this surmise the fun-loving Rover boy was correct. For their rashness in snowballing the teacher they were made to stay in after school for two afternoons, and in addition had two extra pages of Latin to translate.
"He's a lemon, if ever there was one," was what Andy said after his punishment had come to an end. "Oh, wouldn't I just like to get square with him!"
"We'll have to think something up, Andy," answered his twin.
Following the first fall of snow, came another, but then the sun came out brightly, packing down the snow so that sleighing became quite popular.
"If we only had a big sleigh up here, we could go and get the girls from Clearwater Hall and give them a ride," said Fred one day to Jack.
"I was thinking we might hire a big sleigh in town some Saturday afternoon and do just that," answered his cousin. "I'll look into it the first chance I get."
Fred and Jack had not forgotten the sport they had had earlier in the season, when they had gone out with Frank Newberry and some others on a hunt for rabbits and other small game.
"The hunting season is still open, Fred," said Jack one day. "What do you say if we ask Colonel Colby for permission to go out."
"Suits me," answered his cousin quickly.
"Do you think Andy and Randy would like to go, too?"
"More than likely. They have been wanting to go ever since we brought down that game."
When the subject was mentioned to the twins, they quickly agreed that it would be a fine thing if they could all obtain permission to go on a hunting trip the coming Saturday. Colonel Colby was appealed to without delay.
"Well, boys, I have no objection to your going out," he said. "I know you all understand the use of firearms, and I know, also, that your fathers loved to go out in their day and hunt. And I did a little bit in that line myself," and he smiled faintly. "But I want you to be very careful in what you shoot at; and do your level best to keep out of trouble of all kinds," and he looked at Jack and Fred as he uttered the latter words.
"Getting into trouble before, Colonel Colby, wasn't our fault," answered Jack quickly.
"I know that."
"By the way, Colonel Colby, if it isn't asking too much, would you mind letting us know if Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell are really going to return here?" questioned Fred.
"They have asked for permission to come back--at least, their parents have asked for them--and I have the matter under consideration," answered the master of the Hall. He gazed questioningly at the Rovers. "I meant to mention this subject to you, and I am glad you have brought it up. In one way, I don't feel like having them here; but in another way I should like to give them another chance in case they feel like turning over a new leaf and making a fresh start. What do you boys think of it?"
For a moment all of the Rover boys were silent, looking at each other questioningly. Then the others showed that they expected Jack to speak.
"Well, if you want my candid opinion, it's just this, Colonel Colby," said the oldest Rover boy earnestly. "Personally I would much prefer to have Brown and Martell stay away from Colby Hall. But if you think they ought to be given another chance to make good here, why, I am sure I'm not going to stand in their way. Just the same, if they do come here, I'm going to watch them pretty closely so that they won't be able to play any more of their dirty tricks."
"I shall not blame you for watching them, Rover. After what happened to you and your Cousin Fred, it is no more than right that you should be on your guard. Yet, I trust that you will give Brown and Martell a chance to prove themselves, provided they really do want to turn over a new leaf and make amends for what has happened."
"Oh, we'll give them plenty of chances to make good if it is in them; won't we?" and Jack turned to his cousins.
"Sure!" came in a chorus.
"Then that is settled, and I am glad of it. Now you have my permission to go on your hunting trip, and I trust you will bring down all the small game you desire. But, as I said before, be very careful. So far, I have allowed all of my pupils to go out hunting whenever they have so desired, and without any accidents happening. I don't want to break that record." And with these words the master of the Hall dismissed them.
This conversation took place on Thursday evening, and all day Friday the boys were anxiously looking forward to the proposed outing and wondering what the weather would prove to be. They obtained permission to take two small rifles and two double-barreled shotguns belonging to the institution, and these they cleaned and oiled so that they would be in prime condition.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, and the four Rovers obtained their breakfast as early as the rules of the school permitted. Then, with game bags and guns slung over their shoulders, they set out on their skates up the lake shore and then along the Rick Rack River, the wind of the day previous having cleared large portions of the ice of snow.
"Come on, let's have a race!" cried Andy gleefully. Had he not been on his skates he would have attempted a handspring in the exuberance of his spirits.
"No racing to-day!" warned Jack. "You save your breath, Andy. We expect to skate and tramp a good many miles to-day before we get back to the school."
"All right, just as you say," answered his cousin, and then he began some horseplay with Fred, which came to a sudden end when the youngest Rover tripped him up and sent him plunging into a snowbank on the side of the narrow stream.
"Now let up, I tell you!" warned Jack. "You never want to try any horseplay when you are tramping or skating along with a loaded gun. It's too dangerous. Remember what Colonel Colby said," and then Andy sobered down a little.
All too soon for the boys, the skating on the river came to an end. Beyond, the stream was little better than a rocky watercourse, now thickly covered with ice and snow.
"Why can't we leave our skates here until we come back?" suggested Randy.
"We could if we were sure we were going to return this way," answered Jack. "But we had better take them along, for we may return to the Hall by an entirely different route. We'll place our skates in our game bags for the present;" and this advice was followed.
After this the Rover boys trudged along through the woods bordering the stream. Soon they came upon some rabbit tracks, and less than a minute later Jack suddenly raised his double-barreled shotgun and blazed away.
"Hurrah! you've got him!" cried Fred, and all of the boys rushed forward to where the game lay--a big, fat rabbit.
"Say, Jack, you're the lucky one!" cried Andy. "Now you know what you promised?" he added.
"All right--it's your turn now to have the shotgun," answered his cousin, for that was the bargain which had been made. "I'll carry the rifle."
On and on went the young hunters, getting deeper and deeper into the woods. Here they managed to stir up more game, and Andy had the pleasure of bringing down the second rabbit, while the others laid low several squirrels.
"This is pretty rough ground around here," remarked Jack, after they had wound in and out around some exceedingly rough rocks and through some thick underbrush.
"We had better keep close to this stream," was Randy's suggestion. "If we don't, we may become hopelessly lost in these woods."
"Huh! I guess we could find our way out sooner or later," retorted his twin. To Andy, getting lost in the woods would seem nothing more than a big joke.
The young hunters continued to advance, and, during the course of the next hour, brought down several more rabbits, and also another squirrel. Then, just as Andy had handed back one of the shotguns to Jack and the weapon had been reloaded, they heard a strange noise coming from back of some bushes not a great distance away.
"Now what do you suppose that is?" whispered Fred.
"I think I know, Fred," was Jack's reply; "and if I am right, get ready to fire as soon as I do."
The two boys with the shotguns went in advance, and soon reached a point where they could look beyond the bushes. Then came a sudden whirr, and up into the air went a small flock of pheasants.
Bang! bang! rang out Jack's fowling piece, and bang! bang! came the report of Fred's firearm.
The strange whirring continued, but then three of the birds were seen to drop to the ground, one dead and the other two seriously wounded.
"Hurrah! we've got three of them!" cried Fred excitedly, and then ran forward, to quickly put the wounded birds out of their misery.
"Say, that's some luck!" exclaimed Randy. "If I----"
Randy stopped short, and so did some of the others who had started to speak. A strange sound from a distance had reached their ears.
"Help! help!" came in a low cry. "Help! For heaven's sake, somebody come and help me!"
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