"I thought we were hunting for poachers," answered Albert, dubiously; "and now we have been poaching ourselves."
"By Jiminy! So we have; and I never once thought of it," cried the valiant hunter. "I am afraid we are off my father's preserves too. It is well the deputy sheriffs are not abroad, or we might find ourselves decorated with iron bracelets before night."
"Well, I can't tell. It's in the blood, I fancy. The moment I saw the track and caught the wild smell, I forgot all about the poachers, and started on the scent like a hound."
The two boys stood for some minutes looking at the dead animal, not with savage exultation, but with a dim regret. The blood which was gushing from the wound in the breast froze in a solid lump the very moment it touched the snow, although the cold had greatly moderated since the morning.
"I suppose we'll have to skin the fellow," remarked Ralph, lugubriously; "it won't do to leave that fine carcass for the wolves to celebrate Christmas with."
"All right," Albert answered, "I am not much of a hand at skinning, but I'll do the best I can."
They fell to work rather reluctantly at the unwonted task, but had not proceeded far when they perceived that they had a full day's job before them.
"I've no talent for the butcher's trade," Ralph exclaimed in disgust, dropping his knife into the snow. "There's no help for it, Biceps, we'll have to bury the carcass, pile some logs on the top of it, and send a horse to drag it home to-morrow. If it were not Christmas Eve to-night we might take a couple of men along and shoot a dozen wolves or more. For there is sure to be pandemonium here before long, and a concert in G-flat that'll curdle the marrow of your bones with horror."