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FACING THE WOLVES
"So this is how you treat me, eh?" exclaimed old Barney Stevenson, as he confronted the visitors. "Come here to do as you please while I'm away, eh?" and his face showed his intense displeasure.
"They wanted to go into your cabin, but we wouldn't let them do it while you were away," said Jack quickly.
"Good for you, boys--I'm glad you kept 'em out."
"See here, Stevenson, this nonsense has got to end!" cried Slogwell Brown. "You know as well as I do that you have no valid claim to this island."
"The island belongs to me, Brown, and I intend to keep it!" was the quick reply. "I've got my deed for it."
"That deed is no good, and you know it," broke in Asa Lemm.
"Look here! if you are so sure that Mr. Stevenson is in the wrong, why don't you go to law about it?" questioned Jack, struck by a sudden idea.
"See here, boy, this is none of your affair," growled Slogwell Brown. "We'll conduct our own business in our own way."
"And I'll conduct my own business in my own way, too!" interposed Uncle Barney. "You get off of this island--all of you--just as quick as you can," and he started as if to raise his gun.
"Now, see here, Stevenson----" began Slogwell Brown.
"We have rights----" came from Asa Lemm.
"I've listened to you before. I'm not going to listen again!" interrupted the old lumberman. "You haven't any right on this island, and I'm ordering you--every one of you--to get off just as soon as you can. You're trespassers--nothing else!" and now he raised his gun as if getting ready to shoot.
"Come on, let us go back!" cried Professor Lemm in sudden terror, and he retreated several steps, followed by Slugger and Nappy.
"See here, Stevenson, you'll be sorry for this some day," growled Slogwell Brown. He had still too much of the fight left in him to retreat, and yet he was not brave enough to advance.
"I'll take my chances!" returned Uncle Barney. "I've got those deeds, and I know they are all O. K. Now, you clear out--and don't you dare to come here again!"
"Why won't you let me see those deeds?" questioned the other man.
"Because I won't--that's why!"
"I came on purpose to look them over and show you your mistake."
"Maybe he hasn't got any deeds," came from Nappy, who had fallen back still further.
"I've got those deeds safe and sound--in a box--and put away where you fellows can't find 'em!" answered the old lumberman triumphantly. "Now you get out! I'll give you just five minutes to do it in. Jack, you time 'em, will you?" and he glanced at the oldest Rover boy.
"Sure, I will!" was the ready reply, and Jack pulled out his watch. "It's now exactly twelve minutes past four."
"All right. Then you've got until seventeen minutes after four to get off of this island," announced Barney Stevenson to the visitors. "If you are not off by that time, there'll most likely be some shooting around here."
He had taken his place in front of his cabin, and all of the boys were now ranged beside him. As each was armed, they made quite a formidable looking firing squad.
Much against his will, Slogwell Brown retreated to where Professor Lemm and the others of the crowd stood. The four talked matters over in a low tone.
"It's too bad we came here unarmed," grumbled Slogwell Brown.
"That's just what I say, Dad!" answered his son. "Let's go back and get some guns and pistols."
"No! no! We don't want any shooting!" cried Asa Lemm in new alarm.
"I'm not going to get mixed up in any gun-play," added Nappy.
"If we could only get possession of those deeds!" went on the former teacher of Colby Hall.
"I've got a plan," suggested Nappy, after a moment's pause. "Come on, let's go away now, and I'll tell you what it is."
Growling and grumbling, the four visitors made their way slowly to the lake shore. As they skated off, Slugger Brown turned to shake his fist at the Rovers, and Nappy did likewise.
"Well, they've gone!" exclaimed Fred, and his voice showed his relief.
"But there's no telling when they'll come back," said Randy quickly.
"I don't think they'll come back in a hurry," broke in Andy. "We scared them pretty thoroughly with our guns."
"What did they say to you before I came?" questioned Uncle Barney, while the party on the lake was disappearing in the gloom.
Thereupon the boys related the particulars of all that had taken place, the old lumberman listening closely to the recital. At the end, he shut his teeth and shook his head grimly.
"The rascals!" he ejaculated. "If it hadn't been for you, they would most likely have ransacked both of the cabins, and maybe, if they had gotten hold of my extra gun or my pistol, taken possession and made me keep away."
"Oh, they would have taken possession all right enough!" cried Jack. "But if the island is really yours, Uncle Barney, I don't see why you couldn't have had them arrested for anything like that."
"I told you before--I have no use for lawyers or law courts," grumbled the old lumberman. "All I want to do is to stay here and not be disturbed. I've got my deeds, and that's enough."
"Are you sure they are in a safe place?" questioned Jack. "I mean, some place where those rascals can't get at them?"
"I've got 'em in a tin box, and put away safe enough."
"I hope you haven't got them hidden around one of the cabins," said Fred. "They'd be sure to find them if they came here some time when you were away, and made a search."
"I haven't got 'em in or near either of the cabins. I've got 'em in a better place than that," was the cunning reply.
"You really ought to have them recorded, Uncle Barney; and then maybe it wouldn't be a bad scheme to put them in a safe deposit box in a bank," said Jack.
"Oh, they're safe enough--don't you fear!" answered the old man. It was plainly to be seen that he was bound to have his own way in everything he did.
Satisfied that the visitors had left the island for the time being, the boys followed the old lumberman into his own cabin, and there helped him to start up the fire. He told them that he had shipped off the wild turkey as desired.
The evening passed quietly, and in the morning the boys found themselves thoroughly rested.
"It's a grand day for hunting!" exclaimed Fred, as he went outside to view the landscape. The sun was just peeping over the trees on the eastern shore of Lake Monona, and soon the dazzling shafts of light were streaming over the ice and snow in all directions.
"Do you think Asa Lemm and those others will be back to-day?" queried Randy.
"There's no telling," answered Jack.
While some of the boys were preparing breakfast, the others walked over to Uncle Barney's cabin. They found the old lumberman already stirring, and invited him to come over and eat his morning meal with them, an invitation which he readily accepted, for he had taken a great liking to all of the Rovers.
"We've been thinking of trying those snowshoes, Uncle Barney," said Jack.
"No time like the present, boys," was the answer. "I'll show you how to put 'em on, and how to use 'em, too."
"Won't you go out hunting with us?" questioned Fred.
"No; I'm going to stay around the cabins, in case those rascals come back. I don't think they will, but there is nothing like being on the safe side."
The hour after the morning meal was productive of a good deal of fun. None of the boys had ever used snowshoes before, and consequently in their efforts to move around on them, they got more than one tumble.
"Great watermelons!" cried Andy, as he pitched headfirst into a snowdrift. "And I thought using snowshoes was the easiest thing in the world!"
"It's just like plain walking, Andy; it's got to be learned," answered Jack, who, a moment before, had had a tumble himself.
Finally, however, the boys managed to remain on their feet fairly well, and then they started off to do a little hunting along the eastern shore of the island.
"I don't know as you'll be able to stir up very much to-day," announced Uncle Barney. "But even a few rabbits and a few squirrels won't be so bad."
They carried a lunch with them, not knowing whether they would get back to the cabin by noon or not. They were soon gliding over the snow where something of a trail led through the woods.
They tramped a good half mile before they saw anything in the way of game. Then several squirrels appeared, and Fred and Andy had the satisfaction of laying them low with their shotguns. Then they tramped on further, and by noon managed to obtain a rabbit and two woodcocks.
"Not so bad but what it might be worse," announced Jack, who had the rabbit to his credit. "We won't go hungry, that's sure!"
"And don't forget that we've got those wild turkeys to eat," added Andy, who had laid low the two woodcocks.
Being unaccustomed to the use of snowshoes, the lads were glad to rest. They built themselves a little campfire, and, huddling around this, partook of the lunch they had brought along, washing it down with some hot chocolate from a thermos bottle they carried.
The lunch finished, they set off once again, this time going deeper into the woods than ever.
"Listen!" cried Jack presently. "I thought I heard some game stirring."
All came to a halt and listened intently. From a distance they heard a peculiar drumming sound.
"Partridges, I'll bet anything!" cried Randy in a low voice. "Come on, let's see if we can't get some of them."
He led the way over the snow, and the others were not slow in following. They had reached a point where the trees grew sparingly, and where there were a great number of rocks and brushwood.
They could hear a strange fluttering, and then a number of partridges arose in the air some distance in front of them. All took hasty aim and fired, but the game sailed out of sight unharmed.
"That's the time we missed it," observed Jack dismally. "I guess we made too much noise and they heard us."
"Listen!" interrupted Randy. "There is some sort of fight going on ahead."
He was right; and, listening, they made out a strange bark mingled with a snarl and several yelps.
"Let's go ahead and see what it means!" exclaimed Andy, and pushed on, with the others close behind him.
The boys had to skirt some heavy brushwood, and then came out in a small cleared space surrounded by numerous big rocks and pine trees. The strange noises they had heard had come from between two of the large rocks, and now, of a sudden, several forms, snapping and snarling and whirling this way and that in the snow, burst upon their view.
"Four of them!"
"They are all fighting over the possession of a dead partridge!"
Four gaunt and hungry-looking wolves had come tumbling out in the snow. One of them was carrying a dead partridge in his mouth, and the other three were doing their best to get the game away from him. As the Rovers came into the opening, the wolves, for an instant, stopped their fighting and glared at the boys. Then the animal having the game made a sudden leap over the rocks and disappeared from view. The three wolves that remained began to snap and snarl and show their teeth.
"Gracious! they are certainly hungry-looking beggars!" was Randy's comment.
"Come on, let's shoot them!" exclaimed Jack.
"They're no good for game," interposed Randy.
"I know that, Randy. But we don't want them on the island, and neither does Uncle Barney."
"I thought he said there weren't very many wolves left. Maybe----"
Fred, who was speaking, got no further, for at that moment the three hungry-looking wolves crouched low, and then sprang straight in the direction of the four young hunters!
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