“Run!” commanded Skipper Ed, half under his breath, but still in a tone so loud and tense that the boys heard. “Run! We must run now for our lives!”
And they did run, but had scarcely gained the cover of the woods on the northern side of the open when wolf cries left no doubt that the animals had discovered the return trail and were hot upon it. It seemed now that nothing but an intercession of Providence could save them. The wolf pack would surely overtake them before they could attain the protection of the cabin.
Now they could hear the pack yelping down through the forest! Already it had reached the brush hedge by the shore! It had made its turn northward, the yelps increasing in volume as it approached! Now the leaders were in sight!
“Go on! Go on!” yelled Skipper Ed, himself lagging in order that he might fall in the rear of the boys and take a position between them and the wolves, and as he did so he turned quickly and fired a random shot at the leader of the pack.
The cabin had just loomed into view dimly through the trees, and the wolves, almost upon their expected prey, were sounding the wild, fierce cry of triumph, when another pack, like phantoms in the forest shadows, coming from the direction of the cabin, swept down past Skipper Ed and the boys, suddenly breaking forth as they ran into a fierce howl of defiance.[B]
[Footnote B: A few years ago Job Edmunds, a native acquaintance of the author, was saved from a pack of wolves in just this manner by his dogs.]
“Thank God!” exclaimed Skipper Ed. “The dogs! The dogs will help us! Run, lads, and get to the door! I’ll stop and help hold them with my rifle till you get in!”
But Bobby and Jimmy would not have it so. They, too, turned, and in the dim light of the shadowed forest the three fired into the face of the pack until their rifles were empty. Whether or not any of the animals fell they could not see, but the pack paused for a moment in surprise. Then the dogs charged them, and as the three reached the cabin door yelps and snarls told of the clash as the dogs met their wild kin of the hills in battle.
“Thank God!” again breathed Skipper Ed when the three, panting for breath, were safe in the cabin, a moment later, with the good stout door between them and the ravenous pack, which presently came snapping and snarling around the cabin. “I never saw such a pack of wolves before. I never knew that they gathered in such numbers in these days. There must be at least thirty of them."[C]
[Footnote C: Not many years ago a pack of upwards of thirty of these great northern wolves appeared a few miles to the southward of this point. One of my friends was driven to the shelter of his cabin to escape them.—Author.]
“The dogs! Partner, what will become of our dogs?” exclaimed Jimmy. “They’ll kill our fine dogs!”