“Now what d’ye suppose the sillies are poking poles under there, for?” ejaculated William; “and just when I was going to propose that we pull up a board, and crawl through the hole.”
“Whew! what’s this mean? Say, fellows, if that don’t make me think of a blessed old skunk I don’t know the odor when I meet it!” and Wallace drew back as he was about to get down on his hands and knees to investigate the meaning of the odd sounds under the barn flooring.
Others got it quickly, and various cries arose, as the boys began to hold their noses, and look around at each other.
“It’ll smother us, fellows, that’s what!” gasped William, quite pale by now; for the odor which a skunk leaves in its wake affects some persons powerfully, though others hardly mind it at all.
“I know!” Bluff managed to gasp, with a great effort; “there’s a f-f-family of s-s-skunks have their h-h-home under here. I’ve seen ’em, b-b-but I never b-b-bothered the b-b-beauties. Oh! ain’t it j-j-just awful, f-f-fellows?”
It certainly was.
Stirred up by the poles wielded by Ted Slavin and his cronies, who must have discovered the presence of the polecats when visiting the barn that morning, and laid their plans accordingly, the little animals were using the only means of defence against an enemy granted them by Nature.
William actually keeled over, and his brother had to drag him to the further end of the barn so that he might not get the full benefit of the overpowering scent.
“Something’s just got to be done!” cried Jack, himself not feeling any too well under the infliction.
“Here, help me lift this old beam, boys. We can make a battering ram out of it, and burst a board off somehow. Never mind the damages; they can be repaired easy enough. Two more get hold. Now, swing around this way. I think the weakest place is in the rear. Keep back, the rest of you. Here goes!”
Five others had been only too willing to lend a hand when Paul called for volunteers. The beam that had been lying against the further wall was good and heavy; but that made it all the better as an engine for ramming a hole through the boarded side of the barn.
Amid the cheers of the scouts the novel battering ram was carried forward with a will, and on the run. Some of the boys held up lanterns so that those who were in the line of attack could see just where to strike. Even poor overcome William managed to raise his head, and feebly wave a hand of encouragement.
The beam struck with tremendous force, and nothing in the way of a plain ordinary boarding could withstand the impetus with which it was driven forward.
“Whoop!” yelled the scouts, as a big aperture appeared in the side of the barn, and the route to liberty lay before them.
They were not slow to avail themselves of the privilege either, but hastened to scramble through the gap, carrying the lanterns with them. William managed to get up enough steam to crawl outside, where he could breath air that was not fetid, and filled with overpowering odors.