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CHAPTER XXX


HOME AGAIN—CONCLUSION


In a few minutes the wolves had come up and were glaring at Mr. Porter and Dave as they crouched close to the camp-fire. There were fourteen of the beasts, all large, lean, and hungry-looking. They sniffed the air and set up yelps and mournful howls. Two found the spot where one of the bears had been wounded and pawed at the blood which had saturated the snow.

"Oh, for a brace of good shotguns!" sighed Dave. "We could scatter them in short order."

"When we shoot we must make every shot tell," said his father. "And keep the cartridges where we can get at them quickly. How many left, Dave?"

The youth counted the contents of the box he carried.

"Seventeen."

"Hardly enough for fourteen wolves. Yes, we must be very careful. If they—— They are coming closer!"

"Let us fire off one pistol at a time!" cried Dave. "Then we'll always have one ready for use."

Mr. Porter did not answer, for he was aiming at the nearest beast. With the discharge of the pistol the wolf leaped high in the air, turned and came down on its side, and began to kick the snow in its death agony.

"A good shot!" exclaimed Dave.

"You can try your luck," said Mr. Porter. "I will take out that empty shell and reload."

The other wolves had surrounded the one that was dying, and taking aim at the center of the pack Dave let drive. One wolf was hit in the nose and the bullet glanced off and hit another in the jaw. Wild yelps of pain followed, and the two wolves turned and ran for cover with all possible speed.

"We have gotten rid of three of them," said Dave, with much satisfaction. "If we keep this up we'll soon get rid of the rest."

"It is snowing again," announced Mr. Porter.

He was right, and soon the downfall became so heavy that they could see next to nothing beyond the circle of light made by the camp-fire. But that the wolves were still near they knew by the yelps and snarls which occasionally reached their ears.

A quarter of an hour went by, and the snow came down as thickly as ever. A light wind had sprung up, and this sent the flakes directly into the hollow under the cliff. Mr. Porter heaved a sigh.

"More bad luck," he observed. "By morning. If this keeps on, we'll be snowed in."

"Look," said Dave. "I believe the wolves are getting ready to rush us!"

Both strained their eyes and soon saw seven or eight of the beasts sneaking softly up through the snow. The light from the camp-fire shone in their eyes and on their white fangs. They were growing desperate, and hoped by sheer force of numbers to lay their human prey low.

"Fire three shots, Dave, and I will do the same," said Mr. Porter, in a low tone. "Aim as carefully as you can, my boy."

The various shots rang out in rapid succession. How much damage was done they could not tell, although they saw two wolves go down and lie still. The others retreated, some limping, and the entire pack went back to the shelter of the brushwood.

They had now only a few cartridges left, and these they divided between them. Then Dave stirred up the fire a little and placed the burning sticks so they would last as long as possible. Father and son looked at each other and suddenly stepped closer and embraced.

"God grant, now we have found each other, that we get from this spot in safety," murmured Mr. Porter, fervently.

"Oh, we must get away!" added Dave, impulsively.

"All we can do is to fight to the last, Dave."

"Yes."

Both knew only too well what to expect should the wolves get the better of the contest. "As cruel as a wolf" is a true saying. They would be torn limb from limb and only their bones would be left to tell to some later traveler the story of their fate. They decided, with set faces and shut teeth, to fight to the very last.

Another quarter of an hour went by, and soon they heard the wolves coming back. Neither said a word, but both looked at each other.

"Take those on the left,—I will take those on the right," whispered Mr. Porter. "But be careful—every shot means so much!"

"I'll shoot my very best," answered Dave. After that not a word was spoken. Silently the beasts came closer and closer. Dave's heart began to beat rapidly. Then, when he could wait no longer, he aimed at the nearest animal on the left and pulled the trigger.

Two shots, one from the son and the other from the father, rang out almost simultaneously, and down went two wolves mortally wounded. Crack! went Dave's weapon a second time, and now a wolf was hit in the neck. Then Mr. Porter fired, sending a bullet into a breast that was presented to view. With four of their number out of the fight, the other wolves turned and fled into the brushwood and then toward the forest of firs.

The battle had been of short duration, but the excitement had been intense, and Dave found himself bathed in a cold perspiration from head to foot. His father, too, was weak, and now sank on the rocks, breathing heavily.

Only one small branch of a tree remained for the fire, and this Dave set up, so that it might burn as a torch. When that was gone they would be in utter darkness—and then? The youth shivered as he asked himself the question. He knew that wild animals love the darkness and are braver in it than in the light.

"Hello! hello! hello!"

Loud and clear from above the cliff the cry rang out a dozen times or more. At first Dave thought he must be dreaming, then he roused up and so did his parent.

"What was that?" demanded Mr. Porter.

"Somebody calling, I think." Dave ran out of the hollow and looked upward through the falling snow. "Who calls?" he yelled, at the top of his lungs.

"It is I, Granbury Lapham, and I have my brother and the others with me. Is that you, Porter?"

"Yes."

"Have you found your father?"

"Yes."

"How is he?" came in another voice—the voice of Philip Lapham.

"He is hurt a little, but not much."

"I'll be all right if I can only get out of here," called Mr. Porter, coming out so that he could look up the cliff. "We've been having our own troubles with two bears and a pack of wolves."

"We thought there must be trouble—by the shots fired," said Granbury Lapham. "That's why we started out in the darkness." He waved a torch in the air. "Can you see us?"

"We can see a light," answered Dave. He took up the branch from the fire. "Can you see our light?"

"Yes."

A long talk followed, and the party above, numbering four, said they had brought along a good rope. This they lowered, and after not a little difficulty Mr. Porter and Dave were raised up to the ledge above.

"There come the wolves again!" cried the youth, as he reached the ledge. "Have you a shotgun with you?"

"Yes," said Philip Lapham.

"Please lend it to me."

The weapon was passed over, and Dave blazed away twice in rapid succession. A wild snarling and yelping followed, and then the wolves disappeared; and that was the last seen of them.

"We are well out of that," murmured Mr. Porter. "And I am glad of it."

"And I am glad too," added Dave.

As it was snowing heavily the party did not waste time on the edge of the cliff, but moved back to a small hut built on the mountain side and which was easily located by the Norwegian guide. Here they found the others of the exploring party, and here Mr. Porter and Dave were served with a hot meal and made as comfortable as possible.

The snow lasted until noon of the next day, and then it grew clear and much warmer. On the following day Dave and his father and the guide went down the mountain to the sheep-station. Before they left they bade the Laphams and the others good-bye, and Mr. Porter said he would leave the question of locating the mines entirely in Philip Lapham's charge.

"You can draw on me for my full share of the expenses," said Mr. Porter. "And if nothing comes of the venture I won't complain." It may be added here that, later on, several mines of considerable importance were located, and when Mr. Porter sold out to a syndicate that was formed he realized a profit of about fifteen thousand dollars.

At the sheep-station Dave found Roger anxiously awaiting his return. The senator's son was delighted to meet Mr. Porter, and the two immediately became great friends.

As the weather remained fine it was decided to start on the return to Christiania without delay. Mr. Porter took Granbury Lapham's place in the sleigh, and the party took with them a good stock of provisions. The journey was not without excitement, for they met and killed two wolves, and once they rolled down a small hill and were dumped in the snow, but in the end they arrived safely at the nearest railroad station, and from that point the remainder of the trip was easy.

At the Norwegian capital a long cablegram was sent to Dunston Porter by Dave and his father, telling of their meeting and stating that they and Roger would return to the United States at once. They also wanted to send a cablegram to Laura, but could not, for they did not know her exact address.

"I shall have to wait until I hear from her, or until we get on the other side," said Mr. Porter. "More than likely she is somewhere out West,—perhaps on Mr. Endicott's ranch with Belle Endicott, her friend. I had the address of the ranch, but I lost it while I was up in the mountains."

From Christiania, or rather the seaport, Drobak, they obtained passage on a swift-saihng vessel to Hull, and then took a train across England to Liverpool. They had already telegraphed ahead for staterooms on a Cunard steamer bound for Boston, and two hours after arriving at Liverpool were on board and leaving the dock.

"This is fast traveling," remarked Roger, as they stood on the deck, watching the shipping scene around them. "In less than a week we'll be home. Dave, in some respects our trip to Norway seems like a dream."

"That is true, Roger—but what a happy dream!" And Dave's face fairly beamed with thankfulness.

When they took the train from Boston to Crumville Dave could scarcely control himself. Word had been sent ahead to the Wadsworths and Caspar Potts, and at the depot the travelers found all of their friends awaiting them. Mr. Porter was quickly introduced, and shook hands warmly all around.

"Oh, Dave, I'm so glad to see you back!" cried Jessie. "And to think you have really found your father at last! Isn't it splendid!"

"Yes, Jessie; and if I'm not the happiest boy in the world—well, I ought to be, that's all."

"And what a fine man he is—and looks very much like your Uncle Dunston, and looks like you, too," added the girl. She lowered her voice and it trembled a little. "I am so happy—for your sake, Dave!" And the tears stood in her deep, honest eyes.

It was truly a great home-coming, and Dave's father was told to make himself perfectly at ease by Mr. Wadsworth.

"You have been more than kind to Dave," said Mr. Porter. "You and your family, and Professor Potts. Dave has told me all about it. I do not know if I can ever repay you, but I shall try my best." And he shook hands all over again.

On the very day that Dave reached Crumville came a letter from Phil Lawrence, who had received word that Dave was coming home. In this communication Phil said that matters were running smoothly at Oak Hall. Sam Day and Ben Basswood had had some trouble with Nat Poole, and the dude had received a well-deserved thrashing. Gus Plum was keeping very quiet, and had made a few more friends.

"You will be surprised to hear the news about Link Merwell," wrote Phil. "I cannot tell you the start of it, but it ended in a great row between Merwell and Mr. Dale. Merwell is very bitter about it, and claims that I in some way got him into trouble. He went home for a vacation, and before he left he shook his fist in my face and said, 'I'll get even with you some day, and I'll get even with that friend of yours, Dave Porter, too.' He was fearfully ugly, and acted as if he wanted to eat somebody up."

"Humph, that is cheerful news," remarked Roger, after Dave had shown him the letter. "Dave, you want to watch out for Merwell."

"I certainly will, Roger. Don't you remember what I once said? In some respects he is a worse chap than Nick Jasniff and a good deal worse than Gus Plum ever was." And that Dave was correct will be proved in the next volume of this series, to be entitled, "Dave Porter and His Classmates; or. For the Honor of Oak Hall." In that volume we shall meet all our friends again, and also Laura Porter, and learn how Dave met the underhanded work of Link Merwell and what was the result.

On Friday evening following Dave's return to the Wadsworth home he was surprised to receive a visit from Phil, Ben, Sam, and Shadow. They burst into the house like a cyclone and nearly hugged him to death, and then shook hands all around, not forgetting Dave's father, who was quickly introduced.

"We simply couldn't stay away," said Phil. "We stormed Doctor Clay's office and he let us off until Monday morning."

"We want to hear all about your adventures in the far north," added Ben. "How you discovered the North Pole, and shot bears and wolves——"

"And gave Nick Jasniff his set-back," interrupted Sam. "And how you found your father."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow. "A fellow once——"

"Hold hard, Shadow!" interrupted Phil. "Dave has the floor this time. Your stories must wait until he's through."

"All right," answered the story-teller of the school, cheerfully. "I'd rather listen to Dave, anyway, for I know he's got something worth telling."

And then all sat down, and Dave told his tale, just as I have related it here. It took until midnight, and when he had finished, all said goodnight to each other and went to bed. And here let us say good-night, too.


THE END