"In the name of the law!" he shouted again, and both rifles were reluctantly lowered.
"I have shot an elk," cried Ralph, eagerly, "and this man is a poacher, we heard him shoot."
"I have killed an elk," screamed the poacher, in the same moment, "and so has this fellow."
The sheriff was too astonished to speak. Never before, in his experience, had poachers raced for dear life to give themselves into custody. He feared that they were making sport of him; in that case, however, he resolved to make them suffer for their audacity.
"You are my prisoners," he said, after a moment's hesitation. "Take them to the lock-up, Olsen, and handcuff them securely," he added, turning to his deputy.
There were now a dozen men--most of them guests and attendants of the sheriff's household--standing in a ring about Ralph and the poacher. Albert, too, had scrambled to his feet and had joined his comrade.
"Will you permit me, Mr. Sheriff," said Ralph, making the officer his politest bow, "to send a message to my father, who is probably anxious about us?"
"And who is your father, young man?" asked the sheriff, not unkindly; "I should think you were doing him an ill-turn in taking to poaching at your early age."