For months after the vandalism began, Arthur F. Horning had made daily visits to his old Victorian-style home in rural Loudoun County, carrying a small-caliber revolver with him.

On most days, Horning, a 70-year-old retired electrician, would leave his gun inside the car as he checked around the grey, three-story house that had been his home for years.

Friday afternoon, Horning spotted a broken window as his car pulled up the small winding driveway off Virginia Rte. 719. This time he took his pistol with him.

Inside the house Horning, a stout, six-foot tall man with receding white hair, confronted two intruders.

"He found two guys in a second floor room," said Loudoun Sheriff's Sgt. A. L. Tavenner. "When it was over Horning had been stabbed 25 times . . . in the head, the back, chest, and legs. He shot one of the suspects four times in the stomach and also wounded the second."

Horning was not dead. Although bleeding "all over his body," Horning crawled 200 yards to a house and summoned help, Tavenner said.

Moments after his call, deputies arrived at Horning's house in Loudoun's Round Hill community and found two college students bleeding from gunshot wounds in the front yard.

Officers identified them yesterday as John W. Goode, 21, and John Shaffer, 20, both students at St. Mary's College in southern Maryland. Shaffer, shot four times in the stomach, was lying on the lawn, next to Goode, who had flesh wounds in his elbow and stomach, the deputies said.

Shaffer was listed in serious condition yesterday at the shock trauma unit of the Washington Hospital Center. Horning, who was taken to Loudoun Memorial Hospital in Leesburg, was listed in stable condition in an intensive care unit there.

Goode, charged with burglary, attempted grand larceny and felonious assault, was released yesterday on $5,000 bond.

Loudoun Deputy Sheriff Walt Dyson said Goode's parents had verified that their son was a student at St. Mary's College, a small liberal arts college of approximately 2,000 students located eight miles southeast of Lexington Park.

Officers said they were baffled at why the students would have been in the house, which is located about 60 miles west of Washington.

"They said that they lived near each other in Lexington Park," a small Maryland town of 4,000 55 miles southeast of Washington, said Sheriffs Lt. Leonard McDonald. "But that's more than 100 miles from Round Hill, and nobody can figure out what they were doing this far away from home."

Horning, who was stabbed repeatedly with a long-handled knife and was badly beaten with a flashlight, told officers that he had been living for a year with an elderly couple in Bluemont, a community four miles west of Round Hill, when he noticed vandalism to his old home and began checking it.