There is no dispute over the shooting. When 70-year-old Arthur Horning found two college students hiding in an upstairs room of his dilapidated 17-room house, he shot them. Six times.

It was, Horning would later say, the only safe thing to do.

"I was protecting my life," said the Loudoun County farmer. He was beaten and stabbed before the violent episode was over, but managed to shinny down a 25-foot tree to get help.

"I'm an old man and they were 10 times stronger than I am. If I'd a backed out and gone down the stairs they could have thrown heavy furniture on me."

The bizzare confrontation between the old man and the two students, who say they thought the house was deserted, has shaken residents of Round Hill, a small country town 65 miles west of Washington. They describe Horning as an honest, hard-working man who is locally famous for his blueberry and raspberry bushes and never liked guns.

It has been no less shocking for the relatives and friends of 20-year-old Jack Schaffer, a graduate of High Point High School in Beltsville, and 21-year-old John Walter Goode, both popular students at St. Mary's College in southern Maryland.

"'Surprised' is probably not quite the word," says Schaffer's former boys club football coach, who at first refused to believe the boy who played defensive end eight years for him could have been involved in the incident.

"I thought the name was just a coincidence. I was flabbergasted," he said.

Goode, a dean's list student and star of the college soccer team who has recovered from his two flesh woulds, now faces two felony charges.Schaffer, whose only contact with the law before Round Hill was over unpaid parking tickets, spent 27 days hospitalized and is still recuperating in his parents' College Park home from four gunshot wounds.

There are still many unanswered questions that will be asked in court about the Round Hill incident. The most serious legal ones will probe the beating and stabbing of Horning by one or both students after he had emptied his .22-caliber pistol into them.

One question that may never be answered is what collision of attitudes and circumstances provoked three such unlikely individuals into the violent struggle.

Goode and Schaffer both say they were looking for junk antiques in what they thought was an abandoned farm house, a house one sheriff's investigator describes as looking "like a junk yard inside."

But to Horning, who grew up on an Indiana farm during the Depression, the two students were dangerous "criminals." Though he now lives in Bluemont, about 15 minutes from Round Hill, he still describes the old house as "home." In it are all of his possessions and many of his memories. To horning, a widower with a 32-year-old-son, the men he found trespassing were far from junk-hunting students.

"I saw them criminals there in my house and my life was at stake," said the white-haired farmer at a court hearing in Leesburg last week where Goode faced charges of felonious assault and buglary, felonies with maximum penalties of 20 years each. Charges against Schaffer are pending.

From the front seat of Goode's pickup truck, the old, weatherbeaten house and barn looked to Schaffer like something out of a ghost story. The land was wild and weeded. A dirt lane 100 yards long that led from the locked gate to the house was lined with gnarled and leafless trees. There were no shades or curtains in the windows. *t"Walter said, 'Wow, look at that place . . . it doesn't look like it's been lived in for 20 years," said Schaffer, as he recalled the 100-mile trip from St. Mary's College to the Horning house. "That's the only reason we went in."

Exploring abandoned houses and barns is one of the more popular extracurricular activities at St. Mary's, according to students interviewed there last week. Like Loudoun, the rural county is rich with the evidence of changing times.

"Everybody around here has done that sort of thing," said St. Mary's sophomore Roger Kyle Keith. "What to one person is breaking and entering, to another is just looking through an old house. Unfortunately, they got caught over the boundary."

Schaffer says a former St. Mary's student told them about Loudoun County and its potential treasures. So on Feb. 15, he and Goode ate an early breakfast and went looking for antiques and adventure.

"We just drove up and down roads, we didn't know exactly where we were, when we saw the house," said Schaffer. They parked the truck on a side road, walked about 80 yards through some woods and entered the house after removing a loose window pane.

"There was junk piled up everywhere and little walkways through it. Dirt was on everything.I found a 1923 National Georgraphic and thought nobody has been around here for a long, long time. Then we heard a truck pull up and that kind of changed our minds."

Horning says he was coming from behind his house where he had been working for two hours in a barn. He was about to enter the house to get food for the dogs he keeps in a kennel behind the house when he noticed the window pane was missing.

"I was afraid of going in there without some protection," said Horning last week. So he walked back to his pickup truck and retrieved a .22-caliber, semiautomatic pistol he had purchased six months earlier. It was, he said, the first gun he had ever owned.

Horning, who still does some farm work in the area, had told sheriff's authorities his house had been broken into before. Just a few weeks ago, he said, some tools had been stolen from his barn.

"I could see things had been moved around," said Horning, who noticed some canvas bags, apparently filled, set below the glassless window. "I started looking around cautiously."

Goode and Schaffer were in a second-floor room, pressed flat against a wall when Horning entered.

"When I opened the door up, there the two criminals were," said Horning, who said he immediately started firing the gun "fairly rapid . . . to protect myself before they jumped me."

"He saw me first, because I was standing nearer," remembers Schaffer. "He shot me three times, then he stopped for a moment. My legs kind of scissored under me. I looked him in the eye and begged him, 'My God, please please don't shoot me again. Then he aimed at me and shot again. He wanted to kill me."

Horning told authorities he couldn't remember whom he shot first or how many times he fired because "it all happened so fast." Schaffer says after Horning had fired the fourth bullet into him, he fired twice at Goode.

After the last two shots, one of which passed through Goode's right hand and then through a portion of his stomach, Goode used a flashlight to knock the gun from Horning's hand, Goode later told investigators.

After that the story becomes vague and conflicting.

"The one that wasn't shot so bad, he got me down and was beating on me," said Horning. "At the hospital they said I had 25 stab wounds in the head and 17 stab wounds on the body. One of my lungs was punctured."

Goode would not talk to a reporter and Schaffer said, "I don't want to talk about that part." The Sheriff's Department says no knife has been found.

"I don't know if we'll ever find a knife," says Officer John Sheldon. "You could hide an elephant in that house."

After the violence had ended, Goode carried Schaffer out of the house to some bushes. He then left to get the truck.

Horning recovered enought to open a second-floor window, climb down a tree 25 feet to the ground and drive his truck a few hundred yards to the house of a neighbor, Thelma Best. She called the Round Hill rescue squad. h

Deputy Sheriff Walter O. Dyson was the first on the scene. He found Schaffer in the bushes, calling for help. A few minutes later Goode returned for his friend and was arrested.

Goode, Schaffer and Horning were all taken to Loudoun Memorial Hospital in Leesburg. Goode was treated for his flesh wounds and released on $5,000 bond.

Schaffer was moved to the Washington Hospital Center where he stayed for 27 days under a false name because of telephone threats to his life. He was released last week, but remains in a wheelchair waiting for his damaged leg muscles to heal.

Horning spent eight days in the Loudoun hospital. A fractured finger on his left hand is still wrapped in a bandage and he complains that his neck "hurts me terrible when I cough or when I sneeze."

Horning says he does not feel any animosity toward Goode or Schaffer, saying "I guess it's pretty much their hard luck too."

But when asked if he would do anything differently if he found the two in his house again, the white-haired farmer does not hesitate.

"I think I'd have a bigger gun," he said.