The Strength of the Pines
BYNOPBIB.—At the death of hts
foster father, Bruce Duncan, In an
eastern city, receives a mysterious
message, sent by a Mrs. Boss, sum
moning him peremptorily to south
ern Oregon—to meet •‘Linda."
Biuce has vivid but baffling recol
lections of his childhood In an or
phanage. before his adoption by
Newton Duncan, with the girl Lin
da. At his destination. Trail's End.
news that a message has been sent
to Bruce Is received with marked
displeasure -by a man introduced
to the reader as "Simon." Leaving
the train. Bruce Is astonished at
his apparent familiarity with the
surroundings, though to his knowl
edge he has never been there.
Obedient to the message, Bruce
makes his way to Martin's cross
roads Store, for direction as to
reaching Mrs. Ross’ cabin. On the
way. "Bimon" sternly warns him
to give up hts quest and return
East. Bruce refuses? Mrs. Ross,
aged and Inflrm. welcomes him
with emotion. She hastens him on
his way—the end of "Pine-Needle
He examined the mud about the
spring, and there was plenty of evi
dence that the forest creatures had
passed that way. Here wns a little
triangle where m buck had stepped,
and further away he found two pairs
of deer tracks—evidently those of a
doe with fawn. A wolf had stopped
to cool his heated fondue In the wa
ters. possibly In the middle of some
terrible hunt In the twilight hours.
Then he found a huge abrasion in
the mud that puzzled him still moiw.
At the first he couldn't believe thin
It was a track. The reason was sim
ply thnt the size of the thing was In
credible —ns If some one had laid n
flour sack in the mud and taken it up
again. He did not think of any of
the modern-day forest creatures ns
being of such proportions. It was
very stale and hud l>een almost oblit
erated by many days of sun. Perhaps
he bad been mistaken In thinking it
an imprint of a living creature. He
went to his knees to examine It.
But in one instant he knew that he
had not been mistaken. It was a
track not greatly different from that
of an enormous human foot; and the
sepamte toes were entirely distinct.
It was a bear track, of course, but
one of such size that the general run
of little black bears that Inhabited
the hills could almost use it for a den
He got up und went on—farther
towurd Trail's End. He walked more
swiftly now, for he hoped to reach
the end of Pine-Needle Trail before
nightfall, but he had no Intention of
halting In case night came upon him
before he reached It. He had waited
too long already to And Linda.
Another hour ended the day's sun
light. The shadows fell quickly, but
It was a long time yet until darkness.
He yet might make the trail-end. He
gave no thought to fatigue. In the
first place he had stood ap remark
ably well under the days tramp for
no other reason than that he had al
ways made a point of keeping In the
best of physical condition. Besides,
there was something more potent than
mere physical strength to sustain
him now. It was the*'realization of
the neailng end of the trail —a knowl
edge of tremendous revelations that
would come to him in a few hours
Already great truths were taking
shape In his brain; he only needed a
single sentence of explanation to con
nect them all together. He began
to feel a growing excitement and im
It was quite dark now, and he
could barely see the trail. For the
first time he began to despair, feeling
that another night of overpowering
impatience must be spent before he
could teach Trail's End. The stars
began to push through the darkening
aky. Then, fainter thnn the gleam of
a firefly, he saw the faint light of a
far distant camp fire.
His heart hounded. He knew what
was there. It wns the end of the
trail at Inst. And It guided him the
rest of the way. When he reuched
the top of a little rise In the trail, the
whole scene was laid out In mystery
The fire had been built nt the door
of a mountain bouse —a log structure
of perhaps four rooms. The firelight
played In Its open doorway. Some
thing beside It enught Ids attention,
and Instinctively he followed It with
his eyes until it ended in an Incred
ible region of the stars. It was a
great pine tree, the larprlt he bad
ever seen—seemingly a p*#eat sentinel
over all the land.
But the sudden awe thnt came over
him at the sight of It wns cut short
by the sight of a girl’s figure in the
He had an Instant's sense
"thnt he had come to the wilderness’
heart nt last, thnt this tall tree was
its symbol, thnt If he could under
stand the eternal watch that It kept
over this mountain world, he would
have an understanding of all things—
hut nil these thoughts were submerged
In the realization that be had come
back to Linda at lost.
lie had known how the mountains
would seem. ,AII that he had beheld
today was Just the recurrence of
things beheld long ago. Nothing had
seemed different from what he had
agpected; rather be had a sense that
n lost world had been returned to him.
ftftd It was almost as'if he had never
By EDISON MARSHALL
Author of “The Voice of the Pack”
light did not answer In the least de
gree the picture he had carried of
He remembered her as a blond
headed little girl with irregular fea
tures and a rather unreasonable al
lowance of homeliness. All the way
he had thought of her as a baby sis
ter—not ns a woman In her flower.
For a long second he gazed at her in
Her hair was no longer blond.
True, It had peculiar red lights when
the firelight shone through It: but he
knew by the light of day It would be
deep brown. He remembered her os
an awkward little thing that wus
hhrdly able to keep her feet under
her. This tall girl had the wilderness
grace—which Is the grace of a deer
and only blind eyes cannot see It. He
dimly knew that she wore a khaki
colored skirt nnd a simple blouse of
white tied with a blue scarf. Her
arms were bare In the fire's gleam.
And there was a dark beauty about
her face that simply could not be
She came toward him. and her
hands were open before her. And her
lips trembled. Bruce could see them
in the firelight.
It was a strange meeting. The fire
light gave It a tone of unreality, and
the whole forest world seemed to
pause In its whispered business ns If
to watch. It was as If they hud been
brought face to face by the mandates
of an Inexorable destiny.
“So you’ve come?” the girl said.
The words were spoken unusually
soft, scarcely above a whisper; but
they were Inexpressibly vivid to
Bruce. They told first of a boundless
relief and Joy at his coining. But
more Urn'll these deep vibrant
tones was the expression of an un
quenchable life and spirit. Every
fiber of the body lived In the fullest
sense; he knew this fact the instant
that she spoke.
She smiled at him. ever so quietly.
“Bwovaboo.” she said, recalling the
name by which she called him in her
babyhood, “you’ve come to Linda.”
As the fire burned down to coals
nnd the stars wheeled through the
sky. Linda told tier story. The two
of them were seated in the soft grass
In front of the cabin, und the moon
light was on Linda's face ns she
tulked. She talked very low at first.
Indeed there was no need for loud
tones. The whole wilderness world
was heavy with silence, and a whis
per carried far. Besides, Bruce was
Just beside her. watching her with
narrowed eyes, forgetful of every
thing except her story.
“I’ve waited a long time to tell you
this,” she told him. “Of course, when
we were babies together in the or
phanage, I didn’t even know it. It
has taken me a long time since to
learn all the details; most of them I
got from my aunt, old Elmira, whom
you talked to on the way out. Part
of It I knew by Intuition, and a little
of it is still doubtful.
“You ought to know first how hard
I have tried to reach you. Of course,
I didn’t try openly except at first —
the first yean after I came here, and
before I was old_enough to under
stand.” She spoke the last word with
a curious depth of feeling nnd h per
ceptible hardness about her lips and j
eyes. “I remembered Just two things.
That the man who bud adopted you :
was Newton Duncan; one of the I
nurses nt the asylum told me that.
And I remembered the name*of the
city where lie had taken you.
“You must understand the difficul
ties I worked under. There is no
niral free delivery up here, you know,
Bruce. Our mall is sent from nnd
delivered to the little post office at
Martin’s store—over fifteen miles
from hero. And some one member of
a certain family that lives near here
goes down every week to get the mall
for the entire district.
“At first—nnd that was before I
really understood—l wrote you muny
letters and gave them to one of this
family to mall for me. I was Just a
child then, you must know, and I
lived In the same house with these
people. They were Just baby let
ters from—from Llndn-Tlnda to Bwov
nboo—letters about the deer nnd the
berries and the squirrels—nnd ull the
wild tiling'- that lived up here.”
“Berries.'” Bruce cried. “I had some
on the way up.” Ills tone wavered,
nnd he seemed to be speaking, far
awny. “I bad some once—long ago.”
“Yes. You will understand, soon.
I didn’t understnnd why you didn't
answer my letters. I understand now,
though. You never got them.”
“No. I never got them. But there
are several Duncans in my city. They
might have gone astray.”
“They went astray—but It was be
fore they ever reached the post office.
They were never mailed, Bruce. I
was to know why, later. Even then
it was part of the plan that I should
never get In communication with you
again—that you would be lost to me
“When I got older, I tried other
tacka. I wrote to the asylum, enclos
ing a letter to you. But those letters
were not mailed, either.
“Now we can skip m long time. I
grow up. I knew everything nt last
oheybnnb wells record
and no longer lived with the family
I mentioned before. I came here, to
tills old house —and made It decent
to live in. I cut my own wood for my
fuel except when one of the men
tried to please me by cutting it for
me. I wouldn’t use it at first. Oh,
Bruc<v—l wouldn’t touch It!”
Her face was no longer lovely. . It
was drawn with terrible passions.
But she quieted at oncd.
“At last I saw plainly that I was a
little fool—that ail they would do for
me, the better off I was. At first, I
almost starved to death because I
wouldn’t use the food that they sent
me. I tried to grub it out of the hills.
But I came to it at last. Bnt, Bruce,
there were many things I didn’t come
to. Since I learned the truth, I have
never given one of them a smile ex
cept in scorn, not a word that wasn’t
a word of hate.
“You are a city man, Bruce. You
don’t know what hate means. It
doesn’t live In the cities. But it lives
up here. Believe me, if you ever be
lieved anything—that it lives up here.
The most bitter and the blackest hate
—from birth until death! It burns
out the heart, Bruce. But I don’t
know that I can make you under
She paused, and Bruce looked away
Into the pine forest. He believed the
girl. He knew' that this grim land
was the home of direct and primitive
emotions. Such things as mercy and
remorse were out of place in the
game trails where the wolf pack
hunted the deer.
"When they knew how I hate.d
them,” she wrent on, “they began to
watch me. And once they' knew that
I had fully understood the situation,
I was no longer allowed to leave this
little valley. There are only two
trails, Bruce. One goes to Elmira’s
cabin on the way to the store. The
other encircles the mountain. With
ail their numbers, it was easy to keep
watch of those trails. And they tohl
me what they would do if they found
me trying to go past.”
“You don’t mean—they threatened
She threw bnck her head and
laughed, hut the sound hnd no Joy In
It. “Threatened! If you think
threats are common up here, you are
a greener tenderfoot than ever I took
you for. Bruce, the luw up here is
the law of force. The strongest wins.
The weakest dies. Walt till you see
Simon. You'll understand then —and
you’ll shake in your shoes.”
The words grated upon him, yet he
didn’t resent them. "I’ve seen Si
mon.” he told her.
She glanced toward him quickly,
and it w*as entirely plain that the
quiet tone in his voice hnd surprised
Perhaps the Faintest Flicker of Ad
miration Came Into Her Eyes.
her. Perhaps the faintest flicker of
udmlratlon came Into her eyes.
"He tried to stop you, did he? Of
course lie would. And you came, any
wuy. May heaven bless you for it,
Bruce!” She leaned toward him, ap
pealing. "And forgive me what I
Bruce stared nt her in amazement.
He could hardly realize that this was
the same voice that had been so torn
with passion a moment before. In an
instant all her hardness was gone,
and the tenderness of a sweet und
wholesome nature had taken its place.
He felt a curious wurmth stealing
“They meant what they said, Bruce.
Believe me, If those men can do no
other thing, they cun keep their word.
They didn’t Just threaten death to
me. I could have run the risk of that.
Badly ns I wanted to make them pay
before I died, 1 would have gladly
run that risk.
"You are amazed at the free way I
speak of death. The girls you know,
in the city, don’t even know the word.
They don’t know what It means. They
don’t understand the sudden end of
the light—the darkness —the cold—
the awful fear that It Ist It’s a real
ity here, something to fight against
ewj hour of every day. There arp
just three things to do In the tnotin
lnfns-r4o .live und rove an.l .hijte.
There’s no softness. There s no nnuv
die ground.” She smiled gtimf.'
“I’ve llvfd witty death, and Ive
heard of It and I’ve seen It nil nay
life. If there hadn’t been any other,
wav, I would have seen It in the dra
ma's of the wild creatures that go on
around tne all the time. You 11 get
down to cases here. Bruce—or elsej
you'll run away. These men sulcf
they’d do worse things to me than
kill me—and I didn’t dare take the
"Hut once or twice I wag able to
get word to old Kim Ira —the only ally
I had left. .She was of the true breed,
Bruce. You’ll call her a hag»M>u*
she’s a woman to be reckoned with.
She could hate too—worse than a
she-rattlesnake hates the map that
killed her mate —and hating Is nil
that's kept her alive. You shrink
when I say the word. Maybe you
won’t shrink when I’m done.
"This old woman tried to get In
communication with every strtinger
that visited the hills. You see. Bruce,
she couldn’t write, herself. And the
one time I managed to get a written
■message down to her, telling her to
give it to the first stranger to mall—
one of my enemies got It away from
her. I expected to die that night. I
wasn't going to lie alive when the
clan came. The only reason I didn’t
was because Simon —the greatest of
them all and the one I hate the most—
kept his clan from coming. He had
his own reasons.
"From then on she had to depend
on word of mouth. But at last—just
a few weeks ago—she found a nmn
that knew you. And it Is your story
from now on.”
They were still a little while. Bruce
arose and threw more wood on the
"It’s only the beginning,” he said.'
"And you want me to tell you all?”
she asked hesitantly.
"Of course. Why did I come here?”
"You won’t believe me when I say
that I’m almost sorry I sent for. you.”
She spoke almost • breathlessly. "I
didn't know that It would be like this.
That you would come with a smile on
your face and a light in your eyes,
looking for happiness. And instead
of happiness—to find all this!”
She stretched out her arms to the
forests. Bruce understood her per
fectly. She did not mean the woods,
in the literal sense. She meant the
primal emotions that were their spirit.
"To know the rest, you’ve got to go
back a whole generation. Bruce, have
you heard of the terrible blood-feuds
that the mountain families sometimes
"Of course. Many times.”
"These mountains of Trail’s End
have been the scene of as deadly a
blood-feud as was ever known in the
West. And for once, the wrong was
all on one side.
"A few miles from here there Is a
wonderful valley, where a stream
flows. There is not much tillable land
in these mountains. Bruce, but there,
along that little stream, there are al
most five sections—three thousand
acres—of as rich land as was ever
plowed. That tract of land was ac
quired long ago by a family named
Boss, and they got It through some
kind of grant. I can’t be definite as
to the legal aspects of pjl this story.
They don’t matter anyway—only the
"These Boss men were frontiersmen
of the first order. They were virtuous
men too—trusting every one, and oh!
what strength they had! With their
own hands they cleared away the for
est and pflt the- land into rich pnstpre
and hay and •grain. They raised great
herds of cattle and had flocks of sheen
“It was then that dark days began
to pome. Another family—bonded by
tho fattier of tin- man I cntt Simon
mltrmted here from tho mountain dis
tricts of Oklahomn. But they were
not so Ignorant as many • mountain
people, nnd they were 'killers.’ Per
haps that’s a word you don't know
Perhaps you didn’t know It existed A
killer Is u man that has killed other
men. It Isn't a hard thing to do at
all. Brure, after you ore used to It.
These people were used to It And
because they wanted thesa great lands
—my own father's home—they began
to kill the Bosses.
“At first they made no wnr on the
I'-olgers. The Folgera, you must know
were good people, too, honest to the
Inst penny. They were connected by
marriage only, to the Boss family.
They were on our aide clear through
At the beginning of the feud the hend
of the Folger family was Just a young
man. newly married. And he had a
son after a while.
“The newcomera railed It a feud
But it wasn't u feud—lt'was slmnlv
murder. Oh. yes. we killed some of
'l™', F "' E, ' r "”<> my father nnd all
his kin united ugalnsr them, making a
great clan—hut they were nothing In
strength compared to. the usurers
Blmon himself was Jnst a boy en
It began. But he grew to he the great
e»t power, the trader of the enemy
< tan before he wus twenty-one.
“5 on must know. Brace, that my
own father held the land. But he ™n.
hl « brother, who
helped him farm it hardly realised
that possession waa In hja name. And
futher was a dead shot. It took a
long time before they could kill him."
The .coldness that had come over
her word, did not In the leaat b|& h«
•top* of feeling. Bh#
Into tue (InrkneM and apoke ainioat In
• • “But Simon—Just a boy then—and
Dave, his brother, and. the other* of
them’ kept after us like so many
waives.; There was no escape. Thfe
hdiv thing we could do was to-flgl»t
Wck—*lind ‘ thaV' was the way we
learned to hate. A man can hote.
Bruce,, when *lwu .»s , fighting. for .bis
home, tfecftri lehYn n very well wben
he /*eer*Mf brother-Ao».
father-or a.stray bullet hit his wife.
A wohftin can leam it.itoo, as old El
mira did, when she finds her son’s
body in the dead leaves. There was
•no iaw here to stop it. The little sem
blance of law that was in the valleys
below regarded it as a blood-feud, and
didn’t bother itself about it. Besides —
at first we were too proud to call for
help. And after our numbers were
few. the trails were watched —and
those who tried to go down into the
valleys—never got there.
“One after another the Rosses were
killed, and I needn’t make it any
worse for you than I can help—by
telling of each killing. Enough to say
that at last no one was left except
a few old men whose eyes Were too
dim to shoot straight, and my own
father. And I was a baby then —Just
“Then one night my father—seeing
the fate that was coming down upon
them—took the last course to defeat
them. Matthew Folger—a connection
The Girl Was Speaking Slowly Now,
Evidently Watching the Effect of
Her Worde on Her Listener.
by murriaße —was still alive. Simon's
clan hadn't attacked him yet. He had
no share In the land, but Instead lived
In this house I live In now. He had
a few cattle and some pasture land
farther down the Divide. There had
been no purpose In killing him. He
lindn't been worth the extra bullet
“One night my father left me asleep
and stole through the forests to talk
to him. They made an agreement. I
have pieced It out, a little at a time.
My father deeded all his land to Fol
“I can understand now. The enemy
clan pretended It was a blood-feud
only—and that It was fair war to kill
the Rosses. Although my father knew
their real aim was to obtain the land,
he didn't think they would dare kill
Matthew Folger to get It. He knew
that he himself would fall, sooner or
later, but he thought'that to kill Fol
ger would show their cards—and that
would be too much, even for Simon’s
people. But he didn’t know. He
hadn’t foreseen to what lengths they
liruce leaned forward. “So they
killed—Matthew Folger?" he asked.
He didn't know that his fare had
gone suddenly stark white, and that
n curious glitter hod come to his eyes.
He spoke breathlessly. For the name
Matthew Folger—called np vague
memories that seemed to reveal great
truths to him. The girl smiled grimly.
"I-et me go on. My father deeded
Folger the land. The deed was to
go on record so that all the world
would know that Folger owned It, and
If the clan killed him It was plainly
for the purposes of greed alone. But
there was also a secret agreement—
drawn up In blnck and white and to
be kept hidden for twenty-one years.
In this agreement, Folger promised to
return to ine—the only living heir of
the Bosses—the lands acquired by the
deed. In reality, he was only holding
them In trust for me, and was to re
turn them when I was twenty-one.
In cnse of my father's death, Folger
wns to he my guardian until that time.
"Folger knew the risk he ran. but
he was a brave man and be did not
care. Besides, he was my father's
friend and friendship goes far In the
mountains. And my father was shot
down before a week was past.
“The clan had acted quick, you see
When Folger heard of It, before the
down, he came to my father's house
and carried me away. Before another
niKht was done he was killed too."
The perspiration leaped out on
Bruce's forehead. The red glow of
the Are wan In his eyes.
"He fell almost where this lire Is
built, with a thirty-thirty bullet In hla
bt-nlm Which one of the clan killed
him Ido not know—but In all prob
nlilllty It was Simon himself—at that
time only eighteen years of age. And
Folger.s little boy—something pact
four years old—wandered out In the
moonlight, to And hla father’s body.’’
™ e -« w w «« speaking slowly now,
evidently watching the effect of her
words on her listener. Be was bent'
forward, and Us breath came In qu*ar,
whtapyrlng gnats, "flo-onl".-*, 'o».
item mvsibpIv. '
Why do you ko,.,. u,o '»,£?
plains country." s |„.
J'lf aim hud Iteor. Of „,o ;
might linve ronmlnod 0.“"*
Ing'on her o,v„ n , nm „ ***
miru horsolf rom,
on her own mrc.jint' ,
from .crt.les. just , lR v ,„
unlilto you—hud n,, ' b *
her. Site Wasn't' „i K| . to rJ
perhaps site didn't know Jr*
She only knew how ”J»
“They say that she W em JS
sane at the sight of that bw
man of hers l.vlntr still
needles. She hadn't even MS
was out of the house.
out on some secret business!!,
nlglit. She had only one thin.i
her baby hoy and her
daughter little I.inda R 088 J
before you now. n Pr J
was to get those children ont 2
dreadful land of bloodshed 1
hide them so that thev could
come hack. And she didn’t evM
them to know their true pam
She seemed to realize that if ,[?
known, both of them wo D m „
some time—to collect their
Sooner or later, that hoy with the
ger blood In him ami that eirl
the Ross blood would return. J
tempt to regain their ancient bolft
and to make the chin pay*
All that was left were t fpj
women with hate In their heart*
a strange tradition to take the s
of hope. They said that soraetii
death spared them, they woq]j
Folger’s son come hack aeain.
assert .his rights. They Raid tin
new champion would arise and i
tholr wrongs. Rut mostly death |
spare them. Only old Elmira bid
“\Vhnt became of the secret »
inent I do not know. I haven?
hope that you do. either. The t
wns carried down to the conn*
Sharp, one of the witnesses who*
aged to got past the guard, and
on file soon nfter It was written,
rest Is short. Simon and tils daoi
tip the land, swearing that Maa
Folger lmd deeded It to them the
lie had procured it. They had ad
to show for it—a forgery. Ar,d
one thing that they feared, the
weak chain, was that this «
agreement between Folger and
father would he found.
“You see what that would mm
would show tlint lie had no rfat
deed away the land, ns hetvmjli
holding it In trust f.>r me. OldQ
explained the matter to me—if I
mixed up on the legal end of it.
cuse It. If that document cottH
found, their forged deed would be
vlously invalid. And it angered Ik
that they could not find It.
"Of course they never filed A
forged decsl —afraid that the ftqi
would be discovered—but they b
It to show’ to any one that ml
terested. Rut they wanted to i
themselves still safer.
"There had been two wltneaa
the agreement. One of them, n
named Sharp, died—or win kiltt
shortly nfter. The other, an "Ida
per named Hudson, was lodifferal
the whole matter—he was Just pi
Ing through and was ut Folgrr’ibS
for dinner the night Ross came. 8*
still living In these mountains, dll
might be of value to us yet
"Of course the chin did not W
all secure. They suspected the*
agreement hud been mailed to I
one to take care of, and they >
afraid that.lt would be brought t»l
when the time was ripe. They la
perfectly that their forged deed«
never stand the test, so one <f
things to do was to prevent tbclrdr
ever being contested. That meet
keep Folger's son in ignorance of!
"I hope 1 can make that clear. *
deqd from my fulle r to Folger
record, Folger was dead, nnd Fdj
son would have every right and 1
portunlty to contest (lie c,unscI *“
the land. If he could get then**
Into court, lie would surely win.
"The second thing to do waste'
me over. I wns Just a child, a*
looked the easiest course of alL v
why I was stolen from the orp
by one of Simon’s brothers. Tb*
w'as simply that when the time"
I would marry one of the clan
tablish their claim to the land tow
"Up to a few weeks ago It
to me that sooner <>r later I wo
out. Bruce, you can’t dream
meunt! I thought that some
could drive them out and nm«
pay. a little, for all they W*
But they’ve tricked me, after
thought that I would get wor
ger’s son, who by inheritance
have a clear title to the bD( "..ij
with the aid of the courts, co
these usurpers out. Rut
I’ve found out that even
Is all but gone.
H* put hii arm#
and ha kiaacd her gwW
(TO UK CUNTlNO'^ 1
Origin of the Zuider Zee.
ungin vi —- .u gp
The Zuider Zee ie » «*
banting of tlie dykes. TJ 1 |
m the Thirteenth
addition to Hollond being ,
and Friesland being «ei*ri
the rest of the country »
sheet of water, hun,lr '* uadi 1
were submerged and aboa
eons were drowned.
' Matrimony Seems.
In* to be a conrt prop<»‘™ l < y(i
S by -jn« for ner
eada by eoku blm W I
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