Newspaper Page Text
The Strength of the Pines .THE KILLER’S CHARGE TOO LATE The bear reared up, snarling with wrath, but for a moment it dared not charge. The sudden appearance of the girl and the horse held him momentarily at bay. The girl swung to the ground in one lea fired again, thrust her arm through the loop of the bridle rein, then knelt at Bruce's side. The white blade that she carried in her left hand slashed at his bonds. The horse, plunging, seemed to jerk her body back and forth, and endless seconds seemed to go by before the last of the thongs was severed. In reality the whole rescue was unbelievably swift. The man helped her all he could. “Up—up into the saddle,” she commanded. Once more the pistol cracked. Then the horse broke and ran in a frenzy of terror. Bruce was full in the saddle by then, and even al the first leap his arm swept out to the girl on the ground beside him. lie swung her towards him, and at the same time her hands caught at the arching back of the saddle. Never had her fine young strength been put to a greater test than when she pulled herself up to a position of security. The Killer’s charge had come a few seconds too late. Here you have them—the hero, the heroine and the great grizzly which dominates more than one scene in “The Strength of the Pines.” For this stirring story is a tale of the Oregon wilderness, where nature makes civilized man look small. But to the right kind of man nature gives strength from her strength. By the girl’s cabin stands a great sentinel pine. And from the army of pines at its back comes the strength that gives this city man the power to win at long odds from the evil clan of mountaineers tha‘ menaces him and the girl he loves. This is Edison Marshall's second novel. He’s a native of Oregon and lives at Medford. He began to attract attention in 1916 when he was a newspaper man by his short stories. In 1921 he won the first prize of the Society of Arts and Sciertces of New York with a story, “The Heart of Little Shikar?.” His first book was “The Voice of the Pack,” which was published in 1920 and is still selling. Read “The Strength of the Pines” and you will see why his public has beer won. BOOK ONE THE CALL OF THE BLOOD CHAPTER I —l— was wakened by the sharp ring of his telephone bell. Instantly he was fully aroused. in. complete con trol of all his faculties. And this is not especially common to men bred in the security of civilization. Rather it is a trait of the wild creatures; a little matter that is quite necessary if they care at all about living. Fron tiersmen learn the trait, too; but as Bruce was a dweller of cities It seemed somewhat strange in him. Then lie grunted rebelliously and glanced at bls watch beneath the pil low. He had gone to bed early; it was just midnight now. He had no doubts whatever concern ing the nature of this call. There had been one hundred like it during the previous month. Ills foster father had recently died, his estate was being set tled up, and Bruce had been having a somewhat strenuous time with his creditors. He understood the man’s real financial situation at last; at his death the whole business structure collapsed like the eggshell it was. Bruce had supposed that most of the debts had been paid now; he won dered, as he fumbled into his bedroom slippers, whether the thousand or so dollars that were left would cover the claim of the man who was now call ing him to the telephone. “This is Mr. Duncan,’’ he said cold ly into the transmitter. “How do you do, Mr. Duncan,” a voice answered. “Pardon me if I got you up. 1 want to talk to your son, Bruce.” Bruce emitted a little gasp of amazement. Whoever talked at the end of the line obviously didn’t know that the elder Duncan was dead. Bruce had a moment of grim humor in which he mused that this voice would have done rather well if it could arouse his foster father to an swer it. “The elder Mr. Duncan died last month,” he answered simply. There was not the slightest trace of emotion in his tone. No wayfarer on the street could have been, as far as farts went, more of a stranger to him; there was no sense of loss at his death and no cause for pretense now. “This is Bruce speaking.” He heard the other gasp. “Old man. I’m sorry,” his contrite voice came. “I didn’t know* of your loss. This is Barney—Barney Wegan—and I just got in from the West. Haven’t had a hit of news for months. Accept my earnest sympathies—” “Barney I Os rourse.” The delight grew on Bruce’s face; for Barney We gan, a man whom he had met and learned to know on the gym floor of Ids club, was quite near to being a real friend. “And what’s up, Barney?” The man’s voice changed at once— ■went back to its same urgent, but rather embarrassed tone. “You won’t believe me if I tell you, so I won’t try to tell you over the phone. But I must come up—right away. May I?” “Os course—” “I’ll be there in a minute.” Bruce .hung up, slowly descended to Ids library, and flashed on the lights. For the first time lg» was revealed plainly. His was a familiar type; but ut the same time the best type, too. He had the face and the body of an nthlete, a man whn keens himself fit; and there was nothing mawkish or ef feminate about him. It is true that men did look twice at Bruce’s eyes, set In a brown, clean-cut face, never knowing exactly why they did so. They had startling potentialities. They wore quite clear now, wide awake ami cool, yet they had a strange depth of expression and shadow that might mean, somewhere beneath the bland and cool exterior, r capiv-’.ty for great emotions and pas- SiOilH. He had only a few minutes wait: then Barney Wegan tapped nt his door. This man was bronzed by the sun, never more fit, never straighter and taller and more lithe. He had just come from tl»e far places. The em barrassment that Bruce had detected in his voice was in his face and man ner, too. “You’ll think I’m crazy for routing you out at this time of night, Bruce,” he began. “And I’m going to get this matter off my chest as soon as possible and let you go to bed. It’s nil batty, anyway. But I was cautioned by all the devils of the deep to see you—the moment I came here.” “Cigarettes on the smoking-stand,” Bruce said steadily. “And tell away." “But tell me something first. Was Duncan your real father? If he was, I’ll know I’m up a wrong tree. I don’t mean to be personal—” “He wasn’t. I thought you knew it. My real father is something like you —something of a mystery.” “I won't be a mystery long. He’s not, eh—that’s what the old hag said. Excuse me, old man, for saying ‘hag.’ But she was one, if there is any’ such. Lord knows who she is, or whether or not she’s a relation of yours. But I’ll begin at the beginning. You know I was way back on the Oregon frontier —back in the Cascades. I was fishing for steelhead In a river they call the Rogue. While way up on the upper waters I heard of a place called Trail’s End—a place where wise men do not go.” f “And of course you went?” “Os course. The name sounds silly now, but it won’t if you ever go there. There are only a few families, Bruce, miles and miles apart. In the whole region. And it’s enormous—no one knows how big. Just ridge on ridge. One day my guide stopped at a broken down old cabin on the hillside for a drink of water. I was four miles away in camp. The guide came back and asked me if I was from this very city. “I told him yes, and asked him why he wanted to know. He said that this old woman sent word, secretly, to A te ' wF 111 The Man's Voice Broke and Changed. “Isn’t That Queor, Bruce?” every stranger that came to fish or hunt in the region of Trail’ll End. wanting to know if they came from here. I was the first one that an swered ‘yes.’ And the guide said that she wanted me co come to her cabin and see her. “I went—and I won’t describe to you how she looked. I’ll let you see for yourself, if you care to follow out her instructions. And now the strange part comes in. The old witch raised her arm, pointed her cane at me, and asked me if I knew Newton Duncan. Tdy EDISON MARSHALL Author of “The Voice of the Pack” “I told her there might be several Newton Duncans in a city this size. You should have seen the pain grow on her face. ‘After so long, after so long I’ she cried, in the queerest, sob bing way. Then she took heart and began again. “ ‘This Newton Duncan had a son— a foster-son —named Bruce,’ she told me. And then I said 1 knew you. “You can’t imagine the change that came over her. I thought she’d die of heart failure. The whole thing, Bruce—if you must know —gave me the creeps. ‘Tell him to come here,’ she begged me. ‘Don’t lose a moment. As soon as you get home, tell him to come here.’ “Os course I asked why she hadn’t written to Duncan. The answer was simple enough—that she didn’t know how to write. Those in the mountains that could write wouldn’t, or couldn’t —she was a trifle vague on that point —dispatch a letter. Something is up, Bruce, and I don’t know what. But she said —for you to come back and find—Linda.” Bruce suddenly leaned forward. The brown face had grown quite white. “What else did she say?” Bruce asked. He spoke slowly—with evident difficulty.* Barney answered with the same slowness—each word distinct. “For you to come—and she made me swear to tell you—on the first train. That there was no time to lose.’’ The man’s voice broke and changed. “Isn’t that queer, Bruce?” Bruce slowly stiffened; the only sign of emotion was one that even Barney’s eyes, trained to the dimness of thp wil derness, failed to see. It was just an ever-tightening clasp of his hands over the chair arms until the blue veins stood out. There was nothing else about him to indicate that the dead had spoken to him—that one of the great dreams of his life was coming true. He spoke rather painfully. “Did —did you get the Idea that the old woman was Linda?” “I didn’t get that idea,” Barney an swered. “She spoke of Linda as she might a young girl.” “And how do you get there?” “Buy a ticket for Deer Creek, In southern Oregon.” There was no need for Bruce to write the name. It tvas branded, ineffaceably, in his conscious ness. "Then take up the long road of the Divide, clear to a little store — Martin’s, they call it —fifty miles back. Then ask directions from there. Ask, she told me to tell you, for Mrs. Ross.” Bruce leaped up and turned swiftly through the door. Barney called a question to his vanishing figure. Just for an instant Bruce turned—his dark eyes glowing beneath his straight brow’s. “I’m ’phoning—asking for reserva tions on the first train west,” he an swered. CHAPTER II Before the gray dawn came over the land Bruce Duncan had started west ward. He had no self-amazement at the lightning decision. He was only strangely and deeply exultant. The reasons why went too deep within him to be easily seen. In tl«» first place, it was adventure —and Bruce’s life had not been very adven turous heretofore. Then there was a sense of immeasurable relief at his sudden and unexpected freedom from the financial problems his father had left. He would have no more consul tations with impatient creditors, no more would he strive to gather to gether the ruins of the business, and attempt to salvage the small remain ing fragments of his father’s fortune. He had no plans, he didn’t know which way to turn. All at once, through the message that Barney had brought him, he had seen a clear trail ahead. It was something to do, something nt last that mattered. Finally there remained the eminent fact that this was an answer to his dream. He was going toward Linda, at last. The girl had been the one living creature in his memory that he had cared for and who cared for him —the one person whoso interest in him was real. Linda, the little “spitfire” of his boyhood, had suddenly become the one reality in his world, and ns he thought of her, his memory reviewed the few impressions lie nad retained of his childhood. First was the Square house—the orphanage—where the Woman had turned him over to the nurse in charge. Sometimes, when tobacco smoke was heavy upon him, Bruce could catch a very dim and fleeting glimpse of the Woman’s face. It was only a glimpse, only the faintest blur in half-tone, and then quite gone. Yet lie never gave up trying. The few times that her memory picture did come to him, it brought a number of things with It. One of them was a great and overwhelming realization of some terrible tragedy and terror the nature of which he could not even guess. “She’s been through fire,” the nurse told the doctor when he came in and the door had closed behind the Woman. Bruce did remember these words, be cause many years elapsed before ho completely puzzled them out. The nurse hadn’t meant such fires us swept I h rough the far-spread ever-green forests of the Northwest. It was some other, dread fire that seared the spirit and burned the bloom out of the face and all the gentle lights out of the eyes. It did, however, leave certain lights, but they were such that their remembrance brought no pleasure to Bruce. They were just a wild glare, a fixed, strange brightness as of great fear or insanity. The Woman had kissed him and gone quickly; and he had been too young to remember if she had carried any sort of bundle close to her breast. Yet, the man considered, there must have been such a bundle—otherwise he couldn't possibly account for Linda. And there were no doubts about her, at all. Os course he hqd no memories of her that first day, nor for the first years. But all later memories of the Square house always included her. She must have been nearly four years younger than himself; thus when he ms taken to the house she was only an infant. But thereafter, the nurses put them together often; and when Linda was able to talk, she called him something that sounded like Bwova boo. She called him that so often that for a long time he couldn’t be sure that wasn’t his real name. Now, In manhood, he interpreted. “Brother Bruce, of course. Linda was of course a sister.’’ Linda had been homely; even a small boy could notice that. Besides. Linda was nearly six when Bruce had left for good; and he was then at an age in which impressions begin to be lasting. Iler hair was quite blond then, and her features rather irregular. But there had been a light in her eyes! By his word, there had been ! She had been angry nt him times in plenty—over some childish game—and he remembered how that light had grown and brightened. She had flung at him too. He laughed at the memory of her sudden, explosive feroc ity—the way her hands had smacked against ids cheeks, and her sharp little nails had scratched him “Little Spit fire,” he sometimes called her; but no one else could call her anything but Linda. For Bruce had been an able little fighter, even in those days. He was fond of drawing pictures. This was nothing in itself; many lit tle boys are fond of drawing pictures. Nor were his unusually good. Their strangeness lay in his subjects. He liked to draw animals in particular— the animals he read about in school and in such books as were brought to him. And sometimes lie drew In dians and cowboys. And one day— when he wasn’t half watching what he was doing—he drew something quite different Perhaps lie wouldn’t have looked at It twice, if the teacher hadn’t stepped up behind him and taken It out of ids hands. It was “geography” then, not “drawing," and he should have been “paying attention.” And he had every reason to think that the teacher would crumple up his picture and send Idm to the cloak-room for punishment. But she did no such thing. When her eyes glanced down, her fingers slowly straightened. Then she looked again—carefully. “What is this, Bruce?” she asked. “What have you been drawing?” “I—l don’t know,” the child an swered. He looked and for an Instant let his thoughts go wandering here and there. “Those are trees,” he said. A word caught at his throat and he blurted it out. “Pines! Pine trees, growing on a mountain.” “Not bad for a six-year-old boy,” the teacher commented. "But where. Bruce, have you ever seen or heard of such pines?” But Bruce did not know. Another puzzling adventure that stuck In Bruce’s memory had happened only a few’ months after his arrival at the Square house, when a man had taken him home on trial with the idea of adoption. All the incidents and details of the excursion with this prospective parent were extremely dim and vague. He’ did not know to what city he went, nor had he any recollection whatever of the people he met there. But he did remember, with remarkable clearness, the perplexing talk that the man and the superintendent of the Square house had together on his return. “lie won’t do,” the stranger had said. "I tried him out and he won’t fill in in my family. And I’ve fetched him back. “I believe in being frank, and I tell you there’s something vicious in that boy’s nature. It came out the very first moment he was in the house, when the Missus was introducing him to my eight-year-old son. ‘This is lit tle Turner,’ she said —and this boy sprang right at him. I’d never let little Turner learn to fight, and this boy was on top of him and was pound ing him with Ills fists before we could pull him off. I didn't understand it nt all.” Nor did the superintendent under stand; nor—in these later years— Bruce either. He was quite a big boy, nearly ten, when he finally left the Square house. And there was nothing flickering or dim about the memory of this occasion. A tall, exceedingly slender man sat beside the window—a man well dressed but with hard lines about his mouth’and hard eyes. Yet the superin tendent seemed particularly anxious to please him. “You will like this sturdy fellow,” he said, as Bruce was ushered in. The man’s eyes traveled slowly from the child’s curly bead to his rapidly growing feet; but no gleam of inter est camo into the thin face. “I sup pose he’ll do —as good as any. It was the wife’s idea, anyway, you know. What about parentage? Anything de cent at all?” The superintendent seemed to wait a long time before answering. Little Bruce, already full of secret conjec tures as to his own parentage, thought that some key might be given him at last. “There is nothing that we can tell you, Mr. Duncan,” he said at last. “A woman brought him here — with an infant girl—when he was about four. I suppose she was his mother —and she didn't wait to talk to me. The nurse said that she wore outlandish clothes and had plainly had a hard time.” “But she didn’t wait —?” “She dropped her children and fled.” A cold little smile flickered at the man’s lips. “It looks rather dam- dot jL A/ ! |i f'-''' “But I’ll Take the Little Beggar, Any way.” nable,” he said significantly. “But I’ll take the little beggar, anyway.” And thus Bruce went to the cold fireside of the Duncans—a house In a great and distant city where, in the years that had passed, many things scarcely worth remembering had tran spired. It was a gentleman’s house— ns far as the meaning of the word usually goes—and Bruce had been af forded a gentleman's education. There was also, for a while, a certain amount of rather doubtful prosperity, a wom an who died after a few months of casual interest in him, and many, many hours of almost overwhelming loneliness. Also there were many thoughts such as are not especially good for the spirits of growing boys. The place where the Duncans lived was a house, but under no liberal in terpretation of tiie word could it be culled a home. There was nothing homelike in it to little Bruce. The other lasting memory was of Linda. She represented the one liv ing creature in all his assemblage of phantoms—the one person with whom he could claim real kinship. He had done a bold thing, after his first few years with the Duncans. He planned it long and carried It out with Infinite care as to details. He wrote to Linda, In care of the superintendent of the orphanage. The .answer only deepened the mystery. Linda was missing. Whether she had run away, or whether some one had come by in a closed car and carried her off as she played on the lawns, the superintendent could nW tell. They had never been able to trace her. He had been fifteen then, a tall boy with rather uffusual muscu lar development, and the girl was eleven. And In the year nineteen hun dred and twenty, ten years after the reply to his letter, Bruce had heard no word from her. He bad given up all hope of ever hearing from her again. “My little sister,” he said softly to a memory. -Then bitterness —a whole black flood of it —would come upon him. “Good Lord, I don’t even know that she was my sister.” But now he was going to find her and his heart was full of joy and eager anticipation. CHAPTER 111 There had not been time to make In quiry ns to the land Bruce was going to. He only knew one thing—that it was the wilderness. The fact that he had no business plans for the future and no financial resources except a few hundred dollars that he carried In his pocket did not matter one way or another. He was willing to spend all the money he had; after it was gone, he would take up some work in life anew. He had a moment’s wohder at the effect his departure would have upon the financial problem that had been his father’s sole legacy to him. He laughed a little as he thought of It. But the idea that others also—having no business relations with his father —might be interested in this western journey of his did not even occur to him. But the paths men take, seemingly, with wholly different alms, crisscross jyEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 1922. and become intertwined much mor.* than Bruce knew. Even as he lay in his berth, the first sweet drifting of sleep upon him, he was the subject of a discussion in a far-distant moun tain home; and sleep would not have fallen so easily and sweetly if he had heard it. It might have been a different world. Only a glimpse of it. Illumined by the moon, could be seen through the soiled and besmirched window pane; but that w’as enough to tell the story. There were no tall buildings, lighted by a thousand electric lights, such as Bruce could see through the win dows of his bedroom at night. The lights that could be discerned In this strange, dark sky were largely un familiar to Bruce, because of the smoke-clouds that had always hung above the city where he lived. There were just stars, but there were so many of them that the mind was un able to comprehend their number. There was also a moon that cast a little square of light, like, a fairy tapestry, on the floor. It was not such a moon as leers down red and strange through the smoke of cities. It w:s vivid and quite white—the wilderness moon that times the hunting hours of the forest creatures. But the patch that it cast on the floor was obscured in a moment because the man who had been musing in the big chair be side the empty fireplace had risen and lighted a kerosene lamp. The light prevented any further scrutiny of the moon and stars. Anti what remained to look at was m»t nearly so pleasing to tiie spirit. It was a great, white-walled room that would have been beautiful had It riot been for certain unfortunate attempts to beautify it. There was a stone fireplace, and certain massive, dust covered chairs grouped about it. But the eyes never would have got to these. The; would have been held and fascinated by the face and Hip form of the man who had just lighted the lamp. No one could look twice at that mas sive physique and question Its might. He seemed almost gigantic in the yel low’ lamplight. In reality lie stood six feet and almost three inches, and his frame was perfectly in proportion. He moved slowly, lazily, and the thought flashed to some great monster of the forest that could uproot a tree wish a blow. The face was huge, big and gaunt of bone; and particularly one would notice tiie mouth. It would be noticed even before the dark, deep-sunken eyes. It was a bloodhound mouth, the mouth of a man of great and ter rible passions, and there was an un mistakable measure of cruelty and savagery about It. But there was strength, too. No eye could doubt tiiat. But it was not an ugly face, for nil the brutality of the features. It was even handsome In the hard, mountain way. One would notice straight, black hair—the man’s age was about thirty-nine—long over rather dark ears, and a great, gnarled throat. The words when he spoke seemed to come from deep within It. “Come In. Dave,” he said. In this little remark lay something of the man’s power. The visitor had come unannounced. His visit had been unexpected. His host had not yot seen his face. Yet the num knew, before the door was opened, who it was that had come. The reason went back to a certain quickening of the senses that is the peculiar right and property of ’most men who are really residents of the wilderness. This man w’as the son of the wild as much us the wolves that ran In the packs. Soft though it w’as, he had heard the sound of ap proaching feet in the pine needles. As surely as he would have recognized the dark face of the man in the door way, he recognized the sound as Dave’s step. The man came In, and at once an observer would have detected an air of deference in his attitude. Very plainly he had come to see his chief. He was a year or two older than hi*- host, less powerful of physique, ami his eyes did not hold quite so straight. There was less savagery bm more cunning in his "sharp features. He blurted out his news nt once. “Old Elmira has got word down to the settlements at last,” he said. There was no muscular response* in the larger man. Dave was plainly disappointed. He wanted his new? to cause a stir. It was true, however, that his host slowly raised his eyes. Dave glanced away. "What do you mean?” the man de manded. “Mean —I mean just what I said. We should have watched closer. Bill — Young Bill, I mean—saw a city chap Just In the act of going In to see her. He bad come onto the plateaus with his guide—Wegan was the man’s name—and Bill said he stayed a lot longer than he would have If he hadn’t Uiken a message from ner." “How long this?” “Week ago Tuesday.” “At last—at last,” she cried. “You've come at last.” (TO UK CONTINUKD.) This Earth's Fourth Warm Period. About 30,000 years ago Ire began to cover the northern part nf thf United States and all of Canmi.' f° r the fourth and Inst time. Wp arc living In tiie fourth warm perbs’.