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The Strength of the Pines THE KILLER SYNOPSIS.—At the death of his foster father. Bruce Duncan, in an eastert city, receives a mysterious message, sent by a Mrs. Ross, sum moning him peremptorily to south ern Oregon—to meet "Linda.” Bruce 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. On the way, "Simon” warns him to give up bls quest and return East. Bruce refuses. Mrs. Ross, aged and infirm, welcomes him with emotion. She hastens him on his way—the end of "Pine-Needle Trail.” Bruce finds his childhood playmate, Linda. The girl tells him of wrongs committed by an enemy clan on her family, the Rosses. Lands occupied by the clan were stolen from the Rosses, and the family, with the exception of Aunt Elmira (Mrs. Ross) and herself, wiped out by assassination. Bruce’s father, Matthew Folger, was one of the victims. His mother had fled with Bruce and Linda. The girl, while small, had been kidnaped from the orphanage and brought to the mountains. Linda’s father had deeded his lands to Matthew Folger, but the agreement, which would confute the enemy's claims to the property, had been lost. Bruce's mountain blood responds to the‘call.of the blood-feud. A giant tree, the Sentinel Pine, in front of Linda’s cabin, seems to Bruce’s excited Imagination to be endeav oring to convey a message. Bruce' sets out in search of a trapper named Hudson, a witness to the agreement between Linda’s father ami Matthew Folger. A gigantic grizzly, known as the Killer, is the terror of the vicinity. CHAPTER XIV Simon Turner had given Dave very definite Instructions concerning his embassy to Hudson. “The first thing tills Bruce will do,” Simon had said, “is to hunt up Hudson —the one living man that witnessed that agreement between Ross and old Folger. One reason is that he’ll want to verify Linda’s story. The next Is to per suade the old man to go down to the courts with him as his witness. And what you have to do is line him up for our side first.” “You think—” Dave’s eyes wan« dered about the room, “you think that’s the best way?” “I wouldn’t be tellin’ you to do it If I didn’t think so.” Simon laughed— a sudden, grim syllable. “Dave, you’re a bloodthirsty devil. I see what you’re thinking of —of a safer way to keep him from telling. But you know the word 1 sent out. ‘Go easy!’ That’s the wisest course to follow at present. The valley people pay more attention to such things than they used to; the fewer the killings, the wiser we will be. If he’ll keep quiet for the hun dred let him have it in peace.” Dave hadn’t forgotten. But his fea tures were sharper and. more ratlike than ever when he came in sight of Hudson’s camp, just after the fall of darkness of the second day out. The trapper was cooking his simple meal— a blue grouse frying In his skillet, coffee boiling, and flapjack batter ready for the moment the grouse was done. Dave’s thoughts returned to the hundred dollars in his pocket—a good sum in the hills. A brass rifle cartridge, such as he could fire in the thirty-thirty that he carried in the hollow of his arm, cost only about six cents. The net gain would be—the figures flew quickly through his mind — ninety nine dollars and ninety-four cents; quite a good piece of business for Dave. But the trouble was that Simon might find out. The word had gone out, for the present at least, to “go easy.” Such little games as oc curred to Dave now—as he watched the trapper in the firelight with one hundred dollars of the clan’s money in Ills own pocket—had been prohibit ed until further notice. The thing looked so simple that Dave squirmed all over with annoy ance. It hurt him to think that the hundred dollars that he carried was to be passed oyer, without a wink of an eye, to tills bearded trapper; and the only return for it was to be a promise that Hudson would not tes tify in Bruce’s behalf. And a hundred dollars was real money! Just a little matter of a single glance down his rifle barrel at the figure in the silhou ette of the fire glow—and a half-ounce of pressure on the hair trigger. Half jesting with himself, he dropped on one knee and raised the weapon. The trapper did not guess his presence. The blood leaped in Dave’s veins. But he caught himself with a wrench. He realized that Simon had spoken true when he said that the old days were gone, tlmt the arm of the law reached farther than formerly, and it might even stretch to this far place. He remembered Simon’s in structions. “The quieter we can do these things, the better,” the clan leader had said. “If we cun get through to October thirtieth with no killings, the safer it is for us. Go .easy. Dave. Sound this Hudson out. If he’ll keep still for a hundred, let him have It in peace.” Dave slipped his rifle Into the hol low nf his arm and continued on down the trail. He didn’t try to stalk. In n moment Hudson heard his step and looked up. They met in a circle of flrellrht. It Is not the mountain way to frater nize quickly, nor are the mountain men quick to show astonishment. Hudson had not seen another human being since his last visit to the settle ments. Yet his voice Indicated no surprise at this visitation. “Howdy,” he grunted. “Howdy,” Dave replied. “How about gruh?” “Help yourself. Supper Just ready.” Dave helped himself to the food of the man that, a moment before, he would have slain; and in the light of the high fire that followed the meal, he got down to the real business of the visit. “I suppose you’ve forgotten that little deed you witnessed between old Mat Folger and Ross—twenty years ago,” Dave began easily, his pipe be tween his teeth. Hudson turned with a cunning glit ter in his eyes. Dave saw it and grew bolder. “Who wants me to for get it?” Hudson demanded. “I ain’t said that anybody wants you to,” Dave responded. “I asked you if you had.” Hudson was still a moment, strok ing absently his beard. “If you want to know,” he said, “I ain’t forgotten. But there wasn’t just a deed. There was an agreement,, too.” “I know all about* that agreement,” Dave confessed. “You do, eh? So do I. I ain’t likely to forget.” Dave studied him closely. “What good is it going to do you to remem ber?” he demanded. “I ain’t saying that it’s going to do me any good. At present I ain’t got nothing against the Turners. They’ve always been all right to me. What’s between them and the Rosses is past and done —although I know just in what way Folger held that land and no transfer from him to you was le gal. But that’s all part of the past. As long as the Turners continue to be my friends I don't see why anything should be said about it.” Dave speculated. It was wholly plain that the old man had not yet heard of Bruce’s return. There was no need to mention him. “We’re glad you are our friend,” Dave went on. “But we don’t expect no one to stay friends with us unless they benefit to some small extent by it. How many furs do you hope to take this year?” “Not enough to pay to pack out. Maybe two hundred dollars in bount ies before New Year—coyotes and wolves.” “Then maybe fifty or seventy-five dollars, w’ithout bothering to set the traps, wouldn’t come in so bad.” “It wouldn’t come in bad, but It doesn’t buy much these days. A hun dred would be better.” “A hundred it is,” Dave told him with finality. The eyes above the dark beard shone in the firelight. The money changed hands. They sat a long time, deep in their own thoughts. “All we ask,” Dave said, “is that you don’t take sides against us.” “I’ll remember. Os course you want me, in case I'm ever subpoenaed, to re call signing the deed itself.” “Yes, we’d want you to testify to that.” “Os course.” They chuckled together In the dark ness. Then they turned to the blan kets. “I’ll show you another trail out to morrow.” Hudson told him. “It comes dave Helped Himself to the Food of the Man That, a Moment Before, He Would Have Slain. Into the glen that you passed to night—the canyon that the Killer has been using lately for a hunting ground.” CHAPTER XV 1— The Killer had had an unsuccessful night. He had waited the long hours through at the mouth of the trail, but only the Little People—-such as the rabbits and •similar folk that hardly constituted a single Wte In his great Jaws —had come his way. Now it was morning and it looked as if he would have tv go hungry. He started to stretch his great muscles. Intending to leave his ambush. But all at once "By EDISON MARSHALL Author of “The Voice of the Pack” he froze again into a lifeless gray patch In the thickets. There were light steps on the trail. Again they were the steps of deer —but not of the great, wary elk this time. Instead it was just a fawn, or a yearling doe at least, such a creature as had not yet learned to suspect every turn in the trail. The forest gods had been good to him, after all. He peered through the thickets, and in a moment more he had a glimpse of the spotted skin. It was almost too easy. But even as the Killer watched, the prize was simply taken out of his mouth. A gray wolf —a savage qld male that also had just finished an unsuccessful hunt—had been stealing through the thickets in search of a lair, and he came out on the trail nbt fifty feet distant, halfway between the bear and the fawn. The one was al most as surprised as the other. The fawn turned with a frightened bleat and darted away; the wolf «wung into pursuit. The bear lunged forward with a howl of rage. He leaped Into the trail mouth, then ran as fast as he could In pursuit of the running wolf. He was too enraged to stop to think that a grizzly bear has never yet been able to overtake a wolf, once the trim ’egs got well Into action. At first he couldn’t think about anything; he had been cheated too many times. His first impulse was one of tremendous and overpowering wrath—a fury that meant death to the first living crea ture that he met. But in a single second he realized that this wild chase was fairly good tactics, after all. The chances for a meal were still rather good. The fawn r«nd the wolf were in the open now, and it was wholly evident that the gray hunter would overtake the quarry In another moment. It was true that the Killer would miss the pleasure of slaying his own game— the ecstatic blow to the shoulder and the bite to the throat that followed it. In thig case, the wolf would do that part of the work for him. It was Just a simple matter of driving the crea ture away from his dead. But at that instant fate took a hand in the merry little chase. To the fawn, it was nothing but a sharp clang of metal behind him and an answering shriek of pain—sounds that In Its terror it heard but dimly. But it was an unlooked-for and tragic reality to the wolf. His leap was suddenly ar rested in mid-air, and he was hurled to the ground with stunning force. Cruel metal teeth had seized his leg. and a strong chain held him when he tried to escape. He fought it with desperate savagery. The fawn leaped on to safety. But there was no need of the grizzly continuing its pursuit. Everything had turned out quite wey for him, after all. A »vrlf is ever so much more fill ing than any kind of seasonal fawn; and the old gray pack leader was im prisoned and helpless In one of Hud son’s traps. • • • • In the first gray of morning, Dave Turner started back toward his home. "I’ll go with you to the forks in the trail,” Hudson told him. “I want to take a look at some of my traps, any how.” At the same hour—as soon as It was light enough to see—Bruce was finish ing his breakfast in preparation for the last lap of his Journey. He had passed the night by a spring on a long ridge almost In eye range of Hudson’s camp. Now he was preparing to dip down into the Killer’s glen. Turner and Hudson followed up the little creek. The first of Hudson’s sets proved empty. The second was about a turn In the creek, and a wall of brush made it impossible for him to tell at a dis tance whether or not he had made a catch. But when still a quarter of a mile distant, Hudson heard a sound that he thought he recognized. It was a high, sharp, agonized bark that dimmed into a low whine, “I believe I’ve got a coyote or a wolf up there,” he said. They hastened their steps. The whole picture loomed suddenly before their eyes. There was no wolf in the trap. The steel had sprung, certainly, but only a hideous fragment of a foot remained between the jaws. The bone had been broken sharply off, as a man might break a match in his fingers. There was no living wolf. Life had gone out of the gray body many minutes before. The two men saw ill these things ns a background only—dim details about the central figure. But the thing that froze them In their tracks with terror was the great, gray form of the Killer, not twenty feet distant, beside the man gled body of the wolf. The events that followed thereafter’ came in such quick succession as to seem simultaneous. For one fraction of an Instant all three figures stood motionless, the two men staring, the grizzly half-leaning over his prey, his head turned, his little red eyes full of hatred. He uttered one hoarse, sav age note, a sound In which all bls hatred and his fury and his savage power were made manifest, whirled with Incredible speed, and charged. Hudson did not even have time to turn. There was no defense; his gun was strapped on his back, and even if it had been in his hands, its bullet would not have mattered the sting of a bee in honey-robbing. The only possible chance of breaking that dead ly charge lay In the thirty-thirty deer rifle In Dave’s arms; but the craven who held it did not even fire. He was standing just below the outstretched limb o/ a tree, and the weapon fell from his hands as he swung up into the limb. The fact that Hudson stood weaponless, ten feet away In the clear ing. did not deter him in the least. No human flesh could stand against that charge. The vast paw fell with resistless force; and no need arose for a second blow. The trapper’s body was struck down as if felled by a meteor, and the power of the impact forced it deep into the carpet of pine needles. The savage creature turned, the white fangs caught the light in the open mouth. The head lunged toward the man’s shoulder. No man may say what agony Hud son would have endured in the last few seconds of his life if the Killer had been given time and opportunity. His usual wWy was to linger long, sharp fangs closing again and again until all living likeness was destroyed. He Opened His Eyes and Looked With 'Some Wonder Into Bruce’s Face. The blood lust was upon him; there would have been no mercy to the dy ing creature In the pine needles. Yet it transpired that Hudson’s flesh was not to know those rending fangs a second time. On the hillside above, a stranger to this land hud dropped to his knee in the shrubbery, his rifle lifted to the level of his eyes.. It was Bruce, who had come in time to see the charge through a rift in the trees. The bear was on Hudson, and the man had gone down, before Bruce even interpreted him. Then it was Just a gray patch, a full three hundred yards away. His instinct was to throw the gun to his shoulder and fire with out aiming; yet he conquered it with an iron will. But he did move quickly. He dropped to his knee the very sec ond that the gun leaped to his shoul der. He seemed to know that from a lower position the target would be more clearly revealed. The Anger pressed back against the trigger. The distance was far; Bruce was not a practiced rifle shot, and it bor dered on the miraculous that his lead went anywhere near the bear’s body. And it was true that the bullet did not reach a vital place. It stung like a wasp at the Killer’s flank, however, cutting a shallow flesh wound. But it was enough to take his dreadful atten tion from the mortally wounded trap per in the pine needles. He whirled about, growling furious ly and biting at the wound. Then he stood still, turning his ga»e first to the pale face of Dave Turner thirty feet above him in the pine. The eyes glowed In fury and hatred. He had found men out at last; they died even more easily than the fawn. He started to turn back to the fallen, and the rifle spoke again. It was a complete miss, this time; yet the bear leaped in fear when the bullet thwacked into the dust beside him. He did not wait for a third. His caution suddenly returning to him, and perhaps his anger somewhat sati ated by the blow he had dealt Hudson, he crashed into the security of the thicket Bruce waited a single instant, hop ing for another glimpse of the crea ture; then ran down to aid Hudson. But in driving the bear from the trap per’s helpless body he had already given all the aid that he could. Un derstanding came quickly. He had arrived only in time for the Depar ture—just a glimpse of a light as it faded. The blow had been more than any human being could survive; even now Hudson was entering upon that strange calm which often, so merci fully, Immediately precedes death. He opened his eyes and looked with some wonder into Bruce’s face. The light in them was dimming, fading like a twilight, yet there was indication of neither confusion nor delirium. There was, however, some indication of perplexity at the peculiar turn af fairs had taken. “You’re not Dave Turner,” he said v vuderlngly. Dim though '.be voice was, there was considerable emphasis in the tone. Hudson seemed quite sure of this point, whether or nut he knew any thing concerning the dark gates he was about to enter. He wouldn’t have spoken greatly different if he had been sitting in perfect health before his own camp Are and the shadow was now already so deep his eyes could scarcely jfcnetrate it. “No,” Bruce answered. “Dave Tur ner is up a tree. He didn’t even wait to shoot.” “Os course he wouldn’t.” Hudson spoke with assurance. The words dimmed at the end, and he half-closed his eyes ns if he were too sleepy to stay awake longer. Then Bruce saw a strange thing. He saw, unmistak able as the sun in the sky, the signs of a curious struggle in the man’s face. The trapper—a moment before sink ing into the calm of death —was flght ing desperately for a few moments of respite. There could be no other ex planation. And he won it at last, — an Interlude of half a dozen breaths. “Who are your he whispered. Bruce bowed his head until his ear was close to the lips. “Bruce Folger.” he answered, —for the first time In his knowledge speaking his full name. “Son of Matthew Folger who lived at Trail’s End long ago.” The man still struggled. “I knew it,” he said. “I saw it —in your face. I see —everything now. Listen—cun you hear me?” “Yes.” “I just did a wrong—there’s a hundred dollars in my pocket that I just got for doing it. I made a prom ise—to He to you. Take the money— it ought to be yours, anyway—and hers; and use it toward fighting the wrong. It will go a little way.” “Yes.” Bruce looked him full in the eyes. “No matter about the money. What did you promise Turner?” “That I’d lie to you. Grip my arms with your hands —till it hurts. I’ve only got one breath more. Your fa ther held those lands only In trust —the Turners’ deed is forged. And the secret agreement that I witnessed Is hidden—” The breath seemed to go out of the man. Bruce shook him by the shoul ders. Dave, still in the tree, strained to hear the rest. "Yes—where?” “It’s hidden —just—out—•”* The words were no longer audible to Dave, and what followed Bruce also strained to hear In vain. The lips ceased mov ing. The shadow grew in the eyes, and the lids flickered down over them. A traveler had gone. Bruce got up, a strange, cold light in his eyes. He glauced up. Dave Turner was climbing slowly down the tree. Bruce made six strides and seized his rifle. The effect on Dave was ludicrous. He clung fast to the tree limbs, as if he thought a bullet—like a grizzly’s claws —could not reach him there. Bruce laid the gun behind him. then stood waiting with bls own weapon resting In his arms. “Come down, Dave,” he commanded. "The bear Is gone.” Dave crept down the trunk and halted at its base. He studied the cold face before him. “Better not try nothing,” he advised hoarsely. “Why not?” Bruce asked. “Do you think I’m afraid of a coward?” The man started at the words; his head bobbed backward as if Bruce had struck him beneath the jaw with his fist “People don’t call the Turners cow ards and walk off with it,” the man told him. “On, thf lowest coward!” Bruce said between set teeth. “The yellow est, mongrel coward! Your own con federate —and you had to drop your gun and run up a tree. You might have stopped the bear's* charge.” Dave’s face twisted in a scowl. “You’re brave enough now. Wait to see what happens later. Give me my gun. I’m going to go.” “You dan go, but you don’t get your gun. I’ll fill you full of lead if you try to touch it.” ' Dave looked up with some care. He wanted to know for certain if this tenderfoot meant what he said. The man was blind in some things, his vision was twisted and dark, but he made no mistake about tlie look on the cold, set face before him. Bruce’s Anger was curled about the trigger, and it looked to Dave as if It Itched to exert further pressure. “I don’t see why I spare you, any way,” Bruce went on. His tone was self-reproachful. “God knows I hadn’t ought to—remembering who and what you are. If you’d only give me one little bit of provocation—” Dave saw lurid lights' growing in the man’s eyes; and all at once a con clusion came to him. He decided he q make no further effort to regain tne gun. His life was rather precious to him, strangely, and it was wholly plain that a dread and terrible passion was slowly creeping over his enemy. He could see it in the darkening face, the tight grip of the hands on the rifle stock. His own sharp features grew more cunning. "You ought to be glad I didn’t stop the bear with my rifle," be said hurriedly. "I had Hudson bribed —you wouldn’t have found out something that you did find out If he hadn’t lain here dying. You wouldn’t have learned—” WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 0 1 9Z > But the sentence died in the middle Bruce made answer to it, a straight out blow with bis fist, with all strength behind it. in the very center of his enemy’s face. CHAPTER XVI Dave Turner traveled hard and late, and he reached Simon’s door just be fore sundown of the second day. Bruce was still a full two hours dis tant. But Dave did not stay to knock. It was chore-time, and he thought he would find Simon in his barn, super vising the feeding and care of the live stock. He had guessed right, and the two men hud a moment’s talk in the dusky passage behind the stalls. "I’ve brought news.” Dave said. Simon made no answer at first. The saddle pony in the stall Immediately in front of them, frightened at Dave's unfamiliar figure, had crowded, trem bling, against his manger. Simon’s red eyes watched him; then he ut tered a short oath. He took two strides Into the stall and seized the halter rope in his huge, muscular hand. Three times he jerked it with a peculiar, quartering pull, a curbing that might have been ineffective by a man of ordinary strength, but with the incomprehensible might of the great forearm behind It was really terrible punishment. Dave thought for a moment his brother would break the animal’s neck; the whites began to show about the soft, dark pupils of Its eyes. The strap over the head broke with the fourth pnll; then the horse recoiled, plunging and terrified, into the opposite corner of the stalk Simon leaped with shattering power at the creature’s shoulders, his hug'* arms encircled its neck, his shoulders heaved, and. he half-threw it to the floor. Then, as it staggerel to rise, his heavy fist nailed against its neck. Again and again he struck, and in the half-darkness of the stable it was a dreadful thing to behold. The man’s fury, always quickly aroused, was upon him; his brawny form moved with the agility of a panther. Even Dave, whose shallow eyes were usually wont to feast on cruelty, viewed the scene with some alarm. It wasn’t that he was moved by the agony of the horse. But he did remember that horses cost money, and Simon seemed determined to kill the animal before his passion was spent. The horse cowered, and in a mo ment more it was hard to remember he was a member of a noble, high spirited breed —a swift runner, brainy as a dog, a servant faithful and worthy. He stood quiet at last, bis head hanging low, knees bent, eyes curiously sorrowful and dark. Simon fastened the broken strap about his neck, gave it one more jerk that al most knocked the animal off his feet, then turned back to Dav*». Except for a higher color in his cheeks, darker lights In his eyes, and an almost Im perceptible quickening of his breath ing, it did not seem us if he had moved. "You’re always bringing news," he said. “If it’s as Important ns some of the other news you’ve brought don’t take my time.” “All right,” the other replied sul lenly. “You don’t have to hear It. But I’m telling you it's of real importan this time —and some time youUl find out.” He scowled Into the dark face. “But suit yourself.” Dave walked clear to the door, then turned. “Don’t be a fool, Simon." io urged. “Listen to what 1 have to tell you. Bruce Folger knows where thrt secret agreement Is.” For once In bls life Dave got a response of sufficient emphasis to satisfy him. His brother whirled, his whole expression undergoing an im mediate and startling change. If there was one emotion that Dave had never seen on Simon's face It was sea he didn’t know for certain that he saw It now. But there was alarm—unmistakable—and surprls". too. “What do you mean?” he ’demanded. “Out with it!” His tone was really urgent now, not insolent as usual “Good Lord, man, don’t you know that If Bruce gets that down to th«» settlements before the thirtieth of next month we’re lost—and nothing in this world can save us? We can t drive him off, like we drove the Rosses. There’s too much law down In the valleys. If he’s got that paper, there’s only one thing to do. Help me saddle a horse.” “Walt a minute. I didn't say he had It. I only said he knew where It was. He’s still an hour or two walk from here, toward Little river, and If we have to wait for him on the trail, we’ve got plenty of time. And of course I ain’t quite sure he does kin ”’’ where It is." “Yes,” Simon echoed in a strange half-whisper. “Let the buzzards talk to him.” (TO ns CONTINUED.) Chalmers' Recipe. The «grnnd essentials of happiness are—something to do, something to love and something to hope for. —Bos- ton Transcript Proper Definition of Valor. Fear to do base, unworthy H>lnv< Is valor; If they be done to us. suffer them b valor, too. -Ben son.