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The Strength of the Pines CHAPTER XVlll—Continued. These were mountain men; and they had been in rifle duels before. They had the sure instincts of the beasts of prey in tlu? hills without, and among other things they knew It W’asn’t wise to stand long in an open doorway with the firelight of-the ruined pine behind them. They slipped quickly into the dark ness. Then they stopped and lis tened. The room was deeply silent. They couldn’t hear the sound that both of them had so confidently ex pected—the faint breathing of- a dying man. Simon struck a match. The room was quite deserted. “What’s up?’’ Bill demanded. Simon turned toward him with a scow’l, and the match flickered and burned out In his fingers. “Keep your rifle ready. He may be hiding some where—still able to shoot.” They stole to the door of Linda’s room and listened. Then they threw It wdde. One of their foes was In this room —an implacable foe whose eyes were glittering and strange in the match light. But it was neither Bruce nor Linda. It was old Elmira, cold and sinister as a rattler in its lair. Simon cursed her and hurried on. Holding his rifle like a club, he swung through into Bruce’s room, lighted another match, then darted into the kitchen. In the dim match light the truth went home to him. He turned, eyes glittering. “They’ve gone—on Dave’s horse,” he said. “Thank God, they’ve only got one horse between ’em and can’t go fast. You ride like h —l up the trail toward the store —they might have gone that way. Keep close w*atch and shoot when you can make ’em out.” “You mean—” Bill’s eyes widened. “Mean I I mean do as I say. Shoot by sound, if you can’t see ’em, and It Was Old Elmira, Cold and Sinister as a Rattler in Its Lair. don’t lose another second or I’ll shoot you, too. Alm for the man if a chance offers—but shoot, anyway. Don’t stop hunting till you find them — they’ll duck off In the brush, sure. If they get through, everything is lost. I’ll take the trull around the moun tain.” They raced to their horses, untied them, and mounted swiftly. The dark ness swallowed them at once. CHAPTER XXIX In the depth of gloom even the wild folk—usually keeping so close n watch on those tiuit move on the shadowed trails —did not see Linda and Bruce ride post. The darkness is usually their time of dominance, tyit tonight most of them had yielded to the storm and the snow. They holered in their coverts. What movement there was among them was mostly toward the foothills; for the message had gone forth over the wilderness that the cold had come to stay. The little gnawing folk, eiqerging for another night's work at filling their larders with food, crept down Into the scarcely less impene trable darkness of their underground burrows. Even the bears, whose furry coats were impervious to any ordinary cold, felt the beginnings of the cold trance creeping over them. They were remembering the security and warmth of their last winter’s dens, and they began to long for them again. 1 The horse walked slowly, head near the ground. The girl made no effort to guide him. The lightning had all but ceased; and In an Instant It had become apparent that only by trust ing to the qnlnial’s Instinct could the trail be kept at all; almost nt once all sense of direction was lost to them. The snow and the darkness obscured the outline of the ridges against the sky; the trail was wholly invisible beneath them. ' After the first hundred yards they had no way of knowing that the horse was actually on the trail. While ani mals In the light of day cannot see nearly so far or Interpret nearly so clearly as human beings, they usually seem to make their way much better nt night. Many a frontiersman has been saved from death by ren’.zutlon of rids fact; and, bewildered by the ridpos, has permitted his dog to lead him intn camp. But nature has never devised a creature that can see In the By EDISON MARSHALL Author of "The Voice of the •ack” Copyright by Little, Brown, and Co. utter darkness, and the gloom that enfolded them now seemed simply un fathomable. Bruce found it increas ingly hard to believe that the horse’s eyes could make out any kind of dim pathway in the pine needles. The feel ing grew on him and on Linda as well, that they were lost and aimlessly wan dering in the storm. Os ail the sensations that the wilder ness can afford, there are few more dreadful to the spirit than this. It is never pleasant to lose one’s bearings— and in the night and the cold and miles from any friendly habitation it is particularly hard to bear. Bruce felt the age-old menace of the wilder ness as never before. It always seemed to be crouching, waiting to take a man nt a disadvantage; and like the gods that first make mad those whom they would destroy, it doesn’t quite play fair. He understood now certain wilderness tragedies of which he had heard; how tenderfeet —lost among the ridges—had broken into a wild run that had ended nowhere except in exhaustion and death. Bruce himself felt a wild desire to lash his horse into a gallop, but he forced it back with all his powers of will. His calmer, saner self explained that folly with entire clearness. It would mean panic for the horse, and then a quick and certain death, either at the foot of a precipice or from a blow from a low-hanging limb. The horse seemed to be feeling its way, rather than seeing. They w’ere strange, lonely figures In the darkness; and for a long time they rode almost in silence. Then Bruce felt the girl’s breath as she whispered. “Bruce,” she said. “Let’s be brave and look this matter in the face. Do you think we’ve got a chance?” He rode a long time before he an swered. He groped desperately for a word that might bring her cheer, but It was hard to find. The cold seemed to deepen about them, the remorseless snow* beat into his face. “Linda,” he replied, “it is one of the mercies of this world for men al ways to think that they’ve got a chance. Maybe it’s only a cruelty in our case.” “I think I ought to tell you some thing else. I haven’t the least way of knowing whether we are on the right trail.” “I knew, that long ago. Whether •ve are on any trail at all.” “I've just been thinking. I don’t know how many forks it has. We might have already got on a wrong one. Perhaps the horse is turned about and is heading back home—to ward Simon’s stables.” She spoke dully, and he thrust his arm back to her. “Linda, try to be brave,” he urged. “We can only take a chance.” The horse plodded a few more steps. “Brave! To think that It is you that has to encourage me —in- stead of my trying to keep up your spirits. I will try to be brave, Bruce. And if we don’t live through the night, my last remembrance will be of your bravery—how you, injured and weak from loss of blood, still re membered to give a cheery word to me.” “I'm not badly injured,” he told her gently. “And there are certain things that have come clear to me lately. One of them is that except for you—throwing your own precious body between —I wouldn’t be here at all.” Tlte feeling that they had lost the trail grew upon them. Once they halted to adjust the blankets on the saddle, and they listened for any sounds that might indicate that Simon was overtaking them. But all they heard was the soft rustle of the leaves under the wind-blown snow. “Linda,” he asked suddenly. “Does it seem to you to be awfully cold?” She waited a long time before she spoke. This was not the hour to make quick answers. On any decision might rest their success or failure. “I believe I can stand It —a while longer,” she answered at last. “But I don’t think we’d better try to. It’s getting cold. Every hour it’s colder, and I seem to be getting weak er. It isn’t a real wound, Linda —but it seems to have knocked some of my vitality out of me, and I’m dreadfully in need of rest. I think we’d better try to make a camp.” “And go on by morning light?” “Yes.” “But Simon might overtake us then.” “We must stay out of sight of the trail. But somehow —I can’t help but hope he won’t try to follow us on such a night as this.” He drew up the horse, and they sat in the beat of the snow. “Don't make any mistake about that, Bruce,” she told him. “Remember, that unless he overtakes us before we come into the protection of the courts, his whole fight Is lost. It doesn’t alone mean loss of the estate—for which he would risk his life just as he has a dozen times. It means defeat—a thing taat would come hard to Simon. Besides, he’s got a fire within him that will keep him warm.” i“You mean—hatred?” “Hatred. Nothing else.” “But In spite of it we must make | camp. We’ll get off the tfaii—tf We’re still on It —and try to slip through to morrow. You see what’s going to hap pen If we keep on going this way?” “I know that I feel a queer dread —and hopelessness—” “And that dread and hopelessness are just ns much danger signals as the sound of Simon’s horse behind us. It means that the cold and the snow and the fear are getting the better of us. Linda, It’s a race with death. Don’t misunderstand me or disbelieve me. It isn’t Simon alone now. It’s the cold and the snow and the fear. The thing to do Is to make camp, keep as warm as we can in our blankets, and push on In the morn-' ing. It’s two full day’s ride, going fast, the best we can go—and God knows what will happen before the end.” “Then turn off the trail, Bruce,” the girl told him. “I don’t know that we’re even on the trail.” “Turn off, anyway. As long as we stay together—it doesn’t matter.” She spoke very quietly. Then he felt a strange thing. A warmth which even that growing, terrible cold could not transcend swept over him. For her arms had crept out under his arms and encircled his great breast, then pressed with all her gentle strength. No word of encouragement, no cheery expression of hope could have meant so much. Not defeat, not even the long darkness of death Itself could appall him now. All that he had giv en and suffered and endured, all the mighty effort that he had made had in an instant been shown in its true light, a thing worth while, a sacrifice atoned Tor and redeemed. They headed off Into the thickets, blindly, letting the horse choose the W’ay. They felt him tfirn to avoid some object in his path—evidently a fallen tree —and they mounted a slight ridge or rise. Then they felt the we*, touch of fir branches against their cheeks. Bruce stopped the horse and both dismounted. Both of them knew that under the drooping limbs of the tree they would find, at least until the snows deepened, comparative shelter from the storm. Here, rolled in their blankets, they might pass the remain der of the night hours. Bruce tied the horse, and the girl unrolled the blankets. But she did not lay them together to make a rude bed —and the dictates of convention ality had nothing whatever to do with it. If one jot more warmth could have been achieved by it, these two would have lain side .by side through the night hours between the same blan kets. She knew, however, that more warmth could be achieved if each of them took a blanket and rolled up in It; thus they would get two thick nesses instead of one and no openings to admit the freezing air. When this was done they lay side by side, econ omizing the last atom of warmth. The night hours were dreary tad long. The rain beat into the limbs above them, and sometimes It sifted through. At the first gray of dawn Bruce opened his eyes. His dreams had been troubled and strange, but the reality to which he W’akened gave him no sense of relief. He fought a little battle, lying there under the snow-covered limbs of the fir tree. Because it was one in w’hich no blows w’ere exchanged, no shots fired, and no muscles called into ac tion, it was no less a battle, trying and stem. It w’as a fight waged In his own spirit, and It seemed to rend him in twain. The whole issue was clear in his mind at once. The cold had deepened in these hours of dawn, and he was At th, First Gray of Dawn Bruce Opened Hie Eyes. slowly, steadily freezing to death. Even now the blood flowed less swift ly lu his veins. Death Itself, In the moment, had lost all horror for blm; rather It was a thing of peace, of ease. All he had to do was to He still. Just close his eyes—and soft shadows would drop over him. They would drop over Linda too. She lay still beside him; perhaps they had already fallen. The war he had waged so long and so relentlessly would end In blissful calm. Outside there was only snow and cold and wracking limbs and pain, only further conflict with tireless enemies, only struggle to tear his agonized body to pieces; and the bitterness of defeat in the end. He saw h’s chances plain ns lie lay beneath that gray sky. Even now, perhaps, Simon was upon them. Only two little rifle shells remained with which to combat him, and be doubted that his wounded arm would hold the rifle steady. There were weary, Innumerable miles between them and any shelter, and only the ter rible, trackless forest lay between. Then why not lie still and let the curtains fall? This was an easy, tranquil passing, and heaven alone knew what dreadful mode of egress would be his if he rose to battle fur ther. All the argument seemed on one side. But high and bright above all this burned the indomitable flame of his spirit. To rise, to fight, to struggle on. Never to yield until the Power .above decreed 1 To stand firm, even as the pines themselves. The dom inant greatness that Linda had found in this man rose In him, and he set his muscles like iron. He shook off the mists of the frost In his brain. Quickly he knelt by Lin da and shook her shoulders in his hands. She opened her eyes. “Get up, Linda,” he said gently. “We have to go on.” She started to object, but a message in his eyes kept her from it. His own spirit went into her. He helped her to her feet. “Help me roll the blankets,” he com manded, “and take out enough food for breakfast. We can’t stop to eat It here. I think we’re in sight of the main trail; whether we can find It —In the snow—l don’t know. We must get farther into the thickets be fore we stop to eat.” They were strange figures in the snow flurrle o as they went to work to roll the blankets Into a compact bundle. The food she had taken from their stores for breakfast he thrust Into the pocket of his coat; the rest, with the blankets, she tied swiftly on the horse. They unfastened the ani mal and for a moment she stood hold ing the reins while Bruce crept back on the hillside t* look for the trull. The snow swept round them, and they felt the lowering menace of the cold. And at that instant those dread spirits that rule the wilderness, jeal ous then and jealous still of the In trusion of man, dealt them a final, deadly blow. Its weapon was just a sound—a loud crash in a distant thicket —and a pungent message on the wind that their human senses were too blunt to receive. The horse suddenly snorted loudly, then reared up. Bruce saw as in a tragic dream the girl struggle to hold Idm; he saw her pulled down In to the snow and the rein jerked from her hand. Then the animal plunged, wheeled and raced at top speed away Into the snow flurries. Some terror that as yet they could not name had broken their control of him and In an Instant taken from them this one last hope of safety. CHAPTER XXX Bruce walked over to Linda, wait ing In the snow on her knees. It was not an intentional posture. She had been jerked down by the plunging horse, and she had not yet complete ly risen. But the sight of her slight figure, her raised white face, her clasped hands, and the remorseless snow of the wilderness about her moved Bruce to his depths. He saw her but dimly in the snow flurries, and she looked as If she were in an attitude of prayer. He came rather slowly, and he even smiled a little. And she gave him a wan, strange little smile in return. “We’re down to cases at last,” he said, with a rather startling quiet ness of tone. “You see what it means?” She nodded, then got to her feet. “We can walk out, if we are let alone and given time; It isn’t that we are obliged to have the horse. But our blankets are on Its back, and this storm is steadily becoming a blizzard. And you see— time Is one thing' that we don’t have. No human being can stand this cold for long unprotected.” “And we can’t keep going—keep warm by walking?” His answer was to take out his knife and put the point of the steel to his thumb nail. His eyes strained, then looked up. “A little way,” he an swered, “but we can’t keep our main directions. The sun doesn’t even cast a shadow on my nail to show us which is west. We could keep up a while, perhaps, but there Is no end to this wilderness and at noon or to night—the result would be the same.” “It means—the end?” “If I can’t catch the horse. I’m go ing now. If we can regain the blan kets—by getting In rifle range of the horse —we might make some sort of shelter In the snow and last out until we can see our way and get our bear ings. You don’t know of any shelter— any cave or cabin where we might build a fire?” “No. There are some In the hills, but we can’t see our way to find them.” “I know. I should have thought of that. And you see, we can’t build a tire here—everything is wet, and the snow Is beginning to whirl so we couldn’t keep it going. If we should stagger on all day In this storm and this snow, we couldn’t endure the night.” He smiled again. “And I want you to climb a tree —and stay there— until I come back.” She looked at him dully. “What’s the use, Bruce? You won’t come back. You’ll chase the thing until you die—l know you. You don’t know when to give up. And If you want to come back—you couldn’t find the way. I’m going with you.” “No.” Once more she started to disobey, but the grave displeasure In his eyes restrained her. “It’s going to lake all my strength to fight through that snow—l must go fast —and may be life and death will have to depend on your strength at the end of the trail. You must save It—the little you have left. Since I must take the rifle —to shoot the horse if I can’t catch him —you must climb a tree. You know why.” “Partly to hide from Simon If lie comes this way. And partly—” "Because there’s some danger In that thicket beyond 1” he Interrupted her. “The horse’s terror was real — besides, you heard the sound. It might he only a puma. But It might be — the Killer. Swing your arms and struggle all you can to keep the blood flowing. I won’t be gone long.” He started to go, and she ran after him with outstretched arms. “Oh. “Oh, Bruce,” She Cried, “Come Back Soon —Soon. Don’t Leave Me to Die Alone.” Bruce,” she cried, “come back soon —soon. Don’t leave me to die aloe. I’m not strong enough for that —” He whirled, took two paces back, and his arms went about her. He had forgotten his Injury Jong since. He kissed her cool lips and smiled Into her eyes. Then at once the flurries hid him. ""The girl climbed up Into the branches of n fir tree. In the thicket beyond a great gray form tacked back and forth, trying to locate a scent that a second before he had caught but dimly and had lost. It was the Killer, and his temper was lost long ago in the whirling snow. His anger was upon him, partly from the discomfort of the storm, partly from the constant, gnawing pain of three bullet wounds In his powerful body. Besides, he realized the pres ence of his old and greatest enemy— those stull, slight forms that had crossed him so many times, that had stung him with their bullets, and whose weakness he had learned. And then all at once he caught the scent plain. He lurched forward, crashed again through the brush, and walked out Into the snow-swept open. Linda saw his vague outline, and nt first she hung perfectly motionless, hoping to escape his gaze. She had been told many times that grizzlies cannot climb, yet she had no desire to see him raging below her, reaching, possibly trying to shake her from the limb. He didn’t seem to see her. His eyes were lowered; besides, it was never the grizzly way to search the branches of a tree. The wind blew the message that he might have read clearly in the opposite direction. She saw him walk slbwly across the snow, head low ered, a huge gray ghost In the snow flurries not one hundred feet distant. Then she saw him pause, with lowered head. In the little second before the truth came to her, the bear had already turned. Bruce’s tracks were some what dimmed by the snow, but the Killer Interpreted them truly. She saw too late that he had crossed them, read their message, and now had turned into the clouds of snow to trace them down. For an Instant she gazed at Idm In speechless horror; and already the flurries had almost obscured his gray figure. Desperately she tried to call his attention from the tracks. She called, then Rhe rustled the branches ns loudly us she could. But the noise of the wind obscured what sound she made, and the bear was already too absorbed In the hunt to turn and see her. As always, in the nenrlpg pres ence of a foe, his rage grew upon him. Sobbing, Linda swung down from the tree. She had no conscious plan of aid to her lover. She only had a blind instinct to seek him, to try to warn him of his danger, and at least to be with him at the death. The great tracks of the Killer, seemingly almost ns long as her own arm, made a plain trail for her to follow. She too struck off into the storm-swept canyon. • • • • • • • And the forest gods who dwell some where In the region where the pine tops taper into the sky, and who pull the strings that drop and raise the curtain and work the puppets that are the players of the wilderness dramas, saw a chance for a great and tragic Jest in this strange chase over the snow. The destinies of Bruce, Linda and the Killer were already converg ing on this trail that all three followed —the path that the runaway horse made In the snow. Only one of the great forces of the war that had been waged at Trail’s End was lacking, and now be came also Simon Turner had ridden late Into WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1922 the night anu iruui l.*n Sv . , ;UVII . v remorseless fury he hjd pm , ids exhausted horse, ne t n*| him with unp’tylng Mrength tin . j coverts, over gie::t rocks, -down i :; ~ rocky canyons in search of Bruce Linda, and now, us the dawn bio .. lie thought that he l ad found th ■ He had suddenly 'nine upon the tru- i of Bruce’s hors - in the snow. If he had encountered them fait',— back, when the animal had been lul ‘. ning wildly, he might have guess..,i the truth and rejoiced. No man w<. u ;.j attempt to ride a horse at a gall through that trailless stretch. But at the point he found the tracks most <.f the horse’s terror had been spent, and It was walking leisurely. sometimes lowering Its head to crop off the ahruli bery. The trail was comparatively fresh, too; or else the fast-fall ng snow would have already obscured p. He thought that his bofir of triumph was near. But It had come none too soon. And Simon—out of passion-filled eyes— looked and saw that it would likely bring death with It. He realized his position fully. The storm was steadily developing Into one of those terrible mountain bliz zards In which, without shelter, no human being might live. He was far from his home, he had no blankets, and he could not find his way. Yet he would not have turned back If he could. The securing of the document by which Bruce could take the great estates from him was only a trifle now. He believed wholly within his own soul that the wilderness—without his aid—would do his work of hatred for him; and that by no conceivable cir cumstances could Bruce and Linda find shelter from the blizzard and live through the day. He could find their bodies In the spring If he by any chance escaped himself, and take the Hoss-Folger agreement from them. But it was not enough. He wanted also to do the work of destruction. Even Ids own death—ls It were only delayed until bls vengeance was wreaked —could not matter now. In all the ancient strife and fury and ceaseless war of the wild through which he had come, there was no pas sion to equal this. The Killer was con tent to let the wolf kill the fawn for him. The cougar will turn from Its warm, newly slain prey. In which Its white fangs have already dipped, at the Right of some great danger In the thickets. But Simon could not turn. Death low’ered Its wings upon him ns well ns upon his enemy, yet the fire In his heart and the fury In his brain shut out all thought of It. He sprang off his horse better to examine the tracks, and then stood, half bent over, In the snow. • •••••• Bruce Folger bended swiftly up the trail that his runaway horse hnd made. It was, he thought, his last effort, end he gave his full strength to It. Weakened ns he was by the cold and the wound, he could not have made headway at all except for the fact thnt the wind was behind him. The snow ever fell faster, In larger flakes, and the track dimmed l>.ore bls eyes. It was a losing game. Ter rified not only by the beast thnt hnd stirred In the thicket but by the ever increasing wind as well, the animal would not linger to be overtaken. Bruce had not ridden It enough to have tamed it, and his plnn was to attempt to shoot the creature on Right, Hither than try to catch It. They could not go forward, anyway, as long ns the blizzard lasted. Which way was east and which was west he could no longer guess. And with the blankets they might make some sort of shelter and keep life In their bodies until the snow ceased and they could find their way. The cold was deepening, the storm was Increasing In fury. Bruce’s bones ached, his wounded arm felt numb and strange, the frost was getting Into his lungs. There was no hope of the storm decreasing, rather It was stead ily growing worse. The tracks grew more dim, and he began to be afraid that the falling flakes would obscure his own foot prints so that he could not find his way back to Linda. And he knew, beyond all other knowledge, thnt he wanted her with him when the shad ows dropped down for good and all. He wanted her arms about him; the fight would be easier then. “Oh, what’s the use?” he suddenly said to the wind. “Why not give up and go back?” He halted In the trail and started to turn. But at thnt Instant a ban ner of wind swept down into his face, and the eddy of snow in front of him was brushed from his gaze. Just for the space of a breath the canyon for a hundred feet distant was partially cleared of the blinding streamers of snow. And he uttered a long ga*P when he saw, thirty yards distant and at the farthest reaches of his sight, the figure of a saddled horse. His gun leaped to his shoulder, yet his eagerness did not cost him his sell control. He gazed quietly along the sights until he saw the animal’s shoul der between them. His finger pressed back against the trigger. The horse rocked down, seemingly instantly killed, and the snow swept In between. Bruce cried out In tri umph. Then he broke into a run ar J sped through the flurries toward h's dead. (TO DB CONTINUED ) Lone and Mysterious. There Is an elderberry bush RP v, ' n feet high on the tableland of Mesa Verde National park, In Colorado, that has the distinction of being the only one In that country. How It got there, and whether the last of the Indlsn cliff dwellers had anything to do with Its growth there Is being lnvestlg« ,crt by sdeatlste.