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The Cody enterprise and the Park County enterprise. (Cody, Wyo.) 1921-1923, November 08, 1922, Image 6

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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
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
They raced to their horses, untied
them, and mounted swiftly. The dark
ness swallowed them at once.
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
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
“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
“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
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?”
“But Simon might overtake us
“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
“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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

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