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The Strength of the Pines   By: (1894-1967)

The Strength of the Pines by Edison Marshall

First Page:

THE STRENGTH OF THE PINES

by

EDISON MARSHALL

With Frontispiece by W. Herbert Dunton

Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1921

Copyright, 1921, By Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved

Published February, 1921

The Colonial Press C. H. Simonds Co., Boston, U. S. A.

TO LILLE BARTOO MARSHALL DEAR COMRADE AND GUIDE WHO GAVE ME LIFE

[Illustration: He marked the little space of gray squarely between the two reddening eyes.]

CONTENTS

BOOK ONE THE CALL OF THE BLOOD

BOOK TWO THE BLOOD ATONEMENT

BOOK THREE THE COMING OF THE STRENGTH

THE STRENGTH OF THE PINES

BOOK ONE

THE CALL OF THE BLOOD

I

Bruce was wakened by the sharp ring of his telephone bell. He heard its first note; and its jingle seemed to continue endlessly. There was no period of drowsiness between sleep and wakefulness; instantly he was fully aroused, in complete control 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. A deer, for instance, that cannot leap out of a mid afternoon nap, soar a fair ten feet in the air, and come down with legs in the right position for running comes to a sad end, rather soon, in a puma's claws. Frontiersmen learn the trait too; but as Bruce was a dweller of cities it seemed somewhat strange in him. The trim, hard muscles were all cocked and primed for anything they should be told to do.

Then he grunted rebelliously and glanced at his watch beneath the pillow. He had gone to bed early; it was just before midnight now. "I wish they'd leave me alone at night, anyway," he muttered, as he slipped on his dressing gown.

He had no doubts whatever concerning the nature of this call. There had been one hundred like it during the previous month. His foster father had recently died, his estate was being settled 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 by now; he wondered, 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 calling him to the telephone. The fact that he was, at last, the penniless "beggar" that Duncan had called him at their first meeting didn't matter one way or another. For some years he had not hoped for help from his foster parent. The collapse of the latter's business had put Bruce out of work, but that was just a detail too. All he wanted now was to get things straightened up and go away where, he did not know or care.

"This is Mr. Duncan," he said coldly into the transmitter.

When he heard a voice come scratching over the wires, he felt sure that he had guessed right. Quite often his foster father's creditors talked in that same excited, hurried way. It was rather necessary to be hurried and excited if a claim were to be met before the dwindling financial resources were exhausted. But the words themselves, however as soon as they gave their interpretation in his brain threw a different light on the matter.

"How do you do, Mr. Duncan," the voice answered. "Pardon me if I got you up. I 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 answer 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 facts went, more of a stranger to him; there was no sense of loss at his death and no cause for pretense now... Continue reading book >>




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