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1J--"--.---POETRY.' 111










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CHAPTER XLII. A FIERCE STRUGGLE. The loud shriek of alarm uttered by Lena fell with startling effect upon the ears of Cliff and Van, who had just left the house to follow the twc girls. Hurrying on as rapidly as tneir feet would carry them, they arrived in a few moments at the spot where the terrified girl was screaming wildly and wringing her hands in the grea test distress and consternation. "What's the matter?" cried Cliff, excitedly. Where is Miss Norma 1" Oh, she's gone shrieked Lena, frantically. They have carried her off." "What do you mean ? he exciaimea, wildly, seizing her abruptly by the shoulder, Speak, for heaven's sake, and tell me what you mean! "Two men," she gasped, between her sobs, "came out of the bushes there and carried her off I" Without waiting to hear more, Cliff dashed into the bushes and examined them thoroughly. She is gone he cried, bitterly, as he came back, in a little while, to where Van was support- ing Lena, who was still sobbing excitedly. "Van," he continued, rapidly, you carry Lena to the house, and return with our pistols. The scoun- drels are near here yet. They have not had time to go far. In the meantime, I will continue the search." Van hurried back to the house, with Lena, almost unconscious, trembling on his arm, whom he tried to soothe in vain, while Cliff continued to look earnestly for any trace of the missing girl. But his search was fruitless He could find'no trace of her whatever. There was not the slightest indication of the direction in which Ker abductors had carried her. In a few minutes Van returned and joined in the search, which Cliff continued to prosecute eagerly. Van, this'is horrible horrible! he cried, de- spairingly. What do you suppose it means ? It is some of old Dunn's work, you may be cer- tain of that," returned Van, positively. "To-be-sure) I never thought of that," re- plied Cliff, more alarmed than ever. She is in great peril. They will be apt to murder her this very night, if they have not already done so." He sank down on the ground at the foot of a tree, entirely overcome, and groaned despon- dently. Come, come exclaimed Van, determinedly, this will never do! We have no time to loss Let us look for her. We may yet be able to rescue her." But I have looked, and can find no traces of her," said Cliff, despairingly, as he arose. We have no idea of what direction they have take i her." We must scour the country far and wide," re- turned the other. Come, let us go. Every moment of delay is dangerous." But what about'Lena?" suggested Cliff. 41 Yen know pa rode over to Barrens this evening for the mail, and has not returned yet. She will be terribly uneasy and frightened without us. Per- haps you had better return, and I will prosecute the search alone." t Oh, I told Peter and Dinah to keep watcn and ward over Miss Lena and the house until we re- turned," answered Van. "So you need not be uneasy on that account. Come, let us set out." Then the two young men started off together on the search. They scanned the way very closely, but discovered no vestiges whatever of the missing girl. They were very quiet, speaking only in whis. pers. In the weird light of the pallid stars they seemec like two phantoms of the forest, flitting about noiselessly. Every now and then they would pause and listen intently. But they could hear nothing save the sighing oi the wind through the trees, or the scream of some startled bird as they disturbed its slumbers. They had almost entirely despaired of ever find. ing her. Hope had nearly died out in then hearts. But suddenly, not far distant, they heard lorn cries—screams—evidently uttered by a woman mingled with the horrid oaths of men. They paused, involuntarily. In another instant, the horse, that Robert ParkE had ridden that evening dashed by them riderless and evidently terribly frightened. They rushed rapidly in the direction of thE noises, and soon arrived at the spot from whencc they proceeded, where a singular and exciting scene burst on their sight. Three men were engaged in a desperate con flict, while standing near by, apparently dis- tracted, was Norma Norton, screaming loudly.- Just as they reached the scene of the conflict one of the men uttered a deep groan and fel heavily to the ground. Then the other two men, discovering Van and Cliff approaching, turned and fled rapidly away. Norma-dear Norma cried Cliff, excitedly. as he rushed toward the horror-stricken girl. "Thank God, we've arrived in time to save you!" She could not speak. She flung herself, sob- bing-, upon his breast. n the meantime, Van bent over the body of th.e 0 kad fallen, and. who lay on the ground feebly moaning. But scarcely had he caught a glimpse of the man s features, when he started back with a cry disrasx. I "TJome here, 0lTr± v' He 'exclaime 1, anxiously. It is your father, and he is wounde 1! Oliff immediately released himself from Norma, who by this time had become more composed, and in another moment all three were bending ovei Mr. Parke with the most intense anxiety. Pa, are you hurt ?" asked Cliff, anxiously Are you wounded ? I am stabbed returned Mr. Parke, feebly. One of those" men struck me a blow in the side. with a knife." Yes, here is the place, poor fellow said Van sympathetically; "and it is a very dangerous wound." He pointed to a cut in the old man's side, from which the blood was oozing. We must carry him home," said Cliff, tremu- lously. Fortunately it is not very far from here and he is not heavy." The two young men raised him tenderly in theii arms and bore him slowly on toward the house, followed by Norma. Tell us about this horrid affair," said Van to Norma. Who were those two villains, and what did they say to you ? One of them was Dirk Handy, and the othei was old Hawk, whom I have seen about here twc or three times," sbe returned, shuddering. They came suddenly out of the bushes and threw s blanket over my head, and bore me rapidly away I tried to scream, but I was so muffled and s( nearly smothered that I could not do so. Th< only thing I heard either of them say was just as they started off with me, when Dirk remarked By George, we're in luck I' In a few minute; afterward we met Mr. Parke, whom I recognized from his voice. He stopped the men, and althougl I could not entirely understand what he said. ] perceived that he was interfering in my behalf The next thing I knew there was a struggle taking place, and, finding myself free, I threw off thE blanket, and began to scream, and then you twe came up, and you know the rest." "Yes," said Mr. Parke, feebly, who evidentlj had overheard what had been said, I was de. tained at the post-office, waiting for the mail which was behind time, and was hurrying Is" me fearing you might be uneasy about me, when nd. denly I met the two scoundrels, bearing betn-eci; them Miss Norton, whom I of course did not recognize, as her head was covered with the blan- ket. I halted them and asked them what they were doing. They answered me roughly, and were about to pass on, when I began to call out loudly for assistance. They immediately seized me and dragged me from my horse, which took fright and galloped away. They then attacked me, and we were engaged in the struggle when you arrived." "And in your effort to save me you were badly wounded exclaimed Norma, pathetically. Oh Mr. Parke, how can I ever repay you?" "You owe me nothing," he answered, solemnly. I am your debtor, and I thank God that I was permitted to serve you Van glanced at her furtively. He noticed a bewildered expression upon her face. Hush, pa said Cliff, admonishingly. "You must not talk so much you are to weak." "I shall never be stronger, my son," he re- sponded, resignedly. I feel that my hours are lumbered." "No, no!" replied Cliff, falteringly. "Youwill )e spared to us, I hope." "I am ready to go," the old man answered, juietly. By this time they had reached the house, which ihey entored and laid him on his bed. He never arose from it again, for the shadows of death were already gathering over him.