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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

I knew that Kiddie an' you was away on a canoe trip


"Say,

Kiddie," interposed Rube Carter, "thar's one thing you ain't asked Nick Undrell t' explain. What was his game prowlin' around here an' tryin' ter make friends with the dog?"

"I'll tell you that," returned Nick, glancing across at Rube. "It was all quite innercent. I knew that Kiddie an' you was away on a canoe trip. Broken Feather knew it, too. I'd a suspicion, an' more'n a suspicion, that he'd made up his mind ter break in here an' carry off some of Kiddie's valu'bles. I came prowlin' around ter spy on him. I saw him here once. He saw me watchin' him, an' he quitted. Then I heard that he'd gone cavortin' off on the war-path against the Crows, back of Lone Wolf Mountain, an' I didn't worry any more, since he couldn't be in two places at once. D'ye savvy?"

"Yes," nodded Kiddie; "yes, go on."

"Well," continued Nick, "night before last I was sittin' all lonesome in my shack, waitin' for the water to boil an' listenin' t' the rain outside, when there come a knock at the door. I opened it, an' there was a stranger--a Injun--lookin' like a drowned rat. He wanted food; he wanted shelter. I lets him come in. He couldn't speak English. We talked by signs, an' didn't get a lot said. I made two mugs of coffee, one for myself, one for him.

"Then I turned to the cupboard ter git some cheese an' a cracker or two, never suspectin' that he

was anythin' else than a homeless wanderer. Well, I dunno just how he managed it--wasn't watchin' him, didn't suspect him--but when my back was turned, he must ha' took the opportunity he was waitin' for an' cunningly dropped suthin' in my mug of coffee. That's sure what he did. Thar ain't a doubt about it. I didn't taste nothin' unusual; but that coffee was doped. I couldn't keep awake. I fell asleep, an' yet not altogether asleep. I kinder saw things an' heard 'em in a dreamy way.

"Seemed ter me after a while that the door opened an' a second Injun came crawlin' in. It wasn't till afterwards that I realized who this second one was. He looked at me hard, kept on watchin' me for mebbe a full hour, until he figured I was sound asleep. Then he crept near an' touched me: caught hold o' this yer vest an' tugged at it till he tore a hole in it. Then he went about the room, silent as a cat. He drew my boots away from the stove, where I'd put 'em to dry. He went to the shelf, where that old pipe was lyin'. I dunno what else he did. I was too much asleep t' know anythin' or care anythin'. I only know that it was broad daylight when I awoke, that both them Injuns had vamoosed, an' that I couldn't find my boots."

"Reason bein' that Broken Feather had took 'em," said Rube Carter. "Didn't you find tracks outside the door, Nick?"

"Yes," Nick answered, "I found the marks of two pairs of moccasins leadin' up to the door; a pair of moccasins an' a pair of hob-nailed boots--my own boots--goin' away. It wasn't a very difficult proposition, an' I allow it wasn't long 'fore I'd ciphered it all up. I made out that Broken Feather, havin' failed in his raid on the Crow Indian reservation, had planned ter come right here an' do a bit of the burglary business in your absence. He's bin owin' me a grudge for a while back. He took my boots so that the marks of 'em in the mud would draw suspicion on me. D'ye savvy?"

"That was clearly his idea," Kiddie agreed, "and he very nearly succeeded. He gave himself away, however, by plantin' too many false clues around, an' makin' them too conspicuous. Did you follow on his tracks, Nick?"

"We did," Nick replied. "Jim Thurston, Fred Crippleshaw an' me, we follered him as far as Long Grass Creek. There we lost track of him, an' gave up the chase. We couldn't hope ter get here in front of him, though he was on foot an' we were mounted. But knowin' that he'd likely be goin' back with the loot to his own village, an' guessin' which trail he'd take, we hung around in One Tree Gulch. Waited hours an' hours.


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