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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Nick Undrell rode up to Kiddie


Warnings

such as these had very little effect upon Kiddie. Indeed, they only spurred him with a firmer resolve to the undertaking.

Three mornings later he started for Laramie, well armed, mounted on one of Birkenshaw's prairie ponies, and accompanied by Rube Carter.

Much to the boy's disappointment, he was very silent during the long ride. But his eyes and ears were constantly busy, and occasionally he pointed things out to Rube's notice--the flight of a covey of sagehens, the track of a herd of buffalo, the ashes of an old camp fire.

Once, after fording Red Pine Creek, Kiddie dropped a glove, apparently by accident, and dismounted to pick it up. Rube did not observe that, on remounting, his companion held a black feather between his fingers.

When they rode into Laramie, they found the cavalcade halted before Brierley's saloon, all ready to start. Nick Undrell rode up to Kiddie, respectfully touching the wide brim of his hat.

"All s'rene, sir," he announced. "I got a gang o' picked boys distributed among the baggage. Seen any signs as you come along'?"

"Only this." Kiddie held forth the feather he had found. "What d'ye make of it?"

"Um, a black crow's wing feather, I guess," said Nick. "I see it's a _broken feather_. Where'd you pick it

up?"

"Alongside of Red Pine Creek," said Kiddie, "with a pebble atop ter keep it in place. Quill end pointed south-east--direction of White Bull Ridge."

"Any hoof prints around? Thar was rain last night."

"No; just the touch of a moccasined foot in the moist sand, edge of the grass."

"We'll start right now, then," Nick decided. "I've gotten all the bills and doc'ments. You'll sign 'em when the goods is duly delivered. You'll be ridin' in front, I guess? You'll take the boy along? Say, if you scents trouble ahead, jes' hustle him back ter make me wise. Savee?"

Kiddie rode well in advance of the leading wagon, with Rube at his side. He was now more than ever silent and watchful. Between Horse Shoe Bend and Hot Springs, where they were among the foothills and narrow valleys, his gaze was fixed steadily forward over his pony's restlessly twitching ears. He moved his rifle crosswise in front of him. Without averting his gaze, he said to the boy--

"Just drop back, Rube, and tell Nick ter close up the ranks."

Still riding forward at an easy pace, he gave no sign that he had seen anything unusual. The row of dark objects showing along the upper edge of a projecting rock might well have been mistaken for so many birds preening themselves in the sunlight, only that his keen eight had caught the movement of a pony's tail and the half-hidden plumes of an Indian's head-dress. He dropped the loop of his bridle reins over the pommel and slowly gripped his gun with a finger on the trigger.


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