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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

I sure means more'n or'nary keerful


spot he had decided upon was a level plateau among the pine trees between the beaver pond and Grizzly Notch, where he had years ago killed his first bear. It was so close to the Sweetwater that in the mornings he could rise from his cot and dive from the brink of the cliff into the clear running creek.

There was some timber to be felled and the foundation to be dug and new paths to be made through the woodland glades, and it would take some weeks of hard work before the cabin could be occupied. But he had made all his plans and measurements in anticipation; nothing had been neglected.

Long before he had decided finally to return to the wilds--long ago, in the irksome social life of London--he had dreamt of this possible cabin hidden in the peaceful seclusion of the forest, where he could study the ways of the birds and beasts, where he could live the life of a lonely scout and trapper, hunting or fishing for his own food, cooking his own meals, doing everything for himself without the help of servants. And now his dream was coming true.



The day after the arrival of his outfit was a Sunday, and he did no unnecessary work. But on the Sunday afternoon he saddled one of the prairie ponies and rode along the trail to Fort Laramie. Here he presented

his licence to the agent of the Pony Express Company and asked to be engaged in the place of Jim Thurston, until Jim was able to resume his job.

Kiddie's name was prominent in the records, his reputation as an Express rider was not forgotten, and his request was readily granted.

"You'll start on Jim's western section five o'clock in the mornin'," the agent intimated. "Thar's a dispatch--a very important Gov'ment dispatch--comin' along. I'm givin' you the responsibility of carryin' it to Drifting Smoke Crossing, where you'll transfer the mails to Roger Picknoll. You'll find relay ponies waitin' as per usual at the stages along the trail. And, say, you gotter be some keerful."

Kiddie smiled.

"D'you mean more'n ordinary careful?" he asked. "Isn't an Express rider always careful?"

"You've hit it," nodded the agent. "I sure means more'n or'nary keerful. Not only because of the dispatch. Nobody excep' the Gov'ment keers a red cent 'bout that docyment. But thar's a gang o' road agents--robbers an' horse thieves--at work along thar. They're liable t' interfere with any rider, no matter who or what he may be, on the chance of findin' valu'bles about him. Attacked a innercent, peaceful traveller only last week, they did; robbed him, took his pony, an' left him lyin' gagged an' bound an' senseless."

"Any idea who they are?" Kiddie inquired. "What's their partic'lar way of workin'?"

"By all accounts they got a many ways," said the agent. "I dunno just which report ter believe. One says they've the habit of disguisin' theirselves as Red Injuns, another holds as they goes foolin' around as or'nary cowboys, but wearin' face masks; an' another as they travels in a faked-up conveyance that strangers might mistake for a stage coach. But all agree that they're just desp'rate chara'ters all round. As to who they are, well, I dunno no more'n you. All I knows is that one o' the wust of the hull gang's a man named Nick Undrell."

"Nick Undrell?" Kiddie repeated the name as if it were new to him. "Well, I guess Nick won't interfere with me any. Good evenin', boss. I shall be here on time. Don't worry."

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