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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Kiddie looked across with level


Kiddie

met the man's cunningly covetous glance as he passed the whole bundle across to him.

"Guess that's considerably more'n you an' your gang of road-agents found on the harmless traveller you robbed on the trail last week and left gagged and bound," he said pointedly.

"Eh?"

Nick clutched the notes and drew back. His hand went to his hip.

Kiddie seemed to have anticipated this movement, and he was quite ready for it.

"Keep your hand away from your gun," he said quietly. "I'm covering you with mine, and I'm quicker than you. Listen! You see, I know about that affair. I was hoping that you'd be able to tell me you'd no hand in it. But now I know by your behaviour that you're guilty, that you were the ringleader of the despicable gang. I'm not accusin' you. I repeat that I'm not in the vigilance service; I'm not a policeman. I may tell you, however, that I knew your evil reputation before I engaged you to take charge of my outfit. I trusted you, Nick, and you did not betray my trust. You acted straight--you and your men alike--and every cent of the amount I've just handed to you is well deserved and honestly earned."

"You trusted me--you trusted the lot of us--knowin' we was low-down roosters that wouldn't think twice of killin' a man for the sake of his goods? That wasn't

just wise, Kiddie. We might ha' bin springin' a trap on you. Why, the traveller you referred to--him as were left senseless on the trail--hadn't more'n the value of ten dollars on him all told. He'd only a nickel watch, his knife, a pistol as wouldn't shoot, an' a broken-winded cayuse that was hardly worth taking away. And you gave us the chance to make off with the whole of your valu'ble outfit! It wasn't wise. It wasn't safe."

"Then you guessed it was of value?" Kiddie questioned.

"Value? Well, I didn't on'y guess; I knew. We'd gotten word of it days an' days 'fore it came along. So had the Redskins. But we didn't cotton to the Injuns gettin' in front of us, see? We didn't have th' ambition of seein' Broken Feather collar the boodle."

"Eh?" Kiddie looked across with level, penetrating eyes. "In front of you? Then you admit that you had plans of your own?"

Nick Undrell was filling his pipe, ramming the tobacco in with nervous vigour.

"Don't make too sure, Lord Saint Olave," he retorted calmly. "Speakin' fer myself, I were ready to guard your property with me life, for the sake of who you are--the son of Buckskin Jack. An' when you comes up, trustin' me right down to the dust, an' requestin' me ter make up a armed escort, well, I reckon I was plumb on the job, an' didn't look fer no extravagant reward like this." He indicated the bundle of bank notes.

"But there were other plans," insisted Kiddie. "You'd planned to rob me on your own account. Don't deny it. Be candid. I'm wantin' to understand your position and your character."

Nick stared at him, but could not bear for long the searching expression in Kiddie's clear eyes. He lowered his own.

"Thar's no bluffing a player like you, Kiddie," he said. "You've called my hand. I gotter show up. You's correct. Thar was sure another plan. But we wasn't figurin' t' attack you on the trail, same as th' Injuns did--an' failed. We wasn't figurin' ter do no shootin'. Even allowin' as we'd attacked the wagons an' killed the drivers an' young Rube an'--an' you, it wouldn't ha' bin easy fer us t' carry away the goods. We couldn't have unloaded all them Saratoga trunks an' all that household furniture on the open prairie without bein' dropped on. Your hosses, too, we couldn't ha' hidden 'em. We couldn't alter their coats or their shape or action. They'd sure been observed an' admired all along the back trail from Leavenworth to Laramie. Everybody would ha' known 'em. No, it wasn't good enough."


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