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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Kiddie stood alone on the trail with his saddled pony


"And

so," rejoined Kiddie with a smile, "you decided to make a virtue of necessity, eh?"

Nick had lighted his pipe, and he took several thoughtful puffs at it before he answered.

"We decided ter delay operations. D'ye savee?"

"Yes, I see," nodded Kiddie. "You decided to wait until I had done the unpacking for you--until I'd got the valuables nice and handy for the robbery in the lonesome cabin that I'm building for myself in the woods."

"That's about the size of it," acknowledged Nick. "An' now you're warned."

"Forewarned and forearmed," returned Kiddie. "I shall be prepared, you may be sure. And you can expect a hot reception. A very hot reception, indeed."

Nick strode up to him, and tapped him on the shoulder with the wet stem of his pipe.

"Look 'ee here, Lord Saint Olave," he said steadily; "you ain't read my c'ara'ter true; not yet. You got a lot to learn 'fore you knows me proper. I ain't the low-down cur as you takes me for--not by a long chalk. I ain't beyond gettin' back on the right trail, if yer only gives me time. Your comin' back here to the wilds has made a kinder diff'rence t' me--a heap of diff'rence. D'ye savee?"

"I'm glad to hear it, Nick, my boy," said Kiddie. "And I quite understand.

You mean that because I'm back here to blaze a trail for you, you'll give up gambling, you'll give up hard drinking, and you'll never again molest harmless travellers or do thieving of any sort. Do you promise all this, Nick? Eh? Straight, now, do you promise it? I know you'll keep your word, once you give it. You're a desperado, but I don't think you would break your word."

Nick Undrell pulled himself together.

"It's a steep proposition," he murmured. "But I guess I ain't no coward. Yes, Kiddie," he answered resolutely. "I promise; I promise faithful. You're blazin' the trail for me, an' I'm shapin' ter foller it true."

CHAPTER VI

JIM THURSTON'S SUBSTITUTE

At half-past four on the following morning, Kiddie stood alone on the trail with his saddled pony, waiting in the darkness outside the depot of the Express in Fort Laramie, and listening for the thumping sound of hoofs which should tell him that the westward bound mail was approaching.

He was earlier than it was necessary he should be, but he was aware from long past experience that when there was an especially important dispatch among the mails, the riders taking up their successive relays tried to gain a few minutes on their time.

And this was what now happened, for he had been waiting less than a quarter of an hour when he heard the expected sound from afar. Shortly afterwards the incoming rider dismounted at his side, breathing heavily after a ride of two hundred and forty miles.

"You've saved seventeen minutes on schedule time, pardner," Kiddie told him. "Guess I shall improve on that, if my ponies are all up to the mark an' ready at their stations."

He seized the two satchels, transferred them to his own saddle, mounted, and with a wave of the hand started off to the westward.

Not a moment had been wasted in making the change, and his trained pony broke at once into a full gallop which would be continued while the trail was level until the next station was reached, some thirty miles away, where a fresh pony would be awaiting him.


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