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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Rube could not even conjecture


Late

on that same day. Rube Carter was crossing the trail, carrying a load of material for Kiddie's building operations, when he saw Sheila limping towards him over the bridge. He dropped his load, strode up to her, and was putting his arms about her neck in welcome when he noticed that there was blood on her chin and throat. He searched for an open wound, but found none.

"Looks as if you'd bin gettin' back to yer old business of huntin' stags," he said. "Wait, though," he added, seeing a nasty tear in the skin over her shoulder. "Stags don't carry no knives along of 'em, an' if that ain't a knife stab on your shoulder, then I sure ain't fit t' be called a scout."

Rube was very much perplexed concerning Sheila's condition. It appeared to him that, after all, she had not overtaken her master; that notwithstanding Kiddie's confidence in her running powers, she had proved that a Highland deerhound was not the equal in speed of a well-trained prairie pony.

Rube blamed himself for having allowed her to break away from him. He was glad, however, that she was not lost, and that her injury was not serious. But where had she been? What had she been doing?

He at once began to exercise his scoutcraft in the endeavour to puzzle out the mystery.

The blood marks on her chin and throat might very well be accounted for

on the supposition that, instead of following her master, she had gone aside from the trail to give chase to some large animal--a mountain goat or a big-horn antelope, and that she had attacked and perhaps killed it, as she had been trained to do when out deer-stalking in her native Highlands of Scotland.

She might very easily have been wounded in the encounter by a backward prod of an antelope's sharp horn; even as she might have got the stains about her mouth in licking the bleeding wound.

But, unfortunately for this simple theory, the wound in the hound's shoulder was not of a kind to suggest the stab of a goat's horn or of an antelope's sharp-pointed antler. It was clearly and unmistakably the cut of a knife; not round, but thin and straight, and it was too far forward and too high over her shoulder for her to turn her head and get at it with her tongue.

Moreover, some of the bristles that had been cut by the knife remained there loose among the congealing blood, showing that it had not been licked. Rube's obvious conclusion was that it was not an animal, but a man she had attacked; that she had bitten him severely, and that he had used his knife in defending himself. But who that man might be, or why the hound should attack him, Rube could not even conjecture.

It was a dark night, and Rube was sound asleep in his bunk, when Kiddie changed ponies at Sweetwater Bridge on his eastward-bound trip; but Kiddie made time to ask Abe Harum if Sheila had returned.

Abe told him that she was then in her kennel, but added nothing about her condition. On the following day, however, when he returned home for a spell of rest, it was Rube who met him on the trail.

"Seems Abe told you as the hound had come back," began Rube. "It was my fault she followed you. I couldn't hardly help lettin' her loose. Thar was no holdin' her in. She got up t' you, then? How long was she gettin' abreast o' you? I guess you hadn't gotten far, eh? Gee! how she did cover the ground!"

"Why," Kiddie answered, "she was alongside o' me inside of six miles from here. Good going, wasn't it?"

"Sure," agreed Rube. "But she didn't come back so quick, Kiddie, nothin' like it. Did yer know she'd a cut on her shoulder?"


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