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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Kiddie had gone away intentionally


He

left Rube occupied with the cooking and went off to bring together the animals that had been trapped.

"What d'yer say ter tryin' your hand at gettin' the pelts off en these critters?" he asked, when he returned and had placed the animals side by side. "It's best done while they're fresh."

"You're thinkin' of preservin' 'em, then?" questioned Rube.

"I'm thinkin' of mounting 'em," Kiddie answered, "but mainly for practice. I took lessons when I was in London, from the people who preserve animals for the British Museum, an' picked up a heap of wrinkles. I want ter show you how it's done."

"How d'you reckon you're goin' ter get the skin off that rattlesnake?" Rube was anxious to know.

"Well," said Kiddie, "'tain't just as easy an' simple as drawin' off your glove; but it's on the same principle."

They were engaged during the afternoon with the work of securing the skins and cleaning them. The carcases were cut up for use as bait for the traps, the traps being plentifully baited and very carefully set for the larger animals. Kiddie was again most particular in laying the gin for the same animal that had visited it and perplexed him on the previous night.

"Guess that'll sure get him, whatever he is," said Rube.

He

looked round for a response in agreement with his comment, but Kiddie was not there.

"Which way've you gone, Kiddie?" he called.

But there was no answer.

Rube stood listening, but heard no sound. He called louder; there was still no answer.

Now, Rube knew Kiddie well enough to be assured that there was some special meaning in this sudden disappearance. It was not a mere playful fancy. Kiddie had gone away intentionally, making no sound, leaving no sign. Clearly he wanted to test Rube's skill in tracking.

Rube remained standing where he was, but his eyes were alertly searching around amongst the shrubs and trees and along the ground for some mark or sign that might tell him in which direction Kiddie had gone. He knew that success in following him depended entirely upon his true start, and that a false beginning would only land him in difficulties, if not in his being actually lost.

Rube knew also that Kiddie would not play him any childish pranks, but would give him fair play all through, even helping him by leaving some "scent" in his trail--not handfuls of torn-up paper, as in an English schoolboys' game of fox and hounds, nor by so obvious a method as that of blazing the trees. It would be a test in which every faculty of the searcher's scoutcraft would be brought into active exercise.

Sniffing the warm air, listening keenly, looking with sharp scrutiny over every foot of the ground from where Kiddie had stood behind him, Rube at length fixed his gaze upon a tuft of grass where some of the blades had been bent over as by the tread of a moccasined foot. He went closer to it and saw that some of the frail blades were fractured. Now he had his starting point. He did not rush forward, but carefully estimated the probable direction, listening the while.

Presently there came to him the harsh cry of a jay, which told him of Kiddie's whereabouts, or at least of the line of Kiddie's course through the forest solitudes.

And now he went on in pursuit, picking up the faintly-indicated tracks one by one; often going far astray on a false scent and needing to return on his own back trail to the point where he had gone off the line that had been so cunningly laid for his guidance or his confusion; but always coming upon some new clue that lured him on and on.


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