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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Kiddie looked up from his spoonful of egg


th' same way as you did, I reckon," answered Rube. "Went th' same way's you meant me ter go, all the time--trackin' you by the clues you left."

Kiddie was silent until the tea was quite ready and the two of them were seated. Then he said--

"You've done a heap better'n I expected you to do, Rube. I didn't leave many clues, there was none of them conspicuous, an' they were very far apart--fifty yards apart at the least. Tell me exactly what you found."

"Well," said Rube, beginning on his tea, "first of all thar was a mark of your foot where you went in so silent. Then' th' jay started squawkin', an' I got my direction. I follered it, an' hadn't gone far when I sees a balsam branch swayin' where thar was no wind ter stir it. I went straight forward until I began ter think I was goin' wrong, when I smelt smoke. I searched an' came upon a bit of charred cloth. You'd squandered a valuable lucifer match ter set fire t' a piece of greasy rag that you'd cleaned the lamp with. After that, I went astray; couldn't find a trace o' you nohow, an' had ter get back t' th' burnt rag ter make a fresh start."

"Yes," interposed Kiddie, "just as I intended. The trees were all alike thereabout and easily mistaken one for another. Well?"

"Thar was one of 'em different," pursued Rube, "a silver birch tree amongst the

cotton-woods--an' I found where you'd cut a stick from it an' smudged the cut so's it wouldn't easily be seen. Is that right? You carried that stick along of you--brought it home. Once or twice you scored a mark on the ground with th' point of it. You began cuttin' some of the bark from the stick, droppin' a bit every fifty yards or so. But that was too easy for me. Any tenderfoot'd have found them bits o' bark."

"Quite right," agreed Kiddie, "an' you ain't anything of a tenderfoot. Yes? Well?"

"So you changed your scent, so ter speak. You felt in your pocket an' fetched out them chips o' lead pencil, an' you planted em one by one so all-fired cutely that nobody who wasn't searchin' fer signs c'd have discovered 'em. One of 'em you dropped lightly on a branch of balsam, level with my eyes; another you hung up, even more lightly, on a line of spider web. How did you manage that, Kiddie?"

Kiddie looked up from his spoonful of egg.

"Just laid th' chip in the palm of my hand an' blew it softly inter th' web, where it stuck suspended, like Mahomet's coffin," he explained.

"Don't know nothin' 'bout Mahomet's coffin," said Rube, "but that chip o' pencil was real cleverly done; it was top notch. After that, you dropped clues pretty freely, afraid o' my missin' 'em, I reckon. You didn't just blaze the trees; but you broke down twigs, you tore up ferns an' things, you kicked up the soil with your toe, an' you scored marks with your stick. At one place you tied a knot in a clump of rush grass, leavin' a pointer. I was follerin' you quick when at last I come t' the creek, an' thar you had me. You waded into th' water--that's how you got your moccasins wet--an' you didn't cross; you walked up the stream, I guess."

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