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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

The puma was rolling and writhing in helplessness


Rube

leant forward and became aware of a pair of large, shining, yellow eyes. Beneath them, farther back, a long, curved tail was swinging to and fro like a pendulum. The eyes were far apart, showing that the animal which owned them was of great size--bigger, certainly, than an ordinary lynx.

Rube raised his gun, deciding to shoot the beast between the eyes. But before he could take aim there was a sudden quick movement in Kiddie's sleeping-place, a sharp flash, and a loud report that was mingled with a fierce howl and a heavy thud.

Kiddie had leapt to his feet and was ready to fire a second shot at the beast that was writhing and snarling at his feet.

"Keep back, Rube," he said calmly. "He ain't dead yet. But I've got him. It's that black puma that came t' th' trap last night."

From where Rube Carter stood, Kiddie and the wounded puma seemed to be hopelessly mixed up together in the darkness. He made a step or two forward holding his revolver levelled, with his finger on the trigger, ready to shoot, yet hesitating, lest he should hit Kiddie.

"Keep back!" Kiddie repeated. "I've sure got him."

The puma was rolling and writhing in helplessness, snarling viciously, and now and then howling, as it tried to rise to its feet. Rube could see the brute's big round eyes flashing

brightly at first and then becoming smaller and dimmer.

"Mind it don't give you a scratch with them claws," he cautioned Kiddie.

Kiddie stood back, and the moonlight fell upon the puma's sleek black coat.

"Biggest lion I've ever seen," remarked Rube. "I'm only wishin' it had bin me 'stead of you as put the bullet in him."

"You can give him one right now, to finish him," said Kiddie.

"He ain't needin' another," said Rube. "Besides, 'tain't th' same thing. I guessed you was sound asleep when I come outer the wigwam. Puma was lyin' along the branch right over you, gettin' ready ter drop down on you. I reckoned your life was in danger, an' I wanted ter save you, see? That's what I'm allus wantin' t' do; but you never gives me a chance. How did you know the brute was thar, Kiddie? How did you happen ter wake an' git out your gun an' shoot so mortal quick--'fore I'd time ter lift my arm an' press the trigger?"

"Well," returned Kiddie, "I dunno exactly. But I've a notion that I knew the critter was right there long before you did, Rube. I'd heard him crawlin' along among the bushes an' nosin' around about the traps. He was some wise, though, after his experience of last night. He wasn't havin' any truck with them traps. He was kind of suspicious of 'em, I guess, an' preferred to hunt his own food alive. So he got on ter the scent of the camp an' came sneakin' right here. I've a notion he didn't like the look of the teepee where you were sleepin'--thought maybe it was another trap; no more did he find any attraction in the camp fire. Thar was a live man, however, easy t' get at, under this yer tree. He came t' investigate overhead, an' was lyin' along that branch when you oozed outer the teepee an' diverted his attention by kickin' your foot against a tin pannikin, makin' noise enough t' waken the seven sleepers. If I hadn't been pretty quick with my gun just then, I guess that puma wouldn't have hesitated t' make a meal of you."


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