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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

That's why Rube never came back


He

found the place without much difficulty, and had proof in some detached fragments of moss and lichen that Rube had been here in advance of him, and had been able to look down into the eagles' nest, where the female was even now sitting unconcerned on her eggs.

Kiddie did not disturb her, as Rube had probably done. Instead, he searched for signs of Rube himself.

Yes, Rube had not attempted the perilous descent. He had waited until the rain had ceased and the mist had lifted. High up above where he stood, Kiddie saw the scratch of a slipping foot on the wet moss, which showed that Rube had climbed upward. Again, still higher up, there was a similar mark, and above this the way was easy as a step-ladder, needing only very ordinary care, a sure foot, and steady nerves.

At the top of the ascent Kiddie came out upon the farther side of Lone Wolf Mountain, which now interposed between him and Sweetwater Lake. To reach the lake side he must either return as he came, or else cross the next valley and work his way round the base of the mountain. He judged that Rube had not hesitated to take the latter and longer course.

He walked round in a circle, searching for a track in the soft ground, and at last he came upon the impression of Rube's moccasins. He followed their direction. Presently he realized that Rube had been running and that his tracks

were leading in quite an unexpected direction.

Greatly wondering, Kiddie went on and on. Then he came to an abrupt stop and stood staring in astonished alarm at the ground. At his feet lay two crumpled up eagle's feathers. A yard or so away from them was Rube's fur cap, pierced by an Indian arrow. And all around were the confused impressions of Indians' feet.

Kiddie drew a long breath as he picked up the boy's hat.

"That's the way of it," he said. "That's why Rube never came back. He's been captured by Indians!"

CHAPTER XV

THE CRY OF THE JAY

Up to the point to which Kiddie had tracked him, Rube Carter had done precisely what Kiddie had conjectured he would do. He had reached the eagles' eyrie just as the mist began to envelop him and cut off his direct retreat.

He had not deliberately startled the birds to flight. The male had been perched like a faithful sentinel on a point of rock, above his mate sitting on her eggs. Rube had a long, close view of the pair of them, and had watched without molesting them. But presently he had the boyish idea that it would be interesting to see and count their eggs, and take note of how their nest was lined.

Cautiously he approached the nest, moving very slowly and stealthily. But the guardian male resented this bold intrusion, and attacked him with beak and talons and fiercely-flapping wings.

Rube drew his revolver, but did not shoot. He used the weapon only as a club with which to defend himself, while he sheltered his body from the assault by crouching low, with his back wedged in a cleft of rock.

The eagle pursued him there and glared at him menacingly. He had what he afterwards called a grand sight of the bird's wonderful clear eyes, its hooked beak, and its wicked-looking claws, and he marvelled at the enormous stretch of its pinions.


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