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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Rube held his breath and listened


Once it made a dash at him, spreading itself close against the wall of rock, covering him like a cloak. He thrust out his free hand to grab at one of its legs, but, missing the leg, he seized hold of its tail, pulling out three of the long white plumes. He crouched still closer in his shelter, where neither beak nor talon could touch him. And soon the eagle drew off.

When at length he raised his head to investigate, he saw the two birds rising through the misty air and flying off together over the mountains.

Rain was now falling heavily, and the mist was thickening. He heard the whisper of the mountain streams growing louder and louder until it became a deep, prolonged murmur. Quite near to him a torrent of brown, foaming water was rushing and leaping down the steep.

Rube knew it would be futile to attempt to return to camp before daybreak. He judged that Kiddie would understand his absence and not worry unduly. So he ate what food he had brought in his haversack, and, regardless of the driving rain, curled himself up to try to sleep.

Once during the long, uncomfortable night he heard from afar, or fancied that he heard, Kiddie's familiar, penetrating whistle. He knew that his own comparatively feeble whistle in response would not carry far enough to be even faintly heard. There were no means by which he could send back an answering signal. No fire smoke or fitful glow could be seen, no cry or call be heard.

Later in the night, when the moon broke through the clouds, he again very faintly caught the sound of Kiddie's whistle; so faintly that he could not distinguish the notes which he believed were being sent forth as a message in the Morse code.

Rube held his breath and listened; but all that he heard now to break the silence of the vast desolation was the weird howl of some far away koshinee--the dreaded buffalo wolf of the prairies.

When the rain had ceased, and the black mountain peaks could be seen against the lesser blackness of the sky, he still thought it prudent to remain where he was.

One of the last things that Kiddie had said to him was: "Be careful. Don't hurry; don't worry," and, rather than risk a climb up the wet and slippery rocks, he again curled himself up and closed his eyes in sleep.

The red dawn was breaking when he awoke shivering with cold. His buckskin clothes were wet and clammy, and his limbs were stiff.

He sat up and looked about him.

The two eagles had returned and were exactly as he had seen them at first, the male keeping sentry on the point of rock above his nested mate. The mountain torrents still babbled. On the farther side of the canyon was a beautiful waterfall as white as chalk against the indigo darkness of the cliff down which it leapt into the unseen depths. The jagged shapes of the mountains were now exceedingly clear, showing alp above alp into the far blue distance.

Rube was excessively hungry. And there was nothing for him to eat, unless indeed he had chosen to make a meal of a fragment of rabbit flesh that had fallen from the eagles' nest.

"Wonder what Kiddie's havin' for breakfast!" he said to himself longingly. "Fried kidney, I expect, outer that stag he shot. Guess he'll be worryin' some 'bout my not bein' back in camp yet. I'd best quit an' get back right away. No; I ain't goin' back the way I come. I'm figurin' as th' easiest an' safest way's ter climb up higher an' then make tracks across Lone Wolf Mountain an' down to the lake. That's what Kiddie'd do, I reckon."


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