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Kiddie the Scout by Robert Leighton

Rube scratched the back of his ear


But

it was the rider at the chief's side--a rider astride of a lank, piebald prairie pony--who arrested Rube's closest attention. There were but two feathers in his simple war bonnet, which was partly hidden by his blue-and-white blanket. His back was towards Rube, who could not see his face or know if it was painted with vermilion, but by his seat on horseback and the way he held himself Rube instantly knew that it was Kiddie.

Kiddie was giving commands to the Crows in their own language. Clearly he had been placed in authority over them as their general and field-marshal--he who, hardly twelve hours before, had crept secretly into their camp, an unknown trespasser!

Rube Carter marvelled at the strangeness of the situation, though not for an instant did he doubt Kiddie's fitness and ability. In Rube's estimation there was nothing great and honourable that Kiddie was incapable of doing.

Rube wanted to go up to Kiddie now and ask him how this transformation had all come about; but he did not dare. Instead, he stood watching Kiddie riding slowly along the files, inspecting them, followed by Falling Water, Short Nose, and the principal warriors.

It was not until after Rube had washed and made himself tidy that he had a chance of speaking with Kiddie. They were then at breakfast, or what passed for breakfast in the Indian encampment. As a matter

of fact, it was an enormous feast that was served to them, of buffalo steak, beaver tail, prairie chicken, stewed berries, and great quantities of rich new milk, with all the other luxuries that the attentive Crows could lavish upon them.

"Looks as if they'd bin turnin' you into a boss war chief, Kiddie," Rube began. "Some sudden on their part, ain't it?"

"Well, yes," returned Kiddie, "it's certainly sudden, seeing that I'm just a stranger among 'em. But you see, it's this way. After you'd gone to sleep last night, one of Falling Water's scouts came in, reportin' that the story of the herd of buffalos was all a made-up affair. He'd been on a big scout round about the Broken Feather Agency, and he was able to prove that Broken Feather and his warriors and braves were busy gettin' ready to come out on the war-path against the Crows. The expedition's timed to start so as to be right here while the Crows are out huntin' imaginary buffaloes."

"Just your own idea," commented Rube, "the same idea to a tick! And so the Crows are fixin' up things to be ready for the defence, I conclude?"

"Not exactly that," Kiddie corrected. "They're goin' ter strike the first blow by makin' a surprise attack on the Sioux. They're not figurin' to wait until Broken Feather makes the assault."

"But then," Rube objected, "didn't Short Nose--otherwise Simon Sprott--say last night that the Crows hadn't a warrior capable of undertakin' such an expedition?"

"Seems he's changed his mind," said Kiddie.

Rube scratched the back of his ear, which was his habit when thinking deeply.

"Somethin' new, eh, t' get a English nobleman ter lead a band of painted Redskins on the war-path?" he said. "Though I reckon you c'n do it if anyone can. 'Tain't as if you was a tenderfoot at the business."


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