KIDDIE THE SCOUT
[Frontispiece: "That's the way of it," he said.]
KIDDIE THE SCOUT
"Kiddie of the Camp," "Gildersley's Tenderfoot," "Cooee," "Rattlesnake Ranch," etc.
Illustrated by Frank R. Grey
LondonC. Arthur Pearson, Ltd.18 Henrietta Street, W.C. 21920
_BERNARD EVERETT, Esq._
_My dear Everett,--It was you who suggested this continuation of thestory of Kiddie, and it is my pleasure to inscribe the volume with yourname._
I THE MYSTERIOUS SNIPER II THE UNIFORM OF THE PLAINS III A DANGEROUS ENEMY IV BROKEN FEATHER'S WAY V BLAZING THE TRAIL VI JIM THURSTON'S SUBSTITUTE VII RUBE CARTER'S VISITOR VIII KIDDIE'S LUCK IX KIDDIE'S "SELFISHNESS" X THE GUARDIAN OF THE HONEYCOMB XI LESSONS IN TRACKING XII A MOONLIGHT VISITOR XIII A MATTER OF BUSINESS XIV LONE WOLF CANYON XV THE CRY OF THE JAY XVI THE SIGN OF THE BROKEN FEATHER XVII THE RUSE OF THE BUFFALO TRAIL XVIII THE BATTLE OF POISON SPIDER CREEK XIX KIDDIE'S ANSWER XX FOUL PLAY XXI THE CLUE OF YELLOW WORSTED XXII RUBE CARTER'S THEORY--AND KIDDIE'S XXIII EVIDENCE FOR THE PROSECUTION
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"THAT'S THE WAY OF IT," HE SAID . . . . . . _Frontispiece_
KIDDIE SAW THE MUSTANG REAR ON ITS HIND LEGS
RUBE TURNED SHARPLY ROUND AND LOOKED UP AT THE INTRUDER
"FRIZZLE ME IF IT AIN'T KIDDIE OF THE CAMP!" CRIED KEARNEY
"I'VE GOT HIM, SURE; HE AIN'T GOIN' TER WRIGGLE AWAY"
KIDDIE REACHED FOR THE SQUARE OF PAPER
"LOOKS TO ME LIKE SHERIFF BLAGG," SAID KIDDIE
HE SPOKE TO THE CROWS IN THEIR OWN TONGUE
THE MYSTERIOUS SNIPER
"A pity Kiddie ain't here along of us, to help. He'd sure tell us ifthar's Injuns prowlin' around. My old eyes ain't just what they usedter be for spottin' a crawlin' Redskin from afar. Now, Kiddie had eyeslike spy-glasses, hadn't he, Isa? As for his sense of hearin'--well, Iallow he c'd 'most hear the grass a-growin'."
Old Man Birkenshaw was peering searchingly through the dim light of theearly dawn, expecting at any moment to see the feathered head of astealthy Indian warrior moving among the deep shadows. From where helay on the dewy grass beside the crowded horse-corral, with hisrepeating rifle across his arm, he searched into the darkness of thelarch woods and down the misty slopes to the thick line of bushesbordering the hidden creek.
"Yes," he went on, speaking in a cautious undertone, "Kiddie was amarvel."
"That's so," agreed the man stationed next to him, "a marvel forscoutin', he was. Like a cat, too."
"Yes," Isa Blagg nodded, "allus fell on his feet, didn't he? He alluscame out on top. I never knew such a one fer turnin' up right on thespot whenever there was danger hangin' around."
"Wonder where he is now?" sighed Gideon Birkenshaw.
"Why, away in England, of course," drawled Isa. "In England without adoubt, occupyin' that thar comfortable seat of his in the House ofLords, wearin' a gold coronet an' a gold watch an' chain, an' a robetrimmed round with ermine skins; livin' in the grand style with allthem high an' mighty aristocratic friends of his; never givin' athought ter this yer camp here in the wilds of Wyoming, or to LaramiePeak, or to you, or to me."
"Mebbe so--mebbe so," mused Gideon. "I allow it's a long, long whilesince I'd a letter from him--not since that time when he sent me theArab mare. Seems as if he'd clean forgotten me, though I neverreckoned as Kiddie would ever forget. He ain't that sort."
"Hullo!" Isa Blagg was suddenly alert. "What's that? Listen! D'yehear it, Gid--a horse gallopin' along the trail--comin' this way?Listen!"
The two men lay perfectly still and silent. From afar they could hearthe unmistakable sound of a horse's hoofs, becoming momentarily moredistinct.
"Injuns?" questioned Birkenshaw. He glanced about to assure himselfthat his men were all at their appointed posts.
"No," Isa answered. "'Tain't no prairie cayuse. I c'n make out thering of its shoes on the hard trail. 'Tain't the Pony Express,neither. Guess it's just one of the boys from Red Buttes comin' alongin advance to lend us a neighbourly hand. We c'n do well with anothergun, Gid--allowin' that young Rube Carter's information was correct;allowin' that Broken Feather and his braves are sure out on a horseraidin' stunt."
"Young Rube ain't anyways liable to be in error in a serious case likethis," Gideon assured his companion. "And if Broken Feather's shapin'ter steal horses, why, nat'rally he'll calculate on findin' what hecovets right here--the best herd within fifty miles, ter say nothin' ofthat Arab mare, which he's had his eye on for a while back. No, YoungRube's warnin' ain't no false alarm. I'm figurin' that the Redskinsare in ambush down there among the willows. It's likely they've beenthere all through the night. They'll attack before sunrise; andthey'll approach by way of the hollow yonder, where they c'n treadquiet on the marshy ground."
"Say, that rider's wastin' no time, Gid," Isa interrupted, "Guess he'sin some hurry by the way he's poundin' along."
"We ought ter catch a view of him as he gallops over the ridge,"reflected Gideon. "Might even be Broken Feather himself. He's cuteenough ter come along in disguise, ridin' a saddled pony that'sdecently shod."
The old man raised himself on an elbow and glanced along the line ofmen whom he had posted at equal intervals behind the defence of a widegrassy bank commanding the front of the threatened horse corral. Nextto himself was Isa Blagg, then Jake Paterson and Tom Lippincott.Between Lippincott and the man at the end station, Abe Harum, was youngRube Carter. There were six guns in all, not counting revolvers.
Gideon beckoned to young Rube, and the boy crept cautiously towardshim, treading softly in his moccasined feet, carrying his rifle underhis arm and taking good cover.
"Crawl down towards the shack, Rube, an' get a sight of the riderthat's comin' along the trail," Gideon ordered. "Just see who he is ashe tops the risin' ground, and then get right back to your place an' beready ter open fire when I give the sign."
Rube was not absent very long. When he returned he passed close behindthe Boss, so silently that Gideon was not aware of his presence until ahand was pressed on his spurred heel.
"He's a stranger, Boss," Rube reported in a whisper. "I don'treco'nize him, nor his pony neither. It don't look as he means comin'here to our camp, or he'd sure have turned in at the new gate."
"Didn't hear him crossin' the wooden bridge," said Gideon, "and hismount ain't wearin' soft moccasins."
"Seems to me he's come to a halt," added Isa Blagg.
There was an anxious spell of silent, watchful waiting. No sound ormovement betrayed the presence of marauding Indians, and already theclouds in the east had taken on the rosy tinge of daybreak.
Gideon Birkenshaw was beginning to comfort himself in the belief thatthere would be no attack after all; that his horses were safe. He waseven on the point of laying aside his Winchester and bidding his menreturn home with him for breakfast, when suddenly from the farther sideof the corral there came the sharply startling ring of a rifle shot.It came from a direction in which none of his men had been stationed.
"Who fired that shot?" he cried in wondering surprise. "Whose gun wasit? Anybody know?"
Abe Harum rose to his feet, and, bending his body forward, ran swiftlypast the corral gate. Then he went down on his knees and elbows andcrept along by the stout timbers of the stockade, screened by the longgrass.
The corral was built in a circle, and there were no corners orbuttresses behi
nd which he could conceal himself. Neither could he yetsee anything of the man who had fired the shot. What he did see, whenhe had crept a few yards beyond the gate, was a crowd of Indiansgathered close against the palisade. One of them was in the act ofclimbing over the sharp-pointed rails. Some seemed already to havedropped on the inner side, for the ponies were running about theenclosure in wild alarm.
Abe levelled his rifle and fired at the Redskin now slinging a nakedleg over the spikes.
The shot missed its mark, and the Indian, balancing himself as hegripped one of the rails, was preparing to jump within when he wasstruck by a bullet fired from beyond the other Indians and between themand the main trail.
Believing that some of the cowboys from Three Crossings had arrived,and were already at work defending Birkenshaw's property, Abe ran backto hasten Gideon and his mates.
He met all five of them before reaching the gate.
"Quick--quick!" he urged, "they're attacking on the far side. We beenwatchin' at the wrong place, and they've sneaked past through the longgrass. Say, Gid, some of 'em have gotten inside the corral, over therails. They're among the ponies right now. Hear 'em? Rube--" headded, turning to the boy, "you hang back thar outer the line of fire.Keep an eye on the corral gate."
Shots were being fired in rapid succession now from beyond the curve ofthe stockade. The Indians, assailed on both flanks, had scatteredthemselves to take cover behind boulders and bushes, and from theirambush they were aiming their arrows and firing with their repeatingrifles.
An arrow took off Birkenshaw's hat, another grazed Tom Lippincott'scheek, but most of the Redskins were aiming down the slope in thedirection from which the most effective fire was coming into theirmidst.
"Thar's a band of the boys from Three Crossings down yonder," Abe Harumannounced. "See, they're pickin' off a Injun with 'most every shot!"
"I'm figurin' as thar's no more'n one gun down there," declared IsaBlagg with a wise headshake. "One gun alone. But the man that'sbehind it, he sure knows how to shoot. I'm curious t' know just who itc'n be. Eh? Yes, that's so; they're drawin' off. Guess they've hadabout enough. They didn't catch us sleepin', as they thought to."
The Redskins were retiring into the shelter of the neighbouring pinetrees, clearly with the purpose of enticing the defenders away from thecorral. Gideon Birkenshaw, falling into the snare, was planning tofollow them up or to head them off on the farther side of the wood. Hewas rallying his forces to give each man his direction when Rube Carterran towards him.
"Abe!--Gid!" the boy cried excitedly, "they've broke open thegate--from the inside! They're stampeding our ponies. Come back andstop 'em! Say, Gid, Broken Feather's gone off, mounted on your Arabmare!"
"Eh? What's that? Mounted on Sultana, is he?" Gideon ran back,refilling the magazine of his rifle as he went. Abe Harum, TomLippincott, and the rest of them followed him.
They found the stout double gate of the corral standing wide open. Thehorses had been driven out by the Indians, who moved about, hidden intheir midst. Many of the animals were already at liberty, racing inclose company in the direction taken by the Arab mare.
So dense was the pressing throng of horses at the entrance, that it wasimpossible for Gideon to push his way through in an attempt to shut thegate. Neither could he fire upon the Indians, for fear of injuring theanimals.
The Indians, indeed, were going out under the cover of the horses, andas each brave passed the open gate he seized his chosen pony, tied anend of his lariat about its muzzle, and mounting, bare-backed, rode off.
When Isa returned to his companion there was not a live Redskin to beseen. Even the wounded had been carried away.
"Seems as how we've gotten the worst of it, this time," Isa Blaggregretted. "I'll allow that Broken Feather laid his plans real well.You made a mistake, Gideon, in plantin' us all together beside thegate, as if that was the only possible point of attack. Say, weoughter been distributed in pickets, same as Buckskin Jack allusrecommended."
"We ain't none of us wounded," reflected Gideon, wiping a streak ofblood from his face. "Leastways, not wounded serious. An' that sniperhidden in the bush yonder must ha' picked off quite a dozen of theInjuns. I'm hopin' he'll show up, now, an' let us know who he is."
"Meantime," interposed Abe Harum, "what's goin' ter happen 'bout ourponies? You can't afford ter lose that Arab mare, Gid. A valuablebeast, anyhow, let alone her being a present from Kiddie."
"I'm figurin' out just how I'm to get her back," nodded Gideon. "Ishall have her back, though I have to organize a special raid intotheir reservation' and enlist the help of the military from FortLaramie. Rube," he called, "just slip down to the trail. Thar's asquad of the boys from Red Buttes just arrived. Tell 'em to come righthere. Tell 'em as I'm plannin' to foller up them Redskins and round upmy ponies before they're corralled."
There were seventeen frontiersmen in the squad, all of themdisappointed in being too late to help in defending Birkenshaw'sponies, but all of them eager to join in the pursuit of Broken Featherand his braves.
Gideon yielded the leadership to Nick Undrell, a man of blemishedreputation, a drunkard, a desperate gambler, and a convicted thief, buta magnificent horseman, a capable scout, and the hero of many an Indianfight.
Nick knew where the Indian village was situated, and which way BrokenFeather was most likely to take.
"They're plumb sure ter pass through One Tree Gulch," he declared. "Wec'n overtake them in the defile, goin' by way of Poison Spider Creekand the old Buffalo Trail, droppin' on 'em when they least expect us."
They saw no sign of the Indians for several miles; not even on the wideexpanse of Laramie Plain. Here, however, Nick Undrell pointed to thedusty ground where the track of a horse crossed his path obliquely.
"See that, Mr. Birkenshaw?" he said, glancing along the distinct lineof hoof marks. "That rider, whoever he is, wasn't dawdlin' none.Looks as if ho was makin' fer the far side of White Bull Ridge, whichain't a thousand miles from Broken Feather's village. Anybody youknow? Ridin' a big horse, he is, shod by a town blacksmith. Mighthave started from the neighbourhood of your camp just about the timeyou stopped shootin'."
"Don't know nothin' about him," returned Gideon. "He ain't one of ourlot, anyhow. Push along, Nick. I'm frettin' considerable about myArab mare. Wouldn't have exchanged her fer any hoss as ever chewedgrass."
"No, and I'm figurin' as Broken Feather won't be a whole lot eager topart with her, now he's gotten a cinch on her," rejoined Nick.
"Gid!" Abe Harum called from behind, "thar's dust risin' from the mouthof One Tree Gulch. If we puts on a hustle we shall drop on 'em 'forethey gets out on the open prairie."
They spurred their ponies to the gallop. They raced at top speed intothe gulch, caring nothing for the clatter of hoofs, knowing that therecould be no escape for the mounted Redskins up the steep hillsides.Midway along the defile, where it widened beyond a projecting spur ofcliff, they saw the Indians driving the stolen herd of horses beforethem, urging them with yells and stinging quirts.
Nick Undrell divided his forces into two companies, giving theminstructions to ride forward, one on either flank of the enemy, withthe endeavour to head them off. Nick himself, with Abe Harum, was toremain in the rear, as support, while Isa Blagg and Gideon Birkenshawwere, if possible, to work their way round to the captured ponies andcut them off from the Indians, to be rounded-up after the expectedfight.
Gideon so far succeeded in his object as to get in advance of theRedskin rearguard. By riding obliquely down the slope towards them, hemight now hope to place himself between them and his ponies.
He spurred his horse, holding his revolver ready for instant use. Butas he rode forward he caught sight of Broken
Feather, mounted on theArab mare, and impulsively he resolved to recapture Sultana at allrisks. He drew rein. On the instant his obedient pony swerved.
As it did so, Gideon, glancing forward to the farther mouth of thegulch, saw a strange horseman approaching at a full gallop. He camelike a wild gust of wind, leaning over in his seat and slinging hissupple lariat above his flapping hat as he came. He wore the usual redshirt and blue scarf of the frontiersman, and he was mounted on asplendid bay horse, that was less like a prairie mustang than awell-trained cavalry charger.
Watching him in astonishment, Gideon saw that he had singled out theIndian chief, and was riding down upon him. He saw the lariat shootout from the uplifted hand like a wriggling snake. The wide loopopened like a wheel, grew suddenly tense and smaller. Then it droppedclean over Broken Feather's head and shoulders, and in an instant thechief's two arms were pinioned to his sides.