Sergeant Silk. The Prairie Scout - Robert Leighton - ebook

Sergeant Silk. The Prairie Scout ebook

Robert Leighton

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As long as the lone red-coated equestrian policemen of the Northwest, tracking cattle thieves across uninhabited prairies and fighting hordes of warriors, have something to do with the boy approaching his teens, Mr. Leighton’s frank tales will be in demand. Wolves, carbines, bags of gold and logging run through its pages, and Sergeant Silk meets them all – a combination of Sir Robert Baden-Powell and Sherlock Holmes in a red military jacket.

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Liczba stron: 192

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Contents

I. 'LIKE A DESTITUTE TRAMP'

II. THE BAG OF GOLD

III. THE MYSTERY OF GREY WOLF FOREST

IV. THE FUGITIVE AND HIS PURSUER

V. NICK-BY-NIGHT

VI. THE SURPRISE VISIT

VII. LOCOMOTIVE 99

VIII. THREE MOOSE CROSSING

IX. RED DERRICK

X. THE OUTSIDE PASSENGERS

XI. MAPLE LEAF'S SCAR

XII. A PERILOUS MOMENT

XIII. THE MAN WHO WAS GLAD

XIV. IN THE POWER OF HIS PRISONER

XV. THE GREAT JAM AT STONE PINE RAPIDS

XVI. THE MAN THAT THE WOLVES SPARED

CHAPTER I

‘LIKE A DESTITUTE TRAMP’

“If you ask me, there’s nothing like riding across the open prairie for quickening a fellow’s eyesight,” remarked the Honourable Percy Rapson, breaking a long spell of silence. “There’s so little to be seen, anyhow, except the grass and the flowers, that he’s bound to catch sight of anything unusual.”

Sergeant Silk smiled at his companion’s boyish enthusiasm for the open-air life of the plains. Percy had been sent out to Western Canada to learn farming, but there was no doubt that he was learning a lot that had no direct connection with agriculture. Owing largely to his friendship with Sergeant Silk, of the North-West Mounted Police, he was learning to be manly and self-reliant, and he was beginning to know so much scout-craft that his remark concerning the quickening of his powers of observation was quite justified.

“That is so,” the sergeant acknowledged. “The prairie teaches you a lot. It’s like being on the sea, where everything that isn’t water or sky attracts your attention. I’m bound to say that your own eyesight is improving wonderfully by practice. You don’t miss a great deal. What do you make of the stranger that we’re coming up to?”

Percy glanced at the red-coated soldier policeman in sharp surprise.

“Stranger?” he repeated inquiringly. “I haven’t noticed one. Where?”

Silk returned the boy’s glance with a curious lift of the eyebrows.

“Why, I supposed it was your spotting him that prompted your remark about eyesight,” he said lightly. And he pointed towards a clump of bushes some little distance in advance of them across the fresh green prairie grass. “He’s sitting hunched up alongside of that patch of cactus scrub in front of us, with his head in his hands, as if he had something tremendously serious to think about. Ah, he’s moving now. He hears us. What’s he mooching around here for, I wonder?”

“You appear to know him?” said Percy.

Sergeant Silk nodded.

“I know him, yes. It’s a chap named Charlie Fortescue.”

Percy saw the stranger plainly now, a slightly built, rather good-looking young fellow, dressed as an ordinary plainsman, standing upright and looking expectantly towards the two riders who were approaching him. He waited until they came to a halt in front of him.

Sergeant Silk dropped his bridle rein over the horn of his saddle and slowly regarded the man from the toes of his boots to the crown of his wide felt hat.

“Something gone wrong, Charlie?” he casually inquired. “Where’s your pony? What are you doing hanging around here, like a destitute tramp?”

Charlie shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s sure what I am, Sergeant,” he answered with an awkward attempt at a smile, “a destitute tramp.”

“Eh?” exclaimed Silk. He evidently did not believe him. “D’you mind explaining? I don’t understand–unless you mean that you’ve had a disagreement with old man Crisp?”

“You’ve hit the mark, first shot,” said Charlie. “But it’s something more than a mere disagreement. I’ve quitted the ranch. I’m not going back–ever.”

“That’s bad,” reflected Sergeant Silk, taking out his pipe to indicate that he had leisure enough to listen to the explanation that he had invited. “Real bad, it is. You were such friends, he and you. He was shaping to take you into partnership, and–well, there’s that pretty daughter of his. I’ve heard you were likely to marry her. Surely you haven’t broken off with Dora, as well as her father?”

“I’m afraid so,” Charlie gloomily answered. “I couldn’t expect her to marry a man whom her father has accused of committing a crime.”

“A crime?” Sergeant Silk looked at him in perplexity. “A crime?” he repeated. “That’s the way of the wind, is it? Tell me about it.”

Charlie Fortescue nibbled nervously at an end of his moustache.

“The worst of it is,” he presently began to explain, “I haven’t been able to prove my innocence. Appearances are against me.”

He raised his dark eyes appealingly to the red-coated soldier policeman, and his face brightened as with a new hope. Percy Rapson was conscious that it was the face of a man of good class. It was almost aristocratic in its refinement of feature. And the tone of his voice was that of an educated Englishman as he added–

“Perhaps you can help me, Silk. You’re a member of the North-West Mounted Police and accustomed to dealing with crimes. Perhaps you can try to get at the root of this one?”

Sergeant Silk struck a match and held the flame to the bowl of his pipe.

“Why, cert’nly,” he said. “It is in my line. I shall be glad if I can clear you of suspicion. What are the circumstances? You may say whatever you like before my chum here–the Honourable Percy Rapson, late of Eton College, now of Rattlesnake Ranch.”

He dismounted, and Percy followed his example. The three of them stood close together.

“You were right about my wishing to marry Dora Crisp,” Fortescue resumed. “We’ve been engaged for a long time. We were to have been married next month. I had been saving up, on the quiet. But I never told Sam or Dora anything about it. I was keeping it for a surprise, see? I didn’t want to say anything until I had saved off my own bat a sum equal to the pile that Sam had put aside to give her as her dowry.

“One day last week the old man sent me to Banff to look at a new reaping machine attachment he thought of buying, and he asked me also to call at the bank and cash a cheque for him. I drew the money–it was two hundred pounds in gold–and delivered it to him safely.

“‘It’s for Dora,’ he told me, when, having carefully counted it, he swept it into a chamois leather bag and tied the bag round with a wisp of red tape. Then, signing to me to go with him, he went into the harness-room, and I watched him as he cunningly hid the bag of gold in a ventilation hole in the wall; high up, where it couldn’t be seen or easily reached. ‘It’ll be safe there, Charlie,’ he said with satisfaction. ‘We’ll let it stop there until the wedding morning. There’s only you and me who know where it is. It’s sure safe up there.’”

Sergeant Silk shook his head.

“I shouldn’t have thought so,” he said. “When was it missed?”

“It was last night that it was stolen,” Fortescue explained. “Stolen! and I–I was accused of being the thief; though I’d never touched it, never even looked at it.”

“And your own savings,” pursued Silk. “Were they stolen, too?”

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