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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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BILL VISITS THE ARMY
IT was night when Bill reached Springfield. There were signs everywhere to point to the fact that an army was encamped in the vicinity. Bill made his way cautiously and without the least uneasiness prepared a comfortable couch and went to sleep.
The dawn of early morning had hardly displaced the dark of night when he suddenly sat up. Men were approaching. He did not attempt to move. Then the men came into view. One of them spied the boy. "Hands up," he commanded and leveled his gun at the boy.
Bill obeyed. He recognized the men as Union troopers and so had no misgiving.
"Who are you, boy?" one of the other men who approached him, inquired suspiciously.
"A friend," Bill replied. "I am looking for Sigel's division."
"Well, you've found it," the man replied. "If that is all you want, there needn't be any trouble. But you will first have to prove that you are on honest business. A few 'friends' we caught the last few days have proved to be spies."
"How is it you didn't come directly to the camp, instead of hanging around here?" the man who had pointed the gun at Bill, inquired.
Bill explained. The men were not satisfied, however, and brought him with them to the colonel's headquarters.
After saluting the colonel, they reported just how they had found Bill.
"Have you anything to say, my boy?"
"If you can get Harrington or Woods, they'll certify for me. Or, if you want to send to Davison at Leavenworth, you can find out my intentions are friendly," Bill replied.
The colonel gave a sharp command, and in a few minutes the boy's two friends Were brought before him.
There was an amused twinkle in the stern officer's eye as the two forgot all the discipline of the army upon recognition of Bill.
"Hello, Bill." Wood, yelled and made a mad rush at him. Harrington, not a whit less exuberant, followed closely and grabbed the boy and hugged him. The two, Woods and Harrington, had had a touch of homesickness, homesickness for the bracing and fascinating freedom of the Service. The life of the army was not a thing to which they could ever grow accustomed, though neither regretted enlisting and each would do it again were the occasion to arise.
"Well," said the colonel, "the evidence seems to point to the fact that you are not a spy.
"You two," and he nodded to Woods and Harrington, "can go off duty for the rest of the day."
The two men almost forgot to salute, in their excitement. Bill then took them out of earshot.
"Have you heard anything of Simpson?" he inquired anxiously.
"No," Harrington replied, "we haven't. The only thing we do know is that one of the men saw him captured after a hard fight. His name is Thompson and he isn't the kind that would volunteer information unless he was certain it was so."
"What did you come down for?" asked Woods.
"Well, I simply want to do everything I can to free him," the boy replied. "If he is really captured, I can at least make the attempt."
"We both wanted the colonel to let us go on leave but he couldn't see it. You see, we are tied down pretty well"
"He considers it a reckless waste," Harrington added, "for us to go after Simpson. The chances of freeing him are small at best, so he says, and when you don't even know where he is imprisoned, it seems foolhardy to make the attempt."
Woods, who knew the boy well, watched him for a few minutes.
"You are going to make the try, anyway, aren't you?" he asked.
Bill nodded. "I can't see how I can help doing that. I realize you two must obey orders, but I am a free lance."
"Good for you," Harrington approved. "I'm glad that Drose was able to get word to you."
"By the way," added Woods, "Drose didn't tell you by any chance that his name was given honorable mention for great bravery at Wilson Creek, did he?"
"Did he know it?" asked Bill.
"Word of it came while he was at the hospital."
"He never said a word," Bill replied, with a great pride in his friend.