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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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"HALT, who goes there?"
"A friend," was the reply. "Got a prisoner, too. Caught him acting suspiciously and reckoned I'd bring him along."
The sentry eyed the man and the prisoner who was considerably younger, in fact, but a boy.
Undecided, he called for the sentry on the next post. The corporal of the guard also appeared upon the scene.
"What's your name, friend?" the corporal asked.
"Streeter, Jim Streeter," the man replied.
"What was this boy doing when you got him?"
"This Yank -- at least I reckon he's Yank -- was down beyond. Well, he asked me where the Yankee army was, for one thing. I knew where they were, but then I also knew where you folks were, so I told him I'd show him. Pretty soon, I got his gun and then I made him prisoner."
"Who are you, boy?"
"I come from Kansas. Haven't any special business. Just thought I'd see where the Unionists are."
"Did you come all the way from Kansas for that?"
The boy hesitated. He, it was evident, could not think of the answer.
"I guess we'll hold you for a while. We'll show you an army, but it won't be the Yankee one. Come on, Streeter."
The captain, after a few further questions, decided to follow the corporal's advice. The boy's very answers were condemning.
"Streeter," the captain turned to the captor, "you've kept your eyes open. It's good work. It's a wonder, though, you don't join the army. We need men like you."
"Well, I reckon, I might. Mind, if I stay around a while and decide?"
"Stay as long as you like," the captain answered and turned away. The corporal took the prisoner to the prison camp.
As he entered with him one of the prisoners looked up and saw the boy.
"Hello, Bill," he called. "How did they get you?" There was great astonishment voiced in the question. The corporal pricked up his ears. But the boy made no answer. Nor did the other prisoner inquire any further.
Assured beyond doubt that the boy was a Unionist he reported what lie had heard to the captain.
As my readers have surmised, the prisoner was Bill Cody. Some may even have astutely imagined that the captor, Jim Streeter, was no other than George Woods.
Bill's plan had been so simple that it had gotten both of them into the Confederate camp. More than that, it left George Woods active, unsuspected, and on the alert to free them.
Sometime during the night Bill. was able to whisper his plan to Simpson. It was necessary to tell him as soon as possible for he was fearful that if Simpson saw Woods he would make some exclamation that would arouse suspicion. The possibility of that was remote, however, for the astute Simpson had realized quickly that something was in the wind after his first question to Bill.
"Sometime tomorrow, Woods is going to make his attempt. He will try to get the necessary weapons and also, if it is at all possible, he is to try to get horses."
"How are we to pass the sentries?" Simpson asked.
"By tomorrow night, he will know who the sentry is on guard at a certain point and will also know the one in front of this prison. He is going to ask for a permit to leave the camp so that he can go home and say goodbye. You see, the captain has asked him why he doesn't join the Rebels. If he hadn't Woods would have offered himself. But he had to go home, of course, and say goodbye. That is necessary. He will try to secure a pass to leave the line. The rest will take care of itself."
It need not be supposed that this information was given to Simpson at one time. But the sum and substance of it as above stated took hours and was told in the merest of whispers.
"I reckon I'll join your army," Woods volunteered. "But I figure that the folks at home had best be told and so I'm going to tell them. Mind?"
The captain laughed, and glad to get the volunteer, gave him a pass at once.
"Be sure you get the countersign for the time you are leaving and returning. They change with every relief."
Streeter thanked him. Then he set to work finding out from the corporal who the sentry on post number seven would be that night and the next morning.
"If I leave now, I may get back tonight. Or perhaps I'll get back tomorrow morning. I reckon, I'd like to know who is there so that I don't find myself a dead volunteer."
"When are you going?" the corporal asked.
"Pretty soon, I'm in no hurry. And I haven't seen everything about here yet."
The corporal left him. In the next few hours, without seeming to hurry, Streeter had become acquainted with the guard who was to be at Post Number Seven, and had also found out who was to be in front of the prison camp. In the very first hour of his arrival he had posted himself as to where the horses were stabled. It was for this reason that he had picked Post Number Seven because of its proximity to the horses. He also managed to get inside the prison pen because as he put it very proudly:
"I'm waiting to see my prisoner."
There was no recognition from Simpson, although the daring Streeter grinned at him.