O NE day in January, Bill mounted Prince and rode to the house of a nearby farmer. As Bill turned his horse in at the gate, the farmer's ten-year-old son ran to meet him.
"Hello, Bill," called the boy.
"Hello, there," called Bill in answer. "Is your father at home?"
"Yes, he is."
"Good!" Bill dismounted and followed the boy into the house.
"Father, Bill Cody wants to see you."
"What is it, Bill?" asked the farmer. "What can I do for you?"
"I have enlisted in the Union Army," answered Bill, "and I must find a home for Prince before I leave to join my troop. Will you take care of him for me?"
"What about it, Son?" asked the farmer. "Do you want to take care of Bill Cody's horse while he is in the army?"
"Oh, yes," answered the boy. "I would be glad to take care of Prince."
"Prince needs a good home for the rest of his life," said Bill.
"I would be glad to buy him for my son," broke in the farmer. "He thinks that Prince is the finest horse in the world. How much do you want for him?"
Bill shook his head. "I couldn't sell Prince. He and I have had too many adventures together." He turned to the boy. "But if you will take good care of him—" he hesitated—"I will give Prince to you."
"You mean that if I take good care of him that I may have Prince for my own?" questioned the boy.
"Yes," smiled Bill. "I want someone who will be good to Prince to have him."
"Oh, I'll take good care of Prince," promised the boy.
"Then he is yours," said Bill. "I know that you and Prince will have fine times together."
Bill said good-by to the farmer, and he and the boy left the house. They went to where Prince was standing. Bill put his arms around the horse's neck. "Good-by, old boy," he whispered. "You have been a great pal. I will never forget you—my old Prince of the Pony."
Then without another word he hurried away.
Bill Cody left Leavenworth and joined his troop. He served in the Union Army until the end of the war. Because of his experience as a scout on the western plains, he was soon made a scout in the army. He carried out his orders faithfully and won the respect of his superior officers.
Just before the war ended, he was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the first time he had ever been in a large city. Although he enjoyed the interesting old city, he missed the exciting life on the plains.
Whenever he had time off from his duties in the army, he went to a park and rode horseback over its shady paths. But he longed for the endless western trails and the vast rolling plains.
"This city is all right," he would say to himself,
"but this is not home. I guess I'll never feel at home in a city."
Several times, as he rode through the park, he passed a young lady riding a spirited horse. She was very beautiful and best of all she was a good rider.
One afternoon when Bill was riding in the park, the young lady rode past him. Her horse was prancing nervously. Suddenly the horse shied, reared into the air, and plunged forward. The young lady pulled sharply on the reins but could not control the frightened animal. Her horse broke into a gallop and raced away.
Bill gave his horse the spurs. Quickly he began to gain on the runaway horse. Soon he pulled up alongside the frightened animal and grabbed the bridle. He brought the horse to a stop and jumped to the ground.
"Are you all right?" he asked looking up into the young lady's pale face.
"Yes," she laughed, but her voice trembled. "Please help me dismount," she added. "I feel as though I am going to faint."
Bill helped the young lady dismount. She rested for a few minutes and then she asked, "Will you take me to my home? I am Louisa Frederici."
"Of course I will take you home. I am Bill Cody."
Leading both horses, Bill walked with Louisa to her home.
Her father and mother thanked Bill for rescuing their daughter. They invited him to stay for dinner that evening, and he accepted the invitation.
From that time until the end of Bill's stay in St. Louis, he and Louisa spent much of their time together. They rode through the parks. They walked along the shady streets in the old French quarter of the city where Louisa lived. They spent the evening hours in the little French garden of the Frederici home. They laughed, and sang, and were happy. They were in love.
At last the war was over, and Bill was discharged from the army. He asked Louisa to marry him, and her answer was, "Yes."
"Then I must return to the West and get a job," said Bill. "As soon as I have earned enough money, I'll come back to St. Louis and we will be married."
"Can't you get a job in St. Louis?"
Bill was silent for a minute. "The West is my home," he began in a low voice, "and out on the plains I know that I can always make a living. But it is more than that, Louisa. It is the part of the country that I understand and love. I want to do my share in building the West.
"I can't give you a life of comfort, or of wealth, such as you have now," he went on, "but, Louisa, I shall try to make you happy, and I believe that you will learn to love the West."
"I will wait for you here," smiled Louisa, "and then, somewhere in the West, we will find happiness together."
"I will go back to Leavenworth," said Bill. "I will get a job at once."
"What will you do?"
"I don't know, Louisa, but there is always something I can do. I may drive a stagecoach, or scout for a wagon train."
Bill said good-by to Louisa and took a river steamboat up the Missouri River to Leavenworth.
He went at once to Alec Majors' old office.
"Majors has gone west with his wagon train," said the man seated at Majors' desk. "But if you are looking for a job maybe I can help you. I am Ben Holladay."
"I'm Bill Cody."
Holladay threw back his head and laughed. "Well, I'm not so sure that I can help you but you certainly can help me. I'd like to sign you up as one of my stagecoach drivers. How about it?"
"I'd like nothing better," answered Bill.
"Good! When can you begin working for me?"
"I want to spend a few days with my sisters," replied Bill, "then I'll be ready to drive whenever you need me."
"Your run will be from Fort Kearney to Plum Creek. Report to the agent at Fort Kearney for further orders."
"I'll do that, sir." Bill left the office and as he closed the door, Holladay said to himself, "Watch out you stagecoach drivers—here comes Bill Cody."