“Did you ever kill one?” asked I.
“Yes, four on ’em; the last one was down on the Sabinal, just about a year this time. I was—”
At this point, he was again interrupted by the animal’s cry; this time so near, that we both stopped short and cocked our rifles, for it seemed as though he could be but a few feet from us.
“I tell you one thing, Jerry, I don’t much like walking through this grove, with one of those creatures so near; I’d rather take to the open prairie. Besides, it’s getting so dark I can’t see anything.”
“Pshaw! yer ain’t afraid o’ one of them critters, be yer? You jest foller me; they never trouble any one unless they’re hungry.”
“But this one may be hungry,” suggested I.
“Well, never you fear, you jest foller me,” said Jerry, starting on.
I followed as quickly as possible; but had hardly taken a dozen steps, ere I heard a quick exclamation, as of pain or surprise from Jerry’s lips, accompanied by a low, snarling growl, followed by a sound like that produced by two persons rolling on the ground together. There was violent breathing, angry ejaculations, the crashing of underbrush, and, before I had time to think what it meant, I caught sight of a dark mass, evidently rolling over and over upon the ground, a few feet in advance of me. I could not distinguish what it was in the darkness, but suddenly caught sight of two balls of living fire.
Bringing my rifle to my shoulder, and scarcely pausing to take aim or to reflect upon the consequences of the shot, I fired.
The next moment Jerry sprang to his feet with a—
“Thunder! that was a tight squeak, and no mistake. Ef you hadn’t fired when you did, it’d been all up with me afore this time. The critter didn’t give me no fair show; he lit right onter my shoulder here, and’s tared it some I reckon, by the feel; howsoever, we kin git at it easy anyway, but if it hadn’t a bin for them boys—well, boys haint got no bizness on the plains, no how.”
I made an examination of the wounded shoulder, as well as I could in the darkness, and found that the creature’s claws had entirely stripped it of clothing, besides badly lacerating the flesh.
Jerry declared, ’twasn’t much, no how; and he could walk to camp as well as not. As soon as we arrived there, I made a more thorough examination, dressed the arm carefully, and was soon utterly oblivious of the fatigues of the previous forty-eight hours.
The sound of Jerry’s voice, as he related the story of his adventures the night previous, awoke me in the early morning.
I, dreamingly, heard him say,—
“I didn’t see the critter when he jumped; not till he lit right onto my shoulder, and the heft of him hed knocked me down and he was atop o’ me. Yer see that gin him a heap the start.