“Shore there’s some scent on the wind,” said Jim, lighting his pipe with a red ember. “See how uneasy Don is.”
The hound raised his fine, dark head and repeatedly sniffed the air, then walked to and fro as if on guard for his pack. Moze ground his teeth on a bone and growled at one of the pups. Sounder was sleepy, but he watched Don with suspicious eyes. The other hounds, mature and somber, lay stretched before the fire.
“Tie them up, Jim,” said Jones, “and let’s turn in.”
When I awakened next morning the sound of Emett’s axe rang out sharply. Little streaks of light from the camp-fire played between the flaps of the tent. I saw old Moze get up and stretch himself. A jangle of cow-bells from the forest told me we would not have to wait for the horses that morning.
“The Injun’s all right,” Jones remarked to Emett.
“All rustle for breakfast,” called Jim.
We ate in the semi-darkness with the gray shadow ever brightening. Dawn broke as we saddled our horses. The pups were limber, and ran to and fro on their chains, scenting the air; the older hounds stood quietly waiting.
“Come Navvy—come chase cougie,” said Emett.
“Dam! No!” replied the Indian.
“Let him keep camp,” suggested Jim.
“All right; but he’ll eat us out,” Emett declared.
“Climb up you fellows,” said Jones, impatiently. “Have I got everything—rope, chains, collars, wire, nippers? Yes, all right. Hyar, you lazy dogs—out of this!”
We rode abreast down the ridge. The demeanor of the hounds contrasted sharply with what it had been at the start of the hunt the year before. Then they had been eager, uncertain, violent; they did not know what was in the air; now they filed after Don in an orderly trot.
We struck out of the pines at half past five. Floating mist hid the lower end of the plateau. The morning had a cool touch but there was no frost. Crossing Middle Canyon about half way down we jogged on. Cedar trees began to show bright green against the soft gray sage. We were nearing the dark line of the cedar forest when Jim, who led, held up his hand in a warning check. We closed in around him.
“Watch Don,” he said.
The hound stood stiff, head well up, nose working, and the hair on his back bristling. All the other hounds whined and kept close to him.
“Don scents a lion,” whispered Jim. “I’ve never known him to do that unless there was the scent of a lion on the wind.”
“Hunt ’em up Don, old boy,” called Jones.
The pack commenced to work back and forth along the ridge. We neared a hollow when Don barked eagerly. Sounder answered and likewise Jude. Moze’s short angry “bow-wow” showed the old gladiator to be in line.
“Ranger’s gone,” cried Jim. “He was farthest ahead. I’ll bet he’s struck it. We’ll know in a minute, for we’re close.”