“Neck broken,” he said, lifting the head. “Well, I’m danged. Must have been an all-fired strong lion. He’ll come back, you may be sure of that. Let’s skin out the quarters and hang the carcass up in a tree!”
We returned to camp in a half an hour, the richer for our walk by a quantity of fresh venison. Upon being acquainted with our adventure, Jim expressed himself rather more fairly than was his customary way.
“Shore that beats hell! I knowed there was a lion somewheres, because Don wouldn’t lie down. I’d like to get a pop at the brute.”
I believed Jim’s wish found an echo in all our hearts. At any rate to hear Emett and Jones express regret over the death of the doe justified in some degree my own feelings, and I thought it was not so much the death, but the lingering and terrible manner of it, and especially how vividly it connoted the wild-life drama of the plateau. The tragedy we had all but interrupted occurred every night, perhaps often in the day and likely at different points at the same time. Emett told how he had found fourteen piles of bleached bones and dried hair in the thickets of less than a mile of the hollow on which we were encamped.
“We’ll rope the danged cats, boys, or we’ll kill them.”
“It’s blowing cold. Hey, Navvy, coco! coco!” called Emett.
The Indian, carefully laying aside his cigarette, kicked up the fire and threw on more wood.
“Discass! (cold),” he said to me. “Coco, bueno (fire good).”
I replied, “Me savvy—yes.”
“Sleep-ie?” he asked.
“Mucha,” I returned.
While we carried on a sort of novel conversation full of Navajo, English, and gestures, darkness settled down black. I saw the stars disappear; the wind changing to the north grew colder and carried a breath of snow. I like north wind best—from under the warm blankets—because of the roar and lull and lull and roar in the pines. Crawling into the bed presently, I lay there and listened to the rising storm-wind for a long time. Sometimes it swelled and crashed like the sound of a breaker on the beach, but mostly, from a low incessant moan, it rose and filled to a mighty rush, then suddenly lulled. This lull, despite a wakeful, thronging mind, was conducive to sleep.
To be awaked from pleasant dreams is the lot of man. The Navajo aroused me with his singing, and when I peeped languidly from under the flap of my sleeping bag, I felt a cold air and saw fleecy flakes of white drifting through the small window of my tent.
“Snow; by all that’s lucky!” I exclaimed, remembering Jones’ hopes. Straightway my langour vanished and getting into my boots and coat I went outside. Navvy’s bed lay in six inches of snow. The forest was beautifully white. A fine dazzling snow was falling. I walked to the roaring camp-fire. Jim’s biscuits, well-browned and of generous size, had just been dumped into the middle of our breakfast cloth, a tarpaulin spread on the ground; the coffee pot steamed fragrantly, and a Dutch oven sizzled with a great number of slices of venison. “Did you hear the Indian chanting?” asked Jones, who sat with his horny hands to the blaze.