“All over,” sang out Jones, turning his horse. “The lion’s track and his scent have gone with the snow. I reckon we’ll do as well to wait until to-morrow. He’s down in the middle wing somewhere and it is my idea we might catch his trail as he comes back.”
The sudden dashing aside of our hopes was exasperating. There seemed no help for it; abrupt ending to exciting chases were but features of the lion hunt. The warm sun had been hours on the lower end of the plateau, where the snow never lay long; and even if we found a fresh morning trail in the sand, the heat would have burned out the scent.
So rapidly did the snow thaw that by the time we reached camp only the shady patches were left.
It was almost eleven o’clock when I lay down on my bed to rest awhile and fell asleep. The tramp of a horse awakened me. I heard Jim calling Jones. Thinking it was time to eat I went out. The snow had all disappeared and the forest was brown as ever. Jim sat on his horse and Navvy appeared riding up to the hollow, leading the saddle horses.
“Jones, get out,” called Jim.
“Can’t you let a fellow sleep? I’m not hungry,” replied Jones testily.
“Get out and saddle up,” continued Jim.
Jones burst out of his tent, with rumpled hair and sleepy eyes.
“I went over to see the carcass of the deer an’ found a lion sittin’ up in the tree, feedin’ for all he was worth. Pie jumped out an’ ran up the hollow an’ over the rim. So I rustled back for you fellows. Lively now, we’ll get this one sure.”
“Was it the big fellow?” I asked
“No, but he ain’t no kitten; an’ he’s a fine color, sort of reddish. I never seen one just as bright. Where’s Emett?”
“I don’t know. He was here a little while ago. Shall I signal for him?”
“Don’t yell,” cried Jones holding up his fingers. “Be quiet now.”
Without another word we finished saddling, mounted and, close together, with the hounds in front, rode through the forest toward the rim.
We rode in different directions toward the hollow, the better to chance meeting with Emett, but none of us caught a glimpse of him.
It happened that when we headed into the hollow it was at a point just above where the deer carcass hung in the scrub oak. Don in spite of Jones’ stern yells, let out his eager hunting yelp and darted down the slope. The pack bolted after him and in less than ten seconds were racing up the hollow, their thrilling, blending bays a welcome spur to action. Though I spoke not a word to my mustang nor had time to raise the bridle, he wheeled to one side and began to run. The other horses also kept to the ridge, as I could tell by the pounding of hoofs on the soft turf. The hounds in full cry right under us urged our good steeds to a terrific pace. It was well that the ridge afforded clear going.