Then began my journey down. I carried the cap with both hands and balanced myself like a tight-rope performer. I zigzagged the slopes; slipped over stones; leaped fissures and traversed yellow slides. I safely descended places that in an ordinary moment would have presented insurmountable obstacles, and burst down upon Emett with an Indian yell of triumph.
“Good!” ejaculated he. If I had not known it already, the way his face changed would have told me of his love for animals. He grasped a lion by the ears and held his head up. I saturated my handkerchief and squeezed the water into his mouth. He wheezed, coughed, choked, but to our joy he swallowed. He had to swallow. One after the other we served them so, seeing with unmistakable relief the sure signs of recovery. Their eyes cleared and brightened; the dry coughing that distressed us so ceased; the froth came no more. The savage fellow that had fought us to a standstill, and for which we had named him Spitfire, raised his head, the gold in his beautiful eyes darkened to fire and he growled his return to life and defiance.
Emett and I sank back in unutterable relief.
“Waa-hoo!” Jones’ yell came, breaking the warm quiet of the slope. Our comrade appeared riding down. The voice of the Indian, calling to Marc, mingled with the ringing of iron-shod hoofs on the stones.
Jones surveyed the small level spot in the shade of the cedars. He gazed from the lions to us, his stern face relaxed, and his dry laugh cracked.
“Doggone me, if you didn’t do it!”
A strange procession soon emerged from Left Canyon and stranger to us than the lion heads bobbing out of the alfagoes was the sight of Navvy riding in front of the lions. I kept well in the rear, for if anything happened, which I calculated was more than likely, I wanted to see it. Before we had reached the outskirts of pines, I observed that the piece of lasso around Spitfire’s nose had worked loose.
Just as I was about to make this known to Jones, the lion opened a corner of his mouth and fastened his teeth in the Navajo’s overalls. He did not catch the flesh, for when Navvy turned around he wore only an expression of curiosity. But when he saw Spitfire chewing him he uttered a shrill scream and fell sidewise off his horse.
Then two difficulties presented themselves to us, to catch the frightened horse and persuade the Indian he had not been bitten. We failed in the latter. Navvy gave us and the lions a wide berth, and walked to camp.
Jim was waiting for us, and said he had chased a lion south along the rim till the hounds got away from him.
Spitfire, having already been chained, was the first lion we endeavored to introduce to our family of captives. He raised such a fearful row that we had to remove him some distance from the others.
“We have two dog chains,” said Jones, “but not a collar or a swivel in camp. We can’t chain the lions without swivels. They’d choke themselves in two minutes.”