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Kitty








From: The Last Of The Plainsmen

It seemed my eyelids had scarcely touched when Jones's exasperating,
yet stimulating, yell aroused me. Day was breaking. The moon and stars
shone with wan luster. A white, snowy frost silvered the forest. Old
Moze had curled close beside me, and now he gazed at me reproachfully
and shivered. Lawson came hustling in with the horses. Jim busied
himself around the campfire. My fingers nearly froze while I saddled my
horse.

At five o'clock we were trotting up the slope of Buckskin, bound for
the section of ruined rim wall where we had encountered the convention
of cougars. Hoping to save time, we took a short cut, and were soon
crossing deep ravines.

The sunrise coloring the purple curtain of cloud over the canyon was
too much for me, and I lagged on a high ridge to watch it, thus falling
behind my more practical companions. A far-off "Waa-hoo!" brought me to
a realization of the day's stern duty and I hurried Satan forward on
the trail.

I came suddenly upon our leader, leading his horse through the scrub
pinyon on the edge of the canyon, and I knew at once something had
happened, for he was closely scrutinizing the ground.

"I declare this beats me all hollow!" began Jones. "We might be hunting
rabbits instead of the wildest animals on the continent. We jumped a
bunch of lions in this clump of pinyon. There must have been at least
four. I thought first we'd run upon an old lioness with cubs, but all
the trails were made by full-grown lions. Moze took one north along the
rim, same as the other day, but the lion got away quick. Frank saw one
lion. Wallace is following Sounder down into the first hollow. Jim has
gone over the rim wall after Don. There you are! Four lions playing tag
in broad daylight on top of this wall! I'm inclined to believe Clarke
didn't exaggerate. But confound the luck! the hounds have split again.
They're doing their best, of course, and it's up to us to stay with
them. I'm afraid we'll lose some of them. Hello! I hear a signal.
That's from Wallace. Waa-hoo! Waa-hoo! There he is, coming out of the
hollow."

The tall Californian reached us presently with Sounder beside him. He
reported that the hound had chased a lion into an impassable break. We
then joined Frank on a jutting crag of the canyon wall.

"Waa-hoo!" yelled Jones. There was no answer except the echo, and it
rolled up out of the chasm with strange, hollow mockery.

"Don took a cougar down this slide," said Frank. "I saw the brute, an'
Don was makin' him hump. A--ha! There! Listen to thet!"

From the green and yellow depths soared the faint yelp of a hound.

"That's Don! that's Don!" cried Jones. "He's hot on something. Where's
Sounder? Hyar, Sounder! By George! there he goes down the slide. Hear
him! He's opened up! Hi! Hi! Hi!"

The deep, full mellow bay of the hound came ringing on the clear air.

"Wallace, you go down. Frank and I will climb out on that pointed crag.
Grey, you stay here. Then we'll have the slide between us. Listen and
watch!"

From my promontory I watched Wallace go down with his gigantic strides,
sending the rocks rolling and cracking; and then I saw Jones and Frank
crawl out to the end of a crumbling ruin of yellow wall which
threatened to go splintering and thundering down into the abyss.

I thought, as I listened to the penetrating voice of the hound, that
nowhere on earth could there be a grander scene for wild action, wild
life. My position afforded a commanding view over a hundred miles of
the noblest and most sublime work of nature. The rim wall where I stood
sheered down a thousand feet, to meet a long wooded slope which cut
abruptly off into another giant precipice; a second long slope
descended, and jumped off into what seemed the grave of the world. Most
striking in that vast void were the long, irregular points of rim wall,
protruding into the Grand Canyon. From Point Sublime to the Pink Cliffs
of Utah there were twelve of these colossal capes, miles apart, some
sharp, some round, some blunt, all rugged and bold. The great chasm in
the middle was full of purple smoke. It seemed a mighty sepulcher from
which misty fumes rolled upward. The turrets, mesas, domes, parapets
and escarpments of yellow and red rock gave the appearance of an
architectural work of giant hands. The wonderful river of silt, the
blood-red, mystic and sullen Rio Colorado, lay hidden except in one
place far away, where it glimmered wanly. Thousands of colors were
blended before my rapt gaze. Yellow predominated, as the walls and
crags lorded it over the lower cliffs and tables; red glared in the
sunlight; green softened these two, and then purple and violet, gray,
blue and the darker hues shaded away into dim and distinct obscurity.

Excited yells from my companions on the other crag recalled me to the
living aspect of the scene. Jones was leaning far down in a niche, at
seeming great hazard of life, yelling with all the power of his strong
lungs. Frank stood still farther out on a cracked point that made me
tremble, and his yell reenforced Jones's. From far below rolled up a
chorus of thrilling bays and yelps, and Jim's call, faint, but distinct
on that wonderfully thin air, with its unmistakable note of warning.

Then on the slide I saw a lion headed for the rim wall and climbing
fast. I added my exultant cry to the medley, and I stretched my arms
wide to that illimitable void and gloried in a moment full to the brim
of the tingling joy of existence. I did not consider how painful it
must have been to the toiling lion. It was only the spell of wild
environment, of perilous yellow crags, of thin, dry air, of voice of
man and dog, of the stinging expectation of sharp action, of life.

I watched the lion growing bigger and bigger. I saw Don and Sounder run
from the pinyon into the open slide, and heard their impetuous burst of
wild yelps as they saw their game. Then Jones's clarion yell made me
bound for my horse. I reached him, was about to mount, when Moze came
trotting toward me. I caught the old gladiator. When he heard the
chorus from below, he plunged like a mad bull. With both arms round him
I held on. I vowed never to let him get down that slide. He howled and
tore, but I held on. My big black horse with ears laid back stood like
a rock.

I heard the pattering of little sliding rocks below; stealthy padded
footsteps and hard panting breaths, almost like coughs; then the lion
passed out of the slide not twenty feet away. He saw us, and sprang
into the pinyon scrub with the leap of a scared deer.

Samson himself could no longer have held Moze. Away he darted with his
sharp, angry bark. I flung myself upon Satan and rode out to see Jones
ahead and Frank flashing through the green on the white horse.

At the end of the pinyon thicket Satan overhauled Jones's bay, and we
entered the open forest together. We saw Frank glinting across the dark
pines.

"Hi! Hi!" yelled the Colonel.

No need was there to whip or spur those magnificent horses. They were
fresh; the course was open, and smooth as a racetrack, and the
impelling chorus of the hounds was in full blast. I gave Satan a loose
rein, and he stayed neck and neck with the bay. There was not a log,
nor a stone, nor a gully. The hollows grew wider and shallower as we
raced along, and presently disappeared altogether. The lion was running
straight from the canyon, and the certainty that he must sooner or
later take to a tree, brought from me a yell of irresistible wild joy.

"Hi! Hi! Hi!" answered Jones.

The whipping wind with its pine-scented fragrance, warm as the breath
of summer, was intoxicating as wine. The huge pines, too kingly for
close communion with their kind, made wide arches under which the
horses stretched out long and low, with supple, springy, powerful
strides. Frank's yell rang clear as a bell. We saw him curve to the
right, and took his yell as a signal for us to cut across. Then we
began to close in on him, and to hear more distinctly the baying of the
hounds.

"Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!" bawled Jones, and his great trumpet voice rolled down
the forest glades.

"Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!" I screeched, in wild recognition of the spirit of the
moment.

Fast as they were flying, the bay and the black responded to our cries,
and quickened, strained and lengthened under us till the trees sped by
in blurs.

There, plainly in sight ahead ran the hounds, Don leading, Sounder
next, and Moze not fifty yards, behind a desperately running lion.

There are all-satisfying moments of life. That chase through the open
forest, under the stately pines, with the wild, tawny quarry in plain
sight, and the glad staccato yelps of the hounds filling my ears and
swelling my heart, with the splendid action of my horse carrying me on
the wings of the wind, was glorious answer and fullness to the call and
hunger of a hunter's blood.

But as such moments must be, they were brief. The lion leaped
gracefully into the air, splintering the bark from a pine fifteen feet
up, and crouched on a limb. The hounds tore madly round the tree.

"Full-grown female," said Jones calmly, as we dismounted, "and she's
ours. We'll call her Kitty."

Kitty was a beautiful creature, long, slender, glossy, with white belly
and black-tipped ears and tail. She did not resemble the heavy,
grim-faced brute that always hung in the air of my dreams. A low,
brooding menacing murmur, that was not a snarl nor a growl, came from
her. She watched the dogs with bright, steady eyes, and never so much
as looked at us.

The dogs were worth attention, even from us, who certainly did not need
to regard them from her personally hostile point of view. Don stood
straight up, with his forepaws beating the air; he walked on his hind
legs like the trained dog in the circus; he yelped continuously, as if
it agonized him to see the lion safe out of his reach. Sounder had lost
his identity. Joy had unhinged his mind and had made him a dog of
double personality. He had always been unsocial with me, never
responding to my attempts to caress him, but now he leaped into my arms
and licked my face. He had always hated Jones till that moment, when he
raised his paws to his master's breast. And perhaps more remarkable,
time and time again he sprang up at Satan's nose, whether to bite him
or kiss him, I could not tell. Then old Moze, he of Grand Canyon fame,
made the delirious antics of his canine fellows look cheap. There was a
small, dead pine that had fallen against a drooping branch of the tree
Kitty had taken refuge in, and up this narrow ladder Moze began to
climb. He was fifteen feet up, and Kitty had begun to shift uneasily,
when Jones saw him.

"Hyar! you wild coon hyar! Git out of that! Come down! Come down!"

But Jones might have been in the bottom of the canyon for all Moze
heard or cared. Jones removed his coat, carefully coiled his lasso, and
began to go hand and knee up the leaning pine.

"Hyar! dad-blast you, git down!" yelled Jones, and he kicked Moze off.
The persistent hound returned, and followed Jones to a height of twenty
feet, where again he was thrust off.

"Hold him, one of you!" called Jones.

"Not me," said Frank, "I'm lookin' out for myself."

"Same here," I cried, with a camera in one hand and a rifle in
the other. "Let Moze climb if he likes."

Climb he did, to be kicked off again. But he went back. It was a way he
had. Jones at last recognized either his own waste of time or Moze's
greatness, for he desisted, allowing the hound to keep close after him.

The cougar, becoming uneasy, stood up, reached for another limb,
climbed out upon it, and peering down, spat hissingly at Jones. But he
kept steadily on with Moze close on his heels. I snapped my camera on
them when Kitty was not more than fifteen feet above them. As Jones
reached the snag which upheld the leaning tree, she ran out on her
branch, and leaped into an adjoining pine. It was a good long jump, and
the weight of the animal bent the limb alarmingly.

Jones backed down, and laboriously began to climb the other tree. As
there were no branches low down, he had to hug the trunk with arms and
legs as a boy climbs. His lasso hampered his progress. When the slow
ascent was accomplished up to the first branch, Kitty leaped back into
her first perch. Strange to say Jones did not grumble; none of his
characteristic impatience manifested itself. I supposed with him all
the exasperating waits, vexatious obstacles, were little things
preliminary to the real work, to which he had now come. He was calm and
deliberate, and slid down the pine, walked back to the leaning tree,
and while resting a moment, shook his lasso at Kitty. This action
fitted him, somehow; it was so compatible with his grim assurance.

To me, and to Frank, also, for that matter, it was all new and
startling, and we were as excited as the dogs. We kept continually
moving about, Frank mounted, and I afoot, to get good views of the
cougar. When she crouched as if to leap, it was almost impossible to
remain under the tree, and we kept moving.

Once more Jones crept up on hands and knees. Moze walked the slanting
pine like a rope performer. Kitty began to grow restless. This time she
showed both anger and impatience, but did not yet appear frightened.
She growled low and deep, opened her mouth and hissed, and swung her
tufted tail faster and faster.

"Look out, Jones! look out!" yelled Frank warningly.

Jones, who had reached the trunk of the tree, halted and slipped round
it, placing it between him and Kitty. She had advanced on her limb, a
few feet above Jones, and threateningly hung over.

Jones backed down a little till she crossed to another branch, then he
resumed his former position.

"Watch below," called he.

Hardly any doubt was there as to how we watched. Frank and I were all
eyes, except very high and throbbing hearts. When Jones thrashed the
lasso at Kitty we both yelled. She ran out on the branch and jumped.
This time she fell short of her point, clutched a dead snag, which
broke, letting her through a bushy branch from where she hung head
downward. For a second she swung free, then reaching toward the tree
caught it with front paws, ran down like a squirrel, and leaped off
when thirty feet from the ground. The action was as rapid as it was
astonishing.

Like a yellow rubber ball she bounded up, and fled with the yelping
hounds at her heels. The chase was short. At the end of a hundred yards
Moze caught up with her and nipped her. She whirled with savage
suddenness, and lunged at Moze, but he cunningly eluded the vicious
paws. Then she sought safety in another pine.

Frank, who was as quick as the hounds, almost rode them down in his
eagerness. While Jones descended from his perch, I led the two horses
down the forest.

This time the cougar was well out on a low spreading branch. Jones
conceived the idea of raising the loop of his lasso on a long pole, but
as no pole of sufficient length could be found, he tried from the back
of his horse. The bay walked forward well enough; when, however, he got
under the beast and heard her growl, he reared and almost threw Jones.
Frank's horse could not be persuaded to go near the tree. Satan evinced
no fear of the cougar, and without flinching carried Jones directly
beneath the limb and stood with ears back and forelegs stiff.

"Look at that! look at that!" cried Jones, as the wary cougar pawed the
loop aside. Three successive times did Jones have the lasso just ready
to drop over her neck, when she flashed a yellow paw and knocked the
noose awry. Then she leaped far out over the waiting dogs, struck the
ground with a light, sharp thud, and began to run with the speed of a
deer. Frank's cowboy training now stood us in good stead. He was off
like a shot and turned the cougar from the direction of the canyon.
Jones lost not a moment in pursuit, and I, left with Jones's badly
frightened bay, got going in time to see the race, but not to assist.
For several hundred yards Kitty made the hounds appear slow. Don, being
swiftest, gained on her steadily toward the close of the dash, and
presently was running under her upraised tail. On the next jump he
nipped her. She turned and sent him reeling. Sounder came flying up to
bite her flank, and at the same moment fierce old Moze closed in on
her. The next instant a struggling mass whirled on the ground. Jones
and Frank, yelling like demons, almost rode over it. The cougar broke
from her assailants, and dashing away leaped on the first tree. It was
a half-dead pine with short snags low down and a big branch extending
out over a ravine.

"I think we can hold her now," said Jones. The tree proved to be a most
difficult one to climb. Jones made several ineffectual attempts before
he reached the first limb, which broke, giving him a hard fall. This
calmed me enough to make me take notice of Jones's condition. He was
wet with sweat and covered with the black pitch from the pines; his
shirt was slit down the arm, and there was blood on his temple and his
hand. The next attempt began by placing a good-sized log against the
tree, and proved to be the necessary help. Jones got hold of the second
limb and pulled himself up.

As he kept on, Kitty crouched low as if to spring upon him. Again Frank
and I sent warning calls to him, but he paid no attention to us or to
the cougar, and continued to climb. This worried Kitty as much as it
did us. She began to move on the snags, stepping from one to the other,
every moment snarling at Jones, and then she crawled up. The big branch
evidently took her eye. She tried several times to climb up to it, but
small snags close together made her distrustful. She walked uneasily
out upon two limbs, and as they bent with her weight she hurried back.
Twice she did this, each time looking up, showing her desire to leap to
the big branch. Her distress became plainly evident; a child could have
seen that she feared she would fall. At length, in desperation, she
spat at Jones, then ran out and leaped. She all but missed the branch,
but succeeded in holding to it and swinging to safety. Then she turned
to her tormentor, and gave utterance to most savage sounds. As she did
not intimidate her pursuer, she retreated out on the branch, which
sloped down at a deep angle, and crouched on a network of small limbs.

When Jones had worked up a little farther, he commanded a splendid
position for his operations. Kitty was somewhat below him in a
desirable place, yet the branch she was on joined the tree considerably
above his head. Jones cast his lasso. It caught on a snag. Throw after
throw he made with like result. He recoiled and recast nineteen times,
to my count, when Frank made a suggestion.

"Rope those dead snags an' break them off."

This practical idea Jones soon carried out, which left him a clear
path. The next fling of the lariat caused the cougar angrily to shake
her head. Again Jones sent the noose flying. She pulled it off her back
and bit it savagely.

Though very much excited, I tried hard to keep sharp, keen faculties
alert so as not to miss a single detail of the thrilling scene. But I
must have failed, for all of a sudden I saw how Jones was standing in
the tree, something I had not before appreciated. He had one hand hold,
which he could not use while recoiling the lasso, and his feet rested
upon a precariously frail-appearing, dead snag. He made eleven casts of
the lasso, all of which bothered Kitty, but did not catch her. The
twelfth caught her front paw. Jones jerked so quickly and hard that he
almost lost his balance, and he pulled the noose off. Patiently he
recoiled the lasso.

"That's what I want. If I can get her front paw she's ours. My idea is
to pull her off the limb, let her hang there, and then lasso her hind
legs."

Another cast, the unlucky thirteenth, settled the loop perfectly round
her neck. She chewed on the rope with her front teeth and appeared to
have difficulty in holding it.

"Easy! Easy! Ooze thet rope! Easy!" yelled the cowboy.

Cautiously Jones took up the slack and slowly tightened the nose, then
with a quick jerk, fastened it close round her neck.

We heralded this achievement with yells of triumph that made the forest
ring.

Our triumph was short-lived. Jones had hardly moved when the cougar
shot straight out into the air. The lasso caught on a branch, hauling
her up short, and there she hung in mid-air, writhing, struggling and
giving utterance to sounds terribly human. For several seconds she
swung, slowly descending, in which frenzied time I, with ruling passion
uppermost, endeavored to snap a picture of her.

The unintelligible commands Jones was yelling to Frank and me ceased
suddenly with a sharp crack of breaking wood. Then crash! Jones fell
out of the tree. The lasso streaked up, ran over the limb, while the
cougar dropped pell-mell into the bunch of waiting, howling dogs.

The next few moments it was impossible for me to distinguish what
actually transpired. A great flutter of leaves whirled round a swiftly
changing ball of brown and black and yellow, from which came a fiendish
clamor.

Then I saw Jones plunge down the ravine and bounce here and there in
mad efforts to catch the whipping lasso. He was roaring in a way that
made all his former yells merely whispers. Starting to run, I tripped
on a root, fell prone on my face into the ravine, and rolled over and
over until I brought up with a bump against a rock.

What a tableau rivited my gaze! It staggered me so I did not think of
my camera. I stood transfixed not fifteen feet from the cougar. She sat
on her haunches with body well drawn back by the taut lasso to which
Jones held tightly. Don was standing up with her, upheld by the hooked
claws in his head. The cougar had her paws outstretched; her mouth open
wide, showing long, cruel, white fangs; she was trying to pull the head
of the dog to her. Don held back with all his power, and so did Jones.
Moze and Sounder were tussling round her body. Suddenly both ears of
the dog pulled out, slit into ribbons. Don had never uttered a sound,
and once free, he made at her again with open jaws. One blow sent him
reeling and stunned. Then began again that wrestling whirl.

"Beat off the dogs! Beat off the dogs!" roared Jones. "She'll kill
them! She'll kill them!"

Frank and I seized clubs and ran in upon the confused furry mass,
forgetful of peril to ourselves. In the wild contagion of such a savage
moment the minds of men revert wholly to primitive instincts. We swung
our clubs and yelled; we fought all over the bottom of the ravine,
crashing through the bushes, over logs and stones. I actually felt the
soft fur of the cougar at one fleeting instant. The dogs had the
strength born of insane fighting spirit. At last we pulled them to
where Don lay, half-stunned, and with an arm tight round each, I held
them while Frank turned to help Jones.

The disheveled Jones, bloody, grim as death, his heavy jaw locked,
stood holding to the lasso. The cougar, her sides shaking with short,
quick pants, crouched low on the ground with eyes of purple fire.

"For God's sake, get a half-hitch on the saplin'!" called the cowboy.

His quick grasp of the situation averted a tragedy. Jones was nearly
exhausted, even as he was beyond thinking for himself or giving up. The
cougar sprang, a yellow, frightful flash. Even as she was in the air,
Jones took a quick step to one side and dodged as he threw his lasso
round the sapling. She missed him, but one alarmingly outstretched paw
grazed his shoulder. A twist of Jones's big hand fastened the
lasso--and Kitty was a prisoner. While she fought, rolled, twisted,
bounded, whirled, writhed with hissing, snarling fury, Jones sat
mopping the sweat and blood from his face.

Kitty's efforts were futile; she began to weaken from the choking.
Jones took another rope, and tightening a noose around her back paws,
which he lassoed as she rolled over, he stretched her out. She began to
contract her supple body, gave a savage, convulsive spring, which
pulled Jones flat on the ground, then the terrible wrestling started
again. The lasso slipped over her back paws. She leaped the whole
length of the other lasso. Jones caught it and fastened it more
securely; but this precaution proved unnecessary, for she suddenly sank
down either exhausted or choked, and gasped with her tongue hanging
out. Frank slipped the second noose over her back paws, and Jones did
likewise with a third lasso over her right front paw. These lassoes
Jones tied to different saplings.

"Now you are a good Kitty," said Jones, kneeling by her. He took a pair
of clippers from his hip pocket, and grasping a paw in his powerful
fist he calmly clipped the points of the dangerous claws. This done, he
called to me to get the collar and chain that were tied to his saddle.
I procured them and hurried back. Then the old buffalo hunter loosened
the lasso which was round her neck, and as soon as she could move her
head, he teased her to bite a club. She broke two good sticks with her
sharp teeth, but the third, being solid, did not break. While she was
chewing it Jones forced her head back and placed his heavy knee on the
club. In a twinkling he had strapped the collar round her neck. The
chain he made fast to the sapling. After removing the club from her
mouth he placed his knee on her neck, and while her head was in this
helpless position he dexterously slipped a loop of thick copper wire
over her nose, pushed it back and twisted it tight Following this, all
done with speed and precision, he took from his pocket a piece of steel
rod, perhaps one-quarter of an inch thick, and five inches long. He
pushed this between Kitty's jaws, just back of her great white fangs,
and in front of the copper wire. She had been shorn of her sharp
weapons; she was muzzled, bound, helpless, an object to pity.

Lastly Jones removed the three lassoes. Kitty slowly gathered her
lissom body in a ball and lay panting, with the same brave wildfire in
her eyes. Jones stroked her black-tipped ears and ran his hand down her
glossy fur. All the time he had kept up a low monotone, talking to her
in the strange language he used toward animals. Then he rose to his
feet.

"We'll go back to camp now, and get a pack, saddle and horse," he said.
"She'll be safe here. We'll rope her again, tie her up, throw her over
a pack-saddle, and take her to camp."

To my utter bewilderment the hounds suddenly commenced fighting among
themselves. Of all the vicious bloody dog-fights I ever saw that was
the worst. I began to belabor them with a club, and Frank sprang to my
assistance. Beating had no apparent effect. We broke a dozen sticks,
and then Frank grappled with Moze and I with Sounder. Don kept on
fighting either one till Jones secured him. Then we all took a rest,
panting and weary.

"What's it mean?" I ejaculated, appealing to Jones.

"Jealous, that's all. Jealous over the lion."

We all remained seated, men and hounds, a sweaty, dirty, bloody, ragged
group. I discovered I was sorry for Kitty. I forgot all the carcasses
of deer and horses, the brutality of this species of cat; and even
forgot the grim, snarling yellow devil that had leaped at me. Kitty was
beautiful and helpless. How brave she was, too! No sign of fear shone
in her wonderful eyes, only hate, defiance, watchfulness.

On the ride back to camp Jones expressed himself thus: "How happy I am
that I can keep this lion and the others we are going to capture, for
my own. When I was in the Yellowstone Park I did not get to keep one of
the many I captured. The military officials took them from me."

When we reached camp Lawson was absent, but fortunately Old Baldy
browsed near at hand, and was easily caught. Frank said he would rather
take Old Baldy for the cougar than any other horse we had. Leaving me
in camp, he and Jones rode off to fetch Kitty.

About five o'clock they came trotting up through the forest with Jim,
who had fallen in with them on the way. Old Baldy had remained true to
his fame--nothing, not even a cougar bothered him. Kitty, evidently no
worse for her experience, was chained to a pine tree about fifty feet
from the campfire.

Wallace came riding wearily in, and when he saw the captive, he greeted
us with an exultant yell. He got there just in time to see the first
special features of Kitty's captivity. The hounds surrounded her, and
could not be called off. We had to beat them. Whereupon the six jealous
canines fell to fighting among themselves, and fought so savagely as to
be deaf to our cries and insensible to blows. They had to be torn apart
and chained.

About six o'clock Lawson loped in with the horses. Of course he did not
know we had a cougar, and no one seemed interested enough to inform
him. Perhaps only Frank and I thought of it; but I saw a merry snap in
Frank's eyes, and kept silent. Kitty had hidden behind the pine tree.
Lawson, astride Jones' pack horse, a crochety animal, reined in just
abreast of the tree, and leisurely threw his leg over the saddle. Kitty
leaped out to the extent of her chain, and fairly exploded in a
frightful cat-spit.

Lawson had stated some time before that he was afraid of cougars, which
was a weakness he need not have divulged in view of what happened. The
horse plunged, throwing him ten feet, and snorting in terror, stampeded
with the rest of the bunch and disappeared among the pines.

"Why the hell didn't you tell a feller?" reproachfully growled the
Arizonian. Frank and Jim held each other upright, and the rest of us
gave way to as hearty if not as violent mirth.

We had a gay supper, during which Kitty sat her pine and watched our
every movement.

"We'll rest up for a day or two," said Jones "Things have commenced to
come our way. If I'm not mistaken we'll bring an old Tom alive into
camp. But it would never do for us to get a big Tom in the fix we had
Kitty to-day. You see, I wanted to lasso her front paw, pull her off
the limb, tie my end of the lasso to the tree, and while she hung I'd
go down and rope her hind paws. It all went wrong to-day, and was as
tough a job as I ever handled."

Not until late next morning did Lawson corral all the horses. That day
we lounged in camp mending broken bridles, saddles, stirrups, lassoes,
boots, trousers, leggins, shirts and even broken skins.

During this time I found Kitty a most interesting study. She reminded
me of an enormous yellow kitten. She did not appear wild or untamed
until approached. Then she slowly sank down, laid back her ears, opened
her mouth and hissed and spat, at the same time throwing both paws out
viciously. Kitty may have rested, but did not sleep. At times she
fought her chain, tugging and straining at it, and trying to bite it
through. Everything in reach she clawed, particularly the bark of the
tree. Once she tried to hang herself by leaping over a low limb. When
any one walked by her she crouched low, evidently imagining herself
unseen. If one of us walked toward her, or looked at her, she did not
crouch. At other times, noticeably when no one was near, she would roll
on her back and extend all four paws in the air. Her actions were
beautiful, soft, noiseless, quick and subtle.

The day passed, as all days pass in camp, swiftly and pleasantly, and
twilight stole down upon us round the ruddy fire. The wind roared in
the pines and lulled to repose; the lonesome, friendly coyote barked;
the bells on the hobbled horses jingled sweetly; the great watch stars
blinked out of the blue.

The red glow of the burning logs lighted up Jones's calm, cold face.
Tranquil, unalterable and peaceful it seemed; yet beneath the peace I
thought I saw a suggestion of wild restraint, of mystery, of unslaked
life.

Strangely enough, his next words confirmed my last thought.

"For forty years I've had an ambition. It's to get possession of an
island in the Pacific, somewhere between Vancouver and Alaska, and then
go to Siberia and capture a lot of Russian sables. I'd put them on the
island and cross them with our silver foxes. I'm going to try it next
year if I can find the time."

The ruling passion and character determine our lives. Jones was
sixty-three years old, yet the thing that had ruled and absorbed his
mind was still as strong as the longing for freedom in Kitty's wild
heart.

Hours after I had crawled into my sleeping-bag, in the silence of night
I heard her working to get free. In darkness she was most active,
restless, intense. I heard the clink of her chain, the crack of her
teeth, the scrape of her claws. How tireless she was. I recalled the
wistful light in her eyes that saw, no doubt, far beyond the campfire
to the yellow crags, to the great downward slopes, to freedom. I
slipped my elbow out of the bag and raised myself. Dark shadows were
hovering under the pines. I saw Kitty's eyes gleam like sparks, and I
seemed to see in them the hate, the fear, the terror she had of the
clanking thing that bound her!

I shivered, perhaps from the cold night wind which moaned through the
pines; I saw the stars glittering pale and far off, and under their wan
light the still, set face of Jones, and blanketed forms of my other
companions.

The last thing I remembered before dropping into dreamless slumber was
hearing a bell tinkle in the forest, which I recognized as the one I
had placed on Satan.





Next: Conclusion

Previous: Jones On Cougars



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