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A Texas Matchmaker

VIII. A Cat Hunt On The Frio
The return of Miss Jean the next forenoon, accompanied by Frances Vaux, was
an occasion of more than ordinary moment at Las Palomas. The Vaux family
were of creole extraction, but had settled on the Frio River nearly a generation
before. Under the climatic change, from the swamps of Louisiana to the mesas of
Texas, the girls grew up fine physical specimens of rustic Southern beauty. To a
close observer, certain traces of the French were distinctly discernible in Miss
Frances, notably in the large, lustrous eyes, the swarthy complexion, and early
maturity of womanhood. Small wonder then that our guest should have played
havoc among the young men of the countryside, adding to her train of gallants
the devoted Quayle and Cotton of Las Palomas.
Aside from her charming personality, that Miss Vaux should receive a cordial
welcome at Las Palomas goes without saying, since there were many reasons
why she should. The old ranchero and his sister chaperoned the young lady,
while I, betrothed to another, became her most obedient slave. It is needless to
add that there was a fair field and no favor shown by her hosts, as between John
and Theodore. The prize was worthy of any effort. The best man was welcome to
win, while the blessings of master and mistress seemed impatient to descend on
the favored one.
In the work in hand, I was forced to act as a rival to my friends, for I could not
afford to lower my reputation for horsemanship before Miss Frances, when my
betrothed was shortly to be her guest. So it was not to be wondered at that
Quayle and Cotton should abandon the _medeno_ in mounting their unbroken
geldings, and I had to follow suit or suffer by comparison. The other rascals,
equal if not superior to our trio in horsemanship, including Enrique, born with just
sense enough to be a fearless vaquero, took to the heavy sand in mounting
vicious geldings; but we three jauntily gave the wildest horses their heads and
even encouraged them to buck whenever our guest was sighted on the gallery.
What gave special vim to our work was the fact that Miss Frances was a
horsewoman herself, and it was with difficulty that she could be kept away from
the corrals. Several times a day our guest prevailed on Uncle Lance to take her
out to witness the roping. From a safe vantage place on the palisades, the old
ranchero and his protégé would watch us catching, saddling, and mounting the
geldings. Under those bright eyes, lariats encircled the feet of the horse to be
ridden deftly indeed, and he was laid on his side in the sand as daintily as a
mother would lay her babe in its crib. Outside of the trio, the work of the gang
was bunglesome, calling for many a protest from Uncle Lance,--they had no
lady's glance to spur them on,--while ours merited the enthusiastic plaudits of
Miss Frances.
[Illustration: GAVE THE WILDEST HORSES THEIR HEADS]
 
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