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A Texas Matchmaker

IX. The Rose And Its Thorn
Dawn found the ranch astir and a heavy fog hanging over the Frio valley. Don
Pierre had a _remuda_ corralled before sun-up, and insisted on our riding his
horses, an invitation which my employer alone declined. For the first hour or two
the pack scouted the river bottoms with no success, and Uncle Lance's verdict
was that the valley was too soggy for any animal belonging to the cat family, so
we turned back to the divide between the Frio and San Miguel. Here there grew
among the hills many Guajio thickets, and from the first one we beat, the hounds
opened on a hot trail in splendid chorus. The pack led us through thickets for
over a mile, when they suddenly turned down a ravine, heading for the river. With
the ground ill splendid condition for trailing, the dogs in full cry, the quarry sought
every shelter possible; but within an hour of striking the scent, the pack came to
bay in the encinal. On coming up with the hounds, we found the animal was a
large catamount. A single shot brought him from his perch in a scraggy oak, and
the first chase of the day was over. The pelt was worthless and was not taken.
It was nearly noon when the kill was made, and Don Pierre insisted that we
return to the ranch. Uncle Lance protested against wasting the remainder of the
day, but the courteous Creole urged that the ground would be in fine condition for
hunting at least a week longer; this hunt he declared was merely preliminary--to
break the pack together and give them a taste of the chase before attacking the
cougar. "Ah," said Don Pierre, with a deprecating shrug of the shoulders, "you
have nothing to hurry you home. I come by your rancho an' stay one hol' week.
You come by mine, al' time hurry. Sacré! Let de li'l dogs rest, an' in de mornin',
mebbe we hunt de cougar. Ah, Meester Lance, we must haff de pack fresh for
him. By Gar, he was one dam' wil' fellow. Mek one two pass, so. Biff! two dog
dead."
Uncle Lance yielded, and we rode back to the ranch. The next morning our party
included the three daughters of our host. Don Pierre led the way on a roan
stallion, and after two hours' riding we crossed the San Miguel to the north of his
ranch. A few miles beyond we entered some chalky hills, interspersed with white
chaparral thickets which were just bursting into bloom, with a fragrance that was
almost intoxicating. Under the direction of our host, we started to beat a long
chain of these thickets, and were shortly rewarded by hearing the pack give
mouth. The quarry kept to the cover of the thickets for several miles, impeding
the chase until the last covert in the chain was reached, where a fight occurred
with the lead hound. Don Pierre was the first to reach the scene, and caught
several glimpses of a monster puma as he slunk away through the Brazil brush,
leaving one of the Don's favorite hounds lacerated to the bone. But the pack
passed on, and, lifting the wounded dog to a vaquero's saddle, we followed,
lustily shouting to the hounds.
 
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