Page:Yule Logs.djvu/426

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410
ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

to the hand of one of the richest heiresses in Texas, was simply absurd.

That, however, need not prevent his doing what he could to shield her from being molested or annoyed by this Don Pedro, who was, by all accounts, in every respect unworthy of her. There was no saying what such a fellow might do. Her fortune was evidently of the most importance to him, and heiresses had been carried off in Texas and Mexico as well as elsewhere. One day a month later he shot an unusually fine mountain lion in a ravine a mile from his hut, and having carefully skinned the animal, he had it prepared by the wife of one of the vaqueros, who was famous for her skill in such matters, and then took it over on his next visit to the hacienda as a present to Isabella. The girl was in the garden as he rode up, and was delighted with the skin.

"It is one of the finest that I have ever seen," she said, "and there is not a single scratch on it. Most of the skins are disfigured by the wounds the animals give each other in their fights."

"I fancy he must have been a young one," Harry said, "though so immensely large."

"I do not even see a bullet mark."

"No, it does not show. I came upon it suddenly, and had just time to drop my rifle in my hand and fire, as it was about to spring. The ball struck it just in the centre of its throat, so that when the skin was divided the cut passed through the bullet hole."

As they were speaking there was a step behind them, and turning, Harry Denham saw a remarkably handsome man who had just come out of the house unnoticed. He was regarding him with an evil look, but the expression vanished at once, as Isabella also turned, and he said courteously, "I have come, señora, on the part of my father, who is somewhat indisposed, or he would have accompanied me to pay my respects to Don Garcia and yourself."