IN THE AMERICAN DESERT 125
natural slowness allowed, towards the shelter of the cliffs, taking care to keep itself hidden as it went in the long grass. But the peccary, coming galloping along with her nose on the ground, almost tumbled over it before she was aware, and both parties drew back and prepared for battle. For a minute or two they eyed each other; the peccary drew back and then came on with a sudden rush, ending with a spring high into the air, which brought her straight on the moccason's back. It was a most curious form of attack, for no sooner had the peccary alighted on the back of the snake, with all its four paws pressed closely together, than it bounded off again. This was repeated two or three times, and then she sprang right on the head of the moccason, breaking its neck on the ground by the pressure of its claws. Once more the thicket sounded with the cry of victory, and the peccary, calling to her young ones, who had taken no part in the battle, ran up to the snake, which she skinned very neatly with her tusks and teeth, before eating the flesh for supper.
But she had not very long to enjoy herself with her family, before she was disturbed. Through the weeds and jungle which grew up to a short distance of the bare spot where the combat between the peccary and the moccason had taken place, came stealing softly a beast with a long thin red body, and a head like a cat. It was the fierce and tree-climbing cougar.
The peccary went on with her supper, quite unconscious that she was being watched by her deadliest enemy, who was calculating his chances of making a successful spring upon her back, for he knew too well what a peccary's tusks were like to wish for an encounter with them. Apparently he decided that the leap was too great for his powers, so he turned stealthily back and ran up a tree which cast its shade over the group of peccaries. Then, gathering himself together, he uttered a battle cry, and leapt straight on her neck.