Read CHAPTER III of Fred Fearnot's New Ranch and How He and Terry Managed It , free online book, by Hal Standish, on ReadCentral.com.

How Fred, Terry and Evelyn returned to Texas.

The other passenger also handed his roll of bills to Miss Elon, and, looking at Terry, said:

“Now, go ahead.”

“Wait a few moments,” said Terry, “until one flies over the deck, so that he will drop down in order that the ladies may examine his wings.”

“All right; take your time,” and, while he was standing around waiting he asked the young lady who was holding the money who the young man was.

“Why, he is Mr. Olcott. Haven’t you heard of him?”

“No, I never did. At least not that I can remember.”

The young lady seemed to be quite surprised, and asked him if he had ever heard of Fred Fearnot.

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard of him in the public press many a time.”

“Well, Mr. Olcott is Mr. Fearnot’s partner, and they are both said to be the best shots in the United States.”

The fellow looked straight at Terry as if trying to size him up. He hadn’t really ever heard of Olcott to his recollection but shooting a gull on the wing with a revolver was such an extraordinary feat that he was willing to take the chances. He had seen him bring down one gull and like the majority of men who take chances, decided that it was impossible for it to be done very often.

By and by he looked up and saw a gull sailing over the deck and sung out:

“There’s a good shot. Try him.”

Terry raised his gun and fired so quickly that none of the spectators thought that he had even taken aim. The bullet struck the gull squarely in the breast, and, of course, the bird came tumbling down right into the group of passengers.

Exclamations of surprise burst from nearly every man on the deck.

The loser didn’t seem to care anything about his loss, so Fred end Terry sized him as a professional gambler.

“Would you like to try another shot?” Terry asked.

“Well, no; not at that price.”

“Well, I’ll give you odds of two to one.”

“No, I’ve got enough,” was the reply, and Terry laughed rather sarcastically.

“I’ll give you odds of a hundred to one,” Terry said.

“Great Scott!” exclaimed another passenger. “Will you give me such odds, mister?”

“Yes if this gentleman refuses.”

“All right, I refuse,” said the gentleman who had lost.

“Then I’ll take it and put up a hundred dollars,” said the second man.

“Well, that calls for ten thousand from me,” replied Terry, and again he waited for a good shot.

Finally another gull came flying over, about twice as high as the first two.

Terry was going to wait for another chance, when the bettor angrily exclaimed that he must want a bird to alight on the muzzle of his revolver.

“Why, surely you don’t expect to have me shoot at a bird that is really out of range, do you?”

“No, but that wasn’t out of range.”

“My friend, you don’t know anything about distance on either land or water. That gull is at least a hundred yards above us,” and nearly every man on the deck agreed with Terry, but the bettor became rather sarcastic and asked if he expected the bird to knock his hat off with one of its wings.

“Here comes another one,” sung out somebody, and, looking up, they saw another gull about the same height from the deck. The bettor remarked:

“Oh, he’s too high.”

Everybody recognized the sneer in his tone. Terry, however, raised his revolver and fired, and the gull came fluttering, down with one of its wings actually cut off.

The bettor’s friends at once began sympathizing with him, but he looked at Terry and asked if he considered that a good shot.

“Yes, I consider that pretty good,” said Terry. “I brought him down, and the bet was that I couldn’t hit him. I consider it a good shot because he was up so high that he could scarcely have been brought down even with a shotgun.”

Neither side had put up any money in that last bet, but the gambler insisted that it wasn’t a fair shot, and that he thought Terry ought to make another trial.

“No, sir,” said Terry, “not for ten thousand dollars. I never play with a man of your stripe.”

“Oh, you don’t like my stripe, eh?”

“No, I don’t. All marksmen will agree that I brought the bird down fairly. I didn’t agree to shoot his head off as I did the first one, but simply to bring him down. Now, if you will take the vote of the passengers and they don’t agree with me ten to one it is no bet.”

The gambler tried to argue about it rather than take the vote, but Terry walked away and refused to talk with him. He was a big six-footer, weighing pretty nearly two hundred pounds.

When Terry turned his back on him and refused to talk with him he placed his hand on Terry’s shoulder and turned him square around so as to face him telling him that if he meant to insult him he would throw him overboard.

Quick as a flash Terry said:

“To be frank with you, sir, I do mean to insult you. I denounce you as a dishonorable man, who won’t play fair if it costs you a few hundred dollars.”

With that the man aimed a blow at Terry’s face with his big fist, but Terry easily parried it and gave him three or four blows in rapid succession on his chest in return, causing him to stagger back against another man, who kindly held him up.

“That’s right,” said Terry. “Hold him up,” and in the next few seconds Terry put in three or four more blows on his solar plexus, and down he sank on the deck scarcely able to breathe.

Some friends of the man took him up and carried him into the main saloon, where others assisted him to his cabin. The captain heard of the trouble and came out on the deck to make inquiries as to whom was to blame.

He soon got the straight story of it, and at once went to the fellow’s cabin and told him that if he made any more trouble on board his ship he would have him put in irons until they reached the end of the voyage.

Quite a number of gentlemen then asked Fearnot if his friend was a professional fighter.

“No,” Fred replied. “He is a Wall Street broker, and is also my partner in a ranch down in Texas.”

Both the Elon girls expressed their amazement at his fighting qualities.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Evelyn. “He hasn’t been whipped since he was fifteen years old. I knew that that big fellow would be severely punished if he struck brother. Now, if he had struck Mr. Fearnot, he would have fared even worse; for Fred is probably one of the strongest men of his size in the United States, so far as physical abilities are concerned.”

Of course, there was no more shooting that day. The ship’s surgeon said that the man who had tackled Olcott would not be able to appear on deck that day.

That evening, as Evelyn and the elder Elon girl were standing out on the forward deck, gazing at the stars, Terry came up and joined them.

“Mr. Olcott,” said the New Orleans beauty, “you are just the kind of a man that I have been looking for for three or four years. Please tell me how I can induce you to come courting.”

“Too late,” laughed Terry, “I’m already mortgaged.”

“Oh, my! Just my luck.”

“Don’t despair,” laughed Terry. “You have perhaps heard the old saying that there are just as many fish in the sea as were ever caught.”

“Oh, yes. There are plenty of good men; but no more like you. I don’t believe in fighting, but when I marry I want my husband to be able to whip any other man.”

“All right,” he laughed, “if you want me to lick a man for your husband just to please you I will do it if you will send for me.”

“Oh, that wouldn’t do. If my husband had to have another man to do his fighting for him, I would soon get so disgusted that I would sue for a divorce.”

“Well, that shows that every man ought to learn how to defend himself. If you ever fall in love with a fellow and he wants you to marry him, insist upon his taking boxing lessons. But let me tell you the majority of boxing men are generally rough fighters, who like to get into trouble just to show their skill as pugilists. Avoid all such.”

“Say, Olcott,” a passenger asked Terry, “are you going to let Connolly euchre you out of the hundred dollars you won?”

“Oh, if he wants to keep it in the face of the passengers on board who heard the bet, he is welcome to it as far as I am concerned. He is no gentleman, and as such I dismiss him from my thoughts altogether. I’ve been up against such men before. It’s a debt of honor, and can’t be collected by law, and dishonorable men never pay such debts.”

The big fellow remained in his cabin to the end of the voyage, not caring to come out where he would be likely to face Terry or some of his friends, who thought he was acting disgracefully. The fact is, he didn’t have the half of one hundred dollars with him.

During the remainder of the voyage Fred, Terry and Evelyn, with the two Elon sisters, had splendid concerts every evening in the main saloon, to the great enjoyment of the other passengers.

The captain said that he had never heard such music, even when he had had an opera troupe on board and the New Orleans ladies requested all three of them to visit them at their residence.

They thanked them for their invitation, of course, but, stated that they would not spend more than twenty-four hours in the city, as they were anxious to reach Texas; and that they would be very busy all the rest of the season looking after their ranch.

Some of the ladies did not believe it possible that such refined young men could be ranchmen, so when the ship entered the mouth of the river all the passengers crowded out on the deck to view the scenery as they passed up the great “Father of Waters.”

Fred and Terry had fished and hunted down in the country, and they explained to Evelyn all about the mode of life in the lagoon region.

Evelyn had fallen in love with the two Elon sisters, and their father became such an admirer of Fred and Terry that he insisted that they should not go to any hotel, but during the twenty-four hours that they spent in the city they should be his guests; so when the steamer landed at the wharf in New Orleans, he divided the party so that his wife and one of his daughters should drive home in the family carriage with Evelyn and Terry, while he and Fred and his other daughter should remain on board the steamer until the carriage returned for them.

When they reached his residence they found that it was one of the finest and most beautiful homes in the city, and that everything about it told of great wealth.

The next day Fred and Terry accompanied Mr. Elon downtown to visit certain friends, and the Creole gentleman soon learned that his guests had many other friends there, too.

But for the fact that they were in a hurry to reach Crabtree, they would have remained in the city as their guests for at least a week.

As it was, they spent another day there, and had a royal good time.

Then they took leave of their newfound friends, boarded the train for Texas, and were soon whirling westward. It was a long ride from the Crescent City to Crabtree, for that place was way down on the western side of the State, and it was late in the night when they reached there; in fact, long past midnight.

Fred had wired to the clerk of the hotel for him to reserve comfortable quarters for them, and when he arrived he found that the best rooms in the house had been assigned to them.

When they appeared in the breakfast room the next morning at quite a late hour for that meal, all the ladies stopping at the hotel were on the lookout for them. Those of them who knew Evelyn rushed into her arms.

“Great Scott, Fred!” said Terry. “Here we are with our arms ready to receive them, and not one will even put up a pucker at us.”

“Well, what show can we expect to get with such a rival as Evelyn?”

Many of the ladies had already had their breakfast, but they went in and sat with Evelyn, and their tongues rattled like those of so many magpies.

Of course, they all shook hands with Fred and Terry, and talked freely with them. They wanted to know when Miss Hamilton was going to come down.

“Oh, she’ll come down some time,” laughed Evelyn, “probably on her bridal tour.”

“Oh, she wouldn’t come down as you did, eh?”

“No, we begged hard for her to do so, but she wouldn’t. Brother will have to go up some time and bring her down. Then, too, we will have two brides down at the ranch, for young Mr. Cameron has a sweetheart up in New York, and she is waiting for him to build and furnish a big house, for her.”

“Well,” said one of the ladies, “work on that house is going on fast; but, look here, Miss Olcott, are you going to stay down there on that ranch, or are you going to stop here at the hotel?”

“Oh, she’ll do both,” put in Fred. “She is very fond of the actual life of a ranch. She often came down to our ranch in Colorado with four or five other girls, and she delighted in nothing so much as dashing over the prairie on horseback, chasing coyotes and jack-rabbits, or else feeding the pigs, chickens, and the milch-cows, all of which we had in abundance around us there. We have some fine milch-cows on the ranch now, and I expect to see her out every morning with her sleeves rolled up and a big apron on, milking them and looking after the pigs and chickens. She pets every animal on the place.”

Whereupon Evelyn invited several of the ladies to come down and visit her on the ranch and help her feed the pigs and chickens and milk the cows.

“But I’ll have to ask you to wait until I see what sort of quarters brother and Mr. Fearnot have for me.”

“We have nothing but a plain ranch house, but there are plenty of them, for we haven’t put in the improvements we intend to. Men, you know, can rough it; but sister will have a neat room fixed up for her. We will get the best furniture that can be found in this place, carpets and everything necessary for a lady’s comfort.”

“No, brother,” said Evelyn, “I want to rough it, and you promised that I could do so.”

“Oh, yes; but I know you girls, and you get tired of roughing it very quickly.”

“Well, let me rough it until I do get tired, and when I feel that I have had enough I’ll let you know.”

“All right; that’s a bargain.”