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

Fred and Terry after cattle thieves.

Terry, being a good judge of musical instruments, went to a music store in Crabtree, ran his fingers over the keys of half a dozen different pianos, and quickly made his selection. Then he purchased a splendid violin, paying seventy-five dollars for it, which was the most costly violin that was ever sold in Crabtree, for he was very fond of good violin music. Then he bought a guitar, a banjo and a splendid flute. The dealer promised to send them all down to the ranch the next day.

“I’ll take the violin and the flute myself,” said Terry.

“Mr. Olcott,” said the dealer, “we have a large selection of vocal and instrumental music. Would you like to look over it to make some selections?”

“Haven’t time,” he replied. “Sister may have a big quantity of her old music in her trunk, but if she didn’t bring any down with her she can come down here some day and look over your stock.”

“Here is a printed list of all the music now before the public.”

“All right, I’ll take that list to her,” and he folded it up and put it in his pocket.

Then he went to see the two young ladies whom Evelyn had told him to bring down with him if they would come.

He found them, and, to his surprise, found them ready to go on an hour’s notice. He told them that he would drive around for them with a carriage, as no passenger train ever stopped at the ranch unless it was flagged.

They told him that it didn’t make any difference so long as they didn’t have to walk.

They had never been on a ranch in their lives, although they were rather familiar with farm life around that locality. He went to the livery stable and hired the same team that had carried Evelyn out two days before.

Then he went to a well-known grocer and bought several cases of preserves and sweetmeats of various kinds to be sent down the next day, laid in a good stock of magazines, then drove around to the residence of the two young ladies, and when they were ready to go they started off for the ranch. Their trunks were to come down in a wagon.

The girls were delighted with everything they saw on the way.

When they reached the ranch Evelyn and Fred and Jack were at the store to greet them. While the two girls were hugging and kissing Evelyn, Fred and Terry threw their arms around each other and imitated them to the best of their ability; but, instead of kissing each other, they smacked their mouths over each other’s shoulders and uttered expressions of joy in imitation of them. The girls were greatly amused, and the storekeeper almost went into convulsions of merriment.

“Now, girls,” said’ Evelyn, “come over to the house with me and you’ll see how we are roughing it out here.” So she led the way from the store to the house which they called their home.

When they entered the two beautifully furnished rooms the girls uttered exclamations of surprise.

“Why, Evelyn,” one of them exclaimed, “there isn’t a prettier furnished house in all Crabtree. I can’t see for the life of me why you call it roughing.”

“Well, I call it roughing because we can do just as we please out here. There is nobody about to criticise us. I hope you brought some of your old clothes with you that won’t be hurt by roughing it!”

“Yes, we brought some old dresses with us.”

“All right, just as soon as your trunks come in put on your roughest suits and I’ll show you how much fun we can have out here.”

She then led them into the kitchen and dining-room.

One of the bedrooms had two beds in it, and all three of them would sleep in there, leaving Fred and Terry to have the other room.

A half hour later the girls’ trunks were brought into the house and they proceeded at once to don what they called their home dresses.

Then Evelyn led them out to the poultry yard, to the cow-sheds and the dairy-house, Then they went to the big lot in which lived the sows and pigs. After that they visited the big stables, where Evelyn pointed with great pride to two big grays which the boys had bought for her, and there she told them the story of the grays she had owned before, how she had trained them so that she could drive them without bridles anywhere and guide them entirely by her voice.

One of the girls said that she couldn’t train a Texas horse that way.

“Oh, any horse is susceptible to kindness, dear. I will soon have them so trained that they will follow me wherever I go and I’ll teach them how to obey every command I give them. It takes time and patience, though.”

“Evelyn, where is the big spring that we have heard so much about?”

“It is about a mile down that way,” and she pointed southward. “To-morrow we will ride down there, for we have a large surrey and two horses for domestic use.”

About sunset Evelyn insisted on their going out to the cowpen and see her milk. Up to that time they hadn’t taken any stock in her claim that she could milk cows and make butter, and they regarded her as simply a society girl who wouldn’t do any work at all; but the dairyman told them that she was the best milker he had ever seen.

It was a pretty big job, but she milked the half dozen Jersey cows, actually doing a man’s work. Neither of the girls had ever milked a cow in their lives, for their parents didn’t keep any cows at their city home.

That night they sat down to a game dinner of quail, jack-rabbits and prairie chickens.

Evelyn insisted on their standing by her in the kitchen and seeing her cook everything. They were satisfied that she had not been boasting, and such biscuit they had never tasted in their lives, notwithstanding the fact that their mother had a well-trained colored cook.

“Evelyn,” the elder of the sisters asked, “you seem to know all about housework, but tell me how you manage to keep your hands so soft and white if you have been doing this sort of work before.”

“Oh, I don’t do it regularly, only when I take a notion to do so at home; but I think it is every woman’s duty to learn such things, so that if she gets hold of an incompetent servant she can teach her.”

The two girls were actually ashamed of their ignorance of domestic life.

During the evening Fred produced his violin and flute.

“Oh, my, brother!” exclaimed Evelyn, “that is a beautiful violin. What did you buy such an expensive one for?”

“Why, you know me, sister,” he replied; “a harsh note grates on me worse than a crosscut saw going through a knotty log.”

Evelyn seized the bow, resined it herself, tuned the violin and began playing like an expert. Fred took up the flute and accompanied her, making the most delightful music.

There were some cowboys in the store smoking and talking, but when they heard the violin and flute they all rushed out and stood at the gate, about forty feet away from the door, and listened, and there they stood, quiet and silent, for upwards of an hour.

Then Terry took the flute and the girls saw that he could play equally as well as Fred. Evelyn soon took up the guitar and accompanied him on that instrument.

Then she handed the guitar to Fred and took the flute from Terry.

The girls soon saw that she was perfectly at home with any musical instrument, and that the boys were, too.

Evelyn had the girls up with the sun the next morning. They were not in the habit of starting the day so early, but she laughed at them and told them they didn’t know how to live.

She soon had them in the kitchen, where Jack had started a fire in the range, and began giving them culinary lessons.

It was great fun for her, and also for Fred and Terry.

Some two or three days later Fred left the ranch, going up by the passenger train, which was flagged for him to board it, and at Crabtree he took a train for points a hundred miles east, where he hired a team and driver to take him around among the ranches all through that section. He spent a week inspecting cattle, buying them and having them shipped down to the ranch.

Finally, in order to make up the order that he wanted, he had to drive back to the railroad and go further eastward; so he was gone about ten days. He paid for the cattle with checks on the bank at Crabtree, but in some instances the cattlemen rode down to Crabtree to see whether or not the checks were good before they would ship the cattle.

When Fred returned to the ranch he found the two girl visitors still with Evelyn, and learned from them that they were willing to stay out there just as long as Evelyn wished them to.

“You haven’t gotten tired of the ranch yet?” he asked.

“No, indeed. We never enjoyed ourselves better away from home in our lives. Mr. Olcott and Evelyn are undoubtedly the finest musicians we ever heard. That piano is a grand instrument, and every evening, when the weather is fine, the cowboys dance in the yard to their playing; and, Mr. Fearnot, I really believe that every horse and cow and pig and chicken on the ranch is in love with Evelyn Olcott, while she has such influence over the cowboys that I believe she could make them do murder at her command.”

Fred laughed and said:

“Yes, she has that same influence over me, too.”

The girls looked at Evelyn and laughed, and she remarked:

“Didn’t I tell you that every sort of animal is susceptible to kindness?”

“Why, do you mean to call Mr. Fearnot an animal?”

“Certainly. Every man and woman is just as much an animal as a horse or cow is.”

Both the girls opened their eyes wide and Evelyn and Fred and Terry laughed heartily at them.

“Why, didn’t you know that man is an animal?” Fred inquired.

“No, indeed. Never heard of such a thing before in my life,” and then both Fred and Terry fell to explaining the matter to them. The younger of the two sisters said they made her feel “cheap” by proving to her that she was a mere animal.

“Oh, be careful with your words. Neither of us have said that you were a mere animal,” said Terry. “Man belongs to the animal kingdom just as any four-footed beast does. Generally the things that will kill any brute will also kill a man. Both have flesh and blood, eat and drink; but man is, of course, the highest grade of the animal kingdom. They are divided into different tribes, just as animals are into different species. The Caucasian is the highest type, and the grades go down from this point until we reach the bushmen of Australia, who are said to be the lowest type of mankind.”

The girls were highly interested in his talk, and on the piazza and on the front steps cowboys were listening with the deepest interest.

They, too, had never thought of the subject; but Fred and Terry were very familiar with it, for they had both studied it very deeply.

A few days after Fred’s return from his trip, during which he had bought another thousand head of cattle, the cattle began arriving.

Then Fred and Terry and the cowboys were all very busy. The cars were run down to the stockpen, where they were unloaded and turned loose into their new home. Many of them were evidently very hungry, and had probably been kept penned up for several days before the cars which were to bring them down were sent up for them.

“By George, Terry,” said Fred, “that lot of cattle is almost starved. The ranchmen didn’t feed them while keeping them penned up waiting for the train.”

“Yes, and they ought to be made to pay for it, Fred.”

“Oh, what’s the use? They’ll soon pick up on this ranch, but really I think they ought to be punished for their heartlessness. Just because they were sold they wouldn’t give them any extra feed.”

The girls came down and saw the cattle leave the cars and run down the gangway that led into the stockpen, from which they passed hurriedly into the ranch.

Evelyn had seen cattle shipped and unloaded before, but her two visitors had not, so they stood and watched the process of unloading for several hours.

“Fred,” said Terry, after seeing several carloads of the cattle turned out, “I think that, on an average, they are a very fine lot of cattle.”

“Well, I tried to be careful, Terry, and I am glad I was, for there were quite a number who tried to pan off poor cattle on me. Their brand is already registered, just the same as ours. Of course, their calves we will have to put our registered brand on, and after a while we will have to add it to the brand of the original owners.”

The addition another thousand cattle to the ranch made a pretty good display.

Both Fred and Terry made a careful count of every beef that arrived. They both rather suspected that they would come up a little short, but to their very great gratification every carload panned out according to the bill.

They were all of the long-horned species, and some of them were very large. The train was run on a sidetrack, and as fast as the cars were emptied they were moved further down the sidetrack until every car had been emptied.

“Oh, my, Fred!” said Evelyn, “surely some of those cattle must have been hurt, crowded as they were in those cars, with such long horns.”

A careful inspection was made and not one was found to be seriously hurt. Fred had stipulated with the ranchmen whom he had bought front that only a given number should be placed in a car, and Superintendent Westervelt had warned the employees of the road not to exceed the limit.

That night Fred and Terry rode all around the enclosed part of the range on the lookout for wolves, and also to let the cowboys see that they were expected to do their work faithfully.

The new cattle grazed incessantly, but nothing occurred during the night to start an alarm among them. The majority of them, as dark set in, laid down to sleep or to chew their cud.

The two boys turned in at about two o’clock in the morning.

The next day one of the cowboys came in and reported that somebody down at the lower end of the ranch had cut out a complete panel of the barbed wire, thus leaving a wide gap for the cattle to go through.

Fred and Terry hurried down there on their horses with their Winchesters, accompanied by two of their most expert and faithful cowboys and made a thorough investigation.

They could see the tracks of three men, who had probably cut the wires; but they were unable to find the trail of any cattle passing through the gap. In fact, none of the cattle had done any grazing that far down.

They sent a cowboy back up to the ranch-house and had him bring down a coil of wire and the necessary tools to connect it with the wires that had been cut, and when that was done they detailed one-half of their force to watch the line of the fence at that end of the ranch during the following night.

They taught them a series of signals, which must be given and answered before firing at any one.

“Now, boys,” said Fred, “be careful. We don’t want any innocent man hurt, but if you find any one tampering with the fence give him a chance to cut just one wire to establish his guilt and then call a halt. If he doesn’t hold up open fire on him, and keep firing until he comes down. Both Olcott and I will be moving about the greater part of the night. We want all cattle thieves to understand that they can’t steal any of our cattle with impunity.”

That night, after singing and playing at the house with the girls, the boys mounted their horses and started for the lower end of the ranch.

When they reached there they dismounted, hitched their horses in the timber and started down the line on foot. They found the cowboys that they had stationed along the line in their respective places. They were very prompt in exchanging signals, and they spoke in whispers so that their voices might not be overheard.

By and by in the starlight they saw about a score of cattle going through the grass as though they were being driven by somebody.

Fred and Terry crouched down in the grass and watched them.

They both became fully satisfied that some one was driving them, and they ran along with the cattle in order to ascertain where they were going, and why. They were very near the corner of the fence, for, as the reader doubtless remembers, they had enclosed only twenty of the forty thousand acres, as they thought that was about as much as they would have need for inside of the next two years.

Suddenly Terry tapped Fred on the shoulder and whispered:

“Down, Fred,” and Fred dropped down on his knees.

Terry motioned with his hand and pointed out on his right where they could both see the figures of two men moving cautiously and closely behind the cattle, and they both wondered if another panel of the wire had not been cut just ahead of them.

Suddenly one of the cattle turned in their direction, and one of the men ran around to head him off. He ran almost over Fred, who sprang up and dealt him a blow on the side of his head that caused him to sink down unconscious.