“Am sending my daughter, Carolyn June, out to your ranch for a while. She needs a change. She has broke all the he-human hearts in Hartville—that is all of them old enough or young enough to be broke—and is what’s called a love-stimulator and won’t settle. She is twenty-two and it’s time she was calmed. Hoping six months on the Kiowa range will gentle her quite a lot, I am sympathetically your 1/2 brother, Simeon.
Ophelia Cobb, a lady widow, is coming with
her for a chaperon. Beware of both of them. They will
arrive at Eagle Butte the 21st.—S.”
“Gee, it’s a long one!” Chuck said admiringly.
“It’s one of these ‘Night Letters,’” Parker explained.
“I knowed it was bad news,” Skinny exclaimed, “—poor old Heck!”
“Better say, ‘Poor we all!’” Bert declared. “Farewell peace and joy on the Quarter Circle KT!”
“The Lord have mercy on Old Heck!” Charley cried with dramatic fervor.
“Holy smoke,” Parker murmured desperately, “two of them on the twenty-first—and that’s to-morrow!”
A BLUFF CALLED
The Quarter Circle KT was a womanless ranch. Came now, like a bolt from the clear sky or the sudden clang of a fire-alarm bell, the threat of violation of this Eveless Eden by the intrusion of a pair of strange and unknown females. The arrival of the telegram telling of the coming of Carolyn June Dixon, Old Heck’s niece, and Ophelia Cobb, her chaperon, filled with varying emotions the hearts of Old Heck, Parker and the cowboys.
To Old Heck their presence meant nothing less than calamity. Long years of he-man association had made him dread the petty restraints he imagined would be imposed by intimate contact with womankind. Good lord, a man wouldn’t be able even to cuss freely, and without embarrassment, with a couple of women in the house and prowling around the ranch!
Skinny, Bert, Chuck, Pedro, Charley, the Ramblin’ Kid, even the Chink cook and Parker, quivered with excitement and curiosity behind thinly veiled pretense of fear and horror. Secretly they rejoiced. It was marvelous news borne by the telegram Skinny brought. Here would be diversion ample, unusual, wholly worth while and filled with possibilities of romance as luring as the first glimpse of a strange new land shadowed with mystery and promise of thrilling adventure.
Sing Pete paddled back to the unfinished business of the kitchen, chattering excitedly. The cowboys stood mutely and stared at Old Heck and the fatal slip of yellow paper.
“What’ll I do?” Old Heck asked the group despairingly. “They’ll ruin everything.”
“Can’t you head ’em off, somehow?” Parker suggested.
“Can’t be done. They’re already on their way and probably somewhere this side of Kansas City by now.”
“Find out which train they’re on and let the Ramblin’ Kid and me cut across to the Purgatory River bridge and wreck it,” Skinny Rawlins, always tragic, darkly advised.