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[Illustration: THE RED GLEAM FROM THE BLAZING LOGS FELL UPON HER
SHINING HAIR; IT GLISTENED LIKE GOLD. SHE WORE A SIMPLE EVENING GOWN OF
WHITE.]

GREEN FANCY

BY

GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON

AUTHOR OF "GRAUSTARK," "THE HOLLOW OF HER HAND," "THE PRINCE OF
GRAUSTARK," ETC.

WITH FRONTISPIECE BY C. ALLAN GILBERT

NEW YORK

1917




CONTENTS


I. THE FIRST WAYFARER AND THE SECOND WAYFARER MEET AND PART ON THE
HIGHWAY

II. THE FIRST WAYFARER LAYS HIS PACK ASIDE AND FALLS IN WITH
FRIENDS

III. MR. RUSHCROFT DISSOLVES, MR. JONES INTERVENES, AND TWO MEN RIDE
AWAY

IV. AN EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERMAID, A MIDNIGHT TRAGEDY, AND A MAN WHO
SAID "THANK YOU"

V. THE FARM-BOY TELLS A GHASTLY STORY, AND AN IRISHMAN ENTERS

VI. CHARITY BEGINS FAR FROM HOME, AND A STROLL IN THE WILDWOOD
FOLLOWS

VII. SPUN-GOLD HAIR, BLUE EYES, AND VARIOUS ENCOUNTERS

VIII. A NOTE, SOME FANCIES, AND AN EXPEDITION IN QUEST OF FACTS

IX. THE FIRST WAYFARER, THE SECOND WAYFARER, AND THE SPIRIT OF
CHIVALRY ASCENDANT

X. THE PRISONER OF GREEN FANCY, AND THE LAMENT OF PETER THE
CHAUFFEUR

XI. MR. SPROUSE ABANDONS LITERATURE AT AN EARLY HOUR IN THE MORNING

XII. THE FIRST WAYFARER ACCEPTS AN INVITATION, AND MR. DILLINGFORD
BELABORS A PROXY

XIII. THE SECOND WAYFARER RECEIVES TWO VISITORS AT MIDNIGHT

XIV. A FLIGHT, A STONE-CUTTER'S SHED, AND A VOICE OUTSIDE

XV. LARGE BODIES MOVE SLOWLY, - BUT MR. SPROUSE WAS SMALLER THAN THE
AVERAGE

XVI. THE FIRST WAYFARER VISITS A SHRINE, CONFESSES, AND TAKES AN
OATH

XVII. THE SECOND WAYFARER IS TRANSFORMED, AND MARRIAGE IS FLOUTED

XVIII. MR. SPROUSE CONTINUES TO BE PERPLEXING, BUT PUTS HIS NOSE TO
THE GROUND

XIX. A TRIP BY NIGHT, A SUPPER, AND A LATE ARRIVAL

XX. THE FIRST WAYFARER HAS ONE TREASURE THRUST UPON HIM, - AND
FORTHWITH CLAIMS ANOTHER

XXI. THE END IN SIGHT




CHAPTER I

THE FIRST WAYFARER AND THE SECOND WAYFARER MEET AND PART ON THE HIGHWAY


A solitary figure trudged along the narrow road that wound its
serpentinous way through the dismal, forbidding depths of the forest: a
man who, though weary and footsore, lagged not in his swift, resolute
advance. Night was coming on, and with it the no uncertain prospects of
storm. Through the foliage that overhung the wretched road, his
ever-lifting and apprehensive eye caught sight of the thunder-black,
low-lying clouds that swept over the mountain and bore down upon the
green, whistling tops of the trees. At a cross-road below he had
encountered a small girl driving homeward the cows. She was afraid of
the big, strange man with the bundle on his back and the stout walking
stick in his hand: to her a remarkable creature who wore "knee pants"
and stockings like a boy on Sunday, and hob-nail shoes, and a funny
coat with "pleats" and a belt, and a green hat with a feather sticking
up from the band. His agreeable voice and his amiable smile had no
charm for her. He merely wanted to know how far it was to the nearest
village, but she stared in alarm and edged away as if preparing to
break into mad flight the instant she was safely past him with a clear
way ahead.

"Don't be afraid," he said gently. "And here! Catch it if you can." He
tossed a coin across the road. It struck at her feet and rolled into
the high grass. She did not divert her gaze for the fraction of a
second. "I'm a stranger up here and I want to find some place to sleep
for the night. Surely you have a tongue, haven't you?" By dint of
persuasive smiles and smirks that would have sickened him at any other
time he finally induced her to say that if he kept right on until he
came to the turnpike he would find a sign-post telling him where to get
gasolene.

"But I don't want gasolene. I want bread and butter," he said.

"Well, you can git bread an' butter there too," she said. "Food fer man
an' beast, it says."

"A hotel?"

"Whut?"

"A boarding-house?" he substituted.

"It's a shindy," she said, painfully. "Men get drunk there. Pap calls
it a tavern, but Ma says it's a shindy."

"A road-house, eh?" She was puzzled - and silent. "Thank you. You'll
find the quarter in the grass. Good-bye."

He lifted his queer green hat and strode away, too much of a gentleman
to embarrass her by looking back. If he had done so he would have seen
her grubbing stealthily in the grass, not with her brown little hands,
but with the wriggling toes of a bare foot on which the mud, perhaps of
yesterday, had caked. She was too proud to stoop.

At last he came to the "pike" and there, sure enough, was the
sign-post. A huge, crudely painted hand pointed to the left, and on
what was intended to be the sleeve of a very stiff and unflinching arm
these words were printed in scaly white: "Hart's Tavern. Food for Man
and Beast. Also Gasolene. Established 1798. 1 mile." "Also Gasolene"
was freshly painted and crowded its elders in a most disrespectful
manner.

The chill spring wind of the gale was sweeping in the direction
indicated by the giant forefinger. There was little consolation in the
thought that a mile lay between him and shelter, but it was a relief to
know that he would have the wind at his back. Darkness was settling
over the land. The lofty hills seemed to be closing in as if to smother
the breath out of this insolent adventurer who walked alone among them.
He was an outsider. He did not belong there. He came from the lowlands
and he was an object of scorn.

On the opposite side of the "pike," in the angle formed by a junction
with the narrow mountain road, stood a humbler sign-post, lettered so
indistinctly that it deserved the compassion of all observers because
of its humility. Swerving in his hurried passage, the tall stranger
drew near this shrinking friend to the uncertain traveller, and was
suddenly aware of another presence in the roadway.

A woman appeared, as if from nowhere, almost at his side. He drew back
to let her pass. She stopped before the little sign-post, and together
they made out the faint directions.

To the right and up the mountain road Frogg's Corner lay four miles and
a half away; Pitcairn was six miles back over the road which the man
had travelled. Two miles and a half down the turnpike was Spanish
Falls, a railway station, and four miles above the cross-roads where
the man and woman stood peering through the darkness at the laconic
sign-post reposed the village of Saint Elizabeth. Hart's Tavern was on
the road to Saint Elizabeth, and the man, with barely a glance at his
fellow-traveller, started briskly off in that direction.

Lightning was flashing fitfully beyond the barrier heights and faraway
thunder came to his ears. He knew that these wild mountain storms moved
swiftly; his chance of reaching the tavern ahead of the deluge was
exceedingly slim. His long, powerful legs had carried him twenty or
thirty paces before he came to a sudden halt.

What of this lone woman who traversed the highway? Obviously she too
was a stranger on the road, and a glance over his shoulder supported a
first impression: she was carrying a stout travelling bag. His first
glimpse of her had been extremely casual, - indeed he had paid no
attention to her at all, so eager was he to read the directions and be
on his way.

She was standing quite still in front of the sign-post, peering up the
road toward Frogg's Corner, - confronted by a steep climb that led into
black and sinister timberlands above the narrow strip of pasture
bordering the pike.

The fierce wind pinned her skirts to her slender body as she leaned
against the gale, gripping her hat tightly with one hand and straining
under the weight of the bag in the other. The ends of a veil whipped
furiously about her head, and, even in the gathering darkness, he could
see a strand or two of hair keeping them company.

He hesitated. Evidently her way was up the steep, winding road and into
the dark forest, a far from appealing prospect. Not a sign of
habitation was visible along the black ridge of the wood; no lighted
window peeped down from the shadows, no smoke curled up from unseen
kitchen stoves. Gallantry ordered him to proffer his aid or, at the
least, advice to the woman, be she young or old, native or stranger.

Retracing his steps, he called out to her above the gale:

"Can I be of any assistance to you?"

She turned quickly. He saw that the veil was drawn tightly over her
face.

"No, thank you," she replied. Her voice, despite a certain nervous
note, was soft and clear and gentle, - the voice and speech of a
well-bred person who was young and resolute.

"Pardon me, but have you much farther to go? The storm will soon be
upon us, and - surely you will not consider me presumptuous - I don't
like the idea of your being caught out in - "

"What is to be done about it?" she inquired, resignedly. "I must go on.
I can't wait here, you know, to be washed back to the place I started
from."

He smiled. She had wit as well as determination. There was the
suggestion of mirth in her voice - and certainly it was a most pleasing,
agreeable voice.

"If I can be of the least assistance to you, pray don't hesitate to
command me. I am a sort of tramp, you might say, and I travel as well
by night as I do by day, - so don't feel that you are putting me to any
inconvenience. Are you by any chance bound for Hart's Tavern? If so, I
will be glad to lag behind and carry your bag."

"You are very good, but I am not bound for Hart's Tavern, wherever that
may be. Thank you, just the same. You appear to be an uncommonly
genteel tramp, and it isn't because I am afraid you might make off with
my belongings." She added the last by way of apology.

He smiled - and then frowned as he cast an uneasy look at the black
clouds now rolling ominously up over the mountain ridge.

"By Jove, we're going to catch it good and hard," he exclaimed. "Better
take my advice. These storms are terrible. I know, for I've encountered
half a dozen of them in the past week. They fairly tear one to pieces."

"Are you trying to frighten me?"

"Yes," he confessed. "Better to frighten you in advance than to let it
come later on when you haven't any one to turn to in your terror. You
are a stranger in these parts?"

"Yes. The railway station is a few miles below here. I have walked all
the way. There was no one to meet me. You are a stranger also, so it is
useless to inquire if you know whether this road leads to Green Fancy."

"Green Fancy? Sounds attractive. I'm sorry I can't enlighten you." He
drew a small electric torch from his pocket and directed its slender
ray upon the sign-post. So fierce was the gale by this time that he was
compelled to brace his strong body against the wind.

"It is on the road to Frogg's Corner," she explained nervously. "A mile
and a half, so I am told. It isn't on the sign-post. It is a house, not
a village. Thank you for your kindness. And I am not at all
frightened," she added, raising her voice slightly.

"But you ARE" he cried. "You're scared half out of your wits. You can't
fool me. I'd be scared myself at the thought of venturing into those
woods up yonder."

"Well, then, I AM frightened," she confessed plaintively. "Almost out
of my boots."

"That settles it," he said flatly. "You shall not undertake it."

"Oh, but I must. I am expected. It is import - "

"If you are expected, why didn't some one meet you at the station?
Seems to me - "

"Hark! Do you hear - doesn't that sound like an automobile - Ah!" The
hoarse honk of an automobile horn rose above the howling wind, and an
instant later two faint lights came rushing toward them around a bend
in the mountain road. "Better late than never," she cried, her voice
vibrant once more.

He grasped her arm and jerked her out of the path of the on-coming
machine, whose driver was sending it along at a mad rate, regardless of
ruts and stones and curves. The car careened as it swung into the pike,
skidded alarmingly, and then the brakes were jammed down. Attended by a
vast grinding of gears and wheels, the rattling old car came to a stop
fifty feet or more beyond them.

"I'd sooner walk than take my chances in an antediluvian rattle-trap
like that," said the tall wayfarer, bending quite close to her ear. "It
will fall to pieces before you - "

But she was running down the road towards the car, calling out sharply
to the driver. He stooped over and took up the travelling bag she had
dropped in her haste and excitement. It was heavy, amazingly heavy.

"I shouldn't like to carry that a mile and a half," he said to himself.

The voice of the belated driver came to his ears on the swift wind. It
was high pitched and unmistakably apologetic. He could not hear what
she was saying to him, but there wasn't much doubt as to the nature of
her remarks. She was roundly upbraiding him.

Urged to action by thoughts of his own plight, he hurried to her side
and said:

"Excuse me, please. You dropped something. Shall I put it up in front
or in the tonneau?"

The whimsical note in his voice brought a quick, responsive laugh from
her lips.

"Thank you so much. I am frightfully careless with my valuables. Would
you mind putting it in behind? Thanks!" Her tone altered completely as
she ordered the man to turn the car around - "And be quick about it,"
she added.

The first drops of rain pelted down from the now thoroughly black dome
above them, striking in the road with the sharpness of pebbles.

"Lucky it's a limousine," said the tall traveller. "Better hop in.
We'll be getting it hard in a second or two."

"I can't very well hop in while he's backing and twisting like that,
can I?" she laughed. He was acutely aware of a strained, nervous note
in her voice, as of one who is confronted by an undertaking calling for
considerable fortitude.

"Are you quite sure of this man?" he asked.

"Absolutely," she replied, after a pause.

"You know him, eh?"

"By reputation," she said briefly, and without a trace of laughter.

"Well, that comforts me to some extent," he said, but dubiously.

She was silent for a moment and then turned to him impulsively.

"You must let me take you on to the Tavern in the car," she said. "Turn
about is fair play. I cannot allow you to - "

"Never mind about me," he broke in cheerily. He had been wondering if
she would make the offer, and he felt better now that she had done so.
"I'm accustomed to roughing it. I don't mind a soaking. I've had
hundreds of 'em."

"Just the same, you shall not have one to-night," she announced firmly.
The car stopped beside them. "Get in behind. I shall sit with the
driver."

If any one had told him that this rattling, dilapidated
automobile, - ten years old, at the very least, he would have
sworn, - was capable of covering the mile in less than two minutes, he
would have laughed in his face. Almost before he realised that they
were on the way up the straight, dark road, the lights in the windows
of Hart's Tavern came into view. Once more the bounding, swaying car
came to a stop under brakes, and he was relaxing after the strain of
the most hair-raising ride he had ever experienced.

Not a word had been spoken during the trip. The front windows were
lowered. The driver, - an old, hatchet-faced man, - had uttered a single
word just before throwing in the clutch at the cross-roads in response
to the young woman's crisp command to drive to Hart's Tavern. That word
was uttered under his breath and it is not necessary to repeat it here.

He lost no time in climbing out of the car. As he leaped to the ground
and raised his green hat, he took a second look at the automobile, - a
look of mingled wonder and respect. It was an old-fashioned,
high-powered Panhard, capable, despite its antiquity, of astonishing
speed in any sort of going.

"For heaven's sake," he began, shouting to her above the roar of the
wind and rain, "don't let him drive like that over those - "

"You're getting wet," she cried out, a thrill in her voice. "Good
night, - and thank you!"

"Look out!" rasped the unpleasant driver, and in went the clutch. The
man in the road jumped hastily to one side as the car shot backward
with a jerk, curved sharply, stopped for the fraction of a second, and
then bounded forward again, headed for the cross-roads.

"Thanks!" shouted the late passenger after the receding tail light, and
dashed up the steps to the porch that ran the full length of Hart's
Tavern. In the shelter of its low-lying roof, he stopped short and once
more peered down the dark, rain-swept road. A flash of lightning
revealed the flying automobile. He waited for a second flash. It came
an instant later, but the car was no longer visible. He shook his head.
"I hope the blamed old fool knows what he's doing, hitting it up like
that over a wet road. There'll be a double funeral in this neck of the
woods if anything goes wrong," he reflected. Still shaking his head, he
faced the closed door of the Tavern.

A huge, old-fashioned lantern hung above the portal, creaking and
straining in the wind, dragging at its stout supports and threatening
every instant to break loose and go frolicking away with the storm.

The sound of the rain on the clap-board roof was deafening. At the
lower end of the porch the water swished in with all the velocity of a
gigantic wave breaking over a ship at sea. The wind howled, the thunder
roared and almost like cannon-fire were the successive crashes of
lightning among the trees out there in the path of fury.

There were lights in several of the windows opening upon the porch; the
wooden shutters not only were ajar but were banging savagely against
the walls. Even in the dim, grim light shed by the lantern he could see
that the building was of an age far beyond the ken of any living man.
He recalled the words of the informing sign-post: "Established in
1798." One hundred and eighteen years old, and still baffling the
assaults of all the elements in a region where they were never timid!

It may, in all truth, be a "shindy," thought he, but it had led a
gallant life.

The broad, thick weather-boarding, overlapping in layers, was brown
with age and smooth with the polishing of time and the backs, no doubt,
of countless loiterers who had come and gone in the making of the
narrative that Hart's Tavern could relate. The porch itself, while old,
was comparatively modern; it did not belong to the century in which the
inn itself was built, for in those far-off days men did not waste time,
timber or thought on the unnecessary. While the planks in the floor
were worn and the uprights battered and whittled out of their pristine
shapeliness, they were but grandchildren to the parent building to
which they clung. Stout and, beyond question, venerable benches stood
close to the wall on both sides of the entrance. Directly over the
broad, low door with its big wooden latch and bar, was the word
"Welcome," rudely carved in the oak beam. It required no cultured eye
to see that the letters had been cut, deep and strong, into the timber,
not with the tool of the skilled wood carver but with the hunting knife
of an ambitious pioneer.

A shocking incongruity marred the whole effect. Suspended at the side
of this hundred-year-old doorway was a black and gold, shield-shaped
ornament of no inconsiderable dimensions informing the observer that a
certain brand of lager beer was to be had inside.

He lifted the latch and, being a tall man, involuntarily stooped as he
passed through the door, a needless precaution, for gaunt, gigantic
mountaineers had entered there before him and without bending their
arrogant heads.




CHAPTER II

THE FIRST WAYFARER LAYS HIS PACK ASIDE AND FALLS IN WITH FRIENDS


The little hall in which he found himself was the "office" through
which all men must pass who come as guests to Hart's Tavern. A steep,
angular staircase took up one end of the room. Set in beneath its upper
turn was the counter over which the business of the house was
transacted, and behind this a man was engaged in the peaceful
occupation of smoking a corn-cob pipe. He removed the pipe, brushed his
long moustache with the back of a bony hand, and bowed slowly and with
grave ceremony to the arrival.

An open door to the right of the stairway gave entrance to a room from
which came the sound of a deep, sonorous voice, employed in what turned
out to be a conversational solo. To the left another door led to what
was evidently the dining-room. The glance that the stranger sent in
that direction revealed two or three tables, covered with white cloths.

"Can you put me up for the night?" he inquired, advancing to the
counter.

"You look like a feller who'd want a room with bath," drawled the man
behind the counter, surveying the applicant from head to foot. "Which
we ain't got," he added.

"I'll be satisfied to have a room with a bed," said the other.

"Sign here," was the laconic response. He went to the trouble of
actually putting his finger on the line where the guest was expected to
write his name.

"Can I have supper?"

"Food for man and beast," said the other patiently. He slapped his palm
upon a cracked call-bell, and then looked at the fresh name on the
page. "Thomas K. Barnes, New York," he read aloud. He eyed the newcomer
once more. "And automobile?"

"No. I'm walking."

"Didn't I hear you just come up in a car?"

"A fellow gave me a lift from the cross-roads."

"I see. My name is Jones, Putnam Jones. I run this place. My father an'
grandfather run it before me. Glad to meet you, Mr. Barnes. We used to
have a hostler here named Barnes. What's your idea fer footin' it this
time o' the year?"

"I do something like this every spring. A month or six weeks of it puts
me in fine shape for a vacation later on," supplied Mr. Barnes
whimsically.

Mr. Jones allowed a grin to steal over his seamed face. He re-inserted
the corn-cob pipe and took a couple of pulls at it.

"I never been to New York, but it must be a heavenly place for a
vacation, if a feller c'n judge by what some of my present boarders
have to say about it. It's a sort of play-actor's paradise, ain't it?"

"It is paradise to every actor who happens to be on the road, Mr.
Jones," said Barnes, slipping his big pack from his shoulders and
letting it slide to the floor.

"Hear that feller in the tap-room talkin'? Well, he is one of the
leading actors in New York, - in the world, for that matter. He's been
talkin' about Broadway for nearly a week now, steady."

"May I enquire what he is doing up here in the wilds?"

"At present he ain't doing anything except talk. Last week he was
treadin' the boards, as he puts it himself. Busted. Up the flue. Showed
last Saturday night in Hornville, eighteen mile north of here, and
immediately after the performance him and his whole troupe started to
walk back to New York, a good four hunderd mile. They started out the
back way of the opery house and nobody missed 'em till next mornin'
except the sheriff, and he didn't miss 'em till they'd got over the
county line into our bailiwick. Four of 'em are still stoppin' here
just because I ain't got the heart to turn 'em out ner the spare money
to buy 'em tickets to New York. Here comes one of 'em now. Mr.
Dillingford, will you show this gentleman to room eleven, and carry his
baggage up fer him? And maybe he'll want a pitcher of warm water to
wash and shave in." He turned to the new guest and smiled
apologetically.

"We're a little short o' help just now, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Dillingford
has kindly consented to - "

"My God!" gasped Mr. Dillingford, staring at the register. "Some one
from little old New York? My word, sir, you - Won't you have
a - er - little something to drink with me before you - "

"He wants something to eat," interrupted Mr. Jones sharply. "Tell Mr.
Bacon to step up to his room and take the order."

"All right, old chap, - nothing easier," said Mr. Dillingford genially.
"Just climb up the elevator, Mr. Barnes. We do this to get up an
appetite. When did you leave New York?"

Taking up a lighted kerosene lamp and the heavy pack, Mr. Clarence
Dillingford led the way up the stairs. He was a chubby individual of
indefinite age. At a glance you would have said he was under
twenty-one; a second look would have convinced you that he was nearer
forty-one. He was quite shabby, but chin and cheek were as clean as
that of a freshly scrubbed boy. He may not have changed his collar for


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