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was sent over here for the sole purpose of finding her and inducing her
to return with him to Paris."

"And to take the treasure with her, I suppose," said Barnes drily.


"Well," began Barnes, introducing a harsh note into his voice, "I
should say that if she is guilty of receiving this stolen property she
ought to be punished. Jail is the place for her, Mr. Sprouse."

Sprouse put down his coffee cup rather suddenly. A queer pallor came
into his face. His voice was low and a trifle husky when he made reply.

"I am sorry to hear you say that, sir."

"Why, may I ask?"

"Because it puts an obstacle in the way of our working together in this

"You mean that my attitude toward her is - er - not in keeping with your

"You do not understand the situation. Haven't I made it plain to you
that she is innocent of any intent to do wrong?"

"You have said so, Mr. Sprouse, but your idea of wrong and mine may not

"There cannot be two ways of looking at it, sir," said Sprouse, after a
moment. "She could do no wrong."

Whereupon Barnes reached his hand across the table and laid it on
Sprouse's. His eyes were dancing.

"That's just what I want to be sure about," he said. "It was my way of
finding out your intentions concerning her."

"What do you mean?" demanded Sprouse, staring.

"Come with me to my room," said Barnes, suppressing his excitement. "I
think I can tell you where she is, - and a great deal more that you
ought to know."

In the little room upstairs, he told the whole story to Sprouse. The
little man listened without so much as a single word of interruption or
interrogation. His sharp eyes began to glisten as the story progressed,
but in no other way did he reveal the slightest sign of emotion.
Somewhat breathlessly Barnes came to the end.

"And now, Mr. Sprouse, what do you make of it all?" he inquired.

Sprouse leaned back in his chair, suddenly relaxing. "I am completely
at sea," he said, and Barnes looked at him in surprise.

"By Jove, I thought it would all be as clear as day to you. Here is
your man and also your woman, and the travelling bag full of - "

"Right you are," interrupted Sprouse. "That is all simple enough. But,
my dear Barnes, can you tell me what Mr. Secretary Loeb's real game is?
Why has he established himself so close to the Canadian line, and why
the mobilisation? I refer to his army of huskies."

"Heirs-apparent usually have some sort of a bodyguard, don't they?"

Sprouse was staring thoughtfully at the ceiling. He either did not hear
the remark or considered it unworthy of notice. When he finally lowered
his eyes, it was to favour Barnes with a deep, inscrutable smile.

"I dare say the first thing for me to do is to advise the Canadian
authorities to keep a sharp lookout along the border."



Barnes insisted that the first thing to be considered was the release
of Miss Cameron. He held forth at some length on the urgency of
immediate action.

"If we can't think of any other way to get her out of this devilish
predicament, Sprouse, I shall apply to Washington for help."

"And be laughed at, my friend," said the secret agent. "In the first
place, you couldn't give a substantial reason for government
investigation; in the second place the government wouldn't act until it
had looked very thoroughly into the case; in the third place, it would
be too late by the time the government felt satisfied to act, and in
the fourth place, it is not a matter for the government to meddle in at

"Well, something has to be done at once," said Barnes doggedly. "I gave
her my promise. She is depending on me. If you could have seen the
light that leaped into her glorious eyes when I - "

"Yes, I know. I've heard she is quite a pretty girl. You needn't - "

"Quite a pretty girl!" exclaimed Barnes. "Why, she is the loveliest
thing that God ever created. She has the face of - "

"I am beginning to understand O'Dowd's interest in her, Mr. Barnes.
Your enthusiasm conveys a great deal to me. Apparently you are not
alone in your ecstasies."

"You mean that he is - er - What the dickens do you mean?"

"He has probably fallen in love with her with as little difficulty as
you have experienced, Mr. Barnes, and almost as expeditiously. He has
seen a little more of her than you, but - "

"Don't talk nonsense. I'm not in love with her."

"Can you speak with equal authority for Mr. O'Dowd? He is a very
susceptible Irishman, I am told. Sweethearts in a great many
ports, - and still going strong, as we say of the illustrious Johnny
Walker. From all that I have heard of her amazing beauty, I can't blame
him for losing his heart to her. I only hope he loses his head as well."

"I don't believe he will get much encouragement from her, Mr. Sprouse,"
said Barnes stiffly.

"If she is as clever as I think she is, she will encourage him
tremendously. I would if I were in her place."

"Umph!" was Barnes's only retort to that.

"Is it possible that you have never had the pleasure of being
transformed into a perfect ass by the magic of a perfect woman, Mr.
Barnes? You've missed a great deal. It happened to me once, and came
near to upsetting the destinies of two great nations. Mr. O'Dowd is
only human. He isn't immune."

"I catch the point, Mr. Sprouse," said Barnes, rather gloomily. He did
not like to think of the methods that might have to be employed in the
subjugation of Mr. O'Dowd. "There is a rather important question I'd
like to ask. Is she even remotely eligible to her country's throne?"

"Remotely, yes," said Sprouse without hesitation.

Barnes waited, but nothing further was volunteered.

"So remotely that she could marry a chap like O'Dowd without giving
much thought to future complications?" he ventured.

"She'd be just as safe in marrying O'Dowd as she would be in marrying
you," was Sprouse's unsatisfactory response. The man's brow was
wrinkled in thought. "See here, Mr. Barnes, I am planning a visit to
Green Fancy to-night. How would you like to accompany me?"

"I'd like nothing better," said Barnes, with enthusiasm.

"Ever been shot at?"


"Well, you are likely to experience the novelty if you go with me.
Better think it over."

"Don't worry about me. I'll go."

"Will you agree to obey instructions? I can't have you muddling things
up, you know."

Barnes thought for a moment. "Of course, if the opportunity offers for
me to communicate with Miss Cameron, I don't see how I - "

Sprouse cut him off sharply. He made it quite plain to the would-be
cavalier that it was not a sentimental enterprise they were to
undertake, and that he would have to govern himself accordingly.

"The grounds are carefully guarded," said Barnes, after they had
discussed the project for some time. "Miss Cameron is constantly under
the watchful eye of one or more of the crowd."

"I know. I passed a couple of them last night," said Sprouse calmly.
"By the way, don't you think it would be very polite of you to invite
the Green Fancy party over here to have an old-fashioned country dinner
with you to-night?"

"Good Lord! What are you talking about? They wouldn't dream of
accepting. Besides, I thought you wanted me to go with you."

"You could offer them diversion in the shape of a theatrical
entertainment. Your friends, the Thespians, would be only too happy to
disport themselves in return for all your - "

"It would be useless, Mr. Sprouse. They will not come."

"I am perfectly aware of that, but it won't do any harm to ask them,
will it?"

Barnes chuckled. "I see. Establishing myself as an innocent bystander,

"Get O'Dowd on the telephone and ask him if they can come," said
Sprouse. "Incidentally, you might test his love for Miss Cameron while
you are about it."

"How?" demanded Barnes.

"By asking him to call her to the telephone. Would you be sure to
recognise her voice?"

"I'd know it in Babel," said the other with some fervour.

"Well, if she comes to the 'phone and speaks to you without restraint,
we may be reasonably certain of two things: that O'Dowd is friendly and
that he is able to fix it so that she can talk to you without being
overheard or suspected by the others. It's worth trying, in any event."

"But there is Jones to consider. The telephone is in his office. What
will he think - "

"Jones is all right," said Sprouse briefly. "Come along. You can call
up from my room." He grinned slyly. "Such a thing as tapping the wire,
you know."

Sprouse had installed a telephone in his room, carrying a wire upstairs
from an attachment made in the cellar of the Tavern. He closed the door
to his little room on the top floor.

"With the landlord's approval," he explained, pointing to the
instrument, "but unknown to the telephone company, you may be sure.
Call him up about half-past ten. O'Dowd may be up at this unholy hour,
but not she. Now, I must be off to discuss literature with Mrs. Jim
Conley. I've been working on her for two weeks. The hardest part of my
job is to keep her from subscribing for a set of Dickens. She has been
on the point of signing the contract at least a half dozen times, and
I've been fearfully hard put to head her off. Conley's house is not far
from Green Fancy. Savvy?"

Barnes, left to his own devices, wandered from tap-room to porch, from
porch to forge, from forge to tap-room, his brain far more active than
his legs, his heart as heavy as lead and as light as air by turns. More
than once he felt like resorting to a well-known expedient to determine
whether he was awake or dreaming. Could all this be real?

The sky was overcast. A cold, damp wind blew out of the north. There
was a feel of rain in the air, an ugly greyness in the road that
stretched its sharply defined course through the green fields that
stole timorously up to the barren forest and stopped short, as if
afraid to venture farther.

The ring of the hammer on the anvil lent cheer to the otherwise harsh
and unlovely mood that had fallen upon Nature over night. It sang a
song of defiance that even the mournful chant of sheep on the distant
slopes failed to subdue. The crowing of a belated and no doubt
mortified rooster, the barking of faraway dogs, the sighing of
journeying winds, the lugubrious whistle of Mr. Clarence
Dillingford, - all of these added something to the dreariness of the

Mr. Dillingford was engaged in lustily beating a rug suspended on a
clothes line in the area back of the stables. His tune was punctuated
by stifled lapses followed almost immediately by dull, flat whacks upon
the carpet. From the end of the porch he was visible to the abstracted

"Hi!" he shouted, brandishing his flail at the New Yorker. "Want a job?"

Barnes looked at his watch. He still had an hour and a half to wait
before he could call up O'Dowd. He strolled across the lot and joined
the perspiring comedian.

"You seem to have a personal grudge against that carpet," he said,
moving back a few yards as Dillingford laid on so manfully that the
dust arose in clouds.

"Every time I land I say: 'Take that, darn you!' And it pleases me to
imagine that with every crack Mr. Putnam Jones lets out a mighty
'Ouch!' Now listen! Didn't that sound a little like an ouch?" Mr.
Dillingford rubbed a spot clean on the handle of the flail and pressed
his lips to it. "Good dog!" he murmured tenderly. "Bite him! (Whack!)
Now, bite him again! (Whack!) Once more! (Whack!) Good dog! Now, go lie
down awhile and rest." He tossed the flail to the ground and, mopping
his brow, turned to Barnes. "If you want a real treat, go into the
cellar and take a look at Bacon. He is churning for butter. Got a
gingham apron on and thinks he's disguised. He can't cuss because old
Miss Tilly is reading the first act of a play she wrote for Julia
Marlowe seven or eight years ago. Oh, it's a great life!"

Barnes sat down on the edge of a watering-trough and began filling his

"You are not obliged to do this sort of work, Dillingford," he said.
"It would give me pleasure to stake - "

"Nix," said Mr. Dillingford cheerily. "Some other time I may need help
more than I do now. I'm getting three square meals and plenty of fresh
air to sleep in at present, and work doesn't hurt me physically. It
DOES hurt my pride, but that's soon mended. Have you seen the old man
this morning?"

"Rushcroft? No."

"Well, we're to be on our way next week, completely reorganised,
rejuvenated and resplendent. Fixed it all up last night. Tommy Gray was
down here with two weeks' salary as chauffeur and a little extra he
picked up playing poker in the garage with the rubes. Thirty-seven
dollars in real money. He has decided to buy a quarter interest in the
company and act as manager. Everything looks rosy. You are to have a
half interest and the old man the remaining quarter. He telegraphed
last night for four top-notch people to join us at Crowndale on Tuesday
the twenty-third. We open that night in 'The Duke's Revenge,' our best
piece. It's the only play we've got that provides me with a part in
which I have a chance to show what I can really do. As soon as I get
through spanking this carpet I'll run upstairs and get a lot of
clippings to show you how big a hit I've made in the part. In one town
I got better notices than the star himself, and seldom did I - "

"Where is Crowndale?" interrupted Barnes, a slight frown appearing on
his brow. He had a distinct feeling that there was handwriting on the
wall and that it was put there purposely for him to read.

"About five hours' walk from Hornville," said Dillingford, grinning.
"Twenty-five cents by train. We merely resume a tour interrupted by the
serious illness of Mr. Rushcroft. Rather than impose upon our audiences
by inflicting them with an understudy, the popular star temporarily
abandons his tour. We ought to sell out in Crowndale, top to bottom."

The amazing optimism of Mr. Dillingford had its effect on Barnes.
Somehow the day grew brighter, the skies less drear, a subtle warmth
crept into the air.

"You may count on me, Dillingford, to put up my half interest in the
show. I will have a fling at it a couple of weeks anyhow. If it doesn't
pan out in that time, - well, we can always close, can't we?"

"We certainly can," said the other, with conviction. "It wouldn't
surprise me in the least, however, to see you clean up a very tidy bit
of money, Mr. Barnes. Our season ordinarily closes toward the end of
June, but the chances are we'll stay out all summer if things go right.
Congratulations! Glad to see you in the profession." He shook hands
with the new partner. "Keep your seat! Don't move. I'll shift a little
so's the wind won't blow the dust in your eyes." He obligingly did so
and fell upon the carpet with renewed vigour.

Barnes was restless. He chatted with the rug-beater for a few minutes
and then sauntered away. Miss Thackeray was starting off for a walk as
he came around to the front of the Tavern. She wore a rather shabby
tailor-suit of blue serge, several seasons out of fashion, and a black
sailor hat. Her smile was bright and friendly as she turned in response
to his call. As he drew near he discovered that her lips were a vivid,
startling red, her eyes elaborately made up, and her cheeks the colour
of bismuth. She was returning to form, thought he, in some dismay.

"Where away?" he inquired.

"Seeking solitude," she replied. "I've got to learn a new part in an
old play." She flourished the script airily. "I have just accepted an
engagement as leading lady."

"Splendid! I am delighted. With John Drew, I hope."

"Nothing like that," she said loftily. Then her wide mouth spread into
a good-natured grin, revealing the even rows of teeth that were her
particular charm. "I am going out with the great Lyndon Rushcroft."

"Good! As one of the proprietors, I am glad to see you on
our - er - programme, Miss Thackeray."

"Programme is good," she mused. "I've been on a whole lot of programmes
during my brief career. What I want to get on some time, if possible,
is a pay-roll. Wait! Don't say it! I was only trying to be funny; I
didn't know how it would sound or I wouldn't have said anything so
stupid. You've done more than enough for us, Mr. Barnes. Don't let
yourself in for anything more. This thing will turn out like all the
rest of our efforts. We'll collapse again with a loud report, but we're
used to it and you're not."

"But I'm only letting myself in for a couple of hundred," he protested.
"I can stand that much of a loss without squirming."

"You know your own business," she said shortly, almost ungraciously.
"I'm only giving you a little advice."

"Advice is something I always ignore," he said, smiling. "Experience is
my teacher."

"Advice is cheaper than experience, and a whole lot easier to forget,"
she said. "My grandfather advised my father to stay in the hardware
business out in Indiana. That was thirty years ago. And here we are
to-day," she concluded, with a wide sweep of her hand that took in the
forlorn landscape. She said more in that expressive gesture than the
most accomplished orator could have put into words in a week.

"But there is always a to-morrow, you know."

"There may be a to-morrow for me, but there are nothing but yesterdays
left for dad. All of his to-morrows will be just like his yesterdays.
They will be just as empty of success, just as full of failure. There's
no use mincing matters. We never have had a chance to go broke for the
simple reason that we've never been anything else. He has been starring
for fifteen years, hitting the tanks from one end of the country to the
other. And for just that length of time he has been mooning. There's a
lot of difference between starring and mooning."

"He may go down somewhat regularly, Miss Thackeray, but he always comes
up again. That's what I admire in him. He will not stay down."

Her eyes brightened. "He is rather a brick, isn't he?"

"Rather! And so are you, if I may say so. You have stuck to him through
all - "

"Nothing bricky about me," she scoffed. "I am doing it because I can't,
for the life of me, get rid of the notion that I can act. God knows I
can't, and so does father, and the critics, and every one in the
profession, but I think I can, - so what does it all amount to? Now,
that will be enough about me. As for you, Mr. Barnes, if you have made
up your mind to be foolish, far be it from me to head you off. You will
drop considerably more than a couple of hundred, let me tell you,
and - but, as I said before, that is your business. I must be off now.
It's a long part and I'm slow study. So long, - and thanks!"

He sat down on the Tavern steps and watched her as she swung off down
the road. To his utter amazement, when she reached a point several
hundred yards below the Tavern, she left the highway and, gathering up
her skirts, climbed over the fence into the narrow meadow-land that
formed a frontage at the bottom of the Curtis estate. A few minutes
later she disappeared among the trees at the base of the mountain,
going in the direction of Green Fancy. He had followed her with his
gaze all the way across that narrow strip of pasture. When she came to
the edge of the forest, she stopped and looked back at the Tavern.
Seeing him still on the steps, she waved her hand at him. Then she was

"Where ignorance is bliss," he muttered to himself, and then looked at
his watch. Ten minutes later he was in Sprouse's room, calling for
Green Fancy over an extension wire that had cost the company nothing
and yielded nothing in return. After some delay, O'Dowd's mellow voice
sang out:

"Hello! How are you this morning?"

"Grievously lonesome," replied Barnes, and wound up a doleful account
of himself by imploring O'Dowd to save his life by bringing the entire
Green Fancy party over to dinner that night.

O'Dowd was heart-broken. Personally he would go to any extreme to save
so valuable a life, but as for the rest of the party, they begged him
to say they were sorry to hear of the expected death of so promising a
chap and that, while they couldn't come to his party, they would be
delighted to come to his funeral. In short, it would be impossible for
them to accept his kind invitation. The Irishman was so gay and
good-humoured that Barnes took hope.

"By the way, O'Dowd, I'd like to speak with Miss Cameron if she can
come to the telephone."

There was a moment of silence. Then: "Call up at twelve o'clock and ask
for me. Good-bye."

Promptly on the stroke of twelve Barnes took down the receiver and
called for Green Fancy. O'Dowd answered almost immediately.

"I warned you last night, Barnes," he said without preamble. "I told
you to keep out of this. You may not understand the situation and I
cannot enlighten you, but I will say this much: no harm can come to her
while I'm here and alive."

"Can't she come to the telephone?"

"Won't ye take my word for it? I swear by all that's holy that she'll
be safe while I've - "

Barnes was cautious. This might be the clever O'Dowd's way of trapping
him into serious admissions.

"I don't know what the deuce you are talking about, O'Dowd," he

"You lie, Barnes," said the other promptly. "Miss Cameron is here at my
elbow. Will you have her tell you that you lie?"

"Let her say anything she likes," said Barnes quickly.

"Don't be surprised if you are cut off suddenly. The coast is clear for
the moment, but - Here, Miss Cameron. Careful, now."

Her voice, soft and clear and trembling with eagerness caressed
Barnes's eager ear.

"Mr. O'Dowd will see that no evil befalls me here, but he refuses to
help me to get away. I quite understand and appreciate his position. I
cannot ask him to go so far as that. Help will have to come from the
outside. It will be dangerous - terribly dangerous, I fear. I have no
right to ask you to take the risk - "

"Wait! Is O'Dowd there?"

"He has left the room. He does not want to hear what I say to you.
Don't you understand?"

"Keeping his conscience clear, bless his soul," said Barnes. "It is
safe for you to speak freely?"

"I think so. O'Dowd suspected us last night. He came to me this morning
and spoke very frankly about it. I feel quite safe with him. You see,
I've known him for a long, long time. He did not know that I was to be
led into a trap like this. It was not until I had been here for several
hours that he realised the true state of affairs. I cannot tell you any
more at present, Mr. Barnes. So great are the other issues at stake
that my own misfortunes are as nothing."

"You say O'Dowd will not assist you to escape?"

"He urges me to stay here and take my chances. He believes that
everything will turn out well for me in the end, but I am frightened. I
must get away from this place."

"I'll manage it, never fear. Keep a stiff upper lip."

"Wha - keep a what?"

He laughed. "I forgot that you don't understand our language, Miss
Cameron. Have courage, is what I should have said. Are you prepared to
fly at a moment's notice?"


"Then, keep your eyes and ears open for the next night or two. Can you
tell me where your room is located?"

"It is one flight up; the first of the two windows in my room is the
third to the right of the entrance. I am confident that some one is
stationed below my windows all night long."

"Are you alone in that room?"

"Yes. Mr. and Mrs. Van Dyke occupy the rooms on my left, Mr. De Soto is
on my right."

"Where does Loeb sleep?"

"I do not know." He detected a new note in her voice, and at once put
it down to fear.

"You still insist that I am not to call on the authorities for help?"

"Yes, yes! That must not even be considered. I have not only myself to
consider, Mr. Barnes. I am a very small atom in - "

"All right! We'll get along without them," he said cheerily.
"Afterwards we will discuss the importance of atoms."

"And your reward as well, Mr. Barnes," she said. Her voice trailed off
into an indistinct murmur. He heard the receiver click on the hook,
and, after calling "hello" twice, hung up his own with a sigh.
Evidently O'Dowd had warned her of the approach of a less considerate
person than himself.



The hour for the midday dinner approached and there was no sign of Miss
Thackeray's return from the woods. Barnes sat for two exasperating
hours on the porch and listened to the confident, flamboyant oratory of
Mr. Lyndon Rushcroft. His gaze constantly swept the line of trees, and

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Online LibraryGeorge Barr McCutcheonGreen Fancy → online text (page 11 of 20)