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"And why did you bring them to Green Fancy?"

"I was to deliver them to one of their rightful owners, Mr. Barnes, - a
loyal prince of the blood."

"But why HERE?" he insisted.

"He was to take them into Canada, and thence, in good time, to the
palace of his ancestors."

"I am to understand, then, that not only you but the committee you
speak of, fell into a carefully prepared trap."

"Yes."

"You did not know the man who picked you up in the automobile, Miss
Cameron. Why did you take the chance with - "

"He gave the password, or whatever you may call it, and it could have
been known only to persons devoted to our - our cause."

"I see. The treachery, therefore, had its inception in the loyal nest.
You were betrayed by a friend."

"I am sure of it," she said bitterly. "If this man Sprouse does not
succeed in restoring the - oh, I believe I shall kill myself, Mr.
Barnes."

The wail of anguish in her voice went straight to his heart.

"He has succeeded, take my word for it. They will be in your hands
before many hours have passed."

"Is he to come to the Tavern with them? Or am I to meet him - "

"Good Lord!" he gulped. Here was a contingency he had not considered.
Where and when would Sprouse appear with his booty? "I - I fancy we'll
find him waiting for us at the Tavern."

"But had you no understanding?"

"Er - tentatively." The perspiration started on his brow.

"They will guard the Tavern so closely that we will never be able to
get away from the place," she said, and he detected a querulous note in
her voice.

"Now don't you worry about that," he said stoutly.

"I love the comforting way you have of saying things," she murmured,
and he felt her body relax.

For reasons best known to himself, he failed to respond to this
interesting confession. He was thinking of something else: his amazing
stupidity in not foreseeing the very situation that now presented
itself. Why had he neglected to settle upon a meeting place with
Sprouse in the event that circumstances forced them to part company in
flight? Fearing that she would pursue the subject, he made haste to
branch off onto another line.

"What is the real object of the conspiracy up there, Miss Cameron?"

"You must bear with me a little longer, Mr. Barnes," she said,
appealingly. "I cannot say anything now. I am in a very perplexing
position. You see, I am not quite sure that I am right in my
conclusions, and it would be dreadful if I were to make a mistake."

"If they are up to any game that may work harm to the Allies, they must
not be allowed to go on with it," he said sternly. "Don't wait too long
before exposing them, Miss Cameron."

"I - I cannot speak now," she said, painfully.

"You said that to-morrow night would be too late. What did you mean by
that?"

"Do you insist on pinning me down to - "

"No. You may tell me to mind my own business, if you like."

"That is not a nice way to put it, Mr. Barnes. I could never say such a
thing to you."

He was silent. She waited a few seconds and then removed her head from
his shoulder. He heard the sharp intake of her breath and felt the
convulsive movement of the arm that rested against his. There was no
mistaking her sudden agitation.

"I will tell you," she said, and he was surprised by the harshness that
came into her voice. "To-morrow morning was the time set for my
marriage to that wretch up there. I could have avoided it only by
destroying myself. If you had come to-morrow night instead of to-night
you would have found me dead, that is all. Now you understand."

"Good God! You - you were to be forced into a marriage with - why, it is
the most damnable - "

"O'Dowd, - God bless him! - was my only champion. He knew my father. He - "

"Listen!" he hissed, starting to his feet.

"Don't move!" came from the darkness outside. "I have me gun leveled. I
heard me name taken in vain. Thanks for the blessing. I was wondering
whether you would say something pleasant about me, - and, thank the good
Lord, I was patient. But I'd advise you both to sit still, just the
same."

A chuckle rounded out the gentle admonition of the invisible Irishman.




CHAPTER XV

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


There was not a sound for many seconds. The trapped couple in the
stone-cutter's shed scarcely breathed. She was the first to speak.

"I am ready to return with you, Mr. O'Dowd," she said, distinctly.
"There must be no struggle, no blood-shed. Anything but that."

She felt Barnes's body stiffen and caught the muttered execration that
fell from his lips.

O'Dowd spoke out of the darkness: "You forget that I have your own word
for it that ye'll be a dead woman before the day is over. Wouldn't it
be better for me to begin shooting at once and spare your soul the
everlasting torture that would begin immediately after your
self-produced decease?"

A little cry of relief greeted this quaint sally. "You have my word
that I will return with you quietly if - "

"Thunderation!" exclaimed Barnes wrathfully. "What do you think I am? A
worm that - "

"Easy, easy, me dear man," cautioned O'Dowd. "Keep your seat. Don't be
deceived by my infernal Irish humour. It is my way to be always polite,
agreeable and - prompt. I'll shoot in a second if ye move one step
outside that cabin."

"O'Dowd, you haven't the heart to drag her back to that beast of a - "

"Hold hard! We'll come to the point without further palavering. Where
are ye dragging her yourself, ye rascal?"

"To a place where she will be safe from insult, injury, degradation - "

"Well, I have no fault to find with ye for that," said O'Dowd. "Bedad,
I didn't believe you had the nerve to tackle the job. To be honest with
you, I hadn't the remotest idea who the divvil you were, either of you,
until I heard your voices. You may be interested to know that up to the
moment I left the house your absence had not been noticed, my dear Miss
Cameron. And as for you, my dear Barnes, your visit is not even
suspected. By this time, of course, the list of the missing at Green
Fancy is headed by an honourable and imperishable name, - which isn't
Cameron, - and there is an increased wailing and gnashing of teeth. How
the divvil did ye do it, Barnes?"

"Are you disposed to be friendly, O'Dowd?" demanded Barnes. "If you are
not, we may just as well fight it out now as later on. I do not mean to
submit without a - "

"You are not to fight!" she cried in great agitation. "What are you
doing? Put it away! Don't shoot!"

"Is it a gun he is pulling" inquired O'Dowd calmly. "And what the deuce
are you going to aim at, me hearty?"

"It may sound cowardly to you, O'Dowd, but I have an advantage over you
in the presence of Miss Cameron. You don't dare shoot into this shed.
You - "

"Lord love ye, Barnes, haven't you my word that I will not shoot unless
ye try to come out? And I know you wouldn't use her for a shield.
Besides, I have a bull's-eye lantern with me. From the luxurious seat
behind this rock I could spot ye in a second. Confound you, man, you
ought to thank me for being so considerate as not to flash it on you
before. I ask ye now, isn't that proof that I'm a gentleman and not a
bounder? Having said as much, I now propose arbitration. What have ye
to offer in the shape of concessions?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"I'll be explicit. Would you mind handing over that tin box in exchange
for my polite thanks and a courteous good-by to both of ye?"

"Tin box?" cried Barnes.

"We have no box of any description, Mr. O'Dowd," cried she,
triumphantly. "Thank heaven, he got safely away!"

"Do you mean to tell me you came away without the - your belongings,
Miss Cameron?" exclaimed O'Dowd.

"They are not with me," she replied. Her grasp on Barnes's arm
tightened. "Oh, isn't it splendid? They did not catch him. He - "

"Catch him? Catch who?" cried O'Dowd.

"Ah, that is for you to find out, my dear O'Dowd," said Barnes,
assuming a satisfaction he did not feel.

"Well, I'll be - jiggered," came in low, puzzled tones from the rocks
outside. "Did you have a - a confederate, Barnes? Didn't you do the
whole job yourself?"

"I did my part of the job, as you call it, O'Dowd, and nothing more."

"Will you both swear on your sacred honour that ye haven't the jewels
in your possession?"

"Unhesitatingly," said Barnes.

"I swear, Mr. O'Dowd."

"Then," said he, "I have no time to waste here. I am looking for a tin
box. I beg your pardon for disturbing you."

"Oh, Mr. O'Dowd, I shall never forget all that you have - "

"Whist, now! There is one thing I must insist on your forgetting
completely: all that has happened in the last five minutes. I shall put
no obstacles in your way. You may go with my blessings. The only favour
I ask in return is that you never mention having seen me to-night."

"We can do that with a perfectly clear conscience," said Barnes. "You
are absolutely invisible."

"What I am doing now, Mr. Barnes," said O'Dowd seriously, "would be my
death sentence if it ever became known."

"It shall never be known through me, O'Dowd. I'd like to shake your
hand, old man."

"God bless you, Mr. O'Dowd," said the girl in a low, small voice,
singularly suggestive of tears. "Some day I may be in a position to - "

"Don't say it! You'll spoil everything if you let me think you are in
my debt. Bedad, don't be so sure I sha'n't see you again, and soon. You
are not out of the woods yet."

"Tell me how to find Hart's Tavern, old man. I'll - "

"No, I'm dashed if I do. I leave you to your own devices. You ought to
be grateful to me for not stopping you entirely, without asking me to
give you a helping hand. Good-bye, and God bless you. I'm praying that
ye get away safely, Miss Cameron. So long, Barnes. If you were a crow
and wanted to roost on that big tree in front of Hart's Tavern, I dare
say you'd take the shortest way there by flying as straight as a bullet
from the mouth of this pit, following your extremely good-looking nose."

They heard him rattle off among the loose stones and into the brush. A
long time afterward, when the sounds had ceased, Barnes said, from the
bottom of a full heart:

"I shall always feel something warm stirring within me when I think of
that man."

"He is a gallant gentleman," said she simply.

They did not wait for the break of day. Taking O'Dowd's hint, Barnes
directed his steps straight out from the mouth of the quarry and
pressed confidently onward. Their progress was swifter than before and
less cautious. The thought had come to him that the men from Green
Fancy would rush to the outer edges of the Curtis land and seek to
intercept, rather than to overtake, the fugitive. In answer to a
question she informed him that there were no fewer than twenty-five men
on the place, all of them shrewd, resolute and formidable.

"The women, who are they, and what part do they play in this
enterprise?" he inquired, during a short pause for rest.

"Mrs. Collier is the widow of a spy executed in France at the beginning
of the war. She is an American and was married to a - to a foreigner.
The Van Dykes are very rich Americans, - at least she has a great deal
of money. Her husband was in the diplomatic service some years ago but
was dismissed. There was a huge gambling scandal and he was involved.
His wife is determined to force her way into court circles in Europe.
She has money, she is clever and unprincipled, and - I am convinced
that she is paying in advance for future favours and position at a
certain court. She - "

"In other words, she is financing the game up at Green Fancy."

"I suppose so. She has millions, I am told. Mr. De Soto is a Spaniard,
born and reared in England. All of them are known in my country."

"I can't understand a decent chap like O'Dowd being mixed up in a
rotten - "

"Ah, but you do not understand. He is a soldier of fortune, an
adventurer. His heart is better than his reputation. It is the love of
intrigue, the joy of turmoil that commands him. He has been mixed up,
as you say, in any number of secret enterprises, both good and bad. His
sister's children are the owners of Green Fancy. I know her well. It
was through Mr. O'Dowd that I came to Green Fancy. Too late he realised
that it was a mistake. He was deceived. He has known me for years and
he would not have exposed me to - - But come! As he has said, we are not
yet out of the woods."

"I cannot, for the life of me, see why they took chances on inviting me
to the house, Miss Cameron. They must have known that - "

"It was a desperate chance but it was carefully considered, you may be
sure. They are clever, all of them. They were afraid of you. It was
necessary to deal openly, boldly, with you if your suspicions were to
be removed."

"But they must have known that you would appeal to me."

She was silent for a moment, and when she spoke it was with great
intensity. "Mr. Barnes, I had your life in my hands all the time you
were at Green Fancy. It was I who took the desperate chance. I shudder
now when I think of what might have happened. Before you were asked to
the house, I was coolly informed that you would not leave it alive if I
so much as breathed a word to you concerning my unhappy plight. The
first word of an appeal to you would have been the signal for - for your
death. That is what they held over me. They made it very clear to me
that nothing was to be gained by an appeal to you. You would die, and I
would be no better off than before. It was I who took the chance. When
I spoke to you on the couch that night, I - oh, don't you see? Don't you
see that I wantonly, cruelly, selfishly risked YOUR life, - not my
own, - when I - "

"There, there, now!" he cried, consolingly, as she put her hands to her
face and gave way to sobs. "Don't let THAT worry you. I am here and
alive, and so are you, and - for Heaven's sake don't do that! I - I
simply go all to pieces when I hear a woman crying. I - "

"Forgive me," she murmured. "I didn't mean to be so silly."

"It helps, to cry sometimes," he said lamely.

The first faint signs of day were struggling out of the night when they
stole across the road above Hart's Tavern and made their way through
the stable-yard to the rear of the house. His one thought was to get
her safely inside the Tavern. There he could defy the legions of Green
Fancy, and from there he could notify her real friends, deliver her
into their keeping, - and then regret the loss of her!

The door was locked. He delivered a series of resounding kicks upon its
stout face. Revolver in hand, he faced about and waited for the assault
of the men who, he was sure, would come plunging around the corner of
the building in response to the racket. He was confident that the
approach to the Tavern was watched by desperate men from Green Fancy,
and that an encounter with them was inevitable. But there was no
attack. Save for his repeated pounding on the door, there was no sign
of life about the place.

At last there were sounds from within. A key grated in the lock and a
bolt was shot. The door flew open. Mr. Clarence Dillingford appeared in
the opening, partially dressed, his hair sadly tumbled, his eyes
blinking in the light of the lantern he held aloft.

"Well, what the - " Then his gaze alighted on the lady. "My God," he
gulped, and instantly put all of his body except the head and one arm
behind the door.

Barnes crowded past him with his faltering charge, and slammed the
door. Moreover, he quickly shot the bolt.

"For the love of - " began the embarrassed Dillingford. "What the dev - I
say, can't you see that I'm not dressed? What the - "

"Give me that lantern," said Barnes, and snatched the article out of
the unresisting hand. "Show me the way to Miss Thackeray's room,
Dillingford. No time for explanations. This lady is a friend of mine."

"Well, for the love of - "

"I will take you to Miss Thackeray's room," said Barnes, leading her
swiftly through the narrow passage. "She will make you comfortable for
the - that is until I am able to secure a room for you. Come on,
Dillingford."

"My God, Barnes, have you been in an automobile smash-up? You - "

"Don't wake the house! Where is her room?"

"You know just as well as I do. All right, - all right! Don't bite me!
I'm coming."

Miss Thackeray was awake. She had heard the pounding. Through the
closed door she asked what on earth was the matter.

"I have a friend here, - a lady. Will you dress as quickly as possible
and take her in with you for a little while?" He spoke as softly as
possible.

There was no immediate response from the inside. Then Miss Thackeray
observed, quite coldly: "I think I'd like to hear the lady's voice, if
you don't mind. I recognise yours perfectly, Mr. Barnes, but I am not
in the habit of opening my - "

"Mr. Barnes speaks the truth," said Miss Cameron. "But pray do not
disturb - "

"I guess I don't need to dress," said Miss Thackeray, and opened her
door. "Come in, please. I don't know who you are or what you've been up
to, but there are times when women ought to stand together. And what's
more, I sha'n't ask any questions."

She closed the door behind the unexpected guest, and Barnes gave a
great sigh of relief.

"Say, Mr. Barnes," said Miss Thackeray, several hours later, coming
upon him in the hall; "I guess I'll have to ask you to explain a
little. She's a nice, pretty girl, and all that, but she won't open her
lips about anything. She says you will do the talking. I'm a good
sport, you know, and not especially finicky, but I'd like to - "

"How is she? Is she resting? Does she seem - "

"Well, she's stretched out in my bed, with my best nightie on, and she
seems to be doing as well as could be expected," said Miss Thackeray
dryly.

"Has she had coffee and - "

"I am going after it now. It seems that she is in the habit of having
it in bed. I wish I had her imagination. It would be great to imagine
that all you have to do is to say 'I think I'll have coffee and rolls
and one egg' sent up, and then go on believing your wish would come
true. Still, I don't mind. She seems so nice and pathetic, and in
trouble, and I - "

"Thank you, Miss Thackeray. If you will see that she has her coffee,
I'll - I'll wait for you here in the hall and try to explain. I can't
tell you everything at present, - not without her consent, - but what I
do tell will be sufficient to make you think you are listening to a
chapter out of a dime novel."

He had already taken Putnam Jones into his confidence. He saw no other
way out of the new and somewhat extraordinary situation.

His uneasiness increased to consternation when he discovered that
Sprouse had not yet put in an appearance. What had become of the man?
He could not help feeling, however, that somehow the little agent would
suddenly pop out of the chimney in his room, or sneak in through a
crack under the door, - and laugh at his fears.

His lovely companion, falling asleep, blocked all hope of a council of
war, so to speak. Miss Thackeray refused to allow her to be disturbed.
She listened with sparkling eyes to Barnes's curtailed account of the
exploit of the night before. He failed to mention Mr. Sprouse. It was
not an oversight.

"Sort of white slavery game, eh?" she said, with bated breath. "Good
gracious, Mr. Barnes, if this story ever gets into the newspapers
you'll be the grandest little hero in - "

"But it must never get into the newspapers," he cried.

"It ought to," she proclaimed stoutly. "When a gang of white slavers
kidnap a girl like that and - "

"I'm not saying it was that," he protested, uncomfortably.

"Well, I guess I'll talk to her about that part of the story," said
Miss Thackeray sagely. "And as you say, mum's the word. We don't want
them to get onto the fact that she's here. That's the idea, isn't it?"

"Absolutely."

"Then," she said, wrinkling her brow, "I wouldn't repeat this story to
Mr. Lyndon Rushcroft, father of yours truly. He would blab it all over
the county. The greatest press stuff in the world. Listen to it:
'Lyndon Rushcroft, the celebrated actor, takes part in the rescue of a
beautiful heiress who falls into the hands of So and So, the king of
kidnappers.' That's only a starter. So we'd better let him think she
just happened in. You fix it with old Jones, and I'll see that Dilly
keeps his mouth shut. I fear I shall have to tell Mr. Bacon." She
blushed. "I have always sworn I'd never marry any one in the
profession, but - Mr. Bacon is not like other actors, Mr. Barnes. You
will say so yourself when you know him better. He is more like
a - a - well, you might say a poet. His soul is - but, you'll think I'm
nutty if I go on about him. As soon as she awakes, I'll take her up to
the room you've engaged for her, and I'll lend her some of my duds,
bless her heart. What an escape she's had! Oh, my God!"

She uttered the exclamation in a voice so full of horror that Barnes
was startled.

"What is it, Miss Thack - "

"Why, they might have nabbed me yesterday when I was up there in the
woods! And I don't know what kind of heroism goes with a poetic nature.
I'm afraid Mr. Bacon - "

He laughed. "I am sure he would have acted like a man."

"If you were to ask father, he'd say that Mr. Bacon can't act like a
man to save his soul. He says he acts like a fence-post."

Shortly before the noon hour, Peter Ames halted the old automobile from
Green Fancy in front of the Tavern and out stepped O'Dowd, followed by
no less a personage than the pseudo Mr. Loeb. There were a number of
travelling bags in the tonneau of the car.

Catching sight of Barnes, the Irishman shouted a genial greeting.

"The top of the morning to ye. You remember Mr. Loeb, don't you? Mr.
Curtis's secretary."

He shook hands with Barnes. Loeb bowed stiffly and did not extend his
hand.

"Mr. Loeb is leaving us for a few days on business. Will you be moving
on yourself soon, Mr. Barnes?"

"I shall hang around here a few days longer," said Barnes, considerably
puzzled but equal to the occasion. "Still interested in our murder
mystery, you know."

"Any new developments?"

"Not to my knowledge." He ventured a crafty "feeler." "I hear, however,
that the state authorities have asked assistance of the secret service
people in Washington. That would seem to indicate that there is more
behind the affair than - "

"Have I not maintained from the first, Mr. O'Dowd, that it is a case
for the government to handle?" interrupted Loeb. He spoke rapidly and
with unmistakable nervousness. Barnes remarked the extraordinary pallor
in the man's face and the shifty, uneasy look in his dark eyes. "It has
been my contention, Mr. Barnes, that those men were trying to carry out
their part of a plan to inflict - "

"Lord love ye, Loeb, you are not alone in that theory," broke in O'Dowd
hastily. "I think we're all agreed on that. Good morning, Mr.
Boneface," he called out to Putnam Jones who approached at that
juncture. "We are sadly in want of gasoline."

Peter had backed the car up to the gasoline hydrant at the corner of
the building and was waiting for some one to replenish his tank. Barnes
caught the queer, perplexed look that the Irishman shot at him out of
the corner of his eye.

"Perhaps you'd better see that the scoundrels don't give us short
measure, Mr. Loeb," said O'Dowd. Loeb hesitated for a second, and then,
evidently in obedience to a command from the speaker's eye, moved off
to where Peter was opening the intake. Jones followed, bawling to some
one in the stable-yard.

O'Dowd lowered his voice. "Bedad, your friend made a smart job of it
last night. He opened the tank back of the house and let every damn'
bit of our gas run out. Is she safe inside?"

"Yes, thanks to you, old man. You didn't catch him?"

"Not even a whiff of him," said the other lugubriously. "The devil's to
pay. In the name of God, how many were in your gang last night?"

"That is for Mr. Loeb to find out," said Barnes shrewdly.

"Barnes, I let you off last night, and I let her off as well. In
return, I ask you to hold your tongue until the man down there gets a
fair start." O'Dowd was serious, even imploring.

"What would she say to that, O'Dowd? I have to consider her interests,
you know."

"She'd give him a chance for his white alley, I'm sure, in spite of the
way he treated her. There is a great deal at stake, Barnes. A day's
start and - "

"Are you in danger too, O'Dowd?"

"To be sure, - but I love it. I can always squirm out of tight places.
You see, I am putting myself in your hands, old man."

"I would not deliberately put you in jeopardy, O'Dowd."

"See here, I am going back to that house up yonder. There is still work


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