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she wrote with the feverish ardour of one who dreads the loss of a
first impression. I herewith append her visual estimate of the hero of
this story.

"He was a tall, shapely speciman of mankind," wrote Miss Tilly.
"Broad-shouldered. Smooth shaved face. Penetrating grey eyes. Short
curly hair about the colour of mine. Strong hands of good shape. Face
tanned considerable. Heavy dark eyebrows. Good teeth, very white.
Square chin. Lovely smile that seemed to light up the room for
everybody within hearing. Nose ideal. Mouth same. Voice aristocratic
and reverberating with education. Age about thirty or thirty one. Rich
as Croesus. Costume resembling the picture in the English novel the
woman forgot and left here last summer. Well turned legs. Would make a
good nobleman."

All this would appear to be reasonably definite were it not for the
note regarding the colour of his hair. It leaves to me the simple task
of completing the very admirable description of Mr. Barnes by
announcing that Miss Tilly's hair was an extremely dark brown.

Also it is advisable to append the following biographical information:
Thomas Kingsbury Barnes, engineer, born in Montclair, New Jersey, Sept.
26, 1885. Cornell and Beaux Arts, Paris. Son of the late Stephen S.
Barnes, engineer, and Edith (Valentine) Barnes. Office, Metropolitan
Building, New York City. Residence, Amsterdam Mansions. Clubs: (Lack of
space prevents listing them here). Recreations: golf, tennis, and
horseback riding. Author of numerous articles resulting from
expeditions and discoveries in Peru and Ecuador. Fellow of the Royal
Geographic Society. Member of the Loyal Legion and the Sons of the
American Revolution.

Added to this, the mere announcement that he was in a position to
indulge a fancy for long and perhaps aimless walking tours through more
or less out of the way sections of his own country, to say nothing of
excursions in Europe.

Needless to say, he obtained a great deal of pleasure from these lonely
jaunts, and at the same time laid up for future use an ample supply of
mind's ease. His was undoubtedly a romantic nature. He loved the
fancies that his susceptibilities garnered from the hills and dales and
fields and forests. He never tired of the changing prospect; the simple
meadow and the inspiring mountain peak were as one to his generous
imagination. He found something worth while in every mile he traversed
in these long and solitary tramps, and he covered no fewer than twenty
of them between breakfast and dinner unless ordered by circumstance to
loiter along the way.

Each succeeding spring he set out from his "diggings" in New York
without having the remotest idea where his peregrinations would carry
him. It was his habit to select a starting point in advance, approach
that spot by train or ship or motor, and then divest himself of all
purpose except to fare forward until he came upon some haven for the
night. He went east or west, north or south, even as the winds of
heaven blow; indeed, he not infrequently followed them.

For five or six weeks in the early spring it was his custom to forge
his daily chain of miles and, when the end was reached, climb
contentedly aboard a train and be transported, often by arduous means,
to the city where millions of men walk with a definite aim in view. He
liked the spring of the year. He liked the rains and the winds of early
spring. They meant the beginning of things to him.

He was rich. Perhaps not as riches are measured in these Midas-like
days, but rich beyond the demands of avarice. His legacy had been an
ample one. The fact that he worked hard at his profession from one
year's end to the other, - not excluding the six weeks devoted to these
mentally productive jaunts, - is proof sufficient that he was not
content to subsist on the fruits of another man's enterprise. He was a
worker. He was a creator, a builder and a destroyer. It was part of his
ambition to destroy in order that he might build the better.

The first fortnight of a proposed six weeks' jaunt through Upper New
England terminated when he laid aside his heavy pack in the little
bed-room at Hart's Tavern. Cock-crow would find him ready and eager to
begin his third week. At least, so he thought. But, truth is, he had
come to his journey's end; he was not to sling his pack for many a day
to come.

After setting the mind of the landlord at rest, Barnes declined Mr.
Rushcroft's invitation to "quaff" a cordial with him in the tap-room,
explaining that he was exceedingly tired and intended to retire early
(an announcement that caused unmistakable distress to the actor, who
held forth for some time on the folly of "letting a thing like that go
without taking it in time," although it was not made quite clear just
what he meant by "thing"). Barnes was left to infer that he considered
fatigue a malady that ought to be treated.

Instead of going up to his room immediately, however, he decided to
have a look at the weather. He stepped out upon the wet porch and
closed the door behind him. The wind was still high; the lantern
creaked and the dingy sign that hung above the steps gave forth
raucous, spasmodic wails as it swung back and forth in the stiff, raw
wind. Far away to the north lightning flashed dimly; the roar of
thunder had diminished to a low, half-hearted growl.

His uneasiness concerning the young woman of the cross-roads increased
as he peered at the wall of blackness looming up beyond the circle of
light. He could not see the towering hills, but memory pictured them as
they were revealed to him in the gathering darkness before the storm.
She was somewhere outside that sinister black wall and in the
smothering grasp of those invisible hills, but was she living or dead?
Had she reached her journey's end safely? He tried to extract comfort
from the confidence she had expressed in the ability and integrity of
the old man who drove with far greater recklessness than one would have
looked for in a wild and irresponsible youngster.

He recalled, with a thrill, the imperious manner in which she gave
directions to the man, and his surprising servility. It suddenly
occurred to him that she was no ordinary person; he was rather amazed
that he had not thought of it before.

She had confessed to total ignorance regarding the driver of that
ramshackle conveyance; to being utterly at sea in the neighbourhood; to
having walked like any country bumpkin from the railroad station,
lugging an unconscionably heavy bag; and yet, despite all this, she
seemed amazingly sure of herself. He recalled her frivolous remark
about her jewels, and now wondered if there had not been more truth
than jest in her words. Then there was the rather significant
alteration in tone and manner when she spoke to the driver. The soft,
somewhat deliberate drawl gave way to sharp, crisp sentences; the
quaint good humour vanished and in its place he had no difficulty in
remembering a very decided note of command.

Moreover, now that he thought of it, there was, even in the agreeable
rejoinders she had made to his offerings, the faint suggestion of an
accent that should have struck him at the time but did not for the
obvious reason that he was then not at all interested in her. Her
English was so perfect that he had failed to detect the almost
imperceptible foreign flavour that now took definite form in his
reflections. He tried to place this accent. Was it French, or Italian,
or Spanish? Certainly it was not German. The lightness of the Latin was
evident, he decided, but it was all so faint and remote that
classification was impossible, notwithstanding his years of association
with the peoples of many countries where English is spoken more
perfectly by the upper classes, who have a language of their own, than
it is in England itself.

He took a few turns up and down the long porch, stopping finally at the
upper end. The clear, inspiring clang of a hammer on an anvil fell
suddenly upon his ears. He looked at his watch. The hour was nine,
certainly an unusual time for men to be at work in a forge. He
remembered the two men in the tap-room who were bare-armed and wore the
shapeless leather aprons of the smithy.

He had been standing there not more than half a minute peering in the
direction from whence came the rhythmic bang of the anvil, - at no great
distance, he was convinced, - when some one spoke suddenly at his elbow.
He whirled and found himself facing the gaunt landlord.

"Good Lord! You startled me," he exclaimed. He had not heard the
approach of the man, nor the opening and closing of the tavern door.
His gaze travelled past the tall figure of Putnam Jones and rested on
that of a second man, who leaned, with legs crossed and arms folded,
against the porch post directly in front of the entrance to the house,
his features almost wholly concealed by the broad-brimmed slouch hat
that came far down over his eyes. He too, it seemed to Barnes, had
sprung from nowhere.

"Fierce night," said Putnam Jones, removing the corn-cob pipe from his
lips. Then, as an after thought: "Sorry I skeert you. I thought you
heerd me."

"I was listening to the song of the anvil," said Barnes, as the
landlord moved forward and took his place beside him. "It has always
possessed a singular charm for me."

"Special hurry-up job," said Jones, and no more.


"Yep. You'd think these hayseeds could git their horses in here durin'
regular hours, wouldn't you?"

"I dare say they consider their own regular hours instead of yours, Mr.

"I didn't quite ketch that."

"I mean that they bring their horses in after their regular day's work
is done."

"I see. Yes, I reckon that's the idee." After a few pulls at his pipe,
the landlord inquired: "Where'd you walk from to-day?" "I slept in a
farm-house last night, about fifteen miles south of this place I should

"That'd be a little ways out of East Cobb," speculated Mr. Jones.

"Five or six miles."

"Goin' over into Canada?"

"No. I shall turn west, I think, and strike for the Lake Champlain

"Canadian line is only a few miles from here," said Jones. "Last summer
we had a couple of crooks from Boston here, makin' a dash for the
border. Didn't know it till they'd been gone a day, however. The
officers were just a day behind 'em. Likely lookin' fellers, too. Last
men in the world you'd take for bank robbers."

"Bank robbers, as a rule, are very classy looking customers," said

Mr. Jones grunted. After a short silence, he branched off on a new
line. "What you think about the war? Think it'll be over soon?"

"It has been going on for nearly two years, and I can't see any signs
of abatement. Looks to me like a draw. They're all tired of it."

"Think the Germans are going to win?"

"No. They can't win. On the other hand, I don't see how the Allies can
win. I may be wrong, of course. The Allies are getting stronger every
day and the Germans must surely be getting weaker. As a matter of fact,
Mr. Jones, I've long since stopped speculating on the outcome of the
war. It is too big for me. I am not one of your know-it-alls who figure
the whole thing out from day to day, and then wonder why the fool
generals didn't have sense enough to perform as expected."

"I wish them countries over there would let me fix 'em out with
generals," drawled Mr. Jones. "I could pick out fifteen or twenty men
right here in this district that could show 'em in ten minutes just how
to win the war. You'd be surprised to know how many great generals we
have running two by four farms and choppin' wood for a livin' up here.
And there are fellers settin' right in there now that never saw a body
of water bigger'n Plum Pond, an' every blamed one of 'em knows more'n
the whole British navy about ketchin' submarines. The quickest way to
end the war, says Jim Roudebush, - one of our leadin' ice-cutters, - is
for the British navy to bombard Berlin from both sides, an' he don't
see why in thunder they've never thought of it. I suppose you've
travelled right smart in Europe?"

"Quite a bit, Mr. Jones."

"Any partic'lar part?"

"No," said Barnes, suddenly divining that he was being "pumped." "One
end to the other, you might say."

"What about them countries down around Bulgaria and Roumania? I've been
considerable interested in what's going to become of them if Germany
gets licked. What do they get out of it, either way?"

Barnes spent the next ten minutes expatiating upon the future of the
Balkan states. Jones had little to say. He was interested, and drank in
all the information that Barnes had to impart. He puffed at his pipe,
nodded his head from time to time, and occasionally put a leading
question. And quite as abruptly as he introduced the topic he changed

"Not many automobiles up here at this time 'o the year," he said. "I
was a little surprised when you said a feller had given you a lift.
Where from?"

"The cross-roads, a mile down. He came from the direction of Frogg's
Corner and was on his way to meet some one at Spanish Falls." Barnes
shrewdly leaped to the conclusion that the landlord's interest in the
European War was more or less assumed. The man's purpose was beginning
to reveal itself. He was evidently curious, if not actually concerned,
about his guest's arrival by motor.

"That's queer," he said, after a moment. "There's no train arrivin' at
Spanish Falls as late as six o'clock. Gets in at four-ten, if she's on
time. And she was reported on time to-day."

"It appears that there was a misunderstanding. The driver didn't meet
the train, so the person he was going after walked all the way to the
forks. We happened upon each other there, Mr. Jones, and we studied the
sign-post together. She was bound for a place called Green Fancy."

"Did you say SHE?"

"Yes. I was proposing to help her out of her predicament when the
belated motor came racing down the slope. As a matter of fact, I was
wrong when I said that a man brought me here in an automobile. It was
she who did it. She gave the order. He merely obeyed, - and not very
willingly, I suspect."

"What for sort of looking lady was she?"

"She wore a veil," said Barnes, succinctly.


"I had that impression. By the way, Mr. Jones, what and where is Green

Jones looked over his shoulder, and his guest's glance followed. The
man near the entrance had been joined by another.

"Well," began the landlord, lowering his voice, "it's about two mile
and a half from here, up the mountain. It's a house and people live in
it, same as any other house. That's about all there is to say about it."

"Why is it called Green Fancy?"

"Because it's a green house," replied Jones succinctly.

"You mean that it is painted green?"

"Exactly. Green as a gourd. A man named Curtis built it a couple o'
year ago and he had a fool idee about paintin' it green. Might ha' been
a little crazy, for all I know. Anyhow, after he got it finished he
settled down to live in it, and from that day to this he's never been
off'n the place. He didn't seem sick or anything, so we can't make out
his object in shuttin' himself up in the house an' seldom ever stickin'
his nose outside the door."

"Isn't it possible that he isn't there at all?"

"He's there all right. Every now an' then he has visitors, - just like
this woman to-day, - and sometimes they come down here for supper. They
don't hesitate to speak of him, so he must be there. Miss Tilly has got
the idee that he is a reecluse, if you know what that is."

"It's all very interesting. I should say, judging by the visitor who
came this evening, that he entertains extremely nice people."

"Well," said Jones drily, "they claim to be from New York. But," he
added, "so do them cheapskate actors in there." Which was as much as to
say that he had his doubts.

Further conversation was interrupted by the irregular clatter of
horses' hoofs on the macadam. Off to the left a dull red glow of light
spread across the roadway, and a man's voice called out: "Whoa, dang

The door of the smithy had been thrown open and some one was leading
forth freshly shod horses.

A moment later the horses, - prancing, high-spirited animals, - their
bridle-bits held by a strapping blacksmith, came into view. Barnes
looked in the direction of the steps. The two men had disappeared.
Instead of stopping directly in front of the steps, the smith led his
charges quite a distance beyond and into the darkness.

Putnam Jones abruptly changed his position. He insinuated his long body
between Barnes and the doorway, at the same time rather loudly
proclaiming that the rain appeared to be over.

"Yes, sir," he repeated, "she seems to have let up altogether. Ought to
have a nice day to-morrow, Mr. Barnes, - nice, cool day for walkin'."

Voices came up from the darkness. Jones had not been able to cover them
with his own. Barnes caught two or three sharp commands, rising above
the pawing of horses' hoofs, and then a great clatter as the mounted
horsemen rode off in the direction of the cross-roads. The beat of the
hoofs became rhythmical as the animals steadied into a swinging lope.

Barnes waited until they were muffled by distance, and then turned to
Jones with the laconic remark:

"They seem to be foreigners, Mr. Jones." Jones's manner became natural
once more. He leaned against one of the posts and, striking a match on
his leg, relighted his pipe.

"Kind o' curious about 'em, eh?" he drawled.

"It never entered my mind until this instant to be curious," said

"Well, it entered their minds about an hour ago to be curious about
you," said the other.



Miss Thackeray was "turning down" his bed when he entered his room
after bidding his new actor friends good night. All three promised to
be up bright and early in the morning to speed him on his way with good
wishes. Mr. Rushcroft declared that he would break the habit of years
and get up in time to partake of a seven o'clock breakfast with him.
Mr. Dillingford and Mr. Bacon, though under sentence to eat at six with
the rest of the "help," were quite sanguine that old man Jones wouldn't
mind if they ate again at seven. So it was left that Barnes was to have
company for breakfast.

He was staggered and somewhat abashed by the appearance of Miss
Thackeray. She was by no means dressed as a chambermaid should be, nor
was she as dumb. On the contrary, she confronted him in the choicest
raiment that her wardrobe contained, and she was bright and cheery and
exceedingly incompetent. It was her costume that shocked him. Not only
was she attired in a low-necked, rose-coloured evening gown, liberally
bespangled with tinsel, but she wore a vast top-heavy picture-hat whose
crown of black was almost wholly obscured by a gorgeous white feather
that once must have adorned the king of all ostriches. She was not at
all his idea of a chambermaid. He started to back out of the door with
an apology for having blundered into the wrong room by mistake.

"Come right in," she said cheerily. "I'll soon be through. I suppose I
should have done all this an hour ago, but I just had to write a few
letters." She went on with her clumsy operations. "I don't know who
made up this bed but whoever did was determined that it should stay
put. I never knew that bed clothes could be tucked in as far and as
tight as these. Tight enough for old Mother Jones to have done it
herself, and heaven knows she's a tight one. I am Miss Thackeray. This
is Mr. Barnes, I believe."

He bowed, still quite overcome.

"You needn't be scared," she cried, observing his confusion. "This is
my regular uniform. I'm starting a new style for chambermaids. Did it
paralyse you to find me here?"

"I must confess to a moment of indecision," he said, smiling.

"Followed by a moment of uneasiness," she added, slapping the bolster.
"You didn't know what to think, now did you?"

"I couldn't believe my eyes."

She abandoned her easy, careless manner. A look of mortification came
into her eyes as she straightened up and faced him. Her voice was a
trifle husky when she spoke again, after a moment's pause.

"You see, Mr. Barnes, these are the only duds I have with me. It wasn't
necessary to put on this hat, of course, but I did it simply to make
the character complete. I might just as well make beds and clean
washstands in a picture hat as in a low-necked gown, so here I am."

She was a tall, pleasant-faced girl of twenty-three or four, not unlike
her father in many respects. Her features were rather heavy, her mouth
large but comely, her eyes dark and lustrous behind heavy lashes. As
she now appeared before Barnes, she was the typical stage society
woman: in other words, utterly commonplace. In a drawing-room she would
have been as conspicuously out of place as she was in her present

"I am very sorry," he said lamely. "I have heard something of your
misfortunes from your father and - the others. It's - it's really hard

"I call it rather good luck to have got away with the only dress in the
lot that cost more than tuppence," she said, smiling again. "Lord knows
what would have happened to me if they had dropped down on us at the
end of the first act. I was the beggar's daughter, you see, - absolutely
in rags."

"You might have got away in your ordinary street clothes, however," he
said; "which would have been pleasanter, I dare say."

"I dare say," she agreed brightly. "Glad to have met you. I think
you'll find everything NEARLY all right. Good night, sir."

She smiled brightly, unaffectedly, as she turned toward the open door.
There was something forelorn about her, after all, and his heart was

"Better luck, Miss Thackeray. Every cloud has its silver lining."

She stopped and faced him once more. "That's the worst bromide in the
language," she said. "If I were to tell you how many clouds I've seen
and how little silver, you'd think I was lying. This experience? Why,
it's a joy compared to some of the jolts we've had, - dad and me. And
the others, too, for that matter. We've had to get used to it. Five
years ago I would have jumped out of a ten story window before I'd have
let you see me in this get-up. I know you'll laugh yourself sick over
the way I look, and so will your friends when you tell them about me,
but, thank the Lord, I shan't be in a position to hear you. So why
should I mind? What a fellow doesn't know, isn't going to hurt him. You
haven't laughed in my face, and I'm grateful for that. What you do
afterward can't make the least bit of difference to me."

"I assure you, Miss Thackeray, that I shall not laugh, nor shall I ever
relate the story of your - "

"There is one more bromide that I've never found much virtue in," she
interrupted, not disagreeably, "and that is: 'it's too good to be
true.' Good night. Sleep tight."

She closed the door behind her, leaving him standing in the middle of
the room, perplexed but amused.

"By George," he said to himself, still staring at the closed door,
"they're wonders, all of them. We could all take lessons in philosophy
from such as they. I wish I could do something to help them out of - "
He sat down abruptly on the edge of the bed and pulled his wallet from
his pocket. He set about counting the bills, a calculating frown in his
eyes. Then he stared at the ceiling, summing up. "I'll do it," he said,
after a moment of mental figuring. He told off a half dozen bills and
slipped them into his pocket. The wallet sought its usual resting place
for the night: under a pillow.

He was healthy and he was tired. Two minutes after his head touched the
pillow he was sound asleep, losing consciousness even as he fought to
stay awake in order that he might continue to vex himself with the
extraordinary behavior and statement of Putnam Jones.

He was aroused shortly after midnight by shouts, apparently just
outside his window. A man was calling in a loud voice from the road
below; an instant later he heard a tremendous pounding on the tavern

Springing out of bed, he rushed to the window. There were horses in
front of the house, - several of them, - and men on foot moving like
shadows among them. A shuffling of feet came up to his open window; the
intervening roof shut off his view of the porch and all that was
transpiring. His eyes, accustomed to darkness, made out at least five
horses in the now unlighted area before the tavern.

Turning from the window, he unlocked and opened the door into the hall.
Some one was clattering down the narrow staircase. The bolts on the

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Online LibraryGeorge Barr McCutcheonGreen Fancy → online text (page 3 of 20)