George Barr McCutcheon.

Green Fancy online

. (page 4 of 20)
Online LibraryGeorge Barr McCutcheonGreen Fancy → online text (page 4 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


front door shot back with resounding force, and there came the hoarse
jumble of excited voices as men crowded through the entrance. Putnam
Jones's voice rose above the clamour.

"Keep quiet! Do you want to wake everybody on the place?" he was saying
angrily. "What's up? This is a fine time o' night to be - Good Lord!
What's the matter with him?"

"Telephone for a doctor, Put, - damn' quick! This one's still alive. The
other one is dead as a door nail up at Jim Conley's house. Git ole Doc
James down from Saint Liz. Bring him in here, boys. Where's your
lights? Easy now! Eas-EE!"

Barnes waited to hear no more. His blood seemed to be running ice-cold
as he retreated into the room and began scrambling for his clothes. The
thing he feared had come to pass. Disaster had overtaken her in that
wild, senseless dash up the mountain road. He was cursing half aloud as
he dressed, cursing the fool who drove that machine and who now was
perhaps dying down there in the tap-room. "The other one is dead as a
door nail," kept running through his head, - "the other one."

The rumble of voices and the shuffling of feet continued, indistinct
but laden with tragedy. The curious hush of catastrophe seemed to top
the confusion that infected the place, inside and out. Barnes found his
electric pocket torch and dressed hurriedly, though not fully, by its
constricted light. As he was pulling on his heavy walking shoes, a head
was inserted through the half open door, and an excited voice called
out:

"You awake? Good work! Hustle along, will you? No more sleep to-night,
old chap. Man dying downstairs. Shot smack through the lungs. Get a
move - "

"Shot?" exclaimed Barnes.

"So they say," replied the agitated Mr. Dillingford, entering the room.
He had slipped on his trousers and was then in the act of pulling his
suspenders over his shoulders. His unlaced shoes gaped broadly; the
upper part of his body was closely encased in a once blue undershirt;
his abundant black hair was tousled, - some of it, indeed, having the
appearance of standing on end. And in his wide eyes there was a look of
horror. "I didn't hear much of the story. Old man Jones is telephoning
for a doctor and - "

"Did you say that the man was shot?" repeated Barnes, bewildered.
"Wasn't it an automobile accident?"

"Search ME. Gosh, I had one look at that fellow's face down there
and - I didn't hear another word that was said. I never saw a man's face
look like that. It was the colour of grey wall paper. Hurry up! Old man
Jones told me to call you. He says you understand some of the foreign
languages, and maybe you can make out what the poor devil is trying to
say." "Do they know who he is?"

"Sure. He's been staying in the house for three days. The other one
spoke English all right but this one not a word."

"Did they ride away from here about nine o'clock?"

"Yes. They had their own horses and said they were going to spend the
night at Spanish Falls so's they could meet the down train that goes
through at five o'clock in the morning. But hustle along, please. He's
trying to talk and he's nearly gone."

Barnes, buoyed by a sharp feeling of relief, followed the actor
downstairs and into the tap-room. A dozen men were there, gathered
around two tables that had been drawn together. Transient lodgers, in
various stages of dishabille, popped out of all sorts of passageways
and joined the throng. The men about the table, on which was stretched
the figure of the wounded man, were undoubtedly natives: farmers,
woodsmen or employees of the tavern. At a word from Putnam Jones, they
opened up and allowed Barnes to advance to the side of the man.

"See if you c'n understand him, Mr. Barnes," said the landlord.
Perspiration was dripping from his long, raw-boned face. "And you,
Bacon, - you and Dillingford hustle upstairs and get a mattress off'n
one of the beds. Stand at the door there, Pike, and don't let any women
in here. Go away, Miss Thackeray! This is no place for you."

Miss Thackeray pushed her way past the man who tried to stop her and
joined Barnes. Her long black hair hung in braids down her back; above
her forehead clustered a mass of ringlets, vastly disordered but not
untidy. A glance would have revealed the gaudy rose-coloured skirt
hanging below the bottom of the long rain-coat she had snatched from a
peg in the hall-way.

"It is the place for me," she said sharply. "Haven't you men got sense
enough to put something under his head? Where is he hurt? Get that
cushion, you. Stick, it under here when I lift his head. Oh, you poor
thing! We'll be as quick as possible. There!"

"You'd better go away," said Barnes, himself ghastly pale. "He's been
shot. There is a lot of blood - don't you know. It's splendid of you - "

"Dangerously?" she cried, shrinking back, her eyes fixed in dread upon
the white face.

The man's eyes were closed, but at the sound of a woman's voice he
opened them. The hand with which he clutched at his breast slid off and
seemed to be groping for hers. His breathing was terrible. There was
blood at the corners of his mouth, and more oozed forth when his lips
parted in an effort to speak.

With a courage that surprised even herself, the girl took his hand in
hers. It was wet and warm. She did not dare look at it.

"Merci, madame," struggled from the man's lips, and he smiled.

Barnes had heard of the French soldiers who, as they died, said "thank
you" to those who ministered to them, and smiled as they said it. He
had always marvelled at the fortitude that could put gratefulness above
physical suffering, and his blood never failed to respond to an
exquisite thrill of exaltation under such recitals. He at once deduced
that the injured man, while probably not a Frenchman, at least was
familiar with the language.

He was young, dark-haired and swarthy. His riding-clothes were
well-made and modish.

Barnes leaned over and spoke to him in French. The dark, pain-stricken
eyes closed, and an almost imperceptible shake of the head signified
that he did not understand. Evidently he had acquired only a few of the
simple French expressions. Barnes had a slight knowledge of Spanish and
Italian, and tried again with no better results. German was his last
resort, and he knew he would fail once more, for the man obviously was
not Teutonic.

The bloody lips parted, however, and the eyes opened with a piteous,
appealing expression in their depths. It was apparent that there was
something he wanted to say, something he had to say before he died. He
gasped a dozen words or more in a tongue utterly unknown to Barnes, who
bent closer to catch the feeble effort. It was he who now shook his
head; with a groan the sufferer closed his eyes in despair. He choked
and coughed violently an instant later.

"Get some water and a towel," cried Miss Thackeray, tremulously. She
was very white, but still clung to the man's hand. "Be quick! Behind
the bar." Then she turned to Jones. "Don't call my father. He can't
stand the sight of blood," she said.

Barnes unbuttoned the coat and revealed the blood-soaked white shirt.

"Better leave this to me," he said in her ear. "There's nothing you can
do. He's done for. Please go away."

"Oh, I sha'n't faint - at least, not yet. Poor fellow! I've seen him
upstairs and wondered who he was. Is he really going to die?"

"Looks bad," said Barnes, gently opening the shirt front. Several of
the craning men turned away suddenly.

"Can't you understand him?" demanded Putnam Jones, from the opposite
side.

"No. Did you get the doctor?"

"He's on the way by this time. He's got a little automobile. Ought to
be here in ten or fifteen minutes."

"Who is he, Mr. Jones?"

"He is registered as Andrew Paul, from New York. That's all I know. The
other man put his name down as Albert Roon. He seemed to be the boss
and this man a sort of servant, far as I could make out. They never
talked much and seldom came downstairs. They had their meals in their
room. Bacon served them. Where is Bacon? Where the hell - oh, the
mattress. Now, we'll lift him up gentle-like while you fellers slip it
under him. Easy now. Brace up, my lad, we - we won't hurt you. Lordy!
Lordy! I'm sorry - Gosh! I thought he was gone!" He wiped his brow with
a shaking hand.

"There is nothing we can do," said Barnes, "except try to stanch the
flow of blood. He is bleeding inwardly, I'm afraid. It's a clean wound,
Mr. Jones. Like a rifle shot, I should say."

"That's just what it is," said one of the men, a tall woodsman. "The
feller who did it was a dead shot, you c'n bet on that. He got t' other
man square through the heart."

"Lordy, but this will raise a rumpus," groaned the landlord. "We'll
have detectives an' - "

"I guess they got what was comin' to 'em," said another of the men.

"What's that? Why, they was ridin' peaceful as could be to Spanish
Falls. What do you mean by sayin' that, Jim Conley? But wait a minute!
How does it happen that they were up near your dad's house? That
certainly ain't on the road to Span - "

"Spanish Falls nothin'! They wasn't goin' to Spanish Falls any more'n I
am at this minute. They tied their hosses up the road just above our
house," said young Conley, lowering his voice out of consideration for
the feelings of the helpless man. "It was about 'leven o'clock, I
reckon. I was comin' home from singin' school up at Number Ten, an' I
passed the hosses hitched to the fence. Naturally I stopped, curious
like. There wasn't no one around, fer as I could see, so I thought I'd
take a look to see whose hosses they were. I thought it was derned
funny, them hosses bein' there at that time o' night an' no one around.
So as I said before, I thought I'd take a look. I know every hoss fer
ten mile around. So I thought I'd take - "

"You said that three times," broke in Jones impatiently.

"Well, to make a long story short, I thought I'd take a look. I never
seen either of them animals before. They didn't belong around here. So
I thought I'd better hustle down to the house an' speak to pa about it.
Looked mighty queer to me. Course, thinks I, they might belong to
somebody visitin' in there at Green Fancy, so I thought I'd - "

"Green Fancy?" said Barnes, starting.

"Was it up that far?" demanded Jones.

"They was hitched jest about a hundred yards below Mr. Curtis's
propity, on the off side o' the road. Course it's quite a ways in from
the road to the house, an' I couldn't see why if it was anybody callin'
up there they didn't ride all the ways up, 'stead o' walkin' through
the woods. So I thought I'd speak to pa about it. Say," and he paused
abruptly, a queer expression in his eyes, "you don't suppose he knows
what I'm sayin', do you? I wouldn't say anything to hurt the poor
feller's feelin's fer - "

"He doesn't know what you are saying," said Barnes.

"But, dern it, he jest now looked at me in the funniest way. It's given
me the creeps."

"Go on," said one of the men.

"Well, I hadn't any more'n got to our front gate when I heard some one
running in the road up there behind me. 'Fore I knowed what was
happenin', bang went a gun. I almost jumped out'n my boots. I lept
behind that big locus' tree in front of our house and listened. The
runnin' had stopped. The hosses was rarin' an' tearin' so I thought
I'd - "

"Where'd the shot come from?" demanded Jones.

"Up the road some'eres, I couldn't swear just where. Must 'a' been up
by the road that cuts in to Green Fancy. So I thought I'd hustle in an'
see if pa was awake, an' git my gun. Looked mighty suspicious, thinks
I, that gun shot. Jest then pa stuck his head out'n the winder an'
yelled what the hell's the matter. You betcher life I sung out who I
was mighty quick, 'cause pa's purty spry with a gun an' I didn't want
him takin' me fer burglars sneakin' around the house. While we wuz
talkin' there, one of the hosses started our way lickety-split, an' in
about two seconds it went by us. It was purty dark but we see plain as
day that there was a man in the saddle, bendin' low over the hoss's
neck and shoutin' to it. Well, we shore was guessin'. We waited a
couple o' minutes, wonderin' what to do, an' listenin' to the hoss
gittin' furder and furder away in the direction of the cross-roads.
Then, 'way down there by the pike we heerd another shot. Right there
an' then pa said he'd put on his clothes an' we'd set out to see what
it was all about. I had it figgered out that the feller on the hoss had
shot the other one and was streakin' it fer town or some'eres. That
second shot had me guessin' though. Who wuz he shootin' at now, thinks
I.

"Well, pa come out with my gun an' his'n an' we walks up to where I
seen the hosses. Shore 'nough, one of 'em was still hitched to the
fence, an' t'other was gone. We stood around a minute or two examinin'
the hoss an' then pa says let's go up the road aways an' see if we c'n
see anything. An' by gosh, we hadn't gone more'n fifty feet afore we
come plumb on a man layin' in the middle of the road. Pa shook him an'
he didn't let out a sound. He was warm but deader'n a tombstone. I wuz
fer leavin' him there till we c'd git the coroner, but pa says no. We'd
carry him down to our porch, an' lay him there, so's he'd be out o'
danger. Ma an' the kids wuz all up when we got him there, an' pa sent
Bill and Charley over to Mr. Pike's and Uncle John's to fetch 'em
quick. I jumps on Polly an' lights out fer here, Mr. Jones, to
telephone up to Saint Liz fer the sheriff an' the coroner, not givin' a
dang what I run into on the way. Polly shied somethin' terrible jest
afore we got to the pike an' I come derned near bein' throwed. An'
right there 'side the road was this feller, all in a heap. I went back
an' jumped off. He was groanin' somethin' awful. Thinks I, you poor
cuss, you must 'a' tried to stop that feller on hossback an' he plunked
you. That accounted fer the second shot. But while I wuz tryin' to lift
him up an' git somethin' out'n him about the matter, I sees his boss
standin' in the road a couple o' rods away. I couldn't understand a
word he said, so I thought I better go back home an' git some help,
seein's I couldn't manage him by myself. So I dragged him up on the
bank an' made him comfortable as I could, and lit out fer home. We
thought we'd better bring him up here, Mr. Jones, it bein' just as near
an' you could git the doctor sooner. I hitched up the buck-board and
went back. Pa an' some of the other fellers took their guns an' went up
in the woods lookin' fer the man that done the shootin'. The thing that
worries all of us is did the same man do the shootin', or was there two
of 'em, one waitin' down at the cross-roads?"

"Must have been two," said Jones, thoughtfully. "The same man couldn't
have got down there ahead of him, that's sure. Did anybody go up to
Green Fancy to make inquiries?"

"'Twasn't necessary. Mr. Curtis heard the shootin' an' jest before we
left he sent a man out to see what it was all about. The old skeezicks
that's been drivin' his car lately come down half-dressed. He said
nothin' out of the way had happened up at Green Fancy. Nobody had been
nosin' around their place, an' if they had, he said, there wasn't
anybody there who could hit the side of a barn with a rifle."

"It's most mysterious," said Barnes, glancing around the circle of awed
faces. "There must have been some one lying in wait for these men, and
with a very definite purpose in mind."

"Strikes me," said Jones, "that these two men were up to some kind of
dirty work themselves, else why did they say they were goin' to Spanish
Falls? It's my idee that they went up that road to lay fer somebody
comin' down from the border, and they got theirs good an' plenty
instead of the other way round. They were queer actin' men, I'll have
to say that."

His eyes met Barnes' and there was a queer light in them.

"You don't happen to know anything about this, do you, Mr. Barnes?" he
demanded, suddenly.




CHAPTER V

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


Barnes stared. "What do you mean?" he demanded sharply.

"I mean just what I said. What do you know about this business?"

"How should I know ANYTHING about it?"

"Well, we don't know who you are, nor what you're doing up here, nor
what your real profession is. That's why I ask the question."

"I see," said Barnes, after a moment. He grasped the situation and he
admitted to himself that Jones had cause for his suspicions. "It has
occurred to you that I may be a detective or a secret service man,
isn't that the case? Well, I am neither. Moreover, this man and his
companion evidently had their doubts about me, if I am to judge by your
remark and your actions on the porch earlier in the evening."

"I only said that they were curious about you. The man named Roon asked
me a good many questions about you while you were in at supper. Who
knows but what he was justified in thinkin' you didn't mean any good to
him and his friend?"

"Did you know any more about these two men, Mr. Jones, than you know
about me?"

"I don't know anything about 'em. They came here like any one else,
paid their bills regular, 'tended to their own business, and that's
all."

"What was their business?"

"Mr. Roon was lookin' for a place to bring his daughter who has
consumption. He didn't want to take her to a reg'lar consumptive
community, he said, an' so he was lookin' for a quiet place where she
wouldn't be associatin' with lungers all the time. Some big doctor in
New York told him to come up here an' look around. That was his
business, Mr. Barnes, an' I guess you'd call it respectable, wouldn't
you?"

"Perfectly. But why should he be troubled by my presence here if - "
Miss Thackeray put an end to the discussion in a most effectual manner.

"Oh, for the Lord's sake, cut it out! Wait till he's dead, can't you?"
she whispered fiercely. "You've got all the time in the world to talk,
and he hasn't more than ten minutes left to breathe unless that rube
doctor gets here pretty soon. If you've GOT to settle the question
right away, at least have the decency to go out of this room."

Barnes flushed to the roots of his hair. Jones was aghast, dumb with
surprise and anger.

"You are right, Miss Thackeray," said the former, deeply mortified.
"This is not the time nor the place to - - "

"He can't understand a word we say," said Putnam Jones loudly. "You
better get out of here yourself, young woman. This is a job for men,
not - "

"I think he's going now," she whispered in an awe-struck voice. "Keep
still, all of you. Is he breathing, Mr. Barnes? That awful cough just
now seemed to - "

"Come away, please," said Barnes, taking her gently by the arm. "I - I
believe that was the end. Don't stay here, Miss Thackeray. Dillingford,
will you be good enough to escort Miss - "

"I've never seen any one die before," she said in a low, tense voice.
Her eyes were fixed on the still face. "Why - why, how tightly he holds
my hand! I can't get it away - he must be alive, Mr. Barnes. Where is
that silly doctor?"

Barnes unclasped the rigid fingers of the man called Andrew Paul, and,
shaking his head sadly, drew her away from the improvised bier. He and
the shivering Mr. Dillingford conducted her to the dining-room, where a
single kerosene lamp gave out a feeble, rather ghastly light. The tall
Bacon followed, the upper part of his person enveloped in the blanket
Putnam Jones had hastily snatched from the mattress before it was
slipped under the dying man. Several of the women of the house,
including the wife of the landlord, clogged the little entrance hall,
chattering in hushed undertones.

"Would you like a little brandy?" inquired Barnes, as she sat down
limply in the chair he pulled out for her. "I have a flask upstairs in
my - "

"I never touch it," she said. "I'm all right. My legs wabble a little
but - Sit down, Mr. Barnes. I've got something to say to you and I'd
better say it now, because it may come in pretty handy for you later
on. Don't let those women come in here, Dilly."

Barnes drew a chair close beside her. Bacon, with scant regard for
elegance, seated himself on the edge of the table and bent an ear.

"It's all rot about that man Roon being here to look for a place for
his daughter." She spoke rapidly and cautiously. "I don't know whether
Jones knows, but that certainly wasn't what he was here for. The young
fellow in there was a sort of secretary. Roon had a room at the other
end of the hall from yours, on the corner, facing the road and also
looking toward the cross-roads. Young Paul had the next room, with a
door between. I was supposed to make up their rooms after they'd gone
out in the forenoon for a horseback ride. I kept out of their sight,
because I knew they were the kind of men who would laugh at me. They
couldn't understand, and, of course, I couldn't explain. Yesterday
morning I found a sort of map on the floor under young Paul's
washstand. The wind had blown it off the table by the window and he
hadn't missed it. It was in lead pencil and looked like a map of the
roads around here. I couldn't read the notations, but it required only
a glance to convince me that this place was the central point. All of
the little mountain roads were there, and the cross-roads. There wasn't
anything queer about it, so I laid it on his table and put a book on it.

"This afternoon I walked up in the woods back of the Tavern to go over
some lines in a new piece we are to do later on, - God knows when! I
could see the house from where I was sitting. Roon's windows were
plainly visible. I wasn't very far away, you see, the climb being too
steep for me. I saw Roon standing at a window looking toward the
cross-roads with a pair of field-glasses. Every once in awhile he would
turn to Paul, who stood beside him with a notebook, and say something
to him. Paul wrote it down. Then he would look again, turning the
glasses this way and that. I wouldn't have thought much about it if
they hadn't spent so much time there. I believe I watched them for an
hour. Suddenly my eyes almost popped out of my head. Paul had gone away
from the window. He came back and he had a couple of revolvers in his
hands. They stood there for a few minutes carefully examining the
weapons and reloading them with fresh cartridges. The storm was coming
up, but I love it so that I waited almost until dark, watching the
clouds and listening to the roar of the wind in the trees. I'm a queer
girl in that way. I like turmoil. I could sit out in the most dreadful
thunder storm and just revel in the crashes. Just as I was about to
start down to the house - it was a little after six o'clock, and getting
awfully dark and overcast, - Roon took up the glasses again. He seemed
to be excited and called his companion. Paul grabbed the glasses and
looked down the road. They both became very much excited, pointing and
gesticulating, and taking turn about with the glasses."

"About six o'clock, you say?" said Barnes, greatly interested.

"It was a quarter after six when I got back to the house. I spoke to
Mr. Bacon about what I'd seen and he said he believed they were German
spies, up to some kind of mischief along the Canadian border. Everybody
is a German spy nowadays, Mr. Barnes, if he looks cross-wise. Then
about half an hour later you came to the Tavern. I saw Roon sneak out
to the head of the stairs and listen to your conversation with Jones
when you registered. That gave me an idea. It was you they were
watching the road for. They saw you long before you got here, and it
was - "

Barnes held up his hand for silence. "Listen," he said in a low voice,
"I will tell you who they were looking for." As briefly as possible he
recounted his experience with the strange young woman at the
cross-roads. "From the beginning I have connected this tragedy with the
place called Green Fancy. I'll stake my last penny that they have been
hanging around here waiting for the arrival of that young woman. They
knew she was coming and they doubtless knew what she was bringing with
her. They went to Green Fancy to-night with a very sinister purpose in
mind, and things didn't turn out as they expected. What do you know
about the place called Green Fancy?"

He was vastly excited. His active imagination was creating all sorts of
possibilities and complications, depredations and intrigues.

Bacon was the one who answered. He drew the blanket closer about his
lean form and shivered as with a chill.

"I know this much about the place from hearsay," he said in a guttural
whisper. "It's supposed to be haunted. I've heard more than one of
these jays, - big huskies too, - say they wouldn't go near the place


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryGeorge Barr McCutcheonGreen Fancy → online text (page 4 of 20)