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after dark for all the money in the state."

"That's just talk to scare you, Ague," said Dillingford. "People live
up there and since we've been here two or three men visitors have come
down from the place to sample our stock of wet goods. Nothing
suspicious looking or ghostly about them either. I talked with a couple
of 'em day before yesterday. They were out for a horseback ride and
stopped here for a mug of ale."

"Were they foreigners?" inquired Barnes.

"If you want to call an Irishman a foreigner, I'll have to say one of
them was. He had a beautiful brogue. I'd never seen an Irishman in
slick riding clothes, however, so I doubted my ears at first. You don't
associate a plain Mick with anything so swell as that, you know. The
other was an American, I'm sure. Yesterday they rode past here with a
couple of swell looking women. I saw them turn up the road to Green
Fancy, so that knocks your ghost story all to smash, Bacon."

"It isn't MY ghost story," began Mr. Bacon indignantly. The arrival of
four or five men, who stamped into the already crowded hallway from the
porch outside, claimed the attention of the quartette. Among them was
the doctor who, they were soon to discover, was also the coroner of the
county. A very officious deputy sheriff was also in the group.

Before rejoining the crowd in the tap-room, Barnes advised his
companions, especially the girl, to say as little as possible about
what they had heard and seen.

"This thing is going to turn out to be a whacking sensation, and it may
be a great deal more important than we think. You don't want to become
involved in the investigation, which may become a national affair. I'd
like to have a hand in clearing it up. My head is chock-full of
theories that might - "

"Maybe Roon was right," said Dillingford, slowly, as he edged a step or
two away from Barnes.

"In what respect?"

"He certainly thought you were a detective or something like that.
Maybe he thought you came with that young woman, or maybe he thought
you were shadowing her, or - "

"There are a lot of things he may have thought," interrupted Barnes,
smiling. "It is barely possible that my arrival may have caused him to
act more hastily than he intended. That may be the reason why the job
ended so disastrously for him."

Mrs. Jones called out from the doorway. "Mr. Barnes, you're wanted in
there."

"All right," he responded.

"Better let me get you a wet towel to wash your hand," said Bacon to
Miss Thackeray. "My God, I wouldn't have THAT on my hand for a million
dollars."

The doctor had been working over the prostrate form on the tables. As
Barnes entered the room, he looked up and declared that the man was
dead.

"This is Mr. Barnes," said Putnam Jones, indicating the tall traveller
with a short jerk of his thumb.

"I am from the sheriff's office," said the man who stood beside the
doctor. The rest of the crowd evidently had been ordered to stand back
from the tables. The sheriff was a burly fellow, whose voice shook in a
most incongruous manner, despite his efforts to appear composed and
otherwise efficient. "Did you ever see this man before?"

"Not until he was carried in here half an hour ago. I arrived here this
evening."

"What's your business up here, Mr. Barnes?"

"I have no business up here. I just happened to stroll in this evening."

"Well," said the sheriff darkly, "I guess I'll have to ask you to stick
around here till we clear this business up. We don't know you
an' - Well, we can't take any chances. You understand, I reckon."

"I certainly fail to understand, Mr. Sheriff. I know nothing whatever
of this affair and I intend to continue on my way to-morrow morning."

"Well, I guess not."

"Do you mean to say that I am to be detained here against my - "

"You got to stay here till we are satisfied that you don't know
anything about this business. That's all."

"Am I to consider myself under arrest, sir?"

"I wouldn't go as far as to say that. You just stick around here,
that's all I got to say. If you're all right, we'll soon find it out.
What's more, if you are all right you'll be willin' to stay. Do you get
me?"

"I certainly do. And I can now assure you, Mr. Sheriff, that I'd like
nothing better than to stick around here, as you put it. I'd like to
help clear this matter up. In the meantime, you may readily find out
who I am and why I am here by telegraphing to the Mayor of New York
City. This document, which experience has taught me to carry for just
such an emergency as this, may have some weight with you." He opened
his bill-folder and drew forth a neatly creased sheet of paper. This he
handed to the sheriff. "Read it, please, and note the date, the
signature, the official seal of the New York Police department, and
also the rather interesting silver print pasted in the lower left hand
corner. I think you will agree that it is a good likeness of me. Each
year I take the precaution of having myself properly certified by the
police department at home before venturing into unknown and perhaps
unfriendly communities. This, in a word, is a guarantee of good
citizenship, good intentions and-good health. I was once taken up by a
rural Sherlock on suspicion of being connected with the theft of a
horse and buggy, although all the evidence seemed to indicate that I
was absolutely afoot and weary at the time, and didn't have the outfit
concealed about my person. I languished in the calaboose for
twenty-four hours, and might have remained there indefinitely if the
real desperado hadn't been captured in the nick o' time. Have you read
it?"

"Yes," said the sheriff dubiously; "but how do I know it ain't a
forgery?"

"You don't know, of course. But in case it shouldn't be a forgery and I
am subjected to the indignity of arrest or even detention, you would
have a nasty time defending yourself in a civil suit for damages. Don't
misunderstand me. I appreciate your position. I shall remain here, as
you suggest, but only for the purpose of aiding you in getting to the
bottom of this affair."

"What do you think about it, Doc?"

"He says he's willing to stay, don't he? Well, what more can you ask?"
snapped the old doctor. "I should say the best thing for you to do,
Abner, is to get a posse of men together and begin raking the woods up
yonder for the men that did the shooting. You say there is another one
dead up at Jim Conley's? Well, I'll go over and view him at once. The
first thing to do is to establish the corpus delicti. We've got to be
able to say the men are dead before we can charge anybody with murder.
This man was shot in the chest, from in front. Now we'll examine his
clothes and so forth and see if they throw any additional light on the
matter."

The most careful search of Andrew Paul's person established one thing
beyond all question: the man had deliberately removed everything that
might in any way serve to aid the authorities in determining who he
really was and whence he came. The tailor's tags had been cut from the
smart, well-fitting garments; the buttons on the same had been replaced
by others of an ordinary character; the names of the haberdasher, the
hat dealer and the boot maker had been as effectually destroyed. There
were no papers of any description in his pockets. His wrist watch bore
neither name, date nor initials. Indeed, nothing had been overlooked in
his very palpable effort to prevent actual identification, either in
life or death.

Subsequent search of the two rooms disclosed the same extreme
precautions. Not a single object, not even a scrap of paper had been
left there on the departure of the men at nine o'clock. Ashes in an
old-fashioned fireplace in Roon's room suggested the destruction of
tell-tale papers. Everything had vanished. A large calibre automatic
revolver, all cartridges unexploded, was found in Paul's coat pocket.
In another pocket, lying loose, were a few bank notes and some silver,
amounting all told to about thirty dollars.

The same thorough search of the dead body of Roon later on by the
coroner and sheriff, revealed a similar condition. The field-glasses,
of English make, were found slung across his shoulder, and a fully
loaded revolver, evidently his, was discovered the next morning in the
grass beside the road near the point where he fell. There were several
hundred dollars in the roll of bills they found in his inside coat
pocket.

Roon was a man of fifty or thereabouts. Although both men were
smooth-faced, there was reason to suspect that Roon at least had but
recently worn a mustache. His upper lip had the thick, stiff look of
one from which a beard of long-standing recently had been shaved.

Later on it was learned that they purchased the two horses in
Hornville, paying cash for the beasts and the trappings. The
transaction took place a day or two before they came to Hart's Tavern
for what had been announced as a short stay.

Standing on Jim Conley's front porch a little after sunrise, Barnes
made the following declaration:

"Everything goes to show that these men were up here for one of two
reasons. They were either trying to prevent or to enact a crime. The
latter is my belief. They were afraid of me. Why? Because they believed
I was trailing them and likely to spoil their game. Gentlemen, those
fellows were here for the purpose of robbing the place you call Green
Fancy."

"What's that?" came a rich, mellow voice from the outskirts of the
crowd. A man pushed his way through and confronted Barnes. He was a
tall, good-looking fellow of thirty-five, and it was apparent that he
had dressed in haste. "My name is O'Dowd, and I am a guest of Mr.
Curtis at Green Fancy. Why do you think they meant to rob his place?"

"Well," began Barnes drily, "it would seem that his place is the only
one in the neighbourhood that would BEAR robbing. My name is Barnes. Of
course, Mr. O'Dowd, it is mere speculation on my part."

"But who shot the man?" demanded the Irishman. "He certainly wasn't
winged by any one from our place. Wouldn't we have known something
about it if he had attempted to get into the house and was nailed
by - Why, Lord love you, sir, there isn't a soul at Green Fancy who
could shoot a thief if he saw one. This is Mr. De Soto, also a guest at
Green Fancy. He will, I think, bear me out in upsetting your theory."

A second man approached, shaking his head vigorously. He was a thin,
pale man with a singularly scholastic face. Quite an unprepossessing,
unsanguinary person, thought Barnes.

"Mr. Curtis's chauffeur, I think it was, said the killing occurred just
above this house," said he, visibly excited. "Green Fancy is at least a
mile from here, isn't it? You don't shoot burglars a mile from the
place they are planning to rob, do you? Is the man a native of this
community?"

"No," said Barnes, on whom devolved the duties of spokesman. "By the
way, his companion lies dead at Hart's Tavern. He was shot from his
horse at the cross-roads."

"God bless me soul," gasped O'Dowd. "The chauffeur didn't mention a
second one. And were there two of them?"

"And both of them dead?" cried De Soto. "At the cross-roads? My dear
sir, how can you reconcile - " He broke off with a gesture of impatience.

"I'll admit it's a bit out of reason," said Barnes. "The second man
could only have been shot by some one who was lying in wait for him."

"Why, the thing's as clear as day," cried O'Dowd, facing the crowd. His
cheerful, sprightly face was alive with excitement. "They were not
trying to rob any one. They were either trying to get across the border
into Canada themselves or else trying to head some one off who was
coming from that side of the line."

"Gad, you may be right," agreed Barnes instantly. "If you'd like to
hear more of the story I'll be happy to relate all that we know at
present."

While the coroner and the others were loading the body of Albert Roon
into a farm wagon for conveyance to the county-seat, Barnes, who had
taken a sudden fancy to the two men from Green Fancy, gave them a brief
but full account of the tragedy and the result of investigations as far
as they had gone.

"Bedad," said O'Dowd, "it beats the devil. There's something big in
this thing, Mr. Barnes, - something a long shot bigger than any of us
suspects. The extraordinary secrecy of these fellows, their evident
gentility, their doubtful nationality - why, bedad, it sounds like a
penny-dreadful thriller."

"You'll find that it resolves itself into a problem for Washington to
solve," said De Soto darkly. "Nothing local about it, take my word for
it. These men were up to some international devilment. I'm not saying
that Germany is at the back of it, but, by Jove, I don't put anything
beyond the beggars. They are the cleverest, most resourceful people in
the world, damn 'em. You wait and see if I'm not right. There'll be a
stir in Washington over this, sure as anything."

"What time was it that you heard the shots up at Green Fancy?" ventured
Barnes.

"Lord love you," cried O'Dowd, "we didn't hear a sound. Mr. Curtis, who
has insomnia the worst way, poor devil, heard them and sent some one
out to see what all the racket was about. It wasn't till half an hour
or so ago that De Soto and I were routed out of our peaceful nests and
ordered, - virtually ordered, mind you, - to get up and guard the house.
Mr. Curtis was in a pitiful state of nerves over the killing, and so
were the ladies. 'Gad, everybody seemed to know all about the business
except De Soto and me. The man, it seems, made such a devil of a racket
when he came home with the news that the whole house was up in pajamas
and peignoirs. He didn't say anything about a second Johnnie being
shot, however. I'm glad he didn't know about it, for that matter. He'll
be seeing one ghost for the rest of his days and that's enough, without
having another foisted upon him."

"I think I have a slight acquaintance with the chauffeur," said Barnes.
"He gave me the most thrilling motor ride I've ever experienced. 'Gad,
I'll never forget it."

The two men looked at him, plainly perplexed.

"When was all this?" inquired De Soto.

"Early last evening. He took me from the cross-roads to Hart's Tavern
in a minute and a half, I'll bet my soul."

"Last evening?" said O'Dowd, something like skepticism in his tone.

"Yes. He picked up your latest guest at the corners, and she insisted
on his driving me to the Tavern before the storm broke. I've been
terribly anxious about her. She must have been caught out in all that
frightful - "

"What's this you are saying, Mr. Barnes?" cut in De Soto, frowning. "No
guest arrived at Green Fancy last evening, nor was one expected."

Barnes stared. "Do you mean to say that she didn't get there, after
all?"

"She? A woman, was it?" demanded O'Dowd. "Bedad, if she said she was
coming to Green Fancy she was spoofing you. Are you sure it was old
Peter who gave you that jolly ride?"

"No, I am not sure," said Barnes, uneasily. "She was afoot, having
walked from the station below. I met her at the corners and she asked
me if I knew how far it was to Green Fancy, or something like that.
Said she was going there. Then along came the automobile, rattling down
this very road, - an ancient Panhard driven by an old codger. She seemed
to think it was all right to hop in and trust herself to him, although
she'd never seen him before."

"The antique Panhard fits in all right," said O'Dowd, "but I'm hanged
if the woman fits at all. No such person arrived at Green Fancy last
night."

"Did you get a square look at the driver's face?" demanded De Soto.

"It was almost too dark to see, but he was old, hatchet-faced, and
spoke with an accent."

"Then it couldn't have been Peter," said De Soto positively. "He's old,
right enough, but he is as big as the side of a house, with a face like
a full moon, and he is Yankee to his toes. By gad, Barnes, the plot
thickens! A woman has been added to the mystery. Now, who the devil is
she and what has become of her?"




CHAPTER VI

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


Mr. Rushcroft as furious when he arose at eleven o'clock on the morning
after the double murder, having slept like a top through all of the
commotion. He boomed all over the place, vocal castigations falling
right and left on the guilty and the innocent without distinction. He
wouldn't have missed the excitement for anything in the world. He
didn't mind missing the breakfast he was to have had with Barnes, but
he did feel outraged over the pusillanimous trick played upon him by
the remaining members of his troupe. Nothing was to have been expected
of Putnam Jones and his damnation crew; they wouldn't have called him
if the house was afire; they would let him roast to death; but
certainly something was due him from the members of his company,
something better than utter abandonment!

He was still deep in the sulks when he came upon Barnes, who was pacing
the sunlit porch, deep in thought.

"There will never be another opportunity like that," he groaned, at the
close of a ten minute dissertation on the treachery of friends; "never
in all the years to come. The driveling fools! What do I pay them for?
To let me lie there snoring so loud that I couldn't hear opportunity
for the noise I was making? As in everything else I undertake, my dear
Barnes, I excel at snoring. My lung capacity is something amazing. It
has to have an outlet. They let me lie there like a log while the
richest publicity material that ever fell to the lot of an actor went
to waste, - utter waste. Why, damme, sir, I could have made that scene
in the tap-room historic; I could have made it so dramatic that it
would have thrilled to the marrow every man, woman and child in the
United States of America. That's what I mean. They allowed a chance
like that to get away. Can you beat it? Tragedy at my very elbow, - by
gad, almost nudging me, you might say, - and no one to tell me to get
up. Think of the awful requiem I could have - But what's the use
thinking about it now? I am so exasperated I can't think of anything
but anathemas, so - "

"I don't see how you managed to sleep through it," Barnes broke in.
"You must have an unusually clear conscience, Mr. Rushcroft."

"I haven't any conscience at all, sir," roared the star. "I had an
unusually full stomach, that's what was the matter with me. Damme, I
ought to have known better. I take oath now, sir, never to eat again as
long as I live. A man who cannot govern his beastly appetite ought to
defy it, if nothing else."

"I gather from that remark that you omitted breakfast this morning."

"Breakfast, sir? In God's name, I implore you not to refer to anything
so disgusting as stewed prunes and bacon at a time like this. My mind
is - "

"How about luncheon? Will you join me at twelve-thirty?"

"That's quite another matter," said Mr. Rushcroft readily. "Luncheon is
an aesthetic tribute to the physical intelligence of man, if you know
what I mean. I shall be delighted to join you. Twelve-thirty, did you
say?"

"It would give me great pleasure if your daughter would also grace the
festal board."

"Ahem! My daughter and I are - er - what you might say 'on the outs' at
present. I dare say I was a trifle crusty with her this morning. She
was a bit inconsiderate, too, I may add. As a matter of fact she told
me to go and soak my head." Mr. Rushcroft actually blushed as he said
it. "I don't know where the devil she learned such language, unless
she's been overhearing the disrespectful remarks that some of these
confounded opera house managers make when I try to argue with them
about - But never mind! She's a splendid creature, isn't she? She has it
born in her to be one of the greatest actresses in - "

"I think it is too bad that she has to go about in the gown she wears,
Mr. Rushcroft," said Barnes. "She's much too splendid for that. I have
a proposition I'd like to make to you later on. I cannot make it,
however, without consulting Miss Thackeray's feelings."

"My dear fellow!" beamed Rushcroft, seizing the other's hand. "One
frequently reads in books about it coming like this, at first sight,
but, damme, I never dreamed that it ever really happened. Count on me!
She ought to leave the stage, the dear child. No more fitted to it than
an Easter lily. Her place is in the home, the - "

"Good Lord, I'm not thinking of - " And Barnes, aghast, stopped before
blurting out the words that leaped to his lips. "I mean to say, this is
a proposition that may also affect your excellent companions, Bacon and
Dillingford, as well as yourselves."

"Abominations!" snorted Rushcroft. "I fired both of them this morning.
They are no longer connected with my company. I won't have 'em around.
What's more, they can't act and never will. The best bit of acting that
Bacon ever did in his life was when he told me to go to hell a little
while ago. I say 'acting,' mind you, because the wretch COULDN'T have
been in earnest, and yet he gave the most convincing performance of his
life. If I'd ever dreamed that he had it in him to do it so well, I'd
have had the line in every play we've done since he joined us, author
or no author."

At twelve-thirty sharp, Barnes came down from his room freshly shaved
and brushed, to find not only Mr. Rushcroft and Miss Thackeray awaiting
him in the office, but the Messrs. Dillingford and Bacon as well.
Putnam Jones, gloomy and preoccupied behind the counter, allowed his
eyes to brighten a little as the latest guest of the house approached
the group.

"I've given all of 'em an hour or two off," he said genially. "Do what
you like to 'em."

Rushcroft expanded. "My good man, what the devil do you mean by a
remark like that? Remember - "

"Never mind, dad," said Miss Thackeray, lifting her chin haughtily.
"Forgive us our trespassers as we forgive our trespasses. And remember,
also, that poor, dear Mr. Jones is all out of sorts to-day. He is all
keyed up over the notoriety his house is going to achieve before the
government gets through annoying him."

"See here, Miss," began Mr. Jones, threateningly, and then, overcome by
his Yankee shrewdness, stopped as suddenly as he started. "Go on in and
have your dinner. Don't mind me. I am out of sorts." He was smart
enough to realise that it was wiser to have the good rather than the
ill-will of these people. He dreaded the inquiry that was imminent.

"That's better," mumbled Mr. Rushcroft, partially mollified. "I took
the liberty, old fellow," he went on, addressing Barnes, "of asking my
excellent co-workers to join us in our repast. In all my career I have
not known more capable, intelligent players than these - "

"Delighted to have you with us, gentlemen," said Barnes affably. "In
fact, I was going to ask Mr. Rushcroft if he had the slightest
objection to including you - "

"Oh, the row's all over," broke in Mr. Dillingford magnanimously. "It
didn't amount to anything. I'm sure if Mr. Rushcroft doesn't object to
us, we don't object to him."

"Peace reigns throughout the land," said Mr. Bacon, in his deepest
bass. "Precede us, my dear Miss Thackeray."

The sole topic of conversation for the first half hour was the
mysterious slaying of their fellow lodgers. Mr. Rushcroft complained
bitterly of the outrageous, high-handed action of the coroner and
sheriff in imposing upon him and his company the same restrictions that
had been applied to Barnes. They were not to leave the county until the
authorities gave the word. One would have thought, to hear the star's
indignant lamentations, that he and his party were in a position to
depart when they pleased. It would have been difficult to imagine that
he was not actually rolling in money instead of being absolutely
penniless.

"What were these confounded rascals to me?" he demanded, scowling at
Miss Tilly as if she were solely to blame for his misfortune. "Why
should I be held up in this God-forsaken place because a couple of
scoundrels got their just deserts? Why, I repeat? I'd - "

"I - I'm sure I - I don't know," stammered Miss Tilly, wetting her dry
lips with her tongue in an attempt to be lucid.

"What?" exploded Mr. Rushcroft, somewhat taken aback by the retort from
an unexpected quarter. "Upon my soul, I - I - What?"

"He won't bite, Miss Tilly," said Miss Thackeray soothingly.

"Oh, dear!" said Miss Tilly, putting her hand over her mouth.

Barnes had been immersed in his own thoughts for some time. A slight
frown, as of reflection, darkened his eyes. Suddenly, - perhaps
impolitely, - he interrupted Mr. Rushcroft's flow of eloquence.

"Have you any objection, Mr. Rushcroft, to a more or less personal


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