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- Green Fancy - 1/51 -


[Illustration: THE RED GLEAM FROM THE BLAZING LOGS FELL UPON HER SHINING HAIR; IT GLISTENED LIKE GOLD. SHE WORE A SIMPLE EVENING GOWN OF WHITE.]

GREEN FANCY

BY

GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON

AUTHOR OF "GRAUSTARK," "THE HOLLOW OF HER HAND," "THE PRINCE OF GRAUSTARK," ETC.

WITH FRONTISPIECE BY C. ALLAN GILBERT

NEW YORK

1917

CONTENTS

I. THE FIRST WAYFARER AND THE SECOND WAYFARER MEET AND PART ON THE HIGHWAY

II. THE FIRST WAYFARER LAYS HIS PACK ASIDE AND FALLS IN WITH FRIENDS

III. MR. RUSHCROFT DISSOLVES, MR. JONES INTERVENES, AND TWO MEN RIDE AWAY

IV. AN EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERMAID, A MIDNIGHT TRAGEDY, AND A MAN WHO SAID "THANK YOU"

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

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

VII. SPUN-GOLD HAIR, BLUE EYES, AND VARIOUS ENCOUNTERS

VIII. A NOTE, SOME FANCIES, AND AN EXPEDITION IN QUEST OF FACTS

IX. THE FIRST WAYFARER, THE SECOND WAYFARER, AND THE SPIRIT OF CHIVALRY ASCENDANT

X. THE PRISONER OF GREEN FANCY, AND THE LAMENT OF PETER THE CHAUFFEUR

XI. MR. SPROUSE ABANDONS LITERATURE AT AN EARLY HOUR IN THE MORNING

XII. THE FIRST WAYFARER ACCEPTS AN INVITATION, AND MR. DILLINGFORD BELABORS A PROXY

XIII. THE SECOND WAYFARER RECEIVES TWO VISITORS AT MIDNIGHT

XIV. A FLIGHT, A STONE-CUTTER'S SHED, AND A VOICE OUTSIDE

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

XVI. THE FIRST WAYFARER VISITS A SHRINE, CONFESSES, AND TAKES AN OATH

XVII. THE SECOND WAYFARER IS TRANSFORMED, AND MARRIAGE IS FLOUTED

XVIII. MR. SPROUSE CONTINUES TO BE PERPLEXING, BUT PUTS HIS NOSE TO THE GROUND

XIX. A TRIP BY NIGHT, A SUPPER, AND A LATE ARRIVAL

XX. THE FIRST WAYFARER HAS ONE TREASURE THRUST UPON HIM,--AND FORTHWITH CLAIMS ANOTHER

XXI. THE END IN SIGHT

CHAPTER I

THE FIRST WAYFARER AND THE SECOND WAYFARER MEET AND PART ON THE HIGHWAY

A solitary figure trudged along the narrow road that wound its serpentinous way through the dismal, forbidding depths of the forest: a man who, though weary and footsore, lagged not in his swift, resolute advance. Night was coming on, and with it the no uncertain prospects of storm. Through the foliage that overhung the wretched road, his ever-lifting and apprehensive eye caught sight of the thunder-black, low-lying clouds that swept over the mountain and bore down upon the green, whistling tops of the trees. At a cross-road below he had encountered a small girl driving homeward the cows. She was afraid of the big, strange man with the bundle on his back and the stout walking stick in his hand: to her a remarkable creature who wore "knee pants" and stockings like a boy on Sunday, and hob-nail shoes, and a funny coat with "pleats" and a belt, and a green hat with a feather sticking up from the band. His agreeable voice and his amiable smile had no charm for her. He merely wanted to know how far it was to the nearest village, but she stared in alarm and edged away as if preparing to break into mad flight the instant she was safely past him with a clear way ahead.

"Don't be afraid," he said gently. "And here! Catch it if you can." He tossed a coin across the road. It struck at her feet and rolled into the high grass. She did not divert her gaze for the fraction of a second. "I'm a stranger up here and I want to find some place to sleep for the night. Surely you have a tongue, haven't you?" By dint of persuasive smiles and smirks that would have sickened him at any other time he finally induced her to say that if he kept right on until he came to the turnpike he would find a sign-post telling him where to get gasolene.

"But I don't want gasolene. I want bread and butter," he said.

"Well, you can git bread an' butter there too," she said. "Food fer man an' beast, it says."

"A hotel?"

"Whut?"

"A boarding-house?" he substituted.

"It's a shindy," she said, painfully. "Men get drunk there. Pap calls it a tavern, but Ma says it's a shindy."

"A road-house, eh?" She was puzzled--and silent. "Thank you. You'll find the quarter in the grass. Good-bye."

He lifted his queer green hat and strode away, too much of a gentleman to embarrass her by looking back. If he had done so he would have seen her grubbing stealthily in the grass, not with her brown little hands, but with the wriggling toes of a bare foot on which the mud, perhaps of yesterday, had caked. She was too proud to stoop.

At last he came to the "pike" and there, sure enough, was the sign- post. A huge, crudely painted hand pointed to the left, and on what was intended to be the sleeve of a very stiff and unflinching arm these words were printed in scaly white: "Hart's Tavern. Food for Man and Beast. Also Gasolene. Established 1798. 1 mile." "Also Gasolene" was freshly painted and crowded its elders in a most disrespectful manner.

The chill spring wind of the gale was sweeping in the direction indicated by the giant forefinger. There was little consolation in the thought that a mile lay between him and shelter, but it was a relief to know that he would have the wind at his back. Darkness was settling over the land. The lofty hills seemed to be closing in as if to smother the breath out of this insolent adventurer who walked alone among them. He was an outsider. He did not belong there. He came from the lowlands and he was an object of scorn.

On the opposite side of the "pike," in the angle formed by a junction with the narrow mountain road, stood a humbler sign-post, lettered so indistinctly that it deserved the compassion of all observers because of its humility. Swerving in his hurried passage, the tall stranger drew near this shrinking friend to the uncertain traveller, and was suddenly aware of another presence in the roadway.

A woman appeared, as if from nowhere, almost at his side. He drew back to let her pass. She stopped before the little sign-post, and together they made out the faint directions.

To the right and up the mountain road Frogg's Corner lay four miles and a half away; Pitcairn was six miles back over the road which the man had travelled. Two miles and a half down the turnpike was Spanish Falls, a railway station, and four miles above the cross-roads where the man and woman stood peering through the darkness at the laconic sign-post reposed the village of Saint Elizabeth. Hart's Tavern was on the road to Saint Elizabeth, and the man, with barely a glance at his fellow-traveller, started briskly off in that direction.

Lightning was flashing fitfully beyond the barrier heights and faraway thunder came to his ears. He knew that these wild mountain storms moved swiftly; his chance of reaching the tavern ahead of the deluge was exceedingly slim. His long, powerful legs had carried him twenty or thirty paces before he came to a sudden halt.

What of this lone woman who traversed the highway? Obviously she too was a stranger on the road, and a glance over his shoulder supported a first impression: she was carrying a stout travelling bag. His first glimpse of her had been extremely casual,--indeed he had paid no attention to her at all, so eager was he to read the directions and be on his way.

She was standing quite still in front of the sign-post, peering up the road toward Frogg's Corner,--confronted by a steep climb that led into black and sinister timberlands above the narrow strip of pasture bordering the pike.

The fierce wind pinned her skirts to her slender body as she leaned


Green Fancy - 1/51

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