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- Green Fancy - 10/51 -
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.
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
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