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- Green Fancy - 6/51 -
possible that you have forgotten the celebrated case of Rushcroft vs. Rushcroft, not more than six years back? Good Lord, man, it was one of the most sensational cases that ever--But I see that you do not recall it. You must have been abroad at the time. I don't believe I ever knew of a case being quite so admirably handled by the press as that one was. She got it after a bitter and protracted fight. Infidelity. Nothing so rotten as cruelty or desertion,--no sir!"
"Ahem!" coughed Miss Tilly.
"The dear old girl married again," sighed Mr. Rushcroft, helping himself to Barnes' butter. "Did very well, too. Man in the wine trade. He saves a great deal, you see, by getting it at cost, and I can assure you, on my word of honour, sir, that he'll find it quite an item. What is it, Mr. Bacon? Any word from New York?"
Mr. Bacon hovered near, perhaps hungrily.
"Our genial host has instructed me to say to his latest guest that the rates are two dollars a day, in advance, all dining-room checks payable on presentation," said Mr. Bacon, apologetically.
Rushcroft exploded. "A scurvy insult," he boomed. "Confound his--"
The new guest was amiable. He interrupted the outraged star. "Tell Mr. Jones that I shall settle promptly," he said, with a smile.
The "heavy leads" lowered his voice. "He told me that he had had a horrible thought."
"He never has anything else," said Mr. Rushcroft.
"It has just entered his bean that you may be an actor, Mr. Barnes," said Bacon.
Miss Tilly, overhearing, drew a step or two nearer. A sudden interest in Mr. Barnes developed. She had not noticed before that he was an uncommonly good-looking fellow. She always had said that she adored strong, "athletic" faces.
"Hence the insult," said Mr. Rushcroft bitterly. He raised both arms in a gesture of complete dejection. "My God!"
"Says it looks suspicious," went on Mr. Bacon, "flocking with us as you do. He mentioned something about birds of a feather."
Mr. Rushcroft arose majestically. "I shall see the man myself, Mr. Barnes. His infernal insolence--"
"Pray do not distress yourself, my dear Rushcroft," interrupted Barnes. "He is quite within his rights. I may be even worse than an actor. I may turn out to be an ordinary tramp." He took a wallet from his pocket, and smiled engagingly upon Miss Tilly. "The check, please."
"For both?" inquired she, blinking.
"Certainly. Mr. Rushcroft was my guest."
"Four twenty five," she announced, after computation on the back of the menu.
He selected a five dollar bill from the rather plethoric purse and handed it to her.
"Be so good as to keep the change," he said, and Miss Tilly went away in a daze from which she did not emerge for a long, long time.
Later on she felt inspired to jot down, for use no doubt in some future literary production, a concise, though general, description of the magnificent Mr. Barnes. She utilised the back of the bill-of-fare and 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
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