Bart had just completed the fire-loss list when a heavy step caused him to turn around.
A portly, well-dressed man, important-appearing and evidently on business, stood in the doorway looking sharply about the place.
“Well!” he uttered, “What’s this?”
“The express office,” said Bart, arising.
“Oh, it is?” slowly commented the man, “You in charge?”
“Yes, sir,” politely answered Bart.
“Set up shop; doing business, eh?”
“Fast as I can,” announced Bart.
“Who told you to?” demanded the visitor bending a pair of stern eyes on Bart.
“Why do you ask that, may I inquire?” interrogated Bart, pleasantly, but standing his ground.
“Ha-hum!” retorted the stranger, “why do ask. Because I am the superintendent of the express company, young man, and somewhat interested in knowing, I fancy!”
Bart did not lose his presence of mind, but he fully realized that he faced a critical moment in his career.
Very courteously he drew forward the rude impromptu bench he had knocked together two hours before.
“Will you have a seat, sir?” he asked.
The express superintendent did not lose his dignity, but there was a slightly humorous twitching at the corners of his mouth.
“Thanks,” he said, wearily seating himself on the rude structure. “Rather primitive furniture for a big express company, it seems to me.”
“It was the best I could provide under the circumstances,” explained Bart modestly.
“You made this bench, did you?”
Bart acknowledged the imputation with a nod.
“And that—desk, is it?”
“And the sign outside, and opened for business?”
“There was no one else on hand. I felt that I must represent my father, Mr. Stirling, who is the authorized agent here, until the seriousness of his condition was known. You see, there was business likely to come in, and I have been here to attend to it.”
“Just so,” vouchsafed his visitor. “No out shipments to-day, I believe?”
“No, it’s a holiday, but there was some rush in stuff on the morning express.”
“Where is it?”
“I have delivered most of it—the balance, two freezers of ice cream, I will attend to this afternoon. I am keeping a record and taking receipts, but giving none—I didn’t feel warranted in that until I heard from the company.”
“You have done very well, young man,” said the stranger. “I am Robert Leslie, the superintendent, as I told you. Do you mean to say you rigged things up in this shape and got your deliveries out alone?”
“There was no one to help me,” remarked Bart.
He felt pleased and encouraged, for the superintendent’s cast-iron visage had softened considerably, and he manifested unmistakable interest as he reached out and took up and inspected the neatly formulated memoranda on the packing-box desk.