Bart’s patience was tried. His eyes flashed, but he stooped and picked up the pages and replaced them on the dry goods box.
“Don’t you do that again,” he warned in a strained tone.
“Why!” yelled Wacker, rolling up his cuffs.
“I’ll trim you next! ‘Don’t-do-it-again!’ eh? Boo! bah!”
Lem raised his foot and kicked over the desk, papers and all.
“That’s express company property,” observed Bart quietly, but his blood was up, the limit reached. “Get out!”
One arm shot forward, and the clenched muscular fist rested directly under the chin of the astounded Lem Wacker.
“And stay out.”
Lem Wacker felt a smart whack, went whirling back over the threshold, and the next instant measured his length, sprawling on the ground outside of the express shed.
WAITING FOR TROUBLE
Lem Wacker rolled over, then sat up, rubbed his head in a half-dazed manner, and muttered in a silly, sheepish way.
“Lem Wacker,” said Bart, “I have got just a few words to say to you, and that ends matters between us. I am sorry I had to strike you, but I will have no man interfering with the express company’s affairs. I want you to go away, and if you ever come in here again except on business strictly there will be trouble.”
Lem did not put up much of a belligerent front, though he tried still to look ugly and dangerous.
He got his balance at last, and extended his finger at our hero.
“Bart Stirling,” he maundered, “you’ve made an enemy for life. Look out for me! You’re a marked man after this.”
“What am I marked with,” inquired Bart quickly—“burnt cork?”
“Hey! What?” blurted out Lem, and Bart saw that the shot had struck the target. Wacker looked sickly, and muttered something to himself. Then he took himself off.
Bart’s worries were pleasantly broken in upon by the arrival of his sister Bertha. She brought him a generous lunch, the first food Bart had tasted that day, and his appetite welcomed it in a wholesome way.
He put in the time planning what he would do if he was lucky enough to be retained in his father’s position, and what he might do in case someone else was appointed.
At half-past two Bart loaded the two ice cream freezers on the cart and started for the picnic grounds.
Juvenile Pleasantville had somewhat subsided for a time in the fervor of its patriotism. There was a lull in the popping and banging, nearly everybody in town being due at the time-honored celebration in the picnic grove.
When Bart reached the grove, someone was making an address, and he piloted his way circumspectly up to the side of the platform where the speaking was going on.
He deposited the freezers inside the bunting-decorated inclosure, where half a dozen young ladies were posted to dispense the refreshments after the literary programme was finished.