The village hardware store was open for the sale of powder, and Bart stopped there on his way back to the express office and purchased a padlock, two keys fitting it, and some stout staples and a hasp. He carried these articles into the office when he reached it.
The thoughts of his father’s plight, a haunting dread that Colonel Harrington might make him some trouble, and the uncertainty of continued work in the express service, all combined to depress his mind with anxiety and suspense, and he tried to dismiss the themes by whistling a quiet, soothing tune as he started to get the hammer to put the padlock in place.
The minute he opened the door, however, the whistle was instantly checked, and a quick glance at the impromptu desk told Bart that the place had welcomed a visitor since he had left it.
On a sheet of blank paper was scrawled the words: “Express safe was locked last night—contents all right.”
And beside it was a heap of account books—the entire records of the office, which Bart had supposed were destroyed in the fire at the old express shed the evening previous.
THE YOUNG EXPRESS AGENT
Our hero regarded the little pile of account books as if they represented some long-lost, newly-found treasure.
He was very much astonished at their presence there. They were a tangible reality, however, and no delusion of the senses, and his ready mind took in the fact that someone had in an unaccountable manner rescued them from the burning express shed, and mysteriously restored them to the proper representative of the express company in the nature of a vast surprise.
The edges of one of the books was scorched, which was the only evidence that they had been in the flames.
They were all there, and Bart was very glad. He now had in his possession every record of the transactions of the Pleasantville express office since the last New Year’s day.
“And the contents of the safe are all right, too, that writing says!” exclaimed Bart; “now what does all this mean?”
The handwriting of the announcement was crude and labored, and the boy felt sure he had never seen it before.
He glanced with some excitement at the ruins of the old express shed, then he went over there. The embers had died down entirely, and the mass of ashes and debris was sparkless and cold.
Bart went to a near railroad scrap heap and selected a long iron rod crowbar crooked at the end. He returned to the ruins and began poking the debris aside. He was thus engaged when some trackmen, lounging the day away over on a freight platform, sauntered up to the spot.
“Why don’t you work holidays, Stirling?” asked one of them satirically.
“Somebody has got to work to get this mess in shipshape order,” retorted Bart. “The writing said what was true!” he spoke to himself, as his pokings cleared a broad iron surface. “The safe door is shut.”