Bart stood for a moment in a kind of daze. The congratulatory words of the superintendent, and the appointment to the position of agent, stirred the dearest desires of his heart.
His great good fortune momentarily overwhelmed him, and he stood staring silently after the superintendent in a grand dream of opulence and ambition.
“I want you!” spoke a harsh, sudden voice, and Bart Stirling came out of dreamland with a shock.
COLONEL JEPTHA HARRINGTON
The young express agent recognized the tones before he saw the speaker’s face. Only one person in Pleasantville had that mixture of lofty command and tragic emphasis, and that was Colonel Jeptha Harrington.
As Bart turned, he saw the village magnate ten feet away, planted like a rock, and extending his big golden-headed cane as if it was a spear and he was poising to immediately impale a victim. The colonel’s brow was a veritable thundercloud.
“Yes, sir,” announced Bart promptly—“what can I do for you?”
Bart did not get excited in the least. He looked so cool and collected that the colonel ground his teeth, stamped his foot and advanced swinging his cane alarmingly.
“I’ve come to see you—” he began, and choked on the words.
“May I ask what for?” interrogated Bart.
Colonel Harrington shook, as he placed his cane under his arm and took out his big plethoric wallet.
He selected a strip of paper and held it between his forefinger and thumb.
“Young man,” he observed, “do you know what that is?”
Bart shook his head.
“Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a bill, do you hear? a bill. It’s for eighty-five dollars, damage done maliciously on my private grounds, yesterday evening. It represents the bare cost of a new copper pedestal to replace the one you shot to pieces last night, and it’s a wonder you are not in jail for murder, for had that cannon ball struck a human being—Enough! before I take up this outrage with the district attorney in its criminal phase, are you going to settle the damage, or are you not?”
“Colonel Harrington, I haven’t got eighty-five dollars.”
“Then get it!” snapped the Colonel.
“Nor can I get it.”
“Then,” observed the colonel, restoring the bit of paper to his pocket—“go to jail!”
Bart regarded his enemy dumbly. Colonel Harrington was a power in Pleasantville, his will and his way were paramount there.
“I am sorry,” said Bart finally, in a tone of genuine distress, “but eighty-five dollars is a sheer impossibility—in cash. If you would listen to me—”
“But I shan’t!”
“I would like to offer payment or replace the pedestal on reasonable terms.”
“It don’t go!”
“And, further, I am not to blame in the matter.”
“What!” roared the colonel “what’s that?”