He stood staring, spellbound, at the partly open door of the nearest freight car. His cane had fallen from his hand, his head was thrown up as if he had been struck a stunning blow under the chin, and even at the distance he was, Bart could see that his usually red-puffed face was the color of chalk. Almost immediately, through the open doorway space of the freight car an arm was protruded.
Its index finger was pointed, inflexible as an iron rod, directly at the colonel. It fascinated and transfixed the military man, and Bart Stirling, staring also at the strange tableau, was overcome with perplexity and mystification.
So many sensational occurrences had marked the last twenty-four hours of Bart Stirling’s career, that it seemed as though the accumulating series would never end.
It was a particularly ragged and miserable-looking arm, and why it could so summarily check, halt and hold the great magnate of Pleasantville, was the problem that now tried Bart’s reasoning faculties.
Bart closed the door of the express office and stepped out to where he could get a clearer view of the colonel and his environment.
Suddenly the strain was removed. The colonel threw up his arms with a gasp. He started to turn around, clutched at his neck in a strangling kind of a way, tottered, reeled, and plunged forward on his face against a heap of cinders.
“This is serious,” murmured Bart.
He rapidly covered the two hundred foot space between the express shed and the freight car.
“Colonel—Colonel Harrington!” he called in some alarm, kneeling by the prostrate body of his enemy.
Bart tried to pull him over on his back. As he partially succeeded, he noticed that the colonel’s face was pitted, and in one or two places scratched and bleeding from contact with the cinder particles.
The bulky form was quivering and convulsed. The colonel had been dazed, it seemed, but not rendered entirely unconscious, for now with a groan he struggled to a sitting posture.
Bart drew out his handkerchief and tried to clean the dirt from the military man’s face.
The colonel resisted, he swayed and mumbled. Then he groaned again as his eyes lit on the freight car.
“Get me away from here,” he moaned—“get me away! What’s happened to me?”
“That is what I was going to ask you,” said Bart. “Don’t you know?”
The colonel passed his hand over his face and mumbled, but made no coherent reply.
Bart glanced at the freight car. It afforded no evidence of present occupancy. He reflected for moment.
“Wait for just two minutes,” he directed.
Running over to the drug store on the next street, he spoke a few words to the man in charge, and darted out again as the druggist hurried to his telephone to call up the livery stable.