When he got back to the colonel, Bart found the latter sitting propped up against the cinder heap, his eyes open, and breathing heavily, but still in a helpless kind of a daze.
He worked over the colonel, and finally got the man on his feet. His position was so unsteady, however, that he had to support him with one hand while he dusted off his clothes with the other.
As he stood trying to keep his charge on his feet, a cab rushed across the tracks. Its driver, bluff Bill Carey, nodded familiarly to Bart, and looked the colonel over critically. He got the latter into the cab in an experienced way.
“Same old complaint!” he intimated to Bart with a wink. “Drinks pretty heavily.”
Bart leaned over into the cab.
“Colonel Harrington,” he said, “do you wish to be driven home?”
The colonel gave him a fishy stare, groaned and put out a wavering hand.
“Come,” he mumbled.
“Jump in,” directed Carey. “You’ll be useful explaining the ‘fall’ up at the house!”
As they went on their way, the young express agent experienced a striking sensation.
A topsy-turvy day of excitement was ending with the peculiar combination of his riding in the same carriage with his most bitter enemy, and acting the good Samaritan.
They proceeded slowly, or rather cautiously, for the popping and banging had recommenced all over town.
Carey had to keep the spirited horses in strong check as they passed groups of boys, reckless of the quantity of firecrackers they deliberately fired off as the team neared them.
Suddenly the horses were pulled to their haunches with a vociferous shout. The cab swerved and creaked, and the horses’ hoofs beat an alarming tattoo on the cobblestones.
“Whoa! whoa!” yelled Bill Carey. “You young villains! get that infernal machine out of the way. Can’t you see—”
Bart stuck his head out of the cab window to view an animated scene.
A fourteen-inch cannon cracker was hissing and spitting out smoke barely two feet ahead of the terrified horses in the middle of the street.
At that moment it exploded. The horses gave a wild snort, a frightened jerk at the reins.
Bart saw the staunch driver dragged from his seat. He lit on his feet, braced, but was pulled over, as, with a fierce tug, the horses snapped the line in two.
Then, unrestrained, the team shot down the street without guide or hindrance and with the speed of the wind.
The young express agent acted quickly. A single glance told him that the driver of the cab could do nothing.
The frightened horses were speeding ahead at a furious rate, could not be overtaken, and Bart doubted if anyone could stop them.
No one tried, but all got out of the way promptly as the team went tearing along. The horses came to a crossing, and, terrified anew at a spitting “Vesuvius” ahead, abruptly veered and turned down a side lane.