“Eighty-five dollars—just so.”
“But I haven’t paid it!”
“You needn’t. Serious mistake—I
see that,” said the colonel. “That
I see it now. Satisified you didn’t mean any harm. Sick of whole muddle.
And about getting you discharged and all that rot—didn’t mean it.
Forget it! Was a little mad and excited; see!”
“I can’t take your receipt for what I haven’t paid, and what I am willing to pay as fast as I can,” said Bart.
“Then tear it up—I won’t take a cent!” declared Colonel Harrington obstinately.
“The cab is coming,” remarked Bart. “Shall Mr. Carey drive you home?”
“Yes, I suppose so. Come here, quick!”
He grabbed Bart’s arm and drew our hero close up to him, as though he had some pressing intelligence to impart before the cab interrupted.
“Forget it!” he whispered hoarsely.
“About the statue—I’ll be glad to,” said Bart frankly.
“Runaway? I shall not mention it, Colonel Harrington.”
The colonel released Bart’s arm, but with a desperate groan. It was evident he was not fully satisfied.
“Sure you’ll forget It!” he persisted, very much perturbed. “I don’t mean my abusing you, or the runaway, or—or—I mean I had an accident after I left you at the express office. Someone hailed me—but you know, you know!”
The colonel cast a penetrating look on Bart, who shook his head negatively.
“I don’t know, Colonel,” he declared.
“Oh, come, now!” croaked the colonel, making a ghastly attempt to give the statement the aspect of a joke. Honest, you didn’t hear anyone call to me?”
“No,” replied Bart.
The cab drove up and halted.
“Don’t do any talking. Don’t start any gossip about—about—of course you won’t! I’ve got your word. You’re a truthful, reliable boy, Stirling, and I—I respect you,” stumbled on the colonel. “Mum’s the word, and I’ll—I’ll make you no trouble, see?”
“Thank you, Colonel Harrington,” said Bart in a queer tone.
The colonel again regarded him penetratingly, and then got into the cab. He took the trouble of leaning out and waving his hand as the vehicle started up. He smiled in a sickly way at Bart, and once made a movement as if inclined to get out and once more suggest to the young express agent that he “forget it.”
“That man is scared half to death over something,” reflected Bart, as he took a short cut to regain the express office.
THE MYSTERIOUS MR. BAKER
The little express office looked good to Bart as its precincts again sheltered him.
Things appeared better and clearer to him now than at any time during the past twenty-four hours, and his heart warmed up as he put his papers and books in order, saw that the safe was secured, and decided to close up business for the day.