“Mr. Green,” he said, approaching the bar, “I am looking for Lem Wacker. Can you tell me where I may find him?”
“Eh? oh, young Stirling, isn’t it? Wacker? Why, yes, I know where he is.”
He came out slowly from the obscurity of the bar, blinking his faded eyes.
Bart knew he would not be unfriendly. His father, one stormy night a few years previous, had picked up Green half frozen to death in a snowdrift, where he had fallen in a drunken stupor.
Every Christmas day since then, Green had regularly sent a jug of liquor to his father, with word by the messenger that it was for “the squarest man in Pleasantville, who had saved his life.”
Mr. Stirling had set Bart a practical temperance example by pouring the liquor into the sink, but had not offended Green by declining his well-meant offerings.
Bart remembered this, and felt that he might appeal to Green to some purpose.
“Mr. Wacker is not at home,” he explained, “and I wish to find him. I understand he was here last night.”
“He was,” assented Green. “Came here about ten, and hasn’t left the house since.”
“Why!” ejaculated Bart—and paused abruptly. “He is here now?”
“And he has been here since—he is here now!” questioned Bart incredulously.
“He was, ten minutes ago, when I came down—” asserted Green.
Bart stood dumbfounded. He was at fault—the thought flashed over his mind in an instant.
It would not be so easy as he had fancied to run down the burglars, for if what Silas Green said was true, Lem Wacker could prove a most conclusive alibi.
A FAINT CLEW
“What’s the trouble, Stirling?” inquired Silas Green, as Bart stood silently thinking out the problem set before him. “You seem sort of disappointed to find Wacker here. If you didn’t think he was here, why did you come inquiring for him?”
“I knew he came here last night,” said Bart. “Mrs. Wacker told me so.”
“Do you want to see him?”
“No, I think not,” answered Bart after a moment’s reflection.
“Then is there anything else I can do for you, or tell you? You seem troubled. They say I’m a crabbed, treacherous old fellow. All the same, I would do a good turn for Robert Stirling’s son!”
“Thank you,” said Bart, feeling easier. “If you will, you might tell me who was with Lem Wacker last night.”
“Two men—don’t know them from Adam, never saw them before. Lem drove up with them in his rig about ten o’clock. They took the horse and wagon around to the side shed and came in, drank and talked a lot among themselves, and finally started playing cards in the little room yonder.”
“Yes. Once, when I went in with refreshments, Wacker was in a terrible temper. It seemed he had lost all his money, and he had staked his rig and lost that, too. One of the two men laughed at him, and rallied him, remarking he would have ‘his share,’ whatever that meant, in a day or two, and then they would meet again and give him his revenge. By the way, I’m off in my story—Wacker did leave here, about eleven o’clock.”