Amid all this encouragement, Bart’s life was filled with contentment and earnest endeavor, and he tried to deserve the good fortune that was his lot, and fulfill every duty thoroughly. About a week before the present time he had received a brief letter from his roustabout friend, Baker, dated from a town about fifty miles away, telling him that he had been working on a steady job, but had some business in Pleasantville in a few days, and asked Bart to write him as to the whereabouts of Colonel Harrington.
Bart had replied to this letter, wondering what mystery could possibly connect this homeless vagabond and the great ruling magnate of Pleasantville.
“Now then, my friends,” said Bart briskly, as he saw to it that everything was in order for the sale, “the motto for the hour is quick action and cash on delivery!”
About two o’clock there were several arrivals. Half an hour later the place was pretty well filled. There were several village storekeepers, some traveling men from the hotel, and railroad men off duty.
Nearly a dozen country rigs drove up to the platform, and the rural population was well represented.
At three o’clock prompt, as advertised, Bart ascended the little platform and took up the gavel.
Just then he nodded at a newcomer who entered the doorway and quietly took a seat. It was Mr. Baker.
Bart was more pleased than surprised to see him. He had anticipated his arrival the last two days.
Bart tapped the table to call the crowd to order and silence.
Then he looked again at the doorway, and this time with vivid interest.
He saw Lem Wacker shuffle into view, glance keenly around, fix his eye on Baker, and steal into the room and sit down directly behind that mysterious individual.
“Going, going, gone!”
Bart made a first-class auctioneer—everybody said so after the sale was over, and the pleased grins and the good-natured attention of his audience assured the young novice of this as he concluded the introductory speech.
He had prepared a simple, witty preface to actual business, telling many truths of people who had spent a few cents for what had turned out to be worth many dollars, and inviting a good many guesses by hinting what might be in the heap upon which all eyes were fixed intently.
“Number 1129,” said Bart, after taking a brief breathing spell.
Bob Haven lifted a box about two feet square to the table.
“Shipped to William Brothers, Ross Junction,” announced Bart, reading the tag, “not found. Come, gentlemen! what am I bid for lot 1129?”
“What’s in it?” inquired a big farmer sitting near the front.
“You will have to guess that,” answered Bart pleasantly. “Ah! some kind of liquid, I should imagine,” and he shook the box, its contents echoing out a mellow, gurgling sound.