One purchaser got a gold pen, another a very pretty stick pin.
Lem Wacker had not engaged in the general commotion. He had retained his place on a bench, looking bored, but for some reason sitting out the session, and Bart wondered why.
Baker took a mild interest in what was going on, smiling appreciatively once in a while when Bart made a witty hit or an unusually good sale.
Finally, however, Wacker put up his forefinger as Bart was bidding off a thin wooden box about four inches square.
“Sender: Novelty Jewelry Company, no address,” read Bart, “shipped to James Barclay, Millville—not found. This is a promising-looking package. Gentlemen, what am I bid?”
Lem Wacker seemed to have some spare cash, for he paid two dollars for the box, swaggered off with it, and opening it disclosed a very small and neat pocket alarm clock.
He wound it up, sent out its silvery call once or twice for the edification of the crowd about him, hoping to sell it off to someone, and then, there being no purchaser, with a disappointed grunt slipped it into his pocket.
“Number 529,” announced Bart a few minutes later—“the last package, gentlemen!”
The crowd was dispersing, Darry was counting up the heap of bank notes and coin in the cash box, Bob was gloating and wild with delight as uncovering his purchase he brought to light a new bicycle.
The package Bart tendered was thin and flat. Two tough pieces of cardboard held it stiff and straight. It seemed to contain papers of some kind, and so many bidders had bought old deeds, contracts, plans, manuscripts and the like, utterly valueless to them, that the lot hung at twenty-five cents for several minutes.
“Come, come, gentlemen!” urged Bart—“the last may be the best. The charges are sixty-five cents. Sender’s name not given. Directed to ’A.A. Adams, Pleasantville’—not found.”
Bart experienced something of a shock.
The familiar cry of the ex-roustabout, Mr. Baker, rang out sharp and sudden.
Glancing at him, Bart saw that he had arisen to his feet.
His face was bloodless and twitching, his whole frame a-quake. His eyes were snapping wildly. He was like a man who could hardly speak or stand, and fairly on the verge of a fit.
A wavering finger he pointed at the young auctioneer, and gasped out.
MR. BAKER’S BID
The attitude, actions and announcement of the mysterious Mr. Baker filled Bart Stirling with profound surprise and wonderment.
The young express agent well knew the erratic temperment of his singular friend, but Baker had been so placid and natural up to the present moment, and this excitable outburst was so vivid and unaccountable, that Bart felt sure that there was some important reason for the same.