“Twenty dollars—gone!” sung out Bart in the same business tone, “and sold to—cash.”
With a sigh of relief and weakness Baker swayed sideways to a bench, first extending to Darry Haven with a shaking hand a little roll of bills.
“Charge me with the balance,” said Bart quickly to his assistant, in a low tone.
“You’ve no right!” raved Lem Wacker loudly, shaking his fist at Bart, and in a passion of uncontrollable rage. “You’ll suffer for this! I protest against this sale—I demand that you do not deliver that package, you young snob! you—”
Lem Wacker was getting abusive. He pranced about like a mad bull.
A heavy hand dropped suddenly on his collar, McCarthy, the watchman, gave him a shove towards the door.
“No talk of that kind allowed here,” he remarked grimly. “Get out, or I’ll fire you out!”
As Wacker disappeared through the doorway, Bart leaned from the platform.
“Here is your package, Mr. Baker,” he said. “What is the trouble—are you ill?”
Baker struggled to his feet. He was in a pitiable state of agitation and nervousness.
“No! no!” he panted, “you keep the package—for a time. Till—till I explain. I’ve got it! I’ve got it at last!” he quavered in an exultant tone. “Air—I’m choking! I—I’ll be back soon—”
He rushed to the door overcome, like a man on the verge of a fit.
Bart started to follow him. Just then, however, one of the recent bidders came up to ask some question about a purchase which required that Bart consult the record book.
When he had disposed of the matter, Bart hurried to the outside. Baker was nowhere in sight.
A NIGHT MESSAGE
The crowd had melted away, Bob Haven was totally engrossed with the magnificent prize he had drawn, and Darry was busily engaged in closing up the records of the sale.
Bart was thoroughly mystified at the strange conduct of Baker, and very much disappointed at not finding him, now that he sought the mysterious man.
McCarthy had gone home, and Lem Wacker was not in evidence. Some boys were guarding a pile of stuff that had been purchased and thrown aside. Bart set at work cleaning up the package coverings that littered the place inside and outside.
Things were back to normal when the afternoon express came in. It was nearly two hours late, and closing time.
There was the usual grist of store packages, which Darry attended to, and several special envelopes. These Bart placed in the safe along with the proceeds of the day derived from the sale, barely glancing over the duplicate receipt he had signed for the messenger.
He noticed that two of the specials were for the local bank, and the third for the big pickle factory of Martin & Company, at the edge of the town.