Bart went home. He had scarcely reached his bedroom when there was a vigorous summons at the front door.
“I hope it is Baker,” murmured Bart, as he slipped on the coat he had just taken off.
“A telegram, Bart,” said his mother, at the bottom of the stairs.
She had receipted for it. Bart tore it open wonderingly, glancing first at the signature, and marveling at its unusual length. It was signed by Robert Leslie, superintendent of the express company, at the city end of the line.
This is what it said:
“Special II. 256 by afternoon express, for Martin & Company, Pleasantville, contains fifteen thousand dollars in cash, sender Dunn & Son, Importers. They ask me to make a special delivery, and will defray any extra cost for having it accepted personally by A.B. Martin, and receipted for by him in the presence of witnesses. Delivery to be legal, must be made before twelve, midnight, and this certified to. This is a very important matter for one of the company’s largest customers. Be sure to make delivery on time.”
Bart read the telegram over twice, taking in its important details, with a serious face.
“Fifteen thousand dollars!” he repeated. “It has saved me some worry that I did not discover the amount before. As to the delivery, that is easy. I’ve got over two hours yet. I see what it is. Martin & Company probably want to throw up a contract because prices have gone up, the contract must be made binding by payment of fifteen thousand dollars by midnight, or Dunn & Son lose. All right.”
His mother noticed that some important business was on her son’s mind, and only told Bart to take care of himself.
Bart hurried towards the express office. At a street crossing he paused, to let pass a close carriage that was driven along at a furious rate of speed in the direction from which he had just come.
“Hello!” he forcibly ejaculated, as it flashed by him, the corner street lamp irradiating its interior brightly—“there’s queer company for you!”
The remark was warranted. The occupants of the vehicle were Colonel Jeptha Harrington and Lem Wacker.
The little express office was dark and lonely-looking when Bart again reached it.
Bart unlocked the office door, shot the inside bolt carefully after him, lighted the lantern, placed it on the desk, and opened the safe.
As he selected the big brown envelope marked “Martin & Company,” and bearing the express company’s shining green seals, his fingers tingled. The immensity of the sum intrusted to his charge perturbed him a trifle.
Bart relocked the safe, stowed the envelope in an inner pocket, and opened the drawer of a little stand leaning against the safe.
He took out a revolver. Mr. Leslie himself had advised him to always have one handy in the express office. Bart had never touched the weapon before. It had been loaned him by Mr. Haven, and Darry had brought it to the office. Bart slipped it now into a side pocket.