Infomotions, Inc.Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation / Dyne, Edith Van, 1856-1919



Author: Dyne, Edith Van, 1856-1919
Title: Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): millville; patsy; merrick; hetty; skeelty; thursday; louise; beth; thursday smith; millville tribune; uncle john; weldon; arthur weldon; peggy; arthur; tribune; uncle; millville daily; chazy junction; smith; chazy county; peggy mcnutt; joe wegg; skim; bil
Contributor(s): Knowles, Frederic Lawrence [Compiler]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 51,081 words (really short) Grade range: 8-11 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext10059
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Title: Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation

Author: Edith Van Dyne

Release Date: November 12, 2003 [EBook #10059]

Language: English

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        AUNT JANE'S NIECES
           ON VACATION

                BY

          EDITH VAN DYNE

               1912





CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I     THE HOBO AT CHAZY JUNCTION
II    THE INVASION OF MILLVILLE
III   THE DAWN OF A GREAT ENTERPRISE
IV    THE WAY INTO PRINT
V     DIVIDING THE RESPONSIBILITIES
VI    MR. SKEELTY OF THE MILL
VII   THE SKETCH ARTIST
VIII  THE _Millville Daily Tribune_
IX    TROUBLE
X     THURSDAY SMITH
XI    THE HONER'BLE OJOY BOGLIN
XII   MOLLY SIZER'S PARTY
XIII  BOB WEST INTERFERES
XIV   THE DANCER SIGNAL
XV    A CLEVER IDEA
XVI   LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS
XVII  THE PENALTIES OF JOURNALISM
XVIII OPEN WARFARE
XIX   A MERE MATTER OF REVENGE
XX    DEFENDING THE PRESS
XXI   THE COMING OF FOGERTY
XXII  UNMASKED
XXIII THE JOURNALISTS ABDICATE
XXIV  A CHEERFUL BLUNDER




CHAPTER I

THE HOBO AT CHAZY JUNCTION


Mr. Judkins, the station agent at Chazy Junction, came out of his little
house at daybreak, shivered a bit in the chill morning air and gave an
involuntary start as he saw a private car on the sidetrack. There were
two private cars, to be exact--a sleeper and a baggage car--and Mr.
Judkins knew the three o'clock train must have left them as it passed
through.

"Ah," said he aloud; "the nabobs hev arrove."

"Who are the nabobs?" asked a quiet voice beside him.

Again Mr. Judkins started; he even stepped back a pace to get a better
view of the stranger, who had approached so stealthily through the dim
light that the agent was unaware of his existence until he spoke.

"Who be you?" he demanded, eyeing the man suspiciously.

"Never mind who I am," retorted the other in a grumpy tone; "the
original question is 'who are the nabobs?'"

"See here, young feller; this ain't no place fer tramps," observed Mr.
Judkins, frowning with evident displeasure; "Chazy Junction's got all it
kin do to support its reg'lar inhabitants. You'll hev to move on."

The stranger sat down on a baggage truck and eyed the private car
reflectively. He wore a rough gray suit, baggy and threadbare, a flannel
shirt with an old black tie carelessly knotted at the collar, a brown
felt hat with several holes in the crown, and coarse cowhide shoes that
had arrived at the last stages of usefulness. You would judge him to be
from twenty-five to thirty years of age; you would note that his face
was browned from exposure, that it was rather set and expressionless but
in no way repulsive. His eyes, dark and retrospective, were his most
redeeming feature, yet betrayed little of their owner's character. Mr.
Judkins could make nothing of the fellow, beyond the fact that he was
doubtless a "tramp" and on that account most unwelcome in this retired
neighborhood.

Even tramps were unusual at Chazy Junction. The foothills were sparsely
settled and the inhabitants too humble to be attractive to gentlemen of
the road, while the rocky highways, tortuous and uneven, offered no
invitation to the professional pedestrian.

"You'll hev to move on!" repeated the agent, more sternly.

"I can't," replied the other with a smile. "The car I was--er--attached
to has come to a halt. The engine has left us, and--here we are, I and
the nabobs."

"Be'n ridin' the trucks, eh?"

"No; rear platform. Very comfortable it was, and no interruptions. The
crazy old train stopped so many times during the night that I scarcely
woke up when they sidetracked us here, and the first thing I knew I was
abandoned in this wilderness. As it grew light I began to examine my
surroundings, and discovered you. Glad to meet you, sir."

"You needn't be."

"Don't begrudge me the pleasure, I implore you. I can't blame you for
being gruff and unsociable; were you otherwise you wouldn't reside
at--at--" he turned his head to read the half legible sign on the
station house, "at Chazy Junction. I'm familiar with most parts of the
United States, but Chazy Junction gets my flutters. Why, oh, why in the
world did it happen?"

Mr. Judkins scowled but made no answer. He was wise enough to understand
he was no match in conversation for this irresponsible outcast who knew
the great world as perfectly as the agent knew his junction. He turned
away and stared hard at the silent sleeper, the appearance of which was
not wholly unexpected.

"You haven't informed me who the nabobs are, nor why they choose to be
sidetracked in this forsaken stone-quarry," remarked the stranger,
eyeing the bleak hills around him in the growing light of dawn.

The agent hesitated. His first gruff resentment had been in a manner
disarmed and he dearly loved to talk, especially on so interesting a
subject as "the nabobs." He knew he could astonish the tramp, and the
temptation to do so was too strong to resist.

"It's the great John Merrick, who's got millions to burn but don't light
many bonfires," he began, not very graciously at first. "Two years ago
he bought the Cap'n Wegg farm, over by Millville, an'--"

"Where's Millville?" inquired the man.

"Seven mile back in the hills. The farm ain't nuthin' but cobblestone
an' pine woods, but--"

"How big is Millville?"

"Quite a town. Eleven stores an' houses, 'sides the mill an' a big
settlement buildin' up at Royal, where the new paper mill is jest
started. Royal's four mile up the Little Bill Hill."

"But about the nabob--Mr. Merrick, I think you called him?"

"Yes; John Merrick. He bought the Cap'n Wegg place an' spent summer
'fore last on it--him an' his three gals as is his nieces."

"Oh; three girls."

"Yes. Clever gals, too. Stirred things up some at Millville, I kin tell
you, stranger. Lib'ral an' good-natured, but able to hold their own with
the natives. We missed 'em, last year; but t'other day I seen ol' Hucks,
that keeps their house for 'em--he 'n' his wife--an' Hucks said they was
cumin' to spend this summer at the farm an' he was lookin' fer 'em any
day. The way they togged up thet farmhouse is somethin' won'erful, I'm
told. Hain't seen it, myself, but a whole carload o' furnitoor--an' then
some more--was shipped here from New York, an' Peggy McNutt, over t'
Millville, says it must 'a' cost a for-tun'."

The tramp nodded, somewhat listlessly.

"I feel quite respectable this morning, having passed the night as the
guest of a millionaire," he observed. "Mr. Merrick didn't know it, of
course, or he would have invited me inside."

"Like enough," answered the agent seriously. "The nabob's thet reckless
an' unaccountable, he's likely to do worse ner that. That's what makes
him an' his gals interestin'; nobody in quarries. How about breakfast,
friend Judkins?"

"That's my business an' not yourn. My missus never feeds tramps."

"Rather ungracious to travelers, eh?"

"Ef you're a traveler, go to the hoe-tel yonder an' buy your breakfas'
like a man."

"Thank you; I may follow your advice."

The agent walked up the track and put out the semaphore lights, for the
sun was beginning to rise over the hills. By the time he came back a
colored porter stood on the platform of the private car and nodded to
him.

"Folks up yit?" asked Judkins.

"Dressing, seh."

"Goin' ter feed 'em in there?"

"Not dis mohnin'. Dey'll breakfas' at de hotel. Carriage here yit?"

"Not yit. I s'pose ol' Hucks'll drive over for 'em," said the agent.

"Dey's 'spectin' some one, seh. As fer me, I gotta live heah all day,
an' it makes me sick teh think of it."

"Heh!" retorted the agent, scornfully; "you won't git sick. You're too
well paid fer that."

The porter grinned, and just then a little old gentleman with a rosy,
cheery face pushed him aside and trotted down the steps.

"Mornin', Judkins!" he cried, and shook the agent's hand. "What a
glorious sunrise, and what crisp, delicious air! Ah, but it's good to be
in old Chazy County again!"

The agent straightened up, his face wreathed with smiles, and cast an "I
told you so!" glance toward the man on the truck. But the stranger had
disappeared.




CHAPTER II

THE INVASION OF MILLVILLE


Over the brow of the little hill appeared a three-seated wagon, drawn by
a pair of handsome sorrels, and in a moment the equipage halted beside
the sleeper.

"Oh, Thomas Hucks--you dear, dear Thomas!" cried a clear, eager voice,
and out from the car rushed Miss Patricia Doyle, to throw her arms about
the neck of the old, stoop-shouldered and white-haired driver, whose
face was illumined by a joyous smile.

"Glad to see ye, Miss Patsy; right glad 'ndeed, child," returned the old
man. But others were waiting to greet him; pretty Beth De Graf and
dainty Louise Merrick--not Louise "Merrick" any longer, though, but
bearing a new name she had recently acquired--and demure Mary, Patsy's
little maid and an old friend of Thomas Hucks', and Uncle John with his
merry laugh and cordial handshake and, finally, a tall and rather
dandified young man who remained an interested spectator in the
background until Mr. Merrick seized and dragged him forward.

"Here's another for you to know, Thomas," said the little millionaire.
"This is the other half of our Louise--Mr. Arthur Weldon--and by and by
you can judge whether he's the better half or not."

The aged servant, hat in hand, made a respectful bow to Mr. Weldon. His
frank eyes swept the young man from head to foot but his smile was the
same as before.

"Miss Louise is wiser ner I be," said the old fellow simply; "I'm safe
to trust to her jedgment, I guess."

There was a general laugh, at this, and they began to clamber aboard the
wagon and to stow away beneath the seats the luggage the colored porter
was bringing out.

"Stop at the Junction House, Thomas," said Mr. Merrick as they moved
away.

"Nora has the breakfast all ready at home, sir," replied Thomas.

"Good for Nora! But we can't fast until we reach home--eight good miles
of jolting--so we'll stop at the Junction House for a glass of Mrs.
Todd's famous milk."

"Very good, sir."

"Is anyone coming for our trunks and freight? There's half a car of
truck to be carted over."

"Ned's on the way, sir; and he'll get the liveryman to help if he can't
carry it all."

The Junction House was hidden from the station by the tiny hill, as were
the half dozen other buildings tributary to Chazy Junction. As the wagon
drew up before the long piazza which extended along the front of the
little frame inn they saw a man in shabby gray seated at a small table
with some bread and a glass of milk before him. It was their
unrecognized guest of the night--the uninvited lodger on the rear
platform--but he did not raise his eyes or appear to notice the new
arrivals.

"Mrs. Todd! Hey, Mrs. Todd!" called Uncle John. "Anybody milked the cow
yet?"

A frowsy looking woman came out, all smiles, and nodded pleasantly at
the expectant group in the wagon. Behind her loomed the tall, lean form
of Lucky Todd, the "proprietor," who was serious as a goat, which animal
he closely resembled in feature.

"Breakfas' all 'round, Mr. Merrick?" asked the woman.

"Not this time, Mrs. Todd. Nora has our breakfast waiting for us. But we
want some of your delicious milk to last us to the farm."

"Las' night's milkin's half cream by this time," she rejoined, as she
briskly reentered the house.

The man at the table held out his empty glass.

"Here; fill this up," he said to Lucky Todd.

The somber-faced proprietor turned his gaze from the Merrick group to
the stranger, eyed him pensively a moment and then faced the wagon
again. The man in gray got up, placed the empty glass in Todd's hand,
whirled him around facing the door and said sternly:

"More milk!"

The landlord walked in like an automaton, and a suppressed giggle came
from the girls in the wagon. Uncle John was likewise amused, and despite
the unknown's frazzled apparel the little millionaire addressed him in
the same tone he would have used toward an equal.

"Don't blame you, sir. Nobody ever tasted better milk than they have at
the Junction House."

The man, who had resumed his seat, stood up, took off his hat and bowed.
But he made no reply.

Out came Mrs. Todd, accompanied by another frowsy woman. Between them
they bore a huge jug of milk, a number of thick glasses and a plate of
crackers.

"The crackers come extry, Mr. Merrick," said the landlady, "but seein'
as milk's cheap I thought you might like 'em."

The landlord now came out and placed the stranger's glass, about half
filled with milk, on the table before him. The man looked at it,
frowned, and tossed off the milk in one gulp.

"More!" he said, holding out the glass.

Todd shook his head.

"Ain't no more," he declared.

His wife overheard him and pausing in her task of refilling the glasses
for the rich man's party she looked over her shoulder and said:

"Give him what he wants, Lucky."

The landlord pondered.

"Not fer ten cents, Nancy," he protested. "The feller said he wanted ten
cents wuth o' breakfas', an' by Joe he's had it."

"Milk's cheap," remarked Mrs. Todd. "It's crackers as is expensive these
days. Fill up his glass, Lucky."

"Why is your husband called 'Lucky,' Mrs. Todd?" inquired Patsy, who was
enjoying the cool, creamy milk.

"'Cause he got me to manage him, I guess," was the laughing reply. "Todd
ain't much 'count 'nless I'm on the spot to order him 'round."

The landlord came out with the glass of milk but paused before he set it
down.

"Let's see your money," he said suspiciously.

It seemed to the girls, who were curiously watching the scene, that the
tramp flushed under his bronzed skin; but without reply he searched in
a pocket and drew out four copper cents, which he laid upon the table.
After further exploration he abstracted a nickel from another pocket and
pushed the coins toward the landlord.

"'Nother cent," said Todd.

Continued search seemed for a time hopeless, but at last, in quite an
unexpected way, the man produced the final cent and on receiving it Todd
set down the milk.

"Anything more, yer honor?" he asked sarcastically.

"Yes; you might bring me the morning paper," was the reply.

Everyone except Todd laughed frankly at this retort. Uncle John put two
silver dollars in Mrs. Todd's chubby hand and told Thomas to drive on.

"I dunno," remarked old Hucks, when they were out of earshot, "whether
that feller's jest a common tramp or a workman goin' over to the paper
mill at Royal. Jedgin' from the fact as he had money I guess he's a
workman."

"Wrong, Thomas, quite wrong," said Beth, seated just behind him. "Did
you notice his hands?"

"No, Miss Beth."

"They were not rough and the fingers were slender and delicate."

"That's the mark of a cracksman," said Arthur Weldon, with a laugh. "If
there are any safes out here that are worth cracking, I'd say look out
for the gentleman."

"His face isn't bad at all," remarked Patsy, reflectively. "Isn't there
any grade between a workman and a thief?"

"Of course," asserted Mr. Merrick, in his brisk way. "This fellow,
shabby as he looked, might be anything--from a strolling artist to a
gentleman down on his luck. But what's the news, Thomas? How are Ethel
and Joe?"

"Mr. an' Mrs. Wegg is quite comf't'ble, sir, thank you," replied old
Hucks, with a show of eagerness. "Miss Ethel's gran'ther, ol' Will
Thompson, he's dead, you know, an' the young folks hev fixed up the
Thompson house like a palace. Guess ye'd better speak to 'em about
spendin' so much money, Mr. Merrick; I'm 'fraid they may need it some
day."

"Don't worry. They've a fine income for life, Thomas, and there will be
plenty to leave to their children--if they have any. But tell me about
the mill at Royal. Where _is_ Royal, anyhow?"

"Four mile up the Little Bill Creek, sir, where the Royal Waterfall is.
A feller come an' looked the place over las' year an' said the pine
forest would grind up inter paper an' the waterfall would do the
grindin'. So he bought a mile o' forest an' built a mill, an' they do
say things is hummin' up to the new settlement. There's more'n two
hundred hands a-workin' there, a'ready."

"Goodness me!" cried Patsy; "this thing must have livened up sleepy old
Millville considerably."

"Not yet," said Hucks, shaking his head. "The comp'ny what owns the mill
keeps a store there for the workmen, an' none of 'em come much to
Millville. Our storekeepers is madder'n blazes about it; but fer my part
I'm glad the two places is separated."

"Why?" asked Louise.

"They're a kinder tough lot, I guess. Turnin' pine trees inter paper
mus' be a job thet takes more muscle than brains. I don't see how it's
done, at all."

"It's simple enough," said Mr. Merrick. "First the wood is ground into
pulp, and then the pulp is run through hot rollers, coming out paper.
It's a mighty interesting process, so some day we will all go to Royal
and see the paper made."

"But not just yet, Uncle," remarked Patsy. "Let's have time to settle
down on the farm and enjoy it. Oh, how glad I am to be back in this
restful, sleepy, jumping-off-place of the world again! Isn't it
delightful, Arthur Weldon? Did you ever breathe such ozony, delicious
mountain air? And do you get the fragrance of the pine forests, and
the--the--"

"The bumps?" asked Arthur, as the wagon gave a jolt a bit more emphatic
than usual; "yes, Patsy dear, I get them all; but I won't pass judgment
on Millville and Uncle John's farm just yet. Are we 'most there?"

"We're to have four whole months of it," sighed Beth. "That ought to
enable us to renew our youth, after the strenuous winter."

"Rubbish!" said Uncle John. "You haven't known a strenuous moment, my
dears, and you're all too young to need renewals, anyhow. But if you can
find happiness here, my girls, our old farm will become a paradise."

These three nieces of Mr. Merrick were well worth looking at. Louise,
the eldest, was now twenty--entirely too young to be a bride; but having
decided to marry Arthur Weldon, the girl would brook no interference
and, having a will of her own, overcame all opposition. Her tall,
slender form was exceedingly graceful and willowy, her personality
dainty and refined, her temperament under ordinary conditions
essentially sweet and agreeable. In crises Louise developed considerable
character, in strong contrast with her usual assumption of well-bred
composure. That the girl was insincere in little things and cultivated a
polished manner to conceal her real feelings, is undeniable; but in
spite of this she might be relied upon to prove loyal and true in
emergencies.

Patricia Doyle was more than two years the junior of her cousin Louise
and very unlike her. Patsy's old father, Major Gregory Doyle, said "she
wore her heart on her sleeve," and the girl was frank and outspoken to a
fault. Patsy had no "figure" to speak of, being somewhat dumpy in build,
nor were her piquant features at all beautiful. Her nose tipped at the
end, her mouth was broad and full-lipped and her complexion badly
freckled. But Patsy's hair was of that indescribable shade that hovers
between burnished gold and sunset carmine. "Fiery red" she was wont to
describe it, and most people considered it, very justly, one of her two
claims to distinction. Her other admirable feature was a pair of
magnificent deep blue eyes--merry, mischievous and scintillating as
diamonds. Few could resist those eyes, and certain it is that Patsy
Doyle was a universal favorite and won friends without a particle of
effort.

The younger of the three nieces, Elizabeth De Graf, was as beautiful a
girl as you will often discover, one of those rarely perfect creations
that excite our wonder and compel admiration--as a beautiful picture or
a bit of statuary will. Dreamy and reserved in disposition, she lacked
the graciousness of Louise and Patsy's compelling good humor; yet you
must not think her stupid or disagreeable. Her reserve was really
diffidence; her dreamy, expressionless gaze the result of a serious
nature and a thoughtful temperament. Beth was quite practical and
matter-of-fact, the reverse of Patsy's imaginative instincts or Louise's
affected indifference. Those who knew Beth De Graf best loved her
dearly, but strangers found her hard to approach and were often repulsed
by her unresponsive manner. Underneath all, the girl was a real girl,
with many splendid qualities, and Uncle John relied upon Beth's
stability more than on that of his other two nieces. Her early life had
been a stormy and unhappy one, so she was but now developing her real
nature beneath the warmth of her uncle's protecting love.

Topping the brow of a little hill the wagon came to a smooth downward
grade where the road met the quaint old bridge that spanned Little Bill
Creek, beside which stood the antiquated flour and feed mill that had
given Millville its name. The horses were able to maintain their brisk
trot across the bridge and through the main street of the town, which
was merely a cluster of unimposing frame buildings, that lined either
side of the highway for the space of an ordinary city block. Then they
were in the wilds again and rattling over another cobblestone trail.

"This 'ere country's nuth'n' but pine woods 'n' cobblestones," sighed
old Hucks, as the horses subsided to a walk. "Lor' knows what would 'a'
happened to us without the trees! They saves our grace, so's to speak."

"I think the scenery is beautiful," observed Patsy. "It's so different
from other country places."

"Not much farming around here, I imagine," said Arthur Weldon.

"More than you'd think, sir," replied Thomas. "There's certain crops as
thrives in stony land, an' a few miles north o' here, towards
Huntingdon, the soil's mighty rich 'n' productive. Things ain't never as
bad as they seem in this world, sir," he added, turning his persistently
smiling face toward the young man.

Mr. Merrick sat beside the driver on the front seat. The middle seat was
occupied by Patsy and Beth, between whom squeezed little Mary, the
maid. Louise and Arthur had the back seat.

A quarter of a mile beyond the town they came to a sort of lane running
at right angles with the turnpike, and down this lane old Hucks turned
his team. It seemed like a forbidding prospect, for ahead of them loomed
only a group of tall pines marking the edge of the forest, yet as they
came nearer and made a little bend in the road the Wegg farm suddenly
appeared in view. The house seemed so cozy and homelike, set upon its
green lawn with the tall pines for a background, that the girls, who
knew the place well, exclaimed with delight, and Arthur, who now saw it
for the first time, nodded his head approvingly.

Uncle John was all excitement over the arrival at his country home. An
old fashioned stile was set in a rail fence which separated the grounds
from the lane, and Hucks drew up the wagon so his passengers could all
alight upon the step of the stile. Patsy was out at a bound. Louise
followed more deliberately, assisted by her boy husband, and Beth came
more sedately yet. But Uncle John rode around to the barn with Thomas,
being eager to see the cows and pigs and poultry with which the
establishment was liberally stocked.

The house was of two stories, the lower being built of cobblestones and
the upper of pine slabs; but it had been artistically done and the
effect was delightful. It was a big, rambling dwelling, and Mr. Merrick
had furnished the old place in a lavish manner, so that his nieces would
lack no modern comfort when they came there to spend a summer.

On the porch stood an old woman clothed in a neat gingham dress and
wearing a white apron and cap. Her pleasant face was wreathed in smiles
as she turned it toward the laughing, chattering group that came up the
path. Patsy spied her and rushed up to give old Nora a hug and kiss, and
the other two girls saluted the blind woman with equal cordiality, for
long ago she had won the love and devotion of all three. Arthur, who had
heard of Nora, pressed her hand and told her she must accept him as
another of her children, and then she asked for Mr. Merrick and ran in
to get the breakfast served. For, although blind, old Nora was far from
being helpless, and the breakfast she had prepared in anticipation of
their arrival was as deliciously cooked as if she had been able to use
her eyes as others did.




CHAPTER III

THE DAWN OF A GREAT ENTERPRISE


The great enterprise was sprung on Mr. Merrick the very morning
following his arrival at the farm. Breakfast was over and a group had
formed upon the shady front lawn, where chairs, benches and hammocks
were scattered in profusion.

"Well, Uncle, how do you like it?" asked Louise. "Are you perfectly
comfortable and happy, now we've escaped so far from the city that its
humming life is a mere memory?"

"Happy as a clam," responded Uncle John, leaning back in his chair with
his feet on a foot rest. "If I only had the morning paper there would be
nothing else to wish for."

"The paper? That's what that queer tramp at the Junction House asked
for," remarked Beth. "The first thought of even a hobo was for a
morning paper. I wonder why men are such slaves to those gossipy
things."

"Phoo!" cried Patsy; "we're all slaves to them. Show me a person who
doesn't read the daily journals and keep abreast of the times and I'll
show you a dummy."

"Patsy's right," remarked Arthur Weldon. "The general intelligence and
cosmopolitan knowledge of the people are best cultivated by the
newspapers. The superiority of our newspapers has been a factor in
making us the greatest nation on earth, for we are the best informed."

"My, what big words!" exclaimed Louise.

"It is quite true," said Uncle John soberly, "that I shall miss our
daily paper during our four months' retirement in these fascinating
wilds. It's the one luxury we can't enjoy in our country retreat."

"Why not?" asked Patsy, with startling abruptness, while a queer
expression--as of an inspiration--stole over her bright face.

"Chump!" said Beth, drily; "you know very well why not, Patsy Doyle.
Mooley cows and the fourth estate don't intermingle, so to speak."

"They can be made to, though," declared Patsy. "Why hasn't some one
thought of it before? Uncle John--girls!--I propose we start a daily
paper."

Louise laughed softly, Beth's lip curled and Arthur Weldon cast an
amused glance at the girl; but Uncle John stared seriously into Patsy's
questioning blue eyes.

"How?" he asked in a puzzled tone. If anything could interest this
eccentric little millionaire more than the usual trend of events it was
an original proposition of this sort. He loved to do things that other
people had not attempted, nor even thought of. He hated conversational
platitudes and established conventions, and his nieces had endeared
themselves to him more by their native originality and frank disregard
of ordinary feminine limitations than in any other way. It was generally
conceded that Patsy was his favorite because she could advance more odd
suggestions than the other girls, and this niece had a practical
aptitude for carrying out her whimsical ideas that had long since won
her uncle's respect. Not that she could outdo Mr. Merrick in
eccentricity: that was admitted to be his special province, in which he
had no rival; but the girl was so clever a confederate that she gave her
erratic uncle much happiness of the sort he most appreciated.

Therefore, this seemingly preposterous proposition to establish a daily
paper on a retired country farm did not strike the old gentleman as
utterly impossible, and anything within the bounds of possibility was
sure to meet his earnest consideration, especially when it was proposed
by one of his favorite nieces.

"How?" responded Patsy; "why, it's easy enough, Uncle. We'll buy a
press, hire a printer, and Beth and Louise will help me edit the paper.
I'm sure I can exhibit literary talents of a high order, once they are
encouraged to sprout. Louise writes lovely poetry and 'stories of human
interest,' and Beth--"

"I can't write even a good letter," asserted that young lady; "but I'd
dearly love to edit a newspaper."

"Of course," agreed Louise; "we all would. And I think we could turn
out a very creditable paper--for Millville. But wouldn't it cost a lot
of money?"

"That isn't the present question," replied Uncle John. "The main thing
is, do you girls want to be tied down to such a task? Every day in the
week, all during our summer holiday--"

"Why, you've made our whole lives a holiday, Uncle John," interrupted
Patsy, "and we've been so coddled and swamped with luxuries that we are
just now in serious danger of being spoiled! You don't want three
spoiled nieces on your hands, do you? And please make allowance for our
natural impetuosity and eagerness to be up and doing. We love the farm,
but our happiness here would be doubled if we had some occupation to
keep us busy, and this philanthropic undertaking would furnish us with
no end of fun, even while we were benefiting our fellow man."

"All jabber, dear," exclaimed Beth. "I admit the fun, but where does the
philanthropy come in?"

"Don't you see?" asked Patsy. "Both Uncle John and that tramp we
encountered have met on common ground to bewail the lack of a daily
newspaper 'in our midst'--to speak in journalistic parlance. At the
paper mill at Royal are over two hundred workmen moaning in despair
while they lose all track of the world's progress. At Huntingdon, not
five miles distant, are four or five hundred people lacking all the
educational advantages of an up-to-date--or is 'down-to-date'
proper?--press. And Millville--good gracious! What would sleepy
Millville folks think of having a bright, newsy, metropolitan newspaper
left on their doorsteps every morning, or evening, as the case may be?"

"H-m," said Uncle John; "I scent a social revolution in the wilds of
Chazy County."

"Let's start it right away!" cried Patsy. "The 'Millville Tribune.' What
do you say, girls?"

"Why 'Tribune?'" asked Louise.

"Because we three will run it, and we're a triumvirate--the future
tribunal of the people in this district."

"Very good!" said Uncle John, nodding approval. "A clever idea, Patsy."

"But it's all nonsense, sir," observed Arthur Weldon, in astonishment.
"Have you any idea of the details of this thing you are proposing?"

"None whatever," said the little millionaire. "That's the beauty of the
scheme, Arthur; it may lead us into a reg'lar complicated mix-up, and
the joy of getting untangled ought to repay us for all our bother."

"Perhaps so--if you ever untangle," said the young man, smiling at the
whimsical speech. Then he turned to his young bride. "Do you want to go
into this thing, Louise?" he asked.

"Of course I do," she promptly replied. "It's the biggest thing in the
way of a sensation that Patsy's crazy brain has ever evolved, and I'll
stand by the _Millville Tribune_ to the last. You mustn't forget,
Arthur, that I shall be able to publish all my verses and stories, which
the Century and Harpers' so heartlessly turned down."

"And Beth?"

"Oh, I'm in it too," declared Beth. "There's something so delightfully
mysterious and bewildering in the idea of our editing and printing a
daily paper here in Millville that I can hardly wait to begin the
experiment."

"It's no experiment whatever," asserted Patsy boldly. "The daily
newspaper is an established factor in civilization, and 'whatever man
has done, man can do'--an adage that applies equally to girls."

"Have you any notion of the cost of an outfit such as is required to
print a modern daily?" asked Arthur.

"Oh, two or three hundred, perhaps, but--"

"You're crazy, child! That wouldn't buy the type."

"Nevertheless," began Patsy, argumentatively, but her uncle stopped her.

"You needn't figure on that," he said hastily. "The outfit shall be my
contribution to the enterprise. If you girls say you're anxious and
willing to run a newspaper, I'll agree to give you a proper start."

"Oh, thank you, Uncle!"

"Of course we're willing!"

"It is all absolutely settled, so far as we are concerned," said Patsy,
firmly. "How long will it take to get the things here, Uncle?"

Mr. Merrick considered a moment.

"There's a long-distance telephone over at Cotting's General Store, in
town," he said. "I'll drive over and get Major Doyle on the wire and
have him order the stuff sent out at once."

"Oh, no!" protested Patsy; "don't tell daddy of this plan, please. He'd
think we were all fit subjects for the lunatic asylum."

"Major Doyle wouldn't be far wrong in that conclusion," suggested
Arthur.

"I'd like to surprise him by sending him the first copy of the
_Millville Tribune_," added the major's daughter.

"Then," said Mr. Merrick, "I'll call up Marvin, my banker. He'll perhaps
attend to the matter more understandingly and more promptly than the
major would. Tell Hucks to harness Joe to the buggy, Patsy, and I'll go
at once."

"We'll all go!" exclaimed Beth.

"Of course," added Louise; "we are all equally interested in this
venture."

So Patsy had old Hucks hitch Joe to the surrey, and the three girls
accompanied their uncle in his drive to town, leaving Arthur Weldon
shaking his head in a deprecating way but fully realizing that no
protest of his would avail to prevent this amazing undertaking.

"That old man is as much a child as Beth or Patsy," he reflected. "It
puzzles me to explain how he made all those millions with so little
worldly wisdom."




CHAPTER IV

THE WAY INTO PRINT


Sam Cotting's General Store at Millville divided importance with Bob
West's hardware store but was a more popular loafing place for the
sparse population of the tiny town. The post office was located in one
corner and the telephone booth in another, and this latter institution
was regarded with much awe by the simple natives. Once in awhile some
one would telephone over to the Junction on some trivial business, but
the long-distance call was never employed except by the "nabobs"--the
local name for John Merrick and his nieces--or by the manager of the new
mill at Royal, who had extended the line to his own office in the heart
of the pine forest.

So, when Uncle John and the girls entered Cotting's store and the little
gentleman shut himself up in the telephone booth, a ripple of
excitement spread throughout the neighborhood. Skim Clark, the youthful
hope of the Widow Clark, who "run the Emporium," happened to be in the
store and he rushed out to spread the news that "the nabob's talkin' to
New Yoruk!"

This information demanded immediate attention. Marshall McMahon McNutt,
familiarly known as "Peggy" McNutt--because he had once lost a foot in a
mowing machine--and who was alleged to be a real estate agent, horse
doctor, fancy poultry breeder and palmist, and who also dabbled in the
sale of subscription books, life insurance, liniment and watermelons,
quickly slid off his front porch across the way and sauntered into
Cotting's to participate in the excitement. Seth Davis, the blacksmith,
dropped his tools and hurried to the store, and the druggist three doors
away--a dapper gentleman known as Nib Corkins--hurriedly locked his door
and attended the meeting. Presently the curious group was enlarged by
the addition of Nick Thome the liveryman, Lon Taft, a carpenter and
general man-of-all-work, and Silas Caldwell the miller, the latter a
serious individual who had "jest happened to come acrost from the mill
in the nick o' time."

Sam Cotting, being himself of great local importance, had never regarded
with favor the rivalry of the nabob, but he placed stools near the
telephone booth for the three girls, who accepted the courtesy with a
graciousness that ought to have disarmed the surly storekeeper. They
could not fail to be amused at the interest they excited, and as they
personally knew every one of the town people they pleasantly nodded to
each arrival and inquired after their health and the welfare of their
families. The replies were monosyllables. Millville folks were diffident
in the presence of these city visitors and while they favored the girls
with rather embarrassing stares, their chief interest was centered on
the little man in the telephone booth, who could plainly be seen through
the glass door but might not be heard, however loudly he shouted.

"Talkin' to New Yoruk" was yet a marvelous thing to them, and much
speculation was exchanged in low tones as to the probable cost of such
a conversation as Mr. Merrick was now indulging in.

"Costs a dollar to connect, ye know," remarked Peggy McNutt to Ned Long.
"Bet a cookie he's runnin' the blame bill up to two dollars, with all
this chinnin'. Why can't th' ol' nabob write a letter, like common
folks, an' give his extry cash to the poor?"

"Meanin' you, Peggy?" asked Nib Corkins, with a chuckle.

"He might do wuss ner that," retorted Peggy. "Lor' knows I'm poor
enough. You don't ketch _me_ a-talkin' to New York at a dollar a throw,
Nib, do ye?"

Meantime Mr. Merrick had succeeded in getting Mr. Marvin, of the banking
house of Isham, Marvin & Co., on the wire.

"Do me a favor, Marvin," he said. "Hunt up the best supply house and
have them send me a complete outfit to print a daily newspaper.
Everything must be modern, you know, and don't let them leave out
anything that might come handy. Then go to Corrigan, the superintendent
of the railroad, and have him send the freight up here to Chazy
Junction by a special engine, for I don't want a moment's delay and the
regular freight takes a week or so. Charge everything to my account and
impress upon the dealer the need of haste. Understand all that, Marvin?"

"I think I do, sir," was the reply; "but that's a pretty big order, Mr.
Merrick. The outfit for a modern daily will cost a small fortune."

"Never mind; send it along."

"Very well. But you'd better give me some details. How big a newspaper
do you want to print?"

"Hold the wire and I'll find out," said Uncle John. Then he opened the
door of the booth and said: "Patsy, how big a thing do you want to
print?"

"How big? Oh, let me see. Four pages will do, won't it, Louise?"

"Plenty, I should say, for this place," answered Louise.

"And how many columns to a page?" asked Uncle John.

"Oh, six or seven. That's regular, I guess."

"Make it six," proposed Beth. "That will keep us busy enough."

"All right," said Uncle John, and closed the door again.

This conversation was of the most startling nature to the assembled
villagers, who were all trying to look unconcerned and as if "they'd
jest dropped in," but were unable to dissemble their curiosity
successfully. Of course much of this interchange of words between the
man in the booth and the girls outside was Greek to them all, but "to
print" and "columns" and "pages" could apply only to one idea, which,
while not fully grasped, was tremendously startling in its suggestion.
The Merrick party was noted for doing astonishing things in the past and
evidently, in the words of Peggy McNutt, they were "up to some blame
foolishness that'll either kill this neighborhood or make it talked
about."

"It's too dead a'ready to kill," responded Nick Thorne gloomily. "Even
the paper mill, four mile away, ain't managed to make Millville wiggle
its big toe. Don't you worry over what the nabob'll do, Peggy; he
couldn't hurt nuthin' if he tried."

The door opened again and Mr. Merrick protruded a puzzled countenance.

"He wants to know about a stereotype plant, Patsy. What'll I tell him?"

Patsy stared. Louise and Beth shook their heads.

"If it belongs to the--the thing we want, Uncle, have 'em send it
along," said Patsy in desperation.

"All right."

A few minutes later the little man again appealed to them.

"How'll we run the thing, girls; steam or electricity?"

Patsy's face was a blank. Beth giggled and Louise frowned.

"Of course it'll have to be run," suggested Mr. Merrick; "but how?
That's the question."

"I--I hadn't given that matter thought," admitted Patsy. "What do you
think, Uncle?"

He considered, holding open the door while he thoughtfully regarded the
silent but interested group of villagers that eagerly hung upon every
word that passed.

"Cotting," called Mr. Merrick, "how do they run the paper mill at
Royal?"

"'Lectricity! 'Lectricity, sir!" answered half a dozen at once.

"They develops the power from the Royal Waterfall of the Little Bill,"
explained Cotting, with slow and pompous deliberation. "Mr. Skeelty he
tol' me they had enough 'lectric'ty to light up the whole dum country
fer ten mile in all directions, 'sides a-runnin' of the mill."

"Who's Skeelty?"

"Manager o' the mill, sir, an' part owner, he says."

"Has he a telephone?"

"Yes, Mr. Merrick."

"Thank you."

Mr. Merrick shut the door and called up Skeelty. Five minutes of
bargaining settled the question and he then connected with Mr. Marvin
again and directed him to have the presses and machinery equipped to run
by electricity. Thinking he had now given the banker all the commissions
he could attend to with celerity, Uncle John next called up Major Doyle
and instructed his brother-in-law to send four miles of electric cable,
with fittings and transformers, and a crew of men to do the work, and
not to waste a moment's time in getting them to Millville.

"What in blazes are ye up to now, John?" inquired the major, on
receiving this order.

"None of your business, Gregory. Obey orders."

"Going to light the farm and turn night into day?" persisted the major.

"This is Patsy's secret, and I'm not going to give it away," said Mr.
Merrick. "Attend to this matter promptly, Major, and you'll see the
result when you come to us in July for your vacation."

Having attended to all the requirements of the projected _Millville
Tribune_, as he thought, Mr. Merrick called the operator for the amount
of his bill and paid it to Sam Cotting--three dollars and eighty cents.
The sum fairly made the onlookers gasp, and as the Merrick party passed
out, Silas, the miller, said solemnly:

"Don't anybody tell me talk is cheap, arter this. John Merrick may be a
millionaire, but ef he keeps this thing up long he'll be a pauper.
Thet's _my_ prophe-sigh."

"Yer off yer base, Si," said McNutt "Joe Wegg tol' me once thet the
nabob's earnin's on his money were more'n he could spend ef he lays
awake nights a-doin' it. Joe says it keeps pilin' up on him, till
sometimes it drives him nigh desp'rit. I hed an idee I'd ask him to
shuck off some of it onter me. _I_ could stan' the strain all right, an'
get plenty o' sleep too."

"Ye won't hev no call to stan' it, Peggy," pre-dcted Lon Tait.
"Milyunhairs may spend money foolish, but they don't never give none
away. I've done sev'ral odd jobs fer Mr. Merrick, but he's never give me
more'n jest wages."

"Well," said McNutt with a sigh, "while he's in easy reach there orter
be _some_ sort o' pickings fer us, an' it's our duty to git all we can
out'n him--short o' actoo-al robbery. What do ye s'pose this new deal
means, boys? Sounds like printin' somethin', don't it?"

"P'raps it's some letterheads fer the Wegg Farm," suggested Nib
Corkins. "These Merricks do everything on a big scale."

"Four pages, an' six columns to a page?" asked Cotting scornfully.
"Sounds to me more like a newspaper, folks!"

There was a moment's silence, during which they all stared at the
speaker fearfully. Then said Skim Clark, in his drawling, halting way:

"Ef thet's the case, an' there's goin' ter be a newspaper here in
Millville, we may as well give up the struggle, fer the town'll be
ruined!"




CHAPTER V

DIVIDING THE RESPONSIBILITY


The rest of that day and a good share of the night was devoted to an
earnest consultation concerning the proper methods of launching the
_Millville Daily Tribune_.

"We must divide the work," said Patsy, "so that all will have an equal
share of responsibility. Louise is to be the literary editor and the
society editor. That sounds like a good combination."

"There is no society here," objected Louise.

"Not as we understand the term, perhaps," replied Miss Doyle; "but every
community, however small, believes it is a social center; and so it
is--to itself. If there is a dance or a prayer meeting or a christening
or illness, it must be recorded in our local columns. If Bob West sells
a plow we've got to mention the name of the farmer who bought it; if
there's a wedding, we'll make a double-header of it; if a baby is born,
we will--will--"

"Print its picture in the paper. Eh, Uncle John?" This from Beth.

"Of course," said Mr. Merrick. "You must print all the home news, as
well as the news of the world."

"How are you going to get the news of the world?" asked Arthur.

"How? How?"

"That was my question."

"Private wire from New York," said Mr. Merrick, as the girls hesitated
how to meet this problem. "I'll arrange with the telegraph company
to-morrow to have an extension of the wire run over from Chazy Junction.
Then we'll hire an operator--a girl, of course--to receive the news in
the office of the paper."

"But who will send us the news?" asked Beth.

"The Associated Press, I suppose, or some news agency in New York. I'll
telegraph to-morrow to Marvin to arrange it."

Arthur whistled softly.

"This newspaper is going to cost something," he murmured. Uncle John
looked at him with a half quizzical, half amused expression.

"That's what Marvin warned me yesterday, when I ordered the equipment,"
said he. "He told me that before I got through with this deal it would
run up into the thousands. And he added that Millville wasn't worth it."

"And what did you say to that, Uncle John?" asked Beth.

"In that case, I said, I would be sure to get some pleasure and
satisfaction out of your journalistic enterprise. My last financial
statement showed a frightful condition of affairs. In spite of Major
Doyle's reckless investments of my money, and--and the little we manage
to give to deserving charities, I'm getting richer every day. When a
small leak like this newspaper project occurs, it seems that Fortune is
patting me on the back. I've no idea what a respectable newspaper will
cost, but I hope it will cost a lot, for every dollar it devours makes
my mind just that much easier."

Arthur Weldon laughed.

"In that case, sir," said he, "I can make no further protest. But I
predict you will find the bills--eh--eh--entirely satisfactory."

"You mentioned an office, just now, Uncle," observed Louise. "Must we
have a business office?"

"To be sure," Mr. Merrick replied. "We must find a proper location,
where we can install the presses and all the type and machinery that go
to making up a newspaper. I hadn't thought of this before, but it is a
serious matter, my dears. We may have to build a place."

"Oh, that would take too long, entirely," said Patsy. "Can't we put it
in the barn, Uncle?"

"What would happen to the horses and cows? No; we'll take a look over
Millville and see what we can find there."

"You won't find much," predicted Beth. "I can't think of a single
unoccupied building in the town."

"Then we'll put it in a tent," declared Patsy.

"Don't borrow trouble," advised Uncle John. "Wait till we've gone over
the ground together. Our truck will require a pretty big place, for
Marvin said one freight car wouldn't hold all the outfit. He's going to
send two cars, anyhow."

"Have him fill up the second with print paper," proposed Arthur.

"Ah; that's another thing I hadn't thought of," said Mr. Merrick. "How
big a daily edition will you print, Patsy?"

"Let's see," pondered the girl. "There are about two hundred at Royal,
say four hundred at Huntingdon, at Millville about--about--"

"Say fifteen," said Uncle John; "that's six hundred and fifteen, and--"

"And the farmers, of course. There must be at least a hundred and fifty
of 'em in the county, so that makes seven hundred and seventy-five
copies a day."

"Wait a moment!" cried Arthur, somewhat bewildered by this figuring. "Do
you suppose every inhabitant--man, woman and child--will subscribe for
your paper?"

Patsy blushed.

"Why, no, of course not," she acknowledged frankly. "How many do you
think _will_ subscribe, Arthur? Remember, it's to be a great
newspaper."

"Four pages of six columns each. Plenty big enough for Millville," he
said, thoughtfully. "My advice, girls, is to print a first edition of
about four hundred copies and distribute the papers free in every house
within a radius of five or six miles from Millville. These will be
samples, and after the people have had a chance to read them you can ask
them to subscribe. By the way, what will you charge for subscription?"

"How much, Uncle?" asked Patsy, appealingly.

"A penny paper is the most popular," he said, regarding her with merry,
twinkling eyes. "Say thirty cents a month, or three-fifty a year. That's
as much as these poor people can stand."

"I think so too," replied the girl, seriously.

"But it seems to me a penny paper isn't dignified," pouted Louise. "I
had intended to print all my poems in it, and I'm sure that ought to
make it worth at least five cents a copy."

"That will make it worth more, my dear," commented Uncle John; "but
frequently one must sell property for less than it's actually worth.
You must remember these people have not been used to spending much money
on literature, and I imagine you'll have to coax them to spend thirty
cents a month. Many of the big New York papers are sold for a penny, and
without any loss of dignity, either."

"Do you think we can make it pay on that basis, Uncle?" asked Beth.

Uncle John coughed to gain time while he thought of a suitable reply.
"That, my dear," he informed his niece, "will depend upon how many
subscribers you can get. Subscribers and advertisers are necessary to
make any paper pay."

"Advertisers!"

"Of course," said practical Beth. "Every merchant in Millville and
Huntingdon will naturally advertise in our paper, and we'll make the
major get us a lot from New York."

"Oh," said Patsy; "I see. So _that_ difficulty is settled."

Arthur smiled, but held his peace. Uncle John's round face was growing
merrier every minute.

"Patsy, do you think we shall make any money from this venture?" asked
Louise.

"We ought to, if we put our hearts and souls into the thing," was the
reply. "But before we divide any profits we must pay back to Uncle John
the original investment."

"We don't especially care to make any profit, do we?" inquired Beth.
"It's fun for us, you know, and a--a--great educational experience,
and--and--a fine philanthropy--and all that. We don't need the money, so
if the paper pays a profit at a cent a copy we'd better cut down the
price."

"Don't do that yet," advised Uncle John, soberly. "There will be
expenses that as yet you don't suspect, and a penny for a paper is about
as low as you can go."

"What's to be my position on the staff, Patsy?" asked Beth, turning to
her cousin.

"You're a good mathematician, Beth, so I propose you act as secretary
and treasurer, and keep the books."

"No; that's too mechanical; no bookkeeping for me. I want something
literary."

"Then you can be sporting editor."

"Goodness, Patsy! There will be no sporting news in Millville."

"There will be a ball game occasionally, and I saw some of the men
pitching quoits yesterday. But this is to be a newspaper reflecting the
excitement of the entire world, Beth, and all the telegraphic news of a
sporting character you must edit and arrange for our reading columns.
Oh, yes; and you'll take care of the religious items too. We must have a
Sunday Sermon, by some famous preacher, Uncle. We'll print that every
Saturday, so those who can't go to church may get as good a talk as if
they did--and perhaps a better one."

"That will be fine," he agreed. "How about murders, crimes and
divorces?"

"All barred. Nothing that sends a cold chill down your back will be
allowed in our paper. These people are delightfully simple; we don't
want to spoil them."

"Cut out the cold chills and you'll spoil your newspaper," suggested
Arthur. "People like to read of other folks' horrors, for it makes them
more contented with their own lot in life."

"False philosophy, sir!" cried Fatsy firmly. "You can't educate people
by retailing crimes and scandals, and the _Millville Tribune_ is going
to be as clean as a prayer book, if I'm to be managing editor."

"Is that to be your office, dear?" asked Louise.

"I think so. I've a heap of executive ability, and I'm running over with
literary--eh--eh--literary discrimination. In addition to running the
thing, I'll be the general news editor, because I'm better posted on
newspaper business than the other girls."

"How does that happen?" inquired Louise, wonderingly.

"Why, I--I _read_ the papers more than you or Beth. And I've set myself
to master every detail of the business. No more crocheting or fancy
work--no novel reading--no gossipy letter writing. From this day on we
must attend strictly to business. If we're to become journalist, girls,
we must be good ones--better than the ordinary--so that Uncle John may
point to us with pride, and the columns of the _Millville Daily Tribune_
will be quoted by the New York and Chicago press. Only in that way can
we become famous throughout the world!"

"Pass me the bonbons, dear," sighed Louise. "It's a high ambition, isn't
it?"

"A very laudable ambition," added Uncle John approvingly. "I hope my
clever nieces will be able to accomplish it."

"How about pictures?" asked Beth. "Modern newspapers are illustrated,
and have cartoons of the leading events of the day."

"Can't we buy those things somewhere?" asked Patsy, appealing to Uncle
John again. "There isn't an artist among us, of any account; and we
shall be too busy to draw pictures."

"We must hire an artist," said Mr. Merrick, adding the item to his
memoranda. "I'll speak to Marvin about it."

All these details were beginning to bewilder the embryo journalists. It
is quite possible that had not Uncle John placed his order for presses
and type so promptly the girls might have withdrawn from the
proposition, but the die was now cast and they were too brave--perhaps
too stubborn--to "back down" at this juncture.

"I realize," said Patsy, slowly and with a shake of her flaming head,
"that we have undertaken an important venture. Our new enterprise is a
most serious one, girls, for there is nothing greater or grander in our
advanced age than the daily newspaper; no power so tremendous as the
Power of the Press."

"Yes, the press must be powerful or it wouldn't print clearly," remarked
Beth.

"We are to become public mentors to the simple natives of Chazy County,"
continued Patsy, warming up to her subject and speaking oratorically.
"We shall be the guiding star of the--er--er--the benighted citizens of
Millville and Huntingdon. We must lead them in politics, counsel them in
the management of their farms and educate them to the great World
Movements that are constantly occurring."

"Let's put all that rot in our prospectus," said Louise, looking at her
cousin admiringly. "Can you remember it, Patsy, or had I better write it
down now? I like that about teaching the farmers how to run their
farms; it's so practical."

"You wait," said Patsy unflinchingly. "I'll write 'em an editorial that
will make their eyes roll. But it won't do a bit of harm for you and
Beth to jot down all the brilliant thoughts you run across, for the
benefit of our subscribers."

"We haven't any subscribers yet," remarked Beth, placidly.

"I'll overcome that defect," said Uncle John. "I want to subscribe right
now for ten copies, to be mailed to friends of mine in the city who--who
need educating. I'll pay in advance and collect of my friends when I see
'em."

This was certainly encouraging and Patsy smiled benignantly.

"I'll take five more yearly subscriptions," said Arthur.

"Oh, but you're going to be on the staff!" cried Patsy.

"Am I?"

"Certainly. I've been thinking over our organization and while it is
quite proper for three girls to run paper, there ought to be a man to
pose as the editor in chief. That'll be you, Arthur."

"But you won't print my name?"

"Oh, yes we shall. Don't groan, sir; it's no disgrace. Wait till you see
the _Millville Tribune_. Also we shall print our own names, in that case
giving credit to whom credit is due. The announcement will run something
like this: 'Arthur Weldon, General Manager and Editor in Chief; P.
Doyle, General News Editor; L. Merrick Weldon, Society and Literary
Editor; E. DeGraf, Sporting Editor, Secretary and Treasurer.' You see,
by using our initials only, no one will ever suspect we are girls."

"The Millville people may," said Arthur, slyly, "and perhaps the
disguise will be penetrated by outsiders. That will depend on the
paper."

"I don't like that combination of sporting editor and secretary and
treasurer," objected Beth. "It isn't the usual thing in journalism, I'm
sure. Suppose you call me Editor of Special Features, and let it go at
that?"

"Have we any special features?" asked Louise.

"Oh, yes," said Arthur; "there's Beth's eyebrows, Patsy's nose, and--"

"Do be sensible!" cried Patsy. "This isn't a joking matter, sir. Our
newspaper will have plenty of special features, and Beth's suggestion is
a good one. It sounds impressive. You see, Arthur, we've got to use you
as a figurehead, but so you won't loaf on your job I've decided to
appoint you Solicitor of Advertising and Subscriptions."

"Thank you, my dear," he said, grinning in an amused way.

"You and Louise, who still like to be together, can drive all over the
county getting subscriptions, and you can write letters on our new
stationery to all the big manufacturers of soaps and breakfast foods and
beauty powders and to all the correspondence schools and get their
advertisements for the _Tribune_. If you get a good many, we may have to
enlarge the paper."

"Don't worry, Miss Doyle; I'll try to keep within bounds."

And so they went on, laying plans and discussing details in such an
earnest way that Uncle John became as enthusiastic as any of them and
declared in no uncertain tone that the _Millville Daily Tribune_ was
bound to be a "howling success."

After the girls had retired for the night and the men sat smoking
together in Uncle John's own room, Arthur said:

"Tell me, sir, why you have encouraged this mad project."

The little millionaire puffed his pipe in silence a moment. Then he
replied:

"I'm educating my girls to be energetic and self-reliant. I want to
bring out and develop every spark of latent ability there is in them.
Whether the _Millville Tribune_ succeeds or fails is not important; it
will at least keep them busy for a time, along new lines, and tax their
best resources of intellect and business ability. In other words, this
experience is bound to do 'em good, and in that way I figure it will be
worth all it costs--and more. I like the originality of the idea; I'm
pleased with the difficulties I see looming ahead; I'm quite sure my
girls will rise to every occasion and prove their grit." He paused to
knock the ashes from his pipe. "I'm worth a lot of money, Arthur," he
continued, meekly, "and some day these three girls will inherit immense
fortunes. It is my duty to train them in all practical business ways to
take care of their property."

"I follow your line of reasoning, sir," observed Arthur Weldon; "but
this absurd journalistic venture is bound to result in heavy financial
loss."

"I know it, my boy. I'm sure of it. But can't you see that the lesson
they will learn will render them more cautious in making future
investments? I'm going to supply a complete newspaper outfit--to the
last detail--and give 'em a good running start. Then I shall sit back
and watch results. If they lose money on running expenses, as they
surely will, they'll first take it out of their allowances, then sell
their jewelry, and finally come to me for help. See? The lesson will be
worth while, Arthur, and aside from that--think of the fun they'll
have!"




CHAPTER VI

MR. SKEELTY OF THE MILL


The next morning they drove to town again, passing slowly up the street
of the little village to examine each building that might be a possible
location for a newspaper office. Here is a map that Patsy drew of
Millville, which gives a fair idea of its arrangement:

[Illustration: Village Street]

Counting the dwellings there were exactly twelve buildings, and they all
seemed occupied.

When they reached the hardware store, opposite Cotting's, Mr. West, the
proprietor, was standing on the broad platform in front of it. In many
respects Bob West was the most important citizen of Millville. Tall and
gaunt, with great horn spectacles covering a pair of cold gray eyes, he
was usually as reserved and silent as his neighbors were confiding and
talkative. A widower of long standing, without children or near
relatives, he occupied a suite of well-appointed rooms over the hardware
store and took his meals at the hotel. Before Mr. Merrick appeared on
the scene West had been considered a very wealthy man, as it was known
he had many interests outside of his store; but compared with the
multi-millionaire old Bob had come to be regarded more modestly,
although still admitted to be the village's "warmest" citizen. He was an
authority in the town, too, and a man of real importance.

Mr. Merrick stopped his horse to speak with the hardware man, an old
acquaintance.

"West," said he, "my girls are going to start a newspaper in Millville."

The merchant bowed gravely, perhaps to cover the trace of a smile he
was unable to repress.

"It's to be a daily paper, you know," continued Mr. Merrick, "and it
seems there's a lot of machinery in the outfit. It'll need quite a bit
of room, in other words, and we're looking for a place to install it."

West glanced along the street--up one side and down the other--and then
shook his head negatively.

"Plenty of land, but no buildings," said he. "You might buy the old mill
and turn it into a newspaper office. Caldwell isn't making much of a
living and would be glad to sell out."

"It's too dusty and floury," said Patsy. "We'd never get it clean, I'm
sure."

"What's in that shed of yours?" asked Uncle John, pointing to a long,
low building' that adjoined the hardware store.

West turned and looked at the shed reflectively.

"That is where I store my stock of farm machinery," he said. "There's
very little in there now, for it's a poor season and I didn't lay in
much of a supply. In fact, I'm pretty well cleaned out of all surplus
stock. But next spring I shall need the place again."

"Good!" cried Mr. Merrick. "That solves our problem. Has it a floor?"

"Yes; an excellent one; but only one small window."

"We can remedy that," declared Uncle John. "Here's the proposition,
West: Let us have the shed for six months, at the end of which time we
will know whether the _Millville Tribune_ is a success or not. If it is,
we'll build a fine new building for it; if it don't seem to prosper,
we'll give you back the shed. What do you say?"

West thought it over.

"There is room on the rear platform, for all the farm machinery I now
have on hand. All right, Mr. Merrick; I'll move the truck out and give
you possession. It won't make a bad newspaper office. But of course you
are to fit up the place at your own expense."

"Thank you very much, sir!" exclaimed Uncle John. "I'll set Lon Taft at
work at once. Where can he be found?"

"Playing billiards at the hotel, usually. I suppose he is there now."

"Very good; I'll hunt him up. What do you think of our newspaper scheme,
West?"

The old merchant hesitated. Then he said slowly:

"Whatever your charming and energetic nieces undertake, sir, will
doubtless be well accomplished. The typical country newspaper groans
under a load of debt and seldom gets a fair show to succeed; but in this
case there will be no lack of money, and--why, that settles the
question, I think. Money is the keystone to success."

"Mr. West," said Louise, with dignity, "we are depending chiefly on the
literary merit of our newspaper to win recognition."

"Of course; of course!" said he hastily. "Put me down as a subscriber,
please, and rely upon my support at all times. It is possible, young
ladies--nay, quite probable, I should say--that your originality and
genius will yet make Millville famous."

That speech pleased Uncle John, and as the hardware merchant bowed and
turned away, Mr. Merrick said in his cheeriest tones: "He's quite right,
my dears, and we're lucky to have found such a fine, roomy place for our
establishment. Before we go after the carpenter to fix it up I must
telephone to Marvin about the things we still need."

Over the long-distance telephone Mr. Marvin reported that he had bought
the required outfit and it was even then being loaded on the freight
cars.

"I've arranged for a special engine," he added, "and if all goes well
the freight will be on the sidetrack at Chazy Junction on Monday
morning. The dealer will send down three men to set up the presses and
get everything in running order. But he asks if you have arranged for
your workmen. How about it, Mr. Merrick? have you plenty of competent
printers and pressmen at Millville?"

"There are none at all," was the reply. "Better inquire how many we will
need, Marvin, and send them down here. And, by the way, hire women or
girls for every position they are competent to fill. This is going to
be a girls' newspaper, so we'll have as few men around as possible."

"I understand, sir."

Uncle John ordered everything he could think of and told his agent to
add whatever the supply man thought might be needed. This business being
accomplished, he found Lon Taft at the hotel and instructed the
carpenter to put rows of windows on both sides of the shed and to build
partitions for an editorial office and a business office at the front.

This was the beginning of a busy period, especially for poor Uncle John,
who had many details to attend to personally. The next morning the
electricians arrived and began stringing the power cables from the paper
mill to the newspaper office. This rendered it necessary for Mr. Merrick
to make a trip to Royal, to complete his arrangement with Mr. Skeelty,
the manager. He drove over with Arthur Weldon, in the buggy--four miles
of hill climbing, over rough cobble-stones, into the pine forest.

Arriving there, the visitors were astonished at the extent of the plant
so recently established in this practically unknown district. The great
mill, where the wood pulp was made, was a building constructed from pine
slabs and cobblestones, material gathered from the clearing in which it
stood, but it was quite substantial and roomy. Adjoining the mill was
the factory building where the pulp was rolled into print paper.
Surrounding these huge buildings were some sixty small dwellings of the
bungalow type, for the use of the workmen, built of rough boards, but
neat and uniform in appearance. Almost in the center of this group stood
the extensive storehouse from which all necessary supplies were
furnished the mill hands, the cost being deducted from their wages. The
electric power plant was a building at the edge of Royal Waterfall, the
low and persistent roar of which was scarcely drowned by the rumble of
machinery. Finally, at the edge of the clearing nearest the mills, stood
the business office, and to this place Mr. Merrick and Arthur at once
proceeded.

They found the office a busy place. Three or four typewriters were
clicking away, operated by sallow-faced girls, and behind a tall desk
were two bookkeepers, in one of whom Uncle John recognized--with mild
surprise--the tramp he had encountered at Chazy Junction on the morning
of his arrival. The young fellow had improved in appearance, having
discarded his frayed gray suit for one of plain brown khaki, such as
many of the workmen wore, a supply being carried by the company's store.
He was clean-shaven and trim, and a gentlemanly bearing had replaced the
careless, half defiant attitude of the former hobo. It was evident he
remembered meeting Mr. Merrick, for he smiled and returned the "nabob's"
nod.

Mr. Skeelty had a private enclosed office in a corner of the room. Being
admitted to this sanctum, the visitors found the manager to be a small,
puffy individual about forty-five years of age, with shrewd, beadlike
black eyes and an insolent assumption of super-importance. Skeelty
interrupted his task of running up columns of impressive figures to ask
his callers to be seated, and opened the interview with characteristic
abruptness.

"You're Merrick, eh? I remember. You want to buy power, and we have it
to sell. How much will you contract to take?"

"I don't know just how much we need," answered Uncle John. "We want
enough to run a newspaper plant at Millville, and will pay for whatever
we use. I've ordered a meter, as you asked me to do, and my men are now
stringing the cables to make the connection."

"Pah! a newspaper. How absurd," said Mr. Skeelty with scornful emphasis.
"Your name, Merrick, is not unknown to me. It stands for financial
success, I understand; but I'll bet you never made your money doing such
fool things as establishing newspapers in graveyards."

Uncle John looked at the man attentively.

"I shall refrain from criticising your conduct of this mill, Mr.
Skeelty," he quietly observed, "nor shall I dictate what you may do with
your money--provided you succeed in making any."

The manager smiled broadly, as if the retort pleased him.

"Give an' take, sir; that's my motto," he said.

"But you prefer to take?"

"I do," was the cheerful reply. "I'll take your paper, for instance--if
it isn't too high priced."

"In case it is, we will present you with a subscription," said Uncle
John. "But that reminds me: as a part of our bargain I want you to allow
my nieces, or any representative of the _Millville Tribune_, to take
subscriptions among your workmen."

Mr. Skeelty stared at him a moment. Then he laughed.

"They're mostly foreigners, Mr. Merrick, who haven't yet fully mastered
the English language. But," he added, thoughtfully, "a few among them
might subscribe, if your country sheet contains any news of interest at
all. This is rather a lonely place for my men and they get dissatisfied
at times. All workmen seem chronically dissatisfied, and their women
constantly urge them to rebellion. Already there are grumblings, and
they claim they're buried alive in this forlorn forest. Don't appreciate
the advantages of country life, you see, and I've an idea they'll begin
to desert, pretty soon. Really, a live newspaper might do them
good--especially if you print a little socialistic drivel now and then."
Again he devoted a moment to thought, and then continued: "Tell you what
I'll do, sir; I'll solicit the subscriptions myself, and deduct the
price from the men's wages, as I do the cost of their other supplies.
But the Company gets a commission for that, of course."

"It's a penny paper," said Uncle John. "The subscription is only thirty
cents a month."

"Delivered?"

"I suppose so."

"Well, I'll pay you twenty cents, and keep the balance for commission.
That's fair enough."

"Very well, Mr. Skeelty. We're after subscriptions more than money, just
now. Get all you can, at that rate."

After signing a contract for the supply of electrical power, whereby he
was outrageously robbed but the supply was guaranteed, Mr. Merrick and
Arthur returned to the farm.

"That man," said Louise's young husband, referring to the manager of the
paper mill, "is an unmitigated scoundrel, sir."

"I won't deny it," replied Mr. Merrick. "It occurs to me he is hiring
those poor workmen at low wages and making a profit on all their living
necessities, which he reserves the right of supplying from his own
store. No wonder the poor fellows get dissatisfied."




CHAPTER VII

THE SKETCH ARTIST


During the next three days so many things happened at Millville that the
natives were in a panic of excitement. Not only was electricity brought
from the paper mill, but a telegraph wire was run from Chazy Junction to
Bob West's former storage shed and a telephone gang came along and
placed a private wire, with long-distance connections, in the new
newspaper office. The office itself became transformed--"as full o'
winders as a hothouse!" exclaimed Peggy McNutt, with bulging eyes--and
neat partitions were placed for the offices. There was no longer any
secret as to the plans of the "nabobs"; it was generally understood that
those terribly aggressive girls were going to inflict a daily paper on
the community. Some were glad, and some rebelled, but all were excited.
A perpetual meeting was held at Cotting's store to discuss developments,
for something startling occurred every few minutes.

"It's a outrage, this thing," commented young Skim Clark despondently.
"They're tryin' to run mother out o' business--an' she a widder with me
to look after! Most o' the business at the Emporium is done in
newspapers an' magazines an' sich; so these gals thought they'd cut
under an' take the business away from her."

"Can't the Widder Clark sell the new paper, then?" asked the blacksmith.

"I dunno. Hadn't thought o' that," said Skim. "But the price is to be
jus' one cent, an' we've ben gittin' five cents fer all the outside
papers. Where's the profit comin' from, on one cent, I'd like to know?
Why, we make two or three cents on all the five cent papers."

"As fer that," remarked the druggist, "we'll get a cheap paper--if it's
any good--an' that's somethin' to be thankful for."

"'Twon't be any good," asserted Skim. "Ma says so."

But no one except McNutt was prepared to agree with this prediction.
The extensive plans in preparation seemed to indicate that the new paper
would be fully equal to the requirements of the populace.

On Monday, when the news spread that two big freight cars had arrived at
the Junction, and Nick Thorne began working three teams to haul the
outfit to Millville, the rest of the town abandoned all business other
than watching the arrival of the drays. Workmen and machinists arrived
from the city and began unpacking and setting up the presses, type cases
and all other paraphernalia, every motion being watched by eager faces
that lined the windows. These workmen were lodged at the hotel, which
had never entertained so many guests at one time in all its past
history. The three girls, even more excited and full of awe than the
townspeople, were at the office early and late, taking note of
everything installed and getting by degrees a fair idea of the extent of
their new plaything.

"It almost takes my breath away, Uncle," said Patsy. "You've given the
_Tribune_ such a splendid start that we must hustle to make good and
prove we are worthy your generosity."

"I sat up last night and wrote a poem for the first page of the first
number," announced Louise earnestly.

"Poems don't go on the first page," observed Patsy; "but they're needed
to fill in with. What's it about, dear?"

"It's called 'Ode to a Mignonette,'" answered Louise. "It begins this
way:

    "Wee brown blossom, humble and sweet,
      Content on my bosom lying,
     Who would guess from your quiet dress
      The beauty there is lying
          Under the rust?"

"Hm," said Patsy, "I don't see as there's any beauty under the rust, at
all. There's no beauty about a mignonette, anyhow, suspected or
unsuspected."

"She means 'fragrance,'" suggested Beth. "Change it to: 'The fragrance
there is lying under the rust.' That'll fix it all right, Louise."

"It doesn't seem right, even then," remarked Uncle John. "If the
fragrance lies under the rust, it can't be smelt, can it?"

"I did not anticipate all this criticism," said Louise, with an air of
injured dignity. "None of the big publishing houses that returned my
poems ever said anything mean about them; they merely said they were
'not available.' However, as this poem has not made a hit with the
managing editor, I'll tear it up and write another."

"Don't do that," begged Patsy. "Save it for emergencies. We've got to
fill twenty-four columns every day, remember!"

By Wednesday night the equipment was fully installed and the workmen
departed, leaving only Jim McGaffey, an experienced pressman, and
Lawrence Doane--familiarly called Larry--who was to attend to the
electrotyping and "make-up." The press was of the best modern
construction, and folded, cut and counted the papers automatically, with
a capacity for printing three thousand copies an hour.

"And at that rate," observed Patsy, "It will run off our regular edition
in eight minutes."

Aside from the newspaper press there were two "job" presses and an
assortment of type for printing anything that might be required, from a
calling card to a circus poster. A third man, who came from the city
Thursday morning, was to take charge of the job printing and assist in
the newspaper work. Three girls also arrived, pale-faced, sad-eyed
creatures, who were expert typesetters. Uncle John arranged with Mrs.
Kebble, the landlady at the hotel, to board all the "help" at moderate
charge.

It had been decided, after much consultation, to make the _Tribune_ a
morning paper. At first it was feared this would result in keeping the
girls up nights, but it was finally arranged that all the copy they
furnished would be turned in by nine o'clock, and Miss Briggs, the
telegraph editor, would attend to anything further that came in over the
wires. The advantages of a morning edition were obvious.

"You'll have all day to distribute a morning paper," Arthur pointed out,
"whereas an evening paper couldn't get to your scattered subscribers
until the next morning."

Miss Briggs, upon whom they were to rely so greatly, proved to be a
woman of tremendous energy and undoubted ability. She was thirty-five
years of age and had been engaged in newspaper work ever since she was
eighteen. Bright and cheerful, of even temper and shrewd comprehension,
Miss Briggs listened to the eager explanations of the three girls who
had undertaken this queer venture, and assured them she would assist in
making a newspaper that would be a credit to them all. She understood
clearly the conditions; that inexperience was backed by ample capital
and unpractical ideas by unlimited enthusiasm.

"This job may not last long," she told herself, "but while it does it
will be mighty amusing. I shall enjoy these weeks in a quiet country
town after the bustle of the big city."

So here were seven regular employees of the _Millville Daily Tribune_
already secured and the eighth was shortly to appear. Preparations were
well under way for a first edition on the Fourth of July and the office
was beginning to hum with work, when one afternoon a girl strolled in
and asked in a tired voice for the managing editor.

She was admitted to Patsy's private room, where Beth and Louise were
also sitting, and they looked upon their visitor in undisguised
astonishment.

She was young: perhaps not over twenty years of age. Her face bore marks
of considerable dissipation and there was a broad scar underneath her
right eye. Her hair was thin, straggling and tow-colored; her eyes
large, deep-set and of a faded blue. The girl's dress was as queer and
untidy as her personal appearance, for she wore a brown tailored coat, a
short skirt and long, buttoned leggings. A round cap of the same
material as her dress was set jauntily on the back of her head, and over
her shoulder was slung a fiat satchel of worn leather. There was little
that was feminine and less that was attractive about the young woman,
and Patsy eyed her with distinct disfavor.

"Tommy sent me here," said the newcomer, sinking wearily into a chair.
"I'm hired for a month, on good behavior, with a chance to stay on if I
conduct myself in a ladylike manner. I've been working on the _Herald_,
you know; but there was no end of a row last week, and they fired me
bodily. Any booze for sale in this town?"

"It is a temperance community," answered Patsy, stiffly.

"Hooray for me. There's a chance I'll keep sober. In that case you've
acquired the best sketch artist in America."

"Oh! Are you the artist, then?" asked Patsy, with doubtful intonation.

"I don't like the word. I'm not a real artist--just a cartoonist and
newspaper hack. Say, it's funny to see me in this jungle, isn't it? What
joy I'll have in astonishing the natives! I s'pose a picture's a
picture, to them, and Art an impenetrable mystery. What sort of stuff do
you want me to turn out?"

"I--I'm not sure you'll do," said Miss Doyle, desperately. "I--we--that
is--we are three quite respectable young women who have under-taken to
edit the _Millville Daily Tribune_, and the people we have secured to
assist us are all--all quite desirable, in their way. So--; ahem!--so--"

"That's all right," remarked the artist composedly. "I don't know that
I blame you. I can see very well the atmosphere is not my atmosphere.
When is the next train back to New York?"

"At four o'clock, I believe."

"I'll engage a nice upholstered seat in the smoking car. But I've
several hours to loaf, and loafing is my best stunt. Isn't this a queer
start for girls like you?" looking around the "den" critically. "I
wonder how you got the bug, and what'll come of it. It's so funny to see
a newspaper office where everything is brand new, and--eminently
respectable. Do you mind my lighting a cigarette? This sort of a deal is
quite interesting to an old-timer like me; but perhaps I owe you an
apology for intruding. I had a letter from Tommy and one from a big
banker--Marvin, I guess his name is."

She drew two letters from her satchel and tossed them on the desk before
Patsy.

"They're no good to me now," she added. "Where's your waste basket?"

The managing editor, feeling embarrassed by the presence of the artist,
opened the letters. The first was from Mr. Marvin, Uncle John's banker,
saying:

"After much negotiation I have secured for you the best newspaper
illustrator in New York, and a girl, too, which is an added
satisfaction. For months I have admired the cartoons signed 'Het' in the
New York papers, for they were essentially clever and droll. Miss Hewitt
is highly recommended but like most successful artists is not always to
be relied upon. I'm told if you can manage to win her confidence she
will be very loyal to you."

The other letter was from the editor of a great New York journal. "In
giving you Hetty," he said, "I am parting with one of our strongest
attractions, but in this big city the poor girl is rapidly drifting to
perdition and I want to save her, if possible, before it is too late.
She has a sweet, lovable nature, a generous heart and a keen intellect,
but these have been so degraded by drink and dissipation that you may
not readily discover them. My idea is that in a country town, away from
all disreputable companionship, the child may find herself, and come to
her own again. Be patient with her and help her all you can. Her
wonderful talent will well repay you, even if you are not interested in
saving one of God's creatures."

Silently Patsy passed the letters to Beth and Louise. After reading them
there was a new expression on the faces they turned toward Hetty Hewitt.

"Forgive me," said Patsy, abruptly. "I--I think I misjudged you. I was
wrong in saying what I did."

"No; you were quite right." She sat with downcast eyes a moment, musing
deeply. Then she looked up with a smile that quite glorified her wan
face. "I'd like to stay, you know," she said humbly. "I'm facing a
crisis, just now, and on the whole I'd rather straighten up. If you feel
like giving me a chance I--I'd like to see if I've any reserve force or
whether the decency in me has all evaporated."

"We'll try you; and I'm sure you have lots of reserve force, Hetty,"
cried Patsy, jumping up impulsively to take the artist's soiled, thin
hand in her own. "Come with me to the hotel and I'll get you a room.
Where is your baggage?"

"Didn't bring it. I wasn't sure I'd like the country, or that you'd care
to trust me. In New York they know me for what I'm worth, and I get lots
of work and good advice--mixed with curses."

"We'll send for your trunk," said Patsy, leading the girl up the street.

"No; it's in hock. But I won't need it. With no booze to buy I can
invest my earnings in wearing apparel. What a picturesque place this is!
Way back in the primitive; no hint of those namby-pamby green meadows
and set rows of shade trees that make most country towns detestable;
rocks and boulders--boulders and rocks--and the scraggly pines for
background. The wee brook has gone crazy. What do you call it?"

"Little Bill Creek."

"I'm going to stab it with my pencil. Where it bumps the rocks it's
obstinate and pig-headed; where it leaps the little shelves of slate
it's merry and playful; where it sweeps silently between the curving
banks it is sulky and resentful. The Little Bill has moods, bless its
heart! Moods betoken character."

Patsy secured for Hetty a pleasant room facing the creek.

"Where will you work, at the office or here?" she asked.

"In the open, I guess. I'll run over the telegraph news to get a subject
for the day's cartoon, and then take to the woods. Let me know what
other pictures you want and I'll do 'em on the run. I'm a beast to
work."

Arthur Weldon, in his capacity as advertising manager, wrote to all the
national advertisers asking their patronage for the _Millville Daily
Tribune_. The letters were typewritten by the office stenographer on
newly printed letterheads that Fitzgerald, the job printer, had
prepared. Some of the advertisers were interested enough in Arthur's
novel proposition to reply with questions as to the circulation of the
new paper, where it was distributed, and the advertising rates. The
voting man answered frankly that they had 27 subscribers already and
were going to distribute 400 free copies every day, for a time, as
samples, with the hope of increasing the subscription list. "I am not
sure you will derive any benefit at all from advertising in our paper,"
he added; "but we would like to have you try it, and you can pay us
whatever you consider the results warrant."

To his astonishment the advertisements arrived, a great many from very
prominent firms, who accepted his proposal with amusement at his
originality and a desire to help the new venture along.

"Our square statement of facts has given us a good start," he told the
girls. "I'm really amazed at our success, and it's up to you to make a
paper that will circulate and make trade for these trustful
advertisers."

With the local merchants the results were less satisfying. Bob West put
in a card advertising his hardware business and Nib Corkins cautiously
invested a half dollar to promote his drug store and stock of tarnished
cheap jewelry; but Sam Cotting said everybody knew what he had for sale
and advertising wouldn't help him any. Arthur drove to Huntingdon with
Louise and while the society editor picked up items her husband
interviewed the merchants. The Huntingdon people were more interested in
the new paper than the Millville folk, and Arthur quoted such low prices
that several advertisements were secured. Two bright boys of this
thriving village were also employed to ride over to Millville each
morning, get a supply of _Tribunes_ and distribute a sample copy to
every house in the neighborhood.

"Fitz" set up the "ads" in impressive type and the columns of the first
edition began to fill up days before the Fourth of July arrived. Louise
had a story and two poems set in type and read over the proofs dozens of
times with much pride and satisfaction, while Beth prepared an article
on the history of baseball and the probable future of our national game.

They did not see much of their artist during the first days following
her arrival, but one afternoon she brought Patsy a sketch and asked:

"Who is this?"

Patsy glanced at it and laughed gleefully. It was Peggy McNutt, the
fish-eyed pooh-bah of Millville, who was represented sitting on his
front porch engaged in painting his wooden foot. This was one of
McNutt's recognized amusements. He kept a supply of paints of many
colors, and every few days appeared with his rudely carved wooden foot
glistening with a new coat of paint and elaborately striped. Sometimes
it would be blue with yellow stripes, then green with red stripes, and
anon a lovely pink decorated with purple. One drawback to Peggy's
delight in these transformations was the fact that it took the paint a
night and a day to dry thoroughly, and during this period of waiting he
would sit upon his porch with the wooden foot tenderly resting upon the
rail--a helpless prisoner.

"Some folks," he would say, "likes pretty neckties; an' some wears fancy
socks; but fer my part I'd ruther show a han'some foot ner anything. It
don't cost as much as wearin' socks an' neckties, an' it's more artistic
like."

Hetty had caught the village character in the act of striping the wooden
foot, and his expression of intense interest in the operation was so
original, and the likeness so perfect, from the string suspenders and
flannel shirt to the antiquated straw hat and faded and patched
overalls, that no one would be likely to mistake the subject. The sketch
was entitled "The Village Artist," and Patsy declared they would run it
on an inside page, just to make the Millville people aware of the "power
of the press." Larry made an etching of it and mounted the plate for a
double column picture. The original sketch Patsy decided to have framed
and to hang it in her office.




CHAPTER VIII

THE MILLVILLE DAILY TRIBUNE


The first edition of the _Millville Daily Tribune_ certainly proved it
to be a wonderful newspaper. The telegraphic news of the world's doings,
received and edited by the skillful Miss Briggs, was equal to that of
any metropolitan journal; the first page cartoon, referring to the
outbreak of a rebellion in China, was clever and humorous enough to
delight anyone; but the local news and "literary page" were woefully
amateurish and smacked of the schoolgirl editors who had prepared them.
Perhaps the Chazy County people did not recognize these deficiencies,
for the new paper certainly created a vast amount of excitement and won
the praise of nearly all who read it.

On the eventful night of the _Tribune's_ "first run" our girls were too
eager to go home and await its appearance, so they remained at the
office to see the birth of their enterprise, and as it was the night
preceding the Fourth of July Uncle John gave an exhibition of fireworks
in front of the newspaper office, to the delight of the entire
population.

The girl journalists, however, were not so greatly interested in
fireworks as in the birth of their fascinating enterprise. Wearing long
gingham aprons they hovered over the big table where the forms were
being locked up, and watched anxiously every movement of the workmen. It
was exceedingly interesting to note how a column of the first page was
left open until the last, so that copy "hot from the wire" of the very
latest news might be added before going to press. Finally, at exactly
two o'clock, the forms were locked, placed upon the bed of the press,
and McGaffey, a sour-faced individual whose chief recommendation was his
ability as a pressman, began to make ready for the "run."

Outside the brilliantly lighted windows, which were left open for air,
congregated a wondering group of the Millville people, many of whom had
never been up so late before in all their lives. But the event was too
important to miss. The huge, complicated press had already inspired
their awe, and they were eager to "see it work" as it printed the new
paper.

The girls tolerated this native curiosity with indulgent good humor and
at midnight even passed out sandwiches to the crowd, a supply having
been secured for the workmen. These were accepted silently, and as they
munched the food all kept their eyes fixed upon the magicians within.

There was a hitch somewhere; McGaffey muttered naughty words under his
breath and plied wrenches and screwdrivers in a way that brought a
thrill of anxiety, approaching fear, to every heart. The press started
half a dozen times, only to be shut down abruptly before it had printed
a single impression. McGaffey counseled with Larry, who shook his head.
Fitzgerald, the job printer, examined the machinery carefully and again
McGaffey screwed nuts and regulated the press. Then he turned on the
power; the big cylinder revolved; the white paper reeled out like a long
ribbon and with a rattle and thump the first copy of the _Millville
Daily Tribune_ was deposited, cut and folded, upon the table placed to
receive it. Patsy made a rush for it, but before she could reach the
table half a dozen more papers had been piled above it, and gathering
speed the great press hummed busily and the pile of _Tribunes_ grew as
if by magic.

Patsy grabbed the first dozen and handed them to Beth, for they were to
be reserved as souvenirs. Then, running back to the table, she seized a
bunch and began distributing them to the watchers outside the window.
The natives accepted them eagerly enough, but could not withdraw their
eyes from the marvelous press, which seemed to possess intelligence
almost human.

Each of the three girl journalists now had a copy in hand, scanning it
with boundless pride and satisfaction. It realized completely their
fondest hopes and they had good cause to rejoice.

Then Uncle John, who ought to have been in bed and sound asleep at this
uncanny hour of night, came bouncing in, accompanied by Arthur Weldon.
Each made a dive for a paper and each face wore an expression of genuine
delight. The roar of the press made conversation difficult, but Mr.
Merrick caught his nieces in his arms, by turn, and gave each one an
ecstatic hug and kiss.

Suddenly the press stopped.

"What's wrong, McGaffey?" demanded Patsy, anxiously.

"Nothing, miss. Edition off, that's all."

"What! the entire four hundred are printed?"

"Four twenty-five. I run a few extrys."

And now a shriek of laughter came from the windows as the villagers,
slowly opening the papers they held, came upon the caricature of Peggy
McNutt. The subject of the cartoon had, with his usual aggressiveness,
secured the best "standing room" available, and his contemplative,
protruding eyes were yet fixed upon the interior of the workroom. But
now, his curiosity aroused, he looked at the paper to see what his
neighbors were laughing at, and his expression of wonder slowly changed
to a broad grin. He straightened up, looked triumphantly around the
circle and exclaimed:

"By gum, folks, this 'ere paper's going to be a go! I didn't take no
stock in it till now, but them fool gals seem to know their business,
an' I'll back 'em to the last ditch!"




CHAPTER IX

TROUBLE


Of course the girls exhausted their store of "effusions" on the first
two or three papers. A daily eats up "copy" very fast and the need to
supply so much material began to bewilder the budding journalists. There
was not sufficient local news to keep them going, but fortunately the
New York news service supplied more general news than they could
possibly use, and, besides, Mr. Marvin, foreseeing this dilemma, had
sent on several long, stout boxes filled with "plate matter," which
meant that a variety of stories, poems, special articles and paragraphs
of every sort had been made into stereotyped plates of column width
which could be placed anywhere in the paper where a space needed to be
filled. This material, having been prepared by skilled writers, was of
excellent character, so that the paper gained in its class of contents
as the girlish contributions began to be replaced by "plates." The
nieces did not abandon writing, however, and all three worked sedulously
to prepare copy so that at least one column of the Tribune each day was
filled with notes from their pens.

Subscriptions came in freely during those first days, for farmers and
villagers alike were proud of their local daily and the price was so low
that no one begrudged the investment. But Uncle John well knew that if
every individual in the county subscribed, and the advertising patronage
doubled, the income would fall far short of running expenses.

Saturday night, when the pay roll had to be met, the girls consulted
together seriously. In spite of the new subscriptions received, a
deficiency must be supplied, and they quietly advanced the money from
their private purses. This was no great hardship, for each had an ample
allowance from Uncle John, as well as an income from property owned in
her own name.

"It's only about thirty dollars apiece," said Patsy. "I guess we can
stand that until--until more money begins coming in."

On Saturday evening there was an invasion of workmen from Royal, many of
whom we're rough foreigners who came to Millville in search of
excitement, as a relief from their week's confinement at the pine woods
settlement at the mill. Skeelty, who thought he knew how to manage these
people, allowed every man, at the close of work on Saturday, to purchase
a pint of whiskey from the company store, charging an exorbitant price
that netted a huge profit. There was no strong drink to be had at
Millville, so the workmen brought their bottles to town, carousing on
the way, and thought it amusing to frighten the simple inhabitants of
the village by their rude shouts and ribald songs.

This annoyance had occurred several times since the establishment of the
mill, and Bob West had protested vigorously to Mr. Skeelty for giving
his men whiskey and turning them loose in a respectable community; but
the manager merely grinned and said he must keep "the boys" satisfied at
all hazards, and it was the business of the Millville people to protect
themselves if the workmen became too boisterous.

On this Saturday evening the girls were standing on the sidewalk outside
the printing office, awaiting the arrival of Arthur with the surrey,
when a group of the Royal workmen appeared in the dim light, swaggering
three abreast and indulging in offensive language. Uncle John's nieces
withdrew to the protection of the doorway, but a big bearded fellow in a
red shirt discovered them, and, lurching forward, pushed his evil
countenance in Patsy's face, calling to his fellows in harsh tones that
he had "found a partner for a dance."

An instant later he received a swinging blow above the ear that sent him
sprawling at full length upon the sidewalk, and a quiet voice said:

"Pardon me, ladies; it seemed necessary."

All three at once recognized the supposed tramp whom they had seen the
morning of their arrival, but whom Uncle John had reported to be one of
the bookkeepers at the paper mill. The young fellow had no time to say
more, for the downfall of their comrade brought a shout of rage from
the group of workmen, numbering nearly a dozen, and with one accord they
rushed upon the man who had dared champion the defenseless girls.

Beth managed to open the door of the office, through which Patsy and
Louise slipped instantly, but the younger girl, always cool in
emergencies, held the door ajar while she cried to the young man:

"Quick, sir--come inside!"

Really, he had no time to obey, just then. With his back to the door he
drove his fists at his assailants in a dogged, persistent way that
felled three more of them before the others drew away from his stalwart
bows. By that time Larry and Fitzgerald, who had been summoned by
Louise, rushed from the office armed with iron bars caught up at random,
both eager for a fight. The workmen, seeing the reinforcements, beat a
retreat, carrying their sadly pommeled comrades with them, but their
insulting language was not restricted until they had passed out of
hearing.

Then the young man turned, bowed gravely to the girls, who had now
ventured forth again, and without waiting to receive their thanks
marched calmly down the street.

When Arthur reached home with the girls, Mr. Merrick was very indignant
at his report of the adventure. He denounced Skeelty in unmeasured terms
and declared he would find a way to protect Millville from further
invasion by these rough and drunken workmen.

There was no Sunday paper, so the girlish editors found the morrow a
veritable day of rest. They all drove to Hooker's Falls to church and
returned to find that old Nora had prepared a fine chicken dinner for
them. Patsy had invited Hetty Hewitt, in whom she was now greatly
interested, to dine with them, and to the astonishment of all the artist
walked over to the farm arrayed in a new gown, having discarded the
disreputable costume in which she had formerly appeared. The new dress
was not in the best of taste and its loud checks made dainty Louise
shudder, but somehow Hetty seemed far more feminine than before, and she
had, moreover, washed herself carefully and tried to arrange her
rebellious hair.

"This place is doing me good," she confided to her girl employers,
after dinner, when they were seated in a group upon the lawn. "I'm
getting over my nervousness, and although I haven't drank a drop
stronger than water since I arrived. I feel a new sort of energy
coursing through my veins. Also I eat like a trooper--not at night, as I
used to, but at regular mealtime. And I'm behaving quite like a lady. Do
you know, I wouldn't be surprised to find it just as amusing to be
respectable as to--to be--the other thing?"

"You will find it far more satisfactory, I'm sure," replied Patsy
encouragingly. "What most surprises me is that with your talent and
education you ever got into such bad ways."

"Environment," said Hetty. "That's what did it. When I first went to New
York I was very young. A newspaper man took me out to dinner and asked
me to have a cocktail. I looked around the tables and saw other girls
drinking cocktails, so I took one. That was where I turned into the
rocky road. People get careless around the newspaper offices. They work
under a constant nervous strain and find that drink steadies them--for
a time. By and by they disappear; others take their places, and they are
never heard of again except in the police courts. I knew a girl, society
editor of a big paper, who drew her five thousand a year, at one time.
She got the cocktail habit and a week or so ago I paid her fine for
getting pinched while intoxicated. She was in rags and hadn't a red
cent. That set me thinking, and when Tommy fired me from his paper and
said the best he could do was to get me a job in the country, it seemed
as if my chance to turn over a new leaf had arrived. I've turned it,"
she added, with a pathetic sigh; "but whether it'll stay turned, or not,
is a question for the puzzle page."

"Haven't you a family to look after you--or for you to look after?"
asked Beth.

"No. Brother and I were left orphans in a Connecticut town, and he went
out West, to Chicago, and promised to send for me. Must have forgot that
promise, I guess, for I've never heard of Dan since. I could draw
pictures, so I went to New York and found a job. Guess that's my
biography, and it isn't as interesting as one of Hearst's editorials,
either."

Hetty seemed pleased and grateful to note the frank friendliness of her
girlish employers, in whom she recognized the admirable qualities she
had personally sacrificed for a life of dissipation. In the privacy of
her room at the hotel she had read the first copy of the Millville
Tribune and shrieked with laughter at the ingenuous editorials and
schoolgirl essays. Then she grew sober and thoughtful, envying in her
heart the sweetness and simplicity so apparent in every line. Here were
girls who possessed something infinitely higher than journalistic
acumen; they were true women, with genuine womanly qualities and natures
that betrayed their worth at a glance, as do ingots of refined gold.
What would not this waif from the grim underworld of New York have given
for such clear eyes, pure mind and unsullied heart? "I don't know as I
can ever swim in their pond," Hetty reflected, with honest regret, "but
there's a chance I can look folks square in the eye again--and that
wouldn't be so bad."

Monday morning, when Patsy, Louise and Beth drove to their office, Miss
Briggs said nonchalantly:

"McGaffey's gone."

"Gone! Gone where?" asked Patsy.

"Back to New York. Caught a freight from the Junction Saturday night."

"Isn't he coming back?" inquired Beth.

"Here's a letter he left," said Miss Briggs.

They read it together. It was very brief; "Climate don't suit me. No
excitement. I've quit. McGaffey."

"I suppose," said Patsy, with indignation, "he intended to go, all the
while, and only waited for his Saturday pay."

Miss Briggs nodded. She was at the telegraph instrument.

"What shall we do?" asked Louise. "Can anyone else work the press?"

"I'll find out," said Patsy, marching into the workroom.

Neither Fitz nor Larry would undertake to run the press. They said the
machine was so complicated it required an expert, and unless an
experienced pressman could be secured the paper must suspend
publication.

Here was an unexpected dilemma; one that for a time dazed them.

"These things always happen in the newspaper business," remarked Miss
Briggs, when appealed to. "Can't you telegraph to New York for another
pressman?"

"Yes; but he can't get here in time," said Patsy. "There's no Monday
train to Chazy Junction, at all, and it would be Wednesday morning
before a man could possibly arrive. To shut down the paper would ruin
it, for everyone would think we had failed in our attempt and it might
take us weeks to regain public confidence."

"I know," said Miss Briggs, composedly. "A paper never stops. Somehow or
other it always keeps going--even if the world turns somersaults and
stands on its head. You'll find a way, I'm sure."

But the bewildered girls had no such confidence. They drove back to the
farm to consult with Uncle John and Arthur.

"Let's take a look at that press, my dears," said Mr. Merrick. "I'm
something of a mechanic myself, or was in my young days, and I may be
able to work this thing until we can get a new pressman."

"I'll help you," said Arthur. "Anyone who can run an automobile ought to
be able to manage a printing press."

So they went to the office, took off their coats and examined the press;
but the big machine defied their combined intelligence. Uncle John
turned on the power. The cylinder groaned, swung half around, and then
the huge wooden "nippers" came down upon the table with a force that
shattered them to kindlings. At the crash Mr. Merrick involuntarily shut
down the machine, and then they all stood around and looked gloomily at
the smash-up and wondered if the damage was irreparable.

"Couldn't we print the paper on the job press?" asked the little
millionaire, turning to Fitzgerald.

"In sections, sir," replied Fitz, grinning. "Half a page at a time is
all we can manage, but we might be able to match margins so the thing
could be read."

"We'll try it," said Uncle John. "Do your best, my man, and if you can
help us out of this bog you shall be amply rewarded."

Fitz looked grave.

"Never knew of such a thing being done, sir," he remarked; "but that's
no reason it's impossible."

"'Twill be a horror of a make-up," added Larry, who did not relish his
part in the experiment.

Uncle John put on his coat and went into the front office, followed by
Arthur and the girls in dismal procession.

"A man to see the manager," announced Miss Briggs, nodding toward a
quiet figure seated on the "waiting bench."

The man stood up and bowed. It was the young bookkeeper from the paper
mill, who had so bravely defended the girls on Saturday night. Uncle
John regarded him with a frown.

"I suppose Skeelty has sent you to apologize," he said.

"No, sir; Skeelty is not in an apologetic mood," replied the man,
smiling. "He has fired me."

"What for?"

"Interfering with his workmen. The boys didn't like what I did the other
night and threatened to strike unless I was put in the discard."

"And now? asked Uncle John, looking curiously at the man.

"I'm out of work and would like a job, sir."

"What can you do?"

"Anything."

"That means nothing at all."

"I beg your pardon. Let me say that I'm not afraid to tackle anything."

"Can you run a power printing press?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ever had any experience?"

The young man hesitated.

"I'm not sure," he replied slowly; "but I think I have."

This statement would not have been encouraging under ordinary
circumstances, but in this emergency Uncle John accepted it.

"What is your name?" he asked.

Another moment's hesitation.

"Call me Smith, please."

"First name?"

The man smiled.

"Thursday," he said.

All his hearers seemed astonished at this peculiar name, but Mr. Merrick
said abruptly: "Follow me, Thursday Smith."

The man obeyed, and the girls and Arthur trotted after them back to the
pressroom.

"Our pressman has deserted us without warning," explained Mr. Merrick.
"None of our other employees is able to run the thing. If you can master
it so as to run off the paper tonight, the job is yours."

Thursday Smith took off his jacket--a cheap khaki affair--and rolled up
his sleeves. Then he carefully looked over the press and found the
damaged nippers. Without a word he picked up a wrench, released the stub
ends of the broken fingers, gathered the pieces in his hand and asked:
"Where is there a carpenter shop?"

"Can you operate this press?" asked Mr. Merrick.

"Yes, sir."

"The carpenter shop is a little shanty back of the hotel. You'll find
Lon Taft there."

Smith walked away, and Mr. Merrick drew a long breath of relief.

"That's good luck," he said. "You may quit worrying, now, my dears."

"Are you sure he's a good pressman, Uncle?"

"No; but _he_ is sure. I've an idea he wouldn't attempt the thing,
otherwise."

Mr. Merrick returned to the farm, while Arthur drove Louise over to
Huntingdon to gather items for the paper, and Patsy and Beth sat in the
office arranging copy.

In an hour Smith came back with new nippers, which he fitted to the
steel frame. Then he oiled the press, started it going a few
revolutions, to test its condition, and handled the machinery so
dexterously and with such evident confidence that Larry nodded to Fitz
and muttered, "He'll do."

McGaffey, knowing he was about to decamp, had not kept the press very
clean; but Thursday Smith put in the afternoon and evening removing
grease, polishing and rubbing, until the huge machine shone resplendent.
The girls went home at dinner time, but they sent Arthur to the office
at midnight to see if the new pressman was proving capable. The Tuesday
morning _Tribune_ greeted them at the breakfast table, and the presswork
was remarkably clean and distinct.




CHAPTER X

THURSDAY SMITH


In a day or so Mr. Merrick received a letter from Mr. Skeelty, the
manager of the paper mill. He said: "I understand you have employed one
of my discharged workmen, who is named Thursday Smith. My men don't want
him in this neighborhood, and have made a strong protest. I therefore
desire you to discharge the fellow at once, and in case you refuse to
accede to this reasonable demand I shall shut off your power."

Mr. Merrick replied: "Shut off the power and I'll sue you for damages.
My contract with you fully protects me. Permit me a request in turn:
that you mind your own business. The _Millville Tribune_ will employ
whomsoever it chooses."

Uncle John said nothing to the girls concerning this correspondence,
nor did he mention it to the new pressman.

On Wednesday Larry and Fitz sent in their "resignations," to take effect
Saturday night. They told Patsy, who promptly interviewed them, that the
town was altogether too slow for men accustomed to the city, but to
Smith they admitted they feared trouble from the men at the mill.

"I talked with one of the mill hands last night," said Larry, "and
they're up to mischief. If you stay here, my boy, you'd better watch
out, for it's you they're after, in the first place, and Skeelty has
told 'em he wouldn't be annoyed if they wiped out the whole newspaper
plant at the same time."

Thursday nodded but said nothing. He began watching the work of the two
men with comprehensive care. When Mr. Merrick came down to the office
during the forenoon to consult with his nieces about replacing the two
men who had resigned, Smith asked him for a private interview.

"Come into the office," said Uncle John.

When the man found the three girl journalists present he hesitated, but
Mr. Merrick declared they were the ones most interested in anything an
employee of the paper might have to say to his principals.

"I am told, sir," Thursday began, "that the people at the mill have
boycotted this paper."

"They've cancelled all their subscriptions," replied Beth; "but as they
had not paid for them it won't hurt us any."

"It seems the trouble started through your employing me," resumed the
young man; "so it will be best for you to let me go."

"Never!" cried Mr. Merrick, firmly. "Do you suppose I'll allow that
rascal Skeelty to dictate to us for a single minute? Not by a jug full!
And the reason the men dislike you is because you pounded some of them
unmercifully when they annoyed my girls. Where did you learn to use your
fists so cleverly, Smith?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Well, you have earned our gratitude, and we're going to stand by you. I
don't mind a bit of a row, when I'm on the right side of an argument. Do
you?"

"Not at all, sir; but the young ladies--"

"They're pretty good fighters, too; so don't worry."

Thursday was silent a moment. Then he said:

"Fitzgerald and Doane tell me they're going to quit, Saturday."

"It is true," replied Patsy. "I'm sorry, for they seem good men and we
may have trouble replacing them."

"They are not needed here, Miss Doyle," said Smith. "There isn't a great
deal of electrotyping to do, or much job printing. More than half the
time the two men are idle. It's the same way with my own job. Three
hours a day will take care of the press and make the regular run. If you
will permit me, I am sure I can attend to all the work, unaided."

They looked at one another in amazement.

"How about the make-up?" asked Uncle John.

"I can manage that easily, sir. I've been watching the operation and
understand it perfectly."

"And you believe you can do the work of three men?"

"Three men were unnecessary in a small plant like this, sir. Whoever
sent them to you did not understand very well your requirements. I've
been watching the compositors, too, and your three girls are one too
many. Two are sisters, and can set all the type very easily. I recommend
that you send the other back to New York."

They considered this advice seriously.

"I think Mr. Smith is right," observed Patsy. "The girls have not seemed
busy, at all, and spend most of their time laughing and talking
together."

"It will cut down expenses a lot," said Beth, "and I'm sure we ought to
be able to run this paper more economically than we have been doing."

Uncle John looked at the man thoughtfully.

"Where did you learn the printing business?" he asked.

"I--I don't know, sir."

"What offices have you worked in?"

"I cannot tell you that, sir."

"You seem to answer all my questions with the statement that you 'don't
know,'" asserted Mr. Merrick, with an annoyed frown. "Is there any
reason you should refuse to tell us of your former life?"

"None whatever, sir."

"Who are you, Smith?"

"I--I don't know, sir."

Mr. Merrick was getting provoked.

"This obstinacy is not likely to win our confidence," he said. "Under
the circumstances I think we ought to know something more about you,
before we allow you to undertake so much responsibility. You seem a
bright, able young man, and I've no doubt you understand the work you're
about to undertake, but if we have no knowledge of your antecedents you
may cause us considerable future trouble."

Smith bowed his head and his cheeks flamed red.

"I have no knowledge of my antecedents to confide to you, sir," he said
in a low voice.

Uncle John sighed regretfully and turned away, but Patsy looked at the
man with new interest.

"Won't you please explain that a little more fully?" she gently
inquired.

"I am quite willing to tell all I know," said he; "but that is very
little, I assure you. Two years ago last May, on the morning of
Thursday, the twenty-second, I awoke to find myself lying in a ditch
beside a road. Of my life previous to that time I have no knowledge
whatever."

The three girls regarded him with startled eyes. Uncle John turned from
the window to examine the young man with new interest.

"Were you injured?" he asked.

"My right ankle was sprained and I had a cut under my left eye--you can
see the scar still."

"You have no idea how you came there?"

"Not the slightest. I did not recognize the surrounding country; I had
no clear impression as to who I was. There was a farmhouse a quarter of
a mile away; I limped to it and they gave me some breakfast. I found I
was fifty-six miles from New York. The farmer had heard of no accident;
there was no railway nearer than six miles; the highway was little
used. I told the good people my story and they suspected me of being
drunk or crazy, but did not credit a single word I said."

"That was but natural," said Uncle John.

"After breakfast I took stock of myself. In my pockets I found a
twenty-dollar bill and some silver. I wore a watch and chain and a ring
set with a good-sized diamond. My clothing seemed good, but the ditch
had soiled it. I had no hat, nor could the farmer find one when I sent
him back to look for it. My mind was not wholly a blank; I seemed to
have a fair knowledge of life, and when the farmer mentioned New York
the city seemed familiar to me. But in regard to myself, my past
history--even my name--I was totally ignorant. All personal
consciousness dated from the moment I woke up in the ditch."

"How wonderful!" exclaimed Louise.

"And you haven't solved the mystery yet, after two years?" asked Patsy.

"No, Miss Doyle. I hired the farmer to drive me to the railway station,
where I took the train to New York. I seemed to know the city, but no
recollection guided me to home or friends. I went to a small hotel,
took a room, and began to read all the newspapers, seeking to discover
if anyone was reported missing. The sight of automobiles led me to
conceive the theory that I had been riding in one of those machines
along a country road when something threw me out. My head might have
struck a stump or stone and the blow rendered me insensible. Something
in the nature of the thing, or in my physical condition, deprived me of
all knowledge of the past. Since then I have read of several similar
cases. The curious thing about my own experience was that I could find
no reference to my disappearance, in any way, nor could I learn of any
automobile accident that might account for it. I walked the streets day
after day, hoping some acquaintance would accost me. I waited patiently
for some impulse to direct me to my former haunts. I searched the
newspapers persistently for a clue; but nothing rewarded me.

"After spending all my money and the proceeds of my watch and diamond, I
began to seek employment; but no one would employ a man without
recommendations or antecedents. I did not know what work I was capable
of doing. So finally I left the city and for more than two years I have
been wandering from one part of the country to another, hoping that some
day I would recognize a familiar spot. I have done odd jobs, at times,
but my fortunes went from bad to worse until of late I have become no
better than the typical tramp."

"How did you secure employment as a book-keeper for Skeelty?" asked
Uncle John.

"I heard a new mill had started at Royal and walked up there to inquire
for work. The manager asked if I could keep books, and I said yes."

"Have you ever kept books before?"

"Not that I know of; but I did it very well. I seemed to comprehend the
work at once, and needed no instruction. Often during these two years I
have encountered similar curious conditions. I sold goods in a store and
seemed to know the stocks; I worked two weeks in a telegraph office and
discovered I knew the code perfectly; I've shod horses for a country
blacksmith, wired a house for electric lights and compounded
prescriptions in a drug store. Whatever I have undertaken to do I seem
able to accomplish, and so it is hard for me to guess what profession I
followed before my memory deserted me."

"You did not retain any position for long, it seems," remarked Uncle
John.

"No; I was always impatient to move on, always hoping to arrive at some
place so familiar that my lost memory would return to me. The work I
have mentioned was nearly all secured during the first year. After I
became seedy and disreputable in appearance people were more apt to
suspect me and work was harder to obtain."

"Why did you come to Millville?" asked Louise.

"You brought me here," he answered, with a smile. "I caught a ride on
your private car, when it left New York, not caring much where it might
take me. When I woke up the next morning the car was sidetracked at
Chazy Junction, and as this is a section I have never before explored I
decided to stay here for a time. That is all of my story, I believe."

"Quite remarkable!" declared Mr. Merrick, emphatically. The girls, too,
had been intensely interested in the strange recital.

"You seem educated," said Patsy thoughtfully; "therefore you must have
come from a good family."

"That does not seem conclusive," replied Thursday Smith, deprecatingly,
"although I naturally hope my family was respectable. I have been
inclined to resent the fact that none of my friends or relatives has
ever inquired what became of me."

"Are you sure they have not?"

"I have watched the papers carefully. In two years I have followed
several clues. A bricklayer disappeared, but his drowned body was
finally found; a college professor was missing, but he was sixty years
of age; a young man in New York embezzled a large sum and hid himself. I
followed that trail, although regretfully, but the real embezzler was
caught the day I presented myself in his place. Perhaps the most curious
experience was in the case of a young husband who deserted his wife and
infant child. She advertised for him; he had disappeared about the time
I had found myself; so I went to see her."

"What was the result?" asked Beth.

"She said I was not her husband, but if he failed to come back I might
take his place, provided I would guarantee to support her."

During the laugh that followed, Thursday Smith went back to his work and
an animated discussion concerning his strange story followed.

"He seems honest," said Louise, "but I blame a man of his ability for
becoming a mere tramp. He ought to have asserted himself and maintained
the position in which he first found himself."

"How?" inquired Patsy.

"At that time he was well dressed and had a watch and diamond ring. If
he had gone to some one and frankly told his story he could surely have
obtained a position to correspond with his personality. But instead of
this he wasted his time and the little capital he possessed in doing
nothing that was sensible."

"It is easy for us to criticise the man," remarked Beth, "and he may be
sorry, now, that he did not act differently. But I think, in his place,
I should have made the same attempt he did to unravel the mystery of his
lost identity. So much depended upon that."

"It's all very odd and incomprehensible," said Uncle John. "I wonder who
he can be."

"I suppose he calls himself Thursday because that was the day he first
found himself," observed Patsy.

"Yes; and Smith was the commonest name he could think of to go with it.
The most surprising thing," added their uncle, "is the fact that a man
of his standing was not missed or sought for."

"Perhaps," suggested Louise, "he had been insane and escaped from some
asylum."

"Then how did he come to be lying in a ditch?" questioned Patsy; "and
wouldn't an escaped maniac be promptly hunted down and captured?"

"I think so," agreed Mr. Merrick. "For my part, I'm inclined to accept
the man's theory that it was an automobile accident."

"Then what became of the car, or of the others in it?"

"It's no use," said Beth, shaking her head gravely. "If Thursday Smith,
who is an intelligent young man, couldn't solve the mystery himself, it
isn't likely we can do so."

"We know as much as he does, as far as that is concerned," said Patsy,
"and our combined intelligence ought at least to equal his. I'm sorry
for the poor man, and wish we might help him to come to his own again."

They all agreed to this sentiment and while the girls attended to their
editorial duties they had the amazing story of Thursday Smith uppermost
in their minds. When the last copy had been placed in the hands of Miss
Briggs and they were driving to the farm--at a little after six
o'clock--they renewed the interesting discussion.

Just before reaching the farm Hetty Hewitt came out of the wood just in
front of them. She was clothed in her short skirt and leggings and bore
a fishing rod and a creel.

"What luck?" asked Patsy, stopping the horse.

"Seven trout," answered the artist. "I might have caught more, but the
poor little creatures squirmed and struggled so desperately that I
hadn't the heart to destroy any more of them. Won't you take them home
for Mr. Merrick's breakfast?"

Patsy looked at the girl musingly.

"Jump in, Hetty," she said; "I'm going to take you with us for the
night. The day's fishing has tired you; there are deep circles under
your eyes; and that stuffy old hotel isn't home-like. Jump in."

Hetty flushed with pleasure, but hesitated to accept the invitation.

"I--I'm not dressed for--"

"You're all right," said Beth, supporting her cousin's proposition.
"We'll lend you anything you need."

"Do come, Miss Hewitt," added Louise.

Hetty sighed, then smiled and finally climbed into the surrey.

"In New York," she said, as they started on, "I've sometimes hobnobbed
with editors; but this is somewhat different."

"In what way?" asked Patsy casually.

"You're not real journalists, you know, and--"

"Why aren't we journalists?" asked Louise.

For a moment Hetty was puzzled how to reply.

"You are doing very good editorial work," she said mendaciously, "but,
after all, you are only playing at journalism. The real journalist--as I
know him--is a Bohemian; a font of cleverness running to waste; a
reckless, tender-hearted, jolly, careless ne'er-do-well who works like a
Trojan and plays like a child. He is very sophisticated at his desk and
very artless when he dives into the underworld for rest and recreation.
He lives at high tension, scintillates, burns his red fire without
discrimination and is shortly extinguished. You are not like that. You
can't even sympathize with that sort of person. But I can, for I'm cut
from a remnant of the same cloth."

"Scintillate all you want to, Hetty," cried Patsy with a laugh; "but
you're not going to be extinguished. For we, the imitation journalists,
have taken you under our wings. There's no underworld at Millville, and
the only excitement we can furnish just now is a night with us at the
old farm."

"That," replied Hetty, "is indeed a real excitement. You can't quite
understand it, perhaps; but it's so--so very different from what I'm
accustomed to."

Uncle John welcomed the girl artist cordially and under his hospitable
roof the waif soon felt at ease. At dinner the conversation turned upon
Thursday Smith and his peculiar experience. Beth asked Hetty if she knew
the man.

"Yes," replied the girl; "I've seen him at the office and we've
exchanged a word or two. But he boards with Thorne, the liveryman, and
not at the hotel."

"You have never seen him before you met him here?"

"Never."

"I wonder," said Louise musingly, "if he is quite right in his mind. All
this story may be an hallucination, you know."

"He's a very clever fellow," asserted Hetty, "and such a loss of memory
is by no means so uncommon as you think. Our brains are queer
things--mine is, I know--and it doesn't take much to throw their
machinery out of gear. Once I knew a reporter who was worried and
over-worked. He came to the office one morning and said he was George
Washington, the Commander of the Continental Army. In all other ways he
was sane enough, and we humored him and called him 'General.' At the end
of three months the idea quit him as suddenly as it had come on, and he
was not only normal but greatly restored in strength of intellect
through the experience. Perhaps some of the overworked brain cells had
taken a rest and renewed their energy. It would not surprise me if some
day Thursday Smith suddenly remembered who he was."

[Footnote: This anecdote is true.--_Author._]

"In the meantime," said Uncle John, "I'm going to make an effort to
discover his identity."

"In what way, Uncle?" asked Patsy.

"I'll set Fogerty, who is a clever detective, at work. No man can
disappear from his customary haunts without leaving some sort of a
record behind him, and Fogerty may be able to uncover the mystery in a
short time."

"Then we'll lose our pressman," declared Beth; "for I'm positive that
Thursday Smith was a person of some importance in his past life."




CHAPTER XI

THE HONER'BLE OJOY BOGLIN


One morning while Patsy was alone in her office, busied over her work,
the door softly opened and a curious looking individual stood before
her.

He was thin in form, leathery skinned and somewhat past the middle age
of life. His clothing consisted of a rusty black Prince Albert coat,
rusty trousers to match, which were carefully creased, cowhide shoes
brilliant with stove polish, a tall silk hat of antiquated design, and a
frayed winged collar decorated with a black tie on which sparkled a
large diamond attached to a chain. He had chin whiskers of a sandy gray
color and small gray eyes that were both shrewd and suspicious in
expression.

He stood in the doorway a moment, attentively eyeing the girl, while
she in turn examined him with an amusement she could not quite suppress.
Then he said, speaking in a low, diffident voice:

"I'm lookin' for the editor."

"I am the editor," asserted Patsy.

"Really?"

"It is quite true."

He seemed disconcerted a moment, striving to regain his assurance. Then
he took out a well-worn pocketbook and from its depths abstracted a
soiled card which, leaning forward, he placed carefully upon the table
before Patsy. She glanced at it and read: "Hon. Ojoy Boglin, Hooker's
Falls, Chazy County."

"Oh," said she, rather surprised; "are you Mr. Boglin?"

"I am the Honer'ble Ojoy Boglin, miss," he replied, dwelling lovingly
upon the "Honer'ble."

"I have not had the honor of your acquaintance," said she, deciding she
did not like her visitor. "What is your business, please?"

The Hon. Ojoy coughed. Then he suddenly remembered he was in the
presence of a lady and took off his hat. Next he slid slowly into the
vacant chair at the end of the table.

"First," he began, "I want to compliment you on your new paper. It's a
good thing, and I like it. It's what's been needed in these 'ere parts a
long time, and it's talked about all over Chazy County."

"Thank you," said the editor briefly, for the praise was given in a
perfunctory way that irritated her.

"The only other papers in this senatorial deestric', which covers three
counties," continued the visitor, in impressive tones, "air weeklies,
run by political mud-slingers that's bought up by the Kleppish gang."

"What is the Kleppish gang?" she asked, wonderingly.

"The supporters o' that rascal, Colonel Kleppish, who has been
occupyin' my berth for goin' on eight years," he said with fierce
indignation.

"I fear I do not understand," remarked Patsy, really bewildered. "What
was your berth, which Colonel Kleppish has--has usurped?"

"See that 'Honer'ble' on the card?"

"I do."

"That means I were senator--state senator--which makes any common man
honer'ble, accordin' to law, which it's useless to dispute. I were
elected fer this deestric', which covers three counties," he said
proudly, "an' I served my country in that capacity."

"Oh, I see. But you're not state senator now?"

"No; Kleppish beat me for the nomination, after I'd served only one
term."

"Why?"

"Eh? Why did he git the nomination? 'Cause he bought up the
newspapers--the country weeklies--and set them to yellin' 'graft.' He
made 'em say I went into office poor, and in two years made a fortune."

"Did you?" asked the girl.

He shuffled in his seat.

"I ain't used to talkin' politics with a girl," he admitted; "but seein'
as you're the editor of this paper--a daily, by Jupe!--you've probably
got a head on you and understand that a man don't get into office for
his health. There's a lot of bother in servin' your country, and a man
oughter be well paid for it. I did jest like the others do--like
Kleppish is doin' right now--but the reg'lar voters don't understand
politics, and when the howl went up about graft, backed by Kleppish's
bought-up newspapers, they turned me down cold. I've been eight years
watchin' for a chance to get in again, an' now I've got it."

"This is very interesting, I'm sure," remarked Patsy; "but our paper
doesn't go much into local politics, Mr. Boglin, and I'm very busy
to-day."

"Honer'ble Ojoy Boglin," he said, correcting her; but he did not take
the hint to leave.

Patsy picked up her pencil as if to resume her work, while he eyed her
with a countenance baffled and uncertain. Presently he asked:

"Has Kleppish got this paper too?"

"No," she coldly replied.

"I thought I'd likely head him off, you being so new. See here,
Editor--"

"I am Miss Doyle, sir."

"Glad to know you, Miss Doyle. What I was about to remark is this: The
election for senator comes up agin in September and I want this paper to
pull for me. Bein' as it's a daily it's got more power than all of
Kleppish's weeklies put together, and if you work the campaign proper
I'll win the nomination hands down. This is a strong Republican
deestric', and to git nominated on the Republican ticket is the same as
an election. So what I want is the nomination. What do you say?"

Patsy glared at him and decided that as far as appearances went he was
not a fit candidate for any office, however humble. But she answered
diplomatically:

"I will inquire into the condition of politics in this district, Mr.
Boglin, and try to determine which candidate is the most deserving.
Having reached a decision, the _Millville Tribune_ will espouse the
cause of the best man--if it mentions local politics at all."

The Hon. Ojoy gave a dissatisfied grunt.

"That means, in plain words," he suggested, "that you'll give Kleppish a
chance to bid against me. But I need this paper, and I'm willin' to pay
a big price for it. Let Kleppish go, and we'll make our dicker right
now, on a lib'ral basis. It's the only way you can make your paper pay.
I've got money, Miss Doyle. I own six farms near Hooker's Falls, which
is in this county, and six hundred acres of good pine forest, and I'm
director in the Bank of Huntingdon, with plenty of money out on
interest. Also I own half the stock in the new paper mill at Royal--"

"You do?" she exclaimed. "I thought Mr. Skeelty--"

"Skeelty's the head man, of course," he said. "He came to me about the
mill proposition and I went in with him. I own all the forest around
Royal. Bein' manager, and knowin' the business, Skeelty stood out for
fifty-one shares of stock, which is the controllin' interest; but I own
all the rest, and the mill's makin' good money. People don't know I'm in
that deal, and of course this is all confidential and not to be talked
about."

"Very well, sir. But I fear you have mistaken the character of our
paper," said Patsy quietly. "We are quite independent, Mr. Boglin, and
intend to remain so--even if we can't make the paper pay. In other
words, the _Millville Daily Tribune_ can't be bought."

He stared in amazement; then scratched his ear with a puzzled air.

"Such talk as that means somethin'," he asserted, gropingly, "but what
it means, blamed if I know! Newspapers never turn money down unless
they're a'ready bought, or have got a grouch of their own.... Say!" he
suddenly cried, as an inspiration struck him, "you ain't got anything
agin the mill at Royal, or agin Skeelty, have you?"

"I have, sir!" declared Patsy, raising her head to frown discouragingly
upon the Honer'ble Ojoy. "Mr. Skeelty is acting in a very disagreeable
manner. He has not only boycotted our paper and refused to pay for the
subscriptions he engaged, but I understand he is encouraging his workmen
to annoy the Millville people, and especially this printing office."

"Well--durn--Skeelty!" ejaculated Mr. Boglin, greatly discomposed by
this statement. "But I'll fix all that, Miss Doyle," he added, eagerly.
"Skeelty's my partner and he's got to do what I say or I'll make trouble
for him. You dicker with me for the support of your paper and I'll
guarantee a hundred subscriptions from Royal and get you an apology from
Skeelty and a promise he'll behave an' keep his men to home. And all
that's outside the price I'll agree to pay."

Patsy's eyes were full of scorn.

"I won't dicker with you an instant," she firmly declared. "I don't know
Colonel Kleppish, or what his character is, but I'm very sure he's the
better man and that the people have made no mistake in electing him in
your place. No respectable candidate for office would attempt to buy the
support of a newspaper, and I advise you to change the wording on your
card. Instead of 'Honorable' it should read 'Dishonorable' Ojoy Boglin.
Good day, sir!"

Mr. Boglin's face turned white with rage. He half rose from his seat,
but sat down again with a vicious snarl.

"I've coaxed, so far, young woman," he said grimly, "but I guess it's
time I showed my hand. You'll either run this paper in my interest or
I'll push Skeelty on to make the town too hot to hold you. I've got
power in this county, even if I ain't senator, and you'll feel that
power if you dare oppose me. Take your choice, girl--either to make good
money out o' this campaign, or be run out of town, neck an' crop! It's
up to you to decide."

"In thirty seconds," said Patsy, her face as white as was Boglin's, "I
shall ring this bell to summon my men to throw you out."

The Honer'ble Ojoy slowly rose and put on his hat.

"Look out!" he said warningly.

"I will," snapped Patsy.

"This ain't the end of it, girl!"

"There are ten seconds left," she said.

He picked up his card, turned his back and walked out, leaving his
opponent trembling betwixt agitation and righteous indignation. A few
moments later Bob West came in and looked at the girl editor curiously.

"Ojoy Boglin has been here," he said.

"The Honer'ble Ojoy, if you please," answered Patsy, with a laugh that
bordered on hysteria.

The hardware man nodded, his eyes reading her face.

"You were quite right to turn him down," he asserted.

"It was the only thing to do," responded the girl, wondering how he
knew.

"But Boglin is a dangerous man," resumed West. "Look out for him. Miss
Doyle."

"Yes; he told me to do that, and I will," said she, more quietly. "He is
Skeelty's partner."

"And you're not afraid of him?"

"Why should I be, Mr. West?"

He smiled.

"I'm justice of the peace here. If there's a hint of trouble from Boglin
or Skeelty, come directly to me."

"Thank you, Mr. West. I will."

With this he nodded cheerfully and went away.




CHAPTER XII

MOLLY SIZER'S PARTY


The people of Chazy County were very proud of the _Millville Tribune_,
the only daily paper in that section of the state. It was really a very
good newspaper, if small in size, and related the news of the day as
promptly as the great New York journals did.

Arthur Weldon had not been very enthusiastic about the paper at any
time, although he humored the girls by attending in a good-natured way
to the advertising, hiring some of the country folk to get
subscriptions, and keeping the books. He was a young man of considerable
education who had inherited a large fortune, safely invested, and
therefore had no need, through financial necessity, to interest himself
in business of any sort. He allowed the girls to print his name as
editor in chief, but he did no editorial work at all, amusing himself
these delightful summer days by wandering in the woods, where he
collected botanical specimens, or sitting with Uncle John on the lawn,
where they read together or played chess. Both the men were glad the
girls were happy in their work and enthusiastic over the success of
their audacious venture. Beth was developing decided talent as a writer
of editorials and her articles were even more thoughtful and dignified
than were those of Patsy. The two girls found plenty to occupy them at
the office, while Louise did the reportorial work and flitted through
Millville and down to Huntingdon each day in search of small items of
local interest. She grew fond of this work, for it brought her close to
the people and enabled her to study their characters and peculiarities.
Her manner of approaching the simple country folk was so gracious and
winning that they freely gave her any information they possessed, and
chatted with her unreservedly.

Sometimes Louise would make her rounds alone, but often Arthur would
join her for an afternoon drive to Huntingdon, and it greatly amused
him to listen to his girl-wife's adroit manner of "pumping the natives."

About halfway to Huntingdon was the Sizer Farm, the largest and most
important in that vicinity. Old Zeke Sizer had a large family--five boys
and three girls--and they were noted as quite the most aggressive and
disturbing element in the neighborhood. Old Zeke was rude and coarse and
swore like a trooper, so his sons could not be expected to excel him in
refinement. Bill Sizer, the eldest, was a hard drinker, and people who
knew him asserted that he "never drew a sober breath." The other sons
were all quarrelsome in disposition and many a free fight was indulged
in among them whenever disputes arose. They were industrious farmers,
though, and the three girls and their mother worked from morning till
night, so the farm prospered and the Sizers were reputed to be
"well-off."

Molly, the eldest girl, had attracted Louise, who declared she was
pretty enough to arrest attention in any place. Indeed, this girl was a
"raving beauty" in her buxom, countrified way, and her good looks were
the pride of the Sizer family and the admiration of the neighbors. The
other two were bouncing, merry girls, rather coarse in manner, as might
be expected from their environment; but Molly, perhaps fully conscious
of her prettiness, assumed certain airs and graces and a regal
deportment that brought even her big, brutal brothers to her feet in
adoration.

The Sizers were among the first subscribers to the _Millville Tribune_
and whenever Louise stopped at the farmhouse for news the family would
crowd around her, ignoring all duties, and volunteer whatever
information they possessed. For when they read their own gossip in the
local column it gave them a sort of proprietary interest in the paper,
and Bill had once thrashed a young clerk at Huntingdon for questioning
the truth of an item the Sizers had contributed.

One day when Louise and Arthur stopped at the farm, Mollie ran out with
an eager face to say that Friday was her birthday and the Sizers were to
give a grand party to celebrate it.

"We want you to come over an' write it up, Mrs. Weldon," said the girl.
"They're comin' from twenty mile around, fer the dance, an' we've got
the orchestry from Malvern to play for us. Pop's goin' to spend a lot of
money on refreshments an' it'll be the biggest blow-out Chazy County
ever seen!"

"I think I can write up the party without being present, Mollie,"
suggested Louise.

"No; you come over. I read once, in a novel, how an editor come to a
swell party an' writ about all the dresses an' things--said what
everybody wore, you know. I'm goin' to have a new dress, an' if
ever'thing's described right well we'll buy a lot of papers to send to
folks we know in Connecticut."

"Well," said Louise, with a sigh, "I'll try to drive over for a little
while. It is to be Saturday, you say?"

"Yes; the birthday's Friday and the dance Saturday night, rain or shine.
An' you might bring the chief editor, your husband, an' try a dance with
us. It wouldn't hurt our reputation any to have you folks mingle with us
on this festive occasion," she added airily.

They had a good laugh over this invitation when it was reported at Mr.
Merrick's dinner table, and Patsy insisted that Louise must write up
the party.

"It will be fun to give it a 'double head' and a big send-off," she
said. "Write it up as if it were a real society event, dear, and exhaust
your vocabulary on the gowns. You'll have to invent some Frenchy names
to describe those, I guess, for they'll be wonders; and we'll wind up
with a list of 'those present.'"

So on Saturday evening Arthur drove his wife over to the Sizer farm, and
long before they reached there they heard the scraping of fiddles,
mingled with shouts and boisterous laughter. It was a prohibition
district, to be sure, but old Sizer had imported from somewhere outside
the "dry zone" a quantity of liquors more remarkable for strength than
quality, and with these the guests had been plied from the moment of
their arrival. Most of them were wholly unused to such libations, so by
the time Arthur and Louise arrived, the big living room of the farmhouse
presented an appearance of wild revelry that was quite deplorable.

Molly welcomed them with wild enthusiasm and big Bill, her adoring
brother, demanded in a loud voice if Arthur did not consider her the
"Belle of Chazy County."

"They ain't a stunner in the state as kin hold a candle to our Molly,"
he added, and then with uncertain gait he left the "reporters" with the
promise to "bring 'em a drink."

"Come, Louise," said Arthur, quietly, "let's get out of here."

He drew her to the door and as a dance was just starting they managed to
escape without notice.

"What a disgraceful scene!" cried Louise, when they were on their way
home; "and to think of such a shocking carousal being held in good old
Chazy County, where morals are usually irreproachable! I shall not
mention the affair in the _Tribune_ at all."

But Patsy, who had a managing editor's respect for news of any sort,
combatted this determination and begged Louise to write up Molly Sizer's
party without referring to its deplorable features.

"It isn't policy to offend the Sizers," she said, "for although they
are coarse and common they have shown a friendly spirit toward the
paper. Moreover, the enmity of such people--which would surely result
from our ignoring the birthday party--would keep us in hot water."

So Louise, though reluctantly, wrote up the party and the manuscript was
sent over to Miss Briggs Sunday afternoon, so it would get a place in
Monday morning's _Tribune_.

Uncle John had the paper at breakfast on Monday, and he gave an amused
laugh as his eye caught the report of the Sizer party.

"This is a good one on you, Louise," he exclaimed. "You say that Miss
Molly, 'looking more lovely than ever in her handsome new gown, greeted
her guests with a roughish smile.'"

"A what?" demanded Louise, horrified.

"A 'roughish' smile."

"Oh; that's a mistake," she said, glancing at the item. "What I said was
a 'roguish' smile; but there's been a typographical error which Miss
Briggs must have overlooked in reading the proof."

"Nevertheless," remarked Arthur, "the statement isn't far wrong.
Everything was rough, including the smiles, as far as I noted that
remarkable gathering."

"But--see here!" cried Patsy; "that's a dreadful mistake. That spoils
all the nice things you said about the girl, Louise. I hope the Sizers
won't notice it."

But the Sizers did, and were frantic with rage over what they deemed was
a deliberate insult to Molly. Several young men who had come from
distances to attend the birthday party had stayed over Sunday at the
farmhouse, where the revelry still continued in a fitful way, due to
vain attempts to relieve racking headaches by further libations. Monday
morning found the dissipated crew still the guests of the Sizers, and
when big Bill slowly spelled out the assertion made by the _Tribune_
that his sister had "a roughish smile" loud cries of indignation arose.
Molly first cried and then had hysterics and screamed vigorously; Bill
swore vengeance on the _Millville Tribune_ and all connected with it,
while the guests gravely asserted it was "a low-down, measly trick"
which the Sizers ought to resent. They all began drinking again, to
calm their feelings, and after the midday dinner Bill Sizer grabbed a
huge cowhide whip and started to Millville to "lick the editor to a
standstill." A wagonload of his guests accompanied him, and Molly
pleaded with her brother not to hurt Mrs. Weldon.

"I won't; but I'll cowhide that fresh husband of hers," declared Bill.
"He's the editor--the paper says so--and he's the one I'm after!"




CHAPTER XIII

BOB WEST INTERFERES


It was unfortunate that at that time Thursday Smith had gone up the
electric line toward Royal, to inspect it. In the office were Patsy,
Hetty Hewitt--who was making a drawing--Arthur Weldon, engaged upon his
books, and finally, seated in an easy-chair from which he silently
watched them work, old Bob West, the hardware man. Louise and Beth had
driven over to the Junction to write up an accident, one of the trainmen
having caught his hand in a coupling, between two freight cars.

Bob West often dropped into the office, which was next door to his own
place of business, but he was a silent man and had little to say on
these visits. In his early days he had wandered pretty much over the
whole world, and he could relate some interesting personal adventures
if he chose. In this retired village West was the one inhabitant
distinguished above his fellows for his knowledge of the world. In his
rooms over the store, where few were ever invited, he had a fine library
of unusual books and a rare collection of curios gathered from foreign
lands. It was natural that such a man would be interested in so unique
an experiment as the _Millville Tribune_, and he watched its conduct
with curiosity but a constantly growing respect for the three girl
journalists. No one ever minded when he came into the office, nodded and
sat down. Sometimes he would converse with much freedom; at other times
the old gentleman remained an hour without offering a remark, and went
away with a brief parting nod.

It was West who first saw, through the window, the wagonload of men from
the Sizer farm come dashing up the street at a gallop. Instinctively,
perhaps, he knew trouble was brewing, but he never altered his
expression or his attitude, even when the wagon stopped at the printing
office and the passengers leaped out.

In marched Bill Sizer at the head of his following, cowhide in hand.
Patsy, her face flushing scarlet, stood up and faced the intruders.

"Stand back, girl!" cried Sizer in a fierce tone; "it's that coward
editor I'm after," pointing his whip with trembling hand at Arthur. "My
sister Molly may be rough, an' hev a rough smile, but I'll be dinged ef
I don't skin the man thet prints it in a paper!"

"Good fer you, Bill!" murmured his friends, approvingly.

Arthur leaned back and regarded his accuser in wonder. The big table,
littered with papers, was between them.

"Come out o' there, ye measly city chap, an' take yer medicine," roared
Bill, swinging his whip. "I'll larn ye to come inter a decent
neighborhood an' slander its women. Come outer there!"

West had sat quietly observing the scene. Now he inquired, in composed
tones:

"What's the trouble, Bill?"

"Trouble? Trouble, West? Why, this lyin' scroundrel said in his paper
thet our Molly had a rough smile. That's the trouble!"

"Did he really say that?" asked West.

"'Course he did. Printed it in the paper, for all to read. That's why
I've come to cowhide the critter within an inch o' his life!"

"Good fer you, Bill!" cried his friends, encouragingly.

"But--wait a moment!" commanded West, as the maddened, half drunken
young farmer was about to leap over the table to grasp his victim;
"you're not going at this thing right, Bill Sizer."

"Why ain't I, Bob West?"

"Because," answered West, in calm, even tones, "this insult is too great
to be avenged by a mere cowhiding. Nothing but blood will wipe away the
dreadful stain on your sister's character."

"Oh, Mr. West!" cried Patsy, horrified by such a statement.

"Eh? Blood?" said Bill, stupefied by the suggestion.

"Of course," returned West. "You mustn't thrash Mr. Weldon; you must
kill him."

A delighted chorus of approval came from Sizer's supporters.

"All right, then," said the bully, glaring around, "I--I'll kill the
scandler!"

"Hold on!" counselled West, seizing his arm. "This affair must be
conducted properly--otherwise the law might cause us trouble. No murder,
mind you. You must kill Weldon in a duel."

"A--a what? A duel!" gasped Sizer.

"To be sure. That's the way to be revenged. Hetty," he added, turning to
the artist, who alone of the observers had smiled instead of groaned at
the old gentleman's startling suggestion, "will you kindly run up to my
rooms and get a red leather case that lies under the shell cabinet?
Thank you, my dear."

Hetty was off like a flash. During her absence an intense silence
pervaded the office, broken only by an occasional hiccough from one of
Mr. Sizer's guests. Patsy was paralyzed with horror and had fallen back
into her chair to glare alternately at Bob West and the big bully who
threatened her cousin's husband. Arthur was pale and stern as he fixed a
reproachful gaze on the hardware merchant. From Miss Briggs' little
room could be heard the steady click-click of the telegraph instrument.

But the furious arrival of the Sizer party had aroused every inhabitant
of Millville and with one accord they dropped work and rushed to the
printing office. By this time the windows were dark with groups of eager
faces that peered wonderingly through the screens--the sashes being
up--and listened to the conversation within.

While Hetty was gone not a word was spoken, but the artist was absent
only a brief time. Presently she reentered and laid the red leather case
on the table before Bob West. The hardware man at once opened it,
displaying a pair of old-fashioned dueling pistols, with long barrels
and pearl handles. There was a small can of powder, some bullets and
wadding in the case, and as West took up one of the pistols and
proceeded to load it he said in an unconcerned voice:

"I once got these from an officer in Vienna, and they have been used in
more than a score of duels, I was told. One of the pistols--I can't
tell which it is--has killed a dozen men, so you are going to fight
with famous weapons."

Both Arthur and Bill Sizer, as well as the groups at the window, watched
the loading of the pistols with fascinated gaze.

"Bob's a queer ol' feller," whispered Peggy McNutt to the blacksmith,
who stood beside him. "This dool is just one o' his odd fancies. Much he
keers ef they kills each other er not!"

"Mr. West," cried Patsy, suddenly rousing from her apathy, "I'll not
allow this shameful thing! A duel is no better than murder, and I'm sure
there is a law against it."

"True," returned West, ramming the bullet into the second pistol; "it is
quite irregular and--er--illegal, I believe. Perhaps I shall go to jail
with whichever of the duelists survives; but you see it is a point of
honor with us all. Molly Sizer has seemingly been grossly maligned in
your paper, and the editor is responsible. Are you a good shot, Bill?"

"I--I guess so," stammered Sizer.

"That's good. Weldon, I hear, is an expert with the pistol."

Arthur did not contradict this statement, although he was positive he
could not hit a barn at twenty yards.

"Now, then, are we ready?" staid West, rising. "Come with me,
gentlemen."

"What ye goin' to do, Bob?" asked Sizer, anxiously.

"I'll explain," replied the hardware man, leading the way to the street.
Everyone followed him and the crowd at the windows joined the group
outside. "Of course you mustn't shoot in the main street, for you might
hit some one, or break windows; but back of this row of buildings is a
lane that is perfectly clear. You will stand back to back in the center
of the block and then, at my word, you will each march to the end of the
block and pass around the buildings to the lane. As soon as you come in
sight of one another you are privileged to fire, and I suppose Bill
Sizer will try to kill you, Mr. Weldon, on the spot, and therefore you
will try to kill him first."

"But--look a-here, Bob!" cried Sizer; "it ain't right fer him to take a
shot at me. You said fer me to kill him, but ye didn't say nuth'n about
_his_ shootin' at _me_."

"That's all right, Bill," returned West. "You're in the right, and the
right ought to win. But you must give the man a chance for his life, you
know."

"That weren't in the bargain."

"It is now, by the laws of dueling."

"He--he might shoot me," urged Bill.

"It isn't likely. Although he's a dead shot, you have right on your
side, and you must be sure to fire as soon as you get within good range.
It won't be considered murder; it will only be a duel, and the law will
deal lightly with you."

"That's right, Bill," asserted one of Sizer's friends. "Bob West's a
justice o' the peace himself, an' he orter know."

"I do know," declared West gravely.

He placed Arthur Weldon and Bill Sizer back to back in the middle of the
street and handed each a pistol.

"Now, then," said he, "you both understand the rules, which I have
explained, and the spectators will bear witness that, whatever happens,
this affair has been conducted in a regular manner, with no favor shown
to either. You are both brave men, and this duel will vindicate your
honor. If you are fortunate enough to survive, you will be heroes, and
all your differences will be wiped off the slate. But as one or both may
fall, we, the citizens of Millville, hereby bid you a solemn and sad
farewell."

Impressed by this speech, Sizer's friends began to shake hands with him.

"All ready!" called West. "One--two--three----go!"

At the word the two, back to back, started for the opposite ends of the
little street, and at once the crowd made a rush between the buildings
to gain the rear, where they might witness the shooting in the lane when
the duelists met. Arthur had been thinking seriously during these
proceedings and had made up his mind it was in no degree his duty to be
bored full of holes by a drunken countryman like Bill Sizer, just
because there had been a typographical error in the _Millville Tribune_.
So, when he got to the end of the street, instead of turning into the
lane he made for the farm, holding the long dueling pistol gingerly in
his hand and trotting at a good pace for home.

Footsteps followed him. In sudden panic he increased his run; but the
other was faster. A heavy hand grasped his shoulder and swung him
around, while old Bob West, panting for Breath, exclaimed:

"Stop, you fool--stop! The other one is running."

"The other one!" echoed Arthur, wonderingly.

"Of course. Bill Sizer was sure to run; he's a coward, as all bullies
are. Quick, Weldon, save the day and your reputation or I'll never stand
your friend again."

Arthur understood now. He turned and ran back faster than he had come,
swung into the lane where the crowd was cautiously peering from the
shelter of the buildings, and waving his pistol in a reckless way that
made Bob West shudder, he cried out:

"Where is he? Where's Sizer? Why don't he show up and be shot, like a
man?"

No Sizer appeared. He was even then headed cross-lots for home, leaving
his friends to bemoan his cowardice. As for Arthur, the crowd gave him a
cheer and condemned his opponent's conduct in no measured terms. They
were terribly disappointed by Big Bill's defection, for while not
especially bloodthirsty they hated to see the impending tragedy turn out
a farce.

In the printing office Patsy was laughing hysterically as her horror
dissolved and allowed her to discover the comic phase of the duel. She
literally fell on Arthur's neck as he entered, but the next moment
pushed him away to face the hardware merchant.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. West," said she with twinkling eyes. "I
suspected you of being a cold-blooded ruffian, when you proposed this
duel; but I now see that you understand human nature better than the
whole caboodle of us put together! Arthur, thank Mr. West for saving you
from a flogging."

"I do, indeed!" said Arthur fervently.




CHAPTER XIV

THE DANGER SIGNAL


By this time the _Tribune_ had become the pride of all Millville, yet
the villagers could not quite overcome their awe and wonder at it. Also
the newspaper was the pride of the three girl journalists, who under the
tutelage of Miss Briggs were learning to understand the complicated
system of a daily journal. Their amateurish efforts were gradually
giving way to more dignified and readable articles; Beth could write an
editorial that interested even Uncle John, her severest critic; Louise
showed exceptional talent for picking up local happenings and making
news notes of them, while Patsy grabbed everything that came to her
net--locals, editorials, telegraphic and telephone reports from all
parts of the world--and skillfully sorted, edited and arranged them for
the various departments of the paper. It was mighty interesting to them
all, and they were so eager each morning to get to work that they could
scarcely devote the proper time to old Nora's famous breakfasts.

"We made a mistake. Uncle," said Patsy to Mr. Merrick, "in starting the
_Tribune_ in the wrong place. In a few weeks we must leave it and go
back to the city, whereas, had we established our paper in New York--"

"Then it never would have been heard of," interrupted practical Beth.
"In New York, Patsy dear, we would become the laughing stock of the
town. I shudder when I think what a countrified paper we turned out that
first issue."

"But we are fast becoming educated," declared Patsy. "I'm not ashamed of
the _Tribune_ now, even in comparison with the best New York dailies."

Beth laughed, but Uncle John said judicially:

"For Millville, it's certainly a marvel. I get the world news more
concisely and more pleasantly from its four pages than when I wade
through twenty or thirty of the big pages of a metropolitan newspaper.
You are doing famously, my dears. I congratulate you."

"But we are running behind dreadfully," suggested Arthur, the
bookkeeper, "even since Thursday Smith enabled us to cut down expenses
so greatly. The money that comes in never equals what we pay out. How
long can you keep this up, girls?"

They made no reply, nor did Uncle John discuss the financial condition
of the newspaper. He was himself paying some heavy expenses that did not
appear on the books, such as the Associated Press franchise, the
telegraph bills and the electric power; but he was quite delighted to
take care of these items and regretted he had not assumed more of the
paper's obligations. He knew the expenses were eating big holes in the
incomes of his three nieces, yet they never complained nor allowed their
enthusiasm to flag.

Mr. Merrick, who had tested these girls in more ways than one, was
watching them carefully, and fully approved their spirit and courage
under such trying conditions. Major Doyle, Patsy's father, when the
first copy of the _Millville Tribune_ was laid on his desk in the city,
was astounded at the audacity of this rash venture. When he could
command his temper to write calmly he sent a letter to Mr. Merrick which
read: "Taken altogether, John, you're the craziest bunch of
irresponsibles outside an asylum. No wonder you kept this folly a secret
from me until you had accomplished your nefarious designs. The
_Millville Daily Tribune_ is a corker and no mistake, for our Patsy's at
the head of your lunatic gang. I'll go farther, and say the paper's a
wonder. I believe it is the first daily newspaper published in a town of
six inhabitants, that has ever carried the Associated Press dispatches,
But, allow me to ask, why? The lonely inhabitants of the desert of Chazy
County don't need a daily--or a weekly--or a monthly. A semi-annual
would about hit their gait, and be more than they deserve. So I've
decided it's merely a silly way to spend money--and an easy way, too,
I'll be bound. Oblige me by explaining this incomprehensible
eccentricity."

To this, a mild protest for the major, Uncle John replied: "Dear Major
Doyle: Yours received. Have you no business of your own to attend to?
Affectionately yours, John Merrick."

The major took the hint. He made no further complaint but read the paper
religiously every day, gloating over Patsy's name as managing editor and
preserving the files with great care. He really enjoyed, the _Millville
Tribune_, and as his summer vacation was shortly due he anticipated with
pleasure a visit to the farm and a peep at the workings of "our Patsy's"
famous newspaper. The other girls he ignored. If Patsy was connected
with the thing, her adoring parent was quite sure she was responsible
for all the good there was in it.

The paper printed no mention of the famous duel. But Hetty made a
cartoon of it, showing the lane, with its fringe of spectators, Arthur
Weldon standing manfully to await his antagonist and big Bill Sizer, in
the distance, sprinting across the fields in the direction of home. This
cartoon was highly prized by those who had witnessed the adventure and
Peggy McNutt pinned it on the wall of his real estate office beside the
one Hetty had made of himself. Bill Sizer promptly "stopped the paper,"
that being the only vengeance at hand, and when Bob West sent a boy to
him demanding the return of the pistol, Bill dispatched with the weapon
the following characteristic note, which he had penned with much labor:

"Bob west sir you Beet me out uv my Reeveng and Made me look like a bag
uv Beens. but I will skware this Thing sum da and yu and that edyter hed
better Watch out. i don't stand fer no Throwdown like that Wm. Sizer."

However, the bully received scant sympathy, even from his most intimate
friends, and his prestige in the community was henceforth destroyed.
Arthur did not crow, for his part. He told the girls frankly of his
attempt to run away and evade the meeting, which sensible intention was
only frustrated by Bob West's interference, and they all agreed he was
thoroughly justified. The young man had proved to them his courage years
before and none of the girls was disposed to accuse him of cowardice for
not wishing to shoot or be shot by such a person as Bill Sizer.

A few days following the duel another incident occurred which was of a
nature so startling that it drove the Sizer comedy from all minds. This
time Thursday Smith was the hero.

Hetty Hewitt, it seems, was having a desperate struggle to quell the
longings of her heart for the allurements of the great city. She had
been for years a thorough Bohemienne, frequenting cafes, theatres and
dance halls, smoking and drinking with men and women of her class and,
by degrees, losing every womanly quality with which nature had
generously endowed her. But the girl was not really bad. She was
essentially nervous and craved excitement, so she had drifted into this
sort of life because no counteracting influence of good had been
injected into her pliable disposition. None, that is, until the friendly
editor for whom she worked, anticipating her final downfall, had sought
to save her by sending her to a country newspaper. He talked to the girl
artist very frankly before she left for Millville, and Hetty knew he was
right, and was truly grateful for the opportunity to redeem herself. The
sweet girl journalists with whom she was thrown in contact were so
different from any young women she had heretofore known, and proved so
kindly sympathetic, that Hetty speedily became ashamed of her wasted
life and formed a brave resolution to merit the friendship so generously
extended her.

But it was hard work at first. She could get through the days easily
enough by wandering in the woods and taking long walks along the rugged
country roads; but in the evenings came the insistent call of the cafes,
the cheap orchestras, vaudeville, midnight suppers and the like. She
strenuously fought this yearning and found it was growing less and less
powerful to influence her. But her nights were yet restless and her
nerves throbbing from the effects of past dissipations. Often she would
find herself unable to sleep and would go out into the moonlight when
all others were in bed, and "prowl around with the cats," as she
expressed it, until the wee hours of morning. Often she told Patsy she
wished there was more work she could do. The drawings required by the
paper never occupied her more than a couple of hours each day.
Sometimes she made one of her cleverest cartoons in fifteen or twenty
minutes.

"Can't I do something else?" she begged. "Let me set type, or run the
ticker--I can receive telegrams fairly well--or even write a column of
local comment. I'm no journalist, so you'll not be envious."

But Patsy shook her head.

"Really, Hetty, there's nothing else you can do, and your pictures are
very important to us. Rest and enjoy yourself, and get strong and well.
You are improving wonderfully in health since you came here."

Often at midnight Hetty would wander into the pressroom and watch
Thursday Smith run off the edition on the wonderful press, which seemed
to possess an intelligence of its own, so perfectly did it perform its
functions. At such times she sat listlessly by and said little, for
Thursday was no voluble talker, especially when busied over his press.
But a certain spirit of comradeship grew up between these two, and it
was not unusual for the pressmen, after his work was finished and the
papers were neatly piled for distribution to the carriers at daybreak,
to walk with Hetty to the hotel before proceeding to his own lodgings in
the little wing of Nick Thorne's house, which stood quite at the end of
the street. To be sure, the hotel adjoined the printing office, with
only a vacant lot between, but Hetty seemed to appreciate this courtesy
and would exchange a brief good night with Smith before going to her own
room. Afterward she not infrequently stole out again, because sleep
would not come to her, and then the moon watched her wanderings until it
dipped behind the hills.

On the night we speak of, Hetty had parted from Thursday Smith at one
o'clock and crept into the hallway of the silent, barnlike hotel; but as
soon as the man turned away she issued forth again and walked up the
empty street like a shadow. Almost to Thompson's Crossing she strolled,
deep in thought, and then turned and retraced her steps. But when she
again reached the hotel she was wide-eyed as ever; so she passed the
building, thinking she would go on to Little Bill Creek and sit by the
old mill for a time.

The girl was just opposite the printing office when her attention was
attracted by a queer grating noise, as if one of the windows was being
pried up. She stopped short, a moment, and then crept closer to the
building. Two men were at a side window of the pressroom, which they had
just succeeded in opening. As Hetty gained her point of observation one
of the men slipped inside, but a moment later hastily reappeared and
joined his fellow. At once both turned and stole along the side of the
shed directly toward the place where the girl stood. Her first impulse
was to run, but recollecting that she wore a dark gown and stood in deep
shadow she merely flattened herself against the building and remained
motionless. The men were chuckling as they passed her, and she
recognized them as mill hands from Royal.

"Guess that'll do the job," said one, in a low tone.

"If it don't, nothin' will," was the reply.

They were gone, then, stealing across the road and beating a hasty
retreat under the shadows of the houses.

Hetty stood motionless a moment, wondering what to do. Then with sudden
resolve she ran to Thorne's house and rapped sharply at the window of
the wing where she knew Thursday Smith slept. She heard him leap from
bed and open the blind.

"What is it?" he asked.

"It's me, Thursday--Hetty," she said. "Two men have just broken into the
pressroom, through a window. They were men from Royal, and they didn't
steal anything, but ran away in great haste. I--I'm afraid something is
wrong, Thursday!"

Even while she spoke he was rapidly dressing.

"Wait!" he called to her. In a few moments he opened the door and joined
her.

Without hesitation he began walking rapidly toward the office, and the
girl kept step with him. He asked no questions whatever, but us soon as
she had led him to the open window he leaped through it and switched on
an electric light. An instant later he cried aloud, in a voice of fear:

"Get out, Hetty! Run--for your life!"

"Run yourself, Thursday, if there's danger," she coolly returned.

But he shouted "Run--run--run!" in such thrilling, compelling tones
that the girl shrank away and dashed across the vacant lot to the hotel
before she turned again in time to see Smith leap from the window and
make a dash toward the rear. He was carrying something--something
extended at arms' length before him--and he crossed the lane and ran far
into the field before stooping to set down his burden.

Now he was racing back again, running as madly as if a troop of demons
was after him. A flash cleft the darkness; a deep detonation thundered
and echoed against the hills; the building against which Hetty leaned
shook as if an earthquake had seized it, and Thursday Smith was thrown
flat on his face and rolled almost to the terrified girl's feet, where
he lay motionless. Only the building saved her from pitching headlong
too, but as the reverberations died away, to be followed by frantic
screams from the rudely wakened population of Millville, Hetty sank upon
her knees and turned the man over, so that he lay face up.

He opened his eyes and put up one hand. Then he struggled to his feet,
trembling weakly, and his white face smiled into the girl's anxious one.

"That was a close call, dear," he whispered; "but your timely discovery
saved us from a terrible calamity. I--I don't believe there is much harm
done, as it is."

Hetty made no reply. She was thinking of the moments he had held that
deadly Thing in his hands, while he strove to save lives and property
from destruction.

The inevitable crowd was gathering now, demanding in terrified tones
what had happened. Men, women and children poured from the houses in
scant attire, all unnerved and fearful, crying for an explanation of the
explosion.

"Keep mum, Hetty," said Smith, warningly. "It will do no good to tell
them the truth."

She nodded, realizing it was best the villagers did not suspect that an
enemy of the newspaper had placed them all in dire peril.

"Dynamite?" she asked in a whisper.

"Yes; a bomb. But for heaven's sake don't mention it."

Suddenly a man with a lantern discovered a great pit in the field
behind the lane and the crowd quickly surrounded it. From their limited
knowledge of the facts the explosion seemed unaccountable, but there was
sufficient intelligence among them to determine that dynamite had caused
it and dug this gaping hole in the stony soil. Bob West glanced at the
printing office, which was directly in line with the explosion; then he
cast a shrewd look into the white face of Thursday Smith; but the old
hardware merchant merely muttered under his breath something about Ojoy
Boglin and shook his head determinedly when questioned by his fellow
villagers.

Interest presently centered in the damage that had been done. Many
window panes were shattered and the kitchen chimney of the hotel had
toppled over; but no person had been injured and the damage could easily
be repaired. While the excitement was at its height Thursday Smith
returned to his room and went to bed; but long after the villagers had
calmed down sufficiently to seek their homes Hetty Hewitt sat alone by
the great pit, staring reflectively into its ragged depths. Quaint and
curious were the thoughts that puzzled the solitary girl's weary brain,
but prominent and ever-recurring was the sentence that had trembled upon
Thursday Smith's lips: "It was a close call, _dear_!"

The "close call" didn't worry Hetty a particle; it was the last word of
the sentence that amazed her. That, and a new and wonderful respect for
the manliness of Thursday Smith, filled her heart to overflowing.




CHAPTER XV

A CLEVER IDEA


Neither Thursday nor Hetty allowed a word to escape concerning the
placing of the bomb in the _Tribune_ office, but the explosion was
public knowledge and many were bothering their heads to explain its
meaning.

John Merrick, when he heard the news, looked very grave and glanced
uneasily into the unconscious faces of his three beloved nieces. A man
of much worldly experience, in spite of his simple, ingenuous nature,
the little man began carefully piecing together parts of the puzzle.
Thursday Smith's defense of the girl journalists, whereby he had
severely pounded some of the workmen who had insulted them, had caused
the man to be denounced by the colony at Royal. Mr. Skeelty, the
manager, had demanded that Smith be discharged by Mr. Mirrick, and
being refused, had threatened to shut off the power from the newspaper
plant. Skeelty dared not carry out this threat, for fear of a lawsuit,
but his men, who had urged the matter of Smith's discharge upon their
manager, were of the class that seeks revenge at any cost. At this
juncture Ojoy Boglin, Skeelty's partner and the owner of all the pine
forest around Royal, had become the enemy of the newspaper and was aware
of the feeling among the workmen. A word from Boglin, backed by
Skeelty's tacit consent, would induce the men to go to any length in
injuring the _Millville Tribune_ and all concerned in its welfare.

Considering these facts, Mr. Merrick shrewdly suspected that the
dynamite explosion had been the work of the mill hands, yet why it was
harmlessly exploded in a field was a factor that puzzled him
exceedingly. He concluded, from what information he possessed, that they
had merely intended this as a warning, which if disregarded might be
followed by a more serious catastrophe.

The idea that such a danger threatened his nieces made the old
gentleman distinctly nervous.

There were ways to evade further molestation from the lawless element at
the mill. The Hon. Ojoy could be conciliated; Thursday Smith discharged;
or the girls could abandon their journalistic enterprise altogether.
Such alternatives were mortifying to consider, but his girls must be
protected from harm at any cost.

While he was still considering the problem, the girls and Arthur having
driven to the office, as usual, Joe Wegg rode over from Thompson's
Crossing on his sorrel mare for a chat with his old friend and
benefactor. It was this same young man--still a boy in years--who had
once owned the Wegg Farm and disposed of it to Mr. Merrick.

Joe was something of a mechanical genius and, when his father died,
longed to make his way in the great world. But after many vicissitudes
and failures he returned to Chazy County to marry Ethel Thompson, his
boyhood sweetheart, and to find that one of his father's apparently
foolish investments had made him rich.

Ethel was the great-granddaughter of the pioneer settler of Chazy
County--Little Bill Thompson--from whom the Little Bill Creek and Little
Bill Mountain had been named. It was he who first established the mill
at Millville; so, in marrying a descendant of Little Bill Thompson, Joe
Wegg had become quite the most important resident of Chazy County, and
the young man was popular and well liked by all who knew him.

After the first interchange of greetings Joe questioned Mr. Merrick
about the explosion of the night before, and Uncle John frankly stated
his suspicions.

"I'm sorry," said Joe, "they ever started that mill at Royal Falls. Most
of the workmen are foreigners, and all of them rude and reckless. They
have caused our quiet, law-abiding people no end of trouble and anxiety
already. It is becoming a habit with them to haunt Millville on Saturday
nights, when they are partly intoxicated, and they've even invaded some
of the farmhouses and frightened the women and children. I've talked to
Bob West about it and he has promised to swear in Lon Taft and Seth
Davis as special constables, to preserve order; but he admits we are
quite helpless to oppose such a gang of rowdies. I've also been to see
Mr. Skeelty, to ask him to keep his men at home, but he answered gruffly
that he had no authority over his employees except during working hours,
and not much authority even then."

"Skeelty doesn't seem the right man to handle those fellows," observed
Mr. Merrick thoughtfully; "but as he owns the controlling interest in
his company, and Boglin is fully as unreasonable, we cannot possibly
oust him from control. If the men determined to blow up all Millville
with dynamite I'm sure Skeelty would not lift a finger to prevent it."

"No; he's deathly afraid of them, and that's a fact," said Joe.

They sat in silence a while.

"Your report of Skeelty's threat to cut off your electric power," said
young Wegg, "reminds me of a plan I've had in mind for some time. I find
I've too much time on my hands, Mr. Merrick, and I cannot be thoroughly
happy unless I'm occupied. Ethel's farms are let on shares and I'm a
drone in the world's busy hive. But we're anchored here at Millville, so
I've been wondering what I could do to improve the place and keep myself
busy. It has seemed to me that the same rush of water in Little Bill
Creek that runs the dynamos at Royal is in evidence--to a lesser
extent--at the old milldam. What would you think of my putting in an
electric plant at the mill, and lighting both Millville and Huntingdon,
as well as all the farmhouses?"

"Not a bad idea, Joe," said Uncle John approvingly.

"Electric lights have a civilizing influence," continued the young man.
"I'm quite sure all the farmers between here and Huntingdon would use
them, at a reasonable price. I can also run a line to Hooker's Falls,
and one to Chazy Junction. Plenty of poles can be cut from our pine
forests and the wires will be the chief expense. I may not make money,
at first, but I'll play pretty nearly even and have something to do."

"Do you think you could furnish enough power for our printing office?"
asked Mr. Merrick.

"Yes; and a dozen factories, besides. I've an idea the thing may bring
factories to Millville."

"Then get at it, Joe, and build it quick. I've a notion we shall have an
open rupture with Skeelty before long."

Joe Wegg smiled.

"You're going to accuse me, sir, of asking advice after I've made up my
mind," said he; "but the fact is, I have bought the mill of Silas
Caldwell already. He's been wanting to dispose of the property for some
time."

"Good!" exclaimed Uncle John.

"Also I--I've ordered a dynamo and machinery. It all ought to be here in
a few days."

"Better yet!" cried Mr. Merrick. "You've relieved my mind of a great
weight, Joe."

"Now about Thursday Smith," said the young man. "Don't you think it
would be policy for you to let him go, Mr. Merrick?"

"No."

"He's a clever fellow. I can use him at my lighting plant."

"Thank you, Joe; but that wouldn't help any. As long as he's in
Millville he will be an object of vengeance to those anarchistic mill
hands. The only way to satisfy them in to drive Smith out of town,
and--I'll be hanged if I'll do it! He hasn't done anything wrong, and
I'm interested in the fellow's curious history. I've put his case in the
hands of a famous New York detective--Fogerty--with instructions to
discover who he is, and I can't let a lot of rowdies force me to abandon
the man for no reasonable cause."

"Don't blame you, sir," said Joe. "If it wasn't this Thursday Smith,
some other would incur the hatred of the Royal workmen, and as they're
disposed to terrorize us we may as well fight it out on this line as any
other. The whole county will stand by you, sir."

"The only thing I dread is possible danger to my girls."

"Keep 'em away from the office evenings," advised Joe. "During the day
they are perfectly safe. If anything happens, it will be at night, and
while the newspaper office may some time go flying skyward the girls
will run no personal danger whatever."

"Maybe so, Joe. How queer it is that such a condition should exist in
Millville--a little forgotten spot in the very heart of civilization and
the last place where one might expect excitement of this sort. But I
won't be cowed; I won't be driven or bullied by a pack of foreign
hounds, I assure you! If Skeelty can't discipline his men, I will."

In furtherance of which assertion, Mr. Merrick went to town and wired a
message to the great Fogerty.




CHAPTER XVI

LOCAL CONTRIBUTION


We hear considerable of the "conventional people" of this world, but
seldom meet with them; for, as soon as we begin to know a person, we
discover peculiarities that quite remove him from the ranks of the
conventional--if such ranks exist at all. The remark of the old Scotch
divine to his good wife: "Everybody's queer but thee and me, Nancy, and
sometimes I think _thee_ a little queer," sums up human nature
admirably. We seldom recognize our own queerness, but are prone to mark
the erratic temperaments of others, and this is rather more comfortable
than to be annoyed by a consciousness of our personal deficits.

The inhabitants of a country town are so limited in their experiences
that we generally find their personal characteristics very amusing. No
amount of scholastic learning could have rendered the Millville people
sophisticated, for contact with the world and humanity is the only true
educator; but, as a matter of fact, there was little scholastic learning
among them, with one or two exceptions, and the villagers as a rule were
of limited intelligence. Every one was really a "character," and Uncle
John's nieces, who all possessed a keen sense of humor, enjoyed the
oddities of the Millvillites immensely.

A humorous situation occurred through a seemingly innocent editorial of
Beth on authorship. In the course of her remarks she said: "A prominent
author is stated to have accumulated a large fortune by writing short
stories for the newspapers and magazines. He is said to receive ten
cents a word, and this unusual price is warranted by the eager demand
for his stories, of which the reading public is very fond. However, the
unknown author does not fare so badly. The sum of from thirty to fifty
dollars usually remitted for a short story pays the beginner a better
recompense, for the actual time he is engaged upon the work, than any
other occupation he might undertake."

This was seriously considered the morning it appeared in the _Tribune_
by Peggy McNutt and Skim Clark, as they sat in the sunshine on the
former's little front porch. Peggy had read it aloud in his laborious,
halting way, and Skim listened with growing amazement.

"Thirty dollars!" he cried; "thirty to fifty fer a short story! Great
Snakes, Peggy, I'm goin' into it."

"Heh? Goin' into what?" asked Peggy, raising his eyes from the paper.

"I kin write a story," declared Skim confidently.

"Ye kin, Skim?"

"It's a cinch, Peggy. Mother keeps all the magazines an' paper novils,
an' we allus reads 'em afore we sells 'em. I've read the gol-durndest
lot o' truck ye ever heard of, so I'm posted on stories in gen'ral. I'll
write one an' sell it to the _Millville Tribune_. Do ye s'pose they'll
give me the thirty, er the fifty, Peggy?"

"Anywheres between, they says. But one feller gits ten cents a word.
Whew!"

"I know; but he's a big one, which I ain't--just now. I'll take even the
thirty, if I hev to."

"I would, Skim," advised Peggy, nodding approval. "But make 'em put yer
photygraf in the paper, besides. Say, it'll be a big thing fer Millville
to turn out a author. I didn't think it were in you, Skim."

"Why, it hadn't struck me afore," replied the youth, modestly. "I've ben
hankerin' to make money, without knowin' how to do it. I tell ye, Peggy,
it pays to read the newspapers. This one's give me a hint how to carve
out a future career, an' I'll write a story as'll make them girl edyturs
set up an' take notice."

"Make it someth'n' 'bout Injuns," suggested Peggy. "I ain't read a Injun
story fer years."

"No; they're out o' fashion," observed Skim loftily. "What folks want
now is a detective story. Feller sees a hole in a fence an' says, 'Ha!
there's ben a murder!' Somebody asks what makes him think so, an' the
detective feller says, takin' out a magnifie-in' glass, 'Thet hole's a
bullet-hole, an' the traces o' blood aroun' the edges shows the bullet
went through a human body afore it went through the fence.' 'Then,' says
some one, 'where's the body?' 'That,' says the detective, 'is what we
mus' diskiver.' So the story goes on to show how the body were
diskivered an' who did the murderin'."

"By Jupe, thet's great!" cried Peggy admiringly. "Skim, ye're a wonder!"

"Ma allus said I were good fer somethin', but she couldn't tell what."

"It's story-writin'," declared Peggy "Say, Skim, I put ye onter this
deal; don't I git a rake-off on thet fifty dollars?"

"Not a cent!" said Skim indignantly. "Ye didn't tell me to write a
story; I said myself as I could do it. An' I know where to use the
money, Peggy, ev'ry dollar of it, whether it's thirty er fifty."

Peggy sighed.

"I writ a pome once," he said. "Wonder ef they'd pay fer a pome?"

"What were it like?" asked Skim curiously.

"It went someth'n' this way," said Peggy:

        "I sigh
        Ter fly
        Up high
        In the sky.
        But my
        Wings is shy,
        So I mus' cry
        Good-bye
        Ter fly-
            in'."

"Shoo!" said Skim disdainfully. "Thet ain't no real pome, Peggy."

"It makes rhymes, don't it? All but the las' line."

"Mebbe it does," replied Skim, with assumption of superior wisdom; "but
it don't mean nuth'n'."

"It would ef I got paid fer it," observed Peggy.

Skim went home to his mother's tiny "Emporium," took some note paper out
of stock, opened a new bottle of ink and sat down at the sitting room
table to write his story. The Widow Clark looked in and asked what he
meant by "squanderin' profits that way."

"Shet up, mar. Gi' me elbow room," said her dutiful son. "I'm writin' a
fifty dollar story fer the _Tribune_."

"Fifty dollars!"

"Thirty, anyhow; mebbe fifty," replied Skim. "What's a good name fer a
detective, mar?"

The widow sat down and wiped her damp hands on her apron, looking upon
her hopeful with an expression of mingled awe and pride.

"Kin ye do it, Skim?" she asked softly.

"I s'pose I kin turn out one a day, by hard work," he said confidently.
"At thirty a day, the lowes' price, thet's a hunderd 'n' eighty a week,
seven hunderd 'n' twenty a month, or over eight thousan' dollars a year.
I got it all figgered out. It's lucky fer me the nabobs is rich, or they
couldn't stan' the strain. Now, mar, ef ye want to see yer son a nabob
hisself, some day, jes' think up a good name fer a detective."

"Sherholmes Locke," she said after some reflection.

"No; this 'ere story's got ter be original. I thought o' callin' him
Suspectin' Algernon. Detectives is allus suspectin' something."

"Algernon's high-toned," mused the widow. "Let it go at that, Skim."

All that day and far into the evening he sat at his task, pausing now
and then for inspiration, but most of the time diligently pushing his
pen over the strongly lined note paper and hopelessly straying from the
lines. Meantime, Mrs. Clark walked around on tiptoe, so as not to
disturb him, and was reluctant even to call him to his meals in the
kitchen. When Skim went to bed his story had got into an aggravating
muddle, but during the next forenoon he managed to bring it to a
triumphant ending.

"When I git used to the thing, mar," he said, "I kin do one a day, easy.
I had to be pertickler over this one, it bein' the first."

The widow read the story carefully, guessing at the words that were
hopelessly indistinct.

"My! but it's a thriller, Skim," she said with maternal enthusiasm; "but
ye don't say why he killed the girl."

"That don't matter, so long's he did it."

"The spellin' don't allus seem quite right," she added doubtfully.

"I guess the spellin's as good as the readin'll be," he retorted, with
evident irritation. "I bet I spell as well as any o' the folks thet
takes the paper."

"And some words I can't make out."

"Oh, the edytur'll fix that. Say, air ye tryin' to queer my story, mar?
Do ye set up to know more'n I do about story writin'?"

"No," she said; "I ain't talented, Skim, an' you be."

"What I orter hev," he continued, reflectively, "is a typewriter. When I
git two er three hunderd ahead perhaps I'll buy one--secondhand."

"Kin ye buy one thet'll spell, Skim?" she asked, as she made a neat roll
of the manuscript and tied a pink hair ribbon around it.

Skim put on a collar and necktie and took his story across to the
newspaper office.

"I got a conter-bution fer the paper," he said to Patsy, who asked him
his business.

"What, something original, Skim?" she asked in surprise.

"Ye've hit it right, Miss Doyle; it's a story."

"Oh!"

"A detective story."

"Dear me! Then you'll have to see Mrs. Weldon, who is our literary
editor."

Louise, who was sitting close by, looked up and held out her hand for
the beribboned roll.

"I don't jes' know," remarked Skim, as he handed it across the table,
"whether it's a thirty dollar deal, er a fifty."

Having forgotten Beth's editorial, Louise did not understand this
remark, but she calmly unrolled Skim's manuscript and glanced at the
scrawled heading with an amused smile.

"'Suspecting Algernon,'" she read aloud.

"'It were a dark and teedjus night in the erly springtime while the snow
were falling soft over the moon litt lanskape.' Why, Skim, how came you
to write this?"

"It were the money," he said boldly. "I kin do one a day like this, at
thirty dollers apiece, an' never feel the wear an' tear."

Patsy giggled, but Louise stared with a wondering, puzzled expression at
the crabbed writing, the misspelled words and dreadful grammar. Indeed,
she was a little embarrassed how to handle so delicate a situation.

"I'm afraid we cannot use your story, Mr. Clark," she said gently, and
remembering the formula that usually accompanied her own rejected
manuscripts she added: "This does not necessarily imply a lack of merit
in your contribution, but is due to the fact that it is at present
unavailable for our use."

Skim stared at her in utter dismay.

"Ye mean ye won't take it?" he asked with trembling lips.

"We have so much material on hand, just now, that we cannot possibly
purchase more," she said firmly, but feeling intensely sorry for the
boy. "It may be a good story--"

"It's the bes' story I ever heard of!" declared Skim.

"But we have no place for it in the _Millville Tribune,_" she added,
handing him back the roll.

Skim was terribly disappointed. Never, for a single moment, had he
expected "sech a throwdown as this."

"Seems to me like a bunco game," he muttered savagely. "First ye say in
yer blamed ol' paper a story's wuth thirty to fifty dollars, an' then
when I bring ye a story ye won't pay a red cent fer it!"

"Stories," suggested Louise, "are of various qualities, depending on the
experience and talent of the author. An excellent story is often refused
because the periodical to which it is offered is overstocked with
similar material. Such conditions are often trying, Skim; I've had a
good many manuscripts rejected myself."

But the boy would not be conciliated.

"I'll send it to Munsey's, thet's what I'll do; an' then you'll be durn
sorry," he said, almost ready to cry.

"Do," urged Louise sweetly. "And if they print it, Mr. Clark, I'll agree
to purchase your next story for fifty dollars."

"All right; the fifty's mine. I got witnesses, mind ye!" and he flounced
out of the room like an angry schoolboy.

"Oh, Louise," exclaimed Patsy, reproachfully, "why didn't you let me
see the thing? It would have been better than a circus."

"Poor boy!" said the literary editor, with a sigh. "I didn't want to
humiliate him more than I could help. I wonder if he really will have
the audacity to send it to Munsey's?"

And now the door opened to admit Peggy McNutt, who had been watching his
chance to stump across to the printing office as soon as Skim left
there. For Peggy had reasoned, not unjustly, that if Skim Clark could
make a fortune as an author he, Marshall McMahon McNutt, had a show to
corral a few dollars in literature himself. After lying awake half the
night thinking it over, he arose this morning with the firm intention of
competing with Skim for the village laurels. He well knew he could not
write a shuddery detective story, such as Skim had outlined, but that
early poem of his, which the boy had seemed to regard so disdainfully,
was considered by Peggy a rather clever production. He repeated it over
and over to himself, dwelling joyously on its perfect rhyme, until he
was convinced it was a good poem and that Skim had enviously slandered
it. So he wrote it out in big letters on a sheet of foolscap and
determined to offer it to "them newspaper gals."

"I got a pome, Miss Patsy," he said, with unusual diffidence, for he was
by no means sure the "gals" would not agree with Skim's criticism.

"What! Another contributor?" she exclaimed playfully. "Has the whole
town suddenly turned literary, Peggy?"

"No; jest me 'n' Skim. Skim says my pome's no good; but I sort o' like
it, myself."

"Let me see it," said Patsy, ignoring this time the literary editor, who
was glad to be relieved of the responsibility of disappointing another
budding author.

Peggy handed over the foolscap, and Patsy eagerly read the "pome."

"Listen, Louise! Listen, Beth!" she called, delightedly. "Here is
certainly a real 'pome,' and on aviation--the latest fad:

               "'SKY HIGH
        BY MARSHALL MCMAHON MCNUTT
               of Millville
  dealer in Real Estate Spring Chickens &c.

               1.
        I sigh
        Too fly
        Up high
        In the sky.

               2.
        But my
        Wings air shy
        And so I cry
        A sad goodby
        Too fly-
            Ing.'"

A chorus of hilarious laughter followed the reading, and then Patsy
wiped her eyes and exclaimed:

"Peggy, you are not only a poet but a humorist. This is one of the best
short poems I ever read."

"It's short 'cause I run out o' rhymes," admitted Peggy.

"But it's a gem, what there is of it."

"Don't, dear," remonstrated Louise; "don't poke fun at the poor man."

"Poke fun? Why, I'm going to print that poem in the _Tribune_, as sure
as my name's Patricia Doyle! It's too good for oblivion."

"I dunno," remarked Peggy, uncertainly, "whether it's wuth fifty
dollars, er about--"

"About forty-nine less," said Patsy. "A poem of that length brings about
fifty cents in open market, but I'll be liberal. You shall have a whole
dollar--and there it is, solid cash."

"Thank ye," returned Peggy, pocketing the silver. "It ain't what I
expected, but--"

"But what, sir?"

"But it's like findin' it, for I didn't expect nuth'n'. I wish I could
do more of 'em at the same price; but I did thet pome when I were young
an' hed more ambition. I couldn't think of another like it to save my
neck."

"I am glad of that, Peggy. One of this kind is all a paper dare print.
We mustn't get too popular, you know."

"I s'pose you'll print my name as the one what did it?" he inquired
anxiously.

"I shall print it just as it's written, advertisement and all."

She did, and Peggy bought two extra copies, at a cent apiece. He framed
all three and hung one in his office, one in the sitting room and a
third in his bedroom, where he could see it the first thing when he
wakened each morning. His fellow villagers were very proud of him, in
spite of the "knocking" of the Clarks. Skim was deeply mortified that
Peggy's "bum pome" had been accepted and his own masterly composition
"turned down cold." The widow backed her son and told all the neighbors
that "Peggy never hed the brains to write thet pome, an' the chances air
he stole it from the 'Malvern Weekly Journal.' Them gal edyturs wouldn't
know," she added scornfully; "they's as ignerunt as Peggy is, mostly."

A few days later McNutt entered the printing office with an air of great
importance.

"Goodness me! I hope you haven't done it again, Peggy," cried Patsy, in
alarm.

"No; I got fame enough. What I want is to hev the wordin' on my business
cards changed," said he. "What'll it cost?"

"What change do you wish made?" asked Patsy, examining the sample card.

"Instead of 'Marshall McMahon McNutt, dealer in Real Estate an' Spring
Chickens,' I want to make it read: 'dealer in Real Estate, Spring
Chickens an' Poetry.' What'll it cost. Miss Patsy?"

"Nothing," she said, her eyes dancing; "We'll do that job free of
charge, Peggy!"




CHAPTER XVII

THE PENALTIES OF JOURNALISM


Two strange men appeared in Millville--keen, intelligent looking
fellows--and applied to Joe Wegg for jobs. Having received a hint from
Mr. Merrick, Joe promptly employed the strangers to prepare the old mill
for the reception of the machinery for the lighting plant, and both of
them engaged board at the hold.

"Thursday," said Hetty, as she watched the pressman that night, "there's
a New York detective here--two of them, I think."

"How do you know?"

"I recognized one of them, who used to prowl around the city looking for
suspicious characters. They say they've come to work on the new electric
plant, but I don't believe it."

Thursday worked a while in silence.

"Mr. Merrick must have sent for them," he suggested.

"Yes. I think he suspects about the bomb."

"He ought to discharge me," said Thursday.

"No; he's man enough to stand by his guns. I like Mr. Merrick. He didn't
become a millionaire without having cleverness to back him and I imagine
he is clever enough to thwart Skeelty and all his gang."

"Perhaps I ought to go of my own accord," said Thursday.

"Don't do that. When you've found a friend like Mr. Merrick, stick to
him. I imagine those detectives are here to protect you, as well as the
printing plant. It won't be so easy to set a bomb the next time."

Smith looked at her with a smile. There was a glint of admiration in his
eyes.

"You're not a bad sleuth yourself, Hetty," he remarked. "No detective
could have acted more wisely and promptly than you did that night."

"It was an accidental discovery, Thursday. Sometimes I sleep."

That was a good deal of conversation for these two to indulge in. Hetty
was talkative enough, at times, and so was Thursday Smith, when the
humor seized him; but when they were together they said very little. The
artist would stroll into the pressroom after the compositors had
finished their tasks and watch the man make up the forms, lock them,
place them on the press and run off the edition. Then he would glance
over the paper while Thursday washed up and put on his coat, after which
he accompanied her to the door of her hotel and with a simple "good
night" proceeded up the street to his own lodging.

There are surprises in the newspaper business, as our girl journalists
were fast discovering. It was a real calamity when Miss Briggs, who had
been primarily responsible for getting the _Millville Daily Tribune_
into proper working order, suddenly resigned her position. They had
depended a great deal on Miss Briggs, so when the telegraph editor
informed them she was going back to New York, they were positively
bewildered by her loss. Questions elicited the fact that the woman was
nervous over the recent explosion and looked for further trouble from
the mill hands. She also suspected the two recent arrivals to be
detectives, and the town was so small and so absolutely without police
protection that she would not risk her personal safety by remaining
longer in it.

"Perhaps I'm homesick," she added. "It's dreadfully lonely here when I'm
not at work, and for that reason I've tried to keep busy most of the
time. Really, I'm astonished to think I've stood this isolation so long;
but now that my mind is made up, I'm going, and it is useless to ask me
to remain."

They offered her higher wages, and Mr. Merrick himself had a long talk
with her, but all arguments were unavailing.

"What shall we do, Thursday?" asked Patsy in despair. "None of us
understands telegraphy."

"Hetty Hewitt does," he suggested.

"Hetty! I'm afraid if I asked her to assume this work she also would
leave us."

"No; she'll stay," he said positively.

"But she can't edit the telegraph news. Suppose she took the messages,
who would get the night news in shape for the compositors? My uncle
would not like to have me remain here until midnight, but even if he
would permit it I have not yet mastered the art of condensing the
dispatches and selecting just such items as are suitable for the
_Tribune_."

"I'll do that, Miss Doyle," promised Smith.

"I've been paying especial attention to the work of Miss Briggs, for I
had an idea she was getting uneasy. And I can take all the day messages,
too. If Hetty will look after the wires evenings I can do the rest of
the telegraph editor's work, and my own, too."

"Good gracious, Thursday!" exclaimed Patsy; "you'll be running the whole
paper, presently."

"No; I can't do the typesetting. But if the Dwyer girls stick to their
job--and they seem quite contented here--I'll answer for the rest of the
outfit."

"I'm glad the Dwyer girls seem contented," she answered; "but I'm
afraid to depend upon anyone now--except you."

He liked that compliment, but said nothing further. After consulting
with Louise and Beth, Patsy broached the subject to Hetty, and the
artist jumped at the opportunity to do something to occupy her leisure
time. The work brought her in contact with Thursday Smith more than
ever, and when Miss Briggs departed bag and baggage for New York, the
paper suffered little through her defection.

"Newspaper folk," remarked Major Doyle, who was now at the farm enjoying
his vacation and worshipping at the shrine of the managing editor in the
person of his versatile daughter, "are the most unreliable of any class
in the world. So I've often been told, and I believe it. They come and
go, by fits and starts, and it's a wonder the erratic rascals never put
a paper out of business. But they don't. You never heard of a newspaper
that failed to appear just because the mechanical force deserted and
left it in the lurch. By hook or crook the paper must be printed--and
it always is. So don't worry, mavourneen; when your sallow-faced artist
and your hobo jack-of-all-trades desert you, there'll still be a way to
keep the _Millville Tribune_ going, and therefore the world will
continue to whirl on its axis."

"I don't believe Thursday will ever desert, and Hetty likes us too well
to leave us in the lurch; but suppose those typesetters take a notion to
flit?"

"Then," said matter-of-fact Beth, "we'll fill the paper with ready-made
plate stuff and telegraph for more compositors."

"That's it," agreed the major, "Those people are always to be had. But
don't worry till the time comes. As me grandfather, the commodore, once
said: 'Never cross a bridge till ye come to it.'"

"It wasn't your grandfather who originated that remark," said Uncle
John.

"It was, sir! I defy you to prove otherwise."

"I'm not certain you ever had a grandfather; and he wasn't a commodore,
anyhow."

"Sir!" cried the major, glaring at his brother-in-law, "I have his
commission, somewhere--laid away."

"Never mind," said Patsy, cheerfully, for these fierce arguments between
her father and uncle--who were devotedly attached to one another--never
disturbed her in the least, "the _Tribune's_ running smoothly just now,
and the work is keeping us delightfully busy. I think that never in my
life have I enjoyed myself more than since I became a journalist."

"Is the thing paying dividends?" inquired the major.

Arthur laughed.

"I've just been figuring up the last month's expenditures and receipts,"
said he. "The first month didn't count, for we were getting started."

"And what's the result?" asked the Major.

"Every paper we send out--for one cent--costs us eighty-eight cents to
manufacture."

There was a painful silence for a time, broken by the major's suggestive
cough.

"I hope," said the old soldier, solemnly, "that the paper's circulation
is very small."

"The smallest of any daily paper in all the civilized word, sir,"
declared the bookkeeper.

"Of course," remarked Louise, with dignity; "that is what distinguishes
it. We did not undertake this publication to make money, and it does not
cost us more than we are willing to pay for the exceptional experiences
we are gaining."

The major raised his eyebrows; Arthur whistled softly; Uncle John
smiled; but with one accord they dropped the disagreeable subject.




CHAPTER XVIII

OPEN WARFARE


Joe Wegg's machinery and dynamos arrived promptly and the electric plant
was speedily installed at the old mill. So energetically had the young
man supervised his work that poles and wires were all in place as far up
the road as Thompson's Crossing and a branch line run to the Wegg Farm,
by the time the first test was made.

All Millville celebrated that first night when its streets shone
resplendent under the glare of electric lights. There was a public
bonfire near the mill, speeches were made, and afterward Mr. Merrick
served a free supper to the villagers, in the hall over Sam Cotting's
General Store, where the girls assisted in waiting upon the guests, and
everybody was happy and as hilarious as the fumes of good coffee could
make them.

More speeches were made in the hall, and one of these was by Peggy
McNutt, who had painted his wooden foot blue with red stripes in honor
of the occasion. He said, according to the report afterward printed in
the Tribune:

"Feller Citizens! This 'ere town's bloomin' like a new mown rose. I'll
bet anybody anything there ain't another town in Ameriky what's gone
ahead like we hev in the past few months that's jest past. (Applause.)
If I do say it myself, we're the mos'--eh--the mos'--eh--progressioning
community in--in--this community. Our community hes put out a daily
paper what's a credit to--to--our community, especially the poetry;
we've got a paper mill at Royal what makes paper fer New Yoruk; an' now,
to cap the climate, our community hes lighted our community with
'lectric lights fit fer Lundon, New Yoruk, Canada or--or--or--our
community. (Laughter and cries of "Cut out the community, Peggy!") No!
Never, feller citizens, will I cut out a community what's done so much
fer our--our community. If I do say it myself, the eyes of the com--of
the world is upon us, an' I'm proud of the things that's ben did by our
feller citizens, with my full approval, in this 'ere--this
'ere--er--community!" (Cheers and a sandwich, which last offering was
received by Mr. McNutt in his back hair as he turned to descend from the
rostrum.)

Joe Wegg is reported to have said: "Neighbors, this electric plant is no
plaything. It is going to give you all better light, at no more cost to
you than kerosene. But it will do more than that: it will run machinery
of all kinds better than steam will. You've seen electricity running the
newspaper press, and the same current has operated the big paper mills
at Royal. Here in this audience is a gentleman from Connecticut who has
accepted my invitation to look over our village with a view to building
a factory here, using the power I shall hereafter be able to furnish. I
am in correspondence with two other manufacturers, whom I hope to induce
to locate in Millville. (Enthusiastic cheers.) Job Fisher, who used to
live at Malvern, is planning to start a lumber mill, to cut the pine
just north of here; so you see we are about to arouse from our long
sleep and have a great future before us if we keep wide awake. Another
item of news merits your attention. Bartlett has sold sixty acres of his
farm to Dr. Adam Matthews, for many years a prominent physician of
Boston, who is going to build a good house on the land and become a
citizen of Millville. We've always had to go to Huntingdon for a doctor,
but now Dr. Matthews has promised to look after the health of the
Millville people, although he has retired from city practice. More
people will come here from time to time, attracted by our enterprise and
the rugged beauty of our county; real estate will become more valuable,
trade will prosper and every one of the old inhabitants will find
opportunities to make money." (Great applause.)

A general discussion followed concerning the "doin's of Joe Wegg" and
the prophecies he had made. Opinion seemed divided as to whether the
promised "boom" was desirable for Millville or not. Some of the good
villagers were averse to personal activity and feared the new order of
things might disturb their comfort; in others a mild ambition had been
awakened. But while they feasted at Mr. Merrick's expense and gravely
canvassed the situation, the newly installed electric lights suddenly
failed. Darkness fell upon the assemblage and there was an awed hush
until Sam Cotting lighted the old reliable kerosene lamps.

Joe Wegg was as much astonished as anyone.

"There has been an accident to the machinery," he said to Mr. Merrick.
"I'll run over to the mill and see what has happened."

"I will go with you," said Arthur Weldon, and Major Doyle also decided
to accompany the young man.

Uncle John and his three nieces remained in the hall, and Mr. Merrick
took occasion to make a little speech in which he explained that a hitch
in the working of the electric plant was liable to happen at first, but
after a few days the dynamos could be fully depended upon.

He had scarcely finished this explanation when Arthur came running back
into the hall in much excitement. He approached Mr. Merrick and said in
a low voice:

"The machinery is all right, sir. Some one has cut the wires."

"Cut the wires!"

"Yes. Joe thinks it's the work of the mill hands. The wires are cut in
all directions, and several of the men from Royal have been seen
loitering around by Cox and Booth, the detectives."

The girls overheard this assertion, and Patsy exclaimed:

"I'm going to the office, to make sure our power hasn't been tampered
with."

The meeting broke up at once and the villagers trooped out to
investigate. Mr. Merrick and Arthur walked with the girls to the
printing office, where they found Thursday Smith and Hetty working by
the light of tallow candles.

"The power is off," said Smith quietly.

"Then the wire from Royal has also been cut," said Patsy. "What shall we
do? His paper must come out to-morrow morning, in spite of anything and
everything!"

"Do you know who cut the wires?" inquired Thursday.

"We think the mill hands must have done it."

"Not with Skeelty's consent, I'll be bound," said Mr. Merrick. "The
manager is too fearful of a damage suit to play any tricks."

"A cut wire may be repaired," suggested the pressman, and even as he
spoke Joe Wegg came in, accompanied by the two detectives and the major.

"Cox has interviewed one of the workmen from Royal," said Joe, "and the
fellow says there's a strike at the mill and everything is closed down.
Skeelty is barricaded in his office building, wild with fear, for the
men have captured the company's store and helped themselves to the stock
of liquors. The man Cox spoke with, who seems to be a well disposed
fellow, predicts all kinds of trouble, and perhaps rioting, before this
thing is ended."

They listened to this report in amazement.

"I conjecture," said the major, "that the rascally manager has given his
men too much leeway. He's encouraged them in mischief until they've
taken the bit between their teeth and turned against even their master.
I have no personal acquaintance with the villain, but I imagine it
serves him right."

"But, dear me!" cried Patsy, wringing her hands; "what'll become of the
paper? It's nearly ten o'clock now."

Thursday turned to Joe Wegg.

"Can't we connect our supply wire with your new plant, so as to use your
power?" he asked.

"Easily. An hour's work will serve to make the connection. But unless we
watch the wire every minute those fellows will cut it again. The town's
full of the rascals, and they're not exactly sober, either."

"Watch the wire; that's the idea," said Uncle John. "It's only a short
distance to the mill, and I'm sure the villagers will volunteer for this
duty."

"Of course," said Joe. "Major Doyle, will you mount guard over my men at
the dynamos, to see they're not interfered with, while I look after the
wire?"

"Sure enough; it'll remind me of the old war times," said the major
readily.

"Where is Arthur?" asked Louise.

"We left him at the mill."

They left the office at once, Joe to get his line-men at work, and the
major to join Weldon in guarding the dynamos. One of the detectives went
with Mr. Wegg, but the other, whose name was Booth, remained to guard
the printing office. Mr. Merrick now proposed that he take the girls
home. Patsy and Beth refused to leave until the emergency was past, when
the major and Arthur could drive them to the farm, but Louise was tired
and went with Uncle John in his buggy, the surrey being left for the
rest of the party to use. Arthur ran over for a moment to say everything
was quiet at the mill and he did not think there would be any further
trouble, and the report considerably reassured them.




CHAPTER XIX

A MERE MATTER OF REVENGE


Hetty and Thursday continued to work on the paper.

"We'll have everything ready by the time the line is connected," said
the artist. "Then it will be but a few moments' work to run off the
edition."

Patsy and Beth held candles for them, for the electric lights had been
cut off with the power; so, seeing them all busily engaged, Arthur
Weldon decided to return to the mill to join the Major. Booth sat in the
front office, near the door, and in the darkness Arthur nearly stumbled
over him.

"Going away, sir?" asked the man.

"Yes; I'll see if I can be of any assistance at the mill."

"Be careful. Those workmen have been drifting into town in squads, the
last few minutes, and most of them are reckless with drink."

"I'll watch out," said Arthur.

In the middle of the road a group of mill hands conversed excitedly in
some foreign tongue; but they paid no attention to Weldon as he passed
them. Others joined them, presently, and one began a harangue in a loud
voice, to which they listened eagerly. Then Bob West slipped across from
the hardware store and ran against the detective in the doorway of the
printing office.

"Who's this?" he demanded, holding the man in a firm grip.

"Booth, sir."

"Good. I could not recognize you in this darkness. Are you armed?"

"Yes."

"Then you and I will defend this door. Who is inside?"

"The pressman--Thursday Smith--and three of the girls."

"The compositors?"

"No; they've gone to the hotel. Miss Doyle, Miss DeGraf, and--Hetty
Hewitt."

West went into the hack room, which was faintly illumined by candles
stuck here and there. The girls and Smith were all bending over the
imposing stone, where the forms of the paper were being made up.

"Here," said West, taking a revolver from his pocket and laying it on
the table; "I'm afraid there may be an attack on this office in a few
minutes, for I understand the language of those strikers and have been
listening to them. If any of the mill hands attempt to break into this
room don't be afraid to shoot."

"Why should the men wish to attack us, sir?" asked Patsy wonderingly.

"There are several reasons. They're after Smith, for one thing. They've
an old grudge against him to settle. Aside from the mere matter of
revenge I overheard one of them telling his friends to smash the press
and keep the paper from coming out, and Mr. Boglin would pay them well
for the job."

Smith carelessly thrust the revolver into his hip pocket.

"The paper will come out if Mr. Wegg gives us the power," he said.

"Can you let me have a revolver, Mr. West?" asked Hetty.

"Could you use it?"

"I think so."

He looked at her a moment and then took a second revolver from his
pocket.

"I've robbed my hardware stock," he said with a smile. "But I advise you
girls to keep your hands off the thing unless a crisis arises. I don't
imagine the gang will get past me and Booth at the entrance, but if any
stragglers come your way Smith has authority to drive them back. I'm
justice of the peace, and I hereby appoint you all special officers of
the law."

He said this lightly, fearing to alarm the girls unnecessarily, and then
passed through the doorway and joined Booth at the front.

The telephone rang and Patsy answered it.

"How soon will the forms be ready?" asked Arthur's voice.

"In ten minutes--perhaps five," she answered.

"We'll have the power on in ten minutes more. Tell Smith not to lose an
instant's time in running off the edition, for we don't know how long we
can keep the line open. The strikers are threatening us, even now."

"All right," called Patsy; "just give us the power for a few minutes,
and we'll be through for to-night."

She went back to Thursday and reported.

"There may be a few typographical errors, and I'm afraid it's a bad
make-up," he remarked; "but I'll have the thing on the press in five
minutes."

With mallet and shooting-stick he tightened the quoins, then lifted the
heavy iron frames filled with type and slid them onto the bed of the
press. They gave him all the light the flickering candles afforded as he
adjusted the machinery, and all were bending over the press when a low,
distant growl was heard, rising slowly to a frenzied shout. A revolver
popped--another--followed by wild cries from the street.

The girls grew a little pale, but Thursday Smith put his hand on the
lever of the press and said:

"All right. The moment they give us the current we're ready to run."

Patsy straightened up with a sigh of relief, then gave a low cry as the
screens of the two windows of the pressroom were smashed in and through
the openings men began to tumble into the room. At once Hetty confronted
them with leveled revolver and the sight caused them to hesitate.

"Out o' the way, you women!" called a burly fellow who wore a green
sweater and an oilskin hat; "we don't want to hurt you if we can help.
There's the one we're after!" He pointed a finger at Thursday Smith.

"You can't have him," retorted Beth, half shielded behind the militant
Hetty. "This is private property, and you're trespassing. Unless you go
away at once you will suffer the consequences."

This defense seemed to surprise them, for they fell back a little toward
the windows. At that moment, with a low rumble, the press started,
moving slowly at first but gradually acquiring speed. The sight aroused
the resentment of the invaders.

"Stop that press!" yelled their spokesman excitedly. "Stop it, Smith, or
we'll put both you and the machine out of business."

Thursday paid no attention to anything but his press. The huge cylinder
of white paper was unrolling, passing under the platen and emerging at
the other end as neatly folded copies of the Millville Daily Tribune.

With a roar of rage the big fellow leaped forward, but at the action a
shot rang out and he fell headlong almost at the foot of the press.

Beth and Patsy turned their heads an instant to glance at Hetty. The
artist's face was white and set; her eyes sparkled brilliantly; she held
the still smoking weapon in readiness for another shot.

But the men were awed by the fall of their leader. They watched Beth
leap to the platform beside Thursday Smith and draw his revolver from
his pocket, where he had placed it. Hetty's courage had inspired her,
and Beth had handled pistols before. The men read the determined eyes
fixed upon them; they noted Smith's indifference to their threats. The
defenders of the press and pressman were only girls, but they were girls
evidently not afraid to shoot.

No advance was made and the tableau was dramatic. Smith watched his
press with undivided attention and it clattered away at full speed until
the frail building shook with its powerful, steady motion. Then suddenly
it began to slow down. The power was off, and the machine came to an
abrupt stop.

Thursday stepped from the platform and looked at the index of the
counter.

"Four hundred and sixty-three. Twenty-two short, Miss Doyle," he
announced.

"That'll do, Thursday."

He came to her side, then, facing the sullen, glowering group of mill
hands.

"Boys," said he, "it won't do you any good to interfere with us
to-night. The paper for to-morrow morning is already printed, and Ojoy
Boglin isn't a big enough man to stop it, now or ever. Better go back
to Royal and settle your troubles with Skeelty, for if you stay here the
citizens of Millville are in the mood to shoot you down like dogs."

They stood undecided a moment, but the argument had evidently struck
home.

"What's the matter with Harris?" asked one, pointing to the motionless
form of the man in the green sweater. "Is he dead?"

"I suppose so," answered Thursday coolly; but he stooped to examine
Hetty's victim, rolling him over so that his face was upward. "No; he
isn't hurt much, I'm sorry to say. The bullet glanced off his forehead
and stunned him, that's all. Take the brute, if you want him, and go."

They obeyed in silence. Several stepped forward and raised the
unconscious Harris, bearing him to the window, where they passed him to
those without. Then they also retreated through the windows and the room
was cleared.

Only then did Hetty and Beth venture to lower their weapons.

"Oh, dear!" cried Patsy, in a low, agitated voice; "I'm so glad you
didn't kill him, Hetty."

"I'm not," returned the artist doggedly. "He deserved death, at the
least, and by killing him I'd have cheated the gallows."

Then she glanced around at the horrified faces of her friends and burst
into tears.




CHAPTER XX

DEFENDING THE PRESS


In the front room Bob West and the detective were having a busy time. At
the first rush they each fired a shot over the heads of the mob, merely
to let them know the place was guarded. In the darkness it was
impossible for the strikers to tell how many armed men confronted them,
so they fell back a little, but formed a cordon around the entire
building. From the printing office to the old mill was a distance of
only a few hundred feet, and every able-bodied inhabitant of Millville
except Peggy McNutt and Sara Cotting--who had discreetly disappeared at
the first sign of danger--was assisting Joe Wegg to protect the electric
cable he was trying to connect. The men from Royal were scattered all
along the line, peering through the dim light to discover a vulnerable
point of attack but deterred from interfering by the determination of
the stalwart defenders. Mobs are invariably cowardly, and this one,
composed of the lowest strata of mixed American and foreign laborers,
was no exception to the general rule. However, when word was finally
passed along from the mill that the dynamo was running and supplying
power to the printing press, a howl of rage went up and a sudden rush
was made for the line, the attack concentrating at one point.

The defenders promptly grouped themselves in front of the threatened
pole and Seth Davis, the blacksmith, wielding a heavy sledge hammer, did
valiant service, clearing a space around him with little difficulty. Joe
Wegg, Arthur Weldon, Cox the detective, Lon Taft, Nick Thome and even
little Skim Clark were all in the melee, fighting desperately for time
to enable Thursday Smith to work his press, using whatever cudgels they
had been able to pick up to keep the assailants from the pole. Slowly,
however, they were forced back by superior numbers until finally one of
the mill hands clambered up the pole and cut the wire.

"Never mind," said Arthur to Joe, as they retreated fighting toward the
printing office; "I think they've had time to run off the edition,
provided Smith was ready with the forms."

The mob was by this time in an ugly mood and the nearer Joe and Arthur
edged toward the printing office the more numerous their enemies became.
The Millville people were getting rather the worst of the scrimmage when
out rushed Thursday Smith, swinging a stout iron bar he had taken from
the press, and with this terrible weapon he struck out so vigorously
that the diversion in their favor enabled the retreating villagers to
gain the office, where Booth and Bob West fired several shots that
effectually checked the mob.

"Stand back, ye villains!" cried a loud voice, as Major Doyle marched
calmly down the road from the mill; "how dare ye interfere with a
gentleman?"

One of the leaders confronted him menacingly. The major slapped his face
with the flat of his hand and then kicked the fellow in the shins.

"Didn't I say to get out o' my way?" he roared, and to the surprise of
everyone--even the major, perhaps--they fell hack and allowed him to
walk leisurely into the printing office.

Having succeeded in their primary attempt to cut the wire, and finding
the determined band of defenders more dangerous than they had thought,
the workmen retreated in the direction of Royal, where there was more to
be gained by rioting than in Millville.

When at last the town was clear of them, Arthur, who was considerably
battered and bruised but pleased with the triumphant ending of the
adventure, drove the girls and the major to the farm. They urged Hetty
to accompany them, but she declared she was not a bit nervous and
preferred to sleep at the hotel.

"I think the trouble is over for to-night," said West, and all agreed
with him. Cox and Booth decided to sleep in the printing office, and
after the girls had driven away with their escorts and the villagers had
dispersed to their homes, Thursday put on his coat and walked to the
hotel with Hetty.

"All that row was about me," he remarked disconsolately.

"But they didn't get you," said Hetty, triumph in her voice.

"No."

He did not mention her bravery, or the loyal support of Beth and Patsy,
but after a moment he added: "I'm not worth defending."

"How do you know?" asked Hetty. "It occurs to me, Mr. Smith, that you
are as much a stranger to yourself as to us."

"That is true."

"And in emergencies you are not averse to defending others. Of course
Miss DeGraf and her cousin wanted the paper printed, at all hazards. I
don't blame them for that; but I--"

She hesitated.

"You simply stood by a comrade. Thank you, Hetty."

"Good night, Thursday."

"Will you be able to sleep to-night?"

"I'm going straight to bed. The rumpus has quieted my nerves."

"Good night, then."

In the early morning Mr. Merrick was awakened by a red glare that
flooded his bedroom. Going to the window he found the sky at the north
full of flame. He threw on his bathrobe and went to the door of Arthur
Weldon's room, arousing the young man with a rap on the panels.

"The settlement at Royal is burning," he reported.

Arthur came out, very weary and drowsy, for he had not been asleep long
and the strenuous work of the night had tired him.

"Let it burn," he said, glancing through a window at the lurid light of
the conflagration. "We couldn't be of any use going over there and,
after all, it isn't our affair to relieve Skeelty."

Then he told Uncle John of the riot in the village, for the old
gentleman had been sound asleep when the party returned to the farm.

"The blaze is the work of those crazy strikers, I suppose," said Mr.
Merrick. "It looks from here as if they had set fire to their own
homes, as well as to the paper mills and office and store buildings. It
will be fortunate if the forest does not also burn."

"Don't worry, sir," advised Arthur. "We'll discover the extent of the
fire by daylight. For my part, I'm going back to bed, and it will be
well for you to follow my example."

"Another item for the paper," whispered a soft voice, and there was
Patsy beside them at the window.

Mr. Merrick sighed.

"I had no idea so much excitement could possibly happen at Millville,"
said he. "If this keeps on we'll have to go back to New York for quiet.
But let us get to bed, my dear, for to-morrow is likely to be a busy day
for us all."




CHAPTER XXI

THE COMING OF FOGERTY


The homeless mill hands flocked to Chazy Junction next day, from whence
a freight train distributed them over other parts of the country. The
clearing at Royal Falls was now a heap of charred embers, for every one
of the cheap, rough-board buildings had been consumed by the fire.

Skeelty had watched the destruction of his plant with feelings of
mingled glee and disgust. He was insured against loss, and his rash
workmen, who had turned upon him so unexpectedly, had accidentally
settled the strike and their own future by starting the fire during
their drunken orgies. There being no longer a mill to employ them they
went elsewhere for work, rather glad of the change and regretting
nothing. As for the manager, he stood to lose temporary profits but was
not wholly displeased by the catastrophe. Transportation of his
manufactured products had been so irregular and undefendable that even
while he watched the blaze he determined to rebuild his plant nearer the
main line of a railway, for many such locations could be found where the
pine was as plentiful as here.

At dawn he entered the hotel at Millville with his arms full of books
and papers which he had succeeded in saving from the fire, and securing
a room went directly to bed. It was afternoon when he awoke and after
obtaining a meal he strolled out into the village and entered the
newspaper office.

"Here's an item for your paper," he said to Patsy, who was busy at her
desk. "The mills at Royal will never be rebuilt, and Millville has lost
the only chance it ever had of becoming a manufacturing center. The
whole settlement, which belonged to Boglin and myself, went up in smoke,
and I'm willing to let it go at that. I shall collect the insurance,
make myself good, and if anything's left over, that fool Boglin is
welcome to it. I admit I made a mistake in ever allowing him to induce
me to build at Royal. Boglin owned the land and I used his money, so I
gave up to him; but I'm through with the _honer'ble_ ass now. Put it all
in the paper; it'll make him feel good. You might add that I'm taking
the evening train for New York, shaking the dust of your miserable
village from my feet for good and all."

"Thank you, sir," said Patsy, brightly; "the Millville people will
appreciate their good luck, I'm sure."

Skeelty hung around the town for awhile, sneering at the new electric
light plant and insolently railing at any of the natives who would
converse with him. Then he hired Nick Thorne to drive him over to Chazy
Junction, and that was the last Millville ever saw of him.

During this day Joe Wegg's men succeeded in repairing all the wires
which had been tampered with and in making a proper and permanent
connection of the cable to the printing office. That evening the village
was again brilliantly lighted and thereafter the big dynamos whirled
peacefully and without interruption.

The girls had a busy day, as Uncle John had predicted, for all the
exciting incidents of the evening and night before had to be written up
and the next day's paper teemed with "news" of a character to interest
all its readers. Beth's editorial declared the neighborhood well rid of
the paper mill, which had been of little advantage but had caused no end
of annoyance because of the rough and mischievous character of the
workmen employed. In this statement nearly everyone agreed with her.

Several had been wounded in the riot of the eventful evening, but none
seriously injured. The workmen took away their damaged comrades and Lon
Taft drove over to Huntingdon and had his head sewed up by the doctor.
Other villagers suffered mere bruises, but all who engaged in the fight
posed as heroes and even Peggy McNutt, who figured as "not present,"
told marvelous tales of how he had worsted seven mill hands in a
stand-up fight, using only his invincible fists.

The following forenoon the liveryman at the Junction brought to
Millville a passenger who had arrived by the morning train--a quiet,
boyish-looking man with a shock of brick-red hair and a thin, freckled
face. He was driven directly to the Merrick farm, where Uncle John
received him cordially, but with surprise, and at once favored the new
arrival with a long interview in his private room.

The girls, who had not yet gone to the office, awaited somewhat
impatiently the result of this conference, for they already knew the
red-headed youth to be the great Fogerty--admitted by even his would-be
rivals, the king of New York detectives. Also they knew that Uncle John
had employed him some time ago to ferret out the mystery of the identity
of Thursday Smith, and the fact of Fogerty's presence indicated he had
something to report.

However, when Mr. Merrick came out of the private room his usually
cheery countenance wore a troubled expression. Fogerty was invariably
placid and inscrutable, so no explanation could be gleaned from his
demeanor.

"Ready for town, my dears?" asked Uncle John.

"Yes; the surrey is waiting," answered Louise.

"Then go along, and Fogerty and I will join you at the office presently.
I want to confer with the major and Arthur before--before taking any
steps to--"

"What's the news, Uncle?" demanded Patsy, impatiently.

"You shall know in good time."

"Who is Thursday Smith?"

"By and by, dear. Don't bother me now. But that reminds me; you are to
say nothing to--to--Thursday about Mr. Fogerty's arrival. Treat
him--Thursday, you know--just as you have always done, for the present,
at least. Whatever we determine on in regard to this man, during our
conference, we must not forget that he has acted most gallantly since he
came to Millville. We really owe him a debt of gratitude."

With this somewhat incomprehensible statement the girls were forced to
content themselves. Feeling quite helpless, they drove to the office
and left the men to settle the fate of Thursday Smith.

The "pressman" was now the man-of-all-work about the modest but trim
little publishing plant. He attended to whatever job printing came in,
made the etchings from Hetty's drawings, cast the stereotypes, made up
the forms and operated the press. But aside from this mechanical work
Smith took the telegraphic news received by Hetty, edited and condensed
it and wrote the black-letter headings over the various items. All this,
with a general supervision over the girl compositors, kept the man busy
from daybreak to midnight.

In spite of this, the Tribune was essentially a "girls' paper," since
Thursday Smith was the only man employed on it--not counting the "dummy"
editor, Arthur Weldon, who did nothing but keep the books, and found
this not an arduous task. Hetty, at Miss Briggs' desk, attended the
telegraph instrument and long-distance telephone, receiving news over
both wires, and still found time to draw her daily cartoons and
additional humorous sketches which she "worked in" whenever the mood
seized her. The typesetting was done by the Dwyer sisters--a colorless
pair but quite reliable--while the reportorial and editorial work was
divided between Louise, Beth and Patsy, none of whom shirked a single
duty. Indeed, they had come to love this work dearly and were
enthusiastic over the _Tribune_, which they fondly believed was being
watched with envious admiration by all the journalistic world.

This belief was not wholly due to egotism. Their "exchanges," both city
and country, had shown considerable interest in the "Millville
Experiment," as they called it, and only a few days before the leading
journal of a good-sized city had commented at length on the "girls'
newspaper" and, after indulging in some humorous remarks, concluded
quite seriously with the statement that "its evident sincerity, clean
contents and typographical neatness render the _Millville Daily Tribune_
worthy a better setting than the somnolent country village whose census
is too low to be officially recorded."

"But that's all right," said Patsy, smiling at the praise; "we'd never
have dared to start a newspaper anywhere else, because a journal that
will do for Millville might not make a hit if it bumped against
experienced competition."

"We were woefully ignorant when we began, a few weeks ago," commented
Beth, glancing with pride at her latest editorial, which she thought had
caught the oracular tone of the big city newspapers.

"And we're not expert journalists, even yet," added Louise, with a sigh.
"We've improved, to be sure; but I imagine there is still lots of room
for improvement."

"One trouble," said Patsy, "is that every inhabitant of Millville wants
to see his or her name in print every day, whether he or she has done
anything worthy of publication or not. If the name isn't printed, we've
made an enemy; and, if it is, the paper is sure to suffer more or less
ridicule."

"That is quite true, my dear," responded Louise, the reporter. "I've
said everything, about every one of them, that has ever happened, or
threatened to happen, since we started the paper, and it is driving me
crazy to discover anything more about these stupid natives that will do
to print."

Hetty had overheard this conversation and now looked up with a smile.

"Has your 'local happenings' column been prepared for to-morrow, Mrs.
Weldon?" she inquired.

"No; I'm about to start out to unearth some items," replied Louise,
wearily.

"Let me do it for you. I've an hour or so to spare and I won't need to
leave my desk," suggested the artist.

"It is my duty, you know, Hetty, and I've no right to evade it."

"Evade it for to-day. Go home and rest. I'll do your column for
to-morrow, and after the vacation you can tackle the thrilling
situations with better courage."

"Thank you, Hetty. But I won't go home. I'll wait here to see Fogerty."

"Fogerty!" exclaimed the artist, with a start of surprise. "Do you mean
the detective?"

"Yes," said Louise, regretting she had inadvertently mentioned the
name.

"But what is there now to detect?" asked Hetty suspiciously. "Our
troubles seem ended with the burning of the mill and the flitting of
Skeelty and his workmen."

Louise hardly knew how to reply; but Patsy, who trusted the queer girl
artist, said quite frankly:

"There remains the mystery of Thursday Smith to fathom, you know."

Hetty flushed and an indignant look swept over her face.

"What right has anyone to solve that mystery?" she asked defiantly.
"Isn't that Thursday Smith's own business?"

"Perhaps," returned Patsy, somewhat amused; "but Smith hasn't been able
to discover who he is--or was, rather--and seems really anxious to
know."

Hetty bent over her desk for a time. Then she looked up and her thin
features were white and drawn with anxiety.

"When you discover who Thursday Smith is," said she, "the Millville
Tribune will lose its right bower."

"Why?"

"Before his accident, or whatever it was that made him lose his memory,
he was an unusual man, a man of exceptional ability. You know that."

"We are all inclined to admit it," answered Patsy. "But what then?"

"Men of ability," declared Hetty slowly, "are of two classes: the very
successful, who attain high and honorable positions, or the clever
scoundrels who fasten themselves like leeches on humanity and bleed
their victims with heartless unconcern. What will you gain if you unmask
the past of Thursday Smith? You uncover a rogue or a man of affairs, and
in either case you will lose your pressman. Better leave the curtain
drawn, Miss Doyle, and accept Thursday Smith as he is."

There was so much good sense in this reasoning that all three girls were
impressed and began to regret that Uncle John had called Fogerty to
untangle the skein. But it was now too late for such repentance and,
after all, they were curious to discover who their remarkable employee
really was.

Even while the awkward silence that had fallen upon the group of girls
continued, the door opened to admit Uncle John, Fogerty, Major Doyle and
Arthur Weldon. Except for the detective they were stern-faced and
uncompromising.




CHAPTER XXII

UNMASKED


Quintus Fogerty was as unlike the typical detective as one could
imagine. Small in size, slight and boyish, his years could not readily
be determined by the ordinary observer. His face was deeply furrowed and
lined, yet a few paces away it seemed the face of a boy of eighteen. His
cold gray eyes were persistently staring but conveyed no inkling of his
thoughts. His brick-red hair was as unkempt as if it had never known a
comb, yet the attire of the great detective was as fastidiously neat as
if he had dressed for an important social function. Taken altogether
there was something mistrustful and uncanny about Fogerty's looks, and
his habit of eternally puffing cigarettes rendered his companionship
unpleasant. Yet of the man's professional ability there was no doubt;
Mr. Merrick and Arthur Weldon had had occasion to employ him before,
with results that justified their faith in him.

The detective greeted the young ladies with polite bows, supplemented by
an aimless compliment on the neatness of their office.

"Never would have recognized it as a newspaper sanctum," said he in his
thin, piping voice. "No litter, no stale pipes lying about, no cursing
and quarreling, no excitement whatever. The editorial room is the index
to the workshop; I'll see if the mechanical department is kept as
neatly."

He opened the door to the back room, passed through and closed it softly
behind him. Mr. Merrick made a dive for the door and followed Fogerty.

"What's the verdict, Arthur?" asked Louise curiously.

"Why, I--I believe the verdict isn't rendered yet," he hastily replied,
and followed Mr. Merrick into the pressroom.

"Now, then," cried Patsy, grabbing the major firmly, "you'll not stir a
step, sir, until you tell us the news!"

"What news, Patricia?" Inquired the old gentleman blandly.

"Who was Thursday Smith?"

"The identical individual he is now," said the Major.

"Don't prevaricate, sir! Who was he? What did he do? What is his right
name?"

"Is it because you are especially interested in this man, my dear, or
are ye simply consumed with feminine curiosity?"

"Be good, Daddy! Tell us all about it," said Patsy coaxingly.

"The man Thursday, then, was likely enough the brother of Robinson
Crusoe's man Friday."

"Major, you're trifling!"

"Or mayhap an ex-president of the United States, or forby the senator
from Oklahoma. Belike he was once minister to Borneo, an' came home in a
hurry an' forgot who he was. But John Merrick will be wanting me."

He escaped and opened the door. Then, with his hand on the knob, he
turned and added:

"Why don't ye come in, me journalistic investigators, and see the fun
for yerselves? I suspect there's an item in store for ye."

Then he went in, and they took the hint and entered the pressroom in a
fluttering group. Fogerty stood with his hands in his pockets intently
watching the Dwyer girls set type, while at his elbow Mr. Merrick was
explaining in a casual voice how many "m's" were required to make a
newspaper column. In another part of the long room Arthur Weldon was
leaning over a table containing the half-empty forms, as if critically
examining them. Smith, arrayed in overalls and jumper, was cleaning and
oiling the big press.

"A daily newspaper," said the major, loudly, as he held up a warning
finger to the bevy of nieces, behind whom Hetty's pale face appeared,
"means a daily grind for all concerned in it. There's no vacation for
the paper, no hyphens, no skipping a day or two if it has a bad cold;
it's the tyrant that leads its slaves by the nose, metaphorically, and
has no conscience. Just as regularly as the world rolls 'round the press
rolls out the newspaper, and human life or death makes little
difference to either of the revolutionists."

While he spoke the Major led the way across the room to the stereotyping
plant, which brought his party to a position near the press. Smith
glanced at them and went on with his work. It was not unusual to have
the pressroom thus invaded.

Presently Fogerty strolled over, smoking his eternal cigarette, and
stood watching the pressman, as if interested in the oiling of the
complicated machine. Smith, feeling himself under observation, glanced
up again in an unconcerned way, and as he faced the detective Fogerty
gave a cleverly assumed start and exclaimed:

"Good God!"

Instantly Thursday Smith straightened up and looked at the man
questioningly. Fogerty stretched out his hand and said, as if in wonder:

"Why, Melville, old man, what are you doing here? We wondered what had
become of you, all these months. Shake hands, my boy! I'm glad I've
found you."

Smith leaned against the press and stared at him with dilated eyes.
Everyone in the room was regarding the scene with intense but repressed
excitement.

"What's wrong, Harold?" continued Fogerty, as if hurt by the other's
hesitation to acknowledge their acquaintance. "You haven't forgotten me,
have you? I'm McCormick, you know, and you and I have had many a good
time together in the past."

Smith passed his hand across his forehead with a dazed gesture.

"What name did you call me, sir?" he asked.

"Melville; Harold Melville, of East Sixty-sixth street. I'm sure I'm
right. There can't be two like you in the world, you know."

Thursday Smith stepped down from the platform and with a staggering gait
walked to a stool, on which he weakly sank. He wiped the beads of
perspiration from his forehead and looked at Fogerty with a half
frightened air.

"And you--are--McCormick?" he faltered.

"Of course."

Smith stared a moment and then shook his head.

"It's no use," he said despairingly; "I can't recall a single memory of
either Harold Melville or--or his friend McCormick. Pardon me, sir; I
must confess my mind is absolutely blank concerning all my life previous
to the last two years. Until this moment I--I could not recall my own
name."

"H'm," muttered Fogerty; "you recall it now, don't you?"

"No. You tell me my name is Melville, and you seem to recognize me as a
man whom you once knew. I accept your statement in good faith, but I
cannot corroborate it from my own knowledge."

"That's queer," retorted Fogerty, his cold eyes fixed upon the man's
face.

"Let me explain, please," said Smith, and related his curious experience
in practically the same words he had employed when confiding it to Mr.
Merrick. "I had hoped," he concluded, "that if ever I met one who knew
me formerly, or heard my right name mentioned, my memory would come
back to me; but in this I am sorely disappointed. Did you know me well,
sir?"

"Pretty well," answered the detective, after a slight hesitation.

"Then tell me something about myself. Tell me who I was."

"Here--in public?" asked Fogerty, with a suggestive glance at the
spectators, who had involuntarily crowded nearer.

Smith flushed, but gazed firmly into the faces surrounding him.

"Why not?" he returned. "These young ladies and Mr. Merrick accepted me
without knowledge of my antecedents. They are entitled to as full an
explanation as--as I am."

"You place me, Melville, in a rather embarrassing position," declared
Fogerty. "This is a queer case--the queerest in all my experience.
Better let me post you in a private interview."

Smith trembled a bit, from nervousness; but he persisted in his demand.

"These people are entitled to the truth," said he. "Tell us frankly all
you know about me, and do not mince words--whatever the truth may be."

"Oh, it's not so bad," announced the detective, with a shrug; "or at
least it wouldn't be in New York, among your old aristocratic haunts.
But here, in a quiet country town, among these generous and
simple-hearted folks who have befriended you, the thing is rather
difficult to say."

"Say it!" commanded Smith.

"I will. Many New Yorkers remember the firm of Melville & Ford, the
cleverest pair of confidence men who ever undertook to fleece the
wealthy lambs of the metropolis."

"Confidence men!" gasped Smith, in a voice of horror.

"Yes, putting it mildly. You were both jolly good fellows and made a
host of friends. You were well-groomed, rode in automobiles, frequented
good clubs and had a stunning establishment on Sixty-sixth street where
you entertained lavishly. You could afford to, for there was where you
fleeced your victims. But it wasn't so very bad, as I said. You chose
the wealthy sons of the super-rich, who were glad to know such popular
men-about-town as Harold Melville and Edgar Ford. When one set of
innocents had been so thoroughly trimmed that they compared notes and
began to avoid you, you had only to pick up another bunch of lambs, for
New York contains many distinct flocks of the species. As they could
afford to lose, none of them ever complained to the police, although the
Central Office had an eye on you and knew your methods perfectly.

"Finally you made a mistake--or rather Ford did, for he was not as
clever as you were. He brought an imitation millionaire to your house; a
fellow who was putting up a brazen front on the smallest sort of a roll.
You won his money and he denounced you, getting away with a pack of
marked cards for evidence. At this you both took fright and decided on a
hasty retreat. Gathering together your plunder--which was a royal sum,
I'm convinced--you and Ford jumped into a motor car and--vanished from
New York.

"The balance of your history I base on premise. Ford has been located in
Chicago, where, with an ample supply of money, he is repeating his New
York operations; but Harold Melville has never been heard of until this
day. I think the true explanation is easily arrived at. Goaded by
cupidity--and perhaps envy of your superior talents--Ford took advantage
of the situation and, finding the automobile speeding along a deserted
road, knocked you on the head, tumbled you out of the car, and made off
with your combined winnings. The blow had the effect--not so uncommon as
you think--of destroying your recollection of your past life, and you
have for two years been wandering in total ignorance of what caused your
affliction."

During this recital Smith sat with his eyes eagerly fixed upon the
speaker's face, dwelling upon every word. At the conclusion of the story
he dropped his face in his hands a moment, visibly shuddering. Then
again he looked up, and after reading the circle of pitying faces
confronting him he bravely met Mr. Merrick's eyes.

"Sir," he said in a voice that faltered in spite of his efforts to
render it firm, "you now know who I am. When I first came to you I was a
mere irresponsible hobo, a wandering tramp who had adopted the name of
Thursday Smith because he was ignorant of his own, but who had no cause
to be ashamed of his manhood. To-day I am discovered in my true guise.
As Harold Melville, the disreputable trickster, I am not fit to remain
in your employ--to associate with honest men and women. You will forgive
my imposition, I think, because you know how thoroughly ignorant I was
of the truth; but I will impose upon you no longer. I am sorry, sir, for
I have been happy here; but I will go, thanking you for the kindly
generosity that prompted you to accept me as I seemed to be, not as I
am."

He rose, his face showing evidence of suffering, and bowed gravely.
Hetty Hewitt walked over and stood by his side, laying her hand gently
upon his arm.

But Thursday Smith did not know John Merrick very well. The little
gentleman had silently listened, observing meanwhile the demeanor of the
accused, and now he smiled in his pleasant, whimsical way and caught
Smith's hand in both his own.

"Man, man!" he cried, "you're misjudging both me and yourself, I don't
know this fellow Melville. You don't know him, either. But I do know
Thursday Smith, who has won my confidence and by his manly acts, and
I'll stand by him through thick and thin!"

"I am Harold Melville--the gambler--the confidence man."

"You're nothing of the sort, you're just Thursday Smith, and no more
responsible for Harold Melville than I am."

"Hooray!" exclaimed Patsy Doyle enthusiastically. "Uncle's right,
Thursday. You're our friend, and the mainstay of the _Millville Daily
Tribune_. We shall not allow you to desert us just because you've
discovered that your--your--ancestor--wasn't quite respectable."

"That's it, exactly," asserted Beth. "It's like hearing a tale of an
ancestor, Thursday, or of some member of your family who lived before
you. You cannot be responsible, in any way, for another man's
wickedness."

"As I look at it," said Louise reflectively, "you are just two years
old, Thursday, and innocent of any wrongdoing before that day you first
found yourself."

"There's no use our considering Melville at all," added Uncle John
cheerfully. "I'm sorry we ever heard of him, except that in one way it
clears up a mystery. Thursday Smith, we like you and trust you. Do not
doubt yourself because of this tale. I'll vouch for your fairness and
integrity. Forget Melville, who has never really existed so far as any
of us are concerned; be yourself, and count on our friendship and
regard, which Thursday Smith has fairly won."

Hetty was crying softly, her cheek laid against Thursday's sleeve. The
man stood as if turned to stone, but his cheeks were flushed, his eyes
sparkling, and his head proudly poised.

Fogerty lighted a fresh cigarette, watching the scene with an
imperturbable smile.

Suddenly Smith awoke to life. He half turned, looked wonderingly at
Hetty, and then folded her thin form in his arms and pressed a kiss on
her forehead.

Fogerty coughed. Uncle John jerked out his handkerchief and blew his
nose like a bugle call.

The major's eyes were moist, for the old soldier was sympathetic as a
child. But Patsy, a little catch in her voice, impulsively put her arms
around the unashamed pair and murmured: "I'm so glad, Hetty! I'm so
glad, Thursday! But--dear me--aren't we going to have any paper
to-morrow morning?"

That relieved the tension and everybody laughed. Thursday released Hetty
and shook Uncle John's hand most gratefully. Then they all wanted to
shake hands, and did until it came to Fogerty's turn. But now Smith drew
back and looked askance at the detective.

"I do not know you, Mr. McCormick," he said with dignity.

"My name's not McCormick; it's Fogerty," said the other, without malice.
"I was simply testing your memory by claiming to be an old friend.
Personally I never knew Harold Melville, but I'm mighty glad to make
Thursday Smith's acquaintance and will consider it an honor if you'll
shake my hand."

Smith was too happy to refuse. He took Fogerty's hand.




CHAPTER XXIII

THE JOURNALISTS ABDICATE


Mr. Merrick told Thursday Smith, in an apologetic way, how he had hired
Fogerty to unravel the mystery of his former life, and how the great
detective had gone to work so intelligently and skillfully that, with
the aid of a sketch Hetty had once made of the pressman, and which Mr.
Merrick sent on, he had been able to identify the man and unearth the
disagreeable details of his history.

Thursday was too humble, by this time, and too grateful, besides, to
resent Uncle John's interference. He admitted that, after all, it was
better he should know the truth.

"I've nothing to bother me now but the future," he said, "and with God's
help I mean to keep the name of Thursday Smith clean and free from any
reproach."

After the interview he went about his duties as before and Hetty sat
down at her desk and took the telegraphic news that came clicking over
the wire as if nothing important in her life had occurred. But the girl
journalists were all excitement and already were beginning to plan the
things they might do to Make Hetty and Thursday happier. Cox and Booth
had gone away and Mr. Merrick thanked Fogerty for his skillful service
and gave him a fat check.

"It's a mighty interesting case, sir," declared the detective, "and I'm
as glad as any of you that it has ended so comfortably. Whatever
Melville might have been--and his record is a little worse than I
related it--there's no doubt of Thursday Smith's honesty. He's a mighty
fine fellow, and Fate played a proper trick when she blotted out his
unscrupulous mind and left him as innocent as an unborn babe. He will do
well in his new life, I'm sure, and that girl of his, Hetty Hewitt--I've
know of her reckless ways for years--has also redeemed herself and
turned out a regular brick! All of which, Mr. Merrick is unusual in real
life, more's the pity, and therefore it makes even a cold-blooded
detective feel good to witness it."

Mr. Merrick smiled benignantly and Fogerty drove over to the Junction to
catch his train.

After luncheon, Patsy, while arranging her galley proofs, inquired of
Louise for the local column.

"Hetty said she'd attend to it," was the reply; "but we are all upset
to-day and things are at sixes and sevens."

"The column is all prepared, Miss Doyle," announced Hetty.

"Where is it?"

"Thursday has made it ready for the press. It's--illustrated," she
confessed. "I'd rather you wouldn't see it until the paper is out, if
you can trust me."

"To be sure," said Patsy. "That's one responsibility I'm relieved of,
anyhow."

The paper was a bit uneven in appearance next morning, but when Patsy
came down to breakfast she found both Uncle John and the major roaring
with laughter over Hetty's locals.

The first item stated that "Mrs. Thorne took tea at Sam Cotting's last
evening," (the Cottings being notoriously inhospitable) and the picture
showed Mrs. Thorne, a sour-faced woman, departing from the store with a
package of tea. Then came the announcement that "Eph Hildreth got shot
at West's hardware store," and there was a picture of West weighing out
a pound of buckshot for his customer. The next item said: "Our
distinguished fellow citizen, Marshall Peggy McNutt, was discovered
unconscious on his front porch at 3 p.m." The drawing of McNutt was one
of the best of the series. It was his habit to "snooze" in an easy chair
on his porch every afternoon, and Hetty depicted the little man with
both feet--meat and wood--on the rail, his mouth open and eyes shut,
while lusty snores were indicated by radiating lines and exclamation
points. The Widow Clark's cow occupied the next square, being tethered
to a stake while Skim approached the animal with pail and milking-stool.
Below the drawing were the words: "Mr. Skimton Clark, cowward." A few
other local hits were concluded by a picture of Hon. Ojoy Boglin shaking
his fist at Mr. Skeelty, who held a package of money in his grasp
labeled "insurance." Below was the simple legend: "O Joy!"

The artist's cleverness became the subject of conversation at the
breakfast table, and Arthur remarked:

"You won't be able to hold Hetty in Millville long. Her talent enables
her to draw big salaries in New York and it isn't likely she will
consent to bury herself in this little town."

"I'm not so sure," said Patsy. "If we can hold Thursday Smith we can
hold Hetty, you know."

"We won't need to hold either of them for long," observed Beth; "for in
another three weeks or so we must leave here and return to the city,
when of course the _Millville Daily Tribune_ must suspend publication."

"I've been thinking of that," said Uncle John.

"So have I," declared Patsy. "For a long time I was puzzled what to do,
for I hated dreadfully to kill our dear _Tribune_ after we've made it
such a nice paper. Yet I knew very well we couldn't stay here all winter
and run it. But last night I had an inspiration. Thursday will marry
Hetty, I suppose, and they can both stay here and run the Tribune. They
are doing most of the work now. If Uncle John agrees, we will sell out
to them on 'easy terms.'"

"Good gracious, Patsy!" chuckled the major, "wherever can the poor
things borrow money to keep going? Do you want to load onto an innocent
bride an' groom the necessity of meeting a deficit of a couple of
hundred dollars every week?"

Patsy's face fell.

"They have no money, I know," she said, "except what they earn."

"And their wages'll be cut off when they begin hiring themselves," added
the major. "No; you can't decently thrust such an incubus on Hetty and
Thursday--or on anyone else. You've been willing to pay the piper for
the sake of the dance, but no one else would do it."

"Quite true," agreed Arthur. "The days of the _Millville Tribune_ are
numbered."

"Let us not settle that question just yet," proposed Mr. Merrick, who
had been deep in thought. "I'll consider Patsy's proposition for awhile
and then talk with Thursday. The paper belongs to the girls, but the
outfit is mine, and I suppose I may do what I please with it when my
nieces retire from journalism."

Even the major could not demur at this statement and so the conversation
dropped. During the next few days Uncle John visited the printing office
several times and looked over the complete little plant with speculative
eyes. Then one day he made a trip to Malvern, thirty miles up the
railway line from the Junction, where a successful weekly paper had long
been published. He interviewed the editor, examined the outfit
critically, and after asking numerous questions returned to Millville in
excellent spirits.

Then he invited Thursday Smith and Hetty to dine at the farm on Saturday
evening, which was the one evening in the week they were free, there
being no Sunday morning paper. Thursday had bought a new suit of clothes
since he came to the _Tribune_, and Hetty, after much urging, finally
prevailed upon him to accept the invitation. When the young man appeared
at the farm he wore his new suit with an air of perfect ease that
disguised its cheapness, and it was noticed that he seemed quite at home
in the handsome living-room, where the party assembled after dinner.

"I am in search of information, Thursday," said Uncle John in his
pleasant way. "Will you permit me to question you a bit?"

"Certainly, sir."

"And you, Hetty?"

"Ask anything you like, sir."

"Thank you. To begin with, what are your future plans? I understand, of
course, you are to be married; but--afterward?"

"We haven't considered that as yet, sir," replied Thursday thoughtfully.
"Of course we shall stay with the _Tribune_ as long as you care to
employ our services; but--"

"Well?"

"I have been given to understand the young ladies plan to return to New
York at the end of September, and in that case of course the paper will
suspend."

"My nieces will be obliged to abandon journalism, to be sure," said Mr.
Merrick; "but I see no reason why the paper should suspend. How would
you and Hetty like to remain in Millville and run it?"

Both Thursday and Hetty smiled, but it was the man who answered;

"We cannot afford such a luxury, sir."

"Would you care to make your future home in Millville?"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Hetty. "I love the quaint little town dearly, and
the villagers are all my friends. I'm sure Thursday doesn't care to go
back to New York, where--where Harold Melville once lived. But, as he
truly says, we couldn't make a living with the _Tribune_, even if you
gave us the use of the plant."

"Let us see about that," said Uncle John. "I will admit, in advance,
that a daily paper in such a place is absurd. None of us quite
understood that when we established the _Tribune_. My nieces thought a
daily the only satisfactory sort of newspaper, because they were used to
such, but it did not take long to convince me--and perhaps them--that in
spite of all our efforts the _Millville Daily Tribune_ would never
thrive. It is too expensive to pay its own way and requires too much
work to be a pleasant plaything. Only unbounded enthusiasm and energy
have enabled my clever nieces to avoid being swamped by the monster
their ambition created."

"That," said Patsy, with a laugh, "is very clearly and concisely put, my
dear Uncle."

"It was never intended to be a permanent thing, anyhow," continued Mr.
Merrick; "yet I must express my admiration for the courage and talent my
nieces have displayed in forcing a temporary success where failure was
the logical conclusion. Shortly, however, they intend to retire
gracefully from the field of journalism, leaving me with a model country
newspaper plant on my hands. Therefore it is I, Thursday and Hetty, and
not my nieces, who have a proposition to place before you.

"While a daily paper is not appropriate in Millville, a weekly paper,
distributed throughout Chazy County, would not only be desirable but
could be made to pay an excellent yearly profit. Through the enterprise
of Joe Wegg, Millville is destined to grow rapidly from this time on,
and Chazy County is populous enough to support a good weekly paper, in
any event. Therefore, my proposition is this: To turn the plant over to
Mr. and Mrs. Thursday Smith, who will change the name to the _Millville
Weekly Tribune_ and run it as a permanent institution. Your only expense
for labor will be one assistant to set type and do odd jobs, since you
are so competent that you can attend to all else yourselves. We will cut
out the expensive news service we have heretofore indulged in and
dispense with the private telegraph wire. Joe Wegg says he'll furnish
you with what power you need free of all charge, because the paper will
boost Millville's interests, with which his own interests are
identified. Now, then, tell me what you think of my proposal."

Hetty and Thursday had listened attentively and their faces proved they
were enthusiastic over the idea. They said at once they would be glad to
undertake the proposition.

"However," said Thursday, after a little reflection, "there are two
things that might render our acceptance impossible. I suppose you will
require rent for the outfit; but for a time, until we get well started,
we could not afford to pay as much as you have a right to demand."

"I have settled on my demands," replied Mr. Merrick, "and hope you will
agree to them. You must pay me for the use of the outfit twenty per cent
of your net profits, over and above all your operating and living
expenses. When this sum has reimbursed me for my investment, the outfit
will belong to you."

Thursday Smith looked his amazement.

"That seems hardly business-like, sir," he protested.

"You are right; but this isn't entirely a business deal. You are saving
my nieces the humiliation of suspending the paper they established and
have labored on so lovingly. Moreover, I regard you and Hetty as friends
whom I am glad to put in the way of a modest but--I venture to
predict--a successful business career. What is your second objection?"

"I heard Mr. West say the other day that he would soon need the building
we occupy to store his farm machinery in."

"True; but I have anticipated that. I have completed plans for the
erection of a new building for the newspaper, which will be located on
the vacant lot next to the hotel. I purchased the lot a long time ago.
The new building, for which the lumber is already ordered, will be a
better one than the shed we are now in, and on the second floor I intend
to have a cozy suite of rooms where you and Hetty can make a home of
your own. Eh? How does that strike you, my children?"

Their faces were full of wonder and delight.

"The new building goes with the outfit, on the same terms," continued
Mr. Merrick. "That is I take one-fifth of your net profits for the whole
thing."

"But, sir," suggested Thursday, "suppose no profits materialize?"

"Then I have induced you to undertake a poor venture and must suffer the
consequences, which to me will be no hardship at all. In that case I
will agree to find some better business for you, but I am quite positive
you will make a go of the _Millville Weekly Tribune_."

"I think so, too, Mr. Merrick, or I would not accept your generous
offer," replied Smith.

"What do you think, Hetty?"

"The idea pleases me immensely," she declared. "It is a splendid
opportunity for us, and will enable us to live here quietly and forget
the big outside world. New York has had a bad influence on both you and
me, Thursday, and here we can begin a new life of absolute
respectability."

"When do you intend to be married?" asked Patsy.

"We have scarcely thought of that, as yet, for until this evening we did
not know what the future held in store for us."

"Couldn't you arrange the wedding before we leave?" asked Beth. "It
would delight us so much to be present at the ceremony."

"I think we owe the young ladies that much, Thursday," said Hetty, after
a brief hesitation.

"Nothing could please me better," he asserted eagerly.

So they canvassed the wedding, and Patsy proposed they transfer the
paper to Thursday and Hetty--to become a weekly instead of a daily--in
a week's time, and celebrate the wedding immediately after the second
issue, so as to give the bridal couple a brief vacation before getting
to work again. Neither of them wished to take a wedding trip, and Mr.
Merrick promised to rush the work on the new building so they could move
into their new rooms in the course of a few weeks.




CHAPTER XXIV

A CHEERFUL BLUNDER


"We would like to ask your advice about one thing, sir," said Thursday
Smith to Mr. Merrick, a little later that same evening. "Would it be
legal for me to marry under the name of Thursday Smith, or must I use my
real name--Harold Melville?"

Uncle John could not answer this question, nor could the major or
Arthur. Hetty and her fiancÚ had both decided to cling to the name of
Thursday Smith thereafter, and they disliked to be married under any
other--especially the detestable one of Harold Melville.

"An act of legislature would render your new name legal, I believe,"
said Mr. Merrick; "but such an act could not be passed until after the
date you have planned to be married."

"But if it was made legal afterward it wouldn't matter greatly,"
suggested the major.

"I do not think it matters at all," asserted Hetty. "It's the man I'm
marrying, not his name. I don't much care what he calls himself."

"Oh, but it must be legal, you know!" exclaimed Patsy. "You don't care
now, perhaps, but you might in the future. We cannot be certain, you
know, that Thursday is entirely free from his former connection with
Harold Melville."

"Quite true," agreed the major.

"Then," said Smith, with evident disappointment, "I must use the hateful
name of Melville for the wedding, and afterward abandon it for as long
as possible."

The nieces were greatly pleased with Uncle John's arrangement, which
relieved them of the newspaper and also furnished Thursday and Hetty, of
whom they had grown really fond, with a means of gaining a livelihood.

Millville accepted the new arrangement with little adverse comment, the
villagers being quite satisfied with a weekly paper, which would cost
them far less than the daily had done. Everyone was pleased to know
Thursday Smith had acquired the business, for both he and Hetty had won
the cordial friendship of the simple-hearted people and were a little
nearer to them than "the nabob's girls" could ever be.

Preparations were speedily pushed forward for the wedding, which the
nieces undertook to manage themselves, the prospective bride and groom
being too busy at the newspaper office to devote much attention to the
preliminaries of the great event.

The ceremony was to take place at the farmhouse of Mr. Merrick, and
every inhabitant of Millville was invited to be present. The minister
would drive over from Hooker's Falls, and the ceremony was to be
followed by a grand feast, for which delicacies were to be imported from
New York.

The girls provided a complete trousseau for Hetty, as their wedding
present, while Arthur and the major undertook to furnish the new
apartments, which were already under construction. Uncle John's gift was
a substantial check that would furnish the newly married couple with
modest capital to promote their business or which they could use in case
of emergencies.

It was the very day before the wedding that Fogerty gave them so great
and agreeable a surprise that Uncle John called it "Fogerty's Wedding
Present" ever afterward. In its physical form it was merely a telegram,
but in its spiritual and moral aspect it proved the greatest gift
Thursday and Hetty were destined to receive. The telegram was dated from
New York and read as follows:

"Harold Melville just arrested here for passing a bogus check under an
assumed name. Have interviewed him and find he is really Melville, so
Thursday Smith must be some one else, and doubtless a more respectable
character. Shall I undertake to discover his real identity?"

Uncle John let Thursday and Hetty answer this question, and their reply
was a positive "no!"

"The great Fogerty made such a blunder the first time," said Hetty, who
was overjoyed at the glorious news, "that he might give poor Thursday
another dreadful scare if he tackled the job again. Let the mystery
remain unfathomable."

"But, on the contrary, my dear, Fogerty might discover that Thursday was
some eminent and good man--as I am firmly convinced is the truth,"
suggested Mr. Merrick.

"He's that right now," asserted Hetty. "For my part, I prefer to know
nothing of his former history, and Thursday says the present situation
thoroughly contents him."

"I am more than contented," said Thursday, with a happy smile. "Hetty
has cured me of my desire to wander, and no matter what I might have
been in the past I am satisfied to remain hereafter a country editor."





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