Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation
Edith Van Dyne
Part 2 out of 4
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.
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
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
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
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!"
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
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
"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?"
"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,
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:
"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
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
"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."
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
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
"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.
"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,
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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?"
"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
"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."
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
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
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.
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"But Boglin is a dangerous man," resumed West. "Look out for him. Miss
"Yes; he told me to do that, and I will," said she, more quietly. "He is
"And you're not afraid of him?"
"Why should I be, Mr. West?"
"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.
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
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
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
"I think I can write up the party without being present, Mollie,"
"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
"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
"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!"
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
"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
A delighted chorus of approval came from Sizer's supporters.
"All right, then," said the bully, glaring around, "I--I'll kill the
"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,
"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
"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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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
"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
Even while she spoke he was rapidly dressing.
"Wait!" he called to her. In a few moments he opened the door and joined
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
"I'm sorry," said Joe, "they ever started that mill at Royal Falls. Most
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