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Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation
by Edith Van Dyne
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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:



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.

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