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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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