“Manager o’ the mill, sir, an’ part owner, he says.”
“Has he a telephone?”
“Yes, Mr. Merrick.”
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: