“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.”
“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.”
THE SKETCH ARTIST