Mr. Merrick returned to the farm, while Arthur drove Louise over to Huntingdon to gather items for the paper, and Patsy and Beth sat in the office arranging copy.
In an hour Smith came back with new nippers, which he fitted to the steel frame. Then he oiled the press, started it going a few revolutions, to test its condition, and handled the machinery so dexterously and with such evident confidence that Larry nodded to Fitz and muttered, “He’ll do.”
McGaffey, knowing he was about to decamp, had not kept the press very clean; but Thursday Smith put in the afternoon and evening removing grease, polishing and rubbing, until the huge machine shone resplendent. The girls went home at dinner time, but they sent Arthur to the office at midnight to see if the new pressman was proving capable. The Tuesday morning Tribune greeted them at the breakfast table, and the presswork was remarkably clean and distinct.
In a day or so Mr. Merrick received a letter from Mr. Skeelty, the manager of the paper mill. He said: “I understand you have employed one of my discharged workmen, who is named Thursday Smith. My men don’t want him in this neighborhood, and have made a strong protest. I therefore desire you to discharge the fellow at once, and in case you refuse to accede to this reasonable demand I shall shut off your power.”
Mr. Merrick replied: “Shut off the power and I’ll sue you for damages. My contract with you fully protects me. Permit me a request in turn: that you mind your own business. The Millville Tribune will employ whomsoever it chooses.”
Uncle John said nothing to the girls concerning this correspondence, nor did he mention it to the new pressman.
On Wednesday Larry and Fitz sent in their “resignations,” to take effect Saturday night. They told Patsy, who promptly interviewed them, that the town was altogether too slow for men accustomed to the city, but to Smith they admitted they feared trouble from the men at the mill.
“I talked with one of the mill hands last night,” said Larry, “and they’re up to mischief. If you stay here, my boy, you’d better watch out, for it’s you they’re after, in the first place, and Skeelty has told ’em he wouldn’t be annoyed if they wiped out the whole newspaper plant at the same time.”
Thursday nodded but said nothing. He began watching the work of the two men with comprehensive care. When Mr. Merrick came down to the office during the forenoon to consult with his nieces about replacing the two men who had resigned, Smith asked him for a private interview.
“Come into the office,” said Uncle John.
When the man found the three girl journalists present he hesitated, but Mr. Merrick declared they were the ones most interested in anything an employee of the paper might have to say to his principals.