Suddenly a man with a lantern discovered a great pit in the field behind the lane and the crowd quickly surrounded it. From their limited knowledge of the facts the explosion seemed unaccountable, but there was sufficient intelligence among them to determine that dynamite had caused it and dug this gaping hole in the stony soil. Bob West glanced at the printing office, which was directly in line with the explosion; then he cast a shrewd look into the white face of Thursday Smith; but the old hardware merchant merely muttered under his breath something about Ojoy Boglin and shook his head determinedly when questioned by his fellow villagers.
Interest presently centered in the damage that had been done. Many window panes were shattered and the kitchen chimney of the hotel had toppled over; but no person had been injured and the damage could easily be repaired. While the excitement was at its height Thursday Smith returned to his room and went to bed; but long after the villagers had calmed down sufficiently to seek their homes Hetty Hewitt sat alone by the great pit, staring reflectively into its ragged depths. Quaint and curious were the thoughts that puzzled the solitary girl’s weary brain, but prominent and ever-recurring was the sentence that had trembled upon Thursday Smith’s lips: “It was a close call, dear!”
The “close call” didn’t worry Hetty a particle; it was the last word of the sentence that amazed her. That, and a new and wonderful respect for the manliness of Thursday Smith, filled her heart to overflowing.
A CLEVER IDEA
Neither Thursday nor Hetty allowed a word to escape concerning the placing of the bomb in the Tribune office, but the explosion was public knowledge and many were bothering their heads to explain its meaning.
John Merrick, when he heard the news, looked very grave and glanced uneasily into the unconscious faces of his three beloved nieces. A man of much worldly experience, in spite of his simple, ingenuous nature, the little man began carefully piecing together parts of the puzzle. Thursday Smith’s defense of the girl journalists, whereby he had severely pounded some of the workmen who had insulted them, had caused the man to be denounced by the colony at Royal. Mr. Skeelty, the manager, had demanded that Smith be discharged by Mr. Mirrick, and being refused, had threatened to shut off the power from the newspaper plant. Skeelty dared not carry out this threat, for fear of a lawsuit, but his men, who had urged the matter of Smith’s discharge upon their manager, were of the class that seeks revenge at any cost. At this juncture Ojoy Boglin, Skeelty’s partner and the owner of all the pine forest around Royal, had become the enemy of the newspaper and was aware of the feeling among the workmen. A word from Boglin, backed by Skeelty’s tacit consent, would induce the men to go to any length in injuring the Millville Tribune and all concerned in its welfare.