“Good night, then.”
In the early morning Mr. Merrick was awakened by a red glare that flooded his bedroom. Going to the window he found the sky at the north full of flame. He threw on his bathrobe and went to the door of Arthur Weldon’s room, arousing the young man with a rap on the panels.
“The settlement at Royal is burning,” he reported.
Arthur came out, very weary and drowsy, for he had not been asleep long and the strenuous work of the night had tired him.
“Let it burn,” he said, glancing through a window at the lurid light of the conflagration. “We couldn’t be of any use going over there and, after all, it isn’t our affair to relieve Skeelty.”
Then he told Uncle John of the riot in the village, for the old gentleman had been sound asleep when the party returned to the farm.
“The blaze is the work of those crazy strikers, I suppose,” said Mr. Merrick. “It looks from here as if they had set fire to their own homes, as well as to the paper mills and office and store buildings. It will be fortunate if the forest does not also burn.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” advised Arthur. “We’ll discover the extent of the fire by daylight. For my part, I’m going back to bed, and it will be well for you to follow my example.”
“Another item for the paper,” whispered a soft voice, and there was Patsy beside them at the window.
Mr. Merrick sighed.
“I had no idea so much excitement could possibly happen at Millville,” said he. “If this keeps on we’ll have to go back to New York for quiet. But let us get to bed, my dear, for to-morrow is likely to be a busy day for us all.”
THE COMING OF FOGERTY
The homeless mill hands flocked to Chazy Junction next day, from whence a freight train distributed them over other parts of the country. The clearing at Royal Falls was now a heap of charred embers, for every one of the cheap, rough-board buildings had been consumed by the fire.
Skeelty had watched the destruction of his plant with feelings of mingled glee and disgust. He was insured against loss, and his rash workmen, who had turned upon him so unexpectedly, had accidentally settled the strike and their own future by starting the fire during their drunken orgies. There being no longer a mill to employ them they went elsewhere for work, rather glad of the change and regretting nothing. As for the manager, he stood to lose temporary profits but was not wholly displeased by the catastrophe. Transportation of his manufactured products had been so irregular and undefendable that even while he watched the blaze he determined to rebuild his plant nearer the main line of a railway, for many such locations could be found where the pine was as plentiful as here.
At dawn he entered the hotel at Millville with his arms full of books and papers which he had succeeded in saving from the fire, and securing a room went directly to bed. It was afternoon when he awoke and after obtaining a meal he strolled out into the village and entered the newspaper office.