Aunt Jane's Nieces at Millville - Edith Van Dyne - ebook
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After months of travels and adventures that were recounted in previous books in the Aunt Jane's Nieces series, the girls settle down for what they think will be a restful summer in a quaint rural village. But soon after their arrival, a number of unusual events transpire, and the girls soon find themselves embroiled in a confounding mystery. L. Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 – May 6, 1919) was an American author chiefly famous for his children's books, particularly The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels. He wrote a total of 14 novels in the Oz series, plus 41 other novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and at least 42 scripts. He made numerous attempts to bring his works to the stage and the nascent medium of film; the 1939 adaptation of the first Oz book would become a landmark of 20th century cinema. His works anticipated such century-later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), police corruption and false evidence (Phoebe Daring), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane's Nieces at Work).

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AUNT JANE'S NIECES AT MILLVILLE

BY

EDITH VAN DYNE

Copyright © 2018 by Edith van Dyne.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing

First Edition: August 2018

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXI.

CHAPTER XXII.

CHAPTER XXIII.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHAPTER I.

UNCLE JOHN'S FARM.

"How did I happen to own a farm?" asked Uncle John, interrupting his soup long enough to fix an inquiring glance upon Major Doyle, who sat opposite.

"By virtue of circumstance, my dear sir," replied the Major, composedly. "It's a part of my duty, in attending to those affairs you won't look afther yourself, to lend certain sums of your money to needy and ambitious young men who want a start in life."

"Oh, Uncle! Do you do that?" exclaimed Miss Patricia Doyle, who sat between her uncle and father and kept an active eye upon both.

"So the Major says," answered Uncle John, dryly.

"And it's true," asserted the other. "He's assisted three or four score young men to start in business in the last year, to my certain knowledge, by lending them sums ranging from one to three thousand dollars. And it's the most wasteful and extravagant charity I ever heard of."

"But I'm so glad!" cried Patsy, clapping her hands with a delighted gesture. "It's a splendid way to do good--to help young men to get a start in life. Without capital, you know, many a young fellow would never get his foot on the first round of the ladder."

"And many will never get it there in any event," declared the Major, with a shake of his grizzled head. "More than half the rascals that John helps go to the dogs entirely, and hang us up for all they've borrowed."

"I told you to help deserving young men," remarked Uncle John, with a scowl at his brother-in-law.

"And how can I tell whether they're desarving or not?" retorted Major Doyle, fiercely. "Do ye want me to become a sleuth, or engage detectives to track the objects of your erroneous philanthropy? I just have to form a judgment an' take me chances; and whin a poor devil goes wrong I charge your account with the loss."

"But some of them must succeed," ventured Patsy, in a conciliatory tone.

"Some do," said John Merrick; "and that repays me for all my trouble."

"All your throuble, sir?" queried the Major; "you mane all my throuble--well, and your money. And a heap of throuble that confounded farm has cost me, with one thing and another."

"What of it?" retorted the little round faced millionaire, leaning back in his chair and staring fixedly at the other. "That's what I employ you for."

"Now, now, gentlemen!" cried Patsy, earnestly. "I'll have no business conversation at the table. You know my rules well enough."

"This isn't business," asserted the Major.

"Of course not," agreed Uncle John, mildly. "No one has any business owning a farm. How did it happen. Major?"

The old soldier had already forgotten his grievance. He quarreled persistently with his wealthy employer and brother-in-law--whom he fairly adored--to prevent the possibility (as he often confided to Patsy) of his falling down and worshiping him. John Merrick was a multi-millionaire, to be sure; but there were palliating circumstances that almost excused him. He had been so busily occupied in industry that he never noticed how his wealth was piling up until he discovered it by accident. Then he promptly retired, "to give the other fellows a chance," and he now devoted his life to simple acts of charity and the welfare and entertainment of his three nieces. He had rescued Major Doyle and his daughter from a lowly condition and placed the former in the great banking house of Isham, Marvin & Company, where John Merrick's vast interests were protected and his income wisely managed. He had given Patsy this cosy little apartment house at 3708 Willing Square and made his home with her, from which circumstance she had come to be recognized as his favorite niece.

John Merrick was sixty years old. He was short, stout and chubby-faced, with snow-white hair, mild blue eyes and an invariably cheery smile. Simple in his tastes, modest and retiring, lacking the education and refinements of polite society, but shrewd and experienced in the affairs of the world, the little man found his greatest enjoyment in the family circle that he had been instrumental in founding. Being no longer absorbed in business, he had come to detest its every detail, and so allowed his bankers to care for his fortune and his brother-in-law to disburse his income, while he himself strove to enjoy life in a shy and boyish fashion that was as unusual in a man of his wealth as it was admirable. He had never married.

Patricia was the apple of Uncle John's eye, and the one goddess enshrined in her doting father's heart. Glancing at her, as she sat here at table in her plain muslin gown, a stranger would be tempted to wonder why. She was red-haired, freckled as a robin's egg, pug-nosed and wide-mouthed. But her blue eyes were beautiful, and they sparkled with a combination of saucy mischief and kindly consideration for others that lent her face an indescribable charm.

Everyone loved Patsy Doyle, and people would gaze longer at her smiling-lips and dancing eyes than upon many a more handsome but less attractive face. She was nearly seventeen years old, not very tall, and her form, to speak charitably, was more neat than slender.

"A while ago," said the Major, resuming the conversation as he carved the roast, "a young fellow came to me who had invented a new sort of pump to inflate rubber tires. He wanted capital to patent the pump and put it on the market. The thing looked pretty good, John; so I lent him a thousand of your money."

"Quite right," returned Uncle John, nodding.

"But pretty soon he came back with a sad tale. He was in a bad fix. Another fellow was contesting his patent and fighting hard to head him off. It would take a lot of money to fight back--three thousand, at least. But he was decent about it, after all. His father had left him a little farm at Millville. He couldn't say what it was worth, but there were sixty acres and some good buildings, and he would deed it to you as security if you would let him have three thousand more."

"So you took the farm and gave him the money?"

"I did, sir. Perhaps I am to blame; but I liked the young fellow's looks. He was clean-cut and frank, and believed in his pump. I did more. At the climax of the struggle I gave another thousand, making five thousand in all."

"Well?"

"It's gone, John; and you've got the farm. The other fellows were too clever for my young friend, Joseph Wegg, and knocked out his patent."

"I'm so sorry!" said Patsy, sympathetically.

The Major coughed.

"It's not an unusual tale, my dear; especially when John advances the money," he replied.

"What became of the young man?" asked the girl.

"He's a competent chauffeur, and so he went to work driving an automobile."

"Where is Millville?" inquired Uncle John, thoughtfully.

"Somewhere at the north of the State, I believe."

"Have you investigated the farm at all?"

"I looked up a real estate dealer living at Millville, and wrote him about the Wegg farm. He said if any one wanted the place very badly it might sell for three thousand dollars."

"Humph!"

"But his best information was to the effect that no one wanted it at all."

Patsy laughed.

"Poor Uncle John!" she said.

The little man, however, was serious. For a time he ate with great deliberation and revolved an interesting thought in his mind.

"Years ago." said he, "I lived in a country town; and I love the smell of the meadows and the hum of the bees in the orchards. Any orchards at my farm, Major?"

"Don't know, sir."

"Pretty soon," continued Uncle John, "it's going to be dreadfully hot in New York, and we'll have to get away."

"Seashore's the place," remarked the Major. "Atlantic City, or Swampscott, or--"

"Rubbish!" growled the other man, impatiently. "The girls and I have just come from Europe. We've had enough sea to last us all this season, at least. What we pine for is country life--pure milk, apple trees and new mown hay."

"We, Uncle?" said Patsy.

"Yes, my dear. A couple of months on the farm will do all of my nieces good. Beth is still with Louise, you know, and they must find the city deadly dull, just now. The farm's the thing. And the Major can run up to see us for a couple of weeks in the hot weather, and we'll all have a glorious, lazy time."

"And we can take Mary along to do the cooking," suggested Patsy, entering into the idea enthusiastically.

"And eat in our shirt-sleeves!" said Uncle John, with a glowing face.

"And have a cow and some pigs!" cried the girl.

"Pah!" said the Major, scornfully. "You talk as if it were a real farm, instead of a place no one would have as a gift."

Uncle John looked sober again.

"Anyone live on the place, Major?" he inquired.

"I believe not. It's gone to ruin and decay the last few years."

"But it could be put into shape?"

"Perhaps so; at an expense that will add to your loss."

"Never mind that."

"If you want farm life, why don't you rent a respectable farm?" demanded the Major.

"No; this is my farm. I own it, and it's my bounded duty to live on it," said Uncle John, stubbornly. "Write to that real estate fellow at Millville tomorrow and tell him to have the place fixed up and put into ship-shape order as quickly as possible. Tell him to buy some cows and pigs and chickens, and hire a man to look after them. Also a horse and buggy, some saddle horses----"

"Go slow, John. Don't leave such a job to a country real estate dealer. If I remember right the fellow wrote like a blacksmith. If you want horses and rigs, let Hutchinson send you down the right sort, with an experienced groom and stable hands. But I'm not sure there will be a place to put them."

"Oh, Uncle!" exclaimed Patsy; "don't let us have all those luxuries. Let us live a simple life on the farm, and not degrade its charms by adding city fixin's. The cow and the chickens are all right, but let's cut out the horses until we get there. Don't you know, dear, that a big establishment means lots of servants, and servants mean worry and strife? I want to let down the bars for the cow when she moos, and milk her myself."

"It takes a skilled mechanic to milk a cow," objected the Major.

"But Patsy's right!" cried her uncle, with conviction. "We don't want any frills at all. Just tell your man, Major, to put the place into good living condition."

"Patrichia," softly remarked the Major, with an admiring glance at his small daughter, "has more sinse in her frizzled head than both of us put together."

"If she hadn't more than you," retorted Uncle John, with a grin, "I'd put a candle inside her noodle and call her a Jack-Lantern."

CHAPTER II.

THE AGENT.

The Major hunted up the real estate dealer's former letter as soon as he reached his office next morning. The printed letter-head, somewhat blurred, because too much ink had been used, read as follows:

Marshall McMahon McNutt, Real Estate Dealer & Horses to Pasture by the week or month.

Also Plymouth Rock Hens & Road Commissioner Agent for Radley's Lives of the Saints Insurance and Watermelons My Specialty

Millville, Mount County, N.Y.

The Major shook his head doubtfully as he read the above announcement; but Mr. McNutt was the only known person to whom he could appeal to carry out John Merrick's orders. So he dictated the following letter:

Dear Sir:

Mr. John Merrick, the present owner of the Wegg farm at Millville, desires to spend his summer vacation on the premises, and therefore requests you to have the house and grounds put in first-class shape as soon as possible, and to notify me directly the work is done. Have the house thoroughly cleaned, the grass mowed around it and the barns and outbuildings repaired wherever it may be necessary. You are also instructed to procure for Mr. Merrick's use a good Jersey cow, some pigs and a dozen or so barnyard fowls. As several ladies will accompany the owner and reside with him on the place, he would like you to report what necessary furniture, if any, will be required for their comfort. Send your bill to me and it will receive prompt attention.

After several days this reply came:

Mister Doyle you must be crazy as a loon. Send me fifty cold dollars as an evvidence of good fayth and I wull see what can be done. Old Hucks is livin on the place yit do you want him to git out or what? Yours fer a square deal Marshall McMahon McNutt.

"John," said the Major, exhibiting this letter, "you're on the wrong tack. The man is justified in thinking we're crazy. Give up this idea and think of something else to bother me."

But the new proprietor of the Wegg farm was obdurate. During the past week he had indulged in sundry sly purchases, which had been shipped, in his name to Chazy Junction, the nearest railway station to Millville. Therefore, the "die had been cast," as far as Mr. Merrick was concerned, for the purchases were by this time at the farm, awaiting him, and he could not back out without sacrificing them. They included a set of gardening tools, several hammocks, croquet and tennis sets, and a remarkable collection of fishing tackle, which the sporting-goods man had declared fitted to catch anything that swam, from a whale to a minnow. Also, Uncle John decided to dress the part of a rural gentleman, and ordered his tailor to prepare a corduroy fishing costume, a suit of white flannel, one of khaki, and some old-fashioned blue jean overalls, with apron front, which, when made to order by the obliging tailor, cost about eighteen dollars a suit. To forego the farm meant to forego all these luxuries, and Mr. Merrick was unequal to the sacrifice. Why, only that same morning he had bought a charming cottage piano and shipped it to the Junction for Patsy's use. That seemed to settle the matter definitely. To be balked of his summer vacation on his own farm was a thing Mr. Merrick would not countenance for a moment.

"Give me that letter, Major," he said; "I'll run this enterprise myself."

The Major resigned with a sigh of relief.

Uncle John promptly sent the real estate agent a draft for five hundred dollars, with instructions to get the farm in shape for occupancy at the earliest possible day.

"If Old Hucks is a farm hand and a bachelor," he wrote, "let him stay till I come and look him over. If he's a married man and has a family, chuck him out at once. I'm sure you are a man of good taste and judgment. Look over the furniture in the house and telegraph me what condition it is in. Everything about the place must be made cozy and comfortable, but I wish to avoid an appearance of vulgarity or extravagance."

The answer to this was a characteristic telegram:

Furniture on the bum, like everything else. Will do the best I can. McNutt.

Uncle John did not display this discouraging report to Patsy or her father. A little thought on the matter decided him to rectify the deficiencies, in so far as it lay in his power. He visited a large establishment making a specialty of "furnishing homes complete," and ordered a new kitchen outfit, including a modern range, a mission style outfit for a dining-room, dainty summer furniture for the five chambers to be occupied by his three nieces, the Major and himself, and a variety of lawn benches, chairs, etc.

"Look after the details," he said to the dealer. "Don't neglect anything that is pretty or useful."

"I won't, sir," replied the man, who knew his customer was "the great John Merrick," who could furnish a city "complete," if he wished to, and not count the cost.

Everything was to be shipped in haste to the Junction, and Uncle John wrote McNutt to have it delivered promptly to the farm and put in order.

"As soon as things are in shape," he wrote, "wire me to that effect and I'll come down. But don't let any grass grow under your feet. I'm a man who requires prompt service."

The days were already getting uncomfortably warm, and the little man was nervously anxious to see his farm. So were the nieces, for that matter, who were always interested in the things that interested their eccentric uncle. Besides Patricia Doyle, whom we have already introduced, these nieces were Miss Louise Merrick, who had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday, and Miss Elizabeth--or "Beth"--De Graf, now well past fifteen. Beth lived in a small town in Ohio, but was then visiting her city cousin Louise, so that both girls were not only available but eager to accompany Uncle John to his new domain and assist him to enjoy his summer outing.

CHAPTER III.

MILLVILLE HEARS EXCITING NEWS.

Millville is rather difficult to locate on the map, for the railroads found it impossible to run a line there, Chazy Junction, the nearest station, is several miles away, and the wagon road ascends the foothills every step of the distance. Finally you pass between Mount Parnassus (whoever named it that?) and Little Bill Hill and find yourself on an almost level plateau some four miles in diameter, with a placid lake in the center and a fringe of tall pines around the edge. At the South, where tower the northern sentries of the Adirondacks, a stream called Little Bill Creek comes splashing and dashing over the rocks to force its way noisily into the lake. When it emerges again it is humble and sedate, and flows smoothly to Hooker's Falls, from whence it soon joins a tributary that leads it to far away Champlain.

Millville is built where the Little Bill rushes into the lake. The old mill, with its race and sluice-gates, still grinds wearily the scanty dole of grain fed into its hoppers and Silas Caldwell takes his toll and earns his modest living just as his father did before him and "Little Bill" Thompson did before him.

Above the mill a rickety wooden bridge spans the stream, for here the highway from Chary Junction reaches the village of Millville and passes the wooden structures grouped on either side its main street on the way to Thompson's Crossing, nine miles farther along. The town boasts exactly eleven buildings, not counting the mill, which, being on the other side of the Little Bill, can hardly be called a part of Millville proper. Cotting's Store contains the postoffice and telephone booth, and is naturally the central point of interest. Seth Davis' blacksmith shop comes next; Widow Clark's Emporium for the sale of candy, stationery and cigars adjoins that; McNutt's office and dwelling combined is next, and then Thorne's Livery and Feed Stables. You must understand they are not set close together, but each has a little ground of its own. On the other side of the street is the hardware store, with farm machinery occupying the broad platform before it, and then the Millville House, a two-storied "hotel" with a shed-like wing for the billiard-room and card tables. Nib Corkins' drug store, jewelry store and music store combined (with sewing machines for a "side line"), is the last of the "business establishments," and the other three buildings are dwellings occupied by Sam Cotting, Seth Davis and Nick Thorne.

Dick Pearson's farm house is scarcely a quarter of a mile up the highway, but it isn't in Millville, for all that. There's a cross lane just beyond Pearson's, leading east and west, and a mile to westward is the Wegg Farm, in the wildest part of the foothills.

It is a poor farming country around Millville. Strangers often wonder how the little shops of the town earn a living for their proprietors; but it doesn't require a great deal to enable these simple folk to live. The tourist seldom penetrates these inaccessible foothills; the roads are too rough and primitive for automobiles; so Millville is shamefully neglected, and civilization halted there some half a century ago.

However, there was a genuine sensation in store for this isolated hamlet, and it was the more welcome because anything in the way of a sensation had for many years avoided the neighborhood.

Marshall McMahon McNutt, or, as he was more familiarly called by those few who respected him most highly, "Marsh" McNutt (and sundry other appellations by those who respected him not at all), became the recipient of a letter from New York announcing the intention of a certain John Merrick, the new owner of the Wegg Farm, to spend the summer on the place. McNutt was an undersized man of about forty, with a beardless face, scraggly buff-colored hair, and eyes that were big, light blue and remarkably protruding. The stare of those eyes was impenetrable, because observers found it embarrassing to look at them. "Mac's" friends had a trick of looking away when they spoke to him, but children gazed fascinated at the expressionless blue eyeballs and regarded their owner with awe.

The "real estate agent" was considered an enterprising man by his neighbors and a "poor stick" by his wife. He had gone to school at Thompson's Crossing in his younger days; had a call to preach, but failed because he "couldn't get religion"; inherited a farm from his uncle and married Sam Cotting's sister, whose tongue and temper were so sharp that everyone marveled at the man's temerity in acquiring them. Finally he had lost one foot in a mowing machine, and the accident destroyed his further usefulness to the extent of inducing him to abandon the farm and move into town. Here he endeavored to find something to do to eke out his meagre income; so he raised "thoroughbred Plymouth Rocks," selling eggs for hatching to the farmers; doctored sick horses and pastured them in the lot back of his barn, the rear end of which was devoted to "watermelons in season"; sold subscription books to farmers who came to the mill or the village store; was elected "road commissioner" and bossed the neighbors when they had to work out their poll-tax, and turned his hand to any other affairs that offered a penny's recompense. The "real estate business" was what Seth Davis labeled "a blobbering bluff," for no property had changed hands in the neighborhood in a score of years, except the lot back of the mill, which was traded for a yoke of oxen, and the Wegg farm, which had been sold without the agent's knowledge or consent.

The only surprising thing about the sale of the Wegg farm was that anyone would buy it. Captain Wegg had died three years before, and his son Joe wandered south to Albany, worked his way through a technical school and then disappeared in the mazes of New York. So the homestead seemed abandoned altogether, except for the Huckses.

When Captain Wegg died Old Hucks, his hired man, and Hucks' blind wife Nora were the only dependents on the place, and the ancient couple had naturally remained there when Joe scorned his inheritance and ran away. After the sale they had no authority to remain but were under no compulsion to move out, so they clung to their old quarters.

When McNutt was handed his letter by the postmaster and storekeeper he stared at its contents in a bewildered way that roused the loungers to amused laughter.

"What's up, Peggy?" called Nick Thorne from his seat on the counter. "Somebody gone off'n me hooks an' left ye a fortun'?"

"Peggy" was one of McNutt's most popular nicknames, acquired because he wore a short length of pine where his absent foot should have been.

"Not quite," was the agent's slow reply; "but here's the blamedest funniest communicate a man ever got! It's from some critter that knows the man what bought the Wegg farm."

"Let's hear it," remarked Cotting, the store-keeper, a fat individual with a bald head, who was counting matches from a shelf into the public match-box. He allowed "the boys" just twenty free matches a day.

So the agent read the letter in an uncertain halting voice, and when he had finished it the little group stared at one another for a time in thoughtful silence.

"Wall, I'll be plunked," finally exclaimed the blacksmith. "Looks like the feller's rich, don't it?"

"Ef he's rich, what the tarnation blazes is he comin' here for?" demanded Nib Corkins, the dandy of the town. "I was over t' Huntingdon las' year, 'n' seen how the rich folks live. Boys, this h'ain't no place for a man with money."

"That depends," responded Cotting, gravely. "I'm sure we'd all be better off if we had a few real bloods here to squander their substance."

"Well, here's a perposal to squander, all right," said McNutt. "But the question is, Does he know what he's runnin' up agin', and what it'll cost to do all the idiotic things as he says?"

"Prob'ly not," answered the storekeeper.

"It's the best built farm house 'round thest parts," announced the miller, who had been silent until now. "Old Wegg were a sea-cap'n once, an' rich. He dumped a lot o' money inter that place, an' never got it out agin', nuther."

"'Course not. Sixty acres o' cobble-stone don't pay much divvydends, that I ever hearn tell on," replied Seth.

"There's some good fruit, though," continued Caldwell, "an' the berries allus paid the taxes an' left a little besides. Ol' Hucks gits along all right."

"Jest lives, 'n' that's all."

"Well, thet's enough," said the miller. "It's about all any of us do, ain't it?"

"Do ye take it this 'ere Merrick's goin' to farm, er what?" asked Nib, speculatively.

"I take it he's plumb crazy," retorted the agent, rubbing the fringe of hair behind his ears. "One thing's certain boys, I don't do nuthin' foolish till I see the color of his money."

"Make him send you ten dollars in advance," suggested Seth.

"Make him send fifty," amended the store-keeper. "You can't buy a cow, an' pigs, an' chickens, an' make repairs on much less."

"By jinks, I will!" cried McNutt, slapping his leg for emphasis. "I'll strike him fer a cool fifty, an' if the feller don't pay he kin go to blazes. Them's my sentiments, boys, an' I'll stand by 'em!"

The others regarded him admiringly, so the energetic little man stumped away to indite his characteristic letter to Major Doyle.

If the first communication had startled the little village, the second fairly plunged it into a panic of excitement. Peggy's hand trembled as he held out the five hundred dollar draft and glared from it to his cronies with a white face.

"Suff'rin' Jehu!" gasped Nick Thorne. "Is it good?"

The paper was passed reverently around, and examined with a succession of dubious head-shakes.

"Send for Bob West," suggested Cotting. "He's seen more o' that sort o' money than any of us."

The widow Clarke's boy, who was present, ran breathlessly to fetch the hardware dealer, who answered the summons when he learned that Peggy McNutt had received a "check" for five hundred dollars.

West was a tall, lean man with shrewd eyes covered by horn spectacles and a stubby gray mustache. He was the potentate of the town and reputed to be worth, at a conservative estimate, in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars--"er more, fer that matter; fer Bob ain't tellin' his business to nobody." Hardware and implements were acknowledged to be paying merchandise, and West lent money on farm mortgages, besides. He was a quiet man, had a good library in his comfortable rooms over the store, and took the only New York paper that found its way into Millville. After a glance at the remittance he said:

"It's a draft on Isham, Marvin & Company, the New York bankers. Good as gold, McNutt. Where did you get it?"

"A lunitic named John Merrick, him that's bought the Cap'n Wegg farm, sent it on. Here's his letter, Bob."

The hardware dealer read it carefully and gave a low whistle.